Rev Johannes van Dorp was born on 22 July 1931 at Maarssen in the Netherlands. He was one of a family of 10 children, who were catechised by their father from the Heidelberg Catechism in their early, formative years. As they found no suitable church in Maarssen, the family held worship in their home. They suffered great privations during the Second World War and they decided to emigrate. They considered settling in South Africa, but eventually they chose to go to New Zealand. This came about when Mr van Dorp’s cousin, Mr Dick Vermeulen, who served in the Dutch army in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), accepted an offer to settle in New Zealand in 1947 on his demobilisation. The Vermeulen family followed.
Mr van Dorp’s parents desired to emigrate to a country with an acceptable church connection. After reading The Free Presbyterian Magazine in Holland, they contacted Mr John Grant (the then General Treasurer, who handled subscriptions for the Church Magazines). In his own words Mr van Dorp recalls, “My father decided to write a letter to Mr John Grant to advise him of his desire to emigrate to New Zealand with his family”. Molly Harvey, on a visit from New Zealand, happened to be with Mr Grant at the time and she encouraged him to contact Mr van Dorp, senior. Eventually the whole family, father and mother and 10 children, emigrated to New Zealand and settled in Gisborne. In this city on the east coast of New Zealand, the family attended the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland.
Mr van Dorp trained as a teacher and taught in Holland for four months before leaving for New Zealand at the age of 21. He intended to continue his teaching career in New Zealand,but instead took a clerical job in the Government Health Department in Gisborne, where he met Jean, his future wife. And Molly Harvey was later to marry Cor van Dorp, an older brother of the minister. He was to become one of the original elders of the Gisborne congregation.
Rev William MacLean arrived as deputy in 1958. Mr van Dorp tells of the impact that Mr MacLean’s preaching had on him: “He did not hesitate to sound warnings about Sabbath-breaking and the sin of unbelief. He used to call the sin of unbelief the greatest possible sin, which is actually a rejecting of Christ, because He is offered to us in the gospel as the only Saviour, the only name given under heaven whereby we must be saved.” However, it seems that the gospel was made the power of God to salvation for him through a sermon read by his father in their home. It was under the faithful preaching of Rev William MacLean, by then minister of the Gisborne congregation, that Mr van Dorp was enabled to make a public profession of faith and, subsequently, received a call to the ministry. On one occasion when he was exercised as to whether he had true saving faith, he mentioned to someone how he was challenged by the words in Hebrews 11:6, “Without faith it is impossible to please him”. The words of Psalm 147:11 were blessed for his relief: “The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear Him, in those that hope in His mercy”.
He left for Scotland in September 1971 after doing part of his divinity course in Gisborne. He was away from his wife and four sons for 14 months. He returned to Gisborne at the end of 1972. His ordination and induction to the Gisborne congregation took place in August 1973, and he laboured for 38 years in this charge. After the death of Rev D M Macleod, Auckland, in 1978, Mr van Dorp had the sole ministerial responsibility for the Free Presbyterian congregations in New Zealand. It was then that he became the Clerk of Presbytery, a duty which he efficiently fulfilled till he retired. He also diligently fulfilled his role as interim moderator of several congregations, including Auckland, Wellington and Tauranga in New Zealand, as well as Singapore. He travelled long distances for communion seasons throughout the Presbytery.
In 2011 he and Mrs van Dorp retired to live in Grafton to be near their eldest son, Richard (an elder in the Grafton congregation) and his family. About a year later he was diagnosed with serious complications from a melanoma. He continued to take services after retiring and gave assistance at the time of the Grafton communion in May 2013; he took the prayer meeting on Wednesday and opened the fellowship meeting on Friday. However, on June 24 he entered hospital and then a nursing home, where he stayed till his death some months later, on 9 November 2013. There he exhibited a patient and submissive Christian testimony, which was acknowledged by the staff. During his ministry he sought faithfully and diligently to preach the gospel. “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” To his mourning widow and family we extend our warm sympathy and commend them to the God of all comfort.
(Rev) E A Rayner.
[This obituary was originally printed in the March 2014 issue of the Free Presbyterian Magazine.]