Saturday, May 27, 2023

Summer Newsletter

Johann and Louise: Training Disciples to Make Disciples in the Netherlands

It is amazing how quickly the days seem to fly past in a blur of activity. There are advantages and disadvantages of living in a different country. The many advantages are that there are so many new things to do and explore and discover…the disadvantages are that doing all these wonderful things takes time and effort. You must learn to say no to the many new possible options. 

I must say our Deanery has been one of the most encouraging ecclesiastical experiences I’ve had in years. Our dean is very keen to keep us focussed and positive. Our regular meetings are designed to be more than just “business”…it is always reassuring and heartening to hear how other clergy and churches are dealing with life in the Netherlands. The spouses also get together thanks to the efforts of our friend in Amsterdam, Cynthia Buttram. These have been very helpful meetings on so many levels.

The summer has arrived with glorious sunshine which means the Dutch are soaking up as much Vitamin D as they are able. Everyone who has a pet is out and about which gives us ample opportunities to meet and greet as we walk Mr Pips. Most dog owners here are cheerful people and open to a good chin wag while the furballs sniff each other back, front, and side…up, down, and all around. Mr Pips is the happiest and friendliest evangelism tools I have ever encountered. He will insist on stopping if the other furball is amenable which gives us time to get to know every owner in the area. We get to practice our Dutch and, when the conversation gets beyond the weather, we can tell them a little about who we are and what we do. This either leads to an interesting conversation or a quick decision to beat a hasty retreat, but it does open doors, even if only one crack at a time.

The Intercontinental Church Society Conference was a good time of fellowship and learning from other clergy in different countries as well as from an excellent Hebrew and Old Testament scholar from Oxford and others.  We certainly never dreamed we would ever be on a retreat in Beatenberg, Switzerland! It was a good opportunity to talk through issues arising in the Church of England with our Diocesan bishop as well as with other like-minded colleagues. It is never easy to navigate through turbulent theological waters, but it is always good to know that we have a number of able-bodied folk with us in the lifeboat. 

Our Women’s retreat was a wonderful outreach opportunity. In Louise’s words: “God blessed us all abundantly. Seventy-five ladies attended the day retreat. The members of Christ Church, Heiloo, invited friends, family members and colleagues. We also invited our 3 sister churches in Amsterdam. I am not sure how many unbelievers attended but I spoke to at least five ladies that are non-church goers or non-believers. By the end of the day (and they stayed all day) they could not stop talking about how much they enjoyed it and what stood out to them in the teaching sessions. We pray that the seed that were sowed will grow and produce much fruit.” 

Thank you to all those who prayed with us and who gave financially to make this outreach possible. Please continue to pray with us as we plan the many other outreach events we would like to do. Unbelievers are open to attend these events even if they don’t attend church services. 

We managed to wade some of our way through the complicated process of Dutch taxes…the process is complex because of the Dutch American Friendship Treaty visa I am on. There is an agreement between the US and the Netherlands as to where and how we pay taxes. For instance, the church allows us to stay in the church house and as they pay for our utilities in lieu of a salary. This is counted as part of our earnings, so we are taxed on it. Any extra income such as honorariums for talking services for clergy on leave or at churches who have no full-time clergy is also taxed. It is quite a maze to walk though so we are grateful to the expert who helps us find our way out in the end. 

We held our annual general meeting and were encouraged by the good reports we received about all church activities including our very full and active Sunday School and our five mission partners. Even though our member numbers went down by one, we have many more “permanent visitors” than before. Our different Bible Studies are always well attended and folks even continue the discussions on social media! The Men’s Bible study is probably one of the most exciting I have ever attended as the men ask very relevant and practical questions about living as Christians in a very secular society. 

We have been blessed with several of our supporters visiting us here or chatting with us via zoom. One church even recorded our discussion to show at coffee hour after their church service. This is so encouraging as they now have a better idea of how we do what we do here. 

Having Tyndale Seminary close to where we live has been such a blessing to us as we can meet with their faculty and students, some of whom attend Christ Church, Helioo, use their library, and even attend lectures from time to time. We have also met a few missionaries from Greater Europe Mission ( as well as local pastors at some of these events. 

Other than the usual acclimatization especially when it comes to allergies and colds, Louise and I have not been so healthy in many years. She just got a very good report from her oncologist, so we are truly grateful for this. 

We are planning on a summer outreach, but have not yet finalized the where, what, and how. 

Please do continue to pray with and for us. Our giving report looks a little spare at the moment, but the Lord always provides for our needs.

Thank you for each and every encouraging word, letter, email, card, and social media chat. You are very much appreciated.

Love, blessings, and cyber hugs
Johann and Louise

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Johann and Louise spent two years helping to develop the St. Frumentius Seminary in Gambella, Ethiopia. They then worked in Southern Africa, serving in seven southern African countries, while continuing to work with the Diocese of Egypt, North Africa through engaging in a disciple making movement in order to grow the body of Christ. They are now serving in Heiloo, the Netherlands.
We are sent  through the Society of Anglican Missionaries and Senders, a missionary sending community, engaging in building relationships with the worldwide church to experience the broken restored, the wounded healed, the hungry fed, and the lost found through the love and power of Jesus Christ. 
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Attention to: Johann and Louise van der Bijl

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