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The Speech of Deputy Mayor of Amsterdam, Mrs. Marjolein Moorman During My Royal Award Ceremony

Good afternoon everyone, It’s great to be here, at De Kandelaar, on this special occasion.

Because today we celebrate that you, Samuel Lee, started as a pastor here in Amsterdam 25 years ago. That’s exactly half your life – since you also turned 50. Many congratulations!

It’s a pleasure for me to be your guest today, and to say a few words.

Dear mister Lee,

You came to the Netherlands when you were fourteen years old, and according to the people who knew you, you were already socially engaged back then. You put your heart and soul into Dutch society. But it took you a bit longer to find yourself and your goals in life.

As a Sociology student you went through a marxist period. You rebelled against faith, but that was merely a phase. Because then you met your wife, and while on honeymoon in Spain, you were called by Jesus Christ. Your life would never be the same after that…

You took on a Biblical name, got a PhD in Theology at the Vrije Universiteit, and in 1994 you established your own church for migrants: the Jesus Christ Foundation, a Pentacostal ministry. Here in Amsterdam Zuidoost, and later several branches were founded in the rest of the world.

It started out as an American style Pentecostal church. Your service was – in your own words – “a bit of show, Hollywood, bling bling”. In America you were known as the Apostle of Love. That was wonderful of course, and you were successful. But it was not the kind of success you were looking for. That showman… it just wasn’t you. You didn’t want people to look up at you, as if you were some all-knowing problem-solver. While in fact you wanted to be a guide, a teacher, a builder of bridges.

Things had to change. So you told your brothers and sisters you wanted to stand next to them: rooted in society, working towards social justice, with love for everyone, no matter what race, belief, gender or sexual orientation. “I want to bring Theology to the street. In simple language, the language of the heart, searching for the connection with people”, y0u said. As an independent Pentecostal man, you follow your own path. You choose not simply to preach your own truths, but to connect with everyone, regardless of their beliefs, to have an open dialogue, and you embrace humanitarian values like freedom and equal rights for men and women. You choose to talk about delicate matters, and you promote taking responsibility. Believers, you say, should not shift responsibility to a higher power. Instead, you encourage your brothers and sisters to think for themselves, to take control and improve their own lives and those of the people around them.

Mister Lee, you are a warm and charismatic pastor - you inspire your community through words, but more so by setting the right example. In 2006, you started the Foundation Academy of Amsterdam, where members of your community can study Human rights, Social sciences and Theology – free of charge. Many of the students blossomed and continue to grow, thanks to their ‘professor Lee’.

In 2019 you were appointed ‘Theoloog des Vaderlands’, as the first Theologian Laureate from a migrant background. At the Vrije Universiteit you are director of the Center for Theology of Migration. But, apart from your academic work, you like to keep it practical, always helping people when and where you can, especially those who are struggling.

Many free hours go into counselling, encouraging and helping the undocumented or those who – for whichever reason - need help finding their way in our complex society.

Day and night, you are always dedicated to the community and the neighbourhood. People sometimes wonder where on earth do you find the time and the energy… Not a day is the same, and tirelessly you travel from Groningen to Rotterdam, from prison to hospital, from mosque to church. It’s hard work, but you think of it as a privilege.

And it doesn’t stop there.

You are also actively involved in the ‘Nationale Synode’, where you strive to improve the relationship between Christian organisations. The goal is to have an ongoing dialogue between established churches and new communities, and it works! In a disarming and inspiring way, you work to achieve indispensable unity within Christianity in our country.

On the screensaver of your phone is a picture of Mother Theresa, one of your inspirations. You say: “I love life to much to be a Mother Theresa”. But everyone can see that you not only preach her message of love, justice and perseverance – you live by it.

The American writer and pastor Max Lucado once said: “Don't worry about having the right words; worry more about having the right heart. It's not eloquence he seeks, just honesty.”

And surely honesty is what he finds, when he looks at you. Because not only do you have a big heart, you preach the uniting language of the heart, to your brothers and sisters, and far beyond.

Dear mister Lee, It hasn’t gone unnoticed, and is greeted with respect and appreciation. Everywhere you go, and even in the highest ‘secular’ circles. Because His Majesty the King has been graciously pleased to appoint you Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau. On behalf of the city of Amsterdam, congratulations!


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