Life's busy, read it when you're ready!

Create a free account to save articles for later, keep track of past articles you’ve read, and receive exclusive access to all RP resources.

Search thousands of RP articles

Articles, news, and reviews that celebrate God's truth.

Get Articles Delivered!

Articles, news, and reviews that celebrate God's truth. delivered direct to your Inbox!

A A
By:

What I learned from my Oma

Solomon tells us the first step to learning wisdom is to pursue it (Prov. 4:7), so I recently sat down with my Oma and listened to her share her immigration story.

Leny Bosveld (nee Plug) was born Dec. 18, 1937 on the coast of Holland, the 4th child out of 8. Her father originally was a fisherman, but gave up his trade to sell coal and oil. He prospered in his new role of businessman and owned a three-story house that included a shower and toilets, which was a luxury in those days and not common to most households. Though prospering himself, Leny’s father did not think there would be enough work in Holland for his sons, so in 1950 the family made plans to immigrate to Australia.

So it was, a mere 73 years ago, while Europe was still recovering from World War II, my Oma moved from a life of wealth to a life of poverty; her story is much like any pioneer or immigrant in history past.

Years in nothing but a tent

Oma’s temporary post-tent makeshift house

After a four-week boat ride, the family landed in Albany, Western Australia, and for the next three months lived in their moving container, and slept in a large army tent which was shared with their oma and two uncles. You were only allowed to bring a certain amount of money along when you immigrated, and even though Leny’s dad had his fishing boat, he did not know how to fish in Australia and was not able to make a steady income.

After 3 months, Leny’s family moved to Fremantle, and set up the tent in the bush. Living in the tent was a hard life for Leny’s mom, and at one time she said, “If the sea was not between Australia and Holland I would crawl back home.”

There was no water and no electricity. To get water the children had to walk far and carry buckets of water uphill, so that by the time it got to their living area much of it had splashed out. Cooking was done with a kerosene cooker, and later with a stove over an open fire outside. Their refrigerator was a small cupboard that held a block of ice, which was changed twice a week by an ice man. There was a big copper pot outside to boil the water in. There were containers and a board for washing laundry. The toilet was outside in a big bucket, and the boys had to dig a hole and bury everything every two days. Once a week the children took turns washing in a tub. This was normal life for the children and did not bother them, though my Oma does remember getting made fun of at school for their poor life.

After two years in Fremantle the tent seam broke, and a temporary house was made from timber and the remains of the tent. Eventually the family bought a house that included a proper outside toilet.

More families followed

The wedding of Leny and Johan in Dec. 1957.

While Leny’s family were the first Dutch immigrants to the Albany area, eventually more families came and the immigrants could meet for church together.

Leny and Johan met at church, though Leny was shy and avoided contact with him after her mother told her not to chase boys. But Johan liked Leny and asked her father to be her boyfriend. The pair dated for 4 years, seeing one another just once a week. Johan asked to marry Leny when she was only 20 and was told to wait until she was 21, so they got married on her 21st birthday! They had a simple wedding in a courthouse, then went to church for a blessing. Johan worked hard and as their 10 children came along they moved into bigger houses together and were not in want of the necessities of life.

Contentment in wealth and poverty

My Oma mentioned how living with wealth, as we do today, can be harder than poverty. Having everything can be a curse when we buy and are not satisfied. She said they were satisfied when they got a handkerchief from a lady next door. Comfort became less important for her as it became less available, and trusting God to provide was taught to her at a young age.

Not only was my Oma poor, she was also a foreigner in a new land, learning English and navigating how to be in the world but not of it. As our world becomes more hostile to Christians, as inflation and housing prices shift the kind of wealth the next generation may have, I was reminded not to fear or despair. Oma’s life helped me reevaluate what is a need versus what is merely a want that I have elevated to a “need” status.

Oma also reminded me not to focus on what kind of life to have in comparison to others, or to worry over deciding what comforts to hold onto and how many children fit or do not fit into a certain plan. Children are a blessing, and I needed the reminder to self-examine what I am keeping “busy” with, and to instead be praying, “Your will be done.” Home life does not need to be fancy; living simply and faithfully for God are what I am called to.

Older saints help us reconsider what does and does not matter. My Oma helped me see that the plague of ideas and expectations sprouting from our phones cannot overtake the faithful day of small things (Zec. 4:9-10). It is a lesson that I know I will need to be reminded of over and over again, and spending time with elderly saints is one way God continues to challenge me in that.

Growing in sanctification

Even though this is a brief snapshot into my Oma’s story, it testifies to God’s covenant faithfulness being handed down from generation to generation. My Oma and Opa have 10 children, 50 grandchildren, and 57 and counting great-grandchildren.

Perhaps the greatest gift to learn from my Oma is her example of self-forgetfulness; she is not looking to be an Instagram image, but an Image Bearer who points away from herself to her God. The stories and examples of the elderly give us encouragement that we too are heading there in our sanctification, towards a deeper relationship with God where the need and drive for our own glory fades, as His glory more and more becomes the focal point of our thoughts and actions.

ADVERTISEMENT

"Be Fruitful and Multiply" tour comes to Albertan April 19-22

Families are having fewer babies, and the world’s population is expected to peak and then decline later this century. The world isn’t prepared for the impact that this is going to have. However, what may be the greatest challenge of this century can also be a huge opportunity for the Church to shine…. if we embrace the blessing of children, and are prepared to raise them faithfully.

In this presentation, Reformed Perspective’s Mark Penninga will unpack data, history, and God’s Word to make the case for embracing the gift of children with open arms.

WHO IS THIS FOR?

Ages 16-116, single or married, children or no children, these presentations are suitable for all mature Christians.

WHEN AND WHERE?

Edmonton: April 19 at 7:30 pm at Immanuel Canadian Reformed Church

Barhead: April 20 at 7:30 pm at Emmanuel United Reformed Church

Ponoka: April 22 at 7:30 pm at Parkland Reformed Church

ADVERTISEMENT

Enjoyed this article?

Get the best of RP delivered to your inbox every Saturday for free.



Assorted, Parenting

What my grandma taught me

My grandma died at the age of 93, more than 25 years after her Henk died. And during those years she often wondered why God hadn’t taken her too – all her children were grown up, so what did she have left to do? She hadn’t exactly forgotten about her grandchildren, but like many grandparents, she did underestimate how much she had to offer the younger generation. She didn’t understand how much her grandchildren still needed to learn from her. 60’s – Hello! Grandma was already in her 60’s when most of the grandchildren first got to know her, and the lessons began immediately. The very first lesson she taught us was that it was important to eat all the food on our plates. The second lesson? That whether we ate all the food on our plates or not, our grandma loved us. She modeled and taught us about unconditional love – the exact type of love God gives us. Parents practice this love too, but it isn’t always as clear. Parents are, after all, the ones who have to punish, and prod, while grandparents can simply adore, spoil and hug. 70’s – Learning never stops There are other lessons, too, that are best learned from a grandparent. Grandma taught us that purity can be funny – that one can get laughs without being crude or rude. She was a very elegant lady but she wanted us to know her generation had the secret to good clean fun; they knew that the very best type of humor was silly humor. So even though she had the regal bearing of a queen, she never passed up a chance to model the large fuzzy slippers she got one Christmas. And when we picked her up at her apartment she always took a moment, with a sly grin, to quickly say goodbye to her collection of stuffed animals. Even in her 70’s she had an innocent child-like sense of humor. A favorite example is of the time when she was out with one daughter and a couple of grandsons. The foursome was out walking when they came upon a set of revolving doors. Her daughter, our dear mom, went first, followed by little James. But then it was my turn… the grin on my face let my mother know in advance what her urchin child had planned. But just as she was about to give me a stern warning, in stepped grandma. The two of us, urchin child and tiny, elegant, 70-something-year-old grandma, started going round and round and round again in that revolving door until we both got so dizzy and weak from laughing we tumbled out. 80’s – She’s seen it all before By the time grandma hit her eighties, her grandchildren were just about all grownup. But she still had a lot to teach us. We were leaving our Christian schools, entering university and experiencing for the first time just how depraved the world could be. Our gentle, delicate grandma knew all about it – in her eighty years on this earth she had seen it all. One story she often told to encourage us, was about the day the Germans invaded her native land of Holland. That day she had looked up to see so many German paratroopers floating down to earth they blotted out the sky. The sight convinced her that the end had come, that the world must be over – how could it ever get worse than this? But it wasn’t the end, and though German power seemed invincible, God brought liberation. Her point was clear: don’t despair – our God can overcome any evil. 90’s – Last but not least In her nineties grandma start showing signs of Alzheimer’s, and began getting confused about what decade it was, and what country she was in. She soon lost the ability to speak English, and in her last months couldn’t walk further than a few dozen feet without huffing. Her body was gone, and her mind was failing her too. On her better days, when her mind was clear enough that she could understand what was happening to her, she got very frustrated. Once again she wanted to know, why was she still here? What did the Lord still have left for her to do? The truth was she wasn’t able to do anything for anyone anymore. But she could still be helped. This wasn’t an easy time for grandma and sometimes she vented her frustration on her children. But she loved to be helped by her grandchildren – anything we did for her would be met with a smile or a pat on the arm. She was once again teaching us about unconditional love – Christ-like love – this time, how to receive it. She responded to us, as we should respond to our giving, gracious God. Conclusion  Grandma lived to be 93, and while she sometimes thought that her job here was done long ago, her grandchildren are very grateful God gave us these many more years with her. Grandparents are such a blessing....