"My Life" by Martin Bakker (Part 15)

March 26, 2019
7 mins read

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

(Continued from Part 14)

We Take a Trip to the Netherlands

A few weeks before the foreman took his vacation, I told him my wife and I were going to take a trip to the Netherlands. But he took it as a joke and forgot all about it, even though I mentioned it again when he returned. In the meantime we made preparations to go. A year before we had bought a new car, but we sold it because we were afraid if we left it at home it might be too much of a temptation to the children. It also afforded us more cash. We had not planned a year earlier to make this trip but the opportune time had come now. Our many prayers that we might once more see our relatives and the place when we were brought up were heard and were going to be fulfilled. Since I had talked it over with the foreman, I also saw the superintendent and asked him about it. He said, “Sure, Mart, go. And I hope you have a splendid and prosperous trip, and may you safely return.”

I said goodbye to the help and friends in the print shop and they all wished me a dandy trip. I shook hands with the foreman but he did not seem to like it, and I could not figure him out. It was in late July. The print shop was not busy at all and I could be spared very readily. In fact, I did believe they would not miss me except with a few jobs that might come up. The foreman himself was a very good printer and there was other help that he could instruct to do the work. So for the time being, and during the trip, I could and did forget all about the work and the foreman.

When everything was set to go and before we left home, we had a word of prayer with the children and they were admonished to be good, including a lot of advice from their very thoughtful mother, etc., as is usually the custom with a Christian family. They all promised to behave well and to do all they could so we did not have to worry about them while we were gone. Housekeeping would go on as usual. The Lord granted us to leave it all with Him.

We made the trip with the biggest boat then in existence, the Leviathan, 59,955 tons, a steamer of the U.S. Line. It was a beautiful boat and we enjoyed the journey across immensely. It took 5 ½ days to England and the following day we stepped ashore on Holland soil.

Our hearts leaped with joy when we once more could walk in places and towns dear to us. We were so very happy to see our relatives again and they were all so glad to have us. We had to divide our time
from one to the other in visiting them, and they checked up on us often to the very last day. We had a wonderful time with them. We took some presents along from the U.S. for them and they also gave us something in remembrance of our visit.

We talked about many things here and there, also of preachers. One of the sisters mentioned she heard such an impressive sermon of an American Christian Reformed minister on the conversion of King Manasseh. She said she would never forget that. She is now with the Lord.

We heard several good sermons while in the Netherlands and enjoyed going to church there. We noticed in different churches the evening services were not so well attended and there must have been a number of “oncers.”[1] In general, I believe, the attendance in our CRC in the U.S compares favorably with like churches in the land of the dikes.

Return to the U.S.

At last the time had come to take our leave. This time it was harder than before. Although we promised, the Lord willing, we would not wait so long again to see them, yet it was indeed difficult to part. Somehow we felt it would be the last time that we would see those brothers and sisters. But we lived in hope. The Lord be praised, we do not know whatever is awaiting us. They are all gone by this time to their reward. We believe they are all with the Lord. He knows what is best.

We made the trip without any accidents or hindrances and enjoyed ourselves again on the way, especially on the ocean. When we reached home again, we were very thankful the Lord had protected us on the trip and brought us safely back to our dear ones. We understood better again what it meant, “There is no place like home,” for although we had a wonderful trip and praised the Lord on the way for all His goodness and kindness toward us, the journey had nevertheless tired us, especially my wife, and there is truly no place like home to recuperate and feel yourselves. We found the children all well and in good health, and in general they had behaved well in our absence. They were all very glad to see us home again and the daughter, our second born, that had done the housekeeping, was thankful she could leave the responsibility to mama again. We had taken some presents along for all of them and they were surely glad we had remembered them. No doubt most of these tokens are still in use or are decorating their homes.

Return to Work

Personally we also rejoiced that we could enter again upon the work of elder in the midst of the congregation. The consistory appreciated our return also, for there was another brother who had gone for an extensive vacation to visit relatives in the Netherlands and there is usually enough work in a big congregation. As far as my daily occupational work is concerned, I did not feel so eager to return, but the following Monday I went to the print shop as usual and thought I could start right in. But I was wrong. The foreman acted queer and said he had no work, and I soon perceived he was indisposed to put me on. Later I called up the superintendent and he apologetically said, it had been very dull ever since I went on my vacation and so he desired me to wait a while until work would pick up a little. Well, I said, then I’d better find another job.

Not being used or inclined to hang around, I went out the following day to look for work, but was tired out before 12:00 and went to the library. I was not used to looking for work. Wednesday morning I went out again and returned to the library at about 11:30 and got so interested in reading that I came home late for lunch. My wife told me to call up a certain number. It was a print shop and they wanted me to help out for a few days. Yes, I can do that, I said. They paid me the same as the other place and I liked it there really better. During the week I received 2 telephone calls from other concerns for work. I told my foreman I liked to work for him, but preferred to know whether it would be steady or not. If not, then I would take another job as I had the opportunity to do so. The superintendent knew me from the place where I used to work for over 17 years; he was himself working in the engraving department there at that period. After about an hour, the foreman told me he had talked it over the “office” and they wanted to keep me for steady work. And it was steady until the years of the Depression, when they went bankrupt.

Years ago, there was also a man who was a very good man for his work that did not swear so much, but he was a drinker and lived a bad life. He estimated on the work to be done and the bookkeeper told me in all the years that this man was with the firm, they never detected a mistake in his figures and he was not always completely sober. When I talked to him to make him see the error of his ways, he said, “Yes, Mart, you are right,” and he undoubtedly thought also that something very radical should have to happen to him, for he continued, “I cannot convert myself, and if I am going to be converted the Lord will do it.” He told me he had a God-fearing mother who always was praying for him.

Again and again I talked to him when he delighted in telling the stories of his own sins and shame, but it was to no avail. He kept on going the same way, down and down. He finally had to resign and left for another city. Too bad, he was such a likeable fellow and had a beauty of a well-built physical body even when he left. Before he went away I assured him again, as I had in the past, that I would pray for him.

It must have been about this time of my life – I don’t remember anymore what year – that I was greatly surprised when I came home from work. My wife told me when she poured me a cup of coffee, “Pa, there is a letter for you on the library table. And it is written by someone who got his education in the Netherlands, for the writing is the same as that on our letters that came from across.” Well, I surely was surprised. It started out with, “Mart, praise the Lord your prayers are heard. I am converted in a Seventh Day Adventist Meeting in which I had drifted.” He wrote further, “You are the first one I wrote this to, for my mother is gone to the Lord and you were the only one besides her that told me in the past that you would pray for my salvation. How wonderful and merciful are God’s ways. If my mother would have lived only long enough to rejoin with us, but she is gone and is better off. I am now going to our own church. I don’t believe in Seventh Day Adventism. I am pretty sure they are wrong in that, but they were instrumental in bringing me back to the fold. To Him be all the praise.”

It was many years later, after he had left, that this happened. It brought to my mind the text, “Cast thy bread upon the waters and thou will find it after many days.”[2] Needless to say, I thanked the Lord then and there for his conversion and wrote Ed – that was his first name – how glad I was to hear of his conversion and encouraged him to ever draw nigh unto the Lord and seek his strength not in self but in the unfailing One.

Several years later, I heard from an old time friend that knew Ed, that although he was converted his sins caught up with him and that he had to suffer the consequences. We see herein that although the Lord will save us, He does not always spare us the bad after effects of our transgressions but will give us His mercy and grace sufficient to bear them.

[1] Occasional attenders, i.e., people with no real interest in Christian fellowship.
[2] Ecclesiastes 11:1

(Continue to Part 16)

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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