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De Korne, John Cornelius (1888-1951) | Heritage Hall, Hekman Library

Name: De Korne, John Cornelius (1888-1951)

Historical Note:

The collection reveals a man actively involved in World Missions. From the time, he and Lee S. Huizenga were appointed by the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church in 1918 to evaluate the mission fields of Sudan and/or China, until the end of his life, De Korne worked to advance the Gospel throughout the world.

John Cornelius was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on October 16, 1888. In 1908, he enrolled in Calvin College, after spending a brief period working in an office. He graduated in 1917. While at the seminary, he married Nettie M. Goudwaard in September 1914.

During WW I he was associated with the Army YMCA, 1918-1919, visiting Army camps providing spiritual support to the troops. When the Synod of 1920 approved the China field for mission work, De Korne became part of the staff in China. He remained a member of the China mission staff until 1934 when the work was terminated because of unrest in the Far East. From 1934-1939 he served the Second CRC of Wellsburg, Iowa. In 1939, he was appointed Director of Missions.

Books published include Chinese Altars to the Unknown God, To Whom I Now Send Thee; he edited Navajo and Zuni for Christ and wrote extensively in the Banner and Missionary Monthly.

His correspondence reveals contacts with missionaries and mission organizations within and outside of the Christian Reformed Church.

There are letters and minutes that unfold the tension between members of the staff in the China mission field. There were personality clashes and policy differences that prompted special meetings of the China Missions Board and special reports to the denominational board. Synodical decisions were necessary to resolve some differences.

De Korne, the scholar, studied at the Kennedy School of Missions where in 1934 he received a PhD. A dissertation on secret societies in China was never published but our collection includes his notes and a copy.

His colleagues described him as a true Christian gentleman—"efficient yet tender, determined yet gracious, gifted yet modest, distinguished and still most humble."

J. C. De Korne passed away at the age of sixty-three after suffering a series of heart attacks. His plans to preach an evening service on Sunday, December 9, 1951, did not take place.

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