Dirk Willems

Dirk Willems

Dirk Willems Testimony

What I remember most
is the joy of God’s words on our lips
and in our hearts.
That good news bubbling out,
freely shared with any person we met,
old categories of friend and foe forgotten.
I remember the power of God changing us,
from empty Christians
to disciples full of fire.
I confessed my faith
and chose baptism, freely, consciously,
my prayer as the water trickled over me,
“O my Lord, my God!”
My family and friends,
my neighbors near and far,
they flocked to my house to hear that story.
We read from the Bible,
we prayed together.
And always every meeting,
their words echoing in my ears,
“Can I too be baptized?”

Yes, there was danger.
It was a crime for us to baptize
since we weren’t priests,
and the authorities were out to find us.
But we Brethren were quick,
our feet given godspeed.
So often we escaped
even when escape seemed impossible:
ducking out windows,
fleeing to the fields in the dark,
our pursuers’ lanterns bobbing behind us.
So often God protected us from evil.

The persecution became more severe.
First one brother, and then a sister,
another and another,
arrested, tortured, brought to trial,
made an example.
They were an example to us,
so many, so faithful,
freely bearing their cross, like Jesus.
A witness to God’s glory even in death.

And then it was my turn to be arrested.
They were there waiting for us
hidden in the darkness as we gathered,
no time to run, just a quick whispered prayer,
“O my Lord, my God!”

Into the prison, and there I had time
to sit and think and pray,
to prepare myself for the ordeal to come.
I was more surprised than anyone
when the opportunity arose
for me to escape.
God works in mysterious ways,
and like Paul before me,
the way was open and I took it.
I ran like the wind;
I could hear shouts behind me
and I knew I was being pursued.
Over that wintry river I fled,
the ice creaking ominously below me.
Even as I ran I prayed,
“O my Lord, my God,
let me run on water this day,”
Cracks formed with every step I took,
and like Peter I doubted.
I pictured them fishing
my frozen body with a hook
out of the cold river.

But God be praised,
my feet reached solid land
and running still, I spared a glance behind me.
I saw my pursuer stepping on the ice,
one of the guards sent to catch me.
I doubled my pace along the river
but my eyes were drawn to him
lumbering, lumbering along.
Suddenly there was no figure at all.
My legs kept running
but my whole attention shifted.
I saw the arms and head appear in the watery pit
bobbing and grasping, ice breaking, splashing.
I could hear his frantic call for help.
I stopped and looked to his friends.
They all hugged the shore,
afraid to venture to him on the ice.
They were not going to help him.

Having just crossed that wide white river,
having feared that icy grave,
my heart went to him.
I turned around.
It was I who would be a fisher of men this day.
Running toward my pursuer this time,
I reached that treacherous surface,
and when the cracks seemed louder than my heartbeats,
I dropped gently down on my stomach, sliding sideways,
arms spread wide, reaching for him.
Him reaching for me with freezing fingers,
and then our hands locked,
and the slow, slow, pull to safety.
We did it. I saved him.

We both lay on the ice for a long moment.
Me totally spent from the chase and the rescue,
he totally spent from being immersed in fear,
dazed at returning to the land of the living.

The voice of the burgomeister shattered the silence,
calling from the safety of the shore:
“Arrest that man.
Arrest that man right now!
Do your duty.”
I looked at him,
my companion on the ice.
Our eyes held each other,
frozen there on that hard river.
We both watched transfixed
as his hand slowly reached out
and grasped my elbow.
I closed my eyes,
“Oh my Lord, my God.”

And so I am here in the prison again.
They have convicted me,
and today I am to be burned.
In the icy river or in flames of fire,
I am not alone.
Jesus is with me as I take up my cross.
Be with me now,
Oh my Lord, my God.

Reposted from Deep calls to Deep Blog

A true story that I personally have read from Foxes Book of Martrys.

Birth of a Song

Birth of a Song

Back in 1932, I was 32 years old and a fairly new husband. My wife, Nettie, and I were living in a little apartment on Chicago’s Southside. One hot August afternoon I had to go to St. Louis, where I was to be the featured soloist at a large revival meeting. I didn’t want to go.

Nettie was in the last month of pregnancy with our first child. But a lot of people were expecting me in St. Louis. I kissed Nettie goodbye, clattered downstairs to our Model A, and, in a fresh Lake Michigan breeze, chugged out of Chicago on Route 66.

However, outside the city, I discovered that in my anxiety at leaving, had forgotten my music case. I wheeled around and headed back. I found Nettie sleeping peacefully. I hesitated by her bed; something was strongly telling me to stay. But eager to get on my way, and not wanting to disturb Nettie, I shrugged off the feeling and quietly slipped out of the room with my music.

The next night, in the steaming St. Louis heat, the crowd called on me to sing again and again. When I finally sat down, a messenger boy ran up with a Western Union telegram. I ripped open the envelope. Posted on the yellow sheet were the words: YOUR WIFE JUST DIED. People were happily singing and clapping around me, but I could hardly keep from crying out. I rushed to a phone and called home. All I could hear on the other end was “Nettie is dead. Nettie is dead.”

When I got back, I learned that Nettie had given birth to a boy. I swung between grief and joy. Yet that night, the baby died. I buried Nettie and our little boy together, in the same casket. Then I fell apart.

For days I closeted myself. I felt that God had done me an injustice. I didn’t want to serve Him anymore or write gospel songs. I just wanted to go back to that jazz world I once knew so well.

But then, as I hunched alone in that dark apartment those first sad days, I thought back to the afternoon I went to St. Louis. Something kept telling me to stay with Nettie. Was that something God? Oh, if I had paid more attention to Him that day, I would have stayed and been with Nettie when she died. From that moment on I vowed to listen more closely to Him.

But still, I was lost in grief. Everyone was kind to me, especially a friend, Professor Frye, who seemed to know what I needed.

On the following Saturday evening, he took me up to Madam Malone’s Poro College, a neighborhood music school. It was quiet; the late evening sun crept through the curtained windows. I sat down at the piano, and my hands began to browse over the keys. Something happened to me then I felt at peace. I feel as though I could reach out and touch God. I found myself playing a melody, one I’d never heard or played before, and the words into my head-they just seemed to fall into place:

“Precious Lord, take my hand,
lead me on, let me stand!
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn,
Through the storm, through the night
lead me on to the light,
Take my hand, precious Lord,
Lead me home.”

The Lord gave me these words and melody. He also healed my spirit. I learned that when we are in our deepest grief when we feel farthest from God, this is when He is closest, and when we are most open to His restoring power.

And so I go on living for God willingly and joyfully until that day comes when He will take me and gently lead me home.

-Thomas A. Dorsey- Gospel Songwriter

The is a post from a good brother’s blog “Deep calls to deep