A Mexican Adventure
By Kees J. Boer
(Feature Writer Alachua Today)

If you have been following this column, you may have noticed that each week, I’ve dedicated the column to a child, that either I or my dad sponsors with Compassion International. Compassion International is a Christian charity organization, which ministers to over one million children in 22 countries around the world.

People can sponsor a child in a country and, through letters, develop a close relationship with these children. Every child has only one sponsor and these children really love their sponsors and consider them family. I recently witnessed this when my father visited Cristina, his sponsored child in Mexico, and asked me to join him.

We arrived on Thursday evening in Mexico City, where Cesiah a representative of Compassion was waiting for us and drove us to a hotel in the center of Mexico City. The next day Cesiah and her husband drove us to the Poza Rica area, where Cristina lives. It was about a five hour trip by car. We finally got to Cristina’s home, she was there to greet us. It was truly a moving experience to see her and my dad meet each other.

We walked into a very small home that Cristina shares with her three sisters and mother. The house had bare floors and no running water. One of the first things I saw was my parents’ picture prominently displayed.

Several people of Compassion had joined us and my dad and I were excited to give some of the gifts that we had brought with us. One of the gifts was several copies of the newspaper article, which had been dedicated to her. She was so excited! I’ve never seen anyone ever seen so glad to get a copy of the Alachua County Today!

Then I noticed her little sister, Blanca, started to cry. When we asked her why she was crying, we discovered that she had a sponsor that didn’t really write her. So, I decided to take Blanca under my wing and started showing her some pictures on my laptop.

The next day, we took the family to a local restaurant for breakfast. Afterward, my dad asked them if he could take them to the local Wal-Mart in Poza Rica. The store was similar to an American Wal-Mart. And the children were totally amazed. They had never seen anything like it. My dad bought a few outfits for Cristina and the Compassion representative showed her where she could try them on to see if they fit.

We waited, and waited, and waited, and waited …. and waited, but Cristina didn’t come out. Finally after 20 minutes, one of the Compassion representatives went to see her. We found out what took so long. Cristina was amazed by the mirrors in the fitting room - she had never seen herself in a mirror like that. So, we decided to buy her a mirror also. I also bought Blanca a few things, and she had a big smile from ear to ear.

When it was time to say good bye, we realized we had really begun to love these people, and it was hard to say good-bye. We will miss them dearly.

If you’re interested in sponsoring a child with Compassion International, I can not recommend it highly enough. Please feel free to contact me or visit the website www.compassion.com/keesboer for more information.

I’d like to give special thanks to a few people from Compassion who had made this trip possible. We’d like to thank Ms. Petra Kooistra of the Compassion office in the Netherlands, and last but not least, we’d like to give a special thanks to Cesiah Magana and her husband, who drove us back and forth from Mexico City and were truly a delight to be with.

Saved by Accident

Feature Writer Alachua Today)

The long and difficult plane trip bringing Mr. and Mrs. Arie Boer from Holland, combined with Mrs. Boer’s 5-day stay at Shands at AGH to cure an infection, didn’t dampen the spirits of the long-married couple. The smiling twosome sat in their son’s (Kees Boer) comfortable home in the Alachua area obviously enjoying a time of reminiscing.

The Boer’s seventh visit to the U.S. is an extra special one; they’re celebrating their Golden Wedding Anniversary. This visit may also be credited with making future visits possible.

On April 9, 2002, the day of their 50th wedding anniversary, Arie and his wife, Cobie, had a wonderful time, eating and making merry, as they celebrated the joyous event with son, Kees. Their celebrating was proceeding as planned — until the following day.

Missionary Slams Former Missionaries — Fortunately
On April 10th, Kees, driving with his parents past the University of Florida near Tigert Hall, was stopped in a rush-hour traffic jam. The driver following them failed to stop, rear-ending Kees’ car. Kees felt sure that his father had suffered a whiplash, so he rushed him to Shands at AGH. “The Lord does work in mysterious ways,” Mr. Boer smiled. “That accident very likely saved my life.”

As it turned out, the driver of the car that hit them was a missionary, and the elder Mr. Boer and son, Kees, had once been missionaries in Holland. “There was no whiplash, but when the doctors were checking my dad, they discovered his heart needed attention,” Kees said. “My dad underwent immediate heart surgery, an angioplasty, which likely saved his life.”

This wasn’t the first time Arie Boer had experienced a mysterious event. During World War II, when the Germans invaded and occupied Holland, he came close to a life-threatening encounter with them.

“It was on my 18th birthday. I’d been in college, studying accounting, but after the German invasion, I had to go underground, hiding from farm-to-farm,” he said. “I saw Germans approaching and the only way to hide was to climb a tree.” To this day, he’s sure angels were watching over him. The Germans walked past, jumped over a ditch and never looked up, another miracle in Arie Boer’s book.

In 1944, the Allied Forces liberated the southern part of Holland where Arie lived. He joined them and they placed him in the U.S. Marines, where he served until after the war, when his government called him home to serve in the Dutch Marines.

Love at First Sight
In 1948, soon after leaving the marines, Arie went with a friend to church and to a coffee afterwards, where he first saw Cobie and immediately said, “There she is, that’s the girl for me!” Now, after more than 50 years together, it looks like he knew what he was talking about.

Love again came into Arie’s life seven years later, he says. “In 1955, at eight one evening, at a Billy Graham Crusade in Rotterdam, I made a most important decision — I became a Christian.” It was 15 years before Cobie joined him in his Christian commitment. During this time, their two sons were born, Gerrit, in 1955 and Kees in 1959. It was a dozen or so years later that Arie and Kees became missionaries, starting a Christian Ship Ministry in Port Rotterdam.

“There were about 40,000 ships coming into the port each year,” Kees said. “My dad and I visited more than a thousand of them, from virtually every country, smuggling Bibles onto the ships from Communist Countries and bringing pamphlets and books in every language onto all the other ships.” He says the Russian crews would take them to Communist countries. There were also New Testaments for the Chinese, small and red, like the red book of Mao Zedong. The Boer’s supply of Bibles and pamphlets were provided by Brother Andrew’s Open Door Ministry and other Christian organizations supported by Americans.

The Road to Alachua County
Arie and Cobie’s American connection happened in 1977, when Kees came to Hollywood, Florida, to attend Florida Bible College, an independent school. After college, he moved to the Alachua area to serve as Assistant to the Pastor at Gator Christian Life.

The Christian Mission at Port Rotterdam closed in 1984 when the Boers moved inland, away from the port. Arie is now a retired organic gardener, who, like Kees, loves growing cacti. Since retiring, Arie and Cobie have visited the United States numerous times.

“We have so much to be thankful for,” Arie said. “World War II left us without anything, but we have lived by the philosophy: ‘When you don’t have anything, make something of it.’ We had nothing; we used orange crates for furniture, and we borrowed money for fundamentals, trusting in God and, with His help, ‘we made something out of nothing.’”

Arie and Cobie Boer, happily and with thanksgiving are enjoying celebrating their 50 wonderful years together, with Kees’ beautiful pet “Corgi” looking on, lolling happily on the cool AC vent.

Arie and Cobie Boer, may you have a safe and uncomplicated trip home to the Netherlands and many more happy years together.