I've always found it exciting to hear about the church in places away from home. I especially enjoy following our Church Pastor, Jeremy Simpkins, on Twitter as he travels around nationally and internationally.
My work recently sent me off to the Netherlands and I felt this would be a great opportunity to emulate something I've often envied. Fortunately there is a church in Utrecht which belongs to the same family as us called De Schuilplaats (The Shelter) so I went over and imposed myself on their hospitality and prayer meeting for an evening.
Utrecht is a city not far from Amsterdam. It has a beautiful historic centre, built around a particularly pretty large church, or it might be a small cathedral. I've not checked my facts. The surrounding suburban sprawl is much like you would find in any European city. But with more canals. My principle contact was with a really friendly helpful guy called Marten who also invited my around for a meal. It was a delicious meal and we quickly got on to comparing our respective churches. Marten is a local police man and it was very helpful for me to understand the challenges the city, and the church, faced. Our churches also share an international spectrum of congregation. As their services are in Dutch he has helped develop a system of translating the service. We are both very mobile churches too and we swapped plenty of stories about hefting PA equipment around. De Schuilplaats also has an exciting Friday evening meeting with many unchurched visitors who they are working into.
After the wonderful meal with Marten, his wife Linda and their nine month old daughter, Martin took me to the prayer meeting at a local school where we opened up and I helped put out the chairs. Jeremy never mentions if he puts out the chairs at the places he goes but then I'm much more of the amicable idiot next to his international apostle.
Marten helpfully translated as the leader spoke about grace and evangelism from Romans 8 and they all extended a warm welcome. I will treasure for a long time that unique sense of enjoying the presence of God among a family of believers. I've never met them before and our paths may not cross again in this lifetime. And yet we are eternally joined together in one body as we delight in our Saviour King Jesus.
[Originally published Feb 2012]