Lessons of Liberation

Young Dutch women climbed onto the tanks to hug the Canadians.

The end of World War II, experienced by many people who later immigrated to the United States and Canada, was unforgettable.

Seventy years ago, on May 5, the Canadians liberated our city of Oudewater in the Netherlands. We saw the tanks rolling through the streets with smiling Canadian soldiers waving to the crowds. The crowds were ecstatic, waving the Dutch red, white, and blue flag again, along with the orange, the royal color of the Netherlands, forbidden for five long years. Young Dutch women climbed onto the tanks to hug the Canadians. Thinking of that celebration still brings tears to my eyes. As a kid I stood in the middle of the crowds in total awe.

My father had been deeply involved in the underground resistance movement. He was foreman in a warehouse and 20 greenhouses that had become a supply- and nerve-center. In the boiler cellars was forbidden radio contact with London, England.

As an 8-year-old, my job was to stand watch for the Gestapo. I remember three SS soldiers emptying all our closets as my mom stood by with tears in her eyes. We kids joined in the crying, so glad that they found nothing. We knew where a lot of stuff was hidden—way underneath the anemones, freesias, and cauliflower in the greenhouses.

How can we ever thank America and Canada enough for the freedom they helped bring? How can we thank Almighty God enough? He, after all, brings even more—freedom from tyranny plus freedom from the tyranny of sin and evil that causes wars. He provides the Prince of Peace for anyone who surrenders to receive the gift of everlasting peace.

In the Netherlands, the Dutch remember all the fallen who perished on land, at sea, in the air, and in concentration camps, for our freedom on the anniversary of liberation.

Have we learned anything?

What about America trading five terrorists for one U.S. deserter? What about Benghazi, where four American officials died? What about Iraq and ISIS? Against the advice of U.S. generals, America pulled out of Iraq without leaving sufficient power and protection and left a vacuum that the terrorists filled. Now it is costing more and more lives. Minorities and Christians are being slaughtered. The enemy is emboldened by the U.S.’s portrayal of weakness and failure to act when it is so desperately needed.

A strong America means a much safer world.

As we look back to remember and give thanks for freedom during this 70th anniversary year, may we all be in prayer and repentance to turn back to the Author and Provider of liberty. “If my people, which are called by my name shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14).

About the Author


John Van Hemert is chaplain of the Port of Palm Beach, Fla. He has served churches in Canada and the U.S. for 37 years.

See comments (4)


Thanks, John, for your political statement.  I guess the Banner is getting into political statements about what our nation (the U.S.) should be and should not be doing on the international front.  I guess it’s not enough that the U.S. is doing more than other countries as to an involvement in the middle east.  John, you express gratitude to Canada for liberating the Netherlands in the second world war, but what is either Canada or the Netherlands doing now in liberating other countries.  Side line coaching and criticism comes too easily for the uninformed.  I’d rather leave it to those in the know.

Hi Roger,

In case you hadn't noticed, the CRC has a pretty estabalished pattern of making political statements about what various nations (including many times the U.S. and Canada) should or should not be doing on the international front and at home.  Reference the work of the Office of Social Justice regarding immigration and environmental policy, among other topics.  And that work is institutionally sanctioned, as opposed to this article, which (although appearing in the official magazine) is one man's humble opinion (at least according to the feature name).  Of course much of the work of the OSJ on political fronts is reported in The Banner , so I don't think one can  accurately say that The Banner is "getting into" political statments. 

Interestingly, there is a significant portion of CRC membership that is quite OK with individuals expressing political viewpoints (yes, even at times in the official magazine, as with this article), while not being so OK with denominational agencies usurping individual viewpoints with conintual political work carried on in the name of the denomination and with ministry share funds.  That is not to say that there are no areas of political reality into which the institutional church can properly speak.

Food for thought.

These are the lessons of the liberation of the Netherlands?

Not that war is totally destructive and that war should be the absolute last resort?

Thanks for you comments, Eric.  Of course you are right.  I definitely miss-spoke.  That’s not unusual for me.  Certainly there is room for differing opinions to be posted in the Banner.  Van Hermert’s was his own opinion.  It might have fit better (as to his political perspective) in the letters to the editor.  As to the work of the Office of Social Justice, I, at times, wonder if they overstep the boundaries of the church in speaking for our denomination, especially when they solicit and take action in regard to some of their views.  I think of a group like the OSJ as speaking for the members of the denomination and I’m not so sure the views of the OSJ always represent the majority of our denominational members.  I think they run ahead of our members in trying to promote a viewpoint that has already been determined by the office.  Certainly, on some the issues that the OSJ promotes, there are a variety of views that can be held by Christians.  And yet the denomination, through OSJ, attempts to speak for all our members.  I also wonder if the OSJ or our denomination is trespassing into a realm or sphere that doesn’t belong to the church, kind of like an electrician offering his expert advice (not) in the field of brain cancer cures. Is the church becoming a political organization?  Will our denomination be telling us how to vote in the next presidential election?  This is more my gut feeling than an informed opinion.  So thanks, Eric, for your correction.