Dear Great-Opa Pieter —
If I could ask you one thing,
today, I would wonder aloud —
How did you survive when your world
was muted, beaten, starved
for six long years away?
How did you endure?
The pandemic of 1918 seems
eclipsed when you
survived Two Great World Wars.

Let me explain American culture
to a stalwart Dutchman
who sacrificed for the good
of his country and all those
on the 17,000 verdant islands
of what was Dutch East Indies:

Americans speak of what they
expect or deserve after hard work,
investment, time have poured
out of hungry arms
and have devoured others
for the high calling of prosperity.
Such a lifestyle is vinegar on my tongue,
a chaff in the wind; I will have nothing of it.

Pieter, too, would have nothing of such
vain pursuits or worldly ambitions.

Instead, you sought equality
for hurting people
and freedom for captives
caught in trafficking
or prostitution or abused,
as Head of Police for a colonialist country
rightfully crumbling under
the burden of chosen inequality.

You changed course, chose to
reach out, love every race,
decidedly against the sprint
for notoriety and fame,
you quietly prayed
and sought wisdom, knowing
God altered your heart even when
He could not ease your circumstances.

As others around you sought hate and
revenge after six years of
imprisonments and torture,
you spoke instead of peace,
kindness, and forgiveness
for your captors,

only wishing to tell
your dear children of when
Japanese guards brought jelly toast
or how God spared you from
laboring on the Java railroad,
which took the lives of your friends.

You deserved to raise your
only surviving son Jan,
who was not a teen when
you left the Netherlands
for “one more year of
work in Jakarta” but March 1942
arrived with invasion and terror, and
when you returned he was 18 years old.

I know what you would
gently urge your great-
granddaughter Caroline,
when floundering in trying times —

“Trust the Lord,
remain steadfast,
search for good,
be the love we wish to see.”
and —

“Sometimes in life we must
go through hardship;
there’s no other way through.”

He often said these messages
through tears and kind eyes,
knowledge earned in trial.

Choosing love, joy,
peace, forgiveness, hope —
this is his legacy to me.

1932, darling Nelly, Pieter, Diny, Jan, Cornelia

I am incredibly thankful for the heritage of a godly family many generations before my own! My grandmother Diny is sitting in the middle of this picture (taken in 1932), and as the oldest child, born in 1921, was a woman of faith and determination. She consistently prayed for and deeply loved her family, including her husband Nico, their four children, and fourteen grandchildren. (L-R: Nelly, Pieter, Diny, Jan, Cornelia)