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Posts Tagged ‘Netherlands’

dutch speed skatersThe Olympics bring out the nationalism in all of us. We love to see the Americans win, stand on the podium with a tear in their eye, trying to remember the words to the national anthem.

But I have to confess something:  I love it that the Netherlands has won 22 medals in speed skating so far!!  I love their devotion to orange! And I love that the king and queen are there in their orange sports attire, cheering their skaters on!

Now Norway has more medals, but I don’t really have the same feelings for Norway. The Russians and the Canadians feel to me like long-time rivals, so I don’t cheer for them either.  I do love to see the Germans do well, but they are a powerhouse country, so they should do well—maybe better than they are doing!

So why do I love the Dutch? I’ll come back to answer that question in a minute.

Let’s move to a different plane and switch from talking about national sport teams to talking about which countries God loves.

Sometimes we Americans think that God is an American and that He loves all the other countries, but just wishes they were like His special country!  That’s pure jingoism—and not really harmless nationalism.

Some people think Israel is God’s favorite country!  But Jesus said, And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham” (Matt. 3:9). God does love the children of Abraham . . . the true ones.

We don’t have to guess about this: here is our final answer!  The final answer is “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son . . . .”  Red and yellow, black and white—and all the colors in all the flags—and all the people standing and singing all those foreign anthems.

So now we can get back around to the Dutch:  maybe if I can figure out why I love the Dutch, then I can better understand what it will take to love the Norwegians, for instance.

From a lifetime of being involved with the world, here are some tips I have learned about how to learn to love the world:

Travel to other countries, but not with a bunch of other Americans. If your only experience in other countries is disembarking from a cruise ship for a few hours, or flying over, traveling to all the sights in a bus with your former classmates or some other affinity group, then you may have had a great trip, but you have not given yourself a chance to really fall in love with other people.

Go to one country at a time—not as many as you can squeeze into seven days.  From the Netherlands you can get to Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium, France, and the U.K (by hovercraft) in less than two hours, so it is tempting to use Amsterdam as a jumping off point to “see it all.”  But then you won’t love the Netherlands!

Just within an hour of Amsterdam are Haarlem, Leyden, Alkmaar, Zaanse Schans, Keukenhof, Marken, Vollendam, Delft, den Haag, and a lot more wonderful and fascinating sites and places. If you take a one-hour canal tour of Amsterdam and then leave for the next country, you have missed almost everything!!

Get to know some local people! This may not be as easy as it sounds. Here are some tips that might work for you:

  • Go to church on Sunday.  That’s where Christians are on Sunday, so if you want to meet local Christians, go where they are. Be prepared to accept an invitation to eat with them afterwards.
  • Go with a short-term mission group that interacts closely with local people. In Let’s Start Talking projects, you can sit and talk with locals all day long!
  • Stay at a bed-and-breakfast instead of a tourist hotel.  If you are young and brave enough, the youth hostels are also a great place to meet people.
  • Travel by train instead of by car.  Cars insulate us; public transportation throws people together.
  • Go to a “small” event.  We have gone to high school soccer games, local school performances, local church-sponsored concerts, auctions, flea markets, for instance.  You just have to appear to be open to meeting new people and they will come up and introduce themselves to you.

Learn about the country: history, culture, current events, art—not in order to become an expert, but because we don’t care very much about things we don’t know much about! I hardly know anything about Norway; that’s the problem, isn’t it!!

And here is the big secret I have for you:  you will begin to love every country where you begin to know people who live there!  I’m quite sure that national boundaries have very little to do with why God loves the world.  He loves the world because He loves the people of the world.

One of the comments that we hear often from LST workers coming back from their short-term mission trip is “I used to always pray for all the people in the world, but now I know some of those people, so I pray for them by name.”

If you only love Americans, you have not begun to tap the capacity of your heart for loving people.  God made your heart big enough to love the world too!

 

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I think Belgium has a government, but I’m not sure.

This small divided country went at least 482 days without a government because the French-speaking parties and the Flemish-speaking parties could not—would not agree on how to go forward. Belgium is a parliamentary democracy, but without any single party having a super majority and governing independently, the only way to form a government is by coalition, that is, several parties joining together and agreeing to share power.

A country with no government because of radically self-interested political parties—now there is a lesson to be learned here, for us Americans and for us Christians.

Sherrylee and I have spent the last four days in Belgium and the Netherlands, visiting our good friends Paul and Carol Brazle in Antwerp and Hans and Ans van Erp in the Eindhoven church.  The times are interesting in both of these established works.

Maturing church works have different problems than church plants. Although both of these works are approximately twenty-five years old, they are reaching critical stages in their existence.

All of Western Europe should probably be classified as post-Christian, meaning that the forms of Christianity still permeate society, but personal faith and relationship to God through Christ is relatively uncommon.  Christianity is generally viewed as an old superstition that a more enlightened society has moved beyond.

Bringing the Good News of Jesus to Europeans requires patience. Those missionaries who choose to serve here are often choosing to leave home and stay for decades, not years!

Paul and Carol Brazle have been in Belgium since 1986, faithfully representing Jesus among the Flemish-speaking people.  The church they serve in Antwerp has been evangelistic and has fluctuated between 20-50 members over the years, depending on the Christians who move away and/or move back.

Currently they are ministering to a much larger group of people because of the influx of Africans into Europe. A group of Christians from Ghana began collecting, then growing, until they far outnumbered the other nationalities in the Antwerp church.  Along with the blessing of new members came the struggles of trying to be one church and blend Euro-American church culture with Afro-Ghanaian church culture.

You’d be surprised at how strongly everyone feels about how church is conducted—or maybe you wouldn’t!  I’m talking about totally innocuous questions like how you start songs, what melodies to use with a set of words, what to do with the children during worship times, what time will the service really start on Sunday—all mostly cultural issues, but ones that can create tension, especially if anyone insists on their own answer to the question!

And I have not yet mentioned any issues!  The church in Antwerp—all parties—are doing their best to be one church and not take the easy way of just splitting into two groups who do whatever they each are most comfortable doing.

The Dutch church of Christ in Eindhoven was begun about 1987, when Hans and Ans invited us to bring an LST group there. They have grown in the ensuing years to be a model church in Europe in many ways. Eindhoven has always been an indigenous church, self-supporting, self-ministering, and quite international as well.

At yesterday’s service, we had Belgians, Chinese, Africans, Americans—and Dutch people, singing, praying, and breaking bread together.  Their challenge now stems from their success as a church.

This wonderful church family may be reaching that time in a church’s life when they are so busy taking care of their own needs that they quit reaching out to others.  I’ve seen this happen many times in European churches. Usually the church plant is very evangelistic, fresh and enthusiastic until they reach30-50 people coming regularly.  Then church life begins to take all of their energy just to care for one another. Besides,  there is much less threat of painful rejection when only working among yourselves—so they quit reaching out!

Typically, this church will continue to feel good about itself for a while longer, maybe even grow more because of its good reputation, but then it begins to decline and no one understands why!  Decline, however, is inevitable when the community of believers is no longer consciously and intentionally shining the light into the darkness.

Some think this pattern is absolutely determined and unavoidable, but I do not. These two good churches have good leaders, people of great faith, and my prayer is that they will continue to depend on His power and Spirit for guiding the flocks which they oversee.

3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:3-4

Would it make a difference in the Belgian government, would it make a difference in our churches, if we really believed and practiced what Paul taught the early church in Greece?

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