November 9, 2019

Robert Kloosterhuis, Former World Church Vice President, Dies at 87

Penny Brink, Adventist Review 

Robert John Kloosterhuis, long-time church administrator and previous vice president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, died on November 3, 2019. He was 87.

Kloosterhuis was born on August 22, 1932, in Kalamazoo, Michigan, the youngest of four sons to Dutch parents. He spent much of his childhood helping on the small family farm. He was a graduate of Forest Lake Academy in 1950 and earned a BA from Emmanuel Missionary College in 1954 with a major in religion.

In June 1953, Kloosterhuis married Ruth Schoun, and the couple lived in a small apartment on the university campus. The industriousness learned in childhood earned him much of his tuition expenses and served him well when he was unexpectedly called to be the Industrial Director at the Franco-Union Institute in Haiti in 1954. Upon return to the US in 1960, the couple was able to send their two sons, David and Robert, to denominational schools, and Kloosterhuis earned a master’s degree from Andrews University in New Testament studies. He served for 11 years (1964-1975) as pastor and departmental director in the Illinois Conference in the youth, stewardship, and health and temperance departments.

Many who served with Kloosterhuis and his wife, Ruth, would say that Robert was a shining light for Jesus throughout his life. The Lake Union Herald published a story written by Kloosterhuis in 1980, entitled, “Let It Shine,” in which he related the particular way that Haitian lay members attracted people in rural areas to evangelistic meetings in the villages. They would hang a kerosene lamp on a pole. Curious to see what was happening, people were drawn from afar. The people would join in the singing and hear the messages. More than 3,000 people from 200 such lamppost sites were baptized that year alone. This happened during the time Klosterhuis served as the Franco-Haitian Union president in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, from 1976 to 1980. Kloosterhuis had also been the president of the Franco-Haitian Seminary, as well as secretary-treasurer for the Franco-Haitian Union.

The Inter-American Division territory of Haiti was not the only world region that Kloosterhuis would serve in. General Conference president Ted Wilson remembers that “it was during the time in Abidjan that we became well acquainted with Bob and Ruth Kloosterhuis, when we served with them in that division. Pastor Kloosterhuis had a visionary perspective on evangelistic outreach, and it was a pleasure and privilege to work with him and Ruth. I learned much from him.”

Kloosterhuis was elected as the first president for the Africa-Indian Ocean Division (AID) in Abidjan, Cote d’ Ivoire, serving there from 1980 to 1985. The division was established to take care of the work in the French-speaking countries of West Africa and the Indian Ocean islands. The initial small committee started the work in that region from scratch and, together with faithful workers in that field, achieved the highest growth rate of any of the 10 divisions in the worldwide “1,000 Days of Reaping” initiative. “If you want to have the time of your life, begin at zero,” Kloosterhuis once said. That division has since become the West-Central Africa Division.

In 1985, Kloosterhuis was elected as a general vice president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (GC), where he served until 2000. During that time, he served as chair of the Board of Trustees of his alma mater, Andrews University, and chair of the Pacific Press board. After his retirement, Kloosterhuis continued to take assignments on behalf of the GC Presidential and Secretariat departments in relation to the work in various parts of the world field.

Since 2014, Robert and Ruth had lived in Florida, where he passed away.

“We salute Pastor Kloosterhuis’s dedicated service to God’s Advent movement,” Wilson said. “Soon we will see him again, by God’s grace, when Christ will come in the clouds of heaven to take us home. What a day that will be!”

To read a biographical article written in the late 1980s by Adventist Review executive editor Bill Knott, click here.