Getting to Know the van Santen Family
By Verger Dave Rubin
In an earlier Grace to You, I wrote about our newest Resident, Frans van Santen, and his personal background. But he also is a member of a beautiful family. The van Santen family is comprised of Frans, wife Erin, daughter Estella, and son Moses. Let’s learn about these newest members of our Grace family and how the Holy Spirit has guided them to where they are now.
Frans was born in Achterveld, a village in The Netherlands. He was baptized and raised in the Dutch Reformed Church, a denomination that largely follows the teachings of John Calvin. In his youth Frans had a variety of jobs: he delivered newspapers, worked in retail at a men’s clothing store, had a job as a garbage collector, and was employed as a gardener at a mushroom farm. He attended college in Ede at Christelijke Hogeschool and received a Bachelor’s degree in Human Resource Management. Subsequently, he moved to Amsterdam and received a Master’s degree in Culture, Organization, and Management at Vrije Universiteit. He then spent two years in the Grand Prix trainee program at BMC following which he attended Tyndale Theological Seminary and graduated Cum Laude as a Master of Divinity. While receiving his education, Frans also worked with young professionals and in church-related areas.
Frans had a good friend from Denmark who fell in love with an American woman attending l’Abri in Switzerland. The couple decided to get married in her home city of Knoxville, Tennessee and Frans was invited to attend. The bride had invited one of her friends, Erin, who stayed at the Swiss l’Abri years before Frans, to the wedding. Frans and Erin met at the wedding and immediately hit it off, discovering that they enjoyed talking to one another. After the wedding, they went their separate ways but dated online with Skype and email for 13 months. In 2012 they decided to marry and since Erin was from the Orlando area, wed in Orlando’s Emmanuel Episcopal Church.
Returning to live in Amsterdam, the couple worshipped at a non-denominational church but, after about 4 years, grew disenchanted and visited Christ Church, an Anglican church in Amsterdam where Frans had many discussions with the priest. This led to a discovery weekend in London and both of them converting to Anglicanism, which they considered the best fit for an international couple like themselves. They decided to move to Orlando and in my previous article on Frans, I’ve detailed the path by which the Holy Spirit led them to Grace Church. When not busy with the duties of a Resident, Frans enjoys watching and playing soccer, playing the organ and piano, and doing things with his family.
Erin was born in Oklahoma but moved at age 5 to Orlando, where she attended Winter Park High School. She worshipped at Northland Church, a non-denominational church in the Orlando area. During her teen years, she worked in a greenhouse alongside Mexican workers and learned to speak Spanish. She also worked in the Jewish Community Center. After graduating high school, Erin attended Palm Beach Atlantic University and graduated with Bachelor’s degrees in both English and Psychology. While there, she was involved in a branch of the Campus Ministry discipleship program. After graduation, she taught high school English for 4 years at Berean Christian School in West Palm Beach. Since her childhood, Erin had heard of and dreamed of attending the l’Abri Fellowship International, an organization in Switzerland for seekers to deepen their knowledge of the Christian faith. At this point in her life, she was finally able to realize this dream. She spent 8 months there, forming a friendship with the woman from Knoxville whose wedding she’d later attend and meet Frans. Returning to Florida, Erin taught 4th grade for a year, attended Florida Atlantic University earning a Master’s in Fine Arts in writing, taught English courses at FAU, and went to that fateful wedding where she met her husband-to-be. After their marriage, the Van Santens lived in Amsterdam. At that time, the Dutch government sponsored a program to teach immigrants the Dutch language. Living as an immigrant in the Netherlands for 8 years, Erin developed a heart for immigrants and their problems.
Their daughter Estella was born in 2014 and their son Moses in 2016; the couple decided to have their children grow up in America so, in June of this year, the family flew to Erin’s home in Altoona. On the flight, Frans remarked to Erin that he wished he could find a mentor in the United States to guide him into becoming an Episcopal priest. And the Holy Spirit led him to Grace’s Residency Program.
Erin enjoys reading, especially in the genres of poetry and biographies; nature in general; small groups; and home decorating. She’s currently getting settled into their new home but anticipates being active in Grace’s church life for the length of Frans’s residency. She and Frans have different but complementary spiritual gifts and have worked together in various ministries. Their son Moses is a typical 4-year-old, loving things with sharp teeth and wearing costumes. Daughter Estella is six and a half (emphasis hers) years old and is an aesthete, loving art, drawing, and painting, as well as plants and flowers. She is attending 8th Street Elementary.
One last example of the Holy Spirit working in their lives: upon their arrival to Ocala, the Van Santen’s were seeking a residence to rent. One day Jeremiah Hetzel found his neighbor’s dog on his doorstep. When he returned it, the neighbor mentioned that they were moving out the next day and were looking for a renter. Jeremiah’s wife Heather connected them with Frans and Erin and they now had a home in Ocala! The Lord works in marvelous ways.
Now that you know about the newest members of the Grace family, be sure to greet them when you see them Sunday morning or any time!