Posted by: Jack | April 17, 2020

New routines

And so we adjust to social isolation and faces on the screen. I am chained to my laptop and my phone. How many apps for video calling have you used in the last two weeks?

The Netherlands seems to have passed the peak of the corona pandemic, the US is right at this point. Lockdown measures might be downscaled, but people remain cautious about new outbreaks. Dutch politicians speak about “the 5-foot society” for the rest of the year but do not advise face masks. Each country has its ways.

Our home life now has a new routine: watching Manuel two days a week (since Laura and Adriaan also work from home), Jack working upstairs, Pat managing the house. Our church and small group are now on Zoom. We have online coffee with family and friends, and spend time around the house. We’ve dug up our little front yard to plant roses. Amazing how many people now stop for a little chat while we are outside.

For Jack, these past weeks were Easter break, so no classes. He has begun serious work on the book project while continuing to work on funding. Next week, classes and meetings are back in full swing, but now all online. This will continue until the end of May. The technology works well, so interaction should be possible. It also demands more intense concentration, so he teaches shorter periods with longer breaks.

Most ETF interns are able to finish their internship reasonably well; a few are still negotiating a change of tasks to complete sufficient hours.

This crisis makes us realize afresh how every breath is a gift from God. Life is short and fragile — “our life is but a vapor,” says James (4:14). We’ve experienced this with an intensity that we haven’t previously known. It encourages us to know that we stand together in this crisis and that we’re praying for one another.

Posted by: Jack | March 29, 2020

Stunned, yet hopeful

“What!? Did you hear what I heard? Trump just announced a travel ban for all transatlantic flights!” We couldn’t believe our ears. Incredible! Unprecedented! We were stunned.

That was March 12th. Three days earlier, the Dutch government had imposed social distancing and handwashing, mandating that people work from home if at all possible.

By now, this seems ancient history. Every so many days, ever more stringent measures are imposed everywhere, and the corona pandemic continues to spread its ravages.

Hospitals in the Netherlands are scrambling to double their Intensive Care capacity, from a total of 1150 to 1600 to 2200 beds. And even more. In the next few days, we might well exhaust our current IC capacity, or will it expand just in time? Even veterinarians are making their ventilators available for human usage. The Dutch IC workload is expected to finally peak near the end of May. But … no one really knows, so we hope and pray.

At this moment (March 30), our family is doing OK. The ETF, where Jack teaches, has sent all students home and has moved all lectures and meetings online. Student internships have changed mid-course (Jack supervises that). Belgium has closed its borders for Dutch travelers, so Jack is not allowed to travel to the ETF at this point. He will work from home for the rest of this semester.

Our church has moved online as well. Slowly, we are beginning to make some new connections, and experiment with ‘virtual worship.’

Laura and Adriaan work from home as well, while daycare has shut down. With a livewire like Manuel (3 1/2 years old), that is quite a trick! Fortunately, because our circles of contacts are now very limited, we can help maintain a bit of life balance by caring for Manuel twice a week – for as long as we are still allowed.

Rebecca and Joram are doing OK. Rebecca has been re-assigned from the clinical oncology department to the lung department (where she worked before), doing shifts in anticipation of a huge influx of corona patients in the next two weeks. Another cousin works in an Amsterdam hospital.

Jack’s dad is hanging in there, very confused over these events. Today is his 94th birthday, but we can’t visit him because of the corona regulations for nursing homes.

Grocery shopping now means waiting in line outside the store, since stores are required to monitor social distance and store capacity, often imposing a maximum number of customers in-store at the same time.

Stress levels mount, families feel cooped up, especially those with special needs kids and adults, and the economy has all but come to a standstill. Many people fear for their jobs and income.

We also see a lot of initiatives to support others through this crisis. We hope and pray that this crisis will bring a new awareness of our dependency on one another, and mostly on the Lord. This morning, as I prayed over breakfast, all of a sudden the Lord’s prayer, with its petitions for the kingdom to come and for daily bread, seemed closer to our experience than I can ever remember. So, we are looking for ways to help and reach out to others.

Thank you for staying in touch and praying for us in this crisis, even as many of you face similar or even worse challenges. May God protect and guide us in a world that only the Lord ultimately controls. Human control isn’t nearly as good or efficient as often we think it is … and it is good to reflect on that and return to our dependency on our heavenly Father.

  • “Thy Kingdom come …”
  • “Give us this day our daily bread”


We have never gone white-water rafting
Exciting? Yes!
But scary too
Perhaps we’ve missed the adventure of a life-time
But then we realized
We’ve been white-water rafting for decades
Not on literal white waters down a steep canyon
But in white waters nevertheless.

rafting-421132_1920The white waters of church life
Perhaps, once upon a time, they were quiet
Today’s society holds many surprises
Hidden obstacles, unexpected dangers
Church is in the middle of them
Navigating unexpected eddies
Avoiding rocks just beneath the surface
Moving many different people
In the same direction
Without falling out of the boat

How do you do it?
What are the secrets?
How do you ‘save’ others
Without drowning yourself?
Those are the questions of church leaders
As they navigate down white waters
In a fragile boat called community.

I think you get the picture. Church leadership is a great privilege. But also as a great challenge. In our ministry, we have experienced that many times over, as I’m sure you have.

2019-09-06 21.22.38Jack has joined hands with a Dutch Christian leadership trainer to write a book on leading the church on new journeys in pursuit of God’s mission. We want to put a valuable resource into the hands of many pastors and church leaders in the Netherlands and Belgium, to equip them for church leadership in the 21st century.

We need your help to complete this project by September of 2021. A total of $12,000 is needed to finish all the research, writing, editing and publishing. We have a Dutch publisher who will work with us. There will be some proceeds from the royalties, but in the small Dutch language market, this will only cover a fraction of the need.

Your donation will put a valuable resource into the hands of Dutch church leaders to enable them to lead their church faithfully amidst the rapid changes of the 21st century. We are looking for 15 to 20 people to support this project with $25-$50 a month until September 2021, as well as a few individuals or businesses to donate $1,000 in a one-time gift.

For a detailed book project proposal, please write the authors ( or

Donations can be made online: or by mail (send a check to Biblical Ministries Worldwide, 1595 Herrington Road, Lawrenceville, GA 30043). Please designate your gift to the “Literature Fund / Book Project” of the Barentsen ministry, so that the entire amount of the donation will go towards this project.

Posted by: Jack | January 30, 2020

Exams & papers

Exam time. Students sweat over exams while profs sweat to grade everything on time!

ETF student BA fellow teacher (who is also a pastor) and I spent a morning doing oral exams with a dozen freshmen in “Orientation in Practical Theology.” Each student gets 4 new questions and takes 20 minutes in an empty office to prepare. They are then ushered into my office while the next student begins his or her 20 minute prep time. Some are hesitant and say little; my colleague and I try to draw out an answer – if any can be found! Others expound profusely, and we have to stop them to ask the next question. This year, not all students passed the exam, but the grades for their assignments helped compensate.

Today, I graded papers for a master course “Issues in Pastoral Theology.” Clearly, all students have read the course material. One student, whom I knew from our bachelor program, demonstrated real growth as he wrote a creative essay on his own pioneer church ministry, drawing on passages from 1 Corinthians as well as the course readings. Another student attempted to present his personal view on pastoral theology, but it was hard to make sense of the argument even though all the ‘right’ authors were cited. A third student, pastor of an evangelical church in Germany, presented an excellent analysis of the methods of practical theology; although it was written in German it was a pleasure to read and I look forward to further Ph.D. research with him.

Exams and papers are always a mix of frustration and joy. Sometimes, I doubt my teaching and wonder if any student ‘got it.’ But then other students surprise me with excellent writing that makes me proud to be their teacher. Thank you for praying for this teaching ministry, where my colleagues and I equip young (and not so young) people for ministry.

Posted by: Jack | January 6, 2020

The Flemish Evangelical Alliance


It was early December. Gradually the big classroom at the ETF filled up. About 30, maybe 40 people sat around long tables in one big square. Introductions.

  • Daniel from an association about teaching ‘Evangelical Religion’ in Flemish high school
  • Desi who worked with prostitutes in a major Flemish city
  • Jasper, working with an evangelical youth organization
  • Johan working with Global Leadership Summit
  • Thérèse working to represent handicapped Christians to churches in Belgium and in Europe
  • Tom, working for IFES in Flanders
  • Jamie with his organization to help refugees and share the gospel
  • Someone else representing the persecuted church
  • And many more


The Flemish Evangelical Alliance aims to connect these groups together across various themes and interests, such as refugees, student ministries, communication, and perhaps soon leadership and education. It is amazing that in the country of Belgium, where Evangelicals are at the most 1% of the population, there are so many Christian organizations. They’re often dependent on the initiative of just a few spirited people. It was an amazing group to be part of.

I treasured the opportunity to represent the ETF in this group, help people realize that our students could do internships with their organizations, and seeking ways to serve together. With only 1% of the nation evangelical and the remainders of Catholicism mostly crumbling, the job of reaching people for Christ is taking many new forms. God is evidently at work in Belgium, and your partnership through Jack’s teaching ministry is making a difference.  Your prayers, interest, and support are invaluable to us.

Thank you for praying with us. See our prayer page for more details.donation

This ministry is entirely dependent upon your donations.

Posted by: Jack | November 23, 2019

Renewal in Church Planting

Last week, I participated in a fascinating church planting conference. It was organized by ViaNova, the new name of the Belgian Evangelical Mission. They celebrated their 100th anniversary. They also realized some years ago, that if they continued to operate the same way, they may not have another anniversary to celebrate!

2019-11-12 17.26.37

“How does our changing world impact the way we shape disciples?”

After a phase of intensive research and reorientation, this mission launched a new vision for their church planting efforts in Belgium. Part of this new vision included bringing over 70 church planters and Christian theologians together from all over Europe for a week-long forum to discuss, debate, draw and act out new strategies for church planting. All our five senses were involved!




Jack speaking at the Thursday evening plenary session

It was especially encouraging to hear many ViaNova leaders express their appreciation for ETF’s participation in this forum. One of Jack’s colleagues spoke about integral mission and the Lausanne Movement. Jack spoke on how church planters build Christian community and identity as they partner with neighborhood folks to care for everyday social, educational and economic needs. What would be the minimum “faith connector” to identify such a community as Christian? Should we focus on the mere basics of Christian identity to create a church planting movement? Or should we focus on broad aspects of Christian identity that build stable, long-term institutions? How can church planters start new initiatives that are supported by and transferrable to local leadership from the very start?

La Foresta 1

La Foresta monastery and conference center (built around 1950)

True to our postmodern times, this forum did not end by proclaiming one new-found, universal church planting strategy. Instead, participants sharpened each other in many groups and interactions, and each took home what they found relevant for their context. I was encouraged to hear how God is changing lives and communities through these church planters. It gave me new inspiration for developing relationships in our new town of Houten.

Truly an inspiring week — even though it was quite chilly in the huge monastery that one cannot possibly heat adequately with near-freezing temperatures outside.

Please keep on praying with us.

Please help support our cause, maybe even by drinking some specialty coffees.Coffee Helping Missions

Posted by: Jack | November 9, 2019

Made in the USA

Free refills, large coffee cups, gas $5,00 per gallon cheaper, super big stores, potato chips with your sandwich, and being offered ice cream before bed …

2019-10-26 16.00.19These are just some of the things that made us smile during our Sept-Oct home ministry trip. We traveled just over 2000 miles, visited 9 churches, many supporters/friends and slept in 16 beds. The fall colors along the way were wonderfully noticeable too!

We are continually amazed at how many people continue to love us, pray for us and support us–and have done so for the last 32 years!! That is dedication and commitment! This touches us deeply. We are very grateful and honored to be your representatives in The Netherlands. You trust that God is at work in and through us and give God the praise for it.

2019-10-12 17.17.49Thank you, too, for sharing with us your gospel struggles. It takes creativity and a long view to reach each generation, and to keep the generations together in the church.

The same goes for how the face of missions is changing. We connected well with prayer partners of our own age and older – but we found it challenging to begin to build relationships with younger generations.

Yet, this is vital for continuing healthy support. Several of our “maturer (80 plus)” supporters are no longer able to continue. Please pray with us for God’s provision here.

As we pick up life here again we thank the Lord again for His housing provision for us. It is still quite amazing that we are here.

Jack’s classes at ETF are in full swing. Coordinating the internships of his students is rewarding but takes lots of time. His writing projects tend to get pushed further into the future. We both wrestle with adjusting to our new area and a long list of house projects!

BUT our trip reminds us how faithful God has been throughout the years. This encourages us to go on, knowing our labor in Him is not in vain.

Thank you for praying with us and standing behind us.

Posted by: Jack | September 22, 2019

What about … (part 4)?


  • May: WHAT ABOUT … the church in Maastricht?
  • June: WHAT ABOUT … the ministry at the ETF?
  • July: WHAT ABOUT … furlough?

What about … FUTURE PLANS?


2019-09-12 12.01.32

Pat and her brothers as we visited the old Bethlehem Steel plants

Our furlough has started. We’ve been in the States for almost two weeks. We have enjoyed some very special visits and have many more to come. We were awed by the Bethlehem Steel Stacks with Pat’s brothers, and admired the fudge makers of Mackinac Island with good friends. In between, Jack keeps up with school work and student emails.


Traveling and sharing about the ministry gives us a chance to think about the future. We bought a house in Houten and moved, mainly to make our retirement in 2026 affordable. This new chapter of life and ministry has some ‘old’ and some ‘new’ challenges.



2019-09-17 11.20.42

Fudge-making …

Lord willing, Jack will continue to serve as missionary professor at the ETF in Leuven, Belgium. His teaching and writing on church leadership is bearing fruit, and several new opportunities are on the horizon.


  • Jack will co-author a book on change leadership in the church with a Dutch colleague and teacher, to encourage and equip pastors and church boards.
  • He has been invited to teach church leadership in Eastern Europe, working together with other scholars on church leadership, and with ETF graduates who are themselves teaching in Bible colleges in Eastern Europe.
  • Jack’s book on Hope for the Church in the City is leading to new contacts to investigate and write about city churches in the Netherlands.
  • Finally, some new PhD students from Germany and the US are interested in Jack’s areas of expertise. This involves research supervision to strengthen the research Jack is already doing.
  • A vital but often unseen part of this ministry is Pat’s support from the home, often in hospitality and outreach, sometimes in special activities like a house-warming party or flower workshop, thus enabling both of us to reach out to others in our new town. Her family ministry is also invaluable.


De Meerkoet

Our neighborhood center with various (volunteer) activities

These projects in leadership training and outreach will carry on until and beyond retirement. Regular missionary support as well as some project funds will continue to be needed for at least these next 7 years since the school offers no salary. In fact, we still need additional supporters to pick up where some of our aging supporters had to leave off.


In the meantime, we get to know our new neighbors in Houten. This town of about 50,000 people, close by Utrecht (300,000 inhabitants) has many volunteer networks, some good churches, and many people in need. We want to serve our town, sharing the gospel of Christ as we serve where we can. We also are very blessed that our children and families live very close by, and Jack’s family as well.

Coffee Helping MissionsThank you for praying for us. Our prayer page has more prayer requests. Remember, if you order coffee from, you sponsor us and some other new mission projects of our mission.

Posted by: Jack | July 21, 2019

What about … (part 3)


  • May: WHAT ABOUT … the church in Maastricht?
  • June: WHAT ABOUT … the ministry at the ETF?
  • July: WHAT ABOUT … furlough?


Feet up

Who ever thought of the word for “furlough” for what missionaries do when they come to visit their supporting churches? The word actually comes from the Dutch word “verlof,” which according to wikipedia means “leave of absence.” For the Dutch this is often their annual vacation, but also a medical leave of absence, a maternity or a paternity paid leave of absence from work. So what is a missionary furlough? It is absence from ministry in Europe, but presence with you who pray for us and support us.

But there’s a twist to this in our digital world. Although we will be physically present in the US, Jack will be digitally present for his students in Europe, and we’ll easily stay in touch with colleagues, friends and family in Europe. So really, furlough is not a leave of absence, but a period of intense DOUBLE PRESENCE, in the US as well as in Europe!


Please pray for our furlough and for the goals we have in mind:

  1. VISIT all supporting churches and many personal supporters.
  2. Be INSPIRED in seeing God at work in all these churches and in individual lives.
  3. Be an ENCOURAGEMENT by sharing what God has done in our ministry at the ETF, and in our personal lives.
  4. Time for DISCERNING God’s direction for the next 5 years of ministry, including Jack’s writing ministry (how to best serve the church and missions).
  5. ADD to our support team. Even though our expenses are less in our new location, several long time supporters have had to stop.
  6. Take time for personal R&R

Schedule2019-03-17 14.10.56-3

Our furlough is scheduled for September and October. We are really look forward to visiting our churches and many of our supporters again. Here is our schedule:

  • Sept 10: Flight from Amsterdam to Newark
  • Sept 11: First Baptist Church in Allentown, PA (tbc – to be confirmed)
  • Sept 13: Flight from Allentown to Detroit
  • Sept 14-15: Skiff Lake Bible Church, Jackson, MI
  • Sept 21-22: Green Lake Calvary Church, Caledonia, MI
  • Sept 25: First Baptist Church, Nashville, MI (tbc)
  • Sept 28-29: Merriam Christian Chapel, Albion, IN (conference)
  • Oct 5-6: Pleasant View Bible Church, Warsaw, IN (conference)
  • Oct 12-13: Baptist Christian Church, Royal Center, IN
  • Oct 19-20: Waterford Community Church, Waterford, MI
  • Oct 21: flight from Detroit to Allentown
  • Oct 23: First Baptist Church, Allentown, PA (tbc)
  • Oct 25: Princeton Christian Fellowship, Princeton, NJ
  • Oct 26-27: Stone Hill Church of Princeton, NJ
  • Oct 27-28: flight from Newark to Amsterdam

Feel free to contact us to get together when we are in your area. We’d be delighted!

Prayer Team

Thank you for being parst of our prayer and support team. Our prayer page has an updated list of prayer concerns.


A happy home owner continuing with the needed improvements – here framing a newly placed window.

Posted by: Jack | June 1, 2019

What about … (part 2)

Today, we have lived in our new home for two months. Yesterday, we gave the first tour of our home to a US visitor, a dear supporter from Michigan who stopped by briefly. What an encouragement to be reminded of how many are praying for us regularly and supporting us.

Last month, we began to answer some questions that our move might raise. The first one was WHAT ABOUT … the church in Maastricht? (See the post of May 1). This second one is:

WHAT ABOUT … the ministry at the ETF?


2015-03-17 22.27.59

Jack with the Belgian Pastors who wrote the book “Hope for the City”

Our main ministry focuses on Jack’s teaching and research at the ETF, which is the Evangelische Theologische Faculteit, located in Leuven, the Dutch-speaking northern part of Belgium.


Jack is now full professor and he TEACHES a number of courses in practical theology (Research Methods, Christian Education and Discipleship, Development of Pastoral Leadership, Models of Christian Leadership, and Theology of Pastoral Care).

As chair of the Department of Practical Theology, Jack also COORDINATES the many guest teachers in practical theology and participates in various meetings to help run the university, monitor its quality, and prepare for its next accreditation visit (2019-2020).

Cover book JackJack also conducts RESEARCH, which results in various publications. Recently, Jack and several Belgian pastors completed a book, “Hope for the City.” It describes the challenges of the city church. It is the first of its kind in Dutch. Our prayer is that it will motivate Christians to consider pioneer ministry in Dutch and Belgian cities. A book presentation will be held in an evangelical church in Antwerp, Belgium, on Saturday, June 8.

Jack is also writing three chapters in a book on the future of pastoral leadership in the Netherlands, that should be published in Dutch by the end of the year.

What has changed since our move?

Jack’s ministry at the ETF has not changed. However, travel to the ETF is now 4 hours by train and bus, instead of one hour by car. However, the train has become Jack’s new office, and he stays overnight one or two nights a week at the ETF.

What remains the same?

The ETF is not able to pay Jack a salary, so we depend fully on our missionary support for this ministry. The ETF is able to help with some ministry and travel expense.

Some special needs

1. With the move, Jack needed to upgrade his 8-year old laptop to a more portable one with longer battery life, combined with a larger free-standing monitor, extra power supply and docking station. A cost of altogether about €1500. We already purchased the new laptop because the old one crashed, but still need to cover these significant expenses. If you can help, please send a donation to the Barentsen’s Equipment Fund.

2018-02-03 11.50.12-12. Raymond Hausoul, one of Jack’s former students and intern, now a colleague in ministry and teaching, occasionally needs help from a native English speaker to correct his English writings for an article or a book. If you are able to help, please write us, and we’ll get you in contact with Raymond.

Thank you for praying with us and supporting us in this ministry at the ETF.

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