"My Life" by Martin Bakker (Part 12)

March 19, 2019
9 mins read

Editor’s note:  All images featured in this chapter are taken from historical sources.

(Continued from Part 11)

We Move Again – Cousin Leaves

We stayed not so very long in the house in which we were living. We asked the friend at whose home we were so honestly welcomed when we arrived in this town, to keep an eye open for a little home that might suit us. He had an opportunity to do so, for he was a peddler of a daily necessity in the home and he also had us, of course, as customers. He informed us one day he had found a little home nearby, and after we had looked it over we thought it best to move there. Our cousin, however, did not like it, I guess, for at the first provocation he left us. He was a carpenter by trade and had joined the union, of whose actions we did not approve. His parents had asked us to keep an eye on him as far as religion, etc. was concerned. He probably did not like it that something was said to him about it, and we had found out already his religious view was not like ours. As far as we know, he never made confession of faith and in later life he left the church entirely and ran his business on the Lord’s Day.

We felt sorry that we could never write our cousin’s God fearing parents anything that might give them hope that their only son had become a true Christian. He was altogether too much after the material things of this life, and I am afraid that is yet a stumbling block for him today.

Another Baby

While we were living here in this little home, another boy was given us in the stead of the one that had gone. He was of light complexion and had light blond hair. We were very glad he arrived and we were comforted, and it made it easier for us to forget the grief of the loss of our two little ones. Our two girls could go to school and it was very easy for them, as the school was across the street and when the bell rang they could get there still on time. Our children had become very healthy by now.

Tithers Plus

It was during this time in our life that we read an article in De Wachter (The Watchman) [1] on tithing, written by a farmer’s wife. She said, in short, that they had sold their grain for a good price. It looked to them quite a goodly sum to take one tenth off for the Lord, but they did it nevertheless and they were glad later they had not failed to do so. She advised others to become tithers too as she had experienced there was a great spiritual blessing connected with it. If I remember correctly, she called it, to seek the Kingdom of God first also financially. How hard it is for many to do so. The Lord and the Kingdom to many come last when it means money.

When I got through reading this article the Lord put it in my heart to do the same as these farmers. But we were still financially in bad shape. Previous doctors’ bills, funeral bills we had to pay,  and recently an
increase in the family. On account of paying our debt we were still in need of many things in the home. So I gave it some thought and reasoned, alone I cannot begin tithing. We talked it over together. At first the wife objected. She said then we have to take off every week $1.20 and we have only $10.60 left for I had a wage of $11.80 weekly. I only answered to that, that the Lord had promised in Malachi, if we proved Him with our tithes, He would pour us out a blessing. I said furthermore, don’t say no before you have prayed about it.

When I came home the same evening my wife said, we might better try it. From that time on we have been tithers plus. We did not only never regret that we started it, but we always thanked the Lord for putting it in our hearts to have faith to begin it and to serve Him herein and therewith. Many times I have wondered why our Christian Reformed Church did not urge the people to become tithers. It surely is not only a good thing to do, as all tithers plus will testify, but it was never repudiated in the New Testament. Christ Himself upheld tithing in Matt 23:23, where He said this:  To tithe mint and anise, you ought to have done but ye left undone the weightiest matters of the law, justice and mercy. If we all were tithers plus, we very likely might have done much more for missions, etc.

We Meet a Cousin

Not long after our children were healthy again, we made a call on a cousin. She was married to a minister of the Reformed Church. She was the daughter of my wife’s father’s first wife. They were very nice to us while we met them, and also the children took a liking to us from the beginning. We attended their service in church with them and he was a good, forceful speaker and his sermons were also to our liking. We visited back and forth for a bit and my wife said, “Should we not better join their church?” Well, that appealed to me also, but I had misgivings because we had heard they did not send their children to the Christian School and that for a minister in a Reformed Church, I thought I want to know more about that first.

Shortly after my wife and I talked about this, his wife called again and gave my wife a buggy ride. Then my wife asked her if their children did not go to the Christian School. She expressed her great surprise to hear that they did not, for, said she, in Holland it was unheard of that children belonging to the Reformed Church would go to a public school. They had a long discussion about it and Cousin Trientje was convinced of the logic that when we vow at baptism to instruct our children to the utmost of our power, we cannot very well exclude that positive Christian instruction when so entrusting them to teachers for five hours a day and still have a clean conscience.

It did not take many weeks, and one day the Dominee [2] came over and told us Frientje won, the children are now going to the Christian School. They never were sorry about it that they sent them. Later they left to another city and still later they received a call from a Christian Reformed Church and accepted. They are now both gone to glory. Their two sons became ministers of the Gospel.

We Buy a Home

Many a time we had expressed the hope to own our own home. Our children also knew about it. One day my wife took a walk with our two boys, the one was in the baby buggy. She made a remark about a
certain home or homes. The oldest that walked beside her said, “Mom, is that”, pointing at a house across the street, “now an owned little home?” It probably was, but not ours, and it did not look at that time at all we would be able to ever have one of our own. But the Lord rules all things.

One day, when I came home in the evening from work, my wife said there was some mail for us from the old country. It contained the information that we would receive our share of a certain benefit fund in which all the former employees of the LASM in Transvaal were included. That was unexpected good news and very welcome! The amount of money was not so very much, but our first thought was it might be enough as a first down payment on a home of our own. And it so happened then – the Lord rules and knows our present and future needs – that the man that found us the place where we were living also told us about a home that was for sale because the people were going to move to Chicago. We talked it over together and went to see this place. It suited us but we did not have enough money down. But they said maybe a building and loan association would be willing to help us. One of the partners of the company for which I was working was also a director of a building and loan association. When I saw him about this matter, he said he would do his best and bring it up at the board meeting. The following day after they met he informed me they were willing to sell us ten shares of stock of $100 each. That would put a mortgage on the property of $1,000. When we would pay the premium and interest on their shares for 7 ½ years the mortgage would be paid up. They would not give us more help. We had to have $250 besides. The owners however were willing to take our personal note for this amount. We did a lot of figuring. We had to pay rent anyway and decided to take it. We saw God’s hand in this deal and praised Him for it. As our children grew it would soon be necessary to move anyway. And at that time as well as today, it was not so easy to rent a home for a growing family. And a growing family we had, for during the time we lived there in our own home five more children were born to us. The Lord surely provided for us in advance.

Pay Off Personal Note and Unexpected Expenses

After we lived there a year the owner of our personal note was willing to take $200 for the note of $250. He said he needed the money. I talked this over with a bachelor at the print shop and he said I will lend you the money, so we paid off that personal note. The city demanded of all people living on our street to put in certain sanitary improvements. This happened at a time when we were also sorely in need of new shingles on the house. Then there were other things which we needed for our family. Another window in the kitchen and a complete bathroom would be very desirable.

I talked with a carpenter whom we had befriended since we came to this country, and he said it would cost way over $300, but he was willing to help us with it and keep it down to that figure. After figuring and some more figuring, I thought we could make it if we could only get the money. When I told my wife of the plans – namely to put in another window in the kitchen, convert a big bedroom partly into a bathroom (which was something she would prize very highly, for the weekly wash tub affair with all the children was so much of a chore), she asked, “But where are you going to get all that money?”

The following Saturday noon I went to see the banker. He knew me somewhat, for I came there weekly to bring my savings, to withdraw them promptly for taxes, etc. I told him I would like to borrow $300 for
the use for needed improvements in our home. He listened to me and asked for security. Was there a mortgage on the place, etc.? He asked if there was a reliable person that would sign a promissory note with me. I said no. He said to me, while he smiled, “You don’t expect to borrow money from a bank on your honest face, do you?” I said, “I do.” Then he asked where I was working. I told him. Then he said, “Mr. Jones will sign that note for you. Why don’t you ask him?” I said, “I don’t want to ask him, for I know he doesn’t like to do such things.” Then the banker said, “We don’t handle money that way.” “All right,” I said, “We will have to postpone these improvements and the city will have to wait also.” Before I left he said,  “Come back Monday and we will see.”

When I came home and told my wife about it she was very much disappointed. She had trusted I would be able to get the money. I had told her others get money on promissory notes and we will get it also. Besides, we had brought this matter before the Lord in prayer and had believed we would get it.

The next Monday noon I was promptly at the bank again to hear what the banker had to say. Mr. Smith wore an encouraging smile and asked me how much I really needed and what I intended to do with it. I told him in detail all I expected to realize in improvements and repairs. He said, “Man, that is impossible; you can never have that done for $300. You need more money than that. We will lend you as much as you need, up to $1,000.” I was surprised and said, “Thank you, that’s fine, but I don’t want more than $300. For if I borrow more, I am afraid we cannot pay off the note promptly, so it will have to do.” He then counted out that amount, I signed the note, and was glad with the money and we praised the Lord at home that He had prospered us. Before I left, I said to the banker, “Last Saturday I could not get a cent and today I could borrow up to $1,000 over my signature. What made you change your mind?” “Well,” he said after a little hesitation, “I found out in the meantime, you were as good as gold.” Then I thought on the proverb, “A good name is better than oil.” [3]

We promptly proceeded with the improvements. The carpenter friend treated us very reasonably and I helped as much as I could myself, but that was not very much. We were the biggest family on the street, seemingly with the heaviest financial burden, but we were the first to have a complete bathroom. The Lord had helped us again wonderfully and we were thankful for it.

[1] De Wachter (The Sentinel) was a Dutch language weekly newspaper published in Grand Rapids, Michigan from 1868-1941.
[2] Minister
[3] Ecclesiastes 7:1 (likewise, Proverbs 22:1)

(Continue to Part 13)

Raised in a home filled with books on Western civilization, P.G. Mantel became a lover of history at an early age. An amateur writer of verse, he makes himself useful as an editor for Men of the West.

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