God spoke to me many times and I often wished I knew for sure I was going to heaven. But through those 20 years of life in Holland, I never met anyone who knew for sure. Everyone just “hoped “they were going to Heaven.
During World War II the Germans executed my brother Peter in Rotterdam. Three days later, I went to view his body. When I arrived, I was sent into a barn where there were 40 corpses. Eventually I found my brother’s body. When I came home, I went to my bedroom thinking, “Martin, if your body lay in that barn, where would you be?
Another day, I was outside watching some airplanes in combat. “Martin,” my mother yelled, “Get in the house!” I took one step and a bullet slammed into the ground where I had been standing. I was one step from eternity.
Eventually I came to Ontario, Canada to work. At that time, my sister and brother-in-law were returning to Europe, so they asked me to come to Sarnia, Ontario to look after their house. I had no family or friends there, but I did find a DutchChurch.
One day, I went next door to get my clothes washed in the house of a neighbor. They invited me to have a cup of tea. I knew the lady was a Dutch woman so I said, “By the way, I haven’t seen you in church.” I soon learned that she did not go to the DutchChurch.
Later, she asked me, “Where will you be if you die?”
“I-I-I don’t know,” I answered, “Nobody knows.”
“I do,” she said confidently. “Sixteen years ago, I came to know the Lord Jesus as my personal Saviour and I received eternal life.” She then got out her Dutch Bible. Together we read, John 3:3: “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
I always thought I had been born again when I was baptized as a baby. The neighbor lady showed me from the Bible that I was wrong. She went on to tell me that without being born again I would be lost forever.
That night, I could not sleep. When I went to talk to the DutchChurch minister, he told me I was already in a special relationship with God, but I needed to learn the catechism and do confession.
Soon Mrs. Stute, the neighbor lady, invited me for dinner. With every dinner I got a sermon on salvation. Eventually I understood that it did not matter how many confessions I made, I still needed to be born again.
One day in October of 1948, Mrs. Stute invited me to a special series of gospel meetings. While listening to the truth of the Bible, I decided, “If there is such a thing as knowing my sins forgiven, I am not going to rest until I know for sure.”
I listened intently but religion and self-righteousness kept me from salvation. But slowly I came down. Finally I realized that I was lost and without hope. I thought God could not love a sinner like me.
Then one day in February 1949, at age 20, I went to the feed mill to pick up bags of feed. I had a feedbag in my hand when I suddenly remembered a verse I had learned when I was six years old, John 3:16.
That Saturday morning I read it again in Dutch, “For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). That morning, for the first time, I read it personally. I realized that God did love Martin Prins and that Christ had died for me.
In simple faith, I accepted what God handed to me.