I was having a rainy KLM day. You know those days: get on the first KLM flight back to America and ditch the whole thing! I lifted three-year-old David off my bike, unloaded groceries from the saddle bags, and set both inside our building. Locking the bike, wet and loaded down, we faced the long trek up our forty-eight stairs, with David practicing, “St-ep, st-ep, st-ep,” replacing “Tep, tep, tep.”
I thought back to the irony of raising support several years earlier. I had been invited to speak with a global worker at a women’s breakfast. The single veteran global worker tried to reduce a lifetime of effective ministry to two long tables of mementos representing changed lives, and a talk of twenty minutes, before it was my turn. In a flash of inspiration, I had told the ladies that I, too, had brought items for my display table. I held up a container of wipes and a diaper. I had known that with two small boys, my life would be busy trying to figure out how to manage, but I could not wait to share the gospel anyway.
Life with now three small children in Amsterdam was full of mommying, juggling groceries on bikes, transporting Timmy to Dutch Kindergarten, speech therapy with David, and pediatrician visits with Becca. Why was I here, anyway? Between diapers, I had somehow learned the language well, even to the point of responding in Dutch when people spoke English to me. I was not one of “those” Americans who got by on English. I had put in my time, and I could communicate. I passed one neighbor’s door. The fourteen-year-old spoke English fluently. I passed another door. This neighbor likewise spoke English fluently. Neither showed interest in the gospel. In fact, there were not a lot of people lining up at my door, wondering (in Dutch) why my life was so incredibly joy-filled. Joy?
As I sat David down at the table for his lunch of peanut butter on whole wheat bread and finished nursing Rebecca, the bell rang. It was Margaretha from across the hall. Soon after we had moved in, I had noticed a lone man leaving the building around church time on a Sunday morning. There actually might be believers in our apartment building?! I discovered later that Paul’s wife Margaretha was spending her high-risk pregnancy in the hospital. I started praying for them. Two months later, she came home from the hospital in a taxi, her lengthy bed rest making dragging herself to the door a herculean task. Paul had set the infant seat down and turned to help his wife, just as I ran down the stairs. I immediately jumped in: “I-am-your-neighbor-shall-I-take-the-baby-up-for-you?” Barely waiting for an answer, I flitted up the four flights, set the baby in his seat by their door, and dashed back down, late to get Timmy from school. Margaretha later told me that she felt as though an angel had suddenly appeared, swooped up the baby, dashed up the forty-eight stairs to their door, and run back down, adding, “Baby’s at the door! Welcome-home! Bye!”
From that day, a friendship had developed. Margaretha helped me with my still-imperfect Dutch and comforted me during my nineteen weeks of bed rest (she knew!); we left a ‘baby phone’ with each other when running a quick errand while children napped.
I opened the door, still feeling discouraged, to Margaretha. “What’s the matter, Lyn?” she queried. By this time, Margaretha knew I was a global worker, and since she had grown up in the church, she might understand.
“I am just discouraged. You know, Margaretha, I do not know what I am doing here. I could be back home, doing all of the same things, far more effective in helping women, all with much more ease, in my own language, close to my family. I just wish I could pack up and go home. There really is not any point to my being here.”
Margaretha looked at me pointedly and said words I will never forget: “You know, Lyn, it took an American coming to Holland to make me feel at home in my own country. I do not know about all those other things you wish you could do, but I thank God that He sent you here just for me.”
Tears filled my eyes. As I closed the door, I went back to find David, peanut butter smeared everywhere, sound asleep with his curly head pillowed on his half-eaten sandwich. I smiled. Was one Dutch friend across the hall worth all the time and effort in support-raising, and in learning the language? Was she worth the separation from home, the lack of opportunities to be a women’s speaker and make my mark on the world? I looked at David, contentedly sleeping, and laughed, knowing the answer. Obviously, God thought that Margaretha was worth my sacrifices—and His.