Tuesday 21st October
On our way to the first ever YWAM European Evangelists’ Consultation. Had to wake up at 4.30am to get to the airport on time. The only cheap flights were either first thing in the morning or last thing at night, and when the gathering is less than forty-eight hours long (from its start on the Tuesday evening to its finish with lunch on Thursday) missing the first evening seems like a bad idea.
Especially when we’re going all the way to the Netherlands, and especially when I’ve never been to Holland before. An early flight means that we can spend the day in Amsterdam seeing some of the city, before getting the train to Dordrecht in the afternoon, where we’ll be picked up and driven to the village of Bleskensgraaf.
I’m travelling with Connie, who has had less sleep than me, having been speaking at YWAM Reading’s Discipleship Course the night before. But even without sleep she is an unstoppable personal evangelist, striking up conversations with whoever happens to be closest to us.
(or thereabouts, I’m not sure whether I adjusted the time on my watch)
We have arrived in Amsterdam!
Now to get the train to Amsterdam Centraal station. The automatic ticket machines don’t even require you to choose English as an option—they assume most people here are foreigners, and that the locals won’t mind having to operate in a second-language. The Dutch are fantastic with languages.
Connie is again talking to someone about Jesus. He is not interested and attempts (unsuccessfully!) to walk away from the conversation. As Connie scurries down the platform after him, I find myself talking to a lady from Liverpool with a marijuana sticker on her fingernail. Her and her partner have left their eight-year old child at home, babysat by a grandparent, while they come here for a couple of days and get high.
As we come out of Amsterdam Centraal station, it is raining determinedly. We walk a hundred yards out of the station and are distinctly damp. We stop in a McDonalds to work out a plan of action. My main plan had simply been to try and see YWAM Amsterdam’s Prayer Room, which they call the Tabernacle of the Nations. The weather looks like it’s not going to get better any time soon, so we take that as confirmation not to try and squeeze any sight-seeing alongside that #onething.
The Tabernacle is just a few minutes’ walk away from the Centraal train station and so, the rain having eased off slightly, we start heading in its general direction. As we walk down a backstreet lane I am unavoidably reminded that this is the Red Light District of Amsterdam—neither of us is quite sure where to look.
But we make it to the Tabernacle without any trouble. The Urban Presence DTS have just finished their daily two hours of worship and prayer (love DTSes like that!) and are heading back to the big YWAM Amsterdam base (De Poort) down the road. And there is another two-hour prayer meeting just getting started.
The Tabernacle of the Nations is a beautiful long room: there’s a harp and bowl mosaic on the back wall; there are guitar, keyboard, microphones and sound-board permanently in place; there is an abundance of beautiful big maps of the world and its various continents; there are cushions neatly placed around the perimeter of the room to make yourself comfortable.
The prayer-time finishes and we discover that underneath the Prayer Room is a kitchen and cosy little café. We sit down and introduce ourselves to the musicians who have just finished leading worship.
Robin – who had been playing keyboard – is a tall Dutchman (yes, tall even for a Dutchman!) with a passion for prayer, worship and intimacy with Jesus. As well as being involved with YWAM for a long time, him and his family have also spent some time at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, USA. He tells me the story of how the property which has now become the Tabernacle of the Nations was first obtained, not neglecting to mention the long years of waiting between immediately confirmed divine promise and final fulfilment.
Koryn—who had been one of the singers—is an American girl in her twenties. She has spent several years at IHOP, and is now spending a few months in Amsterdam with the Tabernacle of the Nations. She starts telling us about how they’ve been praying for heavenly justice to break out in the midst of the Red Light District—and then forty-seven of the brothels that are right in the vicinity of the Tabernacle were shut down. Hallelujah!
Having had a late lunch with Koryn, and then caught the train from Amsterdam to Dordrecht, we’re now being driven through the beautiful Dutch countryside towards a village called Bleskensgraaf, home to the European office of the Impact World Tour, who are hosting the Evangelists’ Consultation.
The Netherlands is stunningly picturesque. Glistening canals everywhere. Flat and fertile fields stretching out into the wide horizon. Beautiful Dutch farmhouses with thatched roofs. And it turns out we are staying in one. Outside the door sits an impressive pile of homegrown pumpkins.
We walk in to find twenty evangelists sitting round the table having dinner.
The evening begins with a welcome from Steve, and then a time of worship. Steve’s wife Willy shares a brief word from Psalm 37:23-24: “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong for the Lord upholds his hand.” She reminds us that God doesn’t mind when we stumble along—he just delights in us stepping out in faith!
Yan Nichols – who it turns out is perhaps the most widely respected YWAM evangelist in Europe – then shares the heart and story behind this first Evangelists’ Consultation coming into being, before asking the different ministries represented to share what they’re doing and the fruit they’re seeing. We hear about Lance share about the Impact Crew in Spain, using dance and hip hop to draw crowds to their evangelistic events; we hear Bart talk about the God-Story in Holland, doing a similar sort of high-octane evangelistic youth event, and also particularly focusing on then connecting people into longer-term multiplying discipleship groups; we hear Yan talk about what he’s been doing with starting the strategically-placed DTS Gathering weeks of evangelism training.
And Connie shares about the Gospel Bracelet, and the way it’s helped us in Cambridge equip each member of our team—students as much as staff—to be effective soul-winners.
Wednesday 22nd October
The evening session the night before had just been held at the guesthouse where we are all being hosted, but today we are going to gather at the Impact World Tour offices. They too have an amazing story of how God provided the space.
I’ve been asked to begin the day by sharing a brief word. I talk about Mary’s anointing of Jesus in Mark 14, and Jesus’ incredible pronouncement in verse 9 that “wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her”. And so evangelism is not complete without whole-hearted worship! Just as it’s absurd and impossible to clap with just one hand, so we can’t do evangelism without its aim and its fuel being worship. For the Father doesn’t desire converts, but worshippers, “who will worship in spirit and in truth”.
The day continues with a discussion of YWAM’s evangelism training, particularly in the context of the DTS, but also as regards spotting and nurturing up-and-coming evangelists.
After a day of intense discussion, we head out to a local skatepark to try and so some evangelism. I quickly discover that there are two hurdles I must overcome in this location: I can’t skate, and I can’t speak Dutch. Fortunately, there is a football cage next to the skate ramps. This is a language I can speak.
After the game I find myself talking to a seventeen-year old Dutch youth who wants to become a policeman. He asks about what I do and I’m able to talk about the joy of following Jesus and gathering and training people to do the same. ‘Would he like to follow Jesus?’ But open though he was, he was also well aware of the cost of becoming a real Christian: ‘My life would have to change’.
Yes it would. And maybe it will. I pray for him that he would know that the worth of Jesus exceeds every cost.
After dinner back at the guesthouse we again gather in the living room for our evening session. We are talking about what YWAM Evangelism in Europe could and should look like. Steve has a list of Europe’s 300+ cities with populations of more than 120 thousand. We split up and talk about what the vision is that God might be stirring in each of our hearts.
Thursday 23rd October
It is the final morning, and we are trying to actually get done some of the things that have been talked about over the previous couple of days. A list of people who could be asked to speak and train DTS schools in evangelism—tick! A plan for what the rhythm will be for how often this gathering happens, and when the next one will be. Ways of improving mutual communication and sharing resources.
We are on our way back to Amsterdam, getting a lift from a guy who is connected with the local discipleship training that the IWT team does. His friend Richard is also travelling with us, so me and Connie are taking the opportunity provided by the close confines of our shared back-seat to try and impart to him a vision for evangelism and multiplying discipleship.
We arrive in Amsterdam and they suggest that we head to the YWAM Café. It’s just outside Amsterdam Centraal station, and its building has Jesus Loves You written in big blue neon lights across its front. It turns out it’s not longer technically a YWAM Café, having now been sold on, but it still has a verse from the Psalms decorating the wall. And to our surprise, it has Thomas – who did the Chronological Bible Core Course with YWAM Cambridge last year – serving as a waiter!
Following that we head towards the actual YWAM Amsterdam base. We don’t have long to stay, as we need to get back to the airport in time for our flight home. But it turns out that the forty-five minutes that we’re there coincides perfectly with their community dinner-time. So we decide to sneak ourselves some soup—and before we know it we’re being introduced to the whole community. Across the room I catch the eye of Mirjam, who did her DTS in Harpenden while me and Taryn were staffing there. Another unexpected rendez-vous! And I also got to meet Ranier, who is leading the base and the afore-mentioned Urban Presence DTS.
And then we were off, speed-walking back to the train station, and then on our way to the airport. It was a fantastic few days—but we have work to do in Cambridge!