THE HISTORY OF THE CHURCH OF GOD IN THE NETHERLANDS, 1965-2007
The Church of God was first established in the Netherlands in 1965. There were two small congregations under the leadership of the indigenous pastor, Reverend Max Boelen. Later, Max was assisted by his son Edward. At the same time, tens of thousands of Indo-Dutch citizens were migrating back to the Netherlands. The reason for the migration was simple: they were no longer welcome in the former colony (in 1949, Indonesia had become independent from its former colonial master).
This was in spite of the fact that many of them were only partly Dutch, and some couldscarcely be distinguished from their Indonesian neighbors. Among these were Dr. S.K. The, H.V. Tombeng and G.H. de Leau, Each of them came to pastor a church in the Netherlands largely consisting of Indo-Dutch immigrants. Spiritually, they considered themselves to be part of the Gereja Bethel Indonesia (Church of God in Indonesia), which had amalgamated with the Church of God on February 5, 1967 (in fact, Dr. The was assistant overseer in Indonesia at that time).2 All considered Dr. Ho L. Senduk, the overseer of Gereja Bethel Indonesia, to be their spiritual head, even though the Indonesian church was many thousands of miles away.
But from a legal point of view, they needed some form of recognition from the Dutch government. Therefore, on 5 August, 1975, the three founding pastors and Dr. Ho L. Senduk,were registered as a denomination called “Volle Evangelie Bethel Kerk” (Full Gospel Bethel Church) with the Dutch Ministry of Justice (hereinafter called VEBK). Although they were well aware that the Gereja Bethel Indonesia had amalgamated with the Church of God, there was initially very little contact with Brother Boelen or the European Church of God. This changed in the late 1970s, when Dr. The began communicating with the European Superintendent of the Church of God, Lambert DeLong.
The relationship developed further, when In 1980, Christian Swift became a teacher at theChurch of God European Bible Seminary in Germany. Because he spoke Dutch, from spending almost half of his first 16 years of life in the Netherlands, he and brother DeLong ministered in the Netherlands on numerous occasions and made further acquaintance with the Dutch churches. The original three churches in 1975, i.e., Vlaardingen (Dr. S.K. The), Deventer (G.H. de Leau) and Amersfoort (H.V. Tombeng), had increased by another six, to include Almelo (Alex Remy), Hengelo (Hans Krijgsman), Groningen (E.R. Messak), Drachten (T. Brust), Tilburg (W. Stollé) and Weert (John Lataster).
The Benelux economic union (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) was established during World War II and further refined in 1958. It was one of the precursors to the European Union. Since World War II, many ethnic groups have come to the Netherlands to live. Not only the Indo-Dutch, but also the people of the former colonies of Surinam and the Netherlands Antilles. Guest workers came from Morocco and Turkey as well, many bringing their Islamic faith and erecting mosques. As a result, the major cities of the Netherlands are a potpourri of cultures and religions.
In 1982, the by then nine VEBK churches became united with the Church of God in a solemnceremony at the De Bron conference center in the Netherlands, attended by the EuropeanSuperintendent. A special greeting and prayer was offered by telephone, by Reverend Jim
McClain, the Church of God Director of World Missions. To further cement the new relationship, between 1984 and 1993, brother Swift was appointed by the Church of God world missions board to serve as a missionary teacher of the VEBK Church of God in the Netherlands. During this time, he and Dr. The founded six distance learning centers where European Bible seminary extension courses were offered. After 1993, various pastors served faithfully and with distinction as representatives of the VEBK Church of God in the Netherlands, such as Reverend Bert Philippi and Reverend Fred Steinfort. They also became ordained bishops in the Church of God.
During the years 1993 to 2007, various churches left the VEBK Church of God, but othersjoined, such as two new churches in Rotterdam and Amsterdam composed largely of Africanimmigrants under the leadership of Bishop Edwin Amoah, and a Filipino immigrant church inRotterdam under Reverend Andre Canlas, a graduate of the Church of God EuropeanTheological Seminary. In 1996, brother Swift came back to Europe to assist the Church of God in Belgium with the MIP course, but also began to minister again in the Netherlands. In 1998, he was appointed Benelux Church of God education director and was later joined by Reverend Dennis Tanner, who was appointed Benelux Church of God urban ministries coordinator, especially focusing on new English-language immigrant people groups, such as the Africans and Filipinos.
Uitgeverij Kok, 2007, p. 214. The statistical table further shows that of the 120,000Pentecostals, 11,155 belong to immigrant groups dispersed throughout 114 denominationalchurches. Another 11,395 are dispersed among 173 nondenominational/independentchurches.
The current overseer of the VEBK Church of God, Reverend John Lataster, was installed in his office by the Reverend Dr. Larry Hess, field director of the Church of God in Western Europe and the Middle East, on 31 August 2007.
According to the recent book by Cees and Paul van der Laan, “Toen de kracht Gods op mij viel,” (which translates into English as“When the Power of God Fell on Me”), Brother Lataster assumes leadership of 10 local churches totaling 750 members. They are part of a total of 900 Pentecostal churches in the Netherlands today, comprising 120,000 members.7 Since the total population of the Netherlands numbers over 16 million, it is easy to see that the harvest field is vast. There is only one Pentecostal to witness to every 133 Dutch citizens.
The following is excerpted from an article later published on the Internet by @MISSIONS:“Brother Lataster comes to his new office with a wealth of ministerial experience. He pastored for 16 years in the Netherlands at the Weert VEBK Church of God. He later served for five years as an evangelist based at the Trinity Chapel Church of God, located nearAtlanta, Georgia, under the leadership of Dr. Jim Bolin.
In December 2005, he returned to the Netherlands as a Church of God missionary evangelist to plant the Trinity Chapel Tilburg, where he now pastors. Brother Lataster’s ministry has long been characterized by a strong sense of calling and vision and a passion for souls, as well as signs and wonders following. In recent times, God gave him a clear vision for the harvest not only in Tilburg, but for the Netherlands as well. This vision for souls is rooted in the Word of God and in faith. Faith that nothing is impossible with God and that the Netherlands can and will be won for Christ. Evidence for this can be found in his own church in Tilburg, where many souls have been saved and God has done many miracles of healing, deliverance and blessing in the lives of this new congregation and in the new churches that are being planted in various parts of the Netherlands.
Brother Lataster’s vision of strong, soul-winning churches is in perfect harmony with the vision of field director Dr. Larry Hess. Special seminars are being planned by Dr. Hess and by me, in consultation with Brother Lataster, to further equip the Netherlands pastors with leadership skills in 2008. We rejoice in what God is doing in the Netherlands and ask for prayer that many more souls will be won for the harvest in this strategic country, where many believe a great revival will originate that will one day encompass all of Western Europe.”