Tuesday, March 21, 2006

3 x 50

I reckon the 21st of March as the birthdate of Zolder50. Thus, if you go by my calculations, our church celebrates its third birthday today.

Of course, I understand that it's problematic to pick a specific day as the official starting point for a project as extensive and involved as starting a new church in central Amsterdam. Do you count from the day that the legal papers for "Stichting GCM Netherlands" were officially drawn up and put on file with the Dutch authorities? Do you count from the day that the first members of the church planting team set foot on Dutch soil? Do you count from the day that we formally took possession of the facilities on the Leidsekade that would one day become "the Zolder?" I suppose there could be reason to consider any of these moments (or any number of other events) as launch dates for our church. But for me, I consider all of these developments as a part of the extended gestation period leading up to 21 March 2003.

I claim this day as our birthday because on 21 March 2003, our church held its first "public" event in the Zolder. An open-house party for anyone and everyone who wanted to come and visit. We had actually organized a number of informal parties and strategic discussions before. We had even been gathering regularly for prayer and Bible study. But the 21st of March that year was different. Perhaps an attitude as much as anything. But I remember that Friday evening as something distinct. The last member of our staff team had just arrived. The third coat of oil on the new oak flooring had just finished drying -- a symbolic as much as practical sealant for the blood, sweat, and tears that had been poured into reconstructing the Zolder space. A short-term missions team from a church in Orlando was in town to help us organize a special "kick-off" event. And for the first time, we made a deliberate effort to put the word out about our "faith community" (even though we didn't have a name -- much less a vaguely descriptive pronoun -- for our church/kerk/community/geloofsgemeenschap, at that point). Starting that Friday evening, we began welcoming strangers as well as friends -- people from the parks and pleins, as well as personal acquaintances. And from that point forward, we've continued welcoming newcomers and old-timers for regular gatherings in the Zolder...

There's so much history -- so much to remember -- from the last three years.

What stands out in your mind? That first Easter Sunday -- being shocked by the number of people that turned out, listening to the resurrection story interlaced through so many different languages? Or that wavery candelabra -- which bathed the Zolder in gentle firelight until the pressing crowds (and the accompanying fire hazard) forced us to extinguish its flame? Or those tears of anger and bitterness in July -- singing "Blessed Be the Name" at an informal gathering in the Zolder with a handful of heartbroken friends? Or that radiant evening of recovery and redirection -- Todd presenting the rose-colored rock that sits on the mantle of the Zolder lounge? Or those heapings of chicken curry -- enjoying gezellige meals with good friends and bizarre strangers? Or that golden September afternoon on the banks of the Nieuwe Meer -- celebrating the baptism of Eline, Leslie Jurren, Renske, Sabrina, and Sokol, and realizing that Zolder50 was here to stay? There's so much history -- so much to remember -- from the last three years.

One of my most poignant memories from those early days is the smell of slightly-burnt microwave popcorn, the rumble of war sounds from the new audio system, the glow of projected images on a bedsheet... Steve owned the boxed set edition of the "Band of Brothers" film series, and he had invited a bunch of us to join him in the Zolder to watch episodes one and two. Jeff was in town, on a visit. And we stoic men were moved to tears by the images of Easy Company training in Toccoa, running together up Currahee, toasting our jump wings, dropping into Normandy, fighting to establish a footing in hostile territory... It was a story that moved us, that resonated deeply with us, that inspired us. Yet I don't remember us ever getting past those first two episodes on the Zolder's "big screen."

In fact, it was several months before I was able to finish watching the last eight episodes of "Band of Brothers." And by then, our day-to-day existence in Amsterdam had already taught us many of the films' lessons. About comraderie and conviction. About casualties and replacements. About courage and perseverance. But for whatever reason, "Band of Brothers" has remained a powerful metaphor for my life and for the young life of Zolder50.

And I'm still so amazed and honored to be a part of the Band of Brothers and Sisters that have made up -- and are making up -- Zolder50. However you reckon the third anniversary of our church's existence, the event is a cause for celebration.

"Van harte gefeliciteerd, Zolder50... en lang zal je leven."


At 11:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so grateful for your blog, for your amazing way with words and your dedication to all that God has laid before you. Just as I told Bret how much his photographs have meant to me as they reflect so much of my life for the past four years, I am also moved and grateful for the words you post. Thanks for reminding me of the birthday/anniversary. Glad to have been part of the Band.


At 1:57 PM, Anonymous Linda Kitchen said...

I agree, Marcey... thanks Eric for the sweet reminder of all God has done! It's a privilege to be a part of the Zolder 50 Band of Brothers and Sisters. I would definitely be up for a celebration... 3 years... and with God at the helm, I believe there will be many, many more... this is His church.

At 12:44 AM, Blogger Emily said...

You know, it has been really cool hearing about what's going on in Amsterdam through our staff team here in Bowling Green. I have also loved seeing you and Elliot online during our staff meetings-you guys are good friends and we love you. Great blog! Emily

At 12:09 AM, Blogger Jay said...

It is a bittersweet celebration. What do the three years mean for the "civilians" left behind in the States? What should a brother, left out of the Band, feel? I rejoice in 3 amazing years, and I am reminded of what 3 years of distance can mean. 3 less annual holidays (birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving). 3 less camping trips. 3 years of sparse voice-to-voice communication (if only I had an international calling plan, right? Thanks for calling today, by the way). 3 years of dreaming that one day maybe we'll work togther somewhere. I miss you, brother.
But the family back home joins in the war. Tire drives, rations, prayer services on VE day, yellow ribbons on the oak trees. Fight hard. Rescue as many as you can. Come back with your shield or on it.

At 10:20 PM, Blogger Eric Asp said...

That's what's so cool about the "Band of Brothers" analogy (although my European pacifist friends tire of the comparison)... The extension of the analogy to the "home front" is also very applicable. The soldiers miss their friends and families, and the friends and families miss their soldiers.

I've also realized how accurately the "Band of Brothers" analogy matches my feelings for my "fallen" comrades, or those who have been reassigned or shipped back home. The memories are nothing but positive, and the comraderie is undiminished by space or time.


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