A Mother’s Day Meditation with Evangeline Vandenberg
Call her blessed
In a time of “super-heroes”, someone said that behind every traveling preacher is a super-wife. In truth, this is a shallow observation and does not do her justice. In my experience, she is so much more – she is courageous, resilient, humble and resourceful. Above all, she knows how to pray.
“Pray to remain faithful to the heavenly calling”
I first met Anni Bonnke in 1981 when my husband and I joined Christ for all Nations in Witfield, South Africa and, true to form, it was at a meal around her own family table. In those days, she was known as “Mama Bonnke” amongst the staff, and I soon discovered that she had earned this name with her love and hospitality, always making sure that each member of the team had their turn at her table. Sometimes it would be a family, but often we would be a group of wives around the table, all holding the fort while our husbands were away, all doing our best to fill the space left by absentee fathers, especially during those childhood crises that seemed to wait for whenever they were gone!
As time went on I saw how often she was invited to speak at conferences and women’s meetings. I asked her why she never accepted. Without hesitation, she told me that God had called them both to the mission field, but making sure their home was a safe haven for her husband and children was the outworking of that calling in her life. She made sure I understood that my children would see my own husband’s absences through the filter of my emotions and expectations, and so to weigh my words and attitude carefully. In later years I one day asked her what advice she would give a young woman starting out in the ministry with little children and a traveling husband. She smiled. “Pray. Pray for your husband, pray for your children, pray to remain faithful to the heavenly calling. Pray.” Good advice for any woman, at any time!
Navigating challenges with grace and dignity
Reinhard Bonnke has now retired. A new season has come for CfaN and with it, a new man at the helm with his wife of 16 years and their five children. Rebekah Kolenda is now in much the same situation that Anni Bonnke was in for so many years. She met Daniel whilst at Bible School, and has shared his passion for the Gospel and the salvation of souls from the very beginning of their relationship. I asked her if she knew what she was signing up for when they got engaged. “He told me that he could not promise me the American Dream, the white picket fence, a dog and two children, but he could promise me a mud hut in Africa with dirt floors to sweep. I never flinched – that’s when he knew he had made the right choice!” J
As is so often true, the dreams and visions of youth pale into insignificance before the realities of a life in service of the Kingdom of God, especially a life where there is the continual juggling of time together and time apart, times of shared parenting and times of crisis faced alone. Rebekah navigates these challenges with grace and dignity. And when she asked me what advice I would give a young wife and busy mother, I simply passed on what I had learned from Anni all those years before – “Your children’s attitudes will only be a reflection of your own words and attitudes towards your husband’s absences.” She tells me she never forgets this. As a family, they have learned to make the precious time with Daniel quality time, and the children love to just “hang out” with Dad when he is home. They already enjoy being at CfaN events and I believe there is a budding preacher or two among them!
God will make a way where there seems to be no way!
We have had and still have many couples who serve as part of the team as CfaN travels the world preaching the Good News of the Kingdom. Often it is only our men who are seen because of the nature of what they do. But it is the faithful, strong support of wives who gladly sacrifice their own emotional comfort for the sake of the Gospel that makes every word preached and every mile traveled, a victory for the Kingdom of God. Every woman has been through the fire at one time or another, every woman has proved that “with God, all things are possible.” Without exception, they say that they would choose this life all over again.
Speaking for myself I must admit that it has not always been easy – sometimes the burden can seem too hard to bear, the hurdles too high to leap over, the sacrifice too much to ask. Sometimes I have been called on to exhibit courage that I knew I didn’t have, like when the team were in mortal danger somewhere in Africa, and all I wanted to do was weep out my fear or frustration to the heavens but for the sake of the children, kept a calm demeanour! But then would come the words I have learned to love so much, “Be still and KNOW that I am God.” It is in stillness that knowing is born, the stillness of falling on our faces before the One who knows the end from the beginning and who is never caught by surprise. My safe place has always been the place of worship and often, so very often, I have sung in the shower, at the top of my voice, “God will make a way where there seems to be no way!” or sat at my piano and sung myself into “the peace that passes all understanding.”
There were times I really needed that peace! I remember one particular day when my sons - then very young boys - had gone fishing at a dam nearby. Hearing a commotion outside the kitchen door, I ran out, only to see our youngest son being carried by friends, sobbing with pain from a very deep cut in the sole of his foot. He had stepped on broken glass and the white nerve ends waved wildly at me as I investigated, heart pounding in fear that he would lose movement or feeling. “Why is it that the worst accidents always seemed to happen when Pete is away?” I thought. Only later that night I started to tremble as the shock caught up with me, only later that night could I think calmly at all and be grateful that no lasting damage was done! I have many more stories like this and I’m sure every mother on the team has a similar story, or two, or three…
“Be strong and courageous!”
We as wives and mothers are proof that the Word of God is true. “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 (NLT). It’s no wonder that Rebekah says this her favorite scripture.
In the life that we have been called to in Christ for all Nations, it is easy to feel isolated in our experience of marriage and motherhood – it’s not quite like everybody else. But over the years I found that at those times when I felt the loneliest, an angel would come along. Not glowing, dressed in white or flapping snowy wings, but someone who spoke words of encouragement and life, and reminded me that “HIS strength is made perfect in our weakness!”
“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her!” Luke 1:45