Thursday, May 02, 2024

Arie and Katrien in Canada


1.       Introducing Myself


Hello, I’m Arie Dof, but you can simply call me Arie, as is the Canadian custom. Five years ago, my family and I embarked on a journey from Rotterdam, spending nine days at sea and three days by rail before we finally reached Alberta, Canada.

Back in Holland, I was a modest market gardener—not that I’m modest in stature, standing at 185 cm (6’ 1”). My two eldest sons were eager to explore Canada, and my wife, Katrien, shared their adventurous spirit. We spent six months in prayerful consideration before taking the leap. With seven sons and two daughters, the prospects of my children earning a livelihood on my vegetable farm were very limited, and Canada promised vast opportunities, according to the information we received in The Hague.

We’ve been in Canada for over five years now, and it’s been anything but dull. We’re grateful for our many blessings. Our first year was spent working on a large farm, where my two eldest sons and I earned a good wage. The farmer was a fine man, albeit one who spent his money faster than he earned it—a trait we’ve noticed is quite common among Canadians. They live day by day. The farmer’s wife was also good at spending her money.

After a year, we moved to the city. I’ve taken up  carpentry, a trade I never thought I’d master. According to Katrien, in Holland, I could not nail a single nail straight. My eldest son works in a concrete factory, and my second son is a painter.

I hope to start my own gardening business someday, although my sons aren’t too keen on the idea. They earn a good living in the city and are content with their lives. My eldest daughter is training to be a nurse, the second helps Katrien at home, three are still in school, and the youngest two are not yet of school age.

As an immigrant, I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve the Lord here in Canada. I’m an elder in the church, vice president of the choir, and a board member of the Christian school association. Katrien often remarks that I’m just as busy here in Canada as I was in Holland and that I spend too little time at home. She’s right, of course. But when you’re called to serve—and if I’m honest, I enjoy attending meetings—what can you do?

Our pastor and I have a good relationship. He seems to see more potential in me than I see in myself. Last week, after a church council meeting, he drove me home and said that I should write about life in Canada as an immigrant.

The suggestion took me by surprise. When I first arrived in Canada, I occasionally sent articles to a regional magazine in Holland, which I used to read regularly. To my family’s surprise, those pieces were published. I still have those newspapers. But I don’t consider myself a writer. I think I’m too pragmatic and lack the necessary imagination—although Katrien would argue that I have a knack for exaggeration. Moreover, my education was limited to primary school and horticultural winter school.

I told the pastor that I wasn’t particularly skilled with the pen and didn’t have anything special to write about, as I considered my life quite ordinary. “That’s the point, Arie,” he replied smoothly. “Most people write about what they find special and important. You should write about the ordinary aspects of your immigrant life.”

You can’t argue with a pastor, so I agreed to give it a try. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll stop.

The pastor suggested that I jot down my thoughts on any and every topic. So here I am, pen in hand, trying to think of something to write.

There’s still much to say about Canada and our life here.

Writing isn’t as difficult as I thought!


"Ter Kennismaking," pp 7-9, Arie en Katrien in Canada, Guardian: Hamilton, Ontario, 1958; 
Originally published in Calvinist Contact (; 
tr. George van Popta, 2024.