[Saturday evening, 16 February] I may come to miss the rhythm of my present existence! Having driven back to the Netherlands on Tuesday, I pointed the front of my Citroen Berlingo, with the Belgian license plate, again towards Brussels on Friday. This small diesel car has faithfully transported me in the past year or so over some 40.000 kilometers.
A week ago I attended on Saturday morning a special service of the Adventist International Church of Brussels. The service was centered on the dedication of 9 baby’s and 2 toddlers. A theater had been rented for the day to deal with the expected flood of family members and other guests. They did come in great numbers. But, unfortunately, the heating did not work and after the service of more three hours I was totally frozen. But, apart from this, it was inspiring to see a church with so much life!
Today I was the guest speaker in the Portuguese speaking church of the Belgian capital. The group that now consists of some 80 to 100 members was recently forced to move since their landlord had suddenly given them notice. Now, a new place has been found to meet on Saturdays: a small hall on the third floor of a building of which I have not been able to discover the main purpose. A kind of goods elevator brings the members and visitors to the third floor. I have been plagued by a rather nasty flu during the last two weeks and the coughing and sneezing in the aftermath of this flu made preaching a bit uncomfortable. But I could reach the end of the sermon and it was, all together, a very positive experience. It is clear that this church has a definite potential for strong further growth. The more than 40.000 Brazilians who have migrated to Belgium constitute a fertile ‘mission field’.
Next week I hope to preach in my home church in Harderwijk. In the week that follows I will just spend a few ‘working days’ in Brussels. But on Sabbath March 2 my program lists a speaking appointment in the small church of Oostende, at the Belgian North Sea coast. There I will be painfully confronted with the enormous challenge of the Adventist Church in Belgium. In the church of Oostende only a handful of ‘Belgian’ members remain. I will have a talk with them, after the service, about the question whether there is any future for their small (and dying) church. Yes, there are also a dozen or so Russian speaking Adventists who worship in the Oostende church. But should we simply allow the church to become a ‘Russian’ church?
Many good and positive things are happening in the Adventist Church in Belgium. In 2012 the membership grew with about three percent. The income of the church increased with more than 6 percent. But everything possible will have to be done to ensure that the church also continues to attract ‘Belgian’ people. There are many plans. The support and expertise that pastor Rudy Dingjan will bring as church planting coordinator in the coming years (as he will be spending part of his time and energy in Belgium) will be crucial.
In the meantime I have begun to de-escalate my activities in the South. I did, however, get a few mails with the message: ‘So, what will you do next?’ Some readers of this blog brought it to my attention that there is a vacancy in Rome. But would it really be a good idea to exchange my Berlingo for the popemobile?
Concerning the pope, there is something else. A few days ago an Adventist publication asked a few persons to comment on the news that there will soon be a new pope. I was one of those whom they contacted. I expressed the hope that Benedict XVI will still live long enough to give us a few more good books. And I added that it would seem a good idea that we pray that the Spirit of God may be at work during the coming conclave. But it appears that not all my fellow Adventists appreciate that remark. It seems that they feel one should not say too many friendly things about Catholic Christians. And that the Holy Spirit would have any business at the conclave, is to these critics a very strange idea . . .
Tomorrow I have planned for a leisurely day. With my wife, who is accompanying me this weekend in Belgium, I hope to visit Tongeren—the oldest city in Belgium, dating from Roman times. It will be a good beginning of a new and full week.