Courage in the Face of Persecution

My dad, the first example of Christ in my life


I will forever remember the sound of the worn out rubber of old bicycle tires on mushy snow and the feeling of icy rain on my face. I didn’t mind, as a child, sitting on a small kiddie seat on the front bar of my father’s bike. Growing up in Eastern Germany in the early 80s, we didn’t have a car. My dad used to ride his bike to work and drop me off at Kindergarten, while my mom was looking after my 3 younger siblings at home. The image of my dad reading his bible at our kitchen table in the early mornings, while he waited for the gas stove to heat up the room, will forever be a fond memory. Whatever portion he read in those early morning hours he would share with me, on the bike, on our way to kindergarten. That way I heard the exciting stories of David’s adventures, learned about prophet Ehud and the evil king Eglon, was inspired by Deborah’s courage and the humanity of Peter, and it was then the love for God’s word was planted deep into my heart. My dad was an amazing story teller. He made the biographies of the heroes of faith come to life. At night he would work extra jobs building electronic solutions in our basement. I would sit next to him and we would listen to the radio and pray for the world while he was soldering and building circuit boards.

I remember my Kindergarten teacher paying my parents a very concerned visit. I had been talking about the bible in class, and under Communism she was obliged to tell the children that God does not exist and Jesus is the subject of fairy tales. In class I had entered into a vivid debate with her about faith, at 5 years old. My parent’s faces grew pale, in Eastern Germany the government was known to place children of people who didn’t agree with the teachings of Marxism into state custody. But it turned out this teacher was also a believer and she had come to apologize that the had denied her faith in class.

All the way through primary and middle school my father blessed us every single morning, placing us under the protection of Jesus. He must have been afraid of what the government could do to him, being an underground church leader, but he never showed that. Instead he encouraged us to stand up for our faith. We were never members of the communist youth organisation, which meant we would have to leave school at grade 10 never to be allowed to study at University. Many times I would be called to the head office where the principal and different teachers tried to pressure me into giving up my faith so I would be able to finish grade 12. Many Christians worked in practical professions those days, academic studies being mostly reserved to members of the socialist party. Every night my parents prayed for our future. They taught us uncompromising faith. I am forever thankful for the backbone and courage they instilled in us at a young age.

When the Berlin wall fell, I was in 8th grade. Needless to say, I could study and am assisting my husband in pasturing a church in South Africa. My father taught me how to be nourished by the word of God, and he still is an example of trusting the Lord during all storms of life. I want to encourage all of you who are fathers to share with their children out of the word of God those portions that have ministered to you. Share your personal faith, testify to your children of how God came through for you.

Pray every morning for your children before sending them off to school. Let your kids sit with you when you work on a project. Appreciate their company, take them serious. It means the world to a child. And by the way, we got our first car when I was 12.

Christiane van Heerden

Christiane van Heerden, teacher and pastors wife at Emmanuel Church in South Africa

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Christiane van Heerden

Christiane van Heerden, teacher and pastors wife at Emmanuel Church in South Africa

One Comment

  1. What great examples of strong faith. I say a quick prayer of protection for my family every morning before I leave for work and I pray again for my children each evening. I pray for their acceptance of Jesus and that they are good models of the Christian faith.

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