2020: Aad Burger – Struck by a virus

23/12/2021
Aad Burger

 

Aad Burger young man
Aad Burger in the 1960s

In 2020, the Caux Forum went online in response to the pandemic. Its organizers found that this made Caux accessible to people all over the world who could not have taken part in normal circumstances. One of these was 91-year-old Aad Burger from the Netherlands. He writes:

I went to Caux almost every summer between 1946 and 2010. Then, aged 82, I realized that the travel and the programme were becoming too much for me in my wheelchair. So when I read that the Caux conferences were going to take place online, I saw it as a great opportunity. Because of my deafness I couldn’t understand everything, but it was better than I expected.

In 1946, when I was 17, I was invited to help prepare the Caux Palace for its first Initiatives of Change (then Moral Re-Armament/MRA) conferences. My father worked for the Dutch Railways so I was able to get my train ticket and visas to leave the Netherlands and to enter Switzerland. We were not allowed to take money out of the Netherlands, so the Swiss MRA Foundation paid all my expenses.

While I was at Caux, I decided to give my life to God and to work with Moral Re-Armament to build a new world. I apologized to my father for cheating him. Sometimes I asked for an advance on my monthly pocket money, to be deducted the next month. If he forgot and paid me the full amount, I didn’t remind him.

I apologized to my father for cheating him.

I paid him back with money I had earned by growing tobacco on a small piece of land belonging to the family. I should have been growing vegetables, which we needed during the ‘hunger winter’ of 1944-1945. I apologized for that too!

 

Aad Burger in Caux early years
Aad (second from the right) with his parents and Jap de Boer (second from the left) and on the train in Caux, 1946

 

After university and military service, I began to work fulltime with Moral Re-Armament. In 1952 I went with an international team to Africa, and stayed on in Ghana and Nigeria after they went home. Two years later I was travelling to Onitsha in Nigeria with a colleague, when I became more and more ill. The doctors we met did not know what was wrong.

 

Aad Burger rehabilitation after polio
Aad (sitting) at the rehabilitation centre in the Netherlands after he got polio, 1954. The older man standing behind him worked as a doctor in Nigeria and had come from the UK to visit him.

 

One night I dreamt that I might be paralyzed for life. I prayed that this wouldn’t happen, but also decided that if it did, I would accept it and that I would continue to seek God’s guidance for my life.

I prayed that this wouldn’t happen, but also decided that if it did, I would accept it.

The next day, at a small hospital in Enugu, I was diagnosed with polio. I told the doctor that I felt God had warned me. ‘This will help you recover as much as possible,’ he said.

After three months immobile in bed, I had recovered a bit, but my legs remained partly paralyzed. I was flown home to Amsterdam.

 

Aad Burger 1985 in Caux with Hari Shukla, Gursharan Patang, Tom Jones
At a meeting in Caux with (left to right) community leaders from Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, Hari Shukla and Gursharan Patang, and Tom Jones, 1985

 

Back in the Netherlands, I continued to work with Moral Re-Armament, mostly with workers in the port of Rotterdam. In 1968 I married Josienne De Loor. During this time I joined the Labour Party. I became its chair in Utrecht and served as a member of the city council from 1977 to 1998, with two interruptions.

Ever since my first time in Caux, I have started every day with quiet reflection.

Ever since my first time in Caux, I have started every day with quiet reflection, seeking God’s inspiration and direction. This has helped me to put into practice what I learned at Caux.

 

Aad and Josiette Burger
With his wife Josienne

When the pandemic began, it reminded me of being struck by the polio virus. Completely unexpectedly, at the age of 26, I found myself paralyzed. I survived but with increasing dependence on a wheelchair. Was I going to die now, in my 90s, because of another unexpected virus? Of course, I hoped it would not hit me. But if one of my family was going to be hit, I hoped it would be me rather than my son or daughter, their partners or my four granddaughters.

What is my advice to young people today? Just as we did after World War II, let them take up the challenge to build a new world and experience the changes in their lives that will equip them for this.

What is my advice to young people today? Let them take up the challenge to build a new world.

Aad Burger
Aad receiving a decoration as Member of the Order of Orange-Nassau for his service to the city of Utrecht

 

_______________________________________________________________________________________

 

This story is part of our series 75 Years of Stories about individuals who found new direction and inspiration through Caux, one for each year from 1946 to 2021. If you know a story appropriate for this series, please do pass on your ideas by email to John Bond or Yara Zhgeib. If you would like to know more about the early years of Initiatives of Change and the conference centre in Caux please click here and visit the platform For A New World.

 

  • All photos except 1985 and 1960s: Aad Burger
  • Aad Burger in the 1960s: copyright Roel Troost Utrecht
  • Meeting in Caux 1985: Initiatives of Change

 

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