As a small child in Midwolda, in the Netherlands, I walked every Sunday to a little evangelical church in our village. My parents didn’t go to church or even speak of religion, but I loved to hear the minister’s beautiful stories about Jesus Christ. How I loved God! But I couldn’t understand the minister’s description of God—so great that he could be in all places at once, yet so small that he could live in my heart.
It wasn’t until I was seventeen that I heard a song that helped me understand the true nature of our Heavenly Father. I had just met the missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and my future husband and I had gone to our first cottage meeting in Amersfoort, where we then lived. There I heard the hymn “O My Father,” whose words would change my life:
O my Father, thou that dwellest in the high and glorious place,
When shall I regain thy presence, and again behold thy face?
In thy holy habitation, did my spirit once reside?
In my first primeval childhood, Was I nurtured near thy side?”
(Hymns, number 139.)
I would never forget that song and the loving Father that it described. However, my future husband’s father asked us to stop seeing the missionaries, and we were not baptized.
But three years later, married and living in Rotterdam, we found the missionaries at a street meeting and asked them to teach us in our home. In September of 1928, my husband and I were baptized. On our way home after the baptism, I felt like the happiest person in the world.
In the years to come, we had our share of hardships. But all our experiences showed us the goodness of our Heavenly Father and taught us of his personal care for us.
When our first child was about a year old, she became so ill that the doctors gave us little hope that she would survive. Through that agonizing time of watching her suffer, I felt so close to God that I could almost feel him. We had great faith in the priesthood, and our daughter recovered after she had received a priesthood blessing.
Even during the horror of World War II in the Netherlands—with my husband in hiding, bombs exploding, cold and hunger—the Spirit of our loving Father kept us close to God and close to the Saints. One day when I was serving as Relief Society president, I went with my ten-year-old daughter to visit an older sister who lived alone. When we arrived at Sister Smit’s small home she was reading. She told us she was so hungry that she had decided to read the Bible, because spiritual food could fill her, too.
In those days food was rationed, and in my pocket was a coupon for a loaf of bread for our children. I felt so concerned for this hungry sister that I gave my daughter the coupon and sent her to buy bread for Sister Smit. On the way home, I wondered how I would tell my children that I had given away the bread. I knew I had done the right thing, but now what was I going to feed them.
Upon arriving home, I found the answer. Some family friends in Zwolle had arranged for a letter to be hand-carried to us by their nephew. With the letter were three bread coupons.
Over the years, our Heavenly Father has continued to bless us in miraculous ways. In 1947 our daughter was called to serve a mission. Although we had very little money, and our family would greatly miss the income from her job, we agreed to support her. Never was our family so blessed as during our daughter’s mission. Occasionally someone would tell me that they wished their child could serve a mission, but that they didn’t have the money. I always told them that we didn’t have the money either, but that the Lord blessed us so that somehow we were able to support her each month.
As I look back over my eighty years, I feel that among my greatest privileges in life has been to know that I am a child of God, and that he will guide me through mortality if I will stay close to him. And if I am worthy, he will be waiting to greet me in his “holy courts on high.”