Influencer pastor Gilberto Bakhuis
Interview September 2019
Gilberto can you share something about your family background with us and if your parents have been very supportive or not?
I was born in Curaçao in a family of 5 children. Two of my brothers have already passed, but I have a twin sister and one other brother and the 3 of us are living in Curaçao. I am happily married to Josephine Bakhuis-Trinidad and we have 2 daughters and 5 grandchildren. My mother passed when I was 13 years old. She was my big role model and has greatly influenced my life. She was a business woman, not only taking care of her business and own family, but also of the rest of her extended family, meaning 3 other families from her brothers and sisters and 2 foster children. In spite of all these responsibilities, she had time to take good care of all 5 children of her own and still enough time to dedicate to music, which was her main hobby. She lived a balanced life and had lots of energy to share with others.
You are the pastor of the “Arise Church”, which was founded 40 years ago by you and your wife. This year this church celebrated its 40th anniversary. What were the reasons for you to start this church 40 years ago?
I felt the urge to help those who did not have the same experience I had with God, to get to know Him personally, and also wanted to particularly support the less privileged in our society and the young people. Later on we started to work with the drug addicts and my wife became the director of one of the drug rehabilitation centers on the island. I developed a special interest in our youth, as I wanted them to experience a real change in their lives. The commitment we both had to mentor young people and equip and empower the next generation has inspired both of us in our leadership role up to now.
During these past years there must have been ups and downs. I assume to build the church to where it is now. What was your biggest challenge in building the church?
Our biggest challenge was to have our own people of Curaçao, accept and respect us for presenting the Word of God to them in our own language, Papiamentu and worshipping God with our local music. You mustn’t forget, that 40 years ago, almost all of our Evangelical churches were led by people of Dutch, English and Spanish speaking descent and we were one of the first that offered our church services 100 % in Papiamentu. We consider it important for people to feel worthy enough, respected and valued. By conducting our services in Papiamentu, we succeeded greatly in our intention. The Gospel music group Zamar, the Drughabilitation center Narkotikonan Viktorioso & Reskate and the Excel Arts Academy are some of the para organizations which were a result of our ministry.
Your leadership capacities are obvious, where do you get all your inner strength to counsel those in your church?
Well this strength comes from an urge to bring about change in people’s lives. If we could help just one drug addict to change his or her life, we would feel utterly satisfied. This was a GOD given motivation, because this requires a 24 hour dedication when you work in the world of drug addiction. There was never time for a break. Over time, the addictions our society has to deal with, have changed into different forms of addictions. Now in the 21st century you also have internet addiction, gambling addiction, addiction to sex and pornography, addiction to TV and it is challenging to grow up as a youngster, because the social media and internet offer all sorts of distractions from a life of high morals. And we should not underestimate the peer pressure among youngsters and adolescents. This pressure is very powerful and totally different compared to when we started 40 years ago. So we had to change our approach to be able to confront these new challenges. The content which we present is based on the same principles of the Kingdom of God, but the package is different.
If you would meet a stranger in the bus in Canada or Holland and they would ask you to introduce yourself what would you answer?
I would introduce myself as an ordinary person and I wouldn’t use my title or the positions that I hold. I like people to accept me for the person I am and not because of my position or titles.
If you would describe yourself in one word, how would you describe yourself?
How do you keep up with your knowledge and skills?
I attend international conferences at least twice a year, study from the Internet and keep abreast of the local and international news.
You are the secretary of the Council of Churches of Curaçao and a member of the board of the Curaçao Pastors Association of which organization you functioned as president and chairman for 23 years. Given the complexity of the challenges our society has to deal with, how important is dialogue as a method to explore common ground?
I have always been a big advocate of “democratic dialogue” with the goal for it to end up in specific and concrete solutions. I also believe in regular evaluation of your vision and means to see whether you are still on the right track. What I am seeing now, and this is a very positive development, that more and more people are becoming aware of the fact, that we can’t go about in the same way that we used to, that we need each other and we can’t achieve anything on our own. We must realize that we need to break the barriers, that are keeping us separated. More and more people feel the need that we must change our ways and we can’t sit at the side and stay far away from the center of things, but we need to look for ways and means to find common ground. And if we try hard enough, you can and will find issues you can agree upon. I am so sure that unity can be achieved as long as we are willing to respect each other’s authority, gifts, talents and abilities and let others understand and realize that their part is important and that we are open to receive from what they have to offer and they are listened to.
Who are the persons that have inspired you the most in your career?
Jesus Christ of course, Daniel as described in the Bible, my mother as I already explained, Apostle Turnel Joshua Nelson from Trinidad, my wife Josephine and Dr. Myles Munroe.
Were there also negative role models that you didn’t want to identify with?
Yes, I have met several people that were in leadership positions who had a disastrous marriage life and treated their wives very bad.
What was a defining moment in your life, a setback that later turned out to be a great blessing?
That was the moment I realized I was lost and needed help. I had heard the Gospel but did not know how to surrender my life to Jesus Christ. I was so scared and depressed that I even entertained the idea of taking my own life, although I lacked the courage to do so. Until I met the right people to show me the way and explain to me that GOD had other plans for me. I am immensely and forever grateful to God and to those who helped me find the way. My radical conversion has been a blessing to me and to thousands of people whom I have been able to help through the years.
Do you use your inner voice to evaluate when dilemma’s show up? How does that work for you?
I am a jogger, that is what I do as my exercise. I will go for a run preferably in the open air and the nature (the ‘mondi’) and when I am stressed this way of exercising sets my mind free. As I relax during my jogging I speak to God and He answers and gives me directions so that I know for sure what to do afterwards.
We have always experienced you as a very dynamic and opinionated person? You influence a lot of people while you work. Where does that come from?
Well, since I was very young I would mobilize my cousins to do, for example, some exercises. I was always inspired to do the opposite of negative things. And I always had this quiet demeanor that would still influence others positively.
What are your other strengths?
I am a problem solver and I can come up with simple solutions. People tell me that my smile gives them energy; I make people happy and enlighten them, all of this with a quiet but serious demeanor. I am also a go getter.
What is your BIG WHY or driving motivation to be who you are right now?
My greatest motivation is to help people particularly the next generation to discover their true purpose in life so that they can achieve this and be the person they have been created by God to be.
Where do you want to be 10 years from now?
I would like to see youngsters know for sure, who they have been created to be, being enabled to take the right decisions in life, and contribute to a better world. I would like to then still be considered a role model for many people.
What would you want your Loved Ones, family, friends and others to say about you let’s say 15 years from now?
That I have lived an exemplary life, I have always been there for them and willing to help and inspire others.
What causes you to stay optimistic about the future of Curaçao and the world?
GOD. My trust in Him. I know that things are not going to stay the same in Curaçao. Right now as you are asking me this question I have the same feeling I have when I am in prayer or while I conduct my sermons. I can feel GOD’s presence clearly and know that what I say is not me but is being said by Him through me.
Do you want to share anything else that might be relevant for those reading this blog?
I am convinced; that we can create much better perspectives for Curaçao; if we really do what we know needs to be done. We need to have democratic dialogues to address the real issues of the nation. If we could set aside the things we don’t agree upon and just find the smallest common factors upon which we can agree and act on them, that will start creating the difference. We are talented in so many ways. If we just consider what we are achieving internationally in the area of different sports on a continous basis, just to mention one area and focus more on what we agree on and break the lack of trust, we would start creating the difference. That is what I sincerely believe.
Follow the Arise Church Curaçao on Facebook.
See what others had to say about Pastor Gilberto Bakhuis for his 60th birthday a few years ago on YouTube.
One of the 250 Influencers of Curaçao
Pastor Gilberto Bakhuis is a representative of the spiritual and religious sector. After he radically transformed himself to dedicate his life to GOD, he has been working over 40 years to help people particularly the next generation, to discover their true purpose in life so that they can achieve this and be the person they have been created by God to be. As pastor of the Arise Church Curaçao he focuses particularly to support the less privileged in our society and the young people. He developed a special interest in our youth, as he wants them to experience a real change in their lives. We deeply respect and love Gilberto for the work he has been doing, for his advocacy for democratic dialogue and his abilities as a problem solver. We definitely consider him one of the 250 Influencers in our society.