Rotterdam Hosts Inspiring Finale for Adventurer and Pathfinder Bible Experience

Rotterdam Hosts Inspiring Finale for Adventurer and Pathfinder Bible Experience

Dr Mandela Thyoka

Sabbath 13th April 2024 was a very special day as young Adventurers and Pathfinders congregated at the Sports & Events Hall De Margriethal in Nieuwe Damlaan, Netherlands, for the finale of this year's Trans-European Division (TED) Adventurer and Pathfinder Bible Experience (ABE & PBE). This event culminated several months of in-depth Bible study of the books of Joshua and Judges. Every team that participated had achieved first place in preceding rounds—area, conference, and union levels—answering a total of 126 questions for ABE and 270 questions for PBE.

Rotterdam, whose name literally translates to "The Dam on the River Rotte," is a multicultural city centred around the largest seaport in Europe. It arose literally from the ashes following the devastation by German bombs at the beginning of the Second World War in 1940. Since then, it has been rebuilt to its new face, with the only connection to the war coming in the form of the Peace Palace in The Hague, which houses the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the United Nations International Court of Justice, and The Hague Academy of International Law.

BUC: The Largest Cohort

Overall, 116 teams (51 [44%] ABE and 65 [56%] PBE) participated in the TED finals, with the BUC providing the largest contingent in both categories—84% (43 ABE teams) and 72% (47 PBE teams). Of the 90 BUC teams, the largest cohort was from the North England Conference with 19 (44%) ABE and 22 (47%) PBE teams. The rest of the teams were from TED territory, 28% (18 teams) and 16% (8 teams) of PBE and ABE teams, respectively. The 8 ABE teams were from Poland 4 (8%) and one (2%) team each from Belgium, Ukraine, Croatia, and the hosts Netherlands, while the 18 PBE teams were from Romania 7 (11%); Ukraine 5 (8%), Poland 4 (6%), and one (2%) team each from Belgium and Croatia.

Our Diary

I followed the diary of Doncaster Doves Bible Adventurers, who were participating in their third successive Adventurer Bible Experience Finals in Rotterdam. Their journey had taken them to the following TED finals: Belfast, Northern Ireland in 2022, Greece in 2023, and now Rotterdam, Netherlands in 2024. The team, like several others from the British Union Conference (BUC) territory, opted to travel by sea on the P & O Hull-Rotterdam overnight ferry. Leaving Hull city on Thursday night at 8:30 pm, the overnight service offered our young people a unique onboard entertainment, including movies and games, with an exquisite dining experience. We spent the night in standard cabins, each with a shower room, WC, towels, and bed linen, covering all the basics, allowing us to arrive in Rotterdam Europoort early Friday morning, rested and refreshed, ready to explore the city.

Friday 12th April 2024 - Exploring Rotterdam in a Day

We started our exploration by taking the tram to the Euromast tower, built in 1960 by architect H.A. Maaskant. At 101 metres high, it towered over the skyline of Rotterdam before taller buildings were erected. In 1970, the Space Tower was added on top of the Euromast, giving the tower 30 km visibility on a clear day, allowing visitors to see Antwerp, Moerdijk, and The Hague, and appreciate Rotterdam in all its splendour. The tower is close to the nearby waterfront, where we viewed Rotterdam’s splash bus driving into the waters.

Next, we made our way to the Markthal, a gargantuan indoor market that was unlike anything we had ever seen before—a place where good food and unique housing are harmoniously combined in a spectacular arch. As we entered the building, we were greeted by a breathtaking display of colourful fruits, vegetables, and flowers that stretched as far as the eye could see. The aroma of freshly baked pastries and spices filled the air, tempting our taste buds and making us eager to sample the local cuisine. When new European regulations set stricter requirements on selling produce such as fish, meat, and cheese in the open air, Rotterdam seized this moment as an opportunity and embarked on this highly ambitious project: an iconic fresh food market, the likes of which the world had never seen, which took five years to construct, officially opening on 1st October 2014.

But the biggest surprise of all came when we stumbled upon the nearby Cube Houses, a collection of quirky, tilted buildings that defied gravity and seemed to defy logic. As we wandered through the maze of colourful cubes, we couldn't help but feel like we had stepped into a whimsical wonderland straight out of a fairy tale. Our group explored and entered the Kijk-Kubus museum house. The cube house, designed by Dutch Architect Piet Blom, is tilted, apparently balancing on its pole, so that three sides face the ground and three face the sky, giving it a very distinctive architectural shape. We appreciated the three floors of each cube house during our museum tour. The cube has three floors: the lower floor, with a triangular-shaped floor, was designed as a living area with the kitchen and dining table in one corner and a toilet and storage space in the other corner. This floor is known as the “street house” as its downward-facing windows grant direct views and connection with the street below. The second floor, “heaven house,” contains two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a hallway, directed upwards as a sign that people are more focused on themselves. The topmost floor is a conservatory-like space at the top of the cube, known as the “leaf hut.” All floors are connected by (steep) hardwood stairs. After completing our museum tour, we exchanged notes with our sister club, Bradford, who had the joy of exploring the Rotterdam zoo, one of the oldest and most popular zoos in the Netherlands, hosting a fantastic array of animals and plants from around the world. This offered the young ones an opportunity to discover, play, and learn while exploring different areas of the zoo linked to the continents of Africa, Asia, and North America.

We then headed back to Centraal station to collect our luggage before taking the tram to our hotel in Den Haag. Coincidentally, Rotterdam city was hosting the 43rd edition of the prestigious NN Marathon Rotterdam during this weekend, which meant that finding accommodation near the testing venue proved expensive due to demand. However, we found a suitable hotel at the World Forum Hague Conference Centre. The Hague, the seat of government of the Netherlands, is also famous for being the permanent home of the United Nations’ International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Here, our group walked on the street in front of the World Forum Building in The Hague, naming all the flags of all countries in the world that stand in the middle of this street.

One of the highlights was our pre-booked Friday evening meal at the Rosarium Restaurant, uniquely located in one of Europe's most beautiful parks, Westbroekpark. The children were treated to an all-you-can-eat world experience in oriental style. It was now time to head back to our hotel for a night’s rest before the Bible Experience testing on Sabbath morning.

Sabbath 13th April 2024 - Bible Experience

We welcomed the Sabbath day with excitement as our team made its way to the testing venue in time for the 8 am registration. We were pleasantly surprised at how the Dutch organising committee had streamlined the registration, making it the best registration exercise we have been part of. Even the pre-paid packed lunches given to the ABE participants at the end of their morning testing were flawless. Team leaders only had to show their vouchers, and packed lunches for each team member were handed over. Several stations within the arena were reserved for teas, coffees, and fruit juices, all available to participants and their supporters.

To complete the Dutch touch to the event, a local drum and drill team led the marching procession, and the Dutch praise and worship team treated us to an array of new and old songs. PBE testing immediately followed the lunch break, and we are grateful to Pastor Kevin Jones, BUC Youth Leader, for ensuring that the afternoon testing ended at 5:45 pm, giving our team enough time to transfer to Europoort to board our ferry for the return journey.

In that moment, we realised that Rotterdam was not just a city to visit, but a city to experience, to explore, and to be surprised by at every turn. As we boarded the ferry back home, we knew that we would always carry a piece of Rotterdam with us, a reminder of what we had found in this extraordinary place. Rotterdam, with its impressive architecture dominated by innovative and futuristic buildings that define its skyline, mesmerising walking routes, and many different sights to see and things to do, presented a trip that was truly for everyone in our group.