Amsterdam, March 1533
Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God…Thess 5:18
After a frenzy of baptisms in February, when Jacob van Campen and another Diener, Pieter Houtzager baptized over one hundred believers in one day, preparations began in earnest to remove to Munster. Bags were packed and properties rented out or sold. People from the surrounding farms, villages, and towns streamed into Amsterdam to catch the boats. They were planning to leave by the twenty-second of March. Men, women, and children flooded through the city gates every day, swelling the population of Amsterdam.
The inns and boarding places were full of strangers from every walk of life, although the common people and tradesmen far outnumbered any persons of higher social standing.
The authorities did nothing to prevent this exodus; on the contrary, a few of the councillors were sympathizers, if not actual members of the Anabaptists. Those going to Munster were called the ‘saints’ by Matthys, and Anna thought they probably wanted to leave before the warm breezes of spring blew in the Court officers from The Hague.
“So, my dear, have you changed your mind yet?” Adriaen asked, while folding his extra hose and packing them in his bag. “Won’t you come with me to the New Jerusalem?”
Anna swallowed. Was he really going, whether she went or not? She had never dreamed on their wedding day that they could ever part because of differences of opinion on the Anabaptist faith. Death by execution had always been on her mind, but not deliberate separation. Adriaen had taught her so much about love and faith during their short marriage, and how following Jesus’ words was the most important object of one’s life, important enough to suffer and die for rather than disobey any part of it.
Right now, forgiveness was the most difficult command to obey. How does one forgive the zealots who divide a husband from his wife? And how does one forgive one’s husband for abandoning her? The Bible on her lap held the answer, and she had read it over and over, ‘For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.’ There it was, plain and simple for all to see. Easy to read about, and nearly impossible to do.
“Father, have mercy,” she prayed silently, bowing her head, “and put the right words in my mouth.”
Adriaen had finished packing his few things, and he reached for his own copy of the Bible on the mantel. He flipped through until he came to the passage he sought, and began to read, “‘Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its savior.’” He peered at Anna, his intent brown eyes searching her very soul. “Would you disobey these words?”
A bug under the heel of a boot could hardly have felt any smaller than Anna did right now. The words were there, as he showed her, and what was she to do?
“Anna, you are a chosen one of God. Please come with me to the New Jerusalem, where we can wait with joy together for the Lord’s return.”
Anna shook her head, as sobs shook her body. “Adriaen! Adriaen! Do you know how much I want to be with you? But I know in my heart that seeking the Lord with violence is wrong. I cannot go.”
And so he left without her.
An icy wind blew across the cold, gray waters of the Zuiderzee that March morning when they sailed. The cobbled streets of Amsterdam rang with the footsteps of many hundreds of excited men carrying swords, halberds, and pikes; and women and children with their backs bent under bundles large and small, filled with everything they could possibly carry. They had been told to bring weapons and money especially.
With shouts and cheers they piled onto the boats, unmindful of the frigid air and the icy sea. Anna watched from the safety of her window as Adriaen was swept away in a tide of exuberant pilgrims. Was she a coward after all, to stay here? The loneliness began as soon as Adriaen closed the door behind him. There was still time to go with him. All she needed to do was throw her few belongings into a bundle and leave. But she could not forsake the faith God had given her, the everlasting gift of His mercy and love. Should she try one more time to convince Adriaen to stay home? At least go as far as to the boats and watch him leave? She loved him so much, and with a jolt, she realized she had not told him that she loved him before he left. And she hadn’t told him that she forgave him. And she did forgive him, from the bottom of her heart.
She hesitated only a moment longer. In a few more minutes she clattered down the stairs, half laughing and half crying. What would Adriaen say when he saw her? Would she even be able to get close enough to say anything? Surely, she could get close enough to wave to him. He must not leave, believing that she held anything against him. What if he died, and she never got a chance to tell him?
The crowd swept her along the street, past the door of the weaver. A little blonde-haired girl with large blue eyes was standing in the alcove of the doorway, watching the crowd hurrying by. Anna’s heart slammed against her ribs. Could it be? She fought her way back through the swarm, grasping and pushing. Her backpack caught on something and she shrugged out of it.
The little girl had disappeared into the building. Anna plunged after her, determined not to let her get away. She dodged between huge looms, which were already humming with industry, weaving colorful threads into beautiful cloth. The weaver’s apprentices stared at her in amazement with their flat eyes as she charged first through the workshop, then through an arched doorway and into the weaver’s living quarters.
“Halt!” A startled female voice ordered. “Stop right there!” Anna skidded to a stop in front of a buxom woman, whose two hands were stuck deep in a bowl of bread dough. A pair of dark, beady eyes sent daggers through her heart. She gasped, and stood there uncertainly, embarrassed for having barged in uninvited. But she had to know whether she had seen right; if the girl wasn’t Trijntgen, it must be a twin.
“I’m looking for my niece, and I just saw her run into your house,” Anna explained, nervously pushing back some escaped strands of dark hair.
“There is no such person in this house, I tell you. Get out!”
Anna frowned. The woman was lying, of course. She perked her ears as she heard a scuffle on the stairway beyond the kitchen. A woman hissed a string of unintelligible, angry words.
“Aaannn…!” A child’s voice was quickly muffled, probably with a hand.
Trijntgen! Anna stood paralyzed for a second, then ran across the kitchen towards the stairs.
“Oh no, you don’t!” A doughy hand grabbed at her skirts, pulling her back. “Just who do you think you are, trying to kidnap my little darling? I think not, as long as Old Lysbet has breath in her body.”
Anna swirled around to face the red-faced cook. “She belongs to me! She was kidnapped from me!” She tore loose from the woman’s grip, splattering little bits of dough behind her as she made another mad dash for the stairs.
“Trijntgen!” she called, taking the steps two at a time. And then the little girl was flying towards her in a flurry of blue dress, blonde hair, and sobs. A loose-jowled woman ran hard on her heels, swearing, and grasping ineffectually for a handhold on the girl’s dress.
“Anna!” Trijntgen cried, throwing her arms wide. Anna caught her up, turned around and pushed the cook aside as she barreled down the stairs, through the kitchen and out the door. The two elderly women were no match for her panicked race outside, and the still-surging crowd soon swallowed her up, with her precious burden clinging to her neck.
Now, to find Adriaen in this multitude would be impossible. If Anna couldn’t find him here, she would just have to go as far as Bergklooster, where the prophet Jeremiah, alias Jan van Geelen, would meet them, and lead the chosen ones the rest of the way to Munster. No one could ever follow her or Trijntgen in this tightly-packed throng, and she didn’t have the breath to ask the little girl any questions. That could wait. The main thing was to re-unite her with her father.
Several of the boats were already filled to the brim, and pushed slowly away from shore, their tall, white sails snapping in the wind above the spirited passengers’ heads. Anna was swept along the gangplank, and then she was stepping over the sides into one of the gently swaying boats. Adriaen was nowhere to be seen.
Anna found a spot on the deck to sit, and settled Trijntgen on her lap. She smoothed back the child’s beautiful blonde hair, so like her mother’s, and noted the blue circles under her eyes.
“Trijntgen, you have grown so much taller!” But not bigger around the waist, Anna thought. “Are you feeling quite well?” The pale face was a little concerning.
Trijntgen nodded. “I helped Aunt Maria in the weaver’s shop, cutting threads. I don’t work as hard as the other ’prentices, so I eat after them, when all the vegetable bits are gone. And me gets the crusts they leave behind for the servants and the beggars. Anna, I’m glad you found me.” She snuggled against Anna like she always used to do.
“I’m glad too,” Anna said, “and guess what! We’re going to find your Vader once we arrive in Bergklooster.”
Trijntgen gazed at her in awe with her huge blue eyes. “Vader? My Vader?”
“Yes, schatje, your own vader.”
“And Mother and Bettke and Dirk?”
“Your Mother is with God, remember? She is happy in Heaven now. Was your sister not with you at the weavers’? And little Dirk?”
“No. Just me and the ’prentices.” She frowned. “I want to find them.”
“I know you do. And I will help you.” Finding Trijntgen was miraculous, and she took the time to send a thankful prayer heavenwards. Finding the others would need a few more miracles, only perhaps they really had died. She did not for one moment regret stealing Trijntgen back from the weavers’, and she would steal the others as well if she could find them.
She watched the other passengers intently. What if Adriaen was on this boat somewhere? There were more women and children than grown men, and looking at their hopeful faces and bright smiles, she wished she, too, could feel their happy expectation. Well, she had made her choice, come what may. Finding Trijntgen seemed like a good omen for the future.
Clouds gathered on the flat, gray horizon as the last of the thirty boats pulled anchor and pushed their way through the murky waves. Amsterdam had spit out all her restless souls, and sent them skidding across the sea by the thousands. In joyful anticipation, they set their sails for a New Jerusalem, where their bridegroom would descend from heaven and gather His chosen bride for the city of God.
If everyone threw their weapons into the sea, Anna could celebrate with them wholeheartedly. But God would show her what to do next, and she resolved to submit to His will.
For two days they sailed, and Anna had to resort to begging for food. Her pack had either been stolen, or it lay trampled back in the streets of Amsterdam. She thought she could have waited until Bergklooster, but she had the child to consider. One thing about the Anabaptists-- they didn’t begrudge you anything so long as they had a crust to spare, and they would rather do without themselves than let anyone else go hungry.
On the second day out, Anna sat on the deck, gazing over the gray waters, and at the clouds billowing and taking up the whole sky. She did love the gentle rocking of the boat, although many of the women and children were already sick from the constant rolling motion. Trijntgen slept beside her, her head on Anna’s lap. The thirty boats travelled together, but the one Anna and Trijntgen were on flanked the others on the sea-side, giving her an unbroken view of sea and sky.
Suddenly, she sat bolt upright, startling Trijntgen out of her nap. Was someone screaming for help? Not one, but many screams. Anna sprang to her feet, and grabbing Trijntgen’s hand, she raced to the other side of the deck. She clapped her hand to her mouth. One of the boats was tipping its passengers into the frigid Zuiderzee, though they clung to every available handhold, panicking and screaming. The Hollandia, which Anna was on, raised the alarm, and edged closer to the sinking Gouden Leeuw, picking up her drowning passengers. Another boat, the Brederode, also came to the rescue, and between them, they hauled in the passengers.
Anna made herself useful, helping the icy cold victims change into dry clothing as they clambered aboard. Clothing was donated by the generous people on board the Hollandia, and blankets were produced. The victims’ teeth chattered with cold and shock, and Anna noticed most of them were women, some were men and there were a few children. At last, the final victim climbed over the rails, a dark-haired man whose strength seemed to be nearly gone.
“Vader!” Trijntgen screamed, streaking to the man and throwing herself into his arms, water and all.
Anna could not move. It was him. Her husband. Finally, her feet obeyed her mind, and she made her way over to the embracing father and child. Everyone on deck turned their eyes towards the scene, though none of them could know what a true reunion this was.
Adriaen eventually noticed Anna, and his eyes widened. “Anna! You came!” He clasped her waist with his free arm, as tears rolled down his cheeks. “I don’t deserve such joy! Oh my God, forgive me! Anna, Anna, can you forgive me?”
“Gladly!” Anna said, her heart too full to say more. A curious crowd had gathered around them, and dry clothes were passed to Adriaen. Shielding him with her body, Anna helped him into them, then led him and Trijntgen below to her berth. There was little privacy, but somehow, Anna and Adriaen managed to spill out their experiences to each other, amidst prayers of thankfulness and promises never to part again under such misunderstandings. Trijntgen’s story was retold again, and Adriaen could not believe how close they had been living to his daughter, all unknown to them.
“When I was in the water,” Adriaen said, “I realized what I had done by abandoning you, Anna, and God as well. I almost allowed myself to sink beneath the waters in shame. But God kept calling me through my conscience, and finally I made the effort to reach this boat. I guess that’s what it took for me to realize that you were right. I promised God that if I survive, I will not go to Munster.”
“Oh Adriaen. I’m so glad you did. I was going to try and see you off, and somehow get the message to you that I love you, and I forgive you. I was so afraid you would die with wrath still between us.”
When Trijntgen was informed that Anna and her father had married, her joy knew no bounds. She embraced Anna tightly with her scrawny little arms, and asked, “May I call you moeder?”
“Of course you may.” Anna’s cheeks were wet, all of a sudden.
“How about we forget about going to Munster, and instead go on a search for your brother and sisters?” Adriaen asked Trijntgen. “Of course, they may be in Heaven, but we will ask God to help us find out what happened. How would you like that?”
Trijntgen’s eyes brightened even more, and she clapped her hands. “I would love that, Vader!”
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