Brother Dirk and Other Stories

Chapter 13: On Fire

Chapter 13 Alone in her cell, Anna Timmermanns was writing one last letter to her fourteen-year-old son back in Rotterdam. Minutes before, she had received her sentence from the judges. They would execute her that afternoon. She blessed God that she still had paper and ink. She wrote:

The following is the testament which Anna Timmermanns left to her son Isaiah, on the 24th of January, at nine o'clock in the morning, as she was preparing herself to die for the name and testimony of Jesus. My son, hear the instruction of your mother; open your ears to hear the words of my mouth. Behold, today I go the way of the prophets, apostles and martyrs, and drink of the cup which they all have drunk... See, my son, this way has no retreats; there are no roundabout or crooked little paths; whoever leaves to go to the left or the right inherits death. Behold, this is a way found by so few, and walked by still fewer, for there are some who know well this is the way to life, but it is too hard for them, it pains their flesh... Therefore my child, do not regard the great number, nor walk in their ways. Take your feet far from their paths... But where you hear of a poor, simple, cast-off little flock, which is despised and rejected by the world, join them. For where you hear of the cross, there is Christ; from there do not depart.

Flee the shadow of this world; become one with God; fear Him alone; keep His commandments; observe all His words, to do them... Sanctify your body to His service, that His name may be sanctified, praised, and made glorious and great in you. Don't be ashamed to confess Him before men; do not fear men. Better to give up your life than to depart from the truth... Therefore my child, strive for righteousness unto death and arm yourself with the armor of God... May the Lord cause you to grow up in His fear, and fill your understanding with His Spirit. Sanctify yourself to the Lord, my son; sanctify your whole conduct in the fear of your God... Whatever the Lord gives you by the sweat of your brow, more than what you need yourself, share it with those whom you know love the Lord. Don't keep it until tomorrow, and the Lord will bless the works of your hands, and give you His blessing for your inheritance....

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all with all your power and strength. Yes, though the whole world should rise up against you to attack you, no one can harm you, if you have God for your father and if you have true love to God and His people, for love can do all things. Where there is no true love, there will soon be confusion, when persecution and distress come, but for him who commits himself to the Lord, nothing is difficult. Had I not experienced this myself, it would be impossible for me to know that it is so easy. Yes my dear son, if I could save my life by a thought, and that thought did not please the Lord, I would rather die than think such a thought. Only now do I feel within me the inexpressible grace and mercy of God, and His love, and how we ought to love Him in return. Yes, this grace and love is so great before my eyes, that my sorrow is turned to joy. I would have written more to you, but the messenger came and informed me that we were to go. I thanked the Lord so greatly that all the judges heard it. They wanted me to keep quiet, but I spoke fearlessly. When we heard our sentence, your dear father said many times, with a glad face, so that all the people heard it, "Yes, we thank the Lord!"

And now, goodbye to this wicked world, and be of good cheer. Written by me your beloved mother, imprisoned at Meenen for the obedience of Christ, and this to the praise of God. Amen. O merciful Heavenly Father, who has so specially chosen and loved me, unworthy one, I who am but dust and ashes, commend to you my dearest son. Anna Timmermanns

As she penned her final words, Anna heard a tremendous commotion of screams and cries, as if the whole world were collapsing. The sound echoed through the prison, but she was sure she heard it outside as well. Feet thundered down the passageway, and guards shouted to each other. Her heart wondering, she went to the door and saw that the guards were opening each cell, one at at time. "Will they execute us all at once?" she thought to herself. As the noise became louder, a guard reached her cell. The keys trembling in his large hands, he unlocked her door.

"Come out, quickly, come out," he shouted. "You're going free."

"Free?" she asked, as she saw Hans and Elisabeth hurry by.

"Yes, free! God is setting us free," shouted Elisabeth.

"How?" asked Anna in amazement, as she too joined the exodus down the prison hallway.

"The city is on fire and soon the jail will be too," panted Hans. "It's an old tradition in Meenen, that when there's a fire, all the prison doors are unlocked, so that no one burns to death in his cell. They can still try to catch us again, but right now I think the city council is too worried about their own mansions going up in flames to think about us. While the fire burns, we are free to escape."

"I'm going where they can't find me again, maybe to the east, where I understand no one is executed for their faith," offered Elisabeth.

Outside, the believers watched as waves of smoke rose to the sky. Hans quoted, "For it was a better country they longed for, a heavenly country. And so God is not ashamed for them to call Him their God, because he has prepared a city for them."

And together, they hurried out of Meenen.

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