The vision of using the natural transport medium of waterways to connect followers of Jesus to those who have yet to hear the Good News is well established in OM. After all, OM ships have been around for decades now. And OMers have been travelling the globe for over 60 years, one way or another.
As Ray Strong*, Director of the Riverboat Project puts it: “OM workers have travelled across Europe in trucks, vans and many other modes of transport, but they’ve never sailed the rivers. It’s about time!”
So, on Friday, 23rd June 2017, the Andante, a pretty riverboat cruiser, was contracted to sail to ports within Europe for the first three months of 2018 – confirming the reality of the months and years of planning, praying and proposing.
Peter Nicoll, a well-seasoned OM Ships Director, and Andy Juliff of OM Ships, are already firmly integrated into the Riverboat team bringing their expertise and understanding of what it takes to bring the gospel to ports. But that’s not all – there was further evidence of God gathering His people together when Klaas Kattouw, who had always wanted to sail with OM Ships and has long been an enthusiastic OM supporter, volunteered as temporary captain. Not only is he well-known to the Andante’s owner, but Klaas has all the necessary experience and skill to navigate rivers – undoubtedly, a divine plan merging.
Klaas was born into a family who lived on ships sailing the rivers and canals of Europe. As a young man, after returning from military service, he worked for many years in a Dutch government department concerned with waterways and buildings. When he retired, he decided to study theology, and in his local church heard through an OMer, Sandra, of the Riverboat Project.
Excited, he contacted his local OM office, informing them that he had the necessary qualifications and would love to serve onboard. He was even more thrilled to note that it was the Andante he would be sailing.
“I remembered the boat from my youth as the 'Alexander von Engelberg', the last new-built tugboat on the Rhine!”
Klaas is currently sailing regularly to Mannheim, Karlsruhe and Strasbourg, as part of his preparations to enable him to obtain the special licence that will authorise him to navigate the Rhine when he captains the Andante in December. “I am very eager to serve on the riverboat and looking forward to what will happen,” he said.
As the Riverboat project continues to build momentum, the team continues to ask God to put together a whole range of people – from crew, to local Christian supporters, to prayer partners and financial co-committers – to bless the communities of Europe and change their spiritual post-modern outlook for future generations to come.
*name changed to protect identity
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