Oma, Opa, and my older brother. Three of my favorite people! I am the one who remains, who can tell their stories (only the stories I know, the ones they shared).
These three treasured ones lived meaningful lives of humility, kindness, generosity, wit, outreach, and purpose. I continue to seek to emulate those qualities, specifically the qualities of Christ they lived daily. When I would compliment my grandmother Oma on something, she would tell me I held her in too high esteem. Really, she was seeking to serve the Lord and become more like Christ.
At times I wish for days like this, Los Angeles in 1980, surrounded by love, comfort, warmth, stability.
Now, in my 40s, I’m tasked with being an example of those qualities for my own three children. I’m the same age Nico and Diny were when they left Indonesia, to move back to the Netherlands, and then to America. I’m frequently humbled by that reality. Of course, all four of us here are flawed people, saved by God’s grace.
My gracious grandfather Nico always listened first; he observed and reflected, before responding. His ability to listen and care about me as a child was monumental. Through understanding his weaknesses and limitations, Opa was able to use his quiet, peace-filled introversion, his godly wisdom, and careful consideration for the betterment of others. He worked in downtown Los Angeles as a fair businessman, with fair trade practices. His charming demeanor was natural and unflashy and did not draw attention, and he often found ways to bless his family without drawing attention to his action. Nico consistently demonstrated steady kindness and humility in business and in home life. His example of peace is nearly unmatched in my life.
My darling grandmother Diny sparkled when she entered the room, and I can still hear her vibrant laughter. Her struggles with English sometimes started conversations, as other immigrants felt comfortable knowing they weren’t alone in learning this difficult language. Diny enthusiastically drew people toward her, welcoming them to eat at her table.
Over the years, since we lived at least 1,000 miles away from each other, we became pen pals, sending letters, notes, packages of love over the miles. Oma prayed for me daily, and I would call her frequently for specific prayer needs. I saved her words, and savor them now, often re-reading her cards; even an issue I struggled with as a mom of 3 babies in diapers, which she helped me resolve, still resonates now as a mother of three teen daughters.
And as a matter of ministry, my boldest spiritual calling is intercession and encouragement. Every style of writing encouragement I currently express today, I inherited from Diny: of taking a length of time in prayer, silence, and solitude. In praying through a friend’s specific challenge, then reading the Bible for guidance, and then carefully trying to infuse hope into a letter, note, or card.
It’s a labor of listening first to the needs of my friend, and to God, scanning the Bible for a verse that offers one tiny way I can bring hope, and then writing, which is one of my favorite ways of loving others.
And Tim, my dear older brother, instilled lessons of unspoken acts of kindness, generosity, living within one’s passions to love the world. I’m motivated to quietly love others by his example, to give generously and without regret, and with gracious joy. It was only after Tim’s death, more than a decade ago, that his close friends shared instances of incredible sacrifice, which Tim never shared with me. He just lived love and didn’t need reward, approached life with wit and humor, diffusing difficulties with hope and courage. When I am generous, or participate in a random act of kindness, I remember Tim and his example.
I believe those who have gone before us, who loved God and lived for him, encourage us to live well and with purpose.