‘Forty’ is usually the biblical number for testing. But for my wife and me, married this past week for forty years, it represents much grace and blessing.
Celebrating this weekend at a retreat with YWAM colleagues of retirement age, I was asked how I proposed to Romkje. I had to confess I never did.
My story started back in 1972. Sitting at my reporter’s desk in the newsroom of the NZ Herald in Auckland, I received a phone call: would I consider becoming a travelling secretary for a Christian student movement? That evening I read in my Daily Light devotional book–Behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death (Jer 21:8). Hmm, this seemed to be serious, I thought.
The next morning, July 26, the whole Daily Light passage seemed to spring off the page: By faith Abraham, … called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed. Heb. 11:8; He chooses our inheritance for us. Ps. 47:4; He led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirs up her nest, flutters over her young, spreads abroad her wings, takes them, bears them on her wings: so the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him. Deut. 32:10-12; I am the LORD your God who teaches you to profit, who leads you by the way you should go. Isa. 48:17; Arise and depart; for this is not your rest: because it is polluted, it shall destroy you, even with a sore destruction. Micah 2:10…
Wow! This was serious. These verses seemed to indicate a doorway opportunity that would lead to other doors, I thought, eventually leading to a ‘place of inheritance’. So six months later, I found myself travelling between the universities encouraging groups of Christian students. My new job also entailed setting up a series of evangelistic missions with a well-known English speaker, David Watson, and a Canadian couple of singers and musicians, Merv and Merla Watson. After the national tour, the Watsons invited me to become their manager in Canada.
Weeks later, standing on the deck of the ferry as it entered Wellington harbour, I pondered my options. That day I had to tell my boss whether I would continue in student work, return to the newspaper or go to Canada. I needed God’s direction. I pulled out my Daily Light and realised it was July 26. Again I read those verses and recalled how I had felt the student job would be a doorway to other doors.
So, early 1974 I flew to Toronto to help the Watsons in their musical ministry. We organised a tour of sixty musicians, singers and dancers, called Shekinah, in cathedrals and churches in England and Holland. More than a year passed, when one weekend back in Toronto I had three strong impressions: I should return to Europe, return to journalism and live in a community. Three days later, I received a letter from Floyd McClung, whom I had met on that tour, inviting me to come to Holland to edit a magazine. I would be based in a new training community called Heidebeek. There it was: Europe, journalism, community!
Unintentionally, the day I flew to Europe happened to be July 26. Was Europe the place I would ‘after receive for an inheritance’? Yet a few months after being at the Heidebeek community, I began to wonder if I really was in the right place, out there in the Dutch countryside. A knock on my office door disturbed my thoughts. An American girl shyly entered saying the Lord had given her some scriptures for me, and handed me a page of rice paper with very neat Indian ink writing. I glanced at the page and read: ‘By faith Abraham, called to go out…’ I laughed out loud. ‘These verses come from the morning reading of July 26 in the Daily Light, don’t they! And here it is November! You can’t know how significant these verses are for me!’ Clearly God was confirming I was in the right place.
So when did Romkje come into the picture? She had also recently joined the Heidebeek community, having returned from working with YWAM in the USA for a year, arriving the same day as I did. We became good friends, nothing more. She wasn’t really my type, I had thought; she was a couple of years older, and not into music…
In the spring of 1976, I contracted hepatitis and was sent by Heidebeek’s doctor to Romkje’s family house in a nearby village, where a local doctor rented a room and could keep an eye on me. During my convalescence, we got to know each other better. Then one day in May, we both began to realise that our friendship could become serious. Romkje’s 29th birthday was approaching, and she remembered how at her last birthday she had felt God say she would meet her husband that year.
I took a little more convincing. This could mean not returning to New Zealand to live. Yet as I began to appreciate and love her many qualities and giftings, I caught an inkling of the team we could become. Summer arrived and our love for each other grew. Then as July 26 rolled around once more, I re-read those words from the Daily Light: He chooses our inheritance for us. (Ps. 47:4). This resonated with a card Romkje had framed on her wall, saying: God gives the best to those who leave the choice with him.
As I read that familiar page again, I realised that Romkje was to be a major part of God’s inheritance for me. Without actually proposing to her, I said yes to the conclusion she had already come to. So on July 26, as inscribed on our wedding rings, we became engaged to be married two months later–forty wonderful years ago.
Till next week,