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Bronkema, Ralph (1893-1973) | Heritage Hall, Hekman Library

Name: Bronkema, Ralph (1893-1973)

Historical Note:

The Yearbook of the Christian Reformed Church lists only one church under the name of Ralph Bronkema.  In 1929 he accepted the call of First Orange City, Iowa, and served that congregation until 1952.  Our collection of sermons makes references to churches where he preached some of his sermons after his retirement.  Although he retired early because of diabetic disabilities, he was able to serve for brief periods in Los Angeles, California; Edmonton, Alberta; Dresden, Ontario; Salt Lake City, Utah; Eau Galle, Florida, and British Columbia; Tyler, Minnesota; and Neerlandia, Alberta.

Ralph Bronkema was born, June 10, 1893, of immigrant parents, members of the Coldbrook CRC, Grand Rapids, Michigan.  As a young man he contributed to the family finances by working at various jobs while continuing his education.  After two years at the seminary he accepted a teaching position at the newly founded Christian high school in Grand Rapids.  After teaching Bible for five years he continued his theological instruction at the Free University of Amsterdam.  His doctoral dissertation was entitled The Essence of Puritanism. Bronkema married Ella Hofstra of Grand Rapids. Together they had 4 children–Betty, Lois, Ralph (Don) and Rosalie.

While in the Netherlands he established good relationships with many people.  He preached for forty weeks in the Bergen church.  After WWII he organized a relief program using his friends in the Netherlands as contact person for the distribution of tons of food, clothing, and medicine from Northwest Iowa.  For this work the Dutch government knighted him.  In the collection there is a vivid mimeographed account of his visit to the Netherlands after the war.

Ralph Bronkema passed away on May 4, 1973. Although he served only one congregation during his active ministry, his activities reached people beyond the immediate area of the congregational membership.  His line of communication crossed the Atlantic Ocean.

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