Spring has arrived. New life is becoming visible in plants, trees, and shrubs. At the beginning of this newsletter we have wonderful news and are happy to announce new life… Our family is being expanded and we are looking forward to our 4th child. Annette is due mid-July. We are very grateful for this. Our 3 boys were also happily surprised when they heard the news. Annette is doing well so far, even though she experiences some of the regular pregnancy symptoms.
When we announced Annette’s pregnancy in January, we discovered a lump in her breast. Our family practitioner didn’t trust it and sent us to the hospital for further exams. In the hospital they couldn’t see from the pictures whether the lump was good or bad, so Annette had a biopsy done. We had quite an intense time while waiting for the results. The lump in Annette’s breast turned out to be benign. The doctors suspect that it is an ‘infection’ or ‘restless tissue’ due to hormone changes that accompany pregnancy. We’re very thankful to the Lord for this positive outcome. We’ll have to see how it might further develop. If the lump grows, it would as yet need to be removed.
At the beginning of the year our family took a break. At the invitation of Brother Johan Schep we spent a week in Switzerland (Wilderswil). Johan taught Bible studies there to Bible School students. I got to speak once on Acts 11:23, while Johan was interpreting. We really had a wonderful and relaxing time. It was snowing and our family enjoyed it immensely. Our oldest son Levi was taken to a ski slope by an elder brother and skied for the first time in his life. We all were so impressed by God's great works of creation.
Having come back from Switzerland, we picked up our work with much enthusiasm and expectation. From 24-27 January I taught at the Bible School 'Gospel for Europe' in Hilversum (www.gospelforeurope.nl). I was asked to speak 12 times on Hebrews. It was a very intense, but at the same time precious, time. What a blessing to invest in young people who want to be armed with the Word of God and have the desire to serve in the kingdom of God, whether near or far. At the beginning of the week I shared my testimony. During the week I had discussions about it with the students, which yielded good conversations about the miraculous way the Lord draws people out of darkness into His marvelous light.
During the past several months, two congregations approached me in regards to the position of pastor in their churches. We had very open and friendly talks with the leaders of these churches. First of all we were seeking the Lord's face. What is His will and desire for and with our lives? Taking one of these positions would also result in a huge change for our family. As we talked, sought, and prayed, it became clear to us that the Lord wants us to continue with our current ministry / vocation. We made our decision known to the two congregations. Our hearts are quieted and at peace regarding the decisions we've made.
In recent months there were again plenty of opportunities during numerous meetings to preach the Gospel. That remains a very great privilege. We'd like to mention a number of those meetings. On the 4th of February I was invited to speak at the Men's Day Goeree-Overflakkee which was held in the town of Ouddorp. During two lectures, I worked out the theme of the day 'LIVE!?' It was a very blessed day which concluded with many precious encounters and conversations. On February 14th I was in Wezep to speak at a Women's Morning. I was asked to share a message about the end times from the Bible and focus on developments with regard to Israel and what those have to say to us today.
I also received a teaching invitation from the part-time Bible school Philadelphia in the town of Langbroek (www.bijbelschoolfiladelfia.nl). I spoke several times on 'Biblical Character Building" from the life of Moses, the man of God. It's a fascinating subject that concerns every Christian. I, along with the leadership and the students, had a very blessed time. Then, in our town of Alblasserdam, I began a sermon series on Revelation 1 - 3. The overarching theme of the series is "Jesus' Message to the Churches in the End Times." It's an enormous blessing to meditate on these seven letters together with brothers and sisters in Christ and to take to heart the practical and spiritual lessons for today. It is timely teaching and I derive a lot of joy from preparing the lessons and then discussing them. On the 6th of February, I spoke at the wedding ceremony of a young couple in our congregation here in Alblasserdam. The basis of the sermon was Joshua 24:15b "But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." It was a wonderful gathering where we also had the opportunity to reach unchurched visitors with the Gospel.
Our ministry also brings us into contact with many difficulties and brokenness in human lives. We regularly provide pastoral assistance via email, phone, as well as through personal conversations. This often happens after I have spoken somewhere and people then approach me. This requires a lot of time, energy and wisdom.
In addition to all this, we have been occupied and very concerned with the rapidly declining health of my father and his spiritual condition. He passed away Monday March 28th after weeks of intercession by many prayer warriors. The Saturday before he passed away, Annette and I had a meeting with our father during which he was lucid. Again we prayed with him. We proclaimed to him the blood of Jesus that cleanses from all sin. He said with a weak voice, "The Lord knows my thoughts." He indicated that he was trusting in the Lord. He was at peace when we spoke with him and knew no fear. Partly in relation to our ministry, he quoted Psalm 103: 13, "The Lord has compassion on those who fear him." There were many more of such moments. Sunday was perhaps the highlight. The whole family surrounded Dad's deathbed and sang in tears Psalm 130:4, 'O Israel, hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is lovingkindness, and with Him is abundant redemption'. We also sang the well-known and profound hymn by Augustus Toplady Rock of Ages (which was my dad's song) and also Psalm 91: 1-4. During our singing Dad pointed his index finger towards heaven several times. We believe there was a spiritual breakthrough. We grieve, but not as those who have no hope. Glory to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
In recent months, I have had the privilege of ministering to an older couple, who are both children of the Lord. She had a type of cancer, and was given up by the doctors. I had many conversations and meetings with them. Virtually every time I went home encouraged, because in her suffering she kept on testifying of the Hope that was in her. They had asked me for pastoral counseling, but when I look back, I must say that it's actually they that encouraged me and shaped me throughout the counseling process. In the life of this sister I have seen that it is true what Paul writes in Romans 8: that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. On March 11th, she died at the age of 68. During the memorial service, I spoke about her life from Psalm 84: 6a 'Passing through the valley of Baca (weeping), they make it a spring’ - they make God their source. This was the secret of the life of our sister. At the graveside I shared a word from 1 Thess. 4: 13-18. It was a word of comfort and encouragement that we can have hope and expectation for those who have fallen asleep in Christ.
A new challenge awaits me in the coming days. I have been contacted by the board of the school that our children attend to do some Bible teaching on the basis of a model of the Tabernacle to students, ages 8-13 years old. This educational morning is scheduled for April. In addition, I have been approached by the same school board to chaperone a group of children, ages 11-13 during a school camp in May. This is our oldest son Levi’s class. During the camp I will be able to share the Gospel with children 3 times, using the theme 'Going for Gold'. Frankly, I find it a bit scary, but at the same time it is a special opportunity for our Lord to testify to His children.
Lastly in this newsletter I wanted to focus on our wedding anniversary. In Holland it is customary to celebrate 12 1/2 years of marriage (1/2 of 25 years). On March 4th it was 12.5 years ago since Annette and I got married. We have not changed much, have we ...? We could tell you a lot about years "flown-by", but that would be too much. We are especially grateful for the guidance, protection, and grace of the Lord in regards to our (married) life. He has provided all our needs according to his riches in glory. To summarize, we will use the song we sing as a family every morning, "Great is thy faithfulness, O Lord, shown to us each morn'!
‘Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood— and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.’ (Revelation 1:4-6)