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  • Writer's pictureMarianito “Nitoy” Gonzales

(Interview) Joyce Holstege Author of the Children’s book “I Belong”


One of the books that I’m eyeing at for the enjoyment of my family is the book I Belong. It’s published by The Reformed Free Publishing Association. I’m glad it’s now available in the Philippines through the ministry of Rev. Daniel and Sharon Kylen (more details on that at the end of the interview). To highlight this good news, I reached out to the author, Joyce Holstege and we talk about her becoming a Christian, her being a kindergarten teacher and of course her book I Belong.


Joyce kindly tell us about yourself and how you got saved.


I was born into a Reformed Christian family. God blessed me with strong Christian parents who were

convicted to the truth and raising their family in the truth of God’s word. I was baptized in Hudsonville

Protestant Reformed Church where I started going to Sunday School classes when I was three. I began

catechism in the PRCA when I was 6 and continued until I made confession of faith as a young adult. I

also attended Hope Protestant Reformed Christian School and Covenant Christian High School, so I was

immersed in Reformed teaching from a small child. There were and are definitely times that I am more

convicted of my faith and have a stronger relationship with God, but my faith and relationship with God

has been growing throughout my life.


You have been a kindergarten teacher for 20 years. Can you tell us how you started teaching at Heritage Christian School?


I started teaching at Heritage in 1995 when I was 36 years old. I started to think about teaching when I was in my early twenties, but in God’s will and providence, I didn’t begin to take college classes toward a teaching degree until I was 30. I began by teaching 4th grade for 3 years, then 2nd grade for 5 years, and I am now finishing my 20th year in kindergarten. Lord willing, I will continue to teach kindergarten for a few more years.


What are the lessons that you have learn in your teaching experience? Did these lessons in a way help you prepare in writing I Belong?


Throughout my years of teaching, my love for teaching grew. I’ve learned so much about children, and

teaching, and learning. I think my teaching evolved over the years. I believe for me, and for most

teachers, we begin presenting lessons as beginning teachers and evolve toward teaching students the

lessons with experience.


Bible was not my favorite subject to teach in my first years. I was very concerned, and rightly so, about

getting the facts correct and presenting the lessons accurately. As I became more familiar with the

materials that I taught, I found my Bible lessons becoming more interactive and more conversational

with the students. This led to more understanding of the God’s Word for both me and my students. It

also helped me to get a better idea of the level of their understanding and comprehension and led me to

speak and teach to that level.


So why did you pick the Heidelberg Catechism for this doctrinal devotion book?


The Heidelberg Catechism was originally written to teach children basic tenets from God’s Word.

Question and answer one is a great overview of the entire catechism. It’s a solid, concise teaching of

God’s plan and execution of the salvation of his children. It’s also very comforting and gives hope for

God’s children in relationship to their eternal life. There are many times in the school year that our

discussions in the classroom lead us to the topic of earthly death and God’s promise for eternal life with

him. These discussions led me to think about writing a devotional based on HC Q&A1.


I made mentioned of the word ‘doctrinal devotion”? How do you define this word? Are kids ready for this kind of material? Should we just read Bible stories to them?


When I use the term doctrinal devotions, I refer to devotions that are based on doctrinal beliefs. I’m not sure there really could be true devotions that are not doctrinal, because doctrine is simply a set of beliefs about God. Unfortunately, there are misunderstandings about what doctrine is. Many people think that doctrine consists of deep, difficult to understand and explain, beliefs like transubstantiation vs consubstantiation. Doctrine is a set of beliefs about God. These can be as simple as God is holy or God loves his children. God’s word is written so that even children can be taught to understand it.


Using Bible stories can be an excellent way to teach doctrine, but I think you need to be intentional when teaching Bible stories that you do relate the facts of the story to what God is teaching about himself and his work. It is one thing to teach the story of David and Goliath; it is another thing to teach that by God’s providence, He brought David to that time and place to go against Goliath and that God used the hand of David to hurl the stone that hit Goliath. It’s more than just a story about a boy who was courageous enough to fight a giant, it’s a lesson about how God uses weak means to fulfil His providential will.


Your book I Belong is now available in the Philippines. How do you feel that your book reached this part of the word?


I am very humbled by everything about the publication of I Belong. I’m stunned and in awe of how God has used me (very weak means) to fulfill his will of spreading the gospel, the message of our salvation. When the book was published, I envisioned it being used by people in my own community or maybe by people of my denomination in other states. I never dreamed that it would be used on the other side of the world. It is very humbling.


Kindly tell us what’s the book I Belong is all about?


The book, I Belong, takes the Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 1 phrase by phrase and explains the phrases in a way that children can understand. I used both Bible stories and fictional stories to teach concepts of life and death, bodies and souls, salvation, and our relationship with the ever faithful, loving God to young children. Throughout the book, there are basic doctrinal beliefs explained in simple text with applications to daily living.


Can you share us the process in writing the book?


The process of writing this book was long. After submitting a very rough draft of a portion of the manuscript, I began working on the book with the Reformed Free Publishing Association. Miriam Koerner at RFPA offered many suggestions for edits and we worked together to a finalized copy. Once we got to a good format and text, Miriam contacted Meagan Krosschell about illustrations. Meagan used the text and some ideas that I had to create the illustrations digitally and she did a fantastic job.


I enjoyed what you have written and the artwork rendered in the book. Kindly invite our readers to check your book I Belong? If they have questions, how can they reach you?


You are invited to check out the book I Belong at RFPA.org. Any questions that you have for me can be sent to RFPA through the website and they will forward them to me.


Thank you so much Joyce. Please do get her book I Belong. For those who are in the Philippines you can contact Rev. Daniel and Sharon Kylen. They offer this and other books from Reformed Free Publishing Association (RFPG) at 80 % off and with free shipping within the Philippines. Contact Sharon Kleyn at 0905-528-1772 or at sharonkleyn@prca.org to get I Belong and be included to their mailing list.


 

About the Author

Marianito “Nitoy” Gonzales is just an ordinary guy serving an extraordinary God. He blogs at Delighting Grace. He writes post, proofreads and translates for Driven By The Gospel. He is happily married to Cristy-Ann and enjoys their daughter, Agatha Christie. His family worships, fellowships and serves at Faithway Community Baptist Church in Sta. Rita Karsada, Batangas City. He is also a comicbook nerd and collects Batman comics. You can find him at Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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