"My Life" by Martin Bakker (Part 9)

5 mins read

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

(Continued from Part 8)

Trying to Find Work

It was then a matter of course that I should find employment. The British had not only deported us but they also caused us to be out of work. Not only that but we had to start housekeeping for the 2
nd time from the bottom up. Although we bought things sparingly and very modestly, it was quite a lay out of money and we did not have any too much of that. We received our salaries, considerably reduced, for a certain length of time, so we could look for work. Many that came from Africa found employment at the railroad in Holland. When we were with the LASM in Transvaal, I had to go out on Sunday about once in 6 weeks. I could never quite square that with my conscience, i.e., to work on Sunday. One day I said to my wife, “If I ever get out of the railroad business, I will never go into it again.” Little did we realize that this might very soon come to pass. We daily prayed for work and went out to find it. When we had been living about a month in Groningen and with no prospect of work, we could be employed by the State Railway and we received passes to go to headquarters. When we received the letter informing us in regard to this matter, I remembered what I said, which in the previous paragraph. When my wife said to me, “That is a godsend that you can work there,” I answered, “I don’t know” and reminded her about Sunday work in Transvaal and what I had said about that. Well, she said, things are now entirely different. I replied then, “Yes they are, but it might be His way to test us whether or not, we have enough faith to trust the Lord that he will take care of us and provide for us.” I said further, “Let us first pray about it and sleep over it and then we can see what we will do tomorrow.” I had to go to Utrecht, if so, to be employed. Early the next morning my wife’s first question was, “What are you going to do?” “Well, I said, we better return the passes and write them that I do not want to avail myself of this opportunity to get back into railroad work. The Lord must have moved her heart in the same direction, to make it easier for me to stand the test. We were never sorry we trusted the Lord that He would take care of us in His own wise way, and in His own time. A couple of weeks later my sister invited us to come to Amsterdam to live. They said, “Since you have tried so long to find work in Groningen and did not succeed, you may try it here, there is more opportunity in a big city.” We had to admit that and after praying about it, we decided to do so. We said again goodbye to the relatives, took tickets on a boat, had our furniture loaded on board and moved into a stairs in one of a big city block of which there are so many in Amsterdam. While we were there every day we prayed the Lord He would provide us with work and every day we went out trying. At times my sister and brother-in-law were present when we prayed and they heard time and again that we petitioned the Lord that He would provide for us and make us successful in finding employment. Usually I went out with my sister’s husband. He had nothing to do and had saved up quite a bit of money and did not need work so badly as we did. We again were brought to the test.

A Door in an Alley

My wife told me afterwards she had prayed time and again the Lord would grant that we would not have to ask our unbelieving relations for help. She did not like it either me going out with him. One day I went out alone to see if I could not find an opening somewhere. I went one street out and another in. After a while I took an alley to get quicker to another street. In the rear of the building on the alley side, this building covered the whole length of the alley and had its back entrance in the other street, in that alley or door stood open and when I passed that door I heard the noise of running presses. I stepped inside of that door and asked for the superintendent and was directed to go one floor up. This man had
been very interested in the way the Boers were fighting to retain their freedom and when I told him about our circumstances he was very sympathetic. He said I could come back tomorrow for they were going to move in the building across the alley and that would give me work for a couple of weeks.

When I came home and told my wife, I found work she could at first not believe it and she said a little later that the Lord heard our prayers. We thanked the Lord together humbly for his answer to our pleadings. We did not have to ask for help although our savings had shrunk to almost next to nothing. After I had helped moving machinery and lots of type and when things were all in their place, I thought this would just about be the end of my stay there. It was not so. One of the older typesetters was taken sick and I had to take his place. They had been printing there a numismatic monthly magazine and it would be my work to set the type for it. All of it by hand. Coins and medals of different periods, old and new were described and had to be reproduced in type and ornaments and characters. I had to visualize how the coin or medal looked and had to imitate it, setting up the type in circles or boxes with ornaments, etc. It came me in good stead that there were several of these numismatic magazines on hand so I could familiarize myself with the kind of work. I did my very best to make good when a couple of months later this sick man died they left me to carry on in his stead. The foreman said, “Through his death you will have breath. We could plainly see the Lord had brought us there at the proper time. He had heard our prayers and we could stay there until we left on our own account.

In this print shop I met an old acquaintance. I found out later on a man to be working there whom I mentioned previously. He was the boy who asked the boss in the orphans’ Home print shop to show him how to rack up a 16 page form and because this boy disappointed the boss by his ignorance, the boss turned it over to me. I found out now that this very same boy was very good in the kind of work entrusted to him. It required much concentration to do that particular work well. So the Lord qualifies us all, and He finds a place for us to we may by the work of our hands each according to his several abilities provide for ourselves and our families.

Sad to say, this man came under the influence of a Mormon missionary to such an extent that he moved later to Utah, the Latter Day Saints Colony. For a while because I knew a little of the English language he took a few lessons from me. I told him to repeat during the day the sentences he had learned the night before. One day he tooted in my ears one of these lines, “Far from my home I am, for me no rest”. I wonder if he realized later what that actually meant. At that time the unbelievers in the Netherlands were not very tolerable, maybe they are not any better today. Next to me at the bench worked an older [man] of our church and at one time he hummed a hymn and I joined quietly in with him. Shortly after, another printer hollered, “Shut up, you are here, not in church!”

(Continue to Part 10)

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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