Tangled Destinies Shares Message of Hope
Johanna Garrison shares the remarkable journey of her family heritage in the new book Tangled Destinies. The wife of Assemblies of God Assistant General Superintendent Alton Garrison, Johanna recounts the amazing journey of her Dutch father and Chinese mother — both to the Christian faith and to the United States.
Garrison’s father Henk Rijfkogel survived Nazi atrocities during World War II that included his father being executed in a slave labor camp. When he was a teenager, Rijfkogel’s mother and sister were killed when Allies dropped bombs on their Holland village of Looveer in 1944.
Henk, the only survivor of the attack in Looveer, cursed God afterwards. Henk himself later escaped after being captured by Nazis. While fighting for the Dutch in Indonesia after the war in an attempt to quell independence, Henk met Jan Nio Oei. Improbably the couple wed and was able to move to the Netherlands despite much legal red tape.
Jan attended a Billy Graham crusade in Amsterdam in 1954, heard the gospel for the first time, and accepted Jesus as her Savior. In time, Henk realized how God had spared his life and forgave the unjust perpetrators who had committed atrocities against his family.
The Rijfkogel family, which eventually included six other children besides Johanna, emigrated to the U.S. in 1961. Tragedy continued, though, including a 1972 car wreck that killed Henk at the age of 46. But Garrison says her worldview has been shaped by godly optimism.
“Suffering and evil are part of life,” Garrison says. “Life is hard, but God is sovereign and will justify things in the end. We have a choice of being obedient to circumstances of life or being a victim.”
The book contains links to video interviews with Jan, who is now 85.
“She tells of her conversion experience as though it happened yesterday,” Garrison says. “She didn’t even know who Billy Graham was, but she responded to an altar call and his message that the Lord is going to appear. Although she had been searching for a God who had no name, she had a vision of Jesus.”
The Garrisons have been married for 37 years.