Holland During The War
Sunday had been a strange day. It was Whit Sunday but the church doors stayed shut. Yesterday too, Whit Monday was the same. None dared to go into the road without good reason. Because of the great dangers it had been decided that there would be no church services that day.
They have prayed much together these past few days. This evening too, they have besought the Lord that He would spare the congregation and the citizens of Rotterdam. Exhausted, Rev. Lamain has fallen asleep at midnight, but not for long. At one-thirty he is wide-awake again. He just cannot sleep. He keeps seeing the seventy-nine men from the congregation who have been called up to fight the enemy. It seems as though they call to him: “Beseech the Lord for us!” Oh, how his heart is burdened. All those men and boys have a soul – for eternity!
The pastor can refrain no longer. So as not to wake the others, he pushes back his chair quietly and falls upon his knees. “Lord, is there with Thee yet deliverance for these poor sheep? Wilt Thou keep them in the midst of great perils? Oh, deliver their souls from death!”
All at once his anxious heart is wonderfully calmed. He can scarcely believe it! The Lord powerfully assures him that all those men will return safely. Not one shall be missed! He gasps, as it were: “Unworthy, unworthy! If the Lord should reward us as we deserve ….”
How thankful the people are when the church doors open again on the next Sunday, 19th May. The Rev. Lamain preaches a solemn sermon! There is not a sound among the hearers. Even the children listen attentively, though they do not follow every word. Josh and Karel are there too. They sit a few pews apart. “Friends, last week I could not sleep,” says the minister all at once. He pauses a moment before proceeding. It is almost as though he is thinking … ‘Shall I say it ?…’ Josh bends forward a little and waits tensely for what his pastor is about to say.
“I will not hide it from you,” he goes on, much moved. “I have been enabled to storm the throne of God’s mercy, and the Lord has promised me that all our men will be preserved!”
It is very quiet for a moment, but then a wave of emotion goes through the congregation. Karel glances quickly back to Josh. It is as though he would say: “Do you hear that? All of them safely back!”
The remainder of the sermon goes for the most part over the heads of the two boys. They do not know precisely where their fathers are at this moment. They are prisoners of war, but they have no other information. Yet now their spirits rise – for has not the Lord promised it to their minister?
After the service, whilst Rev. Lamain is walking from the church to his home, there is turmoil in his soul.
“My dear,” he says, stepping into the room, “if only I had not spoken. The devil whispers that these men will not come back. He insinuates that only one of them has to perish and then there is no truth in what the Lord has promised. Was it my own imagination? Oh, if I had but held my tongue. Now everybody knows it and it is expected that all will return. I shall be revealed as a liar, and God’s name will be reviled because of me.”
Mrs. Lamain looks at her husband encouragingly. “I fully understand,” she says. “But is not the Lord mightier than the strongest power? The Lord is a fulfiller of His word, my dear!”
A boy is racing through the streets of Rotterdam. He is running as though for his life. It is Josh. He must see Karel. Father has sent a message that he is coming home tomorrow! Josh can keep it to himself no longer. He wants to know if they have heard anything at Karel’s house. Panting and puffing he stands soon after in the third floor kitchen at his friend’s. What a climb – all those stairs!
“Fa … father’s coming back,” he cries. He is almost out of breath. “My dear boy,” says Karel’s mother, surprised. “You gave me a fright. But we have had a letter too. How amazing. Our father is coming home on Friday!”
All at once the room door flies open. Karel rushes to his friend and together they spring through the little kitchen. They are ecstatic! Father’s coming home!
When they have calmed down a little, mother says: “You may go along to the pastor’s house and tell it there, boys. How happy and surprised the minister will be.” Soon the two boys are running in that direction.
A week later it is Thanksgiving Day. In spite of much sadness, there is great cause for thankfulness. Of the seventy-nine men who had been called up from Rotterdam South to fight against the foe, seventy-seven have returned in the meantime! There is a hush in the church as Rev. Lamain speaks to his hearers. “The Lord has supported these men and boys in all the strain, strife, difficulties and anxieties which attended them. The Lord has done great things. Not one boy or man from our midst has met death on the battlefield. God has not taken them away. And as for the two men who have not yet returned, of them I cannot believe that they have been snatched away by death. The Lord has granted our men supporting grace. They have found Him to be a Refuge. The Lord has shown Himself a fulfiller of His word . . .”
It is Sunday morning, five years later. The war is over. The congregation is streaming out of the church in Mijnsherenplein. Karel and Josh are among them, walking together, as they usually do, towards home.
“Well,” says Karel, amazed, “to think that those boys of Vink the baker and Bogerman the Elder have come back – from England!”
“How right you are,” agrees Josh. “Can you remember that time when Rev. Lamain preached here, after he had taken the pastorate in Rijssen, and how he told from the pulpit how often he was assailed. How the devil kept saying: ‘Yes, seventy-seven of them have indeed come back, but even if only one of them is missing, then what the Lord has promised, has failed’?”
“Yes, now you mention it, I do remember.”
“It must mean a great deal to the minister, now that they have both come back.”
“Certainly, and what about the families? Suppose it had been your son or brother who was still missing?”
“Indeed, but it is also of great significance to the church and congregation. I found it really moving when we sang together from the ninety-third Psalm:
“Great is Thy might, Thy truth shall never fail
Thy every word of promise shall prevail.”
How truly our pastor spoke on Thanksgiving Day 1941: The Lord is a fulfiller of His word!”
[Translated from the Dutch by M. Banfield and taken from the June 2006 Friendly Companion with permission]
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