Author: Judah Jacobson

Netherlands

We stepped off the plane on a chilly Wednesday morning in the Netherlands. Despite the cold, windy weather, so unlike sunny South Africa, trees adorned with pink and white blossoms stood tall against the grey sky, their beauty accentuated by rows of yellow daffodils and the occasional bold tulip. The air was filled with the sweet smells of blossoms, a promise that springtime was around the corner.

Leiden, a town steeped in history, has a unique story. When Brother Daniel Anz and his family arrived here a couple of months ago, they discovered their accommodations were across the street from the home of philosopher Baruch Spinoza from the 1600s—a man ahead of his times with his avant-garde enlightenment speculations. He was expelled from the Amsterdam Synagogue. He believed that the Bible was a human creation and that reality was monolithic, with God essentially identical to the universe. According to Spinoza, ethics and morals were not inherent in creation but were merely human inventions. He believed that the ultimate goal in life was to pursue one’s own desires and interests. His ideas were considered controversial, and for over a century, people refrained from openly discussing his writings or even acknowledging reading them. Nonetheless, his influence was far-reaching and pivotal in bringing about today’s utterly secular society, where God is relegated to the realm of fantasy.

Leiden was also the temporary home of the English Separatists, known commonly as the Pilgrims, who fled England in search of religious freedom. The town’s multicultural atmosphere of tolerance made the religious zealots fear they were losing the battle against assimilation into the surrounding culture. This drove them to leave Europe and confront the challenges of the New World to establish the first community settlement in present-day Massachusetts.

So, Holland served historically as a refuge for dissidents and refugees, including Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal, Anabaptists, apostate philosophers, and dissidents who challenged the established order in religion, philosophy, and politics, generally in a more secular direction. Hundreds of years later, here on the outskirts of this same town, a group of seekers assembled in a former chapel originally part of a now-abandoned Air Force base. Christians from Italy, France, Cameroon, India, Belgium, and around the Netherlands gathered to seek answers for their churches and families. God’s grace has met us in each of these gatherings. 

Brother Asi and Brother Dan opened the conference with the call and promise of Nehemiah. In their first two seminars, the brothers exposed the church’s utter spiritual dilapidation in Europe juxtaposed against the promise of a restored spiritual temple. Indeed, the similarities between the ravaged state of Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s time and the church’s desolation in this land are abundant. Its “walls” have been torn down, its “gates” burned with fire, and the glory of God—formerly shining from faithful saints like the Ten Booms—has wholly departed. Yet the kingdom of heaven is being preached once again for those who are dissatisfied with their powerlessness. To those who sit in darkness, a light has dawned. 

The next day, brothers Daniel, Asi, and Dan led a joint-session discussion on the essence of the Gospel and how we can follow it through repentance, immersion in Jesus’ name, and in the Holy Spirit. The gathering included members from different backgrounds like local leaders and followers of the “Last Reformation,” Dutch Reformed Church members who had never experienced the Spirit, Pentecostals, Anglicans, and new believers who had never read the Bible. Despite the diversity, the opening discussion provided a sufficient framework to start incorporating the specifics and move together toward a unified direction. After lunch, the brothers assumed the Q&A format that allowed folks to ask every conceivable question for the remainder of the afternoon. One gentleman disagreed with our discourse on gender-specific hair patterns. He paid close attention as Brother Asi presented our church’s teachings on the subject, but he countered with his own argument. The brothers responded patiently, but he remained unconvinced. Later on, he repeated his argument privately. Although he didn’t totally agree with the discussion, he was starting to open his heart to the clear scriptural implications he was encountering.

Saturday evening began with glorious praise as the worship leaders exalted the goodness and power of God in song. Many broken lights poorly lit the old building, but the glory of God shone brighter and brighter from the very first notes to the end. Members of the body from the US began sharing concise words of direction and encouragement, one building upon the other until there was a growing sense of momentous faith. Brother Daniel recounted the faith of the Pilgrims. Determined to surpass the limitations of the old world, they embarked on a treacherous four-month journey on a sailing vessel, where even standing upright in the hold was impossible. Despite dangers, sickness, and death at sea, they prevailed—only to lose half their numbers in the first year, but they refused to accept the status quo in Europe, which they believed would lead to spiritual death. 

Brother Asi shared a faith-building message, emphasizing that our perspective limits us to seeing only what seems possible within our own experiences. But God’s word crashes into our plausibility structures with a new reality that demands a leap of faith. He recounted the story of Elijah and the end of a three-year drought. Following a victorious confrontation with the prophets of Baal, Elijah told King Ahab that he could hear the sound of an abundance of rain (but only through ears of faith). While Ahab celebrated, Elijah prayed; he had to fight for the miracle in his ears. Despite repeated reports from his servant that no rain was in sight, Elijah persisted—until the seventh time, when a small cloud appeared, prompting Elijah to warn Ahab of the impending rain. Empowered by indomitable faith, Elijah, who had already spent the day in intense spiritual warfare, outran Ahab’s chariot to Jezreel. 

“Europe,” Brother Asi said, “already has a cloud the size of a man’s hand in the sky. But if we listen with ears of faith, we can hear the sound of an abundance of rain. If we act with the faith and determination of Elijah, that which seems small—no larger than a man’s fist—will grow into a storm of grace, revival, and renewal. This will end the drought and give birth to God’s purpose on a whole new level in this place.”

Brother Asi invited those seeking prayer to come forward. Nearly a quarter of the attendees filed to the front for prayer. Two individuals from France were filled with the Spirit, and many others made pivotal commitments.

On Sunday, we held our final meeting, rich in worship, sharing, and exhortation. Brother Bob Timmermans passionately spoke about his dedication to serving the Lord in the Netherlands in any capacity possible. Tony, our Finnish brother, explained his loneliness in Finland while striving to maintain his faith. He and his son have committed to eschewing worldly influences. With fervent emotion, he declared, “If I am the last man standing, I will uphold the standard for my family! Regardless of how you respond to this week’s message, I value it deeply and am eager to contribute to the work God will initiate in Finland.” Many echoed his sentiments of devotion and belief.

At this same time, a man who was formerly a house church leader and previously critical of certain discussions experienced a transformative dream on Saturday night. Convinced by the dream that he was mistaken and that the Texan group was the answer to his prayers, he apologized to Brother Yosef and plans to attend our Texas conference in May.

Please keep these earnest individuals in your prayers. Many face isolation and are still searching for God’s definitive plan for their unity. In numerous European countries, the legal constraints on homeschooling and alternative child-rearing practices pose significant obstacles. Yet, despite these challenges, the oppressive gloom of winter seems to be giving way to the promise of spring and the prospect of new beginnings. May this season of renewal flourish and yield abundant fruit. May God build His church—yes, even in Europe!

—Judah

Egypt

We held our first ministry sessions here in Minya, Egypt, yesterday.

The majority of attendees are from this area. Many of them are related to one another, and their deep familial bonds are evidenced by their warmth and camaraderie towards each other. Many come from a “churched” background, and it is striking to see the same people who interact so vivaciously with one another become stoic once “church” begins. Their worship is filled with Arabic flutes, accordions, and tones unfamiliar to our Western experience, yet beautiful.

After introductions, Brother Asi spoke on repentance as the foundation for the kingdom of God. He reiterated that the church cannot be unified until each “demi-king of self” is removed from the throne and God is allowed to be king over every area of life. 

This setting reframes the whole context of often-used metaphors equating the “world” with “Egypt“ or Satan with the magicians who opposed Moses. It’s a different matter to talk about those historical events while sitting in the very context where they unfolded, among the people who still bear that name. 

Later, Brother Dan spoke about two ways of approaching God: a loving, father-to-son relationship versus analytical observation. He drew heavily from the story of Paul at the Areopagus, highlighting the wrong type of religiosity. He contrasted that with the story of the disciples on their way to Emmaus and their encounter with the Lord, marked by their hearts burning within them. Both sessions prompted a time of boisterous questions, which stand out in marked contrast to the response to worship or to the word of God.

After a break, we convened for a time of worship with a large contingent of youth ages 17-30. Brother Teb shared a moving account of his testimony, illustrating the power of God to accomplish what no degree of human effort can do. Several people testified of the impact it had on them, and it also prompted a time of questions. Although these young folks look identical to any Westerners, they are corralled by the Egyptian Islamic culture around them. Alcohol and drugs of any kind are not available in these parts (although smuggling certainly exists), so their demeanor can be misleading in that they look worldly yet have a smug self-righteousness due to their churched background and the greater Islamic influences around them. That said, they were overjoyed to meet this many foreigners and basically suffocated us in their greetings and well-wishes. You cannot help but love these people.

In a moment, our second day of ministry begins. Please continue to pray for God’s grace, anointing, and insight to pierce the strongholds of Satan and prepare the way for God’s kingdom. May it come, Lord, even now!

With love,

Judah