OPC Interviews: Mrs. Egbert Andrews

Committee for the Historian

This is the second in a series of interviews by the Committee for the Historian. Former OPC historian Charles Dennison interviews Mrs. Egbert (Betty) Andrews on October 22, 1991. Egbert Andrews was a member of the Independant Board for Foreign Missions and a constituting member of the first General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in 1936. He served as a missionary to Manchuria, China, and Taiwan, as well as pastoring congregations in Indiana and New Jersey. He went home to be with the Lord on May 10, 1982.

Mr. Dennison: I am here with Betty Andrews on October 22, 1991, in her home at Quarryville, Pennsylvania. And maybe we could begin by your telling me a little bit about yourself.

Mrs. Andrews: I was born in Orange City, Iowa, which was a small Dutch community.

Mr. Dennison: What was your maiden name?

Mrs. Andrews: Heerema. I'm Ed Heerema's sister.

Mr. Dennison: Is that right?

Mrs. Andrews: Yes!

Mr. Dennison: Isn't this remarkable! Well, I've heard so much about him, because I've read a great deal in OP history and his name comes up again and again.

Mrs. Andrews: I don't know whether you have read either one of his books.

Mr. Dennison: Oh, yes! I've read the one on R. B. Kuiper, A Prophet in the Land. He has written another one recently on the state of the CRC.

Mrs. Andrews: A Letter to My Mother. It's just a small book. It gives a little more detail about some of the movement that he felt produced the crisis of the Christian Reformed Church.

Mr. Dennison: That must be agonizing for him.

Mrs. Andrews: Well, I think it helped him to get it out of his system, because he's thought and prayed about it for years.

Mr. Dennison: So, you were raised in Iowa.

Mrs. Andrews: I was born there and when I was seven or eight we moved to Grundy Center. I don't know if you've ever heard about that Grundy Center.

Mr. Dennison: There was a college there.

Mrs. Andrews: Yes. That's why we moved there. My oldest brother, Jack, was ready for high school and my parents felt that he needed a Christian school. So they sold the business. Business was good for them in Orange City, but they gave it all up and started over again.

Mr. Dennison: What kind of business?

Mrs. Andrews: My father was a baker. My parents came from the Netherlands, in their twenties. I'm the first generation American. Quite proud of it.

Mr. Dennison: So you spoke Dutch at home?

Mrs. Andrews: That's all I heard as a youngster, but I don't speak it. I can understand it—it's a crazy thing—until they get too deep.

Mr. Dennison: Is the college still there?

Mrs. Andrews: When we went there the junior college was there, and they both graduated from the junior college, both Jack and Ed. And then they went to Calvin. Jack went into chemistry and Ed went into the ministry. But then they got waylaid, turned aside by this marvelous philosophy professor who got them both off the track. When they came home at Christmas, they would talk until midnight around the table about all these things that this professor brought up. And it disturbed them so, disturbed their faith, disturbed my parents, who had been brought up in the Church of the Netherlands, a very sound, conservative church. My parents knew the Scriptures from memory. My mother could quote reams of Scripture. They had their doctrines. And they were very disturbed about this. Both brothers then went to the University of Iowa, and there Ed heard Dr. Machen. Ed recognized that Machen knew the church, and he followed him to Westminster. My oldest brother, Jack, it took him about ten years to get back on track. He went to Dow Chemical. He was just unhappy all those years until one day the Lord did something wonderful for him. He came home, he quit his job. That changed things. He became his own self again!

Mr. Dennison: Isn't that something!

Mrs. Andrews: I tell you, my mother praying in the basement when she did the wash. My mother praying in the bedroom when she was making beds! She'd get on her knees and pray for her son.

It's wonderful how the Lord works these things out. During those years, while he was at Dow, my folks were in trouble financially because my father couldn't work anymore. He was sick and we moved to Grand Rapids. He helped me with college, although I had a couple of scholarships at Calvin. My youngest brother, Nick, went to Calvin two years, then he went to the University of Michigan, and it was during those years that my brother Jack could help us. Afterwards Jack got married, and my mother wrote, "Now you know exactly how much Jack helped you. It's time to pay it back. He's getting married, and he needs all the money you borrowed." So we both paid it back. It worked out so we all could get an education. I marvel at the way the Lord works things out!

Mr. Dennison: There's a strong emphasis on education in your family.

Mrs. Andrews: My parents enjoyed reading. All my father ever read was theological books. He knew Abraham Kuyper from the Netherlands. Those young people in the Netherlands, where my parents grew up, they would argue and discuss all those deeper things in the Bible. Mother said, "I loved it!" And they knew the answers. They knew how to defend their stand. So they really were just at the right time at the right place for that because it changed, of course, and is now much different.

Mr. Dennison: Were their roots in the Secessionist Church in 1834?

Mrs. Andrews: I think they were in the Christelijke Afscheiding.

Mr. Dennison: There seems to be an interesting tension for some of the people that came from that part of the Netherlands, because on the one hand, there was that deep piety, and yet at the same time, there was this tremendous theological interest. And I guess when I became most aware of it was in the figure of Geerhardus Vos, who came from Friesland. His wife was Catherine. His daughter was Marianne Radius.

Mrs. Andrews: Yes, I just saw Marianne this September.

Mr. Dennison: Oh, did you?

Mrs. Andrews: Yes, she read my book. I'd written a book on Egbert, a children's book. She couldn't believe it because I had her as a teacher at Calvin, and I hadn't seen her in all these years. I wouldn't have recognized her. But, ah, she knew me! She said, "Where have you been all these years! I didn't know you had written a book!" Well, I don't publicize it. Written for my family. She said, "I want to read it."

Mr. Dennison: Well, I've discovered in studying Vos that there was something of a tension in the family. Vos was quite taken with Abraham Kuyper and his interests there in Amsterdam at the university, of course, and it seemed as if his family, which was very theologically astute, was somewhat suspicious of the cultural directions of Kuyper's approach to Calvinism. So there was a certain tension there.

Mrs. Andrews: I did read some of Kuyper's biography. I was so fascinated by how difficult it was for Kuyper to rule.

Mr. Dennison: The famous railroad strike, I guess, wasn't it? That sort of brought him down. He wasn't a favorite of the Queen.

Mrs. Andrews: No, no, he didn't always agree with her. Still I don't know how he managed all of that. We live in an interesting age. A very difficult, a very difficult time in the church, I think, I really do.

Mr. Dennison: Well, we can build up to that a little bit, as we unpack things here. You said you went to Grand Rapids, and you went to Calvin for two years, and you're studying to be a nurse.

Mrs. Andrews: I had one year at Calvin, and I managed that because I had a scholarship from high school, the Academy at Brendon. Then my folks needed help. My brother was going to high school, so I worked two years at the telephone company, and hated it. I remember the day I stood in my bedroom and said, "Lord, I'm not going to complain. If You want me to stay in that place and work for my family for the rest of my life, I'll do it." And it was only about a month later that my parents said to me, "Now, look, we know that you want to go back to school and college. We think we can manage again." Oh, what a relief!

So I went, and got a B.S. in nursing education. Then, while I was at the University of Chicago, I met up with Dr. and Mrs. Van Reeken. I knew them from Calvin. We were overjoyed to meet as classmates at the University of Chicago. We went to church together every Sunday. One Sunday noon we were eating together and they said, "We're planning to go to the mission field, to China. And you're a nurse. Would you be interested in going with us?" I'd never been challenged in my life to be a missionary. At home it wasn't talked about. The firstborn of the family was to be a preacher. That was talked about somewhat—although it turned out to be the second one in our family.

Then I worked another couple of years at a dime store. At four dollars a week, I started out, for fifty-four hours of work! Nobody will believe that, these days, but those were the days after the depression. You couldn't find any work. It was hard on my parents. They just figured the Lord would help. They didn't talk a great deal about it. They had prayer three times a day in their home, at meals, plus the Bible reading. Everything was always just laid before the Lord. And it did work out. We all made it. My mother was rather astute. They had enough money to buy a house. They bought a house that had an upper story that they could rent out. So that helped them with living expenses.

Then father tried to get work. He was in his fifties, and who wants a man fifty years old who is not very well? He did all kinds of little things, didn't earn much money, but it kept him busy. Finally he got in with a group of Christian Reformed men who were in the painting and paper hanging business. That was much more of steady work. That's what he did until he retired.

Father died while I was on mission field. I grieved for about two hours. And then I thought, "The Lord knows what he's doing. He's in heaven, finished with all this hard work and all this worry about his kids." And a peace came over me that I couldn't believe. So I went to all the people I knew and I told them what the Lord does for those who are willing to give their grief over to him. They couldn't believe it. They go through all this moaning, crying. Maybe they thought I was unfeeling, but it wasn't that way at all.

Mother lived to be ninety five. She sold the house and she had enough money to get into the Holland Home, and there she was taken care of for the rest of her life. She said, "I would never have believed that we would ever have enough money for me to be taken care of." There was nothing left for us. But we all had work. We were taken care of. We didn't worry about any inheritance. What a heritage! Trusting the Lord!

Mr. Dennison: You went then to China with this doctor.

Mrs. Andrews: Well, they were there a year before I was, but we were in language school together. And the Communists decided to make their push south two months after we got started in language school in 1949. We knew we had to leave the language school because all the families were being called out by their Boards. And the embassy was telling us all, "If you can, go home. It's going to be a mess." We knew that we'd probably have to go at least to Shanghai where all the rest of the missionaries from the Christian Reformed Church were gathering.

So in November we went down to Shanghai and got the last plane out with some Lutherans. All of the missionaries came in from the fields and we all lived in one great big house. It was crowded—families and little kids. That was culture shock for me. I had been brought up in a really sheltered home and to go out there and find Shanghai was something. It was crowded, just crowded, thousands and thousands of people. You would get on the streetcar, and it would be packed to the gills, squashed. They told us, "Watch your purse. If you don't have to carry it, don't." They say they split the bottom of your purse and everything's gone and you don't even know it, and a passport is worth $25,000 on the black market. If they could get a hold of an American passport, they would forge it and get out. They wanted to get out so badly. They all knew—all the rich people knew—that the Communists were going to come and there wouldn't be a chance to save their savings, their wealth.

On the whole, people were scared. You would walk down a street and you'd see dead bodies along the walls. Well, I was a nurse, so at least I didn't keel over or anything, but what a terrible sight! And then there were the workers like the men who took things off the ships. They're just like animals. There are six or eight of them on harnesses, and they pull these heavy loads on carts, to take them where they have to go. If you look in their eyes, there's no life there. Oh, my, It was awful!

Well, some of us left. The doctors left. We couldn't get funds. They had frozen funds. We had to rebuild the hospital if we were going to do anything. We couldn't even go into the countryside. So those of us who were very new left again. We had a lot harder time going home than coming. It was just four months. Everyone gave you a terrific farewell. You're going off to the mission field! In four months you're back again. One of the older missionaries said to me, "You may be criticized."

I was home a year, and then I met Dr. Groan from Pakistan. He came to get help for their hospital out there. I had experience in running a nursing school, which was one of the positions they wanted filled. So I went.

The Assurance Street Christian Reformed Church was helping me financially. And they were good enough to send out a kerosene heater so I could put that in the classroom and we could have a study. We had these two Indian nurses. We sent them away for further education. They came back and began helping with the teaching and the supervision. So we got it pretty well organized. When I left at the end of three and a half years, they knew what to do.

Mr. Dennison: You were doing all your work during the day but then at night you were also teaching the students?

Mrs. Andrews: Yes. We had a number of singles connected with the Reformed college, and they used to laugh about it. They'd say, "If you want to see Betty you have to make an appointment." It was a very, very busy schedule.

I rested about a year. Then I got a call from the Reformed Bible Institute. They said, "We need a dean of women. Would you be willing to try it?" That's where I went.

Mr. Dennison: When did you meet Egbert?

Mrs. Andrews: Oh, I met him before I went to Pakistan. He came to Grand Rapids to do solicitation. He called on people for money for Westminster Seminary for one month in the Grand Rapids area.

My brother Ed had this church on Plymouth Heights in Grand Rapids and he happened to meet him on the street. He said, "Egbert, what on earth are you doing in Grand Rapids?" He told him. Ed said, "Where are you staying?" Egbert said such and such a hotel. "Oh," Ed said, "It's far too expensive. Come and stay with us."

So I met him in my parents' home. I went over to my brother's place for Sunday dinner, and met him there, but then he had to leave. And nothing came of that for six, seven years until he came back on furlough. I was at the Reformed Bible Institute and he called me up and we had dinner together.

While I was in Pakistan we had a number of single men. We would have coffee together after church on Sunday. Some of them began to think, you know, "Well, she'd make a good wife." I had two or three proposals, turned them all down. One of them asked me, "What kind of a man do you want to marry?" I said, "I thought about it and," I said, "I think I want to marry a minister who's a missionary." Don't ask me how it came into my mind, but that's the way it was because I knew I had to be a missionary. I liked preaching, the way they thought, their thinking, their whole outlook.

So when Egbert came along, he was a minister, he was a missionary, he had gone to Westminster, and I thought, "Well, I could do worse!" So we got engaged. But he had to go back to Taiwan and I had to go back to the Reformed Bible Institute. And so we wrote and in the middle of the year, he said, "Can't you make some arrangement so you won't have to wait so long to come out?" I said, "I haven't found anybody yet who can take the place. They want a woman who's had mission experience." So I began to pray about it. There was a woman at Calvin College who had been on the Indian mission field. And I went to the president of the Institute and said, "Will she do to take my place?" He said, "Yeah, that will be fine." That February I went out to Japan and that was where we decided to get married. We were married in Tokyo with one of our friends, the McIlwaines. We were married in this little brown church in the middle of Tokyo, the pot-bellied stove in middle of it heating it for about 23 people.

Mr. Dennison: Well, let's back up a little bit now to China. As the Communists are coming in, seems to be something of a controversy in these latter years as to the significance of Chiang Kai-Shek, and his integrity in his Christian confession, and so on. How would you piece all of that together?

Mrs. Andrews: We heard Chiang Kai-Shek and watched him in Taiwan. And Egbert worked with his staff during the war as a liaison person in training interpreters. He said it was difficult to know whether Chiang Kai-Shek was truly a Christian. But the testimony is that when he was captured by the Communists, he asked the man who was guarding him to please get him a Bible. And he read his Bible and prayed. It just struck him that the Lord was telling him that it would be his wife who would come to save him. And she did. He did have that much trust and faith. The Chinese culture is so inbred in this that it's difficult to know that they were really Christians. We have certain things that we look for. We say that if he is a Christian, he should be thinking this way, acting this way. When you get to a culture like China, there are certain cultural patterns that don't change.

Mr. Dennison: There seems to be so little sympathy for him now, though.

Mrs. Andrews: Oh, I know, but I think it's wrong, totally wrong. I think much of that man, and he had a very smart wife, Madam Chiang Kai-Shek.

Mr. Dennison: Well, let's take that step now here and think about missions. What's going on with missions? Has the twentieth century been successful missionary-wise?

Mrs. Andrews: You do need to take into consideration what country which country you're going to, what culture you're going to enter and work with. It takes years for people to trust us. I told this to Mr. John Galbraith. I said, "It takes years for them to know you and to trust you." And we used to just be horrified at these people who would come out from other mission groups, never learning the language, but coming out with these great big campaigns. And they'd preach to groups and they would be interpreted, say, "Who wants to be saved?" And they would give out so many tracts and so many booklets and then they would go home and tell about all these people that raised their hands. How ridiculous! The Lord could do it that way, but we never met a soul who was saved that way. The ones we met, and worked with, struggled and prayed for, loved, helped—those in the church who were true Christians—did the same thing.

Egbert spoke Mandarin. I thought I'd never learn it. It took me two years before I could feel comfortable going out alone to a house and speaking to the women. Egbert was a linguist, he was.

Now, I was glad of that. I thought, "Boy, I've seen too many families where the women are smart and the man doesn't know how to get that language." So I was thankful I married somebody who knew it. And he would encourage me about learning the language. He'd say, "Don't worry. It'll come. You'll get there." He said, "You have music in you." The tones were very important, and he would say, "You get correct tones better than I do." He'd encourage me. But, anyway, we were there ten years. The church grew very slowly. Egbert believed in the same principles that Bruce Hunt did. He was indoctrinated by Bruce Hunt in Manchuria.

Mr. Dennison: Now, the church situation in Taiwan, we've always heard about the struggles.

Mrs. Andrews: They hated us, that big liberal church. They said, "We're divisive!" Egbert never wanted us to call ourselves Presbyterian, but he didn't want to railroad anything through. He said that we had a body of young ministers and that they're the ones who should decide.

Well, Daniel Hong was rather outspoken and he said, "We're Presbyterian. We shouldn't be ashamed of them, but call ourselves Presbyterians." Well, Egbert didn't want to argue. And, of course, the Christian Reformed were with us, and we wanted to be sure it was Reformed, so it was Reformed Presbyterian, or Presbyterian. As soon as we came out with that word "Presbyterian" we were blackballed. They fought against us ever since. At Gaochaw we could have had a huge church, but every Christian who came to our church that had any connection with anybody in the big Presbyterian church were told, "Don't go there!"

So it's an uphill struggle, all the way. We used to try to tell the church this, but, you know, unless you're in it, we don't feel for them, to get people to get really down to business of praying for them. We had a terrible time!

Mr. Dennison: People back in the United States ...

Mrs. Andrews: ... I'm sure they sympathized. But, you know, as soon as a missionary is gone, all their own church problems descend upon them, their own family problems, and they hardly have enough time to pray for those. "That foreign field is an awful long way away!" Prayer is the most essential thing, and how do you get it? Every time we came home on furlough, what opportunities I had with the women. It was all they ever talked about! Finally you got ten people—ten women—who were Calvinists. I wrote them every month and told them every thing we wanted. They would pray, every day. And it helped. We sensed it.

Mr. Dennison: I want to thank you for this opportunity. Very enjoyable.

Mrs. Andrews: I haven't talked about these things in years!

This first photo shows Betty seeing Egbert off for Formosa just after their engagement in July 1956. The following photo appeared in the March, 1979 issue of Worldwide Challenge.

Betty and Egbert Andrews

Betty and Egbert Andrews

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