Arleen Westerhof initiated the European Economic Summit. Since 2014, Christians active in the area of business, economics, and policymaking have gathered yearly in Amsterdam. Before starting the EES, Arleen prayed fervently for influential Christians to rise up. She now witnesses answers to these prayers: “I see skilled and anointed followers of Jesus Christ all around the globe involved in social transformational movements.”
Arleen Westerhof is familiar with the corporate world. As a Canadian of Jamaican descent, she earned a doctorate in chemistry and moved to the Netherlands to work as expatriate at a multinational company. While in the Netherlands, she met and married Dick Westerhof. They both felt a call to start and pastor a charismatic church in Amsterdam: God’s Embassy.
Dick has a professional job in addition to being a pastor, and over the years the Westerhofs’ interest for business and economy didn’t decrease while leading the church but rather increased. The financial crisis fueled this interest, and in 2013 Arleen began fervently praying that God would raise up current-day Daniels, Esthers, and Josephs, and that they would gain in wisdom and grow in stature. Toward the end of that year, Arleen couldn’t shake off the urge to act and become part of the answer to her prayers herself.
European Economic Summit
“I started getting all kinds of ideas,” shares Arleen. “Like the importance of bringing together economic thinkers and business practitioners. Business leaders do get microlevel education and support from their churches and Christian networks on how to be a good example, morally and ethically. That is important, but they also need macro insight on issues such as unethical structures. I also began to wonder what kind of Holy Spirit-inspired ideas were around. Who were the God-inspired economic thinkers and business owners? How did they translate biblical principles to contemporary issues? I wanted to create a place where those kinds of people could meet, fellowship, and exchange ideas.”
Arleen researched and then felt God’s guidance as she got into contact with influential Christians on key positions, who knew that being called and anointed by God would make an impact in their sphere of influence. They encouraged Arleen to go ahead, and as a result the European Economic Summit was born.
Present-day Daniels, Esthers, and Josephs
One of those who have become closely involved is businessman Graham Power, who started the movement Unashamedly Ethical in Africa with the aim of combating corruption. Another is Lisette Malmberg, an Aruban businesswoman and pastor, who started a social movement in Aruba. Also Bruno Roche, a French chief economist at Mars Incorporated, a food manufacturer with over 40 billion in sales annually. Among other tasks, here Bruno is involved in developing new economic business models that have the potential to solve the youth unemployment problem in Europe and to alleviate poverty in developing nations.
Arleen says, “We must seek together how we translate ideas inspired by the Holy Spirit in the public arena of economy and business, so that we can influence public opinion, allowing people to become receptive to the gospel. Previously, in many churches it was common to deliver the message that Christians should stay away from money and mammon; but now I see people with consecrated hearts getting involved, speaking up, and gaining influence.”
Within their own church setting, Arleen and Dick also encourage their members to discover their vocation in society, while challenging them to be aware of the problems, needs, and injustice within their spheres of influence and seek God for how they can bring change. “We want to stir up the gift of prophecy, because Christians are called to bring God’s solutions to some of the most pressing problems of our times. The prophetic gift helps us to hear God’s voice and know what to do. One couple from the church had a desire to see African businesses become more effective in alleviating poverty and helping to transform lives. After praying, they discovered that a major problem is that African companies do not have adequate access to global trade markets, and they decided to start a trading company to increase their access.”
“A paradigm shift is going on,” Arleen continues. “We are at the beginning of a new movement, and we are seeing some forerunners. These people give hope as they share their stories and show how it works, enabling others to see and grasp it also. It may take a generation for it to become commonplace to think from a spiritual perspective about world problems, but it is beginning to break through.”
In addition to their yearly gatherings in Amsterdam, the European Economic Summit is also developing a think tank and catalyzing social movements. Meanwhile, Arleen is starting to organize similar summits on other continents. “I did put my foot in the water, but don’t yet have a complete blueprint of what it will lead to. But I’m convinced that God is calling us to alleviate suffering. Jesus tells us and has anointed us to lay hands on the sick, but we are also—as it were—anointed to lay hands on sick systems. God is able to give us revelation and creativity so that we can bring constructive solutions. To be able to do so, we must be socially engaged—like Daniel, Esther, and Joseph. It’s time to think bigger and act with knowledge, discernment, and wisdom. We have a mandate to act. It is time to stand up.”
Reprinted from the book BAM Global Movement: Business as Mission Concept & Stories by Gea Gort and Mats Tunehag, with the kind permission of Hendrickson Publishers.