I was born and raised in Holland. When I was about 13 years old, Holland became involved in World War II. The Germans, under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, invaded Holland in spite of Queen Wilhelmina’s declaration of Holland’s neutrality.
The first few years did not bring too much hardship to the Dutch people; however, the last 3 years, especially the winter of 1944, brought great suffering to our people.
Mama, Papa and I lived in Arnhem. My brother was married and had a baby. He was picked up by the Germans, along with many others, to work in a German factory where he replaced a German worker, who could then be sent to the Russian front. In September 1944 our allies began Operation Market Garden. They dropped by parachute near Arnhem and fought their way to the bridge over the river Rhine. The allies fought a hard battle for the bridge and since we lived next to the off-ramp of the bridge, we were affected by the battle.
To make a long story short, we had to leave our home. We joined a long line of people with carts or whatever they had to carry their belongings. My sister-in-law, Ellie, and I, had a baby carriage to carry our belongings and Mama, Papa and the baby were taken ahead by a Red Cross truck which carried older people and little children to their temporary destination. We had to eat food from the Central Kitchen, food made of tulip bulbs, cabbage leaves and who knows what else. We were housed with two ladies. When there was no more food in that town we moved to another town until we had to move again.
That went on till May 1945, when we were liberated by our allies and eventually we went home, only to find that our home, and most of the town, had been destroyed by German shells.
By 1947 life was mostly back to normal. I had finished my schooling and took a few secretarial courses. Then, in 1948 I joined the Dutch army and in 1953 was sent to Paris, France, to serve in SHAPE headquarters. There I met Vern, an American, who also was stationed there. In 1955 we were married and moved to America, to Oklahoma. We lived a few years with Vern’s parents who were Christians.
When I grew up in Holland, We attended the Catholic Church. As long as Mama lived I continued to go to church; however, when she died I quit. Living with my in-laws was an eye opener. They lived godly lives, which impressed me a great deal. We started going to church with them sometimes and after our son was born we were happy to have their influence in his life. We, ourselves, however, did not want to get too much involved.
One day there was an evangelist, John Klinepeter, who came for a week. He came from a Dutch background, so we decided to hear him. He really made an impression on us and we went to listen to him every night that week. In every service I was ready to respond to his invitation, but when the singing started it was just as if a switch within me was turned off. It went like that all week. I would be ready to respond, but then I could not move because of the song.
The last day I really wanted to have what John was talking about, but was afraid there would be singing again. But this time he just talked about coming to receive Jesus and there was no song and I was free to go to the altar. Both Vern and I received Jesus that day in 1971. Praise God!
After that, receiving good and solid teaching we became growing Christians. I began to memorize God’s Word, became a Sunday School teacher and counseled young people at church camp.
All that time, however, there was something that was hidden in my subconscious mind, something I was not even really aware of. The experience of the war years had filled me with a deep hatred toward the Germans who had caused us so much suffering. Five years after I was saved God impressed on me that it was time to forgive them.
Again, to make a long story short, I had the rare opportunity to go to Winston-Salem, N.C. to hear Ralph and Lou Sutera, who have a unique revival ministry. They were going to be in the church of my former pastor.
I contacted him and he invited me to come and stay with him. He also asked me to help the Suteras with typing, etc.
I arrived there with a sense of anticipation of what God had planned for me. That night, during the service, God strongly impressed on me that if was time to get rid of my hatred. In the prayer room I had quite an encounter with God. I told Him that, yes, I was aware of the need to forgive, in order to be free to grow spiritually, but that emotionally I just could not do it. After a long battle I was able to tell God that I was ready to forgive the Germans, in order to obey Him, but that He would have to change my emotions, because I could not handle that part.
When I told the Suteras about all this they told me that in Canada, where they often ministered, there were many Dutch people who had moved there after the war. They often found that same hatred. They apparently had the same battle before they found freedom from that hate. I told them that I still had a problem because my emotions had not changed. They prayed with me and told me that I had done my part and that it now was up to God to do His part in regard to my emotions.
The next morning they inquired and I had to tell them that nothing had changed. Again we prayed. This went on for about two days. Then, suddenly, I became aware that the hatred was gone and I had a sense of freedom in my spirit. God had indeed done His part, thoroughly and beautifully.
Ever since that day I have been free of that hate. Whenever I see a war movie, or in some other way am reminded of the war, the old hatred tries to raise its head, but then I forgive again and I remain free.
I praise God, who kept our family safe during the war and Who enabled me to get rid of hate.
I want to end with two of my favorite verses. My life verse:
"For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded, therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed."Isaiah 50:7
and "As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless; He is a shield to all those who trust in Him." Psalm 18:30.