In my previous letter to you (in the December issue of Beacon Lights), we talked about the terrible struggle a Christian soldier has in the midst of the godless surroundings wherein the Lord has placed him. In this letter, we wish to tell you about the Christian Military Homes we had in the Netherlands.
As you probably know, we had compulsory military training for the majority of the young men between the age of 18 and 19 and many years ago the need was felt to do something for the Christian young men in service. First the Christian people living in the places where the camps or garrisons were located took them into their homes, but it soon was felt that that could not go on forever; so out of that grew the Christian Military Homes and which have been since a real haven for many a young man in service.
Those homes were established by a society in such a place and could usually be found close to the barracks just outside of the army grounds and they were supported and sustained by the Christians throughout the country. In these homes, we had a Father and Mother appointed by the board of the society out of a number of applicants, whom were fit and had love for this work. These temporary parents would do everything to make the boys feel at home as much as possible and would create all kinds of activities for the boys to keep them busy; as for instance, a young men’s society, debating club, men’s choir, etc. They also would see to it that the boys would attend their respective churches and catechism classes. In short, they would for a while take over the parental duties.
No wonder then that we would dress up every night after supper and flee from the godless surroundings and go to our home where we would gather around the old organ and sing together, or sit down to play a game of chess or some other game, or write letters or have a talk together. Every night, before we had to leave for the barracks, Father would gather us together in the large room and would read a chapter out of the Bible and explain it for us and would close in prayer.
Well, we were so accustomed to go to our home that when our army became mobilized during World War I and we had to take our place at the Belgian border, we felt completely lost without it, so we established our own homes wherever we could get a group together in order to be able to have Christian fellowship together.
Now all this you haven’t got because we were not ready for it, but where we will also have compulsory training after this war in this country according to reports, we hope we will have something like that for our boys in the future.
May the Lord strengthen and sustain you by His grace to fight the good fight of faith to the glory of His name.
Sometime ago I talked with the father of one of the boys in service. He related to me an incident which his son had written in one of his letters. While on the battle front in France, the son had found a copy of “The Banner” and “De Wachter” in one of the fields and was pleasantly surprised.
Anxious to know who the original owner had been of those American church papers, he went to search for that person for a couple of days, but did not succeed in finding him.
Now to me, who has served in the Netherlands Army for almost four years and know a little of the position of a Christian young man in the Army, it was a revelation that this young man of our congregation probably served in a unit where he had not found any confessing Christian soldier, and that he felt lonesome and forlorn in the midst of all the sin and corruption around him. Finding these churches papers on foreign soil aroused within him the longing for fellowship with a brother of like faith; for evidently the soldier who lost them must have come from a Christian Reformed family.
What was it in him, that he put forth such an effort to find that other soldier? But you have the answer ready, my dear friends, that are by the grace of God true to your confession and walk in the midst of all that wickedness that surrounds you day and night as Christian soldiers, for you must have experienced that same loneliness that he did many times. It was the longing for Christian fellowship of which we do not think often nor appreciate enough as long as we are at home in our own church and society and amongst our own friends, but which you have been missing so much since you entered the armed services.
Oh, yes, some of you have been quite fortunate and have been stationed near a place with a Christian Reformed or Reformed Church; and the members of those churches have taken you into their homes on Sundays and on week day evenings when you were at liberty. And those brethren and sisters have done a splendid work, for in so doing they gave you an oasis in the midst of the wilderness wherein you must walk. I know from experience how you looked forward to those Sundays and evenings when you could flee from all that corruption and sin and would meet some of God’s people and have fellowship with them. How good were those Sundays and how inspiring those evenings and how thankful you were to your Heavenly Father who gave you all this out of His hand. But most of you boys have not been that fortunate. You’ve probably had to spend most of your Sundays and evenings within the camps and barracks where the very air is filled with vile cursing and blasphemy from the mouths of the children of this world—a place where I have seen many a young man from a Christian home go astray and take the way of least resistance by going along with the world.
No, not one of you, dear friends, we hope and pray, for in that way you will never find the peace of mind for which you are seeking.
Show your colors and walk as children of light in the midst of the darkness that surrounds you, and the God of all grace shall give you strength to go on to the glory of His Name.