[Wednesday morning, 7.00 hrs.] Yesterday I wanted to take the fast train to Brussels and to return again by train today. But precisely when I planned to leave the car at home, the Belgian Railways decided to go on strike. Looking though the window of room 226 in the Ibis-hotel, where I have just spent the night, I see one of the entrances of the Brussels South Station. It is uncannily quiet. But I realize there are lots of people that are more much inconvenienced by this strike than I am. I am going to enjoy a leisurely breakfast and then I will get in my Citroen Berlingo (with Belgian license plates!) to drive the route that I can now almost dream—223 kilometers: Brussels-Antwerp-Breda-Utrecht-Zeewolde. From the moment I leave home, I invariably look forward to the coffee stop, just 10 kilometers into Belgium, and on the return trip the road restaurant at the Belgian-Dutch border is the fixed place to make a stop. So, that’s where I will have my coffee break later this morning.
This driving back and forward to Brussels is not the most pleasant aspect of my Belgian assignment. In the past 12 months I have made the return trip from Zeewolde to Brussels some 80 times. This past week will increase the average number of trips per week somewhat. Last Thursday I left for Verviers (about 50 kilometers South of Maastricht), to visit a retired (but still active) pastor. The next day I drove via Luxembourg to the small German town of Konz on the Saar river, where the pastor lives who not only cares for the German Adventist congregation in the German city of Trier, but who also pastors the two churches in the country of Luxembourg. I then spent the Saturday in Namur, where the local church had organized a special ‘green’ church service, with a special ‘green’ program in the afternoon. And then, on Sunday, I went to the Dutch speaking town of Hasselt to give a presentation. Church members and friends of the church met in a large meeting room in the local Holyday Inn. Twice a year a speaker is invited for such a venue to speak on a religious or social issue. My theme was postmodernism. (The words has spread that I regularly give presentations on this topic, so I keep getting requests to speak on that theme. Anyway, the Hassel meeting was a very pleasant experience.)
I was home again around nine o’clock Sunday evening. But yesterday morning (Tuesday) I was back on the road. I tried to stay ahead of the heavy traffic by leaving home at six. It was OK until Antwerp, but then things slowed down and it was already around ten o’clock when I entered the Rue Ernest Allard in Brussels, where the church office is located. As I entered the street I looked at the name plate for the umpteenth time and once again I decided it was high time I would find out who this mr. Ernest Allard actually was. [Well this morning I consulted Wikipedia and this is what it told me: Ernest Allard (1849-1898) was a Belgian architect. He was the founder of a professional journal for architects. He worked for renewal and used a mix of different styles. And, he was also a prominent Belgian Freemason.] Since the meeting last night went on until 20.00 hrs, I stayed the night in Brussels. After a full day of conversations and meetings I simply missed the energy to begin a 223-kilometer drive.
So, in an hour or so I will leave for home. Today and tomorrow I will be busy with a number of things at home. In Friday I will drive to Brugge (West-Flanders) for a few visits. I will stay the night in that lovely city, probably in the local Ibis (reasonable comfort at a reasonable price). Saturday afternoon I am scheduled to introduce the new Rumanian pastor to the Rumanian Adventist church in Brussels, and in the morning to the Rumanian Adventist church in Braine l’Alleud, just South of Brussels.
Not every week, however, is quite is hectic. And it will not continue indefinitely, for I hope to be able to hand over this assignment to someone else in the early spring. Serious efforts are now under way to find a regular president for the Adventist Church in Belgium and Luxembourg, so that my interim-services will no longer be needed.
Regrettably, there are things I would love to do but that will have to wait because of a serious lack of time. The stack of new, unread, books besides the couch in our living room, keeps growing. It took me as much as two weeks to read the new biography of Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis, a famous socialist leader in Holland of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The newest book by historian Geert Mak, about the United States, is now top of the list. I hope to get going next Sunday or so.
So, it is, I suppose, clear that my life is rather busy. But it is a privilege to be able to continue doing lots of things. However, a letter from our family doctor told me that as a ‘senior person’ I am entitled to a free injection to protect me against the seasonal flue. It reminded me tactfully that I am part of the vulnerable, elderly segment of Dutch society!