This spring, Hermen was infected with the coronavirus, and he ended up in hospital, isolated in the lung unit. His hospitalization was also a very drastic time for Hermen’s family. His wife Jenneke and their two children also had varying degrees of symptoms from the coronavirus and were quarantined at home. But their thoughts were naturally with Hermen, fighting for his life in the hospital.
During a video call, Jenneke and Hermen tell us about their experiences with God during this period.
Read more of Hermen’s story here: Holding on to God’s word on the brink of death
“I felt that heaven was very close by”
Twice Hermen was prepared for admission to the Intensive Care Unit, where he was to be placed in a coma. He recounts, “Several times I thought, ‘This is the end, I just can’t do it anymore.’ With my last scrap of energy, I sent a message to my wife and children saying that I loved them. I felt that heaven was very close by. Being with Jesus forever was a wonderful thought for me. But inside me, I also had a strong desire to live. I really wanted to be given time to help other people.”
Dependent on God
That week Jenneke could hardly have any contact with Hermen. It was also difficult to get clear information from the nursing staff because everything was so hectic and uncertain. “When I received that alarming message, I understood that the situation was very serious. That it looked like he was going to die – and that I might never see him or speak to him again. Of course that was very intense!
“I naturally wanted nothing more than to visit him in the hospital, be with him, do something, arrange something – but now we could only stay at home and wait. That gave a feeling of powerlessness. But at the same time, I also noticed a conviction and peace: ‘God is the only one who can do anything now. I can hand it over to Him!’ And immediately afterwards I realized: ‘Wait, isn’t that always the case? Even if I can arrange something and can take care of it.’ That surrender to God, that is actually life: I am always dependent on God. I thought about that a lot.”
Praying with confidence
Prayer was a refuge for Jenneke. “In the beginning I was really begging, ‘God, please, let him live! He can’t die!’ I prayed as if I had to convince God to return Hermen to life and health.
“One night a verse from Psalm 92:13 came to my mind: ‘Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall spend the night in the shadow of the Almighty.’ [Dutch translation.] I let those words sink in: if you spend the night in the shadow of the Almighty, it actually means that the Almighty God Himself watches over you when you sleep. He watches over me and therefore also over Hermen in the hospital. The very best thing I could do was to say to God, ‘Lord God, You are standing next to him. Please take care of him!’
“I learned to pray in a different way. Not panic-driven: ‘He mustn’t die! He mustn’t die!’ – but from a deeper trust and the belief that God oversees everything and takes care of us. Of course, I kept praying that Hermen would get better, but it had changed. I learned to talk to God the way you talk to a Friend. After all, He loves us!”
Thirtieth wedding anniversary
Jenneke and Hermen had their thirtieth wedding anniversary right in that time when Hermen was hospitalized. As a special exception, Jenneke was allowed to visit the hospital so they could see each other on their wedding anniversary. They waved to each other: he in the hospital bed on one side of the glass, she in her wedding dress on the other side of the glass. “The nursing staff were talking about it all week: that waving lady in her wedding dress!” Hermen laughs.
Compassion and encouragement
Jenneke knows that many people prayed for Hermen, both from home and abroad. Not least many people from the Christian congregation in Terwolde in the Netherlands, where Hermen isleader. “Many friends from Singapore, Sri Lanka and Hong Kong also asked daily how he was doing. It was such a nice thought that when I went to sleep, they were taking over the praying from me on the other side of the world, in a different time zone.”
The prayers and many encouraging messages from friends were a huge support for Jenneke and the children. Again and again it helped Jenneke to keep her thoughts focused on God. “It was like ‘lifelines to God’ for me to hold on to,” she explains.
Living with a task!
Hermen recovered, and after 12 days in hospital he was allowed to go home to recuperate.
“We all still have to process it all,” says Jenneke. “It was a tough time, but we experienced it as a gift for life. We learned so much from it! This period really gave me an extra drive that I in turn can become a ‘lifeline to God’ for the people around me.”
It is late, but it is almost impossible to end the conversation. We see two radiant people, and their flow of grateful words is almost unstoppable. “I am deeply grateful that I can still be alive, as you can imagine,” says Hermen. “In this time, I have seen even more strongly that God has given me, and every person, a task in life. God created us as unique people with unique talents and possibilities; we don’t have to be copies of each other! God wants to speak to each person personally and make clear which works He has prepared for each person individually. If we discover those works and very simply start doing them, we will be a blessing to those around us.”
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.