Jacqueline Perlmutter - Perlmutter Twins' Story - Airdrie, South Africa Convention - September 26, 2001

About 1923 in a tent meeting in Salisbury (now Harare), a Mr. and Mrs. Sim, and Mrs. Sim's youngest sister, Bertha de Waal, decided. Bertha's parents were Dutch Reformed people, and her father was bitterly opposed to the Truth, forbidding Bertha to go to meetings. Yet after each Sunday school class, Bertha would borrow her brother-in-law's bicycle and rush to the little meeting a few miles away. Bertha's mother professed two years before she died, when Bertha was 15; she seldom got to meetings because of her husband’s resistance. Bertha then went to work at a hospital, and wished to be a nurse.  She was working at the hospital where the twins were born. The doctor saw that their mother was not able to care for the babies, and asked if she would care for them. Their mother never cared much for them and Bertha had sole charge of the babies and took them to meetings when she could. They attended their first convention when they were four months old! Bertha had planned to resume her studies, but when the Perlmutters were to return to Rhodesia, Bertha couldn't part with the twins so returned as their nurse.     

Their father went to war for six years, so Bertha had complete charge of them, as their mother didn't care for the girls. Bertha took them to meetings and conventions and they grew up knowing what children of professing parents understand, although they lived in a cold, unwelcome home. When the father returned from war, Bertha had Sunday and Wednesday meetings off, and went to meetings. The twins would ask their father if they could go and play with their friends. One of their friends was Heather Oldknow, where the meeting was held. They got to meetings that way. However Sunday afternoons they had to go with their parents to a club or hotel, which they detested.  They were about eight years old when they said to Bertha, "Teach us to pray," and also asked for a Bible. Bertha said, "You have your pocket money, go and buy one!" Their Bible was their treasured possession. Bertha was responsible for the twins' learning all that rich Jewish children went in for. Studying French and Hebrew, dancing, horseback riding, etc. She took them each Saturday to the synagogue. Later they saw the great wisdom in all that she had done. The twins first missed convention when they were nine as their parents took them away to celebrate Passover with relatives. The twins wept most of the time during the Passover, so when Sunday night came their father was glad to give them back to Bertha. That Monday they ran happily around, helping to clear up at the convention.  While on holiday a few years later, they attended the convention where they felt their need to serve the Lord. They asked Bertha if they could stand when the meeting was tested and she said, "If you know what you are doing." They knew little of what it meant, but they knew they were outside of God’s fellowship and wanted to belong to God's family; so they made their choice at the age of twelve. When at home they pretended to be Jewish, but in their hearts they tried to serve God. In their meeting, there were several other young girls professing which made their fellowship special.       

Their parents divorced soon after the girls decided and their mother returned to England without even saying goodbye to them. Their father sent them to a boarding school in Cape Town, 2,000 miles away to get them away from the influence of Bertha and her friends. Bertha had to seek other work after caring for the girls for 13 years, having had only two short holidays when she was sick, and a meager salary.       

Amid many tears, they left for the boarding school with advice from Bertha to take only their small Bibles, no hymnbooks; to be careful before others, seeing they would be at a predominantly Jewish school, and to "behave themselves." Their father tried to break their connection with the few Christians they knew in Cape Town and with Bertha as well, but she still wrote to them regularly and prayed for them. In her first letter to them she mentioned, "God's way is a battlefield, not a playground." When they went home on holiday they carelessly left a letter in their bedroom from a worker, signed, "Your sister in Christ," which was found by their father and stepmother. Mr. Perlmutter stormed up to Mr. Oldknow's home, as he was the elder of the church, and demanded to see Bertha, but Mr. Oldknow kept him outside during the meeting, and tried to answer his questions regarding his religion. After the meeting, Bertha went to see Mr. Perlmutter at his home, where he railed on her for influencing his daughters away from the Jewish faith. After he cooled down a little, Bertha said, "Who made your girls learn Hebrew, French, dancing, horseback riding, etc., and who took them to the synagogue every Sabbath?" He admitted Bertha had done this. Bertha also said, "Did their mother ever pick them up, caress and love them, or feed, clothe and bath them?" He had to admit their mother never wanted her daughters and he, himself, had shown very little love toward them. Then he said, "But your life influenced them." What a wonderful testimony to have! Mr. Perlmutter forbade Bertha to have any further communication with his daughters. Then he flew to Cape Town to see Averil and Jacqueline at their school and forbade them to have any more communication with their friends in Cape Town. After much pleading he conceded to let them go once in three months. During the next three years at the boarding school, they had only these few meetings, which meant everything to them. When at home during the holidays, they could not go to the Sunday morning meeting, but sometimes the friends would phone their father, and ask the girls over for "tea," and then they could enjoy a Bible study. The twins tried to have their own little Sunday morning meeting before the other girls arose at 6 a.m. And the Lord kindly taught them many things out of the scripture.       

They kept on reading and praying in secret until the last year in school when they began to read and speak freely. Some of the Jewish girls asked questions about the New Testament and began to read it and were astonished when the twins could explain the scripture. As their school days were coming to a close, they knew a stand had to be taken, and their parents must know they chose to be Christians, which may mean their father would disown them. A week passed after arriving home and nothing was said about their decision. Their parents planned an overseas trip and discussed this, saying they would like the girls to dress like other Jewish girls; and this caused them to lose courage. They went to bed feeling ashamed of their cowardice. The next day their father had a severe thrombosis attack and died within minutes. They saw God's hand in preventing them saying anything about their choice, as all their relatives would have said he died of shock. After the funeral the family met, and the girls were questioned regarding their "faith," whether they wished to remain Jews or change their religion. They replied, "We have changed our religion." The mountain they feared, disappeared into the sea. The next Sunday their stepmother offered them her car to go the meeting, which was the first time in 17 years they went freely and honestly.  They found work in Salisbury, but after six months their stepmother began to get nasty and went to the Master of the High Court (they were still under 21) with accusations against the girls. This man called Bertha, questioning her in detail for hours about their childhood and upbringing in the Truth. Next, he called Mr. Oldknow and questioned him about this way. The judge then called the girls and told then about their stepmother's complaint. But after listening to all, he decided that Bertha would be their legal guardian and advised them to hold on to their faith with all their strength. They went to live with Bertha. Later Bertha moved to "Carmel" the convention grounds, and lived there happily from 1961-1979 when she died of cancer. Averil and Jacqueline cared for her during her illness. 

Averil began in the work in 1962 and Jacqueline in 1964.