The Heart of Rotterdam

By Bill Sundstrom
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Rotterdam city director Pieter Vos

Rotterdam began life in the 1100s as a fishing village tucked into the delta of the River Rhine. In 1340 Rotterdam became a city, with a charter declaring that it was founded in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Years later Erasmus was born here.

In the early 1900s, a local believer began a mission to Jewish people emigrating to the New World, providing them with food and clothing as well as explaining God's love. World War II bombing raids destroyed Rotterdam, leading to a famed post-war sculpture representing the city: a man with a gaping hole in place of his heart.

Today Rotterdam, economic centre of the Netherlands, boasts the largest harbour in Europe, and the third most active port in the world. About 600,000 people live in the city itself—some 50 percent immigrants—with about 1.1 million in greater Rotterdam.

Agape ministry

Agape's ministry includes a "House of Prayer," located in the one-time Jewish mission building. Situated on an island in the middle of the river, the House of Prayer draws believers together to pray for the city. "We believe God wants to honour the city charter," says House of Prayer director Wim van Duyvenbode, "so we are praying the heart back in."

Other ministries include Athletes in Action, a student ministry at Erasmus University and a community ministry currently focusing on evangelising everyone in the historic shipbuilding district of Delfshaven.

"People are open to speak about the gospel," says Pieter Vos, Agape city director in Rotterdam. "Everyone has a hole in their heart, and everyone is looking for love. When we say that God fills hearts with love, people understand that."