“OK, why this invitation, Walter?” I said.
“No, not yet,” Debbie interjected. “Let’s get the coffee and cake first.”
It seemed ages before our order arrived, and Bill and I burst with curiosity.
“Well…” Walter finally began, and managed a mischievous smile despite a mouth full of apple pie. “How about creating a community together?”
All we expected, not this type of announcement.
Bill and I were taken aback by the request, and didn’t know how to react.
“What do you mean with community?” Bill wanted to know.
Walter and Debbie obviously had been thinking about it for a long time, and shared their ideas.
Each couple would have two rooms each; the rest of the house was to be shared. Except for a weekly community prayer and meeting, we could continue our usual activities.
It took us six months to pray and think about the consequences before we were ready to take the plunge.
A rather frustrating time of house hunting began, because all four of us had to have peace about the place. It seemed we were looking for the impossible “dream house”, which had to have at least four bedrooms, unfurnished, for long term, and within our budget.
But the 7th house was the perfect match, and thus began our communal living, based on Psalm 133:1,
“How good and pleasant it is when brothers [and sisters] live together in unity!”
A month after we settled in, pregnant Debbie experienced complications and had to rest. After a scooter accident, Walter had to stay home as well. I became the resident nurse.
This difficult and testing time forged a unique bond between the four of us. As both our biological families lived in Holland, we needed each other more than ever during this period.
After the Gulf War “experience”, our first foster child arrived. Bill and I were grateful for the community “backup”, for it was an overwhelming endeavor.
Within a year, our community grew with two children.
The fellowship and hospitality we shared with invited guests always blessed them in a special way.
Walter and Debbie had another son, while we got another (special needs) foster daughter.
Life was wonderful.
The weekly meetings were not always easy, but more often we enjoyed times of real belly-laughter.
When the children - and not to mention the many strollers and toys - began to clog up the small living quarters, we decided to look for a bigger house. Again, all of us had to be in one accord.
A year passed. We couldn’t find the right house – there was always one of us who didn’t like it. It drove me nuts.
With the arrival of our third foster child, the house began to burst at the seams. Tensions arose, also between the children.
A deadline was decided upon. If the right house didn’t show up before that date, the community would split up.
A period of frantic searching began, with no results.
The deadline arrived - nothing.
What next? Was the central question.
The general mood during that fateful community meeting was cheerless and dejected. With heavy hearts we decided that the first couple that found a suitable house would move out.
During the weeks that followed, I moved about with a sinking spirit and a feeling of loss.
We didn’t receive an answer.
Bill and I were the ones who found a suitable place, and the usual happy time of packing and preparing to move, now was done in sorrow and tears.
Downcast - I was on the verge of a depression - we moved into our new home.
It took time before the melancholy feeling lifted, and we began to see God’s wisdom - how good it was to be on “our own”.
In the years that followed, the friendship between Walter and Debbie never wavered. They developed their own, unique ministry, while our - by now four - special needs children became the main objective, needing our undivided attention.
The sorrowful parting had been necessary in order for God to work His plan in our lives. When Paul and Barnabas parted, God used both men in different areas, perhaps even more so because they went their separate ways.
With us, it had been a housing “problem” God chose not to fix.
It all fit in His perfect plan for our lives.
“Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5 NIV
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