About 30 pastors and church leaders from three continents participated from 8 to 22 May in the International Conference organized by Verre Naasten, the Theological University of Kampen and university college Viaa in Zwolle, where the conference took place. The participants studied the theme ‘Resident Aliens: how can churches contribute to the wellbeing of their society?’ The conference members were accommodated at host families in Zwolle. This made it possible to closely experience how things are going in a Dutch family and in Dutch society. It also gave a nice insight into what it is like being a Christian in the Netherlands.
The conference participants indicated afterwards that they greatly appreciated the hospitality of the host families. During the conference weeks warm mutual contacts developed. Living together intensively for two weeks has a huge impact on your life. Lennart and Salomé Jonker opened their doors for Rorgers Henry Pianaro from Brazil. Lennart says: “We wanted to offer Rorgers a warm home, where he could relax after his intensive conference days. I found it quite exciting to open our house to someone we did not even know. But after a few days it was as if we knew each other for years. We experienced that we have a shared base in Christ. That quickly creates a bond!” Rorgers replied that he was very grateful to his host family and felt welcome and at home. He says: “I have seen God being present in their lives and it was nice to witness the love and respect between Lennart and Salomé.”
Besides days with lectures and workshops, there was also time for outings during the conference. For example, to The Hague, to the parliament buildings and a local church planting project. Then there was a symposium on the theme ‘Resident Aliens’, which was visited by dozens of pastors, students and interested parties. Furthermore, on Sunday 12 and 19 May nearly 50 special mission church services took place throughout the Netherlands. Conference participants preached during the services and there was room to talk and eat. “We look back on a lot of beautiful and inspiring church services, in which Gods worldwide church was strongly felt!”, says Jan-Matthijs van Leeuwen, program manager at Verre Naasten and coordinator of the conference.