My Six Significant Mothers

The First: A twenty-four-year-old woman suffered a set of muscular contractions granting passage to a child. I was that child, and the young woman became my first significant mother. She did not have an easy life. When I was one year old, World War 2 broke out, and her country, Holland, was overrun by German armies. The following year, she gave birth to another boy. He had a leaking heart valve and died nine months later. She had two more children during the war and two more later. When I was only four years old, I remember sitting with Mama as she read me Bible stories from the illustrated Dutch Kinderbijbel. I owe my love for God to her. She emigrated to Canada with five children, including a five-month-old baby. Her faith in God did not waver, even during the poverty-stricken first decade as an immigrant.

The Second significant mother in my life was Jo’s Mom. She dedicated Jo to God for missionary service at her birth. Wanting to let Jo make her own decision, she did not tell Jo until after she graduated from Bible College and was on her way to take missionary training at BIOLA University.

The Third significant mother is my Josephine. She became a mother with the birth of Valorie—the first of three daughters—a year after we were married. For the fifty-eight years since then, Jo has been as close to an ideal mother for our daughters as I can imagine.
I always think of these three mothers when I read Psalm 92:12, 14: “The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree . . . they shall still bring forth fruit in old age.”

The Fourth significant mother was our second daughter, Leanne, who gave birth to twin boys thirty years ago, making Jo and me grandparents. What a marvellous over-the-top experience that continues to be.

The Fifth: A few years later, our youngest daughter, Cheryl, had a little girl. Our first granddaughter, who made Cheryl my fifth significant mother. A few years later she had our third grandson.

The Sixth: The following year Valorie became my sixth significant mother with the birth of her daughter, followed a few years later with the birth of triplet daughters.

For two decades I also had a Canela Mother. She met my First Mother during the Canela Bible distribution celebration.

The Sacrifice: It was not until Jo and I were grandparents ourselves that we realized the sacrifice our mothers had made when they encouraged us to leave for Brazil as missionaries, taking away their only grandchildren, two and four years old, and a four-month-old baby whom they would not see again for four years.

Jo and I remained in Brazil for years after our daughters graduated and left to live and study in Canada, the USA and Germany. We prayed much for them. When they became mothers themselves, we praised God and were overjoyed that they keep inviting us to share in their lives and the lives of their children.

I thank God for giving me these six mothers in my life. I appreciate each one so much. They have helped me grow in my spiritual life and gave me a powerful reason to mature me in other ways. I also loved exercising the privilege of having significant input into various facets of their lives.

Mothers Buy a Better Future

“You don’t know who this is, do you?” (Don’t you hate that question?)
The Canela woman sitting on the front porch of our village house asked me again, “Don’t you know who this is?” pointing at the smiling young mother who held a nursing baby.

“Of course I do,” I said, guessing bravely, “she is your daughter.” She laughed and said, “I have many daughters. You just don’t remember, do you? Without your help when she was born, we both would have died.”

Instant memory flash-back to the week we arrived in the Canela village for the first time. A serious medical case: an anemic young woman, first baby, prolonged labour, tearing birth, burning with post-partum fever, and a sickly-looking baby. I injected the mom with a first dose of antibiotics and gave her some antipyretic and vitamin pills. My wife, Jo, and I prayed for healing and returned to treat both mom and baby every day until they were well.

And now, over twenty years later, there both of them sat on our porch, a happy young mother and grandmother. What’s more, both women had learned to read and were there to recite the Bible passages they had memorized, thus earning the right to receive a Canela Bible of their own when they arrived from the publishers.

Mothers pay a painful price to bring their babies into the world. Good mothers continue to pay the price to buy a better future for their children.

My mother gave up a stable environment, a comfortable home in the Netherlands, and all her friends and relatives, emigrating to Canada to buy her children a better future. She paid the price of loneliness living in isolated farmhouses—the only places we could afford to live. She lived in poverty as we struggled through those first years of immigrant life. And it didn’t stop there.

Sixteen years later, my mom, now a grandmother, took a deep breath and again paid a painful price to buy a better future. She blessed our move to Brazil—I, her oldest son, Jo, her only daughter in law, and Valorie, Leanne and baby Cheryl, her only grandchildren. She wanted to buy a better future, not for herself, not for us, not for her grandchildren, but for the Canelas—a people group she had never met.

Jo’s mother paid the same painful price. She bought a better future for the Canelas as she said goodbye to her only child, her only son in law, and the only grandchildren she would ever have. It was nearly four years before either of our moms saw their grandchildren again. When we lived in the Canela village, it was often months before they received a letter from us.

Over twenty years later, both our mothers came to Brazil to celebrate the dedication and distribution of the Canela Bible. Both of them tasted a little of the reward that awaited them in heaven.

When a mother hugs her newborn baby for the first time, the joy is so great it almost makes her forget the painful price. So also, as our moms sat on the village plaza, watched the Canela people hug their new Bibles and heard them sing their love to God, they said, “It was hard to send our children to be missionaries. Our hearts ached for them. But it was worth it. Oh, yes, it was worth it!”

Every mother paid a painful price to buy each of us a future, and many have continued to pay. Let’s make sure we honour our mothers this Mothers’ Day and every day after that.

My Two Mothers Meet. Mama birthed me in Holland, Inxe adopted me in Brazil 30 years later.