So Tim, Brad and I made it back from Amsterdam. Wow. It is amazingly difficult to summarize the experience. We encountered so many different things. I expected to see a lot more blatent immorality than I did, ie public marijuana smoking, prostitution, drunkeness and the like. But really, it wan’t what I imagined. Apparently, while legal, you can only smoke marijuana in the “coffee bars” or at home – not out in public. I was suprised as well when some sort law enforcement officers made three young ladies dispose of the beer that they were attempting to consume in Daam Square.
In general, Amsterdam felt like being in a very busy theme park everyday – people everywhere and plenty to do. It felt safe, was generally clean, and just a nice place to visit.
But (there’s always a “but”, right?), besides being a great place to be a tourist, it was a really sad experience for me. What sadden me was to discover that this appears to be a culture that simply believes it is beyond God. It seems that the general attitude toward the idea of God is “we’ve been there, done that. We have all we need. God is a thing of the past and a detriment to society.”
Case in point, Suzie. Suzie is a native of Holland. She moved to Amsterdam for school. She met some friends who happened to be Christian. She thought they were nice people and even started to attend church with them. She came from a completely secular home, none of her family believed in God. Over the course of several years and events, Suzie continued to explore the concept of God and Christianity and eventually came to the point of believing in the Bible message. I asked her, “What does your family think of your faith?” Sadly, her father, mother, and sister all reject and disapprove of her faith decision. They actually viewed as a step backward for her to embrace the values of following Christ. Her father was perplexed that she would believe the stories of the Bible opposed to today’s scientific/secular faith system. Sadly, her father passed away last year.
Apparently Suzie’s story is not unique. As I walked the streets, my heart broke as I looked at children and young people who have no one who is sharing with them that there is a God who created and loves them. Their parent’s generation has turned away from God and they are not given the opportunity to hear the story of the good news of God’s love.
There is a great need in Amsterdam. While Amsterdam doesn’t have the obvious physical needs (poverty, disease, etc.) of third world nations that we could meet, the spirtual needs of Amsterdam are perhaps greater. It is imperative that the current and next generations of Holland have the opportunity to hear the message of God’s love once again. Over the next three years, The Bridge will partner with Christ-followers in Amsterdam with the aim of establishing a new faith community that will continue to shine the light of God’s love in a very dark place.