God shielded missionary following dangerous civil war

Previously never posted, this picture shows Dirk’s brush with death.

By Michael Ashcraft –

Dirk van Rijn’s parents were not surprised when he became a missionary to Ivory Coast. He proclaimed at age six that he wanted to be a missionary in Africa, but Dirk doesn’t remember that.

“Maybe it was because I heard about the killings in Rwanda at that time,” Dirk speculates about his childhood intrigue with the world’s second largest continent.

Dirk’s parents were nominal church members of the Reformed Dutch Church, and Dirk didn’t find God there.

As he forgot about his childhood ambition to preach in the world, he also distanced himself from the God he never got to know in the mainstream church.

By age 13, he was taking ecstasy at parties, enjoying the recreational use of drugs.

But when he observed 40-year-old loners at these parties, Dirk came to the sobering realization that he very well might turn out like one of them, a loser.

That’s when he asked God for a sign. He wanted to get out of the party life, which appealed deeply to his primal instincts.

A week later, men from a fervent church were evangelizing in the streets, and they handed Dirk an invitation.

“I felt it would be hypocritical to not give it a try,” Dirk says. “I had just asked God for a sign.”

He attended the next service and accepted Jesus into his heart. The transformation was radical; from that point on he never missed a service (except when he got Covid).

From the time he pastored in Ivory Coast.

His meteoric rise through the ranks of discipleship to becoming an ordained pastor was pursued with the same intensity he had displayed in the party life.

He ran an IT company. Among his clients was a man from the Ivory Coast, and they got to talking. Dirk mentioned he wanted to be a missionary in Africa, and the man offered him a position in Ivory Coast.

It was a tantalizing offer because as a missionary, he would be able to support his wife and two kids instead of receiving money from the Door Church, 30 miles south of Amsterdam.

At age 26, Dirk arrived in Africa in 2011 and reported to work. The job that brought him to the mission field and promised to cover his expenses, however, only lasted one month. The company’s owner sold it to Russians, and Dirk wound up without a job.

That wasn’t a problem because Dirk could resume his IT work, as long as he had access to the Internet. Following the Apostle Paul’s example as a tentmaker, Dirk was still able to work his business and support his missionary efforts.

Dirk arrived in Ivory Coast at a time of insecurity. The nation’s Civil War had ended with the help of mercenaries from neighboring nations. It was time to pay the mercenaries, but Ivory Coast told them it was basically bankrupt and could not pay them.

Dirk and his wife, Yvonne, his daughter Lisanne and son Koen.

Of course this did not sit well with the soldiers of fortune who had risked their lives to secure the position of the government.

The mercenaries took to the streets and collected what the government owed them with a reign of terror exercised on the populace. The transition from militia to roadside thieves and kidnappers was regrettably smooth.

Ivory Coast wasn’t happy, but what could they do? They didn’t have police to patrol the roads for the same reason they couldn’t pay soldiers they’d hired.

It was a terrifying experience to have roaming gangs of ex-militia marauding the streets unchecked, and most of the missionaries and other foreigners abandoned the country.

Dirk was undaunted. “I was really sure about God’s will,” he says. “That’s the only reason I didn’t fear.”

One night as Dirk was driving home in Grand-Bassam, the mercenaries pulled him over and boarded his car, ordering him to drive to a forested area. He knew what that portended. He would die and they would take his car, like they had done to other foreigners.

Surprisingly, he remained calm. His only thought was about his wife, that she knew how to book a flight for her and the children back to Holland. Since his nerves remained steeled, he started to chat with his captors. He mentioned he was a Christian pastor.

Deep in the jungle, the mercenaries ordered Dirk to pull over. It was midday. Dirk waited for the inevitable.

Dirk’s church in China

But instead of executing him, they got out. Inexplicably, they thanked him for the ride in an offhanded way.

“I’m going to survive this day,” he marveled.

As waves of relief washed over him, he felt a sudden boldness. He decided to press his luck and asked for a picture with the soldiers.

Naturally, they declined, since their activities were at the margin of the law.

But Dirk persisted cheerily. He promised he wouldn’t post the picture, and they agreed. That was 12 years ago.

There’s a sequel to the harrowing horror. A month later at a funeral, some drunken rowdies demanded Dirk pay them the rent money instead of the landlord for the church building.

Dirk tried to skate out the tense situation. “I’ll call the landlord about that,” he responded.

But the three turned violent. Dirk’s disciples jumped to his aid in the fist fight that erupted.

Hearing the noise, others in the funeral jumped in and pulled out the rowdies.

“I’ll be back tomorrow with my friends,” one rowdy warned.

The next day was Sunday. Fearing serious trouble, Pastor Dirk left his wife at home and went to the church, hoping it was a bluff.

Who rolled up? His mercenary captors with whom he shared the recent photo.

“They started talking to me. They had a flier and knew where we were at,” Dirk says. “We were just chatting in the morning.”

Just 15 minutes later, the rowdies pulled up on the street. They had Uzi-type weapons.

But when the rowdies recognized the mercenaries, they balked.

Ten yards away, they pulled a U-turn and drove away. God’s shield protected him once again!

Mission to China

Dirk left a church of 50 when he departed in 2012.

Almost immediately, he was sent as a missionary to China.

“I wanted to stay busy,” he says. He entered China on a visa to teach English outside Macau. He quickly started forming a church.

For four years, Dirk labored. Often the Chinese authorities arrested and questioned him. Their questions circled relentlessly around one central point. Did he ever speak disparagingly of the socialist government?

He never talked politics with the people, he told them. He only talked about Jesus.

Eventually, the kicked him out of the country, imposing a 5-year ban.

Today, Dirk pastors a church in Leeuwarden, Holland.

To learn more about a personal relationship with Jesus, click here

About this writer: Michael Ashcraft is also a pastor and a  financial professional in California. 


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