360 Degree View (Part 1)

On a Tuesday morning in early September 2021, we began a new season. Sarah and two of our children left Catford with six large suitcases and caught the Eurostar to Rotterdam. Phil stayed in the UK for study and to take one of our other children to university and then followed on.

Our journey to the Netherlands actually started a long way back. In fact, it was over 2 years before that we started to sense God might be speaking to us about a new season and moving on from King’s Church London. The truth is the decision to leave was really hard. We had been in the church for 25 years and invested hugely in the life of the church. Phil was one of the elders, we were both on the staff and we loved the people there. That said, as we thought about the future, we just couldn’t get away from the sense that God was speaking to us about something new. So we prayed, talked with trusted friends, received some remarkable prophetic words (from people who knew nothing of our situation), prayed some more and eventually reached the decision to move on. By July 2020, we had made the call to go, so we started asking God to show us where he wanted us.

The pandemic made investigating new opportunities very difficult and very little was opening up. Dave and Liz Holden put us in touch with Chris and Karin Taylor in The Hague and we discussed the possibilities with them. After each conversation we came away feeling stirred and excited, sensing maybe God was drawing us to the Netherlands. Eventually this culminated in Dave asking us to consider moving to plant a church in Rotterdam.

As we were walking through this process, we really valued the wisdom we received from friends and the prophetic insights that were shared with us. One prophetic word came from a friend called Sarah Bailey (remember her name, it’s important to the story). She knew very little of our situation, but emailed to tell us that every time she prayed for us she saw a picture of us hacking through jungle, not really being able to see where we were going. In the picture she saw us coming out onto a mountaintop where we had a 360 degree view. She felt that God was going to make things clear to us and give us the land. We had no idea how significant that word would be.

In July 2021 we finally got to visit the Netherlands. As we were travelling there on the Eurostar we received another message from a friend saying that they felt God was going to give us specific guidance whilst we were there and that He would make things really clear to us. That was absolutely our prayer; we knew what a big move this would be and we needed God to speak.

After several days in quarantine, we had a great weekend meeting leaders and getting a feel for the city, but we were still asking God to speak. Monday was an amazing day and we will always remember it. Probably the central moment came when we met for lunch with some of the other church leaders at the Euromast. The Euromast is a tower with a restaurant halfway up and a lift which takes you to the very top. What we didn’t know when we got in it, was that the lift rotates. We had a 360 degree “mountaintop” view of the city! It was one of those goose bump moments when you suddenly realise what’s happening. It felt very significant, we sensed God was speaking. But if that was good, what happened next really blew us away. 

As we left the Euromast and walked back towards the city we simply prayed, “God if this is you, please make this very clear to us.” We walked around the corner by the river and right in front of us were 2 large boats. The first had the name “Sarah B” on it and the second “H&S Wisdom.” Sarah Bailey…Wisdom! Even at the time we couldn’t quite get our heads around what we were seeing, but our hearts were saying, “Ok God, we hear you.”

On returning to London, we decided to give ourselves a few more days before making the final decision. On the Friday we were sitting in our front room talking about it and the doorbell rang. It was a lady from our church. She hadn’t even heard the news that we were moving on from Kings, but as we chatted she suddenly said, “Oh, so you’re going overseas.” It was more of a statement than a question and she explained that she felt like God had prompted her to say that. It was another remarkable moment for us. Another reminder of God’s kindness to us and that He hears our prayers and answers.

So that was the decision moment: “Ok God, you’ve got us. We’ll go to Rotterdam and we will trust you for the whole thing.”

You can find more on Sarah and Phil’s adventure on their blog, 360 Degree View: