The first snow blizzard of the season closed in on the Netherlands on Friday evening as a farewell reception began for Romkje and myself in Centrum ’s Heerenhof, the former laundry building we as YWAM purchased in 1979.
At the start of the week, a large moving van had drawn up outside our old home opposite ’s Heerenhof to transfer our possessions to our new abode in the centre of Amsterdam. Now the empty snow-plastered house seemed lifeless, a cold body without a soul.
In a warm hall decked with photos gleaned from the internet of all phases of our life and work, two large ‘thank you’ cakes, and with skits and songs cleverly capturing our quirks, Heidebeek leadership and staff surprised us with a creative evening of memories and gratitude.
Some supporters from the first days of Heidebeek were present, despite adverse driving conditions which forced others to turn back en route.
Reflections on developments of the past four decades brought to mind steps of faith taken in the past. ‘Understanding can wait; obedience can’t’ was a phrase that became very meaningful in my first years at Heidebeek.
Romkje shared how, looking out the kitchen window of the new apartment, she could see the office building next to the Central Station where in 1973 she had signed to purchase two houseboats for 42,000 guilders – without any money at all! That was the beginning of the Ark, and Floyd McClung’s work in Amsterdam, a ministry that changed hundreds if not thousands of lives of hippies and world travellers. Seven years later, Romkje had also signed for the purchase of the Samaritan’s Inn, the location of our apartment, this time for 1,1 million guilders. Our move to Amsterdam, she realised, was a return to the start, the completion of a circle!
The purchase of the old laundry building in the Zwarteweg had also been a step of obedience – without foreseeing the initiatives that would be born there: Sunday evening meetings that drew many from near and far in the ’80’s, a national network of evangelical primary schools, a national bookstore chain, a series of worship recordings and concerts that promoted the new genre of praise music, renewal days for mainstream pastors that helped spawn an evangelical wing of the Protestant Churches of the Netherlands….
What our move to Amsterdam will lead to we cannot foresee. How we will use the Upper Room, the meeting space on the first floor of the Samaritan’s Inn next to our apartment, needs to be further processed with others. Possibilities include Alpha groups, marriage courses, introductory Bible courses, book circles, film evenings, European studies classes … a continuation of our past activities. These will need to dovetail with plans for a low-threshold info-centre for tourists and Amsterdammers in the strategic location offered on the ground floor, next to Dwaze Zaken arts cafe.
Yet even as we sat among the unpacked boxes of books and household items, inklings began to stir. I shared on Friday about an internet conference the day before with two academics, Dr Martin Robinson of ForMission College in the UK, and Professor Evert Van de Poll, regular contributor to Schuman Centre events and courses, in which we confirmed plans to proceed with preparations for a master’s degree distance learning course in Leadership in European contexts (working title), with Bologna recognition.
Amsterdam would become a hub for such studies, along with Brussels where this year we opened the Schuman Salon. Evert has prepared an outline for two modules to be included in an already existing degree programme. These would cover the role of Christianity in the making of Europe, specifically through influential minorities, the Bible, and the development of social thinking and human rights.
The goal is to equip leaders for engagement not just in traditional mission structures but within the spheres of politics, journalism, economics, law and government. Understanding Europe today demands knowledge of the EU story, of the rise of secularism, of populism, of new religious trends and of Islam in Europe; and of the hope the gospel offers in the face of these challenges.
Can I ask for your help to make this happen? To proceed on this level, we need to raise €12,000 by the end of January. Very rarely if ever have I made a financial appeal through Weekly Word. But as the year end approaches, I want to make this personal appeal. We are looking, for example, for two donors of €2500; five of €1000; twenty of €100.
Please would you prayerfully consider becoming one of the foundational donors of this degree course? If so, simply reply to this ‘weekly word’ and I will send you transfer details.
Romkje and I have a growing sense that what we have done thus far has been preparation for what is still to come. Thank you for standing with us.
Till next week,