A little boy’s prayer
May 9th, 1940
My older brother, sister, my three younger sisters and I lived with my parents in the parsonage of the Reformed Church in Rotterdam South, The Netherlands. My dad was the pastor of the church. I was almost five and did what most little boys of five do; played outside, rode my bike and learned about the world around me.
Life was good; but lately, even a little boy of five could tell when something wasn’t quite right. Mother and dad had been quite serious these past few days.. They spoke softly to each other. Dad’s prayers at meal time had a somber tone and there was little laughter in the house. All this was hard to under-stand when you are only five years old.
Dinner had been without the usual laughter. Dad was so serious, and mother seemed preoccupied. It was time to go to bed. Normally this was a time for fun, for teasing, for laughter, but tonight was different. We said our evening prayers. Mother’s eyes were filled with tears. She gave all of us extra hugs. It was so strange.
It was difficult to go to sleep. Suddenly the world around us exploded. The sky was filled with giant fingers of light. Searchlights, we later learned. Streams of little lights, Tracers bullets we learned, crossed the sky. Screaming loud airplane sounds mixed with the sounds of explosions, and all of it shook the house.
Mother and dad rushed in to our bedrooms to get us. Dad had preached about the “end of the world” recently. Was this it? We were told to quickly dress and come to the living room.
Frightened, we asked mother, “what should we do?”
Dad said, “Let’s first pray and ask God to keep us in his care”.
It didn’t seem to help. The lights, the explosions, the shaking of the house seemed to get worse.
Mother, to keep us occupied, gave each of us something to do. I had crawled under the dining room table to hide.
I asked her “What do you want me to do? She said, “You pray.”
I said the only prayer that I could think of at the time.
“Lord, bless this food and drink, for Jesus sake, Amen.”
I almost apologized to God for saying a table grace prayer when we were not going to eat. It didn’t seem to be the right thing to do, but somehow I believed that God would understand.
Later, we learned that the Germans had invaded our country. The Dutch Army fought valiantly, but they were totally overwhelmed. In spite of their plans to conquer Holland and Belgium in the first 24 hours of the offensive, at the end of the fourth day the German Army had barely crossed the Dutch border.
A new tactic was needed.
On the night of May 10, the German Air Force bombed the center of our city. A mile from where we lived.
Over a thousand people lost their lives and the heart of our city was pulverized. The Germans let it be known that the next night they would bomb the next city, unless the Dutch Army capitulated.
It made no sense to go on. It was David against Goliath. Goliath had won, this time
The fighting ended and for the next five years we lived under German occupation rules. Our freedom was gone. We were totally restricted. Electricity was rationed to a few daylight hours.
No one was allowed to be on the street after 7 p.m. To disobey, unless you had the proper papers, resulted in being shot.
Any males of 17 years and older were arrested and shipped to Germany to work in forced labor camps. Later on, during the occupation, food shortages were the cause of thousands of deaths. Our very existence, 24 hours a day, was German-controlled.
All of this took place 80 years ago, but it seems like yesterday.
Many of you who read this h traveled with us to Europe on one or more of our Windmill Adventures Tours. On most of those trips we included Rotterdam.
I wanted you to see where I lived, the house in which I was born, and where I went to school. You saw a city totally rebuilt, thriving and beautiful. You also saw some of the memorials that remind the Dutch nation, and the people of the world, what happened there, so many years ago. They are memorials to death and to life.
There is a lesson in all of this. Presently, our world is again involved in a war, a global war. We are not fighting each other. We are fighting a deadly virus. A virus. An enemy of microscopic proportions. Military might is useless. We can only hope and pray that science will find a way to combat this enemy and that soon the time will come when “God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes, and there shall be no more death. Neither sorrow and crying. Neither shall there be any more pain.”
Pray for that day.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Gerrit Lamain is a former Copper Country resident who served as a music professor at Suomi College. He was also the organist for the Michigan Tech hockey team before moving on to the Minnesota North Stars.