When little Ethan Mark Heerema was baptized in Talbot Street Christian Reformed Church in London, Ont., last month, he was the most recent family member to wear what has become a family heirloom. His baptismal gown dates back to 1946—but the fabric it’s made from goes back a year earlier, to a silk parachute attached to food supplies dropped by the Allied forces just before the liberation of the Netherlands from its occupation by Nazi Germany.
Ethan’s great-grandfather, Bert Lubberts, found the dropped supplies in a field on his family farm in the spring of 1945. He ran to share the good news about the food and the hope for liberation; long after the food was gone, though, he kept the parachute as a reminder of the joy of that morning.
Within a year, Lubberts was married and the young couple was expecting their first child. They were surprised in May 1946 when their first child turned out to be their first children. Tiena gave birth to twin girls, Jane and Janie.
With fabric scarce in post-war Europe, a friend made baptismal gowns for the girls out of that silk parachute, a symbol of even greater promise and joy.
Since then, the baptism gowns have been used in over 30 family baptisms, including Jane’s and Janie’s younger siblings, and many of their children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren.
Ethan’s parents, Bart and Allison Heerema, have used the gown for both of their children. Bart is the son of Jane, one of the twin girls. “It truly is awesome,” said Jane Heerema, reflecting on the story of her baptism gown and the meaning it has in her family.
“God is always faithful. My parents were always totally unashamed of their faith, and that legacy has carried on through to our children and our grandchildren,” said Jane.