I’ve always been intrigued by people’s stories. Have you ever heard of Dirk Willems? I hadn’t either.
I probably never would have heard of him had I not been reading out of my Common Prayer book. Actually, most of us would never had heard of him had he not done something most would consider CRAZY…
Dirk was mentioned in this Common Prayer book today for this day in history:
May 16, 1569.
Dirk was an Anabaptist in the Netherlands. The Anabaptists are a Christian group/tradition that was a tradition where the Mennonites and Amish eventually came out of. Back in those times, the Christian religious leaders of the time were not pleased with the Anabaptist’s view of baptism. Despite opposition, Willems stuck to his convictions and was a practicing part of the Anabaptist movement.
Willhem was captured and thrown into prison for his beliefs, knowing that he most likely was going to be put to death (apparently a lot of Anabaptists were killed for their beliefs in this time period). He somehow escaped from prison, and here’s where it gets really interesting. A guard chased after him and falls through the ice. Willhem heard the man’s screams and went back to save him. Once he did, Dirk was taken back to prison and was burned to death soon after. Wow.
I wonder what I would do in that situation. This man was remembered by this crazy act: Saving a man’s life who was about to capture him and wrongfully put him to death versus letting the man die and getting set free.
What does Dirk’s story teach you? For me, it makes me ponder: Do I love and forgive and see all people as human beings, even my enemies? Jesus’ words in Luke 6 seem to personify this whole concept. “Love your enemies” never seemed easy to me, nor do I think it was meant to be easy. Willhem gave his life for someone who viewed him as an enemy.
This story gives me (and hopefully for you too!) the motivation to realize the strength and love we are capable of giving to all people. Cheers to that!
For more background info on Willems, check out these websites: