|David Zuidema - Midland Park, New Jersey|
The Conversion Story of David Zuidema
as Told by Himself in Bryn Mawr, PA
Scripture read: Hebrews 9:27 "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." Now that's all that I wish to read. My name is David Zuidema, and I'm going to heaven. I read this verse of Scripture because of a great experience and what I went through when this Scripture came to my ears.
I was born in Holland, reared in New Jersey and I went to Iowa to farm. I loved the world, I loved pleasure. But I didn't know where I was going. I came into a condition I had never been in before; I found trouble and sorrow. I had a wife and two children; and my wife and I talked about religion, what place we should go to, should we join up with some place? should we have the children christened? My wife's folks wanted me to talk to the minister; so they invited him to the house. But they were more interested in having the children christened than in me being saved or being brought into the congregation.
Well this man came and paid me a visit. We were more or less concerned about what we should do, so he came and sat with me in my living room. I had a Bible on the table - it was not put there just for that reason; I read the Bible, but I didn't know that there was an Old Testament and a New Testament; I never knew anything about that. If anyone had asked me to turn to the New Testament I couldn't have done it. But I read it; and I said more than once, if anyone could get interested in this book, it must be a wonderful book to read. I was taught to read the Bible, but I would have people criticize me saying I was getting religious. I wasn't getting religious at all. It was a book and I thought I would read it, and I heard it was the Word of God.
Well this man came to see me, this so-called preacher; and I laid the Bible on the table and we sat on two chairs near the table. He said, "Well I've come to see you. Someone has asked me to speak to you about some different things." He talked to me about joining the congregation, about church membership. It didn't suit me very well because I lived with people who were members of his congregation , and they lived like I did, they did what I did. I said to him after he got through with his line of talk, "What good would it do me to become a member of your congregation? That's what I want you to answer me."
"Well," he said, "If you don't do it for yourself, do it for your wife and children."
I replied, "I don't see eye to eye with you on that."
Then he began to talk about the children being christened. And I told him, "Yes, we've talked about that quite a bit. What do you have to say about these children? They tell me if these children aren't christened they'll go to hell." I was facing the children, they were off in a corner in the same room where we were sitting. "Do you mean to tell me if they aren't christened, have a little water put on their head, that those poor children would be sent to hell?"
"No, they wouldn't go to hell."
"Well, where would they go? Would they go to heaven?"
He said , "No, they wouldn't go to heaven either".
I said, "That's strange; where would they go? Is there another place for them?"
He replied, "Oh yes, they'd be in the atmosphere, they would never have rest".
"Now look; we have a Bible here. Could you prove to me from the Bible that that's true what you're saying?"
"I could give it to you indirectly."
"What do you mean by indirectly?"
"Well, we have a little church book, a formula, it's in there."
"Where did you get it from to put it in there?"
He answered, "We got it out of the Bible."
"Here's a Bible. If you got it out of the Bible to put it in this book, show it to me out of the Bible." That was fair.
But he couldn't show it to me out of the Bible; and after a while he admitted to me it wasn't in the Bible.
So of course, we had quite a conversation about becoming a church member. So I said, "If I ever see or hear the right thing, I'll accept it, but I never have heard it yet"; and I hadn't. Well he put his arm on my shoulder and said, "Dave, bear that in mind, hold unto that and you'll be all right". I thought that was a rather strange thing for him to say; to tell me after trying to get me to become a member of his church, to tell me that. And with that we separated; he went his way and I went mine.
[Editor: Dave's first wife had died in childbirth when he was only l9 years old. He remarried and it was the parents of his second wife who had the minister visit him. Shortly after this he moved his little family out to Iowa where he took up farming.]
Following this I was under conviction of sin, but I didn't know what was the matter with me. You know, we had an organ, and my wife played the organ, and we sang some of the beautiful hymns, but I never knew what God had done for me in giving his Son to die for me upon the cross.
But I traveled along and that sin-question always came up before me ...
"I've got to meet God, I don't know if there's a heaven or a hell"; and I didn't.
I knew I had to go into eternity some day ; and there's not a soul in this meeting who can deny that you're on your way to eternity, that's where you're going to end some day. I was concerned about my sin so much, and about meeting God. No matter where I went I was always troubled about my sin. I was afraid to go anywhere. It haunted me; where ever I went I thought about meeting God.
One afternoon I came in from the field after harvesting some of the crops, and I had four horses abreast, right alongside one another; and as I picked up the reins, (I had a great big gate to open up to get the horses into the barnyard), and I'll never forget the experience that took place. I opened the gate to get the horses through and I threw the reins over the horses - one on this side, and the other on the other side, and as I did that, this Scripture came to me, as if someone had spoken it aloud, "Dave, it's appointed unto you once to die, and after this the judgment". There was no one with me or around me except my little boy who was there by me in the barnyard. Well, that puzzled me. That spoke to me more than anything else did. I had never heard the Gospel. I never knew that was a Scripture that came to my mind.
You know, I had a nice wife, a very good woman (but not saved). I thought if anyone had a chance of getting to heaven, it would be my wife. So I went into the house after I had gotten the horses into the barn and I said to her, "I would like to ask you a question ... where are you going when you die?"
You can imagine what she looked like when I asked her a question like that. But to my surprise, she said to me, "I believe I'm going to hell".
Well, that was a big surprise to me. So I said to her, "If that's the case, if you're going to hell, there's absolutely no chance of me trying to get to heaven".
But I went on. We had many a talk , and we used to say to one another, "We ought to do something about this, we ought to go somewhere, we ought to join up with some church".
But I could never see it; because the people who went to these places were just like me. I was comparing myself to them and comparing them to myself. So that went on. But that one thing didn't leave me; the Holy Spirit was convicting me of my sin, and this thought was always with me, "you have to meet God - you MUST meet God". And I thought, where am I going when I do meet God? For months that went on.
Finally I decided, "I've got to get out of this part of the country." I had a crop failure once with water, I got drowned out and I lost a lot of money; and I went unto another farm and I had a good crop, but after the first world war the prices dropped and I didn't make any money yet. So I made up my mind I would move out of Iowa and go up to the state of Minnesota - my people were up there dairying. I decided to go up there , and I thought I could probably get rid of this feeling. You know, I didn't know God; and I asked God to take the feeling away, because I was tormented with it ... always thinking about eternity - dying - meeting God.
I thought , "If I could get away from here, from this atmosphere, I'll probably get rid of it."
I made my preparations, I sold things, I planned things. I went to the bank and to my creditors and told them I was going to move.
They said, "If you move away from here, we'll never get our money".
I replied, "I think you will. If I get it, you'll get it".
So I got everything together, hired a box car and put all that I had left into it and went 350 miles north. I got to my father's farm, got the box car unloaded - I had some horses and hogs and a few pieces of machinery; BUT I still had that terrible feeling: sin, death, meeting God. I had no rest yet. So I was there almost a week or two when I said to my wife - she was sitting by the window, I'll never forget it.
I walked up to her and I said, "You know what I'm going to do?"
She said, "No, what are you going to do now?"
I said, "I'm going to sell what I have and I'm going back to the state of New Jersey".
She said, "What's the matter with you?"
I said, "I believe I'm going to die, and if I do, I want you to be where your folks are and your relatives; I don't want you to be here in the state of Minnesota and leave you here alone."
I gathered what I had, I got an auctioneer, and had him make out sale bills. We had to go to a town called Princeton to have those bills made out, me and the two men.
While we were there we saw a man by the name of Otto, and these two men who were with me asked, "Otto, what are you doing here?"
He said, "I'm going to die at two o'clock". I looked at him; he didn't seem to have any hesitation at all in saying he was going to die at two o'clock.
So they said, "What's the matter? What makes you say you're going to die?"
So he said, "I have to be operated on for appendicitis."
That brought to my mind something that had happened to me. A good friend of mine had been operated on for appendicitis, and you know, I once had an attack of appendicitis, and I thought of this man, and thought if I get operated on and I die, where will I go? And you know I had such pain in my side, that I had to get out of my bed all doubled up, and I prayed to God - I didn't know God, but I prayed to Him anyway. I asked God for mercy, and I asked God to take the pain away from me; and I walked, doubled-up, up and down the floor, and the pain did leave me. I stood up and thanked God that the pain had left me.
I stood with my back against the wall and I saw my wife with the two little tots and I just cried out, "Oh God, show me what to do and I'll do it".
I was looking for something, but I didn't know how to obtain it.
Well anyway, getting back to our visit to Princeton, we got finished with our business and the three of us went back home in the sled. You know, I never knew till after I got saved and wrote to these boys, but these two men who were with me were both saved men. Think of it, me going to the town, me telling them some of my experiences, yet they never talked to me about my soul. Later, when I asked them the reason why, they said they were afraid of me.
They said, "You were so big, and we were so small and we were afraid to tell you of your condition".
Well we got everything sold, and made for the state of New Jersey. But I had this before me all the time; I didn't know I was being convicted of sin by the Spirit of God, and that I was a sinner going to hell.
When we got to New Jersey we rented a little flat. I remember sitting by the window on Sunday mornings and saw the people walking up and down the street.
I said to my wife, "It must be wonderful to know where you're going. These people just keep going back and forth every Lord's Day." But I couldn't see there was anything in it to satisfy me.
About two months rolled by and we moved to a town called Midland Park. That's where I had been reared. I was three years old when we came to that town from Holland; I lived there all my life except for the seven years I lived in Iowa.
That summer there was a Gospel tent pitched in Emerson, NJ ... that was quite a few miles from Midland Park in those days. There was a man whom we had lived with in the state of Iowa, we used to talk things over; and he was interested in my soul, I think.
He came to me and said, "I want you to come with me to these Gospel meetings because these men say they are going to heaven and they know it".
I said, "You know, that's going a little too far ... I don't think anyone can know they are going to heaven when they're on this scene".
So he said, "They'll convince you".
These meetings went on for a couple of weeks; but I was building a little house. You know, the old devil he does everything he can to keep the unconverted occupied with something, and I was occupied with building this home; yet at the same time my sins were troubling me and the thought of meeting God troubled me.
After a while the tent was moved from Emerson to Midland Park on Prospect Street. I heard that these men were coming to town.
On Lord's Day afternoon I sat by the table reading my Bible, and it was as if a voice said to me, "Dave, get up and go to the tent". [The tent had been there a week or so.] So I was obedient. I closed the Bible and went to the tent. Now this was a Sunday afternoon, and there was a ministry meeting in the afternoon, ministering the Word of God to believers.
I stopped on my way at the house of the man who was interested in getting me to the tent and he asked me where I was going?
So I said, "I'm going to the tent".
He said he was glad I was going.
I didn't know what a ministry meeting was, and I didn't know what a Gospel meeting was. But I went into the tent, I was dressed in a blue work shirt and clean blue overalls, and I sat down in the back seat.
Mr. Ben Bradford and Mr. Hugh McEwen were preaching in the tent.
Mr. McEwen spoke first, but what he said I couldn't tell you, I've got to admit. But I know one thing he did say, he was speaking on the very thing I was confused about, he spoke about infant sprinkling.
He said that afternoon, "if anyone in this tent can get up and show me from the Word of God where there is anything about infant sprinkling, I would like him to do it."
I sat in the back seat with a man and I knew he had it done with his children, so I thought he might get up and challenge Mr. McEwen and show him where it was, but he didn't; he kept his seat.
Next, Mr. Bradford got up, but what he said I couldn't tell you much about either. But I knew I was interested. There was one thing I do remember. He said that present meeting was for Christians, for those who are saved, who know their sins forgiven, who are born again. He also said he was glad to see all who had come. While he was ministering the Word of God there were things he came out with made me think someone had told him about my life, and he knew all about me. The way he spoke, I thought surely this man has been in contact with someone who knows me and has told him all about my being convicted of my sin, wondering where I would be for Eternity and having to meet God. Then he said there would be a Gospel meeting at night for people not saved, who don't know they are going to heaven; and he gave all a hearty invitation to come back.
So the meeting was over; I went out and walked up the road with the man I had sat next to in the back. So I asked him, "Bill, why didn't you get up and challenge the man when he asked you or anyone else to get up and show him from the Word of God where infant sprinkling is? You had it done to your children, I'm sure."
He said to me, "It's not there".
So I asked, "Why did you have it done?" I was interested in that because I was interested in my children.
So he told me, "It's not in the Bible at all".
When I got home, my wife said to me, "what did you think of the meeting?"
I replied, "I never heard anything like it in my life. They tell you you have to be born again, you need to be saved, that you need Christ as your Saviour." I continued, "I can't tell you all they said, but I do remember that. I'm anxious to get back tonight, they're going to have a Gospel meeting; but I know we can't both go. Now you wash tomorrow," (Monday was washday,) "so you go tonight and I'll go tomorrow night."
When she returned home from the meeting on Sunday night, I asked her what she thought of the meeting?
She said, "I never heard anything like it before. You know, we're going to hell, we're not saved. We need to be born again. I was glad to be in that meeting and I can't wait till I can go again".
I couldn't wait for Monday night to come. My wife went Sunday and Tuesday, I went Monday and Wednesday.
During that week I was working at a certain place and there were some men who came along with Gospel tracts, and one man handed me some tracts. I had put my lunchbox and my jacket by a tree and they put some tracts by them.
I said, "Those belong to me; I guess you'll try to get me someway".
He said, "I hope we do".
So we read one of the tracts and I said to the young man working with me, "Who are those men?"
He said, "I don't know, but I know they're connected with some people who are having Gospel meetings in a tent on Prospect Street. They surely preach the truth."
He was a church man. I asked him if he had gone to the tent, and he said, "Not yet. But they speak the truth."
On Monday night I went to the meeting; on Tuesday, my wife went, and on Wednesday I went again and I invited the preachers to the house. I wanted this thing settled !
So they came to the house. It was 2:45 when they came and they stayed till 5:45. Mr. Bradford had a well-marked Bible and he read many verses from the Scriptures, but I couldn't tell you any of the verses he read.
But on my mind was, "How am I going to get this great question settled?"
Before he left, he said, "Young man, are you saved?"
I said, "No, I'm not saved"....."
"Are you lost?"
I said, "I can't say I'm lost either".
He said, "That's strange. People say they aren't saved and they aren't lost." Then he gave this illustration:
"Suppose there's a ship on the ocean and there are a lot of people on that vessel and everything is going nice and smoothly with nothing to be alarmed about. But all at once, the captain gives the cry that the ship is going down, she is sinking. Of those who had been on that ship were some saved and were some lost?"
I said, "Yes, those who were rescued were saved, the others perished, or were lost".
He asked, "Was there no third class of people?"
I said, "No, only two"
He said, "That's the same way it is with sinners, either they are going to heaven, or they are going to hell."
So I said "I would like to have that question settled"; and I told him a little of my experience; and he left. And we went to another week of meetings.
The second week I invited the preachers to the house again, and Mr. Bradford read and quoted Scripture to me.
Then he asked again, "Young man, are you saved?"
I said, "No, I'm not saved"
"Are you lost?"
I said, "yes, I believe I'm a lost sinner according to what you have been reading from the Word of God".
And he asked, "Would you like to be saved?"
I said, "I'd give anything to be saved, to know my sins forgiven, to have peace with God".
"Well", he said, "you can't give anything. It's all been paid for. You can't buy salvation, it's all paid for by the atoning work of Christ. God's Son died on the cross for your sins and God says if you believe that, you go free."
Yet with all the Scriptures that he read, I wasn't saved.
Then as Mr. Bradford got up to leave, he said, "I'm going to give you an illustration: Suppose you committed a crime and were to receive 50 lashes over your back. But I love you, and I say to the judge, 'Judge, I love this man, but he committed this crime and is due to get 50 lashes over his back; but I love him and I'll take his place'. If I take your place and receive the 50 lashes, what happens to you?"
I said, "I go free".
He asked, "Why?"
I answered, "Because you took my place".
"Could they hold you any more?"
I said, "No, because you suffered in my place".
"Well,", he continued, "you deserved to go to hell because of your sins, but God loved you so much He sent His Son into the world to go to the cross. Your sins were laid upon Him. He bore the wrath and curse of God for your sins; and now God says if you believe that you'll go free."
So he got up with that and walked toward the door, and asked, "Are you saved, young man?"
And I said, "Yes, I am saved. Thank God, I am saved. I believe what God says concerning His Son.
I was saved right there at my kitchen door at a quarter to six on a Thursday afternoon in 1922.
My wife got up from her chair as these men were going out the door and I just turned around and I met my wife face to face.
She said, "So you're saved?"
I said, "Sure I'm saved. I believe that Jesus died for me".
So she said, "I got saved at the same time when he told the story of how God loved us and sent His Son to die on that cross that we might be saved".
We both had trusted Christ and were saved. About three and a half years later, it pleased God to take my dear wife Home, she left this scene.
The night after I was saved there was an announcement made that if anyone wanted to be baptized, there was going to be a baptism on Saturday afternoon. So I went to Mr. Bradford and asked what a man would need in the line of clothes to be baptized.
He said, "A pair of socks, pants and a shirt".
I was saved on a Thursday, baptized on the Saturday and received into the fellowship of the Paterson assembly on the Lord's Day, where I remained until the meeting started in Midland Park in 1927.
I would like to tell you this, too. When I left the West, I left a lot of debt. They never thought they would ever get the money, and I didn't have it to pay.
One day a man came into my yard to talk to me. He had heard that I had gotten saved.
"Yes, I got saved. I never heard a story like it before."
The man said, "I went down to the tent but I can't understand the English language too well. So you are saved."
"Yes", I said, "I know my sins forgiven, I have peace with God, and that whole burden rolled away. What peace and joy settled in that bosom of mine. To think that God loved me, and gave His Son to die on that cross for me."
Now this man knew me when I was in the state of Iowa when I was going through some of this trouble.
He said, "Dave, you're a Christian now you say".
"Yes", I said, "I am. I'm a sinner saved by the grace of God, that makes me a Christian."
"You know", he said, "you left a lot of debt in Iowa."
He didn't have to remind me of that; I knew that. That was the best thing he could tell me after I preached to him. "
But I still say now what I said then, "If God gives me the money, I'll pay the money back."
And you know God did, and I'm glad of it tonight. I started in a little business; and nine years after God saved me, I went out to that country and paid every cent that I owed. The people were astonished. They didn't know what to make of it; and I told everyone of them how God saved me; and that was the reason I went out there, to pay the debt that I owed.
I went to one old man. I had given him a note, it was only a piece of paper. I had no money so he took a note. I owed him for a horse and some seed corn, it amounted to $120. I went to the door and a woman answered, so I asked if the man lived there whom I was looking for, and she said he did live there . It was more than ten years since I had seen him. I told her my name, but she didn't know me. I asked if I could see the old gentleman; so she took me into the bedroom to see him. He lay there, this poor old man, unshaven. I spoke to him in the Holland language,
"Do you know who I am?"
He said, "No, I don't know you".
I said, "Oh yes, you know me all right, but it's been awhile since you saw me. Do you remember a man who bought a horse and some seed corn from you? It amounted to $120?"
Well, he was pretty old, but he finally woke up. "Yes", he said, "I remember that".
He said, "I just got rid of that note not too long ago. I carried it in my pocket, in my wallet, and you know how paper gets worn from folding and unfolding it, and by and by it broke all to pieces, and I said, 'I'll never get this'".
"Remember how much it was?" I told him and he agreed on the amount. "Well here's your check for $120 and if there's any more I owe you, let me know." It took him by such a surprise I almost thought he was going to die of heart failure.
I went to another man; I owed him $80. He came to the door after I knocked, and said, "Who are you?"
"My name is Zuidema."
"Where are you from?"
"I'm from New Jersey. I used to farm out here. Remember a man who bought a wagon box of seed oats that cost $80?"
He thought awhile, and said, "Yes, I do". So I told him I was there to pay him the money.
The man said, "I never thought of you again; I said, 'It's gone, I'll never see it'".
"Well here's the money. The reason I'm here is not only because I got the money, but I want to tell you how God saved me." He didn't know anything about that. I told him how God saved me and I had told the people if I get the money I'll be back here to pay it.
He said, "Well I've never seen anything like this in my life". There was a paper being published out there; he said, "I'm going to put this in the paper, how a man came back after so many years to pay his debt'"
I repaid not only these two. I did it to all I owed money to.
That's what God did for me. God did so much for me. God was so good to me that I could go back and pay the debt I owed. The Word of God says, "Show what great things God has done for you". And God surely couldn't do anything greater. He saved my soul. He got me out of all my trouble, and I don't have to worry about where I'm going; because I'm going to heaven.
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