After 12 years as NW’s Chaplain Van Oort felt called to be the pastor at City Church Denver.
“The Holy Spirit led me to this new position,” Van Oort said. “The SSP I went to Denver was very impacting. I could feel the Holy Spirit saying I think I want you here. The agencies we worked with were phenomenal. It just felt like I needed to be there.”
Van Oort went on the Spring 2013 Denver SSP with eight students, and they could tell that Harlan was in his element when they were in Denver.
“He was so happy the whole time we were there. He absolutely loved Denver,” said student Andrew Powell. “He was so nostalgic the whole time we were there, thinking about old memories and how much he loved it there.”
With Van Oort’s departure, students may have noticed chapel is different. Campus Ministry has been stepping up to cover Van Oort’s position.
“We are all kind of working together to fill in the gaps,” said Barb Dewald, associate dean of Christian formation. “Obviously there is a big gap with chapel. Heather [Josselyn-Cranson] is really doing a lot with chapel. Patrick [Hummel] is doing a lot of contacting speakers for chapel. I’m probably doing more with the pastoral care. We all just pull in because there is one less person.”
Van Oort’s departure was a shock to everyone including Dean of Students Julie Elliott.
“I was really surprised,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting that. But when I heard what he was going to be doing next I thought that will be an awesome opportunity for him,” Elliott said. “I was sad, and I was a little overwhelmed since it was close to the school year. I wondered what we were going to do with chapel, but at the same time, you have to think about what is best for him and it sounded like a really good thing for him and his family.”
Without Van Oort’s presence on campus, there is a distinguishable gap.
“[I’m going to miss] going to his office and having him tell me all these amazing qualities that I have that I never see and that I don’t notice,” Dakotah Jordan said. “He was very encouraging and always believed in me.”
“I loved how he was always helping me and others learn and challenging us,” Powell said. “You would say something and he would say, ‘Well, why do you think that?’ and I would say I don’t know. He would make us talk about it and challenge the way we think. You want to have a conversation with him but he is always trying to challenge you and make you learn. He always wants to better you.”
Students won’t be teh only ones who notice the gap.
“He is really a helpful person,” Dewald said. “He was a handyman. If there was a shovel and there was snow, he would shovel it. He’s a service person and that was something he just naturally did. He would see it and help do it.”
Van Oort said he loved watching all the students learn and grow as people, scholars and as Christians throughout these past 12 years of being the chaplain. Van Oort moved from his Orange City residence on September 10th and will be starting right away at City Church Denver.
“Thank you to everyone and blessings to you all of you,” Van Oort said.