At the beginning of this week my wife Aafje and I were busy packing our suitcases in Zeewolde. Now, at the end of the week, we are sitting—after a stop-over of some 36 hours and a very long flight—on a comfortable couch in a very nice home in a suburb of Melbourne, Australia. Our jetlag is still bothering us a little, but the worst is over.
The next few weeks we will be the guests of Peter Roennfeldt en his wife Judy. Peter and I were close colleagues when we both worked for a number of years in the office of the Trans-European Division in the UK—the regional office of the Adventist Church for a sizable part of Europe and, at the time, also the Middle-East and even Pakistan. Peter carried some important assignments. One of these was to provide support for the almost 1.000 pastors in our territory. He also coordinated the so-called Global Mission program—the outreach activities that targeted areas and people groups that thus far had remained mostly ‘unreached’ by the church. Another major part of his work was dedicated to church-growth (specifically: church planting) activities.
When I look back at the last twenty years or so, and try to list the people and activities that were most important for European Adventism, Peter’s name emerges quite quickly. In the 1960s and 1970s the Adventist Church in Europe went through a phase in with church growth (certainly in the western countries) stagnated and many church leaders at the national and local level were at a loss to find ways of reaching the increasingly secular population with their message. In many places this resulted in a sense of frustration and loss of hope. Peter played an extremely important role in reversing this downward spiral.
Pastor Peter Roennfeldt succeeded in inspiring many ministers and other church members in quite a few countries in Europe and guided them into the launching of many ‘church plants’. In the Netherlands he inspired, in particular, pastor Rudy Dingjan, besides many others. This was the start of a process that led, over the years, to the launching of some 25 different groups (‘plants’), several of which have by now attained the status of a recognized church. Part of the credit should, no doubt, also go to the positive—moral and financial—support of the Netherlands Union.
Through the years I have kept in touch with Peter. When a few years ago I served for some 18 months as the interim-president of the church in Belgium and Luxembourg, Peter was willing to come three times for an intense program of visitation of the churches and of consultations with the ministerial work force. His contribution was essential at that time and was much appreciated,.
Since a few years Peter is officially retired, but he continues to be extremely active and still inspires and equips groups of pastors, in many countries, within and outside of the Adventist Church.
I look forward to spending a few weeks together. No doubt, we will see a lot in around Melbourne, for Peter and Judy are very enterprising. But I also look keenly forward to the many discussions Peter and I will have. I have always found talking with Peter both challenging and inspiring. He has often given me valuable ideas and renewed energy to do the things that I yet would like to accomplish in this phase of my life/work. The physical experience of relaxing in a totally different environment will do me much good, but the interaction with regard to the ideals and things that are important to us, will be at least as valuable!