Early in the morning, when it is still cool, there is a photo shoot on the sports field of the campus, surrounded by trees. The students who graduate today, are photographed in large and small groups, regional groups, with family and with buddies. They also make pictures of each other. That goes on for an hour and a half: many photos are taken in front of the official sign of the 50th anniversary of the Presbyterian Theological Seminary (PTS) in Dehradun, India. The sign contains the logos of sponsors and partners: church associations, but also Verre Naasten and the Dutch deputies Relations with Foreign Churches (BBK). Reverend Piet Houtman is present on behalf of India Mission | Verre Naasten.
Houtman worked at the PTS from 2003 to 2008. About the anniversary he says: “I met many former colleagues, but also former students who are now teachers or preachers somewhere in India. A lot of them were delegated to the anniversary by their churches. A wonderful experience and meet-up!”
It’s Saturday the 4th of May and according to a tight schedule, the graduation ceremony takes place. Followed by the anniversary celebration. The form is like a church service. Everything within a continuous program of more than three hours, which does not seem long, thanks to the variety. There is a sermon, singing together, choral singing, prayer with thanksgiving and an interactive Bible reading. History is briefly reviewed in a video presentation. The ‘mission partners’ are introduced with grateful mention of their contribution and are then given the floor.
PTS and the Dutch churches got in contact quite by chance, Piet Houtman says. The same fort the contacts that developed between the Theological University in Kampen and Verre Naasten. To the brothers and sisters in the Netherlands the contacts with PTS and the Indian churches meant a lot, Houtman said during the ceremony. “We -in the Netherlands- longed for sharing our belongings, materially and theologically, with others. God gave us the opportunity to do this here with you in India. And while we, in our country, are concerned about secularization and church abandonment, we are encouraged by so much and resolute faith here in India, often among people who are disadvantaged in society. In mutual visits -we also used to worship the Lord together- and by Indian students going to Kampen, our spiritual horizon is broadened. Together we experience God’s grace and His greatness all the more.” Houtman also gratefully mentioned the warm memory of the time that his family was included in the PTS community.