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Aussies Serving Overseas – Captain Kris Halliday (Amsterdam)


Captain Kris Halliday is Amsterdam West Corps Officer and Regional Officer for the city of Amsterdam.

The Australia Territory has 32 Aussie officers serving overseas this year, one at International Headquarters in London but based in Australia, and 10 overseas officers serving in different appointments here. Over the coming months, Global Focus will feature many of these officers – who they are, where they’re serving, the joys and challenges they face and what life looks like for them in their unique corners of The Salvation Army world.

 

Kris is welcomed to Amsterdam by territorial and corps leaders, including Aussie officers Donna and Stuart Evans.

We begin our series with Captain Kris Halliday, a corps and regional officer in Amsterdam, part of the Netherlands, Czech Republic and Slovakia Territory.

 

How long have you been in Amsterdam?

I arrived at the end of August 2023 and began my appointment as Corps Officer Amsterdam West on 1 September.


What were some of your first impressions of the city/country?

I instantly felt at home here. While serving in Sweden a few years ago, I had visited Amsterdam and participated in ministry activities in the city, and I have some friends here, so there was a sense of familiarity.


The Netherlands is one of the most densely populated places on earth. The country is about two-thirds the size of Tasmania but has a population of 18 million people. You can feel that right away. There is no such thing as personal space (especially in the supermarket!), and you are instantly aware that there are always people around you. That said, you also notice that the city is set out well. Medium-density apartment living is common, excellent bike infrastructure makes transport easy, and shared public spaces, like parks and gardens, are numerous.


What years were you previously in Europe?

My service in Sweden was in 2019 and 2020 – cut short by the pandemic. I was just about to take up an appointment in the Arctic Circle!  


Kris returns from a pastoral visit - on a bicycle, of course.

What has your appointment been in Amsterdam, and what does that entail?

For the past eight months, I've been Corps Officer at Amsterdam West. It is a large, traditional Army corps made up mostly of Salvationists from previously closed city corps. Almost all Sunday attendees are older, long-term Salvationists who travel from across the country for the service.


We’re situated in one of the most disadvantaged and youngest areas in the Netherlands – a majority Muslim area where 75 per cent of residents are non-Western migrants, and over half are under 45. The area is affectionately known as ‘Little Ankara’. I’m often the only non-Muslim at the store or market. It’s a fascinating place to be, a cultural immersion within a cultural immersion.


Over the past few months, we’ve been on a journey as a corps to rethink our mission and ministry with a neighbourhood-oriented relational approach, asking big questions such as “What does it mean to be The Salvation Army in this area?”

 

What is your new (additional) appointment, and what will that look like for you?

From 1 July, I’ll be the regional officer for Amsterdam, responsible for the corps and community centres in the region, identifying new mission opportunities, partnering with the social services as well as things like PR and corporate and government relations. There is a great legacy of incredible work among the most marginalised in Amsterdam, including well-known work in the red-light district, and across the region with people who are homeless, trafficked people and refugees. I'm looking forward to supporting and joining the teams who are continuing and building on that legacy, working together on how we can, as Salvationists, best live out and share the values of God’s Kingdom, stand with and for the marginalised and share the inclusive love of Jesus across Amsterdam.

 

How are you settling into your new roles and life?

You realise when you move to another country the things you take for granted. Speaking freely, using humour, making sense of the train system, or reading information at the store all start off as a challenge. You miss, too, the simple things like catching up with a friend or knowing where to go to wind down. When work is your main context and there aren’t familiar histories or even pop-culture connection points, there is a process of working to remind yourself who you really are and how to ‘be’ other than in a TSA context. There have been some deep moments of connection with God these months. When everything else is stripped away, and you are left without the usual support networks, prayer and experiencing the love of God has been both important and incredibly special.


Kris and volunteer Gloria on the market square with the coffee bicycle.

What does a ‘typical’ day look like for you?

It’s been an intensive period of getting to know the neighbourhood, and the city, making connections with everyone from corps members, participants of our day programs, the local store owners, neighbours, other community workers and faith leaders. The corps is busy through the week with activities and meals for a wide range of people. I’ve tried to meet and hear from as many people connected to the corps as possible, especially important as we’ve begun this significant change process. Hearing people's stories and experiences over the past eight months has been a real gift, and I hope we can use everything I’ve heard and learnt, from the corps and the neighbourhood to create an impacting, sustainable, mission-oriented, relationship-based corps for the next generation of its life.

 

What do you love about your new roles and home?

There is a fantastic, almost palpable energy and enthusiasm in The Salvation Army here. People are passionately sold out to seeing change in their neighbourhoods and connecting with the people around them. There are a lot of creative approaches to ministry across the country under the banner of ‘Faith in the Neighbourhood’.


Enthusiasm and opportunity are not in short supply, but officers are, so it’s great to be here to support the great work happening in the Netherlands. I am loving the ability to connect and collaborate with people who are fired up for the mission and driven to seeing people, especially those who are often forgotten in society, cared for, welcomed, supported, included and affirmed. As corps officer, I get to share life with, and bring together, a most diverse range of people, looking for commonality and placing the love of Jesus at the centre of all we do. As regional officer I’m looking forward to supporting others and joining alongside them as they think about how best to share the hope, joy and love of Christ.


Local Muslim people, corps members and neighbours attend an Iftar dinner at the corps, organised by a young asylum seeker to build relationships and connections.

What are some of the challenges?

Even though the Dutch are known as the best non-English-speaking English speakers, and I’m doing a lot of Dutch language study, language can be a challenge, especially in pastoral conversations with older people. I’m a pretty fast-speaking guy, so the need to always go slowly and think about words, whether in English or Dutch can be a challenge (for me and the people I’m talking to!).


A significant challenge for us is what does it mean to be a corps in a majority Muslim area. There are a high number of refugees in our neighbourhood and a huge social need. Most people around here, whether migrants or Dutch, either have had no connection with the Christian Church or have a negative view. In many ways, we need to go back to the beginning, showing that Christians, The Salvation Army, and us as Salvationists can be trusted, by participating in the community, meeting people where they're at and inviting people to participate in and feed into our corps who we may not otherwise have connected with. It’s a long-term endeavour for the corps and while it’s challenging to know I'll likely only be here for the start of the process, it’s also a great privilege to be here for this part of this journey.


What do you miss about Australia?

Good coffee! But, of course, really, the distance is hard. To be so far from family and friends is tough. Thankfully in the age of FaceTime and Messenger it is possible to stay connected.  

 

 

 

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