Hans Bouwman, Japan - 3 - The Change in My Life

The Change in My Life
Holland was free again and the liberation celebrations continued for almost half a year. Neighbourhoods took turns organizing festivals for children and adults and I also joined the crowds and began to enjoy the new found ‘freedom’. In highschool I played the guitar in a school orchestra, and later I joined a dance band which played gigs in the dance halls each weekend. Saturdays and Sundays I came home at the earliest at 2 a.m., but often much later. I would lie down exhausted after another night of enjoying the pleasures of the world. This was ‘night life’ with no time left to think about spiritual things, but the Lord did not distance Himself from me. I had parents who prayed that the Gospel, which I knew well, might have its effect in my life. And, indeed, gradually it dawned on me that there was no satisfaction whatsoever in the kind of life I tried to enjoy. It was a strange discovery, for in spite of the many friends surrounding me, I felt more and more alone, and all the pleasures and fun only produced an emptiness in my heart. The more I considered it, the more restless I became.

On a beautiful Sunday afternoon in September of 1948 I decided to go out for a bicycle ride. Rarely did I want to be on my own, but I did on this particular afternoon. Riding my bicycle through the beautiful forests and the fields of purple heather I arrived in the next town. Suddenly I realized that I was quite near a Gospel Hall. I looked at my watch and knew that soon the Gospel meeting would start. “What about it?”, I thought by myself, “Just go and see!” The hall was filling up with people, and because I had not entered a Gospel Hall for about 5 years, I felt like a stranger among them. I found out that a baptism was to take place, and the little hall was filled to capacity. The meeting started and soon I witnessed the baptism of five young people, all about my age. The preacher spoke on the subject:

‘What a Christian possesses in Christ, his Lord’. It was an impressive message and I felt that it was spoken directly to me. All that was lacking in my life—joy, peace, satisfaction—could only be found in Christ a lost sinner in need of salvation. After the end of the meeting I hurried out of the hall as I had no desire to meet the Christians. I returned home, threw my bicycle into the shed, ran upstairs to my little bedroom and there surrendered myself in accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as my Saviour. I thought back to the Liberation Day, three years previously, when Holland was freed from the yoke of a terrible occupation. But I had just experienced a far greater liberation. How wonderful to be assured of the forgiveness of sins and to be set free from its bondage! The Lord Jesus had paid the ransom for my sins, and the price had been paid to set a slave free—”If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

Four months later on December 31 of 1948, I was baptized in that same Gospel Hall where I had witnessed the baptism that had led to my salvation. This time I was the only one to be baptized, but how happy I felt in taking this step of obedience!
The Gospel is emphasized by the word TO—’Come to Me!’

The position of a Christian is emphasized by the word IN— ‘Saints in Christ Jesus’.
Baptism is emphasized by the word WITH—identification with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection.

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Conference convened by my home assembly at Hilversum.  (I stand in the right top corner).