I was raised on the bottom of the sea.

No…really, I was.

I grew up in the Netherlands, in a province called Noordoostpolder (North East Province) which used to be the bottom of the sea. I lived on a dairy farm situated on reclaimed land between the former islands of Urk and Schokland, a place that really didn’t exist prior to 1949. During harvest time, we’d often find artifacts that belonged at the bottom of the sea, like old clay fisherman’s pipes, anchors, or shells.

For A Better Life

During the Second World War, the Dutch reclaimed the land from the water that surrounded the island, creating the Noordoostpolder in a project called the Zuiderzee Works. With an extensive network of dikes, canals, and pumps, the Dutch worked to slowly push back the water of the Zuiderzee to improve flood protection and to create agricultural land. The American Society of Civil Engineers declared these works, together with the Delta Works in the southwest of the Netherlands, among the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.

According to official records, the polder was declared dry on September 9, 1942. It, then, came to life by hard-working men and women who hoped to build a better life for themselves there. Two of those people were my dad’s parents. With many of their fellow countrymen and women, they forged ahead despite many challenges.

Did you catch that? This happened during the second world war.

It astounds me that this innovative project was done during the second world war, while the Netherlands was occupied by Nazi forces. How tempting would it have been to stop the work and wait for the war to end? In the closing days of the occupation, the Nazis detonated explosives severely damaging one of the dikes, causing extensive flooding. Massive reconstruction followed and by the end of 1945, the polder was declared drained again and the rebuilding the roads, bridges, houses, and farms began once again.

No More Hiding

I don’t know about you, but 2020 has seemed like a year of hiding under the covers and waiting for things to get better. Both at home and at school, there is the temptation to stop the work and to shelter-in-place until the pandemic is declared over.

But I won’t.

Standing firm in God’s faithfulness throughout the generations, this piece of my history convicts me to search for ways to forge ahead, to remain steadfast, and accomplish what is set before me.

Maybe it’s the pandemic or something else that’s legitimately big and scary in your life right now. Be encouraged; we can do hard things in difficult times. Perhaps it’s not how we thought it would look, there will probably be a few more setbacks than expected, it definitely won’t be as easy as hoped.

But on we go, moving forward in faith and with courage even in the midst of uncertainty.


Photos left to right:

  1. Karin Riemer standing on the island of Schokland, a UNESCO World Heritage site, bordering the farm where she grew up in the Noordoostpolder.
  2. Karin across the road from the farm where she grew up.
  3. The farm where Karin Riemer grew up.