On Monday August 21 we left for Venice from Saint Louis. I am writing about Wednesday September 6 as we head into Holland. We are moving towards Monday September 9 (writing this Dec. 13) when we will board the plane to return home from Amsterdam. I will get my first opportunity to preach in Holland on this trip. I had contacted Pastor Valk in Zwolle the leader of our fellowship in Holland. He was having Pastor Foley preach that Wednesday so he handed me off to Pastor Martin Klok. He was happy to have us but he realized we wanted to hang out an extra day and spend time with them and since he was leaving for Surinam that Thursday; he handed us over to Pastor Peter Majoor in Groningen.
It was kind of cool passing through Zwolle on the train and texting Pastor Foley. We arrived in Groningen and Pastor Majoor met us at the train station. We had a coffee at a Starbucks set inside the station and made our way past the 1000’s of bicycles stacked up around the station. He put us in a nice hotel across from a burned out casino. They picked us up for church.
I have been looking forward to an opportunity to preach in Holland for a while. I like Joseph Conrad’s portrayal of the Dutch culture in his writings. Our fellowship has been abundantly blessed in Holland. But, it was one of my pet theories of life that had me looking forward to this moment. It was August 3,1492 when Christopher Columbus sailed for America with several Jewish connections. It was August 2, 1492 that was the final date for Jews to be out of Spain. Many of those Jews found their way to Holland where they were welcomed much like our later Pilgrims were welcomed. I am a believer that God still honors the Abraham promise and applies it even to today’s Jews: “I will bless them that bless you and curse them that curse you”. I would recount this in my introduction to my sermon. The wealth, uncountable wealth, that flowed into Spain was used to assert Catholic authority throughout Europe. Holland would be under siege and occupation for too many years. Yet, in the end little Holland (blessed) beats powerful Spain (cursed). I referred to an article about Dutch greenhouse horticulture growing as a leader in worldwide production and distribution. Holland is still operating in that blessing with the fact that I was preaching to a large church of 200 plus people that exemplifies our fellowship’s presence in Holland. We can compare Germany and Croatia to Holland another time.
The next day we would explore the city in the morning with Joan making some Dutch “goodwill” purchases that she was very pleased with. How do you describe the city: bicycles, bicycles, bicycles. The hotel had a great breakfast that we enjoyed both mornings. We met Pastor Peter and his wife for lunch and learned a little bit about their lives and the Dutch Reformed Church. They had pioneered this church and moved on and then finally did a long overseas stint in Peru where they still visit regularly. They were able to return to their first church here in Groningen when they returned from the overseas field. They toured us through the countryside and we stopped for coffee and ice cream. It seems we touched a Dutch love of American pop music from the 60’s and 70’s. Two pleasant people.
The next evening we would visit a sister church in Leeuwarden and Pastor Nomdo Schuitema. We would listen to a fellowship hero in rapper Ernie Toppin. Great service and then had some fellowship at the pastor’s home afterwards. His wife treated us to some nice delicacies. Turned out to be a moment of discovery. First, he turned us on (old 60’s slang) to a youtube channel that had some very cool gospel soul. Here is the link. Talk moved from here to there and it seemed like we were living a 60’s moment where we were talking to learn and discover from each other. Very unusual nowadays. Sparta, life, close to the Lincoln museum. Civil War, Baptists splitting rather than leading the nation in overcoming slavery. Lincoln’s faith. Modern Black Lives Matter. Ernie Topping, a black Jamaican who came to England to succeed and really unable to relate to the rejection and projection of inferiority that American blacks have to overcome. Kind of cool.
The next morning we would backpack to the train station and take the train into Amsterdam. It was a steady rain as we made our way to our hotel. I was content to call it a day, but Joan had dreams of windmills. She had been given the name of a town that had maintained about 10 of over 150 windmills north of the airport. We went into the central station at Amsterdam and caught a train going to our destination. We missed, but tried again and found our way there. Toured the mills and had a nice walk in a mild rain. Made our way back to Amsterdam. One last dinner: Peter and his wife when asked about Dutch food mentioned that Indonesian food had captured Dutch hearts and stomachs. We found a yelped Indonesian restaurant and enjoyed our last meal this side of the Atlantic. And home we came.