Hans Bouwman, Japan - 10 - Holland

10 - Holland—A New Sphere of Labour
While engaged in our missionary work in Japan, we experienced an unexpected ‘Macedonian Call’ toward the end of 1985. Elders from some of the Dutch and Belgian assemblies had requested, “Come over and help us”. Their reasoning was: “You have given more than 30 years of your life for the Lord’s work in Japan, can’t you give us your help for even a few years in the Lord’s work in the Netherlands and Belgium? We are in need of help.” Since our roots were well established in ‘the Land of the Rising Sun’, and as we were blessed and encouraged in the Lord’s work, it was not an easy decision to make. We took it before the Lord in prayer and also used the opportunity to bring it to the attention of our commending assemblies. We were pleased to have their full understanding in our decision to move from Japan to Holland.
There were difficult moments saying ‘sayonara’ to the dear Japanese believers. Though we left Japan with tears in our eyes, we did not doubt the Lord’s guidance to serve Him in a new sphere of responsibility. In reviewing more than thirty years of missionary work in ‘the Land of the Rising Sun’, we could only utter words of thanksgiving unto Him who granted us these many years to live and to work among the Japanese.

lou swaan

As missionaries in Holland, with Mr. and Mrs. Lou Swaan

tent meetings holland

Workers together in tent meetings.  "God is calling you"  "God is looking for you"

When we arrived in Holland we were welcomed by our co¬workers Lou and Trudi Swaan, who were at that time the only full-time workers in the Dutch assemblies. We came to Holland with only our personal belongings. When we had decided on our place of living, the burden was upon us to furnish the house. It happened that twelve days prior to our move, my mother went to be with the Lord at the age of nearly 96. Among the relatives it was decided that we could make use of her furniture and other belongings and when the day came to move into our new home it was furnished in a matter of a few hours. My mother possessed some nice things and we are thankful to enjoy them in remembrance of her.

The Great Need

Being back in Holland I could not help but think of the early years of my life, when Mr. Peter Wilson was preaching the Gospel in many areas of Holland and Belgium, this had resulted in much fruit. Many people were saved, amongst them my own parents. What a zealous endeavour in the Gospel through a preacher from Scotland! I always remain thankful to the Lord for sending His servant to Holland. Now I am here with the same task: to preach the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Though the message is the same, conditions have changed drastically. Life in the earlier days was very simple and there were many poor people. Spiritually, however, things looked bright. Nowadays Holland is a prosperous and materialistic country, but spiritually very poor. The Bible is no longer recognized as the Word of God. Due to a tolerant attitude people do not discriminate between religions and consequently all kinds of Eastern religions and occult powers are on the increase. Furthermore, churches in Holland have always been strongly influenced by Calvinistic teaching, and for that reason alone it is not an easy field for the Gospel. Today, even those churches are influenced by modern interpretations of the Bible which deny the basic doctrines of the faith. A well-known Church organization has discarded the first eleven chapters of Genesis as being fictitious. Morally the country is in bad shape. The laws are lenient, especially in view of the drug trade and its abuses. Soft drugs are partly legal. Amsterdam is the biggest drug centre for the whole of Europe. Even border cities are terrorized by drug users from Germany and Belgium. In the big cities there are churches which open their doors to distribute clean needles for drug addicts and even provide drugs. This apparently is their ‘missionary work’.

Opportunities Granted

In the midst of much decline we remain thankful for assemblies which desire to keep up a good testimony for the Lord’s Name. It is important to give recognition to the authority of God’s Word, weak though the testimony may be. In this new sphere of labour, as I work together with Mr. Lou Swaan, we try to be a help not only to assemblies in Holland but also to a few Dutch-speaking assemblies in Belgium. Of late I was able to
preach the Gospel in tent meetings in Switzerland as well. The Lord will bless every effort to make Christ known to a lost world and the ministry to build up testimonies for His Name. How good to see the Lord’s hand in blessing on His work in the different countries!

Shortly after our return to Holland we were burdened about Christians who were once in fellowship, but had left the assembly for one reason or another. We tried to give our attention to them by paying them a visit. We heard about an old brother living in Zeist. In my childhood days this family was living across the street from us, and I remembered that Mr. van der Akker was in the assembly where Mr. Peter Wilson was living. We visited this old man and started to talk about old times. I asked him how he got saved and it was such a good testimony to listen to. “What about baptism after you got saved?”, was my next question. And again we heard in detail the event of his baptism. “And what about coming into the fellowship of the assembly?”, was the next subject. We so much enjoyed hearing about his zeal and dedication to the Lord. He told us how he was taken along by Peter Wilson to preach the Gospel in different areas in Holland. What a life filled with joy in serving the Master! After hearing about the happy times of the past, I suddenly put the reality of the present before him. “Brother, what a blessing to hear about your life in past years, but what about NOW?” He knew what I meant and he looked at me, while he uttered: “Yes, what about now? I know I should be in assembly fellowship”. Under much pressure from his first wife, who never was in the assembly, he had left the fellowship about 50 years previously. Since then he had not been happy. We opened the Scriptures and read verses concerning God’s grace in restoration. We prayed together and we left him. What a joy to see him the next Lord’s day coming out to the meeting! There he sat in the back seat with tears in his eyes. It was not long before he was received into the fellowship of the assembly. He enjoyed this fellowship for only a short time, then the Lord took him to be with Himself. What a great privilege to be taken Home while in assembly fellowship! Whichever way you look at it, it remains a great spiritual loss not to be in a local assembly! During the first year of our stay in Holland we saw several Christians restored to the assembly. What marvellous grace revealed in a work of restoration!

missionary report

A missionary report meeting.

Publication Work
Another activity we took upon ourselves was the publication of an assembly magazine and books. This work requires a lot of our time, but we feel the blessed effect in so many ways. With a deep sense of gratitude we were able to publish four books, these are available in the Christian bookstores in Holland and Belgium. The computer is quite a handy tool in this work. When I acquired one the friendly salesman told me to exercise patience in learning how to use it. “It could happen, that you will be so frustrated, you may want to open the window and throw the computer out”, so were his words of warning. At times I expected the computer to solve a certain problem, so I used the handy key for ‘help’, but—there was no help! There is another key, called ‘esc’, which is used when you want to escape a problem, but—there was no escape! Whatever I tried there was no solution to the problem. I did look at the window, but did not open it. “Practice makes perfect” is the saying and though I am not an expert yet, I am thankful for this helpful tool in the publishing work and could not do without it.
The Lord has His servants in the different countries, but the need remains so great. The continent from which the Gospel was once carried into the dark places all over the world has become a mission field itself. “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He would send forth labourers into His harvest” (Luke 10:2).