A Century-old Riddle
When I was small, my mom had a secret treasure. A Dutch newspaper, handed down to her from her Dutch grandparents who had emigrated from Holland, was tucked away in a special box. She would show it to me, and even then the paper was yellowed and fragile. How I wanted to know what it said! But none of the relatives spoke or read the Dutch language. That had passed with my great grandparents who died several years before I was born.
At some point, the crumbling paper came into my possession and my husband gave me the wise suggestion to laminate it. Once I preserved it, I would occasionally pull it out and unsuccessfully try to decipher the strange words.
On a trip to Texas last winter, I met a sweet lady named Gonda. She and her husband live in Canada. And then I learned she had been born in Holland. I finally asked her if she could still read Dutch and told her of my precious newspaper. She graciously offered to translate it. But how? I didn't want to mail it and have it out of my possession. It was too big to copy and send by email. So I tucked it away again.
This winter, we were returning for a week to the same RV park as we had been previously. So, as I packed the 5th wheel, I put the newspaper in a safe place.
Shortly after we arrived, I reconnected with Gonda and we set a time to look at the newspaper. Gonda and I spent two days poring over the old document. She translated the articles and I typed them in English to share with my siblings. The newspaper turned out to be a Christian paper, with the purpose of uplifting and inspiring Christians in Holland, Belgium, and America.
The front page article had the theme of Heaven. The article's author included a poem by Jan Liefde. This is Gonda's translation of the poem:
What is the Christian Fatherland?
Is it the Netherlands, is it France?
Is it the river Rhine, or where the Danube flows?
Where the wheat moves in the wind?
Where the wheat grows and the grapevine flowers?
Oh no, oh no, oh no
It is to a better land where God calls me
That is the Christian Fatherland.
Where we find the loving hand
Where we show our God our clean heart
Where Salem is built on God
Then will it be, then will it be,
The Christian fatherland is mine.
O God, my God, then will it be,
Make me poor here, make me rich there.
And then I will gaze on your Godly countenance,
That will be, that will be,
The eternal Fatherland is mine.
My poet's heart loved this poem - a link to the great grandparents I do not know yet, but perhaps someday, I will meet in the "Fatherland." And a link to a new friend who gave me this priceless gift! Thank you, Gonda!
Susan Lawrence taught elementary school for 33 years before hanging up her chalkboard to write and speak. She writes novels for both adults and middle grade children. Susan lives in Iowa with her husband and short-legged Lab, Molly. She has 3 children and 7 grandchildren who love to hear her stories.