In 1890 just outside Amsterdam in The Netherlands, August Van Ryn was born. At age 17, he immigrated to New York with his older brother Louis. Two years later, August headed to Grand Rapids, Michigan where he surrendered to a life of full time Gospel ministry.
In 1916, a missionary that served in the Bahamas came to Michigan for a visit. Robert Stewart Stratton traveled to the Bahamas a couple years before to preach the Gospel. Stratton met and married a local Bahamian Lilah Roberts, daughter of John Goodwin Roberts and Emma Marion Roberts of Marsh Harbour, Abaco.
Van Ryn and Stratton served together in Michigan for a few weeks and quickly developed a bond. After the Strattons returned to the Bahamas, he wrote a letter to Van Ryn to express the need of more missionaries to serve the scattered islands.
On December 31, 1916, August Van Ryn found himself in a small motor-driven boat heading from Miami, Florida to Nassau, Bahamas where he was welcomed by Robert and Lilah Stratton and their baby girl. They visited Nassau for a few days before they boarded a sailboat to Marsh Harbour, Abaco.
August Van Ryn also fell in love with Bahamian native Persis Roberts, who was the sister of Stratton’s wife Lilah. Even though, August only intended to stay in the Bahamas for couple months, his ministry in the islands lasted over thirteen years.
One of his amazing journal entries describes his experience at Marsh Harbour during the severe hurricane of October 1926.
The night before everything broke loose it was a lovely, balmy evening…So we went to bed, but were awakened around midnight by the roaring of the wind, when the violence began to smash the town. The velocity of the wind increased till it blew close to 200 miles an hour…Our house stood firm…as the gale increased that night it drove the heavy rain through the roof and in turn this soaked through the upstairs floor and into the rooms downstairs. I spent part of the night trying to dry things out a little. But the house stood.
Then, about 7 o’clock in the morning there fell a complete calm. It was a really eerie sensation-this perfect calm seconds after the raging wind…Our house stood close to the water-not to the ocean itself, but to inland waters with direct access to the ocean in the distance some five miles away. It was from there – from the Atlantic – that the tidal wave came and drove its furious course in till it reached our town…a solid wall of water about six feet high. It smashed against our house; drove in the front door and windows and broke away an addition to my house I had recently built.
Now the water stood about two or three feet high in our living room. It was too deep for us with our small children to remain there so we stood together on the stairs that led to the second floor. There we stood with our four little children, not knowing what to do; but we could and did pray…And then, in a few minutes more, the real tidal wave rolled in. We could hear its fearful roar before we could see it; it was a solid wall of water rising about twenty feet high. When my wife and I saw it bearing down on us and on our home, we kissed each other and I said to her, “Goodbye darling, we’ll see each other in the glory.”
The wave struck the house and smashed it to smithereens. I myself apparently went through the glass window on the stairway by which we stood, for my leg had great big cuts in it. The next thing I knew I came to my senses lying on a piece of wreckage. I had been knocked unconscious and had lost our dear baby. When I came to, I saw my wife in the raging waters further inland, with the three small children clinging to her and she to them.
This sensational experience left a deep impression on my wife and me, and as a result, has brought us rich spiritual blessing. When all you have on earth is taken from you in a few seconds; what use is it to set your heart and mind on things below? We deeply felt the sudden loss, of course, of our dear Pearl Eleanor, but God has blessed it all throughout the following years in so many ways. We shall see our darling baby again – in His presence.
The Van Ryns continued to serve in the islands for three more years. August Van Ryn and Robert Stratton had a 52-foot yacht named Evangel built for their ministry travel to the islands. The Evangel’s anchor held fast during the 1926 hurricane. The Evangel was said to be the only vessel that came through the storm without any damage.
August Van Ryn authored many Bible study books including his autobiography “Sixty Years In His Service.” In his latter years, fearful of losing his eyesight, he memorized the entire New Testament. This man and his ministry were both a tribute to his God and King.