What God Joined Together: Chapter 8 — A final farewell?

  1. What God Joined Together: Chapter 1 — Getting acquainted with God’s higher ways
  2. What God Joined Together: Chapter 2 — Don’t marry a foreigner
  3. What God Joined Together: Chapter 3 — Don’t get involved in politics
  4. What God Joined Together: Chapter 4 — The girl from Mühlacker
  5. What God Joined Together: Chapter 5 — Love grows where my Rosemary goes
  6. What God Joined Together: Chapter 6 — Miles apart
  7. What God Joined Together: Chapter 7 — A confession with serious consequences
  8. What God Joined Together: Chapter 8 — A final farewell?
  9. What God joined together: Chapter 9 — Love the stranger as yourself
  10. What God joined together: Chapter 10 — Stormy waves
  11. What God joined together: Chapter 11 — Reunited

A serialisation of a fascinating new book by Cape Town missionary and author Ashley Cloete about love across the colour divide in the apartheid era. Each week we will publish a new chapter. YOU CAN ORDER THE E-BOOK VERISION AT https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1144423 or https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B1381P29

The moment Rosemarie had verbally chosen Günther over me, a deep sense of guilt overtook her. Was she being dishonest to Günther? Or unfair to me? The thought of breaking the news to me plagued her. She knew that she now had no choice but to write me that final letter as she had been instructed. She also knew that writing this letter may be one of the hardest things she would ever have to do. Her heart was broken, yet she saw no other way out.

When she stayed over at her friend Elke’s house a few days later, she opened up about her feelings. She bravely told Elke that she could not get over me, no matter how hard she tried. The next day, Rosemarie and Elke went for a walk in Zavelstein, the village where Elke was doing her internship. From a distance, she saw the Van Niekerks, a South African family whom she had met through me. Feelings of love for me rushed in with great force, confirming that she indeed still possessed an intense love for me.

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That night, Rosemarie started to fall ill as the emotional turmoil was starting to manifest itself physically. She lay in bed that night wrestling with God. Her future had been sealed. She had made a promise to
Günther and felt that she could not go back on that. Whilst lying in bed with a flu, Rosemarie cried out to God in her heart, “I cannot go back on my promise to Günther. If You want Ashley and me to be together, then You must do the miracle because I can’t do anything now. It would be the greatest miracle in my life if I would ever still marry Ashley Cloete. ” After that prayer, she was overwhelmed with a sense of complete peace. She had given it over to God again and left it at that.

Günther came to visit Rosemarie at her parents’ home in Mühlacker while she was still sick with what had now developed into a severe case of tonsillitis. This was the first time her parents met Günther and they were impressed. After Rosemarie recovered from her illness she returned to the School for the Blind in Stuttgart, and continued to see Günther on weekends.

Waltraud had married her Dieter in the meantime, meaning that Rosemarie was alone with her parents on those weekends. The relief at the parental home had become almost tangible every time she pitched up with the likable Günther. Peace returned to their Mühlacker home.

Immediately after her return to Stuttgart, Rosemarie wrote that consequential final farewell letter. She showed the letter to Günther who approved of its content with much relief. If ever there was a competition for such letters, this one surely would have won a prize.

Dearest Ashley,

I know that it sounds empty and mundane to start this letter with an apology. I can imagine very well how much you must have suffered not to hear from me for such a long time and to be kept in such a state of uncertainty. It is quite clear to me that you may have come to all sorts of conclusions when you didn’t hear from me at Pentecost and in the weeks thereafter. This has distressed me greatly over these last few weeks, because through your letters, I have also become very conscious of my guilt (for not having written to you).

I must also tell you that I was emotionally not able to write to you before Pentecost. In the time after Pentecost I was ill with high fever.

Only now I am really able to tell you about my inward, emotional and spiritual experiences. That it is no longer so difficult, is only possible because:

1) I trust, and I also know, that God will guide me to find the right words and way of expression; or to put it differently, without God’s help I would not want to write this letter at all.
2) During the past few days I have experienced His presence in a special way (during my illness I had much time to be completely ‘quiet’ before the Lord), so that I can still be at rest – for the first time after a long time.

Mind you, it looked to me almost impossible to write this letter to you, especially because I also want to mention that this will be the last letter (or at least one of the last letters) which you will receive from me…
There is also something else I want to tell you, Ashley, before you read further. You wrote once that you had great trust in God and that you are sure that He will guide you on the road that will be good for you.
I wanted to remind you of this, Ashley, because this is very much my wish. You should know that I pray that you may adhere steadfastly to this.

Especially when you experience such a drastic change in your life and dreams, you should know that God never makes a mistake. But we must also trust Him firmly. You know, precisely this is what I have really had to learn. I, too, wanted to lead my life as I wanted to. I could not understand why my ideas of my future life with you were taken away one after the other. Yes, Ashley, I believe now that much of what we thought about in our dreams was really our wishful thinking. You know how every part of me has lived in this dream. It went so far that I could not imagine my life in Germany, and especially my life without you, anymore. But you also know that I wished for God’s blessing for our future life together above all else. No, I simply don’t want to do anything without His blessing. I know that such a bond could only be proper when there would be a conscious blessing on it. Therefore I clung ever more to our motto (when the doubts came) of which you always reminded me: WITH GOD ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE. Yes, I really wanted to believe that God would bring us together despite all the problems.

That’s why I was so disappointed that God gave us so few confirmations. I often asked, “Why does God allow so much strife in our family because of this matter if we belong together?” Only when my mother became so ill – the doctor said that it resulted solely from stress, i.e. because of the tensions – I started to doubt whether our plan really had God’s blessing. Thereafter, this doubt never left me… Nevertheless, I could not give up everything. I noticed how my prayers increasingly became claims. You should know even now that I can’t be happy because I sense that God’s ways may be different from ours and that He might want to lead us (as you once said) into new ways. I was so very conscious of it when the letter, in which you had written about the correspondence prohibition, came. That morning I had to listen to the words of Job from the watchword for the day: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!” (Perhaps you can still remember that I was reading the book of Job some time ago.) Today it is even clearer to me that these words apply to us. At that time I could not understand Job. How could he still praise God after everything which had been dear to him and everything which he had possessed was taken away from him?

But, Ashley, today I can understand. I discovered that it is exactly in this where the absolute trust in God lies. I can say to you now – and I wish that you may also experience it likewise – that all my experiences since Easter have been guidance from God. Especially through my doubts, uncertainties and trials, I was driven closer to God. I know, however, that I would never have been able to give up what I had built up in my dream world independently. To enable this, God had to intervene.

Such intervention started when I got to know Günther at a time when I was full of doubts. Initially (especially in the first two or three weeks), I resisted the idea that God perhaps wanted to make a new way with this. And yet I remember that I wrote to you already at that time that I was starting to love Günther. Thereafter there followed a time in which I was full of uncertainty. Yet, just at that time God came so near to me. Eventually he brought me to the point where I could give up my own will. I could only pray, “Lord, please let me only go the way which will bring me closest to you.” Through all of this I became so dependent upon communion with God. Then I wished for myself that it would never be different again; because only then I can be really free.

When God gave me more guidance to show me His will, I deduced that He had heard my prayers. One of the clearest signals was when Günther’s mother died a few weeks ago. Four days after this occurrence I opted for Günther. You should know that it wasn’t an ‘act of sympathy’. I know that one can’t build a life-long marital relation on such a basis. To me, it was recognition of God’s will.

Dear Ashley, I know very well that all this will be very painful to you, but you should never think that I want to hurt you. What I do want is for you to feel that I was honest with you. Perhaps it is simply the wish that you can understand me and also acknowledge that the way God has led us is good… I want to remind you of another word from Job 1: “… only upon himself do not put forth your hand”. (God gave this command to Satan, because Job was a child of God and he could thus not fall out of God’s hand – even when everything had been taken from him.)

In closing, you should know that I want to accompany this letter with my prayers, because I know only too well that it is only God’s Spirit which can determine how you react to this letter.

Be cordially greeted,
Your Rosemarie

Rosemarie never posted the letter; not because she did not mean to – the intention was always there! It was simply a delay for practical reasons, as there was no post box in the section of Stuttgart where she stayed. The intention was to send it as soon as she was able to get into town. For about two weeks, the letter lay on her desk, inducing feelings of guilt every time she saw it. She knew that, to be fair to Günther, she would have to send the letter as soon as possible.

I had no clue of what had occurred in Germany, though. Day after day, I was hoping for an airmail envelope with the familiar handwriting to arrive. Those few weeks seemed to me like an eternity. I was now convinced that the South African government had abused the letter in which I had asked for information about racial reclassification. I firmly believed that ‘they’ wanted to stop our love affair in this way. So I finalised the booking, and headed for Luxembourg in June 1971.

I caused some alarm bells when I informed the Van Niekerks, my South African friends in Germany, of my pending departure and asked them if I could stay with them for a few days. I mentioned my date of arrival, without mentioning that I would be coming via Luxembourg.

When Rosemarie’s mother came to hear of my intention, she duly relayed the news to my Schatz. Rosemarie immediately phoned the airport in Stuttgart to find out at what time the only connecting flight from South Africa was due to land. She went to the airport at the designated time, but I did not appear in the arrivals terminal. Rosemarie deduced that God had intervened somehow. With a sigh of relief, she thought that she could sleep in peace.

The surprise to Rosemarie was thus fairly complete when I phoned from Trier, the border town in Germany. There, I boarded the train to Stuttgart. When Rosemarie’s mother heard that I was in the country, she was terribly worried for her daughter. The general sense of mistrust towards foreigners that was so deep-seated in Rosemarie’s father had rubbed off on her and she even feared that I might have harmful intentions towards her precious daughter. Up to that point, the only communication they had had with me were the letters I had written to Rosemarie’s father. And those letters did not exactly shed the best light on my character.

Hoping to prevent the tragedy that was imminent upon my hearing of Rosemarie’s new relationship, she phoned Rosemarie’s colleagues in utter desperation, asking them to follow Rosemarie to the airport. Essentially, they were being asked to spy on Rosemarie and myself. When Rosemarie discovered this, she was horrified.

Rosemarie was not the only one to be surprised upon my arrival in Germany. During our telephonic conversation she hinted, without providing any details, that I was in for a disappointment. For the first time I had to come to terms with the possibility that there might be someone else in Rosemarie’s life. The long train journey of approximately four hours felt like ages. My uncomprehending naivety had left me completely flabbergasted and confused.

Rosemarie met me at the train station. Seeing her again, I was engulfed by an enormous mix of emotions. Never before had I been in love with anyone the way I was in love with Rosemarie; nobody even came close and, in my opinion, nobody ever would. Yet now, all of a sudden, my dreams were under severe threat. Rosemarie drove me to her home at the School for the Blind and began to explain everything. My fears were confirmed. I had many questions. I could not understand a thing. Was all this necessary? Had I not considered the trip prayerfully enough? How could God allow me to come all this way for such a calamity?

My unexpected arrival in Germany ruffled feathers, to say the least. Rosemarie regarded herself as all but formally engaged to get married to Günther in due course. Upon seeing me again, she now knew in her innermost that she could not proceed with a marriage of compromise to Günther.

Understandably, Günther, too, was shaken by the news of my arrival. He had read and approved the letter Rosemarie had written to me in which she informed me of her decision to terminate our relationship. However, what he did not know was that she had never posted the letter. The next day, I met the generally pleasant young man who, by entering Rosemarie’s life, had started a chain of events
leading to my sudden overseas trip without me knowing. I met him at the open evening organised by the same group of young people that had organized the memorable evening with the Wycliffe Translators just prior to my departure for South Africa the previous year.

I really pitied my rival when I saw how misled he felt. However, between the three of us, it was surely Rosemarie who experienced the excruciating pain most severely. Her failure to post the letter had an explanation, but nonetheless it was a grave mistake with far-reaching consequences. With me appearing so suddenly, she now knew whom of the two suitors she loved most.

She knew full well that the problems at home would flare up again. After an intense struggle in prayer, Rosemarie decided to part with both of us. Everybody had understanding for her decision, even her parents. Concerning this time she later wrote to me:

If God has really led us together again, and given us a new love, then I can’t do anything other than to believe that I belong to you.

I had complete empathy for her, but my own faith was tested to the full. I truly could not comprehend why God would allow me to come all the way to Germany only to experience all of this.

The last time Rosemarie and I were together towards the end of those intensive two weeks, the Lord
comforted us in a special way. Although we had the inner conviction as never before that we belonged to each other, we hesitantly agreed to part completely. We committed our future into God’s hands. During our last occasion of praying together, we more or less put the ball ‘into God’s court’. He would have to re-unite us if it was His will that we should marry one day. One of the important signs would be that the attitude of her parents towards our relationship had to change.

I also discerned that it had been wrong of me to try and assist Him through letters to the South African authorities or the like. For the moment, my only consolation was knowing now that we adored each other as always.

The next few days, I still had a lot of trouble releasing Rosemarie completely. I flew back to South Africa very much in the doldrums, emotionally shattered and perplexed. I might have known that it was unsound to blame God, but I simply could not understand why he would’ve allowed all this. Mistakes had been made, of course. Still, I wondered why He had not stopped my plans.

It was only on looking back later, that I was able to discern a glimpse of the puzzling but beautiful mosaic that God was shaping with us. If I had not flown to Germany and seen her in person, Rosemarie would have become formally engaged soon thereafter and that would have ushered in the end of our relationship. I also returned to Cape Town with an added maturity, though I still had quite a few more things to learn.

Rosemarie had finished her internship at the School for the Blind by now. Retrospectively we could recognize God’s hand in her subsequent appointment as kindergarten teacher for the children of a hospital in Tübingen. This hospital was linked to the famous university town where my former roommates from my student days in Stuttgart were now continuing their theological studies.

Via Hermann Beck, one of the former roommates whom I had given the nickname Harry, I could still read of Rosemarie’s whereabouts. She frequently visited the Bengelhaus, the residence for evangelical theological students, to hear from Harry how I was doing in Cape Town. What a faithful letter writer Harry was during this critical period! Rosemarie and I owe much to him, as we were able to hear about each other through him.

Rosemarie’s work in the children’s cancer ward of the hospital where she worked with terminally ill children was physically and emotionally very demanding. In spite of that, she loved her job as it was immensely fulfilling. The kids were living very intensely because they knew that their life expectancy was very short. They were so open for the Gospel and Rosemarie had the privilege of leading some of them to the Lord before they died.

The relationship with her landlady was, however, not a happy one. This woman objected fiercely when she saw my photo on the wall of Rosemarie’s room. Even though we had parted ‘completely’, we still kept to our weekly rendezvous when we prayed for each other every Sunday evening. Rosemarie’s photo behind the door of the tiny three by three meter room in Elsies River had a similar central place in this regard. What glorious hours of supernatural ‘fellowship’ we enjoyed as we continued to pray for each other!
My darling always found new excuses to visit the Bengelhaus. The real reason was of course to be updated about my whereabouts.

In South Africa, almost all my acquaintances seemed to expect my feelings for Rosemarie to peter out in due course. There was nevertheless general sympathy for me after the calamitous two-week trip to Germany. Although we had parted formally, I still had a lot of trouble releasing Rosemarie completely. I made it very difficult for her and I even tried to keep contact with the family. When I had met Rosemarie’s mother and sister during my unexpected short stay during the June holidays, they were fairly clear in their rejection of me as a partner for Rosemarie. I thus made it even more difficult for my Schatz by writing a letter to her parents. In my letter I mentioned that my own mother was also not so happy with my ideas. Referring to my letter, Mama Göbel was emotionally charged when she responded on 21 October 1971:

Initially I wanted to return your letter, but then I opened it to reply only one more time. Further letters will have to be returned unopened… When it arrived, my husband was so angry! He accused me for not making it clear enough to you that we can never agree to contact between you and Rosemarie. I came very close to a physical and nervous breakdown. I really fear that our marriage could break down because of this conflict, which has been going on for so long now. You know very well that I gave you no hope whatsoever in our conversation.

Rosemarie has reassured us that for the time being there will be no correspondence. Why we cannot take responsibility for it, I have explained to you thoroughly, haven’t I! I don’t understand why you persevere with such stubbornness to make contact. Do you believe that it could be God’s will that you pluck a girl from her family and fatherland and put her into a life where she would be exposed to grave dangers, mistrust and hatred from all sides? Rosemarie would then have to take responsibility for her own downfall and for the unhappy, embittered old age of her parents. Could it not rather be God’s will that you commit yourself to the task of non-violent resistance in your country, but with a partner who grew up in your country by your side? Would you please think prayerfully about these questions and give an honest answer to God? I would like to request you very urgently not to send any post whatsoever to our address, as well as not to write to Rosemarie as you have promised. I have been suffering a lot from pain of the gall and the stomach lately and I can’t take any more agitation. I hope that you can respect this. Please listen to your mother who thinks just as I, according to your own words.

I am still praying that God might bless you.
Erika Göbel

God intervened in Rosemarie’s life when it became clear to her that she loved me too much – her love for me was competing for first place with her love for God. She deemed it necessary to release me emotionally, as the first release during my sudden visit in Germany was more an outward release. It came as quite a shock to me when I received a letter from Rosemarie not long after the one from her mother:

Tübingen, 7th November 1971


… You must know that it was not only the love for, but also the trust in our Lord which has led me to write this letter to you to tell you of my decision. Precisely because I want to love Jesus above everything.
I want to be absolutely obedient to Him. You know, out of a genuine love there must also grow complete trust. Out of this trust I want to take a step in faith which will lead both of us into a genuine inner freedom. Yes, Ashley, I know now clearly that it is God’s will that we part. Anything more I cannot and shouldn’t tell you now. You may expect more details via Harry. May you experience the compassionate love of God.

Your Rosemarie

She felt that her love for me was obstructing her relationship to God. Later she described it as her Isaac experience, comparing it with the Bible narrative where Abraham had to sacrifice his beloved only son. Rosemarie felt that she had to sacrifice me completely – outwardly, as well as in her heart.

Somehow the Lord started preparing me for this shock. Just prior to these lines, I received a letter from the South African government’s Department of Home Affairs, informing me that the minister could only consider reclassifying Rosemarie if she was in South Africa.

Did this now mean that I would have to give up all hope of a life with the person I loved like no one before? I felt forced to release Rosemarie, trying hereafter to get over the emotional pain as soon as possible. I even became emotionally involved in new superficial relationships. This was unfortunate for the females concerned – all this did was intensify my burning love and longing for Rosemarie.

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