Clifton Garfield van Putten (known also as “C. G. van Putten”) worked continuously in the Caribbean Union Conference’s territory for over 40 years as a missionary, evangelist, pastor, and administrator. He continued contributing to the church after retiring from active service.
Early Years, Baptism, and Marriage
Clifton Garfield van Putten was born on November 2, 1898, on the Dutch island of Sint Eustatius, immediately to the northwest of Saint Kitts and Nevis in the Netherlands West Indies. He was the youngest of nine children born to Jacob Simon van Putten. There were minimal opportunities for education, advancement, and employment on the small island of Sint Eustatius. Jacob decided to send Clifton Garfield to the United States, where several of his older siblings lived.1 In 1917, Clifton Garfield migrated to New York City, where he met Maude E. Carson in a baptismal class. In the summer of 1917, Clifton Garfield was baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church.2 Clifton Garfield married Maude on July 2, 1919. From this union, 10 children were born.
Education and Sharing the Message
While living in New York, Clifton attended an academy run by Professor James L. Moran, who later served as the first principal of Pine Forge Academy and Oakwood College (now Oakwood University).3 Clifton first entered the church’s work in 1920 as a literature evangelist in the Greater New York Conference. The book he sold was Our Day in the Light of Prophecy by W. A. Spicer.4 Clifton had the burning desire to take his newfound revelation of the true Sabbath and the other Adventist doctrines, including the heavenly sanctuary, the judgement and the second coming, to his relatives and other people in St. Eustatius. Therefore, in 1921, he and his wife sailed from New York to St. Eustatius. There, they spent three years as self-supporting missionaries. During that time, a church was organized. The church continued to grow to a membership of 124 with 202 Sabbath school members, which, at the time, was more than one-fifth of the entire population of the island.5
Evangelistic Work and Ordination to the Gospel
In 1924, C. G. van Putten was invited to do evangelistic work on the island of St. Croix, where a church was formed in the town of Frederiksted, and a piece of land was purchased for a new church building. After the church building in Frederiksted was completed in 1926, he returned to his home island of St. Eustatius to build the first Adventist church building there. In 1927, he was appointed to serve in Antigua. Under his supervision, the present St. John’s Seventh-day Adventist Church building in Antigua was constructed. He was ordained to the gospel ministry in 1928 in this very church soon after its completion.6
Planting of Churches and Active Church Administrator
The years 1929 to 1945 found Pastor C. G. van Putten in the Virgin Islands and Anguilla. During this time, the Christiansted church building was constructed; the Diamond Ruby Spanish, Carrot Bay, Tortola, and Anguilla churches were established; and home churches were started.
From 1945 to 1951, he served as the president of Suriname Mission, where he conducted evangelistic meetings. Under his leadership, the mission purchased the property on which the Paramaribo church now stands and built the first Seventh-day Adventist church in Suriname, the church that now exists in Nickerie.
Pastor C. G. van Putten was transferred from the Virgin Islands and Anguilla to Antigua and started new churches and groups over the next five years. In 1956, he was called to the Virgin Islands. St. Croix would now be called home. From this point on, he continued to strengthen and support the work he pioneered.
Retirement and Death
Clifton G. van Putten retired in 1962 but remained very active in church work until his death on January 2, 1970.7 After his retirement, he stated: “I close with the words borrowed from the apostle Paul: ‘I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry’ (1 Tim. 1:12). I am truly thankful to God for the blessed privilege He gave me of having a small part in the proclamation of the ‘everlasting gospel,’ and the winning of many hundreds of precious souls to our Lord Jesus Christ.”8
“Clifton G. van Putten.” Obituary. Caribbean Union Gleanings, March-April 1970.
Greaves, E. S. “van Putten Retires.” Caribbean Union Gleanings, May 1962.
Joseph, Venroy V. “Life Sketch and Memorial Program.” The Meade C. Van Putten Chronicles. Douglassville, PA: veJov Design, LLC, March 26, 2022.
Venroy V. Joseph, “Life Sketch and Memorial Program,” The Meade C. Van Putten Chronicles (Douglassville, PA: veJov Design, LLC, March 26, 2022), 1. Meade C. Van Putten (1926-2022) was C. G. van Putten's son and a minister and administrator (e.g., the president of Allegheny East Conference from 1981-1988). The name "van Putten" is also spelled as "Van Putten". This article adopts the spelling of the name as it appears in “Clifton G. van Putten,” obituary, Caribbean Union Gleanings, March-April 1970, 5, and "Caribbean Union Mission: Officers," Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1947), 122.↩
“Clifton G. van Putten,” obituary, Caribbean Union Gleanings, March-April 1970, 5.↩
E. S. Greaves, “van Putten Retires,” Caribbean Union Gleanings, May 1962, 2.↩