A few weeks ago, Karin, Lieselot and I visited Gerard and Baukje van der Wal in Ethiopia. Eight years ago they were students in the first class of our full-time Royal Mission School in Drachten. After a unique formative year, they started working on their calling to lift people out of poverty by setting up a company: ‘Business as mission’. They have now been living and working in Debre Zeit, just below Addis Ababa, for 5 years.From a distance this is a beautiful and successful story. Gerard and Baukje’s packaging company Crown Packaging & Plastics now employs more than 40 people. Dozens of families are helped, fed, trained and blessed by this company. A huge impact and they are doing even more. Several taps for clean drinking water have been placed on the corner of the company premises, where people from the neighborhood freely fill their jerry cans every day. A power cable runs from their plot to many surrounding huts and houses. For the first time, a luminous bulb hangs at the entrance to these accommodations in the wider area. The list is even longer with concrete ‘acts of mercy’ and ‘luminous activities’ in the area. Beautiful work!This is how people from the Netherlands usually look at Gerard and Baukje. They like it. We respect what they do. Many people even look up to them with a kind of distant respect. That’s right and at the same time it makes me a bit sad. Because of two reasons.First of all, many people have no idea of the sacrifices Gerard and Baukje have made. We see the great results, but we don’t know how much they had to pay for this. We are proud of what they have achieved, but we cannot actually estimate what it has cost them.
- Leaving your homeland behind and exchanging it for a chaotic country, where they speak a language that is almost impossible to learn.
- Letting go of your church, Christian friends and inspiring conferences to try to survive (spiritually) with some Christian friends in a spiritually dark country.
- As a young married couple, learning to care for each other in the midst of all the challenges of a starting business.
- Carrying the financial burden of loans and investments for a start-up business in an economy you barely know and in an industry you didn’t grow up in.
- Having children and trying to raise them in an un-Dutch situation and without the support of parents and relatives.
Secondly, and this touches me most, I know almost no other people of their age who are (or have been) prepared to do everything they can for the calling that God has given them. We look at two great guys with admiration and do not realize enough that God actually asks similar sacrifices of us where He sends us. We look at their lives from a certain distance and forget that we are following exactly the same Jesus, who asks us exactly the same commitment to His plan.Are you making a difference? Will you give everything you have for the Master, who asks you to leave everything for His plan for your life? It is painful and it will cost you everything, but then you will make a difference. Following your calling demands a lot from you and it takes you to the land of Promise. Wow!In addition to the company, Gerard and Baukje got us involved in the famine in Ethiopia. Since January we started bringing food to a Muslim village called Shalla.Here you can read more about that. More than €200,000 has been raised for this project, to which we as Royal Mission have also contributed a significant amount. We would also never have taken up this project if Gerard and Baukje had not listened to the calling on their lives.If only for this woman and her 2 children, it would have been worth the effort.
Who are you going to save? Where are you going to make (even more) a difference? Let your ‘distant respect’ for people like Gerard and Baukje turn into a desire to lose everything for the King and thus gain real life!