Quickly… Define LIFE. You have 15 seconds. No, no, no. Not THE MEANING of life, we’ve covered that last time. LIFE itself. I tend to think of life as the things that happen to you while you are making other plans. LIFE just happens. You can influence it, even to a great extent, but then you have to focus on something; your dreams, your purpose, something. Otherwise life just, well, happens.
I almost lost my job when the company I worked for at the time went through a massive restructuring. I simply could not find a job in Cape Town, and we were not willing to move north. Life was happening in all the wrong ways and there seems very little we could do about it. One day someone asked “If you had the chance to do it all over again, what would you have done differently?” and we realized that there was one thing we never did, but both still dreamt about: living in Europe. We thought to ourselves, hey, if we EVER want to pursue that dream, then this was our opportunity.
But why the Netherlands?
When Maric was small, her aunt had the most amazing range of Delft blue crockery and often told her stories about her trips to Holland. Maric started dreaming of going to Delft herself.
When I was born, a mistake was made at my registration and my surname registered with the original Dutch spelling (van Rooijen) instead of the more African way (van Rooyen).
While decorating our first house, we decoupaged a picture in several places in the kitchen – a picture of a little girl feeding swans in the stream in front of an old windmill. It looked like such an idyllic place – and now we have been to exactly such places, complete with swans.
On top of that, it just so happened that Maric’s brother were transferred from the UK to the Netherlands, and chose to stay in the Netherlands. Shortly before we booked our flights to the Netherlands, he changed jobs and moved from Amsterdam to a village 5km from Delft.
Are all these things just happy coincidences? Looking back, it almost seems like we were being prepared for this journey. We believe they are planned by a very personal God in heaven.
So there we were, prepared for this journey and the promise of a new start waiting around the next corner. So we packed up and left and here we are. And we all lived happily ever after. Whoooa, not so fast! Much water has to flow under the bridge before a good idea becomes reality. Just because there’s no jobs in Cape Town doesn’t automagically qualify you for the next best job just anywhere you choose. Live is a journey, not a destination. Here’s some of the highlights of the journey that was about to follow:
Find a job. While you are busy, find two.
Get visas, pack up and Go, go, go. Find a place to stay, settle in, find a church, find a school, find after school care, buy a car, see the world and save the whales. Or something along those lines.
Finding a job in your own country was hard enough. Finding a job in a strange country is just short of impossible. It would seem that it does not matter who you are and what skills you have, but who you know…. and we know the author and perfecter of our faith. For some time, there was nothing. A whole lot of nothing. Complete weeks of not turning up a single opportunity. But then it happened all at once:
At the time, Maric was working for Mars in Cape Town and she stumbled across an advertisement for a position at Mars Netherlands. The position seemed to have been created just for her. They flew her over for some gruelling interviews and offered her the position even before we flow back to South Africa. They even offered to pay for relocation of our house contents and our flights. They employed the services of Team Relocation, who did an amazing job at organizing so many things for us in the finest details. What a blessing.
We were barely back in South Africa, when an employment agent picked up my CV and introduced me to Ezwim. Thank you Dara! After the initial telephonic interviews, I flew back to the Netherlands about two weeks later for my interviews. I was offered a position in my field of expertise. There we were, not even started with the packing up of our lives, both with jobs requiring us to start on 1 February 2009.
When we talk to people about this, they are amazed that we were both able to get a position in our own field. Mostly, it turns out, only one member of a family moves to the country and works there for some time until everything is settled before the rest of the family move over. By grace alone, we were able to relocate the whole family all at once.
But then the battle to get visas approved on time started. Maric had plain sailing, thanx to Team Relocation. But the clown that handled my papers messed up big time. A couple of times. So there I was, sitting on the beach on 20 December, our whole house packed up in a container and on it’s way to the Netherlands. Flight tickets booked for 21 January, but my visa application was just submitted. I get a phone call, on the beach. Normally the process takes 6 weeks, he explains, but several people at eternal affairs were off sick and they don’t guarantee anything shorter than 3 months. It is too early to book flight tickets! But that’s long been booked; no turning back now.
So, time to phone up everybody. “Pray without ceasing”, the word of God says. And pray we did; in between spending some quality time with the sun; and then it happened, an all time speed record for an approved knowledge migrant visa: 6 working days. Totally unheard of. We don’t just believe in miracles; we depend on them.
We arrive in the Netherlands, straight from a warm summer holiday in Mosselbay, and BOY, it was cold Januari in Europe. We had only 2 weeks to organize our lives before starting work. Find a house, find a school, find a church, open a bank account. Oh my, what to do with the children after school? We found a house and a Christian school (!) within walking distance from home. And an au-pair to look after the children. A month later, we had to replace the au-pair. Which is when a miracle called Tamara walked into our life. Straight from the Hillsongs bible college Australia. She introduced us to City Life Church Den Haag. She cared for our children after school for most of our first year in the Netherlands.
After a year in Holland, we realized that we could save a lot of money if we bought a house, instead of renting. No, impossible, they say. You need to have been living in the country for more than 3 years + have a unlimited time residence permit. Impossible? In Luke 18:27, Jesus says “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” We found a perfect house, with a room for each of our children, a lovely garden, kitchen and an enormous basement room for a kids playroom. On 21 Januari 2010, exactly 1 year after we arrived in the Netherlands, we were handed the keys to our own home. Isn’t God amazing?
We are in Holland for a reason, of that I am sure. There are many more miracles that I can share about our journey through life. I am not sure whether we experience more miracles than other people; I think maybe we have just learnt how to recognize them for what they are. Hand picked moments where Almighty God reaches out into our lives & brings it in line with His plans for us.