I hail from the Netherlands, Europe. The first born of 6* siblings - four brothers (* one died during birth and now lives in our eternal home), one sister - the youngest and my favorite (sister). My parents (now deceased) did their best to instill in us the awareness that there is a God who loves us and who created the universe as a place for us to dwell. We belonged to the Christian Reformed Church of the Netherlands, the declaration of faith of which is described in what is commonly known as the 'Heidelberg Catechism'.
After having written the above first sentence of the second paragraph, several weeks before this continuation, I decided that I needed to actually read the Heidelberg Catechism in order to be properly informed about what I was to write next: "The basic tenet ...". Meanwhile I have (re) read (having read it first between the tender ages of 10 and 16 during catechism classes of my home church) the manuscript for a large part. The main reason was to familiarize myself with the article(s) dealing with the 'choosing' by God of those of his children who would be destined for eternal life. It was the 'tenet' of 'Predestination' or pre-selection of the ones who would be 'saved' that caused my rejection of the religion of my fore-fathers at the age of about 18 (I do no recall exactly when). Later in my testimony I will link to the pertinent verses in Scripture, but for now I need to tell my story.
I was disturbed at the apparently implicit idea (re-enforced by the preaching in our church) that a loving and just God would randomly select certain of the beings He had created for preservation in eternal life while torturing others for ever and ever.
The understanding (intended or not) I had gained of my religious teachings in our church and at home was that eternal life would follow regardless of our behavior or actions during this lifetime. We were encouraged to do the best we could, but our 'salvation' was secure as long as we accepted our heritage as children born in a family whose faith was based on the Heidelberg Catechism.
I remember asking my mother about this 'predestination' process. While she was unable to give me an answer I could accept, she did come up with the idea that perhaps "people of God's choosing were 'predestined' to service". In retrospect, with my current understanding of the Word of God, I fully believe that she was absolutely correct in this and had been assisted by God's Holy Spirit to guide her offspring into "the way he should go". But first many things had to come to pass.
As I stated before I rejected the (Calvinistic) religion as a youth, but I retained a personal belief in God. Growing up as an adolescent I had noticed that the 'pagan' girls (forbidden fruit for us boys) were a lot more attractive than the girls I had seen in church. This was also the case at the Christian schools I attended. When I had finished High School and was inducted into the armed forces (Air Force) to fulfill my duty as a citizen, I began to discover the delights that only the female gender can bring to a boy who is growing into manhood.
After having finished my military obligation (2 years) I studied in Paris for a semester and a half. I had to quit when the money I had saved during my military years (apparently not an impressive amount) ran out. At the time (March, 1963) I was living on the 5th floor of an ancient apartment building in a room ('chambre de bonne') formerly occupied by domestic help for the apartment dwellers (the rent was F60.00/month about $12.00 US). Northern Europe was experiencing one of the coldest winter in decades and my room did not have heat of any kind. I tried to keep myself afloat with temporary jobs, one of which was as document translator from French to German. I got 6 centimes (about 1 penny) a word and I farmed it out to a German acquaintance for 3 centimes a word. Finally I found a job as assistant manager of a vacation spot on the Mediterranean in southern France. I remember my trip from Paris to Boulouris as an experience I will not easy forget. When the train left Paris the temperature was a chilly 20 degrees Fahrenheit. About 2 days later when I saw the clear blue-green waters of the Mediterranean for the first time in my life and I got out at my destination it was a balmy 75 degrees F and I had suddenly moved from winter to summer, without bothering about spring.
While in Paris I had become aware of the advantages of having money. Living in dire poverty myself I had several friends (from the US as well as the UK) who not only lived a lot better, but actually owned cars. While growing up in my country I had grown accustomed to regard a bicycle as the main means of transportation. Only the rich owned cars! For years I had cultivated a fantasy about one day purchasing a used MG sports car. After having seen the new model MG-B which had come out in fall of 1962, however, and having heard about the good life in the United States of America, I vowed that within one year (this was March, 1963 remember?) I would own this car of my dreams. In order for my dream to be fulfilled I had to apply for admission as an immigrant to the US. Since I already had acquired a guest membership (through my american connections) to the 'American Club' at the US Embassy in Paris and enjoyed such privileges as indoor swimming pool and shower facilities it was not hard to gain access to the proper authorities and obtain the needed Imigration and Naturalization Service forms. During my stay in the Mediterranean I received the good news of my being accepted as immigrant, but since there was a considerable waiting list I could not be admitted into the US for at least six months (this was in September, 1963). While I was waiting for my number to come up I spent several months in Oslo, Norway aided in the procurement of employment and domicile by new friends I had gained during my stay in southern France.
In the spring of 1964 the word came and I sailed for 'the New World'. On April 24, 1964 I arrived at Kennedy Airport in New York with a suitcase and a crisp $100.00 bill in my pocket. The first day of the rest of my life!
The reason I am telling you all this is to make the point that the only reason I wanted to live in the United States was to find a job, have a place to stay - with a refrigerator! (at home we did not have refrigerator until 1963) - to buy a car and to attend a university, all at the same time. It was not until 30 years later (1994) that I found that God had a completely different reason in mind, as we shall discover.
My first stop, after a brief visit to the World's Fair in New York, was Grand Rapids, Michigan. Stronghold of the Christian Reformed faith! Needing a 'sponsor' - a requirement for immigration - with the help of my mother I had contacted a youth friend of hers who had emigrated to the US quite a few years before and had married a widower with grown children. To my great joy they had been willing to be my sponsor and I was received with a warm welcome by the entire family after 'uncle' Peter and 'aunt' Ge picked me up at the train station.
The very next day Uncle Peter and I went hunting for a job for me and I became employed as general laborer of a construction crew, making $2.20 an hour. The following weekend, with the aid of my uncle, I purchased my first car ever. A two-tone green 1958 Buick two-door hardtop for $200.00. I parked that puppy in the driveway every night so I could watch it from my basement bedroom before I went to sleep. Just as, not too many years before, I had parked my brand-new - imported from England - 'Raleigh' sports bicycle in my bedroom on the 3rd floor of the apartment building we lived in. My father had promised to buy me that object of my desire as reward for my graduation from High School. Graduation in my country is accomplished only after final exams and when I failed to graduate (I was 1 point short of the minimum requirement) I was devastated. However, in his compassion for my plight and his love for me he bought me the bike anyway and I promised I would not fail him again!
000625 - It looks like this is turning more into an autobiography than a testimony so I will have to split it up.
000702 - Please see 'Contradiction?' (paragraphs 5, 6 & 7) for the essence of my testimony
TO BE CONTINUED ...