Poor Moses! For forty years, he has been leading a quiet pastoral existence in the wilderness looking after his father-in-law’s flock of sheep. His urban past, with its royal upbringing and education, has almost faded from memory.
Suddenly he encounters the bizarre sight of a bush burning without being consumed; then a voice claiming to be that of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob calls his name, telling him to go back to Egypt.
How unsettling! Moses stutters excuses: ‘Who am I that I should go…?’; ‘Suppose I go, who shall I say sent me…?’; ‘What if they don’t believe me..?’; ‘I have never been eloquent…’; ‘Please send someone else…’.
Don’t forget, the poor man was already eighty years old. If only he knew then what the next forty years would bring…
Although a good decade younger than Moses at that time, my wife and I can empathise with him. We too feel picked up by the scruffs of our necks by the same God of Abraham, telling us that our forty years of living in the Dutch countryside are ending.
Not that these forty-plus years have been the quiet pastoral existence we imagine Moses had. But we do normally wake up hearing the birds and looking out on trees and fields. This week however we are in Amsterdam leading the Masterclass in European Studies as a sort of foretaste of our future lifestyle. Who knows what the next decades might bring us?
Our adventure started late last year when Romkje was asked by a young YWAM couple for advice on starting a foundation for unmarried teenaged mothers. At the end of the conversation she asked what else they would need for the ministry. A large house, they replied.
“What about our house?” responded Romkje spontaneously, without thinking to consult her husband about the home where we raised our children and lived in for 38 years.
However, it had seemed like a God-moment to her. When she told me about it, I too sensed this was the time to release Centrum ’s Heerenhof, the YWAM location we lead, to younger leadership. We could probably just move into a house in Heerde.
But what would keep us there, we wondered? Our work was focused on Europe. Our children and grandchildren lived an hour’s drive towards the west. We often needed to travel to Brussels, or fly from Schiphol. Driving the long trip home was becoming tiring.
So the new year started with a strong sense of relocation looming. But to where? We started looking around in cities to the south and west, closer to Brussels. Arnhem? Den Bosch? Utrecht? Nothing resonated.
Once more my life verse, Hebrews 11:8, returned to me as at other key transition moments: ‘By faith, Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as an inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.’
Abraham, like Moses, was also well past retirement age: seventy-five! Yes, we had to be prepared to obey not knowing our destination.
Then someone asked us if we had considered one of the ministry buildings of YWAM in Amsterdam. Amsterdam? Actually, no, we had never considered living in the city where Romkje began YWAM back in 1973, buying a houseboat dubbed The Ark for a summer outreach there.
Maybe that would make sense: with Schiphol, children and grandchildren closer by. After further inquiries with YWAM Amsterdam leadership, we were asked to make a proposal concerning space in Samaritan’s Inn. As chairman of the YWAM board, Romkje had also signed for the purchase of this prominent building opposite the central railway station, back in 1980. With Dwaze Zaken, the popular arts café on the ground floor, this building has a most strategic location in the city.
Our proposal for an interactive salon or lounge, similar to the Schuman Salon opened last year in Brussels, seemed to dovetail with existing plans for more effective use of the building. We began to see ways to engage with tourists, Amsterdammers and all interested in exploring the Bible’s role in promoting a flourishing urban lifestyle.
Early this month our submission was accepted. We plan now to move to the city centre by the year’s end, and continue our work of the Schuman Centre from there into Europe.
Sometimes we wake up thinking we are simply crazy trading the rural for the urban. Yet there seems to be divine method in this madness. Anticipation is stirring.
In this week’s Masterclass, Evert Van de Poll and myself team up to probe the paradoxes of the city, of Europe, of humanity and of a gospel in which the death of Jesus brought resurrection life for individuals, for families, for cities, for nations and for the world, still today.
To be continued…
Till next week,