Welcome Everyone. Today is my first ever interview outside, we are at South Hobart on the Rivulet track. And today I’m talking with Elly, who I don’t know very well at all. Elly and I met last Friday night when I was buying take-away food and we’re walking on the street, and Moz, my husband has been teaching Elly’s son so we stopped to say ‘hello’ which was really nice, and we got talking and I thought, ‘Elly’s story needs to be told.’ So I think that’s very exciting.
So we always start in the same place, how did you become a Christian?
I was 23 and desperate to prove that God did not exist. I had had a hard time during my childhood and youth. My Dad was an ex-prisoner of war so we grew up in a pretty violent surrounding and it was a sort of hidden story inside of me that never got out but I struggled with it. I had the dream of becoming a missionary when I was 8 and I knew one day that dream would come true but all these questions I had in my mind.
Anyway when I was 23 I thought life is too hard. And I wanted to commit suicide and over one and a half years I had several meetings with pastors and friends and they all pointed me to the cross, but I couldn’t do much with it. And one weekend it was at an Anglican church meeting in the southern part of Holland, I just threw it all out to God and said, ‘If you don’t show up I really am going to throw myself under the next train.’
And that whole weekend was a testing of God. And it was Sunday afternoon, ten minutes before the finishing of that special conference that God showed up in such a miraculous way that everybody in my surroundings said that was a miracle of God. Literally. With a manifestation of God’s power hitting through the roof. It was in winter time and we had lightning through the roof. And God’s voice was audibly heard in the room.
And from that moment on my whole life changed.
My Mum called me the next morning and she said, ‘Oh Elly, sorry for the early call but you were not going to be here after the weekend if God didn’t show up. You answered the phone, so you’re here, you’re alive.’ And she said, ‘Can you tell me all about it?’ And I said, ‘No Mum.’
I had to promise the leadership, because it was so extraordinary what happened, to keep silent for three weeks. And in those three weeks God confirmed that it was him.
So I knew I had a message to share from that moment on. And that’s 34 years ago now.
Wow, that’s amazing. What wisdom to say keep silent about this, make it real inside first before it was tested. That’s awesome.
So Moz said something about you working in South America.
Yes, in the Netherlands. I prayed and fasted for a husband with a missionary heart. So we met, married and within a year sold his business to go into missions. We did a Discipleship Training School (DTS) with YWAM, the University of the Nations, which trains people worldwide to go into missions. And we went to Brazil to work with street children because we had asked for a ministry with work among children. We lived in Brazil for five years, adopted a girl there, she was a teenager already but until today she is my daughter, has her family there.
I’d love to hear more about that. Was that all spent with YWAM there in Brazil?
That was with another organisation. Before we left we had to hear from God. We had to hear a word, hear which direction he wanted us [to go]. We decided to fast for a few days and I just asked God, ‘It’s just impossible to find the right organisation with whom to go out into missions. And is it Brazil? If this is you and we are hearing you right, God, could you please, in Jesus name, let an organisation call us and invite us to a ministry in Brazil?’ What else can you ask? That’s a clear question.
And the same day, the same morning (because I keep notebooks, I’ve kept them for 34 years, I’ve written it down in black and white) and end of the day we got a phone call out of the blue from an unknown (to us) organisation saying that they had heard about us preparing for missions and that we had been in Brazil and worked in children there through our DTS through the outreach time and they invited us to come and work with them in Rio de Janiero.
So the answer was there and in no time we went and lived and worked in Brazil for five years.
Did you have children of your own?
We did not have children of our own, no. My husband had five children from his first marriage so I did have a heart full of children but children of us together we didn’t have, yet.
So you took five children to Brazil?
No they were adults already.
Right. Just trying to get this clear in my head. So what happened after Brazil?
We went back to Holland. My husband became a pastor of a church and together we worked in that church for five years. He set up a pastoral platform and a pastoral counselling office in that little city and one year after he changed jobs he passed away. So that was a whole turnaround. But it’s part of the story.
It’s part of the story. So I’m just following where this story leads. Was he ill and passed away?
No. If we could give this interview a title it would be ‘God has a voice and He speaks.’
In 34 years, from the moment I was desperate and needing God to show up, he has shown up in each chapter, in each new chapter of life.
When my husband had transferred to his new job, from being a pastor to his own business setting up pastoral networks and platforms through Holland in relationship with a Christian organisation for pastoral counselling, out of the blue he had visions of God and I, in the same period, had nightmares of him passing away.
My husband was a person who never saw, smelled, or sensed anything of God. He was just a steady believer. Whereas I was a person always seeing, smelling, dreaming, being very sensitive to that side of God. I would see visions, and have dreams. So when he said to me, ‘Oh Elly, I just had this amazing thing happen to me.’
I said to him, ‘What happened? Because I just had the most horrible nightmare of four people passing away.’
And we talked about what had happened and he said, ‘Well, Elly, you sat up straight in bed and you screamed your head off. I think the whole neighbourhood could have heard you.’
And I said, ‘Well it was the most horrible nightmare I’ve ever had in my life.’
And he said, ‘No actually what happened, you yelled, “Receive the anointing of the Holy Spirit NOW!” and then you fell back in bed.’
And I said, ‘What? I can’t remember that.’
And he said, ‘Yes. And at that moment a holy presence higher than the door came in and came to my side of the bed and called me.’
And I said, ‘What?’
So we talked about this weird thing happening and we concluded that God is here and he’s doing something and he’s going to do something. But what is he saying? And at that time we translated it as saying that four people will come to Christ. But it was not what he had said in my dreams.
And this would repeat itself. So every other week I would have a nightmare, and in the nightmare a police care would drive up to my house, two policemen would step out, they would ring my doorbell and tell me that my husband had passed away. And my husband would come home in reality, in real life, and tell me that he had to stop the car because this holy presence was in the car and calling him.
So it was just confusing, it was weird, I just could not believe that this was God because death wasn’t part of our life and it just wasn’t welcome, the message in the dreams.
So we decided to set apart three nights for each of us to talk to the other, express our selves, tell what we were feeling and sensing, but also confess to each other the things that we needed to confess. To just clear the way between us. Because if this was a work from the enemy we didn’t want to give it any ground.
So we confessed to one another what was between us and cleared our ways and the third night we set apart for the Lord himself to come. So we just sat in the room and waited. And that moment came.
My husband pointed at the door and he said, ‘Elly, Elly, the holy presence is walking in now.’
And I said, ‘I can sense it, I can feel him come in.’
And we just stayed in silence for one and a half hours until my husband spoke up and said, ‘Elly I want you to know something. I sense that God is calling me home. I sense that my time on earth is over.’
And I said, ‘That’s impossible, that’s not God. That’s the enemy.’
He said, ‘No, it’s God.’
And I just struggled with it and I said, ‘It’s not God.’
And he said, ‘Your nightmares are preparing you because God speaks to you in visions and dreams, and he’s giving you dreams to prepare you. And I’m passing away.’
And I said, ‘No, no, no. You have to go to the doctor. This is not God. God will not speak about death. And our boys are five and seven.’ And I said, ‘What is he saying?’
And he said, ‘He says, “Come” I can here him calling day and night, “Come, come”.’
And I said, ‘If he calls you “Come” you just say “No. No.”’
And he said, ‘Yeah but I can’t.’
I said, ‘Did you give an answer? Did you say yes?’
He said, ‘I said “yes”.’
I said, ‘How can you? How can you say yes to God and tell him you’re coming home? What am I going to tell the boys? They are five and seven. Are you just sneaking out and giving up? No, no, no. This is for our marriage. This is to turn our marriage around.’
And he said, ‘No, I’m going. And I want you to know that I’m going. I’m going.’
I said, ‘I’m going to go to the attic. I’m going to pray for hours. I’m going to pray the whole night. And I’m going to beg God, if this is God, to turn this whole thing around, because this is too crazy for words. And if it’s the enemy, I’m going to rebuke everything. We’ve cleared the way. And it should just all stop.’
So he went to bed, and I could hear him snore through the whole night. And I was in the attic, on my knees, begging my heart out.
I’m a person who prays and intercedes, so if there were things, we had spoken them out. We had cleared the way for God to come with grace, to come with mercy. And yes, there were difficulties in our marriage, there was sinning, there was guilt, there was regret. There were things that were really not right. But by confession, by cleaning the way, by receiving the forgiveness of one another and of God there could be reconciliation. And on those grounds I knew I could ask God to turn this around.
But there was one thing I could not turn around, and that was my husband’s ‘yes’. So in the end, at five o’clock in the morning, I said to God, ‘I’ve done it all. I’ve done what I could. We have done what we could. But my husband is an adult and if he says “yes” then who am I to say “no”? Because if this whole thing, everything that’s been happening with us in the last couple of weeks, if that has been You, if it is You calling him and he says “yes”, You have him. I give him to You.’
That day my husband went to work a bit before seven in the morning, I could see him drive off from the window in the attic. That was the last I’ve seen of him. At a bit past two, a police car drove into our driveway, two policemen stepped out, they rang the doorbell. I could not believe it. It was too hard to believe that this was true.
But I opened the door, I pointed at them, and I said, ‘I know what you’ve come to tell me. My husband has passed away.’
And they said, ‘That’s impossible. It just happened. It’s impossible for you to know this.’
And I said, ‘I have a story for you that you need to hear. God speaks. God has a voice. And this is what has happened.’
But then the years after I struggled with God. Because I had to find out where in the word, where does God show that bad things are going to happen to people that follow him. It’s just not fair if we do right, we ask forgiveness, we clear our ways, shouldn’t God? And that’s the wrong word. ‘Shouldn’t’ is not in God’s vocabulary.
He is God.
He is God. And by studying the word with hurting eyes, brokenness, I could finally receive God’s truth about women, I could finally receive God’s truth about marriage, I could finally receive God’s truth about us humans, that all our striving, all our works, even our love for God, they are never enough. Because it’s not through works of love, through showing up on time, serving, nothing. Nothing we can add to his gifts of love, his works of goodness, his gift of his son Jesus to us.
He showed me that if you read the Bible, and you read it really well, it’s a story book of real life stories. It’s real people. And some people had to tell warnings, the old prophets had to tell warnings, to kings, to servants of God, that things wouldn’t end well if they would not turn their way. And in my husband’s case, this is what I struggled with, I felt I was the one who had to turn her way, whereas in my marriage I was always asking God, ‘Can you turn my fate? Can you turn our fate?’
Because we also had struggles in our marriage and I wanted it to be turned around and I said to God, ‘This is too rigid.’ And I found God as a God who is omnipotent, who has the authority to do in our lives as he pleases. Which doesn’t sound nice to Christians out of the evangelical world or charismatic world but he’s a loving God, so if you wrap it up, his word, put your life, your story book into God’s hands, you’ll see there’s love through it all. There’s love through the suffering, there’s love through the giving, there’s love through the losses, there’s love … and it may be hard for people to hear when they have gone through the loss of a loved one, when they’ve gone through the loss of family members, friends. I’ve gone through that loss and I can say that I’ve really struggled with it.
And come to a place where you know that God is all powerful, but God is all loving?
Well, I can really say, only on the protest, only on the protest because every time I would say, ‘Oh God, I give it to you.’ I just couldn’t. My feelings wouldn’t follow.
That’s why we come to a point, how did we come here to this beautiful place? This beautiful island?
Yes, that’s the next question.
This island is a true answer to prayer. It’s a place of healing, a place of being able to be with God uninterruptedly. And I didn’t want to go.
My two sons one Sunday morning, they were 11 and 13, so this was a few years after my husband had passed away, they said to me, ‘Mum, can we ask you a few questions? What would you do, if God would call you to Australia, would give you a job for him, he would give you the tickets, and we would want to go as well?’ Those were the exact questions.
I just laughed and I said, ‘Simple answer: No, I wouldn’t go.’
And Josh, my eldest, said, ‘Haven’t you always said that we need to pray about things?’
I said, ‘Josh, I’m so much older than you are, and I know God pretty well during these years, there’s a timeline in my life, which shows twenty years of relationship with Brazil, I speak Portuguese fluently, I have a daughter there with her family, our foundation has been helping uni students over there with a scholarship. God wouldn’t change his plans.’
Yeah, so if we’re going anywhere, we’re going to Brazil. Is that the idea?
Yes. I said, ‘God has called me to poor countries, not to a rich country like Australia.’ So that was my answer.
He said, ‘Mum! You have not prayed! I believe you should pray about this. Promise, promise that you’ll pray. Promise that you’ll pray for a week, Mum.’
And I said, ‘OK, I’ll pray for a week. But don’t be disappointed if next week my answer is exactly the same because I really do not believe God changes his plans. He’s prepared me for this.’
And I prayed for that week and God showed me that before my marriage I had been up front with 4000 youth in Utrecht in a conference in Holland. And I’d put up my hand and said, ‘You can send me anywhere, do anything, without conditions.’ And I had limited him to Brazil.
So my answer was confession, and I had to turn back to that call to go anywhere where he would send me and do anything without conditions. So that was my reply to Josh the Sunday after.
And the boys said, ‘Yay! We’re going to Australia.’
And I said, ‘No, no, no. God just used you. Just prepared my heart to go anywhere but we’re not really going.’
But what happened, and this is the miraculous thing of it. That same afternoon I got an invitation to work in Burnie, Tasmania.
Did you even know where that was?
No. I had to look it up. I knew it was on an island. I was invited to work here with Youth With A Mission, a Mercy Ministry branch overseeing many projects in South East Asia and Australia. And I actually could do a hundred thousand times more than I could with my own foundation. So it was a God gift.
And when I got that invitation I said to God, ’This is too crazy for words.’ And I just put my hand on that invitation to work here and I said to God, ‘If this is you, God, within three days you’ll give me three tickets. You’ve done that before when you spoke and the whole world didn’t even know about it and I asked you to give me tickets in three days.’ He had given me tickets in three days before.
So what happened was that on Monday I got my first ticket. A complete surprise. An invitation to come to Australia to celebrate Christmas here. But because I had the two boys I said to God, ‘They’re coming with me, so you’ve got two more days, God.’ And Tuesday I was offered the two tickets for the boys, out of the blue by another person who gave return tickets to Australia.
So that’s God. He works his own way. You can’t stop him. You can’t change, well, yes there are possibilities of changing his plans, but that’s another subject.
But it’s a really good idea to fall in line with his plans. They’re very well-planned plans.
Yes, so within nine months, we did have our Christmas here. We met and it all clicked. Nine months later I got my visa to work here so we moved to Tassie. So six years on we’re here now.
So you were in Burnie for some time?
We were there for several years and then we moved to Hobart.
You do a lot of volunteering down here but it’s not for YWAM anymore?
No, because with this last visa I’m not allowed to work. But I’m available. I mean, I’m alive, I’m healthy. And as I said, I had put up my hand to go anywhere and do anything without conditions. I’ve tried to serve as much as possible. Doing anything – cleaning houses, babysitting, helping in church, running playgroup, helping the kids ministry, and just being available.
And I guess you’d be likely to recommend that to people as a way of life?
Delicate question. It’s delicate because we have our own way of thinking how God has equipped us with gifts. For example, I always had the desire to finally get my diploma. I was actually studying theology in that third year when Josh turned up with that question. So that was a disturbance that in the third year of my studies I just suddenly had to give that up. Whereas I thought, hadn’t God given me a brain? isn’t this the time to dig into it and get that piece of paper and show the world I’ve used my gift? But God had other plans.
What I can recommend is to only say that God is so gracious, God is so good. And to come to the point where you say, ‘I’ve got nothing. I don’t hold anything back anymore. My hurts, my sinning, even my regrets, my unforgiveness towards myself, my unforgiveness towards people around me, whether it be my children, my husband, my family, whether it be people who unwillingly have hurt me.’ To come to the point where you surrender it all to God, that’s the best place.
And out of that attitude, you find God again. You come back to the cross again, to the foot of the cross. You see Jesus again but in a deeper intenser way. And out of that you can only serve. You recognise situations. You just put everything aside. So your own desires become submissive to the only desire that you have to just serve God. And that’s serving wherever there is a need. And you become quicker at it.
And it does use all of you. He’s quite happy to use our brains for his glory as well as …
So my prayer is to return to my studies and finish it but it’s all in God’s hands. It’s all good.
I think it’s be willing to clean the toilets and then see what God will do with you.
Yes, I’ve done that.
So how does your faith show itself in your everyday life, now?
My faith is in the willingness to testify about God. Whereas I love praying, I love interceding, and it’s also an act of obedience to intercede. I’ve gone through many things in my life, each chapter has had it’s own difficulties, and there’s always a group of people, this is something you may hear for the first time, but I believe in what I go through I can bless somebody else by praying for them immediately. It’s even become a habit.
Like, when I go through a difficulty, like now I’m leaving my children behind in Australia, I’m going back to Holland because my visa finishes, I believe there are people who are suffering a separation from their children for a longer time, so I just stop in the moment and think about what other people are going through. Immediately take my mind off myself. And intercede for those situations where parents are separated from their children, grandparents are separated from their grandchildren maybe. And maybe one day in heaven I may meet the people I’ve prayed for. But that’s not my ultimate goal.
Corrie ten Boom, she’s my number one example. When she was alive here on earth. And she always said, ‘If God has called you for intercession, be sure he will use you in that area.’ And I hear what she’s saying. I want to be faithful in that.
So as I said before, my father was a former prisoner of war. Because of all the stories I know about it, this whole 34 years I’ve been praying for people in prison for their faith, and also for people imprisoned unjustly, and also for people who are in prison for what they’ve done wrong. Trafficked children, this whole area of people who’ve been robbed of their rights.
We need prayer. And God is a God who listens. In Psalm 116 he says he bends over, when we pray, when we ask, he bends over, he goes, ‘What? Yes, yes, yes. Speak up, yes.’ And he wants us to pray. He says when we ask something in Jesus’ name, and Jesus himself even said when he was on earth, ‘Use my name, use it.’ If we don’t use it to ask him together with two or three, what’s going to change?
In James it’s even written, ‘You don’t have because you don’t ask.’ And that’s very black and white, very simple, but it’s true. So have you stopped complaining, and started asking yet? That’s a lesson I have learned, I had to learn.
So these six years in Tassie have been the turn around in my emotions, a turn around also in my behaviour – bad characteristics I had because of hurt, bad escapes I had in my thoughts, in my dealing with problems. I’ve been stripped again of myself. But clothed again with God’s love and grace. And he has a voice that speaks.
We were talking before we started recording and you said, ‘I’ve been through questions 1–5 but there’s a couple more.’ I’m thinking maybe you’ve already answered them but I’ll ask them anyway in case there’s something more you want to say. One of the questions I ask is, ‘When do you feel closest to God?’
In nature. Creation started with nature. I’m always reminded when I see the trees that we should praise him like the trees do – stretch ourselves out to the heavens, look up. Stretch ourselves up don’t go down. And let the leaves fall. Let them just fall, it’s healthy, everything gets old and even rotten, it will break off, just let it. And if the storm comes and rips, tears things away from your life, let it.
If there’s a river nearby, like the rivulet here, I’ve seen it flowing over and taking all the dead branches. That’s also what a river does, it takes away. But it’s healthy to have the old taken away. And that’s what nature does. God speaks through nature.
Look up to the sky, listen to the birds. The birds sing their song as God created them, and maybe we should learn from the birds to sing the song. Take it on our wings to where nobody has heard God’s voice. That’s freedom.
It says ‘The heavens declare the glory of God, and the earth speaks.’ I feel like when you go out in nature you hear the message that God’s telling you at the time. So I often hear the birds and hear God say, ‘Remember you are of more value than many sparrows.’ or ‘Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap or gather in barns but your heavenly Father looks after them.’
I have my backpack with me, and if you carry a notebook, if you carry the word, even if it’s on your phone, just at any moment you can sit down, if God speaks to you, you can quickly scribble it down. Or you can sit for an hour, every time in a different place, you can meet with people, you can open your mouth and give your testimony. It’s my way, of where I feel God speaks to me. Where he’s closest.
And finally, if there was one thing about God and Christianity you wish that everybody knew, what would be that thing?
Yeah, like I said at the beginning, God has a voice and he speaks.
Wonderful. I think that’s awesome. Thank you for sharing your testimony with us.
Thank you for having me.
I’m so grateful I got to speak with you before you moved on to whatever God has for you next. Which will be very exciting to see.
God knows. He knows.