No – it’s not some new funky band, it’s a list of our August visitors here in Nieuw Vennep. First came the Bitners. Jim and Carol are Americans who lived near Belfast for a few years and attended Windsor Baptist when David was pastor there. They are now ‘retired’ back in the US but have taken up a part-time pastoral role caring for mission workers. This involves them travelling to Europe twice a year and driving through parts of France, Germany and Switzerland where they visit mission staff members from the US and help support and encourage them in their work and everyday lives. Actually, this is pretty much what they did in Belfast when they befriended several Windsor families and encouraged and helped in so many practical ways. Their ministry continues and their rich life experiences (including having 17 grandchildren!) make them valuable mentors as well as all-round good friends to many, including us. What a great use of retirement years! When they left us, we paid a flying visit to NI for David to have some dental work and got back just in time to welcome Alison Bingham and Barbara Johnston – old friends from Windsor, Belfast – for a weekend. There was much laughter, chat and a few late nights as we reminisced and caught up with all their church and family news, after they had walked their feet off around Amsterdam all day. We all took the bus to Haarlem to sample the Jazz Festival and some yummy Mexican food, went to the English Reformed Church on Sunday, all shared lunch with another US friend Lauran Bethell. Now our August visitors are all gone and we carry on writing blogs, editing journal articles, discussing plans and getting stuck into work with our new boss… it’s been a good summer!
(Tune: Danny Boy – an Irish Air)
Oh Davy boy, the pipes, the pipes are frozen,
The temperature is nearly minus eight.
The Eastern Beast is roaring at our windows,
Put on your coat, throw more wood on the grate.
We said we’d go to work at IBTSC
In Amsterdam – with weather just like home.
Did BMS say Holland or Siberia?
Ah well, the summer will come soon, we mustn’t moan!
Oh Dotty girl, the pipes, the pipes are baking,
It’s 35 degrees, ain’t that a treat?
The grass is brown and all our plants are dying,
We Irish were not built to stand such heat!
We said we’d go to work at IBTSC
In Amsterdam – with weather just like home.
Did BMS say Netherlands or Africa?
Ah well, the winter will come soon, we mustn’t moan!
Dear Dave and Dot (the email says from BMS),
We’re sorry you’re too cold/hot (please delete).
The Dutch saying ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather,
Only bad clothing’ – works for cold and heat!
You said you’d go to work at IBTSC
In Amsterdam – with weather just like home.
Please understand we don’t control the weather,
Take heart – autumn is coming soon, so please don’t moan!
© McMillan & McMillan Inc.
First we planned our route. Next we packed Monti to the gills – food, clothes, table and chairs, ten boxes of books and journals to be given away, IBTSC promotional banners and other conference materials. Then we were off on our two-week June/July European trip. We drove through the Netherlands into Germany, across Austria and finished up the next evening at a campsite on the southern side of Vienna. Monti had a rest there for the week, while we travelled in and out of the city by bus and train to our conference – the bi-annual Consortium of European Baptist Theological Schools (simply known as CEBTS). There were 21 of us, representing 13 different colleges (from UK, Netherlands, Portugal, Denmark, Spain, Germany, Romania and Estonia), and the conference was a chance to meet and get to know each other, discuss our schools’ challenges and also find out how our different institutions prepare students for Baptist ministry and leadership. There were speakers, discussions, prayer times, a trip into Vienna city centre and beautiful meals provided by the staff and volunteers at the Baptist Donauhof Centre. It was a good week and, as we were responsible for organising it, we were relieved that all went well (as we say in N. Ireland, it ‘passed off peacefully’!). Then it was time to wake Monti and start off for our next destination – Zürich in Switzerland. This time we stayed on a campsite on the shores of Lake Zürich – which sounds idyllic and was a lovely setting; however, most of Europe seemed to be staying on the same site, including a bunch of teenagers who pitched their tents right beside our van. We were there for the annual gathering of the Baptist World Alliance, so again we used public transport and let Monti sleep beside the lake. On 4th July we celebrated our ruby (40th) wedding anniversary and had a lovely lunch with some friends at the BWA event. They had sneakily (with help from our Sarah) got hold of some of our wedding photos and made a nostalgic card… it was a really nice surprise. On our last morning in Zürich we made a pilgrimage to Rüschlikon – the original location of IBTS when it was formed in 1949, long before the move to Prague and the recent move to Amsterdam. The college occupied a lovely old house set in the hills above Lake Zürich and must have been a beautiful place for those early students who came here just after WW2 to learn to live, study and work together with other Baptists from across war-torn Europe. Today it is a conference centre and the college chapel is home to an international, English-speaking Baptist church. It was very special to visit the place where IBTS began, before climbing back into Monti for the long drive back to Nieuw Vennep. We clocked up almost 3,000 km in 14 days and Monti was well ready for his annual MOT – due the day after we returned. And, of course, he passed!
Just back from our UK tour – me (Monti), Dave and Dot. We three have been together for two and a half years now, so I reckon I can shorten their names without getting into trouble. Anyway, about the tour… Every year or two Dave and Dot go back to the UK to do what they call ‘Home Assignment’. This involves travelling around parts of England, Wales and Northern Ireland visiting churches and friends to report on their work at IBTSC in Amsterdam. As you can imagine, I love travelling. I am a Fiat Ducato 115BHP engine Auto Trail Tribute camper van and I just live for a good long journey. The Netherlands is ok but there are no hills. I found Pembrokeshire in Wales much more fun – narrow roads, steep hills and lots of traffic. Dot was scared out of her wits going up a 1:5 hill in Little Haven, with no room to pass and cars coming both ways. She seriously underestimated Dave and me – we are the original Dream Team. At least I thought we were; but I was seriously disappointed when he left me behind PARKED!! in a driveway in Bicester while they flew to Belfast for a week. I was so looking forward to seeing the Giant’s Causeway – ah well, maybe another time. One day I took them to BMS World Mission Headquarters in Didcot, Oxfordshire and, while D&D were inside doing updates and recording interviews, I dozed in the carpark. If you want to see the interviews, try this link . Then suddenly Dave started bringing people out to the carpark to admire me – I was seriously flattered. One guy even took photos of us three with pretend cups of coffee and holiday smiles on. It was cool. The last big trip we did on Home Assignment was up to Manchester and then on to Carlisle (I loved the M6) to visit some nice people. Sadly it’s all over now and, after a lonely night on car deck of the Harwich to Hoek van Holland ferry, I took them back to Nieuw Vennep and my little parking spot behind the house. Home sweet home! By the way, I hope you like the photos – I always insist that we carry the latest Engage magazine so Dave and Dot have the latest news from BMS. Otherwise, they tend to read Good Housekeeping or Motorhome Monthly. I hate it when they read that last one as it has lots of adverts for shiny new vans and they might start to think the unthinkable!
Today we were able to announce the appointment of Revd Dr Mike Pears as Director of IBTS Centre as of 1st August 2018.
Mike began his doctoral studies in Prague in 2011 and completed his doctorate in Amsterdam, being one of the first IBTS Centre students to graduate at the VU. As well as research interests in the use of ethnography in relation to theology, mission and urban theology his faith has been shaped and enriched through ministry and mission in inner-city London, Vancouver, Frankfurt, Sofia, and Bristol. Along with Prof. Paul Cloke (Exeter University), he is co-editing and authoring a series of six books entitled Mission in Marginal Places currently published by Paternoster.
We are really looking forward to working with Mike. He believes that IBTSC is strategically situated, both culturally and geographically, to encourage research and learning of baptistic theology and spirituality across Europe, the Middle East and further afield. That’s a vision we share and are delighted to be available to support in the coming years.
In the words of the great poet Anonymous:
Spring has sprung,
The grass is ris’,
I wonder where
The birdies is?
We know the answer to that: the birdies (jackdaws) is pecking away at the edge of the roof outside our bedroom window, trying to find a gap where they can push in sticks to start building a nest. At 6am every morning, they sound like builders working with hammers and chisels, but so far (thankfully) without success.
Now that the ‘Beast from the East’ has retreated, the daffodils and tulips in our garden are beginning to emerge very cautiously – as if they are scared that the Beast might return and bite off their heads! It seems that the world-famous tulip displays at Keukenhof will be a bit late this year, following the long, cold spell. But Spring is definitely here – the canals have thawed, the grass is growing, the clocks have changed, the evenings are brighter, the bulb fields are beginning to burst into colour…
Even though I often complain about the cold or the heat or the rain or the fog, I really love the variety of the seasons, moving reliably through Spring into Summer, then Autumn and back to Winter. It always reminds me of God’s promise recorded in the book of Genesis in the Bible:
‘As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.’
“It’s a long, long way
From Clare to here…”
So says the well-known Irish song by Ralph McTell. But actually, it’s not so very long nowadays. Ireland is criss-crossed with very modern motorways and the journey we made last week from Amsterdam to Dublin Airport to Co Clare only took a few hours. Yet in other ways it really was a long, long way from here to Clare: we left behind lots of work and found ourselves completely free to get up late, walk in the wind and rain, eat lots, sit beside the fire, read, watch TV, do crosswords, wander around the town… and abandon all sense of routine or responsibility. For a whole week it was wonderful. This was a bit of a nostalgia trip – we stayed in the same hotel as we did thirty years ago and visited some of the same tourist spots like the amazing Cliffs of Moher, the Burren and Lough Derg. At the end of our week away we had another nostalgic experience: David was invited to speak at the thirtieth anniversary of Dundalk Baptist Church because we had been living and working in the neighbouring church in Newry all those years ago. It was a lovely chance to meet up with old friends from those days as well as seeing many new faces. Then it was all over and we came home to Nieuw Vennep. Suddenly we felt ready to return to the work, the routines and the responsibilities we had so eagerly abandoned just a week before. Isn’t it amazing how a restful week away can give us new energy (even when we have passed the 60-year marker)? Let’s hear it for holidays!
Here’s the Fureys’ version of a Long, long way from Clare to here…