In 1995, the city of Utrecht, Netherlands, was the focal point of the world church as delegates, guests, and visitors gathered together in the giant Jaarbeurs complex for the 56th session of the General Conference.
Three decades before the world church would meet in this beautiful Dutch city, Sandra Nab was born here in the home of her grandparents, on May 31, 1963. Sandra grew up with her parents in the southern cities of Dordrecht and Eindhoven, where she attended primary and secondary school. She then trained to be a secretary and worked in various organizations.
While working as a receptionist at the Netherlands Union office in Bosch en Duin, she enrolled in an English language class at oud Zandbergen, the Seventh-day Adventist theological school in the Netherlands. In addition to learning English, Sandra met a ministerial student in the class, Bert Nab. The two began a relationship on November 22, 1984, and were married on July 3, 1986. Their wedding reception was held in the beautiful building of oud Zandbergen, where they first met (see picture).
That fall the couple went to Newbold College in England, where they lived and studied from September 1986 to December 1989. Then they returned to the Netherlands, and Bert began his pastoral ministry in the northern cities of Leeuwarden and Meppel. Since that time the Nabs have ministered in a number of churches throughout the Netherlands. They have just recently moved to the Eindhoven region.
over the years, Sandra has carved out her own niche in ministry. When their three children—Claudia, Patrick, and Mark—were young, Sandra was active in the children’s Sabbath School, ranging from preschool through junior age. While her husband pa-stored the North Rotterdam church, Sandra edited the church’s newsletter for several years. She has also served as a deaconess, and is currently on the Health and Family Ministry committee, which organizes Bible study groups and family and children’s programs and activities.
For several years Sandra also headed up the pastoral family ministry (Shepherdess) program. During that time she produced a newsletter, made phone calls and visits to pastoral families, and sent birthday cards. She sometimes visited pastoral homes with the Netherlands Union president when couples had a special wedding anniversary or birthday. Along with other pastoral spouses, she enjoyed organizing a special activity day each year for all pastoral spouses in the union.
FINDING A SUPPORTIVE ROLE
When her husband first began working as a pastor, Sandra was not sure what her role would be. “It was very difficult for me to feel comfortable with the expectations of the church members,” she admits. “I didn’t know what they would expect from me. It took some time before I decided that my family was my first priority.”
Sandra also finds it difficult to say goodbye to people in the congregations when leaving for a new church, though she says, “It is also interesting to meet new people and cultures in other congregations—but it takes time.”
TRANSFORMING EXPERIENCE INTO MINISTRY
After having taken further education, Sandra now has her own practice as a family therapist, helping people with relationship issues with their spouses, children, colleagues, friends, and others. Sandra’s interest in this work came out of her own painful experiences of the past.
“I am the type of person who wants to do everything perfectly,” she admits. “That means that I also wanted to arrange things for my husband and children. I wanted to have control over everything. That made me very anxious, not only about my own performance, but I became afraid because I couldn’t always protect my family. I was afraid that someone might do something bad to them.”
Sandra’s fear and anxiety grew until she was no longer able to leave her house after daylight hours. She was always at home and did not feel safe in her own house. After a time, she asked for psychological help, and things began to improve. “But it was not before I turned to God again that I learned to let go of the anxiety,” she says. “In small steps I gave my life to God and overcame most of the boundaries of fear. Since that time James 4:8 has been one of my favorite Bible texts: ‘Come near to God and he will come near to you’” (NIV).
God also used other people to help Sandra, sometimes even without their knowing it. one evening Sandra needed to attend an evening meeting some distance from her home. Not wanting to make the dark drive alone, Sandra was relieved when another person offered to ride with her. However, the person later shared that they had another appointment so would not be able to ride back, leaving Sandra alone to make the drive home after 11 p.m. However, “God gave me trust that He was with me and He still does,” says Sandra. “Since then I am not afraid to travel during the evening hours.”
“There are still some boundaries to overcome,” she says, “but I am very happy that I’ve come this far. It helps me to focus on God and His strength, wisdom, and protection. It has really deepened my faith and has made me more open to other people and their problems.
This is why I am working as a counselor.”