THOSE WHO COOPERATED WITH THIS PROJECT
Meet the author, designer and the different models who cooperated with our world project ‘The Seven Wonders’. Read how the extraordinary story of Jesus crosses the story of ordinary people like you and me.
WILKIN VAN DE KAMP
Wilkin van de Kamp (1961) is married to Aukje. They have four sons, two daughter-in-laws and four granddaughters. After having worked for sixteen years part time as an educator, Wilkin served for ten years as a pastor for the German-Dutch Euregio Christengemeente (Church).
As of 2010 he is pastor-director of Vrij Zijn. Wilkin knows that he is called to help the church put the Cross at the centre over the whole world.
‘At the beginning of 2004 I started a year long intensive study of the last eighteen hours of Jesus’ life. I studied what historians, doctors, theologians and others wrote about the suffering and death of Jesus. I not only wanted to understand why Jesus had to go through such tremendous suffering, but to be close to Him in the most difficult hours of His life. I tried, as it were, to crawl into the skin of Jesus, which of course is impossible. The in-depth study and writing my first book Het wonder van het kruis (The wonder of the Cross) have changed my heart forever. Since then I find it difficult to sing songs about the Cross. Then I get choked up and I listen to the words being sung which touch my heart anew.
Eventually I wrote the book in forty days – spread out over half a year. All other activities went on as usual. Even while travelling in Austria, Switzerland, South-Africa and Norway I worked on the book. All in all I was intensely focussed on the last eighteen hours of Jesus’ life for a year and a half. Writing this book not only changed my heart but also my life. The book became a best-seller in the Netherlands and in the past years we have held many Het wonder van het kruis conferences in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Curaçao and Surinam. And now – after ten years – is has become a world project and God is asking us to give the book as a gift to the rest of the world.
In the meantime the book has been translated into many languages and we have built a unique website in seven languages (www.de7wonderen.nl) where you can download all available translations of The Wonder of the Cross, The Seven steps to Freedom and The Gift as free e-books! Here everyone can also download all of the illustrations of The Seven Wonders for free, as a tool for Bible studies and sermons on the seven wonders of the Cross. This is our gift to the world. It is through this that we want to help the worldwide church put the Cross at the centre of everything./p>
I am intensely grateful for the cooperation with Glenn van der Mull. He has captured The Seven Wonders of the Cross in more than fifty impressive illustrations. He made a very conscious choice to not use professional photo models. Glenn wanted this extraordinary story to be ‘told’ by very ordinary people. I think that he more than succeeded!
Just as God has changed my heart through writing The wonder of the Cross, I also hope and pray that this picture book will touch the heart of the readers and that they will have a great(er) passion for the Man who changed this world for good: Jesus Christ of Nazareth.’
GLENN VAN DER MULL
Glenn van der Mull was born in 1962 in the Indonesian capitol Jakarta as the little brother of four sisters. When Glenn was a toddler, his family moved to the Netherlands. Eventually they ended up in a new home. Glenn’s parents have passed away, but he is very close to his four sisters.
At least once a year they have a large family celebration, where they have a lot of good food as is a good Indonesian custom. Glenn is married to Bettie and they have three grown daughters. Glenn works for Vrij Zijn as a designer.
‘When Wilkin asked me to join him in making a picture book for adults based on the book The Wonder of the Cross, we initially wanted to work with photographic material which can be purchased on internet. But after a while I had the idea to ask people from our own church to be models. We just didn’t have a model to represent Jesus. When Bettie and I were working at a seminar, we met Joeri, and when I met him I knew right away he had to be ‘our Jesus’.
So we started working. What made this a special project was the fact that God kept surprising me. I could tell that He sometimes insisted on doing things a certain way, and that would turnout to be the key. That is how the project grew. At first I did not know what it would turn out to be exactly. That is how we came up with the idea of interviewing all of the models. The story of Jesus is The Great Life Story, but each person also has their own story. Through the interviews we want to show that the story of Jesus intersects with the life stories of regular people, like you and I. That makes it very personal.
When I have made a new picture, I hang it on the wall in my office. I often look at all of those pictures and it touches me that I may be part of this. I too am in the Life Story of Jesus. I too am but a mere human, just as all nineteen of the models are. And yet we are part of the Great Story. In the final stages of the project I found it quite hard to say goodbye. The pictures are taken off of the wall and we move on to other projects. It kind of feels like your child has grown up, is leaving home and going out into the world. But it is leaving with a message that really matters.
I hope that The Seven Wonders will make people aware of why Jesus had to suffer in order to save their lives. The Cross is the start of many life stories, that is what you read in the interviews as well. When people look at the pictures on the website and in the book, then I pray that they will see the contrast between death and life, and that they will choose life. It would be great if this project could be a tool in helping people make that choice.’
Joeri Snel was born in 1973 in Delft in a ´regular´ working class family with a father, mother and older sister. Both his father and mother worked, but his mother was always home when the children were home.
They did not actively believe in his family, but the children were free to explore. Joeri is married to Anne and they have no children. He is active in his church and works as a manager in the mental healthcare sector and has his own coaching and management business called ´Overcomer Solutions´.
‘At a young age I was exposed to bullying and abuse, which heavily influenced my development. Searching for ways to deal with the pain, and to compensate for the problems I had with my identity, I crossed several boundaries as a teenager in the area of behaviour, alcohol and (soft) drugs. I was also very interested in the supernatural and did a lot ´exploring´. I believed in ‘god’, although I did not know the God of the Bible. I didn’t want to know either, because my idea of the church was not very positive.
In 1999 I first came into contact with the living God through an evangelical healing service. There I saw and experienced something which I had never before seen or felt. I didn’t know then what it was exactly, but I did know that this was real! Shortly afterwards I gave my heart to Jesus and my adventure with Him started. About two years later I met Him very personally during a moment of worship. That was an indescribable experience which ‘rooted’ my faith deeply.
It is something very special for me to give Jesus a face in this project. I also find it a bit frightening : ‘Does someone really see Jesus in me?’ I really have given my all to express Jesus in the right way and I hope this has worked. I personally find the pictures of the cup of life and the stripes (wounds) very impressive. It has made a deep impression on me because I realize what was in that cup and how Jesus’ back was ripped to shreds by the scourging. The realization that Jesus went through all that suffering for me, makes the seven wonders very personal. That makes me humble and small, but also strong and secure, because Jesus found me so valuable and did this for me…
The picture in which you look straight into my eyes is Anne’s favourite! I hope that the people will see the loving eyes of Jesus in that. A meeting with Jesus brings restoration and healing and it is my desire that through this project the lives of many will be touched and changed.’
Jan Nobel was born in 1952 in post-war Rotterdam. When he was a little boy he even played in the ruins of the destructive bombing of May 1940.
It was characteristic for the family he was raised in. Don’t look back, don’t complain, but build an existence! There was little emotions or feelings involved in the process. Jan lived the life that his parents had mapped out for him. Looking back he appreciates the hard work his parents did, but it left it’s mark. Jan is married to Astrid and he has four children and nine grandchildren. He works for the city council of Aalten.
‘I have not always been a good father and husband. I suffered for several decades from chronic headaches and stomach problems, but when I decided to take the road of forgiveness and forgive my parents, and in turn asked my wife and children to forgive me, and I received forgiveness, all of the pain ended nearly instantaneously. After that I went through a long process, in which I learned that I do not need to earn God’s love and mercy by walking on eggshells and doing my best all the time. This created a new space in me. Space to let my soul grow even more.
The message of De zeven wonderen is about my struggle. If you can receive what Jesus did for you, then you have made it. Then you have access to the Father, to your Creator who has a plan for you. You must accept His sacrifice to be truly free. God’s unconditional love and mercy are available because Jesus was willing to go the distance and because God the Father was willing to sacrifice His Son. That is the foundation on which you can build your life.’
SAMUEL DE LEEUW VAN WEENEN
His parents were missionaries in Puluwat, an island in Micronesia in the Pacific Ocean. His father went to study in California in 1976 and that is where Samuel was born and lived for half a year.
After having lived in Puluwat for five years, the family moved to the south of Germany. In 1999 he met Hadassa during a large missions conference in Zuidlaren. They got to know each other, got married, had two children and now live in the west of Germany.
‘What I really think is beautiful about De zeven wonderen is that very ordinary people have been asked to model. I was asked to model Adam, who had just been created by God. Through Adam sin entered the world, but Jesus came to conquer sin and give eternal life.
Jesus drank everything from the cup of our sins. A cup full of filth, my filth too, my sins. He voluntarily drank and experienced all those sins. That is what touches me in the suffering of Jesus. The gospel is not just a story of an ordinary man. It is a personal story, in which everyone plays a part, because everyone has sin and has experienced feelings of fear and rejection. Jesus took all this upon Himself. He wants and is able to take it all from me. I hope that people will discover this.’
MANDY VAN DER MULL
Mandy (1989) works as a stewardess for a well-known airline company. She has two sisters, a boyfriend and a cat (named Mumble).
She was raised in a Christian home, but wasn’t really serious about her faith. It is only just recently that she has noticed a intensifying of her relationship with God.
‘I think it is special that I have been asked to be a model for the photographs. It is this very aspect of the wonder of the Cross which appeals to me most: Jesus freed me from every accusation. I often notice the accusations in my life when I have done something wrong. I know now that when I ask God for forgiveness and His support, that the enemy no longer has the right to accuse me.
What really touches me is that the photo fits so well with the words. It is pure and real! I hope that people will see the whole picture: the purity and that it shows that you can be free from feelings of guilt. Jesus went to the Cross to make this possible. That is why we may truly live in freedom.’
FRANNE VAN DE KAMP
Franne was born on the eighth day of the eighth month in 1988 in Rotterdam. She grew up in a warm family and they attended the Vergadering van Gelovigen (Gathering of Saints Church).
Franne is married to Job and they have a beautiful daughter. They both have served in the worship team of Vrij Zijn and in their home church.
‘I have always known that God loved me. I used to be bullied a lot and I did not like how I looked, so I felt very rejected. You can see in the photograph that there is pain in my eyes and that I am carrying a burden. That is how I really used to feel. But I have discovered that you sometimes need to go through the painful memories with God in order to be really free. It makes you a more beautiful person.
I hope that when the people look at the picture and read the words, that they will recognise a part of it, but they will also discover that as the story continues they will see that it can be different. That there is a road to restoration and freedom. I have often felt dirty and foul, but because I chose to go through the pain, I have experienced that God washes me and cleanses me. Jesus, who was completely pure, carried all of my sin and my rejection. That makes me realize how great God’s love is: He does not reject me, but I am totally accepted by Him in Christ as His daughter.’
Denise Kluit was born in 1991 as the youngest of two sisters. She is in her fourth year of studies at the Academic Teacher training for Primary Education at the Radboud University of Nijmegen. Last year she was chairman of the board of the Navigators Student Organisation in Nijmegen.
‘I was raised in a Christian home with all of the Bible stories and I learned at a young age that I could always go to God. In our town there were youth services through which I grew in my personal relationship with God. There I discovered that I can dance as a form of worship. It was a big hurdle for me to actually get up and dance. It is kind of like surrendering to God. Maybe through this I can encourage others to take a step in faith.
When I look at the picture Glenn has taken, then it beams with joy and freedom. It was not until I was in a difficult period that I read Het wonder van het kruiss. What really touched me in that, was that Jesus made a personal choice to carry the Cross. He could have refused, or declined, but He chose not to. Jesus heals the painful parts and gives you peace for the future. I hope that my photograph will strengthen and confirm that message.’
Delair Wazze was born in 1986 in the capitol of Iraq, Baghdad, as the youngest of three children. Even though he was raised in a nice family, most of his childhood years were filled with war, fear and sadness. Iraq and Iran were at war when Delair was still in a crib.
When the smoke of the war had cleared, Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, followed by the Gulf War when America invaded Iraq in 1991. Panic erupted in Baghdad: the electricity was gone, there was no more protection from the police or the government, and bombs could fall on the home of the Wazze family at any time. The family decided to flee and after much wandering ended up in the Netherlands.
‘Because of the fear and the sadness which had dominated my life up until then, I no longer wanted to live. I started to hang out with the wrong kind of people and doing bad things. One day I met someone who came form the same region in Iraq as I did. He was a Christian and told me about a relationship with Jesus. We went to a camp run by Stichting Gave (Gift Cooperation) and that is where I first really met Him.
It touches me that I am allowed to work with ‘De zeven wonderen’ project. I cried when Glenn asked me to participate. Jesus has given me joy, despite the difficult life I have had. He is so big. The realisation that He bore my punishment, that He has been so loving and patient with me, that is unfathomable.’
Abbaseh (1964) grew up in Tehran, the capitol of Iran. In 1996 she fled to the Netherlands with her two sons. After living in a refugee centre for eleven years, she was one of the 26,000 people who received a general pardon in 2007 and she was given a permit to stay.
‘When I was asked to be a model for the photograph, I found it hard to have to wear a headscarf. I come from a country where women are forced to wear a headscarf. However, when Glenn read the words out loud which were to be published next to the photograph, I was honoured. Maybe someday the photograph would be seen in Iran and then it could actually be an encouragement. My desire is that people will see that God is faithful through the words and this photograph. Perseverance and being obedient is not always easy, but will be rewarded. I have experienced that myself in my own life.
What really speaks to me about the Cross is that Jesus was rejected, so that we could be accepted by God. I too have been rejected a lot. My boys were bullied a lot in the refugee camp because they are Christians. We can know however, that God will never reject us. That is what Jesus has done for us on the Cross. Jesus has fixed my broken life. He gave me the real Abbaseh back.’
Henk Duenk (1967) grew up in a family of five children, and he was the fourth child. Henk felt as though there was little room for experiencing and expressing emotions in his family. They attended the Dutch Reformed Church more out of a sense of tradition, but Henk did not have a living relationship with God.
When he was fifteen he started dating Erica, who was more serious in her faith. Henk calls himself an earth-burrower: He works on a bulldozer at a landscaping company.
‘When Erica was touched by God’s Spirit and started to change, I joined her and one night God got a hold of me. That changed my life. Before I used to be the silent type that did not express my feelings, but God’s love broke through that. When people around me go through a rough time, then that can really get to me. I like to help in a practical way. It is actually very simple to help someone in a meaningful way. Often you do not even need to say anything, just being there is enough. A simple gesture can show just as much of Jesus’ love as a long conversation.
I hope that people will read the words and see the photograph and that they will realise that hard work and sweat will not bring you joy. I find it impressive that Jesus went through all of the suffering out of love for us, to bring us life. We do not need to do anything to earn that love.’
Agron Palla was born in 1976 in Pogradec, a city in the east of Albania. It was the time of communism and Albania was an atheistic nation. In 1991 the borders opened and evangelists came to Pogradec.
Agron (his friends call him Goni) gave his life to Jesus, he was baptised and started working with a Christian aid organisation. Soon his parents and sister got saved. In 1996 he met Steffi from Germany. They got married and moved to Germany, where they joined the bi-national Euregio Christengemeente Aalten-Bocholt. Goni and Steffi have two children.
‘You can clearly see the pain on my face in the photograph which Glenn took of me. I have discovered that there is someone who wants to free me from that pain. I was raised as an atheist and did not know there was a God. I smuggled cigarettes, made unfair profits off of others and lived with lies. But when I was baptised in the lake of Pogradec in 1993 along with eighty others, I became a different person. My guilt and shame were washed away.
When people see this photograph, I hope they see their pain and that they will realize that they do not need to carry their pain any longer. Then I pray that they will open their eyes and their heart and will see that Jesus bore their pain. If one person is saved through this project, then it all will have been worthwhile. The most beautiful part of the suffering of Jesus is the moment that Jesus cries out: ‘It is finished!’ At that moment the door to the Father opened, for everyone.’
Eline was born in 1998. Her mother is Thai and was a Buddhist, but through working with a Christian organisation, she came to faith in Jesus Christ.
Eline’s father joined this organisation and that is how they met. They got married and decided to live in the Netherlands. Eline would like to study psychology after her secondary school.
‘My parents raised me as a Christian. Yet I often wondered what believing really meant. At Royal Adventure, a Christian summer camp, I met people who had a relationship with God and a goal in their life. That was attractive to me and since then God is more a part of my day to day life. I have a goal in life now.
I was given the task of conveying fear, despair and pain in the photograph. Our relationship with God is broken. We cannot change this ourselves. There is sadness because of the broken relationship and you can see that in my eyes. My eyes are looking to the light, so there is most definitely hope. You can also see this in the twinkling in my eyes and the way the light falls on the cloth and my hair. Behind me it is dark. I focus on the light which is ahead of me and I see the hope which is only found in Jesus. I think it is amazing that Jesus allowed Himself to be crucified without asking for help from those around Him. I may go to Him and find hope in Him.’
Guus Duenk (1992) grew up in Christian family with two parents who actively attended church, who love each other a lot and have made their home a place of stability, safety and love in every aspect.
He looks back at his home life with gratitude and realizes that this is not a common situation. Guus is studying sport marketing at the moment.
‘As a child I grew up surrounded by faith. I agree completely with everything, including the values and norms that go with believing, yet at the same time I miss a living relationship with God. I am really searching right now, because I feel I am ready for it. I have talked a lot about it recently with my mother and my friends. I do not go to church every Sunday, but when I do, I go with the intention of meeting God. I often will look for a quiet place, so that I can focus on that.
I think it is amazing how Glenn has taken my picture and has adapted it. The thought that “Jesus took my place” is beautifully conveyed, for it really was like that: either Barabbas would be freed, or Jesus would be freed. What I think is beautiful about Jesus, is that He became one of us, but without sin. That He was willing to do that in order to save us, that is impressive.’
Gertjan was born 1971 and was raised in a Christian home. He went with his parents to the Dutch Reformed Church and he had a care-free childhood.
When he was a teenager and started to find out who he was, he ended making the wrong decisions, which led to alcohol abuse and impurity. But then he met Boukje and she showed him what it meant to have a relationship with Jesus. When he discovered this, peace entered his life.
‘I was really looking for love and when I met God as a Father, that gave me so much peace. The picture where Jesus embraces me, really touches me. It means a lot to me to know that I may find rest in God’s arms, in the middle of the stress and busyness of life. The photograph says a lot about reconciliation between God the Father, reconciliation with myself and those around me. That is exactly what God wants for every person: that you may feel loved and safe in Him.
It cost Jesus a lot. He drank the cup filled with filth and sin down to the last drop. He really felt and tasted all the sin, though he was completely pure. My prayer is that the photograph and the words may be the missing piece of the puzzle in their search for their true identity. It would be fantastic if they come home to the arms of Jesus.’
AMY & BOUKJE JANSEN
Amy was born in 2012 and has two older brothers and one older sister. Her mother remembers how intense her happiness was when Amy was laid on her chest after she was born.
. It might well be the most special moment you can experience and it is hard to put the experience into words. ‘A birth is truly a miracle and it fills you with intense gratefulness’, Boukje says.
‘The photo is a reflection of the love which Jesus has for people. I see Him as someone who treats children this way. We try to emphasize that daily as we raise our children. Our children are loved and special, just as they are. Our prayer is that they find their identity in Jesus. That they know that Jesus loves them and enjoys them endlessly.
I think it is amazing that Amy can play a part in this project and I hope that others will be touched by this, that it will be a reflection of how Jesus sees every person. It is such a miracle that Jesus has His eyes on you, though there are millions of people. No matter how small you are. Once you discover that and you are born again, then you become a whole new person, just like the birth of a baby.’
Corinna (1995) grew up in a small German town near the Netherlands. She was raised in a Christian home and met Jesus at a young age.
She was part of a nice children’s group in the Euregio Christengemeente Aalten-Bocholt and she gave her life to Jesus when she was about twelve years old. Two years later she was baptised. Right now Corinna works as a volunteer in The Shelter Youth Hostel in Amsterdam, where she is growing in faith and is serving others. She plans on studying speech therapy in the future.
‘I love photographs, so when I was asked to participate, I was very enthusiastic. I think it is special that I can do this, because the photograph with the words can really help people to meet Jesus. Being born again is a process for me. After I had truly made a choice for Jesus, there were many moments that I had to give a piece of myself to God once again. That is an ongoing process.
I tried to show what happens when you are at the feet of Jesus. Your inner beauty increases. What really speaks to me about the wonder of the Cross, is that Jesus has freed me from the accusations and all feelings of guilt. The devil doesn’t have a leg to stand on, because Jesus has taken away every accusation against me. When I think about that , I feel free and thankful.’
THOMAS & MATTHIAS MEERHOF
Thomas Samuel Meerhof (2014) lives with his parents Matthias and Carmen near the Dutch -German border.
Thomas is a happy baby, with a generous smile and striking blue eyes, looking out at the world with openness. Matthias (1990) was born in the city of Doetinchem. He and Carmen are very happy with their first born son.
Matthias: ‘I think using normal people as models makes the book more believable. Often photographs are taken from internet and then they are adapted. In this book you see people, like you and me. It is amazing that I can hold Thomas in my hands and that thousands of people will be seeing this photograph.
We want Thomas to be part of this story. We do this by reading from the picture Bible after dinner and letting him see the pictures. We hope that Thomas will later on see himself in the book or on the website and that he too will have a feeling of safety in the Fathers hands. Just as he lays in my hands in the picture, in the same way he can find protection and safety in the knowledge that God sees him just as He sees His own Son Jesus.’
Simin Bandarian was born in 1964 in the town of Abadan in South Iran. She grew up with five older brothers and two younger sisters in a happy family. When Simin was twenty she married Jamshid and they had two daughters and a son.
After the family had spent six years in different refugee centres, they received a residence permit in 2005. Jamshid works as a nurse and Simin runs a tailor shop.
‘When my favourite brother, my father and my mother all died within the same year, I went through a difficult time. I was angry at God and no longer believed in Him. Then I had a dream. I was in a dark place, but there was light in the distance. A man stood in that light and beckoned me to follow him. His shadow looked like a Cross that was lit. That is how I knew He was Jesus . Jamshid and I then went to Euregio Christengemeente in Aalten and we felt at home there. Our whole family now follows Jesus and I am so grateful for that.
I was privileged to design the clothing that Jesus is wearing for De zeven wonderen. I am so grateful that He chose me and my family to follow Him. We are honoured to say we are Christians. If we put our lives in God’s hands, then we are safe. He listens to us and always helps us. He is never too late!’
Robin (1991) grew up with his brother and sister in a family where his mother was a Christian, but his father was not. The family regularly attended one of the churches near their home.
Robin has his own place now. When he was nineteen he came to a living faith in Christ. This event awakened a desire in him to place his life in service of God’s Kingdom. That is why he is attending the “ Evangelishe Hogeschool” (Evangelical College) and is following theology classes at the “Christelijke Hogeschool” (Christian College) in Ede.
‘When I was asked to be a part of De zeven wonderen it seemed like a good idea and I agreed. What really touches me about the text for which I modelled, is the thought that someone considered it worthwhile to die for me. I have often felt lonely, but the realisation that Jesus wanted to give His life for me, is something very special to me.
When Jesus begged God to not have to drink the cup in the Garden of Gethsemane, He said: ‘Not my will , but yours be done.’ Jesus set aside His own will in order to obey God’s will. What an impressive choice to endure all of that suffering, while His thoughts were on you and I. That is what touches me the most when I think of the suffering of Jesus.’
BOB JAMA & MATTU NGEGBAI
Fleeing the violent war in his home country Sierra Leone, Bob (1982) arrived in the Netherlands. He lived in a refugee centre and some sweet Christian people took care of him.
Now he is married and the father of two children. He has a job in health-care, in the psycho-geriatric ward of a nursing home.
‘I was raised in a Christian home and was taught the Jesus is my Saviour in good times and bad. The story of the suffering and resurrection of Jesus is the first story I told my children. That story is more important than school and learning how to count, because life starts and ends with the story of Jesus. You can become a lawyer or an accountant, but when you die, that ends. But the story of Jesus is the only thing which remains.
When I was asked to participate in the De zeven wonderen I agreed. It is a beautiful way to tell the story of the gospel to thousands of people. This makes me very enthusiastic and I hope it will touch the lives of many people.’