I can count on one hand the number of people who have had an impact on me and my world like that of Bob Vermeer. He was a great mentor, a great leader, an encourager, and an overall wonderful friend. I loved him like my own father.
His and his beautiful wife Lois’s fingerprints are all over our ministry campus in South Africa. Back in 2007 or 2008, he encouraged me to try out a block-making machine that his company had been working with for underprivileged areas around the world. Our ministry was pretty small then, and I remember it being a bit of a stretch for us to purchase the machine and the trailer to move it about. The concept of using African soil to make our own bricks resonated with me and our board. At the end of the day, we no longer use the block machine but purchasing it was one of the best decisions of my life because it cemented my relationship with Bob.
Vermeer sent two staff from Pella to come and work with us for nearly 2 months as we learned to work with the block machine. Over the next several months we made tens of thousands of bricks and constructed our entire Del Cramer Children’s Campus. We worked closely with engineers from Vermeer throughout the construction project and discovered some minor machining errors in the machine that could be improved upon. These same engineers went to work and manufactured an entirely new machine for us and shipped it to us in Africa at no cost to us. The really amazing thing about this is that I am pretty sure that the company never planned on this machine is a money-maker for them. They were simply doing what they could to help third-world countries find a better way to manufacture bricks.
In addition to sending us a completely new machine for our next project, Bob sent his nephew Adam DeJong to oversee the construction of our beautiful Lodge of Dreams. Adam stayed with us for several months, and he along with Maxwell Chongoni, managed the entire construction project. The Lodge of Dreams is where many American volunteers stay when they come to South Africa to serve with our ministry.
Bob loved coming to South Africa to serve the children that we work with here. He especially loved seeing the spiritual growth in the team members who would come to volunteer with us. He had a strong desire to help as many people as possible and experience doing mission work with us in South Africa. He partnered with Vermeer’s head Chaplin, Kevin Glesener, who has led several teams of Vermeer employees and friends of Bob and Lois, paying all expenses including airfare and trip tuition so that each of them would experience the spiritual growth that he had seen in others.
Bob and Lois also invested significantly in assisting us with our Sports 4 Christ program and sports complex. They both had a dream to bring all of their grandchildren to South Africa with them one day. I pray that we will one day be able to host these same grandchildren that he and Lois have been praying for. I look forward to spending eternity in Heaven with this great man.