In Need of a Home

(This story is taken from a fantastic biography about Brother Andrew, called The Narrow Road)

Joppie arrived on the fourth of June, 1959. He was born at home, as I had been, and I was with Corrie the whole time, just as Papa had seen all of us into the world.

And with his arrival it was clearer than ever that Corrie and I needed a home of our own. Geltje's third child was on its way, and Cornelius and his wife were expecting their first:: even by Dutch standards the little house was bursting at the seams.

The problem was where to go. Though this was 1959, the effects of the war were still being felt everywhere in Holland. Housing in our small country had never been plentiful, and since 1945 every available brick had gone to rebuilding homes bombed or flooded during the war. Although Witte's population was mushrooming, there hadn't been a new building there since the 1930s.

When I went to see the burgomaster about house-rentals, he shook his head.

"I'll have to add your name to the end of the list, Andrew," he said, "and I may as well tell you now-that list hasn't moved by a single name in almost three years."

"Well, sir, we have to start somewhere. Put us down."

"If you could find a house to buy, that would be different, of course. The waiting list applies only to rentals."

"Thank you for the compliment, sir. Where on earth would I find enough money to buy a house!"

The burgomaster nodded. "Not only that," he said. "As far as I know there are no houses for sale anyhow."

As the summer dragged on and the clothes that people continued to send again swamped the little room over the shed, we began for the first time to make a serious prayer campaign of our need. Every night for a week we laid our situation before God, trustingly and expectantly.

And on the morning of the eighth day I had an idea. I was setting out for the post office, but I had barely crossed the canal in front of our house when I remembered something. The school­teacher who was moving to Haarlem-wasn't he renting old Wim's house in town? That house was available then!

But what good did that do us; we were the last name on a long list of applicants. Still, I was impressed with the way the idea had come to me: sudden and sovereign in a manner I had come to recognize. Suppose, again, it were God's idea? Suppose Wim were willing to sell the house? He hadn't lived in it himself for many years. For the time being I wasn't even going to think about the 20,000 guilders it would cost. I'd just take a step forward and see what happened.

Forgetting all about my errand, I struck out across the polder, to Wim's farm. I found him milking.

"Hello, Wim!"

"Hello, Andrew!" Wim said, twisting his head around against the cow's flank. "Hear you're traveling a good bit. Lord's work?"

"Yes, sir."

"What can I do for you?"

"Well, I hear your place in town is going to be empty. Have you ever thought of selling it?"

Old Wim's jaw literally dropped open. "However did you know!" He said. "I made up my mind to sell just last night-but I hadn't told a soul about it yet!"

I drew a deep breath and took the plunge. "Then would you consider selling it to me?"

Wim looked at me for a long time, saying nothing. "House has been in the family a good many generations," he said at last. "I'd like nothing better than for it to be used for the Lord's work, now that there are no more of us."

Only then, with heart racing, did I ask Wim the price. "Well," he said, "could you manage ten thousand?"

This time I was the surprised one. That was half what I thought he might be asking. "All right, Wim. We have an understanding. I will buy your house," said I, who still did not have a penny to my name, "for ten thousand guilders."

Before going home I telephoned Philip Whetstra. Never before in my life had I borrowed money, but it seemed to me now that this was right. Mr. Whetstra told me that if I came to his office the following day I could have the money then and there.

So by the time I returned to our room above the shed, Corrie and I were the virtual possessors of a house. We went to look at it right away. Until that moment I don't think I ever realized what it meant to Corrie, living in borrowed space in someone else's home. She ran from room to room, touching, planning, seeing in the neglected house the home that was to be. "Joppie in here, Andy. And look, a whole room for the clothes, with the laundry tub right there! Did you see the room upstairs where your desk will just fit?" On she went, face flushed, eyes aglow, and I knew that at last she and I had come home.

The next day I went down to Amsterdam and picked up the money. Mr. Whetstra handed it to me in bills. We signed no papers, made no arrangements about paying it back. Nor did I mention the loan to anyone else. And yet over the next three years, enough money came in above and beyond the needs of the work that we were able to repay the loan in that short period of time. Immediately, mysteriously, as soon as the house was paid for, the flow of excess funds stopped-and it remained dried up until there was need for it again. In the years of living this life of faith, I have never known God’s care to fail.

Open Doors, Brother Andrew with John & Elizabeth Sherrill, The Narrow Road, Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 2001, p. 241-244

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