In Memory of Jelle
Jelle Jongsma finished his race shortly before Christmas 2014. It was my privilege to have known him and to have journeyed with him as a fellow pilgrim. Below is an article I wrote for the Dutch Navigators about my memories of Jelle.
“In 2003 I began to travel to Western Europe and engage with some of the leaders of the various student ministries. At the first event in Amsterdam I met a large Dutchman who introduced himself as Jelle Jongsma, the leader of the Dutch student ministry (NSV). That began a journey together that has forever changed my life.
“My heart is flooded with many, many fond memories of our journey over these years. It makes me smile just to remember Jelle’s boisterous laugh and overwhelming optimism. Jelle was a contrast of seriousness regarding the advance of the gospel and the lightheartedness of daily life. Jelle was a man who knew a big God and saw the world’s problems as very small by comparison. His vision for the world and desire to be personally used by God were a constant theme in our times together.
“At a staff gathering at the Don Bosco retreat center we were discussing some of the problems facing a rapidly growing Dutch student work. That morning we prayed over Ezekiel 36:37-38 asking that God would fill the Dutch universities and cities with ‘flocks’ of Dutch students and graduates who loved Him. We prayed that they would carry this Navigator vision of laboring to Europe and the nations of the world. While God was blessing the Dutch ministry, there was more…always more. Jelle’s vision saw more opportunity for God to work everywhere he looked. His faith and vision challenged me to trust God for more.
“I remember walking at Kinderdijyk with him praying for the Netherlands and the nations. We visited his childhood home and I learned about his family heritage. He invited me into his home and I watched him and Joke raise two beautiful young girls to become godly women. We talked about everything from mission strategy to qualities of potential spouses for Myrthe and Susanne. He and Joke made me feel a part of their lives and family.
“When Jelle and Bernard (Terlouw) visited us in Colorado, we laughed at the size of the large steak I cooked for them on our grill. I remember laughing about me not liking Dutch krokets, my silliness at placing both peanut butter and jam on my sandwich, and him trying to teach me to enjoy red wine. I’m so grateful for his patience and kindness when I called late at night asking him to please pick me up at the Den Hague train station, because once again I had gotten on the wrong train in Utrecht. In many ways it seems that our roles reversed from me coaching him in ministry, to him teaching me about life and modeling Christlikeness.
“I would have liked to have had more time with Jelle, but I’m so grateful for what time we did have. I’ll never be the same. I will miss him and look forward to seeing him again when he greets me in heaven. No doubt I’ll hear him before I see him, as his laugh will help me find him in the crowd.”
May we all have such friends in our journeys.