The Alexander Von Engelberg, as it was known, was a beautifully designed ship back in the 1950s. “The design and shape of the bridge (wheelhouse) was very modern-looking and different from others which typically looked like telephone boxes,” recalled retired Riverboat Captain Klaas Kattouw (Netherlands), who marvelled at the ship sailing by as a 13-year-old boy. Compared to other vessels on the Rhine, the Alexander Von Engelberg looked stunning. "I said to myself then, that I want to be Captain of this ship."
Today, it is known as the Andante, which is also the first vessel to be used by OM Riverboats for a new ministry with a floating escape room on European waterways. When Captain Klaas first heard about the Riverboats ministry, his heart was immediately moved and he committed himself to serve on it. When he realised the vessel to be used was the same one he remembered fondly from his childhood he was shocked!
“I sent an email to the Project Director of OM Riverboats saying that I have a Captain’s license, and I’m willing to be used for anything on the ship,” said Captain Klaas, who turns 72 in January. A reply came back the next day saying, “That’s exactly what we have been praying for.”
Despite this, there was a problem. Captain Klaas’ license allowed him to sail on most waterways except the Rhine, due to the complexities of the river. To be qualified to sail on the Rhine, he had to take seven written examinations and sail eight voyages upstream and downstream. There was only six months left till the launch of the Riverboats ministry; it seemed impossible.
Captain Klaas tried to seek help from an acquaintance who owns a ship. On learning about the project and its mission, he agreed for Captain Klaas to sail with his ship, enabling him to successfully complete the voyages required. Two days before Christmas in 2017, Captain Klaas received his license in the mailbox, just before he was due to board the Andante. “It’s God’s timing; it’s the best Christmas present I’ve received.”
Captain Klaas carries a huge responsibility over the navigation, safety and security for the vessel and community. Sometimes he wakes up in the middle of the night, thinking about problems on the ship and what he needs to do. On the 2nd of January, the newly-launched OM Riverboat made its maiden voyage from the Dutch port Lelystad to Arnhem, also in his native country, under the leadership of Captain Klaas. Although the job comes with a high amount of stress, Captain Klaas places his trust completely on God.
“I trust that God will give me the strength and the capabilities to do the job,” shared Captain Klaas. “If the Lord asks me to do it, I’m willing to do it.”
Please continue to keep Captain Klaas and the Riverboat community in your prayers as they go from port to port to share the gospel and mobilise churches in the Netherlands, Germany and France. For more information, visit www.om.org/riverboats.