Lives&Work

Leen La Rivière - SPECIAL EXPERIENCES and Meetings

How was our life as human beings? The short history you could read before, cannot give you real stories. Here in 20 chapters, you find special experiences. And those stories will explain why we are here today doing our creative and inspirational work. It will be followed by a series of interesting meetings.

CHAPTER 1:  FIRST IMPRESSIONS

When you look now at the size of the Christian Artists organization, it’s hard not to be impressed.....and it is impressive: A Centre (the Continental Art Centre with training-facilities,a little chapel,  a studio, offices, storage, exhibition, ........ ) for dedicated and professional workers.....it is the home of the International Christian Artists Association (appr.100 member-organizations around Europe, representing over 25.000 professional artists)......home of  Christian Artists Netherlands (=CNV-Kunstenbond with the sections visual arts, performing arts, music, media, writing,...) that even became recognised in 1989 as an official trade-union that has a say in the social, economic, political and educational profiles of the nation......home of Continental Sound, foundation for fund raising for mission, evangelistic and educational projects in Eastern and Southern Europe.......home of a publishing house.....home of the annual International Christian Artists Seminar (since 1981 thousands have  studied here and received inspiration; the seminar is the cream of the European creative crop)......home of the new European Academy for Culture and the Arts (offering 500 modules for post-academic training by highly skilled and motivated teachers & artists).......home of the European coordination of Continental Ministries, having 28 groups (each group having appr. 30 persons=840 persons selected, trained and commissioned) on the road (the Continentals=16-33 years, Continental Encores=25-55 years, Young Continentals=13-16 years, Continental Kids=8-12 years; satellite offices in Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Italy) doing 450 concerts a year, attendance appr.150.000 people a year.....representitives in almost every European nation......several exhitions per year......a long list of special workshops, small seminars, consultations.......many cultural studies of society and even politics......consultations and information for churches, youth, leadership.........home of the Music Council of the Netherlands.......a fine arts collection..........It all started in 1969 by Leen and Ria La Riviere, who are still its motivated and inspirational leaders after all these years. If you ask them is this a success story? They will look at you and will say NO. What people see  now is the result of the work of many profesional people, the boardmembers and thousands of volunteers over 35 years......But are you not both rewarded by the Queen...Leen even being knighted? Yes, but all that has been achieved was done together with many others and we should not forget that the purpose is to shape the culture to glorify God....So, was it easy, God guiding, overcoming problems???NO, it has been NOT easy, we almost went bankrupt 3 times; we still exist and that is a miracle. So it all makes you humble and dependant on God.............

CHAPTER 2:  HOW IT ALL BEGAN.

Who are Leen and Ria La Rivière? Knowing them better will help the reader to better understand what follows in this book.

LEEN LA RIVIÈRE
Born in 1946, son of a chief engineer of Philips. His parents were born in Rotterdam and his father had studied there. But just before the war his father could only get work at the laboratory of Philips in Eindhoven. A place where they could be in total safety during the war, while the whole inner city of Rotterdam was bombed to the ground. To be in Eindhoven at Philips may have saved their lives, but they took quite a few risks as they worked at night for the resistance-paper. After the war Leen’s father was moved to Hilversum, where Philips was building a new factory. So they lived in a house in nearby Bussum, where Leen attended college, but failed as he was already, by that time, more interested in creative things than in mathematics and other academic studies. His parents were deeply concerned. But Leen decided to go his own way. His parents were of traditional reformed background (Leen's father was even an elder; and as this church was not narrow minded, Leen even went to a dance-class). His parents’ contact with the evangelical/pentecostal movement was a great enrichment for their personal lives for a number of years.  When Leen was the youngest participant of a youth-meeting of this movement he asked for prayer for the Holy Spirit upon his life. As he was so young the leadership did not know what to do (quite embarrassing if they step aside for discussion and you wait for prayer). Anyway finally they prayed for Leen and something did happen; the next day the Bible was not just an important book, but became something that speaks and so it has been since that moment. Since then Leen has read the Bible every day and every time when he opened the Book, it starts to speak..... and amazingly since that day of prayer there has always been a clear feeling of the presence of God. He is just there, walking the road with Leen..... As result of all this it made Leen think, it made him ask questions and it built his character at huge speed, and that has not been easy for his family and himself, especially when you are a teenager and you sin against the 11th
Commandment: 'Thou shalt not ask questions' - especially not of leaders and pastors.
 Unfortunately this movement turned out to become more and more manipulative. Leen refused to submit and stood up against this. Not that he was rebellious, he just did not agree and soon saw that the preaching, testimonies and theology and exegesis were not consistent. So at the age of 16 he decided to let go this circus of strange convictions and search for the truth.

THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE
So as a creative young man Leen went on his search. As this foolishness of inconsistent convictions and weird theology was not the truth, what was the truth? As this movement had quite some negative opinions about persons who were thinking in other directions, it seemed to be a good idea to search in all those directions. So Leen went to read about other religions and studied them a lot. He found a lot of truths, but THE truth was something else. Next he studied psycho-analysis and found a lot of truths, but not THE truth. This pattern of analysis became very dangerous for himself. In time Leen moved to study literature, was there any wisdom there? And then came philosophy. Again many beautiful things and truths were found, but THE truth? In these years Leen must have read appr. 1500 books and studies, the last book was Nietsche’s  'Also sprach Zarathustra'. Nietsche proved that God was dead. Having understood that so well, the 20 year old Leen asked himself  the following questions: it is obvious that this God of the theology of the19th century is dead, there must be another God....and....it is Nietsche who says this, so it must include the possibility that he is wrong......At that very moment (Leen was sitting in the train late at night from his studies in Utrecht travelling home and he just had closed the last page of Nietsche) it felt like two arms around Leen, like a tender hug and like a voice saying......'well done, son, you went for the truth and the truth shall make you free, I AM the truth'......an incredible encounter with God. It was the beginning of a rebirth and a year of mental repair.
But the outcome was, that it had turned Leen into a very strong character with a lot of perseverence. This became very useful later in the service of God.
In these years after failing college, all  Leen could just get into was a 5 year study to become teacher. Here he studied pedagogy, didactics, culture, got all his religious exams, loved to win the debates with teachers. But school was boring. They discovered here how creative Leen was, so insteadof  going to the conservatory or the Academy of Arts 50% of his time was spent on creative studies, literature, musicals, exhibitions, art-work, performance, theatre, etc. as the school wanted to keep Leen there at any price.
Now and then Leen kept visiting the circus of that christian movement, where the leadership more and more got afraid of him (strange, Leen was just a teenager) and finally marked him as ‘enemy of the state’! As his parents were big benefactors of that movement, they didnot dare to throw him out, but they would have loved to do it. And when Leen felt in love with Ria,(who was the secretary of a famous evangelist of that movement), that meant war......so they tried everything to prevent the marriage. But Leen had got stronger and had gained a wealth of wisdom and insight.

RIA LA RIVIÈRE
Born in 1946, she came from a farmers' backgground. Her father had a nice complex of greenhouses between the city Rotterdam and the suburb of Ommoord. Those many acres of glasshouses provided a good income. Ria could go to highschool but after a few years she dropped out as she had more interest in fashion.She got a job at the best fashion-house in Rotterdam and she will tell you how much she learned there about fashion, skills, clothes, the materials, styling, presentation, make-up,etc. Here she learned how to deal with the absolute secular, non-believing and gayscene. Quite something when you are 16 and when you come from a very traditional, conservative baptist background (her father was elder). Her parents were wise and allowed her quite some space, but did not allow her to dance, as they believed that was wrong. Her brother in law, married to her elder sister was a baptist-minister and he caused her many, many problems as this man turned out to be a master-manipulater and extremely narrow-minded. Ria even worked a while for him, but broke lose, as she could not stand his terrible attitude and immorality (later it came out he had abused her best friend).....
To dare to stand up against him was a powerful act for such a young girl and showed her strong character and her sensitivity for what is right and just. Her brother did not want to conform to all this silly religious stuff. He studied to be architect and you can still see some of his buildings in Rotterdam. In his twenties he became a christian in a tent-crusade, where his brother in law was preaching.....Of course a great spiritual break-through, but it also brought this brother on to a path of manipulation......

After her years in fashion Ria worked for a few years at the office of a known evangelist of a free-evangelical/pentecostal movement . At one of his youth-meetings she met Leen. She saw in the midst of the multitude a young man, that was totally himself, one who did not use the normal christian 'slang', had his own opinion and when she started to know him, she found out that the leadership feared him as they could not manipulate him, so they warned Ria not to marry him......even a few days before their marriage she got visit from a leader warning her not to marry Leen, as he would make her life miserable........Ria and Leen married and even just before the wedding in the church the boss of Ria (who was the well known evangelist) did not want to perform the service as Leen and Ria had wanted and had agreed upon .....With great difficulty a compromise was reached just a minute before the wedding would take place.......What a drama. In spite of all these painful situations Leen and Ria took courage and stepped into marriage. Two STRONG characters in a box. How long would that last? But great joy, soon Ria discovered she was pregnant and the first son Magiel was born 9 months later.

TWO ROADS
Well what is it like to put two strong characters in one box? Yes, impossible. Ria and Leen had fallen in love, because they were so different and they both had  minds of their own. So this marriage was designed to clash and clashes were happening and increasing.....Just think about the stress-levels: a ministry starting up in your house (the first desk was in the bedroom)....,during the day teaching at school....,next at home this other job for the Conti’s......, volunteers every day to help........, Ria every day in the kitchen to cook for all those people...,The first baby born, soon another on its way..........The stress levels went through the roof. It was WAR. Conflicts were arising and increasing as nobody wanted to submit. After 3 years of marriage they were ready for divorce, as they were both longing for peace. But how to square that with God's calling? And why did prayer not help? And how to understand this as both were true christians? And what about the kids? But the worst had yet to come.....All was gearing up for the 'mother of all fights'....After a week of Leen working hard for school and ministry  with no time for the family, through a little incident hell broke lose....After an evening of yelling and screaming and bitter arguments, Leen and Ria decided to quit and they both broke down together in deep weeping ending in a bitter prayer of regret that ‘I’ was not possible for true love and commitment to exist....’I’ was the origin of the problem as ‘I’ wanted it all MY way....no longer ‘I’ wanted to manipulate the other or to make the other submit or blaming the other for every crisis.... This astonishing insight we both got in almost the same moment. We both prayed that and still today we believe that the finger of God did touch us with a ray of light - insight. That night was the moment of change. It took several months for repair, but we no longer  blamed the other. After a while we were equally in love as years before, as we were so different and loved the differences. And our relationship developed into true companionship. Ria is not there to keep Leen busy or 'entertain' him, nor is Leen there to 'entertain' Ria: living together but as mature persons, one in diversity. Marriage became a two-track railroad, 2 strong individuals, each with their own unique gifts, each contributing in his/her own way to leadership, a true complementary form of unity and diversity. And the ministry has benefitted from that enormously.

UPHELD TRUE VALUES
There is another episode in our personal life that became of importance for the ministry. As you have read, Ria's family was quite manipulative. Her brother became a Christian and also became preacher and also  turned gradually into having a manipulative attitude. Ria had a problem seeing her family in the real light. She worshipped them. Several fights during dating, engagement and early marriage were rooted in her dependency on her family. Did she made the choice for Leen or for her family? Did she choose to worship the real God or her family? To see all in the real light has been a long and painful journey. Leen was convinced that unless she could discover the truth herself, nothing would help. So on his side there was also suffering, as he saw that Ria could not arise to her real greatness, as she was bound and blinded. It took 13 years.....In the meantime as a by-product of their ministry Leen and Ria started a home church as neigbours became Christians. That homechurch outgrew  their house and they asked Ria's brother to become pastor, while Leens first call was the creative ministry, but serving as co-pastor. Slowly Ria's brother showed histrue manipulative nature, till it got so far that he asked in a privat talk with Ria to put pressure on Leen so that Leen should abandon his ministry and submit all to him. At the same time it came to the light that her brother-in-law had abused her best friend. Total crisis: finally she saw the family in their real light, and she made a choice for herself, to have her own opinion and to stop manipulation. This became the beginning for the unfolding of many of her talents: writing, speaking, styling, insight, wisdom (she is the best scanner of people’s motives). She got her column in our magazine, and that is the best read part of every issue. And after many years she wrote an unique book about this episode: 'Stolen Innocence'. It also came to light that her former boss (the well-known evangelist) who was always so against Leen and against all the creative projects had committed adultery over a number of years. The man and his theology were a total fraud.....We decided to leave that church as they got so extreme and fanatical. Besides that: such manipulation is like poison. It broke up the extended family. 7 difficult years were the result, a battle for safety and life. This was another interesting learning point for Ria and Leen. The clue is NOT we go to church (as that does not prove anything). The clue is that we are called to love each other, especially in our own little family: unconditional love. That love brought our sons and parents Ria/Leen closer together. Through all these situations we learned to uphold true values and to stand for what is right.  

CHAPTER 3:  HOW IT ALL BEGAN

It was 1968: Leen and Ria La Riviere were just married and had a nice apartment on the 5th floor of a new block in Rotterdam-Ommoord, a new suburb. After marriage they decided to settle there. Leen found a job at a school for mentally retarded children, Ria was pregnant and decided to stay home; she had worked for some years for an evangelistic- missionmovement. They found a new church in the inner-city where Leen became part of the youth- and music-commission as the church saw his music- and management-skills. The music-director had contact with another director in the USA: Cam Floria, who wrote that he wanted to send his 'Continental Singers' to minister in the Netherlands. So in 1969 this Dutch director asked Leen to help organising in this first tour of the Continentals. Leen and Ria listened to these first LP's and thought it was 'just okay', but not contemporary enough. The director assured them that the group was not a traditional choir but was the 'hottest' thing in contemporary christian music. No, it was not black-gospel....it was something totally new........ Lucky for the Continentals and for all that came afterwards Leen believed this statement so he decided to launch an experiment as nobody knew the potentional of this new idea. So concerts were organised in a Catholic church, reformed church, pentecostal church, baptist church, in the wellknown Doelen concert-building of Rotterdam, and in the town-square, in a music-tent at the beach and at a campingsite in the forest...... The results were amazing, never in such a short time  had so many non-christians visited those events, so many wanted to know more about the Gospel, so many wanted to see the Continentals again. These facts could be read in the first overall marketing-review Leen had organised to get the facts on the table. The data proved: this was really something new, something so special, so unique...God was really at work in a total new way. Based on these data Leen decided that he would love to continue with the Continentals. The report of the American director Ken Waggoner and his wife Nancy to the home-office in the USA about how all was organised in the Netherlands and how many had turned up made Cam Floria decide to ask Leen to organise all the concerts of the Continentals all over Europe and so it happened. From 1971 onwards Leen built a huge network in all the Western nations........ And as contacts grew soon the possibilities were explored to go also into Eastern Europe. So the first visit took place in Poland in 1975, which was a huge success.....cathedrals with 3000 seats had 6000 visitors.......This all was the result of the special vision and faith Leen had: as you cannot do all these things based on your family-account a foundation for creative ministries was founded in 1970: "Stichting Continental Sound" and you find there already in the documents mentioned: the target is ALL OF EUROPE........

CHAPTER 4:  GROWTH

These first years were a time of of immense growth. Within 2 years we had our first full-time worker. Leen did not want to be full time himself as he had seen so many parasites who under the name of 'ministry', were only a burden for their churches. So he decided to stay like Paul: tentmaking...... and he remained a teacher during the day. After a few years, there was an office (we rented another apartment in 1973 for this purpose and that brought great relief for Leen and Ria's family life - to be able to separate office from family), there came several full-timers for bookings and for the new  record-company (started in 1973, the step from Continental Singers concerts to the products of the Conti's was  easily made and those sales provided much needed income; soon contracts were signed with the major American labels for distribution of all their products; so Continental Sound became the first christian record company for contemporary christian music on the continent) and we increased the number of concert projects (like the first European dance & praise project with Shekinah in1974)  besides the Continentals. The Continentals became incredibly successfull (including a lot of TV-work). As in those early years all groups were American, Cam Floria could hardly keep up with the increasing demands Leen had created in Europe. Up to 6 summer-groups were a normal picture. For all those groups busses were provided, European roadmanagers were trained to guide the Americans, and national coordinators were trained, European promotion was developed as the American designs did not relate to the European mindset. This office was like a busy swarm of bees having soon 6 fulltime people and a circle of 30 directly connected volunteers for all types of services and help. This office also got as many requests for help from churches and national musicians, so during the year several seminars, workshops and training-days were organised and that all led to the need for a more ongoing form of communication so the in-house Dutch magazine Sjofar was created in 1974 and has since then come out almost every month till today. But not all was glory as success also makes enemies. Several church-leaders got a bit jealous on these newcomers Leen & Ria and their growing Continental empire. The same people who had been so against Leen in his teens opposed him again by writing now and then nasty articles about this so called 'ministry' in their magazines. One article had even a headline 'This can NOT be from God'. But local churches knew better, they saw the great and blessed results at concerts.  At the concerts God was at work. Leen & Ria and their board decided not to act against those stupid narrow-minded articles, but win the war based on a solid theological debate and that became the reason to write solid studies and books about the biblical foundations for music and later all the arts. The first book appeared in 1975 and year after year more books came out and that silenced all the negative voices as they could not argue with the abundance of theological evidence that God is using all the arts. Today Leen has over 20 books in his name and Ria 5 books. 1974 was also an interesting year as it was decided to start with an artist-management organisation,who brought for a number of years, the leading artists to Holland and other parts of Europe like Choralerna, Jamie Owens, Barry McGuire, Second Chapter of Acts and so many more. In 1974 there was also launched as a new national event: every year a large christian contemporary music festival was held in the popular Ahoy-arena in Rotterdam. A highly innovative step. And 1974 was the start of the coming of the first christian rock band NEW HOPE consisting of professional ex-Conti's(later the name changed into Wings of Light). This rock group came every year till 1983 for a period of 3 months a year and has ministered to an incredible number of youth, schools, clubs, etc. This group created the breakthrough for any type of music on the continent.
Finally (in 1974) due to the growth of the whole ministry and as result of the crises in their personal life Leen faced the important decision: going full-time or quit as it was no longer possible to have two full-time jobs every day and being totally occupied every week-end with almost no possibility to be with the family or having a holiday. So that meant prayer, prayer and consideration. Going full-time meant another income added to the payroll of Continental Sound and would that work? It meant leaving the financial safety as a teacher and taking a step into the unknown....... Leen and Ria felt caught in the middle, but having just made it through their personal crises, they were not asking for another crises, so a decision had to be made. Leen overlooked his 5 years of creative ministry and you could be very thankful for all the innovative steps that had had an enormous impact on people and churches. So was it time to hand it over to others? Or did God have a plan? In these days God asked very clearly: 'Leen, do you want to take up this call for Me?' It was not Cam or a church or other leadership that asked Leen and Ria to do this job, it was not a substitute for 'real work'. Looking back it seems that God had been watching the true motives in Leen’s heart. Was Leen going for the success or would he beat the arrogance and would he go for the attitude and heart of a disciple, so that God really could use him. As this got clear,  God intervened personally and Leen answered that call. That very special moment became later of enormous importance and help. So Leen quit his job at school and God became his new boss.

CHAPTER 5:  FACING BANKRUPTCY

It was 1975a time of many activities, many staff and many volunteers, God was with us, so who was against us? We wanted to conquer the world. Weren't we not doing great? Were we not really reaching Europe?..... But sometimes large success can corrupt a lot. One of our record sales-and promotor persons had gone behind our back and had started direct negotiations with the foreign record labels that he could do much better. These guys broke our agreement and stopped delivering. In those days almost 80% income of the ministry came from our record-company, so that prices of concert tickets would be a minimum or not at all (love-offering), so that the concert-ministry would be as open as possible. Panic in the house. This became one of the most dramatic boardmeetings: it was decided not to go to court, as all that we did was such a clear ministry and call, we should ask God to fight for us, and so we prayed.......The coming weeks nothing happened.....slowly the attitude of the staff and some of the volunteers started to change. Instead of seeking God, they turned against Leen and Ria. It was all their fault.....there may be sin in their lives.....as income stopped staff had to be fired.....this increased the level of  antipathy and finally in some, hate. It got so far that the person who was handling all finances declared that Leen had stolen money and put it on a Swiss account so that the moment the ministry would collapse, he would move to Switzerland.....How would you feel under such lies and circumstances? Leen and Ria could not defend themselves but could only cry to God for only He could justify..... but - no answer. Looking back it is clear that God didnot want to intervene as time was needed to bring everybody's real motivation to the light. But in those days Leen and Ria felt terribly alone. Later the official audit showed that all these allegations were terrible lies. Finally as there was no income Leen was the last person at the office...... no money...... invoices and debts piling up......left alone by most volunteers and all the staff had turned against him.......And this whole situation got public.......the same Christian leaders (who had opposed Leen many times)  acted fast....yes, this is God’s punishment, there is sin and arrogance in his life.....this was their moment for revenge. There was no possibility for defence......how would you feel? The only thing that kept Leen going was the voice of God of 3 years ago: 'Do you want to do this for ME?' Leen will never forget these terrible weeks in an empty office, crying to God......Lord, why is this happening to your ministry and to me?.........Lord, I answered your call, You are my boss, I am your servant, so take care for the situation and me.........no answer.......it seems God was on holiday.....Finally there was not even money to buy food for the family and to pay rent.......At Last (where were you God.....???) the answer came: "Leen, did I ever tell you this was going to be easy?" Leen was crying in his total submission, yes how had Jesus suffered, how was He innocent, how didn't He want to defend himself......Looking back, this traumatic period helped to develop more of the character of Jesus in Leen. It brought to light all the real motives, arrogance and real sins in the life of staff and volunteers.....Leen and Ria do understand the traumatic feelings of the staff and  Leen and Ria are even now sad that the staff could not take the step into the larger picture and allow God to do His work, so they kept locked in sad negativism and accusations....It was Gods time for pruning and that hurts. Now the deep spiritual meaning was clear, but would He provide or would it all die as the time for this ministry, Gods ministry was fullfilled?

CHAPTER 6:  THE BANKMANAGER

As mentioned earlier finally there was not even money to buy food. Leen had  more or less decided to go back teaching when after these week of absolute desert-experience a soft voice said inside Leen’s head: “go and see the bankmanager” . Leen could not believe this to be true. This must be your own imagination because bills were piling up, no assets, no activities, so why to go to the bank, as they were already in debt..... but the voice remained saying: “go and see the bankmanager”.  After 2 weeks Leen followed this impulse, made an appointment and went to the bankmanager. Leen explained the whole history, all what had happened, why he did not want to go to court, why he trusted God and that he expected that all would become well again....they only needed to borrow money to overcome 6 months of no income.....no, they had NO assets as guarantee....The bankmanager must have never heard such a strange story. He looked at Leen, thought for a moment and said: ‘Well, if I viewed the situation properly, I should not lend a penny to you, but I see you stand for a noble cause and you have totally convinced me that you will be able to pay back in the future. I trust you and will get the money for you’. This bankmanager signed personally as a kind of personal guarantee, he has risked his neck for us. We got 45.000 Euro (we even went up to 55.000) and several months later the first money came in. It took 7 years to pay it all back. Now the lesson!!! If this man showed such trust, how much more trust God must have in us. This flash of insight helped us through this bitter year and helped us to start trusting new people again. We got new volunteers, new staff was hired after a while......
Something else was happening: one day a man walked into the empty office. He wanted to talk with Leen about setting up a big event, as God had spoken to friends in America and they wanted to see this happening. As Leen had all the expertise, could he help? Well, had they really heard Gods voice??? Leen explained that to hire the giant Ahoy Sporting arena it would cost a lot of money. As Leen had no money, nor had Continental Sound which was technically bankrupt, money needed to come BEFORE anything could be done......the man understood, he would be back within a few weeks. Leen did not know what to expect. Anyway a few weeks later the man was back and put a big cheque on the table, now Leen could start. So new staff, volunteers could be found and the churches of Rotterdam gave a lot of help, as they slowly started to see that now Leen was still in the ministry and alive and Continental Sound had not gone bankrupt, maybe God was with Leen and maybe this ministry may be really of God??? Finally this event in Ahoy brought appr.7500 persons and till today you meet people who were touched by God that day.
And something else happened: just before the record-contract was broken Leen had visited Jimmy Owens in England to study the Come Together project. Leen got convinced that this musical and this message had a particular relevance for the Netherlands. And he started working on this project. And so it happened that just after the peak of the crisis Leen could launch the Dutch version of Come Together. The cast toured for 2 years and performed all over the Netherlands, making a real impact. This helped the creativity to go on..... Isn’t it remarkable how a situation of distrust can change in  a story of trust?


CHAPTER 7: CROSSING THE CULTURE BARRIER

Yes, all those Americans coming as Continental Singers, wonderful. But already soon Leen and Ria started to dream about whether it is possible to have European Continentals and Dutch Continentals??? Leen started to ask around to check possibilities and needs......Yes, it should be possible. After finishing the Come Together project Leen did a try-out, but this pre-Conti-group totally failed and Leen feared that something like Continentals would never be possible. Leen had to learn the hard way, that imitation does not work. So after a few weeks of trying hard with this group of very willing persons, he changed course. Maybe it was better to learn while you go, till finally the cross-cultural concepts of the Continentals were discovered. And so it happened. The group was renamed in DISCIPEL(Disciple), as they needed to show a lot of discipline as they were used as a kind of guinea-pigs. This group started in 1977 and Discipel has performed in every possible and impossible situation, many forms of training have been experimented, every style of repertoire has been tried, all types of technical systems have been tested, all forms of training, logistics and transport done.......After 10 years(!) this huge experiment brought all the elements to the table to design and create the complete system of how to do the European Continentals. Till in small details we had learnt how to cross-cultural what Continentals is. And all these discoveries and this long time of learning laid the foundation for the tremendous success of todays Continentals in Europe as there are in 2004 on tour: 28(!!!) groups with complete offices in Italy, Slovakia, Hungary and even Romania.............
If you look back to all this learning...how many times we were almost desparate as it did not work, sound, acted as it should.......but we had the courage to hold on and to move on. Yes, it is true - there are NO shortcuts to excellence. And if you really want to arise to greatness you also need an awful lot of discipline and to be ready to invest a load of blood, sweat and tears........
Today we are thankful for this long time of experimentation with one group as it prevented many problems that would have given trouble to many other groups in the future.

CHAPTER 8:  THE BEGINNING OF A NEW ERA

It was the end of the ‘seventies’. It felt like God was opening a new door. Slowly we had moved into  calmer waters after the turbulent time of almost a bankruptcy a few years ago. Dust had settled, peace at the office, peace in the family. But was this our whole life? Was this the purpose? We could not think so, but what would be the next step? Slowly God started to point His finger to a little spot in Leen’s life, where change was needed. This spot was  a terrible feeling of anger about another organization that had started to do the record-distribution after the Anglo-American company had broken their contract with us. Our ex-promo-man had started this company so that he could sign the new record-deal as result of the take-over. Well how would you feel  to have to compete suddenly with an unwanted other “christian” record-company? We had invested in our own recordings so that we  could realise new income. But after a few years this man had left this new company and there was a new director. But our feelings of anger towards this company and this new director, who was innocent of the bad acts of his predecessor, kept going. Finally the soft Voice started to speak again......’Leen, if your are really just and holy, why then not going to see this director of that company.....’ Well, ah, how would you feel to visit your enemy? But the voice kept repeating this message over the next days. So finally Leen took the telephone to make an appointment. This company had 2 directors and Leen was with one of them and tried to bridge the differences, but it did NOT work. Oh yes, the man was nice, but with no sign of understanding, the doors remained shut. Leen felt hopeless, had he really heard the voice of God? He felt silly being in the Lion’s den. On the way out, this director introduced him to the other director and till Leens great surprise something clicked within a second. With this person a new appointment was made and during that evening all pain and bitterness was ironed out. Doors of understanding opened. And Leen and Ria really saw that these persons now in leadership were not guilty of betrayal. Leen and Ria saw that God had called those new directors into their own ministry using records. Even God convinced Leen and Ria in 1980 that He would call Leen and Ria into new areas and that it was better to step out of the commercial field. Here their mission was fullfilled as He had called new men. So to their own and many others surprise in 1980 Leen and Ria gave to these men their own record-company, with exception of the rights and productions of the Continental LP’s. That was news for the press.
This unexpected move was the beginning of another step. This other company had made the beginning of a ‘Gospel Music Magazine’. Leen and Ria had already since 1974 ‘Sjofar, their own magazine. It was decided to merge those 2 magazines and change Sjofar into an in-house fundraising newsletter. And so it happened. A strong new magazine was launched to benefit both former enemies.......The editorial staff came to Rotterdam where there was space, as the Continental Sound record-company had moved to the other record-company. Life can be strange. And now  today there is a good relationship with this record-company......After 2 years the magazine became 100% owned by Leens and Ria’s ministry.
But this story of humbleness and listening and learning also had another result. As the record-company was gone, time and space was available for something new. Part of that came through the new magazine. But it was time for something great.
For some time Leen had had contact with his collegue Cam Floria in the USA about Christian Artists Seminars. After setting up The Continentals Cam had started these Seminars in 1974. These seminars brought together all the leading Christian artists, who gave a lot of workshops, so that the new generation could quickly attain excellence. But when would be the time to start this event  in Europe? As time and space became available and as peace had been signed with the record-companies, it seemed be the right time. Now it turned  out to be of great importance that the American record-companies wanted to send their artists on their expenses as this organization in the Netherlands was a ministry and not a competitive record-company. In 1980 negotiations were started with leadership all across Europe  and finally a key-meeting took place at the De Bron Centre in Dalfsen, the Netherlands. Many of the representatives were the national Continental coordinators Leen had recruited and trained and who were ready to give a lot of help. As result, in 1981  the first European Christian Artist Seminar was held. The best European artists performed and gave workshops. Today we can be thankful for so much help from so many sides and for the help of American record-companies. This first meeting was necessary to start building bridges of understanding, which were absolutely needed in Europe. This Seminar turned during the years into the most important generator for renewal and change.......
By giving away a record-company we received back so much more...

CHAPTER 9:  RIA’S CHANGE

Mention has already  been made of the very narrow-minded background of Ria’s family  and how such education and family-experiences had quite an effect on people, so it had on Ria. She had in those early days quite a poor opinion of Americans. She thought they were superficial, you could never really count on them, etc, etc. Several times during the seventies she had had invitations to come to Continentals USA or to visit the American Christian Artists Seminar. But she had always refused. In 1980 two Americans stayed for a short while in our appartment and as result it slowly dawned on Ria that not all Americans are superficial. This period marked the needed change in Ria’s attitude and she learned to love Americans. The following year the European Christian Artists Seminar started and we all had to deal with a lot of Americans. But Ria could now embrace them all and her insights and sensitivity with the staff helped to get a lot of frictions out of the way. In 1983 Ria visited finally the American Seminar and being there with all her friends was another breakthrough. But Ria had still to take another major stumbling block.
As mentioned earlier, she worshipped her family. ‘They were always right and everybody else was always wrong.....’ (Can you imagine how irritating this must have been for Leen?). Anyway Ria had to learn to see their parents, brother and brother-in-law in the real light.
Slowly the tension was growing in the church, that had been started by Leen and Ria and  where Ria’s brother was now the pastor. Ria’s brother was becoming more extreme every month. The Christian Artists Seminars of 1981 and 1982 were the beginning of the division and brought the real frictions to light. Up until 1980 most of Ria’s work in the ministry had been behind the scenes. At CA-1981 she discovered that she had her own unique leadership-position among the artists, speakers, staff and participants. With great joy she told ‘the family’ about this call. They reacted with rejection. And all of this ended in the incredible situation that Ria’s brother wanted total submission and Leen and Ria to stop their whole European ministry. As¬Ria had discovered her new call and position she did not allow manipulation to happen any longer. And so ‘the family’ was not longer on the throne of her life, now finally God could take His place in her heart.
Sometimes Leen and Ria feel sad, that for Ria to come to this understanding took 15 years of marriage.....But on the other hand those 15 years have not been in vain and were a great period of learning. Amazing was too, that new hidden gifts started to come to the surface, like writing. Soon she had her own column in the magazine Music & Art; her columns are the most widely read parts of the magazine and she got 5 books out. And later she took up fashion again and when the European Continentals started she has done since the styling/fashion of all those groups.

CHAPTER 10:  1982, FINANCIAL CRISIS AGAIN

During the year our office, staff and volunteers were all involved in the annual schedule of planning, preparations and running concerts, the Continental tours as well as tours of many other artists like Ingemar Olsson, Adrian Snell, Christmas tours, country-music tours, rock-tours, praise-tours, work of the publishing house, Magazines, workshops, etc, etc. But in the middle of such an annual period there was the great moment of inspiration: the Christian Artists Seminar. So with great joy we had had the second CA-Seminar in 1982, how inspiring and innovating this week had been......but finances were a drama. So what should we do? Leen and Ria decided to pray for the situation: stop the event as finances were so bad or move on, but would God provide? And what if after some weeks of prayer a kind of answer came: “move on, but it will not get easy”..... Two weeks later we got a visit of our auditors. After going through the books they said that the ministry was healthy....BUT we should stop CA immediately. What happened next was quite funny. Leen agreed totally with the argument based on the figures and next he said that based on the dynamics of that event he was totally convinced that the next year was going to be different, so why not see this loss as an investment in the success of the future operation....They looked¬at Leen, closed the books and suitcases and said ‘okay’ and left....But had we heard Gods voice? Or was it only wishful thinking?
So we got to  the summer of 1983. Would CA really be different, or should we have to close the doors in september?
This year there was an incredible difference. Many more people came to the Seminar, so more or less we could pay the invoices. Thank you God. But there was another remarkable difference. Leen was convinced that he should get FloydMcClung (the former number two at YWAM) to speak. After talking and writing for 2 years Floyd had had ‘a word of God’ that he should go. So Floyd was there at CA in 1983 and his presence (he is VERY tall), his attitude(most preachers are so often very nasty to artists, and he was so kind) and his message (finally some substance for artists) made an incredible, deep spiritual impact. Yes, God was at work at CA.
And this message went that autumn out like a bushfire around Europe and laid the basis for the growth of CA till over 2000 participants came in 1989.
But at the end, this CA-Seminar of 1983 a special blessing for Leen and Ria.
When Floyd and his family left the site after the CA-week, he went to Leen and Ria and said that he was totally impressed by their work, their ministry and their call and said that nowhere in YWAM he had seen so clearly how God can use the arts to glorify His name....Leen and Ria broke out in tears. So Floyd wondered, as he had not offended the two of them. Then Leen and Ria explained about their life stories, the eternal rejection of christian leaders, their rejection in the family and now for so many years walking against the storm, but holding on to the call of God....so many time you feel alone, desperately alone. And now, for the first time in their lives, a Christian leader had expressed respect, appreciation and love......This moment and during the years after when Floyd and Sally McClung became friends of the house has been a time of great healing for the bitterness and the rejection. After that moment, whatever leaders said, it did not matter anymore.

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