True Freedom | Rotterdam, The Netherlands
The number of the non-religious is on the rise in the Netherlands, and so is the number of worship buildings being sold. However, In the city which rose from ruin following the aftermath of World War II, hope again is found by those who look for it.Show/Hide Transcript
Peter Leenars: Riding a motorcycle, it’s easier to go through traffic, you’re outside in the wind, and that gives you a feeling of freedom. It became more aggressive. There came a point that my life was on the line. That is the time that I started wondering: “Is it worth it? Is it worth it to lose my life over this?”
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Peter Leenars: I became a member of a motorcycle club when I was 27. The main thing to do was to have fun and enjoy your life as much as you can.
Peter Leenars (Former motorcycle club member)
We travelled all over Europe to visit each other and we would go there and have heavy parties; mostly drink a lot of alcohol. First it was just about riding a motorcycle and that was really nice. It’s a very expensive lifestyle. You need to get money somewhere, so we did criminal things in our lives.
I stayed a member of the motorcycle club until I was 39 years old. There were wars between different motorcycle clubs. And it required for us to start carrying hand weapons and guns. I was starting to think more and more as I was carrying this handgun in the back of my trousers: “Can I rely on the ones who are beside me?” Because if worse comes to worst, are they going to stay with me or are they going to run away? I was starting to feel alone because I could not trust anybody in the club. I started to think, there’s only one solution. “You have to stop. You have to back out.” And that’s what I did.
The moment I left the motorcycle club, I started to feel alone. I had moments that I didn’t know what to do with myself. At that point, I started drinking more and more alcohol. And then, I thought: I was missing something in my life. For me it was difficult to believe in God because I did not know how.
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Pastoral Visit of the Executive Minister
Local Congregation of Rotterdam, Northern Europe
July 7, 2019
Brother Eduardo V. Manalo – Executive Minister of the Iglesia Ni Cristo: The Lord God has good plans for His chosen ones. God told His chosen ones, “I know the plans I have for you.” So, no one among God’s chosen people should be depressed in life because God has good plans for us, His chosen ones. God’s plans are for the good of His servants—His true chosen ones. Though hardship, problems, different troubles come into our life, the Bible says, “Don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job,” or doing nothing. So, God will not leave us to fend for ourselves if we are His chosen servants. Thus, a true servant of God should never loshttps://incmedia.org/faith-vs-love-what-jesus-said-and-why-you-need-both-to-be-saved/e hope. A true servant of God should never give up or surrender his faith. God’s servant should treasure, even more, his election from God.
Peter Leenars: I had a lot of money at that time, so I started to travel and see lots of places in Europe and then later on, the United States and Asia. I decided to travel to Hong Kong to visit that city. I walked into a restaurant to have something to eat, and that is where I met Sister Marjorie. She asked me if I was religious, and I had to tell her, “No, I’m not religious.”
When I was in the Catholic Church, when I would go to a service, the priest is preaching his own words. The things that he is saying, they are not in the Bible. That is also why I didn’t want to go to church anymore. Even though I wasn’t religious, I still believed in God. That made me think why not, why is it not possible for me to also have a religion.
Sister Marjorie started to tell me more about her religion—about the Church Of Christ. Sister Marjorie told me to go to the worship service in the Local Congregation of Dordrecht. At that time, there were about three or four (Church Of Christ) ministers in Europe. The minister who was reading from the Bible, explaining to me the words of God from the Bible, that’s really different to what the Catholics are doing.
There was a point that I had thought that this is getting interesting, this is getting—you know I want to more. I could ask questions: “Why is it like this?” and “Why are you saying that?” And he explained to me, why. It became more clear. The teachings in the Church Of Christ, they are coming from the Bible, not from the minister.
At that moment, I truly found what I was looking for. That is why I decided to go on—to join as a member in the Church Of Christ. The day that I was baptized, I think that was the most beautiful day of my life. When I was submerged in the water, it was like my life started again. That was something that was missing for all my life. That is the true religion: being a member of the Church Of Christ.
Brother Eduardo V. Manalo – Executive Minister of the Iglesia Ni Cristo: Brethren, do you understand that statement of Apostle Paul? He said, not test that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. We’re not the only ones who go through tests or trials. Others do too. The tests we face may be difficult but they’re not beyond the course of what others have had to face. So, the first thing we should think of is that we shouldn’t be surprised that we’re going through tests or trials. It’s natural. We really have to go through tests and trials. When trials come, we should remember that God will never let you down. Brethren, when you are going through trials, we should thank God for it because He wants His plans for us to be revealed, so that when we have reached the highest quality of faith, we can be worthy of receiving the reward that God will give us come Judgment Day. Brethren, if you’re going through trials, first, remember that God will not forsake us. God will give us the strength that we need to overcome those trials. God will not leave our side when we’re going through trials. God allows us to go through trials to prove to ourselves that we’re worthy of reaching the end, that we’re true Church Of Christ members, because our faith is of the highest quality.
Peter Leenars: When I was baptized, I felt that I had to do more than just go to Church. So I started thinking about what I could do to help the Church to grow, and to have more people experience what I have.
Marcel Voshol: We met in the Local Congregation of Dordrecht—Brother Peter and myself.
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Marcel Voshol (Rotterdam Local Congregation)
Brother Peter is also a brother who converted in the Church. I saw the eagerness in Brother Peter.
Peter Leenars: We started to become good friends. I really admired him when he made that step to become a deacon.
Marcel Voshol: He showed me that he was really eager to become a deacon inside the Church.
Peter Leenars: It was required and they wanted me to shave so I started shaving my beard. You cannot have a beard as a deacon. I said, “Okay, no problem. I’ll shave my beard.”
Marcel Voshol: A week after, he came in the worship service with his face shaved, and he said, “Now I’m ready to be a deacon.”
Peter Leenars: The love for the brethren in me, it grew really quick. They really took good care of me. When I became a deacon, I truly did my best to help and to give back what they gave to me. I perform my duty for serving our Lord God and to help Him to help brethren.
I’m a technical engineer in a prison here in Rotterdam. Our government decided to close 29 prisons in The Netherlands. I was bound to lose my job. We were starting to panic because I need a job. I have my family to support. That’s my livelihood. I was 59 years old so it was very difficult to find a new job. After hearing the bad news, I really longed to go to the worship service. Jobs were offered that would make me earn more money, but it would interfere with the worship service, and that is something I cannot do. Even if it would’ve paid more, it’s not worth it to me. So, we would have more money but I cannot worship God? That’s not for me. I would not feel complete if I miss a worship service. There are family members who would say to me, “Why are you going two times a week to Church?” “Because I want to; because I want to listen to the words of God,” but they say that it’s wasted time. There is not time wasted when you are with God. Because when I listen to the words of God, it inspires me. It gives me strength.
Brother Eduardo V. Manalo – Executive Minister of the Iglesia Ni Cristo: The best opportunity for us to draw near to God and ask Him for us to draw near to God and ask Him for help is during the worship service. Did you hear what the Bible said? “In the place of worship, in GOD’s house.” What is God’s house? It is the house of worship. That’s why we told you earlier, no Church Of Christ member should feel depressed. Yes, in this life there really is sadness. There are troubles. There are problems. There are trials. But when God is with us in our life, when we have proven to God the high quality of our faith, when we have not given up our services to God, we can also say what God’s servant said: “Relax and rest.” Because God will shower you with all His blessings. So, now we know what to do when there are trials: we should not give up or feel hopeless. We should not leave the Church. We should benefit from our membership in the Church Of Christ. How can we do that? We should not stop attending our worship services. We should be even more dedicated to the worship services. In fact, even if it’s not a day for worship service, you can enter the house of worship or any place where you hold worship services so you can draw near to our Lord God and ask for help. And God will help you because that is God’s promise to His chosen ones.
Peter Leenars: When they closed down the 29 prisons, days later, we had a worship service; and what was taught was “Always pray to God.” That’s our tool and that is what I used to overcome this difficult period. Me and my family we always have devotional prayers every night to ask for the things that we need in our lives. Suddenly, out of nowhere, there came a job offer in a prison here in Rotterdam. The same job that I was doing in the prison in Breda. So, they talked to me, and without further asking me things, they hired me. In my eyes, getting a new job was a miracle to me.
When I prayed in the Catholic Church, no, I did not feel anything. There’s a big difference now. When I pray to God, I feel that my prayers are being heard. Now that I’m a member of the Church Of Christ, whenever there’s something wrong, I can call on our Father in heaven.
When we received the news that the chapel that we are now rebuilding was bought, we were all so happy. Even though we had the contractors who did most of the work, all the brethren are here since the beginning to help renovating this chapel into what is has become now. Before, when there were no chapels in The Netherlands, we would rent a chapel, we can only be there for two days a week. That’s a reason why many brethren want their own chapel: because every day, we can go inside to worship our Father in heaven.
Brother Eduardo V. Manalo – Executive Minister of the Iglesia Ni Cristo: I’m calling on the youth in the Church. Dear brethren, may you hear this: I want you to be saved also on Judgment Day. We might enjoy much the company of our friends and acquaintances. Brethren, but if your friends tell you to do something wrong, don’t do it. Don’t allow yourselves to be led away from our Lord God. Brethren, never mind being not close to your friends. Brethren, just don’t be far from God. Otherwise, what kind of future will you have? How will God’s plans for your good be fulfilled? God wants us to have a bright future and a good hope. That’s why the Bible said to us, we should stop doing wrong. The first thing we should do is abandon sin. Don’t allow ourselves to fall into sin so the curse of our Lord God will not come into our life. Brethren, do we want to be forgiven of our sins? God tells us, that even if He sends plagues to this world, God says, “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face, turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.”
Marcel Voshol: What we can see in the youth who are not members of the Church Of Christ is that they are losing their interest in worshipping God, not interested in going to Church. The proof that many are not believing in God anymore is that many churches are closing down. It’s quite contrary to the brethren and the youth in the Church Of Christ. Inside the Church Of Christ, you can see victory upon victory.
Justin Voshol (Brother Marcel’s Son): The Netherlands is a free country, so the people of this world, when they have problems, they turn to their friends or they take their own advice, go with their own feeling. But when we have problems, members of the Church Of Christ, we turn to God, we go to the worship service. Even if there’s no worship service, we can still go to the chapel and pray to God.
Peter Leenars: And that’s really true freedom because in the time that I was a biker, and that I was roaming around Europe getting drunk and having parties, that might have felt like freedom, but it was not freedom. My life changed around. It became much better. If I hadn’t found the Church, which I’m now a member of, I wouldn’t be as happy as I am now. As a member of the Church, I have so many brothers and sisters who are really there for me when I need them. It’s truly a blessing. No, I didn’t have that before.What our Brother Eduardo V. Manalo is doing, travelling all over the world to visit the brethren, that’s amazing. I’ve traveled before a lot, and traveling is very tiring. I know that Brother Eduardo has only one goal, he wants to strengthen the faith of the brethren all over the world. It’s a blessing from our Father in heaven. I believe that God is with the Church, otherwise this Church would not grow. This Church is growing so fast that it’s unbelievable. It only shows that we are the true religion. I pray to God in heaven, “Thank You for giving us this beautiful chapel, for giving us this beautiful opportunity. I promise to find more people in this part of the world, to fill up this chapel to join us in our holy Church.”