Why did a group of Dutch Christians worship Jesus and pray together on a wintry public square in front of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Sunday?
They did it for Israel – and for Christians in South Africa, explained Wim Hoddenbagh, preacher and founder of Dutch outdoor worship and evangelism ministry, Presence.
Asked by Gateway News about their moving ministry in front of the iconic Peace Palace where the ICJ will tomorrow hand down a provisional ruling on South Africa’s genocide case against Israel, he said they were there in obedience to God’s call to stand with His people, Israel. And they were there on behalf of millions of Jesus-followers in SA who oppose their government’s “lawfare” against Israel but are not able to physically take a stand in front of the ICJ themselves.
During our conversation, I learned that as long ago as 2008, while working as a government advisor in The Hague, Wim preached regularly in various churches. But in 2015 he left his political career in obedience to a call from the Lord to focus on ministry full time.‘
In 2018 Wim and his wife, Gea, started Presence, initially around the goal of evangelism. During the Covid pandemic God called them to go out onto the streets and since then they have been organising worship events on public squares – first in the cities and towns of Holland and later in other European countries.
“The way we do it is very simple. It’s just going to the streets, proclaiming the name of Jesus and praying for our nation and for the world and for Israel in particular,” he said.
Wim said they did encounter opposition – especially from woke, liberals, who spat on them, screamed at them and mocked them. “But the Lord gives us grace to always stay focused.”
Their flexible team includes worshipers, intercessors and evangelists. “And sometimes hundreds of souls are saved [as they worship on the street]. But we never talk about that because it’s not in the numbers, it’s about the glory of God. When the glory of God appears in a place anything can happen.” he said.
Along the way the Holy Spirit has been full of surprises and new strategies. He said they should minister in places of influence. He told them to go international, and then showed them how they could use live streaming as a tool to reach nations. He also prompted them to stream live English translations of their Dutch preaching. They were in awe of God when their outreaches were viewed by hundreds of thousands of people – once by over a million. And they were encouraged by positive comments from believers all over the world who were inspired by their ministry.
To Wim’s surprise, after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, the Lord said: “Stop the worship outreaches and pray for Israel and I will give you the souls as well.”
On October 9 while the team was in Athens they were approached by a group of Israeli teenagers who were stranded in Greece because flights to Israel were cancelled after the Hamas massacre.
“We were not preaching at the time. We were just standing on the streets. And they came to us and said: ‘There is something with you with you guys. Please tell us about it?’
“I think they recognised the Holy Spirit in us. So we told them about Yeshua [Jesus] and then after that they said: ‘Why didn’t anyone tell us about it in Israel? Why did we have to come to Athens to hear this for the first time?’
“And two of them said ‘yes’ to Jesus and the others did not, but they heard the Gospel and they rejoiced in it,” said Wim.
Wim said he loves South Africa which he has visited several times representing an international men’s ministry which has a branch in SA. His grandmother had South African connections and used to talk fondly about the country. And a South African, Gerard Nel, serves on his ministry team as a photographer.
“I used to pray for South Africa all the time but in recent years had not prayed as much. But since the South African government went to the ICJ I started to pray for South Africa again,” he said.
And last Sunday as he and his team took a stand in front of the Peace Palacel, God surprised him again.
While they were preparing the venue before the event a man approached him.
“He said: ‘Thank you for standing in the gap for Israel.’ And then he started to talk about his involvement in Israel, and he said he had been walking seven times around the ICJ that morning, and then he saw us, preparing. He thought, well, maybe it’s another Palestinian demonstration.
“But then he recognised me and he was delighted and he was the [Dutch] chairman of the International Embassy in Jerusalem.(ICEJ)”
Wim invited the ICEJ chairman, Jacob Keegstra, to address the gathering – and the YouTube audience, which is over 115 000 views at the time of posting this report.
In his message, Jacob shared how, during the Feast of Tabernacles celebration in Israel last year he had visited a kibbutz near the Gaza border together with a thousand Christians. They met the mayor and had lunch with many of the local people. Two days later, on October 7, many of the people they had dined with were among the 1 200 people brutally murdered by Hamas attackers.
He compared the prayer of the gathered Christians for Israel at a time when antisemitism is rising to Aaron and Hur holding up the arms of Moses as the ancient Israelites fought the Amalekites as recounted in Exodus chapter 17.
Wim told Gateway News that the second God surprise was how deeply moved he became as he knelt in prayer for Israel. He said he cried like a baby, then preached with passion about how biblical giants like Paul and Moses had given their lives for Israel.
“After that we started to sing the song Zion by Aaron Shust. And I couldn’t stop crying for Israel – and also for the Jews to turn their eyes on Jesus. And since that moment, that feeling of faith for the conversion of all Israel, like Paul talks about, has not left me. So all day long I’m praying for Israel,” he said.
Next Monday Wim and a team from Presence are starting a series of international ministry trips.
“First we’ll go to Suriname and to Curaçao. And after that we’ll go to Israel.
And after that the calendar is empty – so maybe South Africa,” he said.
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