These last five months she suffered from the most severe headaches and moments of extremely high fevers, causing her to long for death. Three times she said goodbye to us. She suffered from a delirium, leaving her in tears and bewildered, had a blood poisoning that kept her at the brink of death for 24 hours and had the most humiliating diarrhea. Three times the wound in her mouth bled so badly that she was given blood transfusion to make up for the amount she lost. She suffered terrible pains while eating, taking one hour to swallow a pureed meal. Several times she communicated she wanted to die, to subsequently get up and fight on again.
Why so much suffering? I don’t understand it, but I also refuse to be so arrogant as to think that I can possibly understand everything. At times Annie said with tears in her eyes: “How much did Jesus suffer for us!” Jesus took part of our pain. The Bible says that He even learned obedience through it and that the suffering of this present world does not compare to the glory which is to come.
In his suffering Job exclaimed: “Why don’t you stop accusing me?”, to then add “but I know that my Redeemer lives”. The music to these words made by Händel, was played at the start of the service!
Annie Wilbrink was born on 2 March 1945 on a farm in Voorst, Holland. She was the third child in a family of four.
I must have met her father once, but that was before our relationship started so that I have no memory of it. When our romance began, he had just died suddenly two years earlier. One time he had asked to speak to Annie alone. His question was: “How did you get such an abundant assurance of salvation?”
Her mother died at the age of 99, in the arms of Annie. She had a deep and real faith, which always spoke to Annie her heart. During her funeral, Annie got her heart attack, causing her to go home before the funeral was over.
After secondary school she became a kindergarten teacher. She loved children and soon became the head teacher, at a young age. During her training she got to know a girl who helped her to exchange her traditional Christianity to a warm and personal faith. Annie got to know Jesus as her personal Saviour. That changed everything! Her work, her relationships and her church membership. In the summer 1970 she participated in an OM summer campaign.
Two years later she resigned from her job, to work with OM full-time. That became the road on which we would later meet in Belgium. When I applied in 1974, she wrote me the letter with instructions. I still have that in my possession today.
On March 7 1977 we started our relationship, a date we have always celebrated with much thankfulness. I fell for her beautiful eyes which melted me completely, her smile, her positive character, her commitment to Jesus and her beautiful personality. We married later that year, on December 2.
It was then that we started the OM base in the Netherlands, in Emmeloord. It was there that Annie became the mother of three beautiful children: Christine, Marleen and Jonathan. The sweet kindergarten teacher got her own ‘class’. Besides being a lovely wife to me, she also became a wise and committed mother to our children.
Through the contacts and relationships we established, Annie began a Bible study group for women. It became a blessing to many! (Even the mother of today’s OM field leader for Holland, Marcus Spronk, was blessed by it!) We lived in Emmeloord for forty years and then moved to Soest in 2017, in order to be closer to the children. None of us ever imagined what would happen after that. We had other plans for our retirement…
Last year in March Annie got a cold, that never seemed to leave her. After the summer the family doctor sent her to see a specialist. Many visits and antibiotic treatments followed. In the meantime she also accompanied me on a ministry trip to Lebanon in August and to Thailand in November.
Since then things have rapidly gone downhill. It was our daughter Christine (nurse) who got her to be taken to the hospital in Amersfoort, on Saturday 16 February. It was there that after three days of intensive research she got to hear that she suffered an Asian kind of Non Hodgkin Lymphoma cancer, which is very rare in Europe.
Later that day the specialist who had tried to help her for months, came to visit her. She said how she was very sorry that the possibility of a tumor had never crossed her mind.
Annie her response was illustrative and great. She replied that she did not blame her for anything and that her faith in the living God laid as an unshakable foundation underneath her life.
They then talked for 45 minutes!
Since her admittance to the hospital, she came home three times. Laying in bed, in her pain, she then heard the most beautiful music and songs. It was so real that she sometimes asked me if I had not forgotten to switch off the music in our living room.
“I am not alone,” she then said. Remarkable!
Her death on May 14 at ten minutes past eight, was unforgettable.
Together with my son Jonathan I entered the hospital room where she was. Our daughter Marleen had spent the night with her.
With my face very close hers, I said: “Annie, are you still here? Go on your journey to meet the God who made the universe. When Stephen was killed out of hatred for Jesus, he exclaimed that he saw heaven opened, the glory of God and Jesus! It will be so beautiful, so filled with glory. He loves you so much Annie, that Jesus died for you. I will miss you very, very much, but the Lord will look after me as much as He will look after you. You already suffered so much Annie, go to Him.”
That very moment she stopped breathing. Our daughter later said: “Dad, when you entered the room and she heard your voice, I could see a change in her breathing.” She had waited for me, my committed, loving spouse!
Gerard, married to our daughter Christine, worded it well at the beginning of her illness. He gave words to what we all experienced:
“Annie, we are so proud of you. Such beautiful fruit you have given to us and to the world. Even when the tree dies, we will still enjoy the fruit for a long time to come. One of them is Christine, my treasure. I will look after her with everything I have. We love you. Jesus said that you recognize the tree by its fruit. A sad thing, that such beautiful trees can become ill too.”
For me Annie was the most beautiful thing that could ever happen to me. To let her go is simply heart-breaking for me, our children and our five (one more coming in June) grandchildren. She was not just my wife. She was my best and dearest friend, my closest companion.
Her road of suffering has come to an end. She can now melt away in the loving eyes of Jesus!
And we? We will meet again … á Dieux my dearest Annie!
(Written by Joop Strietman)
NOTE from Joop: Thank you for your standing with us during these last months! Whenever you are around, feel free to come and see me.