– By Bob Bell
De Vossermeren, Lommel, Belgium. From Friday 28th July to Friday 4th August, some 700 members of 11 communities in the Sword of the Spirit’s Europe and the Middle East Region (and some from further afield) made their way to a small town in northeast Belgium for – of all things – a holiday together. This is the fourth in 14 years, and the largest ever. I’m rather a fan of these holidays and look forward to each one – I think because they allow me to relax with my “family,” brothers and sisters in the Sword of the Spirit, many I’ve known for decades, but some I’ve gotten to know at these very events. The pace is relaxed, the offerings are good quality.
The venue is run by Centre Parcs, known to many in the UK and on the Continent for its well-managed holiday cottages and grounds, and all-weather swimming pools and recreation areas. The site we’ve been using can host 3,500 people, and we often are able to get cottages close to one another. People rent self-catering cottages for 4, 6 and 8 people – modest in size, but well appointed. There are also hotel rooms available on site.
Most people rent cottages as families, or two families together, or add a single person or two for good measure. Some of us intentionally invite members of other communities to be part of our cottages. In mine there were three single men connected with the Jerusalem community in Belgium, a married couple from the community in Dublin, and two men who are at university and who, like me, are Londoners. I think it was a good experience for all of us in the cottage, partly because of the richness of backgrounds, and the variety of ages – from late teens to late 60s – and partly because we tried to make it a good time for the others.
We invited another cottage round one evening for supper, and on another evening two cottages. We had a BBQ ourselves one evening, and often welcomed friends and new acquaintances for a drink and a chat after evening events.
Many of us – young and old alike – rented bicycles for the week to get around to the events and to one another’s cottages – some of us seemed to be taking a “learning-by-doing” approach, which added to the excitement, both for cyclists and pedestrians. And of course some of us are used to driving on the left, and didn’t always remember that we were on the Continent.
To make this a quality experience for everyone, an enormous number of hours were invested, mostly by volunteers among us, to organize and run the various events of the holiday. There was tennis and soccer, a volunteer choir and orchestra ensemble, painting workshops and exercise classes, and much more.
Mornings there were quality programs for children and young people, arranged by ages and staffed by experienced and professional workers. From all I could tell, the kids were having a good time. There were daily morning meditations, and some quiet space for reflection, followed by talks by Dr Dan Keating, well-known teacher in the Sword of the Spirit, and then personal testimonies by various ones of us that corresponded with the topic of the day. It was a genuine holiday, with no obligations to attend anything, but most people attended at least the morning events.
We celebrated the Lord’s Day opening together on Saturday evening, and afterwards, in mix-and-match arrangements for meals in our cottages. There was also a prayer meeting one evening with encouraging prophetic words from the Lord, a men’s breakfast, a women’s night. And one evening various countries provided characteristic ethnic food, drink, song and dance in the cottages, with hundreds of us making the rounds to taste what was on offer.
Many of the people attending admitted that OnHoliday wouldn’t have been their first choice of place or time, but they saw it as an opportunity to be with brothers and sisters from the region and experience Sword of the Spirit life on a bit wider scale. The next OnHoliday is in only a few years. I’m looking forward to it.
Bob Bell is a member of the Antioch Community in London