It doesn’t happen often that people spend their entire gap year in our ministry. But Albert from the Netherlands did! He spent 13 months in our ministry. In this blog, he shares some memories of his Christian gap year in Amsterdam. More…
In September 2017, Michael joined the team of cleaning volunteers at the Shelter City. A year later, on the 14th of July, 2018, Taka and Corne baptize him. “I never thought I would be ever getting baptized again. Looking back, I didn’t even think I would ever come back to faith.” Read here the testimony that Michael shared right before his baptism.
“Before I arrived at the Shelter, I was a bit lost and broken and searching for something. I probably always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to turn back to God but had so many insecurities about not feeling worthy of his love and forgiveness. Thankfully, with the help of everyone at The Shelter to work through my doubts and my numerous questions, I am delighted to be here at this moment for this celebration.
I was raised a Roman Catholic. And, as is custom, as a newborn baby I got baptized in my first few months. I remembered attending church every Sunday as a child. But I found it boring and my mind would just wander during the service, thinking of other things. I can vividly remember priests stopping the service if a child was crying, hardly showing the love of our Lord at this instance. So I stopped attending the services when I was 14 years old. Only when visiting my Grandmother, I would go with her to church as I would never disrespect her. Little did I know in doing so, I was doing this to God at the same time.
Growing up in my household had its ups and downs, like any other family. As I got older though, I started to feel a lot of resentment towards my father. I remember the arguments which usually arose from him wanting money to go to the pub, six nights a week. He did work hard, provide a roof, food, and clothing. But for me, he was not how a father figure should be like.
Shouting and barking orders at a child is hardly the basis of a father-son relationship, which we never had. I remember the verbal abuse my mother had to put up with and as I got older it came to a head between me and him. I told him some home truths, we had a blazing verbal row and he left the house for good the next day. We never talk again from that day.
My father got cancer a few years later, which unfortunately he died from. But I am thankful that it was quick and that I was with him when he passed away. I tried leaving three times that morning to pop home from the hospice, but was stopped on each occasion for one thing or another. Family and friends said there was a reason for this, but I just dismissed it as coincidence. I know now why I was stopped and I am so ever grateful for this, as the guilt of not being with him in his last moments would have eaten me up inside forever. I have never grieved for him though. I struggle with that, as there is just a numbness there. I don’t feel anything when I visit his grave or when I say a prayer for him.
Good and dark times
Life carried on without me feeling any loss really in terms of having no religious base. I never really worried about the future as a teenager – like most teenagers I had a tendency to feel bulletproof. After I finished high school, I started drinking and eventually dabbling in a bit of so-called recreational drugs. I had a big circle of friends and numerous girlfriends – I was really enjoying life.
I had good jobs, but the weekend was party time and I hit it hard for over 10 years. I was lucky for getting good wages, but I was blowing a lot on a weekly basis. This lifestyle did lead to depression and anxiety (which I am still struggling with). I do not regret these years as they are part of who I am. They molded me into the person that I am right now. I did go through dark times with a lot of suicidal thoughts as I know a lot of people who have ended their lives for one reason or another. Thankfully I never acted on my urges. I threw myself into fitness, I went on and got a degree as an Engineer. Life was good again. I knew though that I there was something missing and started on a journey to find out what.
God never lost faith in me
I always believed in coincidences. But upon reflection now, I know that I always had God alongside me. I may have lost faith in him, but he never lost faith in me. I came across The Pilgrim walk in Spain, that ends in Santiago De Compostela. This was an amazing journey with lots of time to think about life and day by day be in complete awe of the beauty of the landscape. I knew there that it could only be our Lord who could create such a wonder.
Coming back to faith at the Shelter hostels
After that experience, God guided me to The Shelter to find my way back to him. I was a little apprehensive about volunteering in the Shelter community, as I didn’t know what to expect. I remember having my interview with Abigail (a former staff member) and felt that it could be a good experience for me. I obviously was delighted a few days later when I got an email saying that I could start.
I tried to foresee what peoples reactions would be towards me when I shared where I was in faith and the numerous doubts I had over it. I was welcomed with open arms by everyone in The Shelter. They showed me love, compassion and were genuinely interested in me and willing to take time to help with my doubts and hangups. As is my personality, I threw myself into the experience and started my journey of growth back to faith unknown to me initially. From morning devotions, bible inspiration/meditation and attending Alpha – these were the foundations that helped me to have faith in Christ and grow in faith.
Encountering Jesus during a Hillsong service
I encountered Jesus whilst attending a Hillsong service. During the course of the service, the pastor asked people to put their hands up who never witnessed a miracle. Since there was a large attendance, I put my hand up. I was expecting loads of people to have their hands raised. To my shock, only three people had, including myself, and we were welcomed on stage. I was hesitant at first and had to be gently coaxed into going up. I was a skeptic about miracles and felt uneasy as well as I don’t like to be the focus of attention. Thankfully, I did witness a miracle and I know this was our Lords way of giving me that little glimpse that I needed to have at that time. Obviously, I had much to ponder that night but by the morning, all my doubts about miracles in The Bible had evaporated.
I had reservations initially about getting baptized again. I was being too focused on myself and not on the love of Jesus. Once again I was trying to put barriers in place. I had a few discussions with staff members about it and different passages in the Bible were standing out to me. The one that stood out to me most was James 4:14 “How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.”
Living for Jesus now
After putting so much time, energy and effort into coming up with excuses for not getting baptized, I woke up on one morning and just screamed “STOP!” in my head. My doubts were all about me, not about starting a new beautiful relationship with Jesus. At that moment a massive weight was lifted off my shoulders and a sense of calm came over me. I know now that I can give all my anxieties to Jesus, stop worrying about the future and start living for the present.
I can’t say that there has been any major change in me since making this decision. Though I can see a big change from the person who walked into the Shelter last September to now, it might take the same period of time to look back and to see how I have grown in Christ. All I can do is try to cut out temptations and try to live a life that pleases Jesus.
Jenna (21) from the United States of America worked for two months as a Christian summer volunteer at the Shelter Jordan. On her blog she wrote about what God has been doing in her life, while being 5,000 miles away from home.
When I first signed up for a summer of service at the Shelter Youth Hostel Ministry, I had no expectations. I only knew God had called me to Amsterdam to use me for His purpose and that He had a plan for this summer. More…
Christian Gap Year Opportunities. It seems like there is a dozen of them! With so many options available, how can you decide what to do? Randomly searching on Google probably won’t help you any further: YOU.NEED.A.PLAN. Save yourself money, time and a lot of frustration and start planning your gap year right away.
Here’s what we would recommend:
- Pray about it!
- Talk with people around you
- Make a top 5 list of things you would like to do
- Get insight in your budget
- Finalize your plan
1. Pray about it!
Are you still in the phase of considering doing a gap year? Don’t forget to seek God in this! He has a plan for your life and is maybe calling you somewhere in particular. Maybe your gap year offers a perfect opportunity to grow or get involved in ministry, to grow in your faith or to serve God in a practical way. As we are a Christian organization that offers a Christian gap year program, we consider this as the most important part of your preparations for your gap year!
2. Talk with people around you
You made your decision to do a gap year. Cool! Let we said before, don’t randomly Google for opportunities. Talk with people around you: siblings, cousins, class mates, friends, people from your church’s youth group. You will be surprised by how many people did a gap year and by the amazing stories they have. Ask them about their ideas and the organizations that they looked at. It could give you some valuable insights and lead you to the best way of spending your gap year.
3. Make a top 5 list of things you would like to do
After you checked your network, make a list of all the opportunities that you are passionate about. If you would like to go abroad during your gap year: Europe is the top destination, attracting 48% of travellers under 25. You could:
- Go backpacking! Explore different countries and meet people from all over the world
- Do volunteering work
- Work abroad. Would you like to travel but do not have money? No problem, there are lots of opportunities to work or volunteer abroad in exchange for shelter and food (exactly what the volunteers in our hostels do!). In your free time you can explore the country you are in!
- Improve your English or learn a new language
- Learn new things by taking a course or classes
Write down everything that comes to mind! Did you finish your list? Make a top 5 of your favorite opportunities!
4. Get insight in your budget
Before you choose what to do, it is wise to check your budget. This will help you choose the right gap year opportunity. There are many websites that show you various Christian gap year opportunities around the world, such as WorkingAbroad or Gap360. Although these opportunities could be an awesome way to spend your gap year, they can cost a lot of money. The average gap year costs about €5,500, according to research from Charter Savings Bank. But a gap year doesn’t need to be that expensive at all! For example, you could live in Amsterdam and volunteer in our ministry for a full year for only €720 (including residence permit, ministry training program, food and accommodation, excluding returning flight, health insurance).
Dave Owen, deputy editor of gapyear.com, recommends planning your budget before you leave. “Work out exactly how much money you have and how long it needs to last. From there you can work out a basic daily budget. Draw up an itinerary of attractions, tours and activities you consider essential, and how much these will cost. Chances are you’ll always spend a little more than planned, so budget for that too.” (source: The Guardian)
5. Finalize your plan!
Your gap year can be an adventure of a lifetime, but you don’t want it to plunge you into a lifetime of debt. With a realistic plan, based on your budget, you can consider which Christian Gap Year Opportunities you are going to take. Apply in time for your favorite option and check in advance if you need any visa, medical or travel insurance. This will also give you time to raise the necessary funds before you leave.
Observing at the reception during the night
Red lights on the right
Many other temptations to fight
So I write
Because I see the conflict in this guy’s eyes
On his way out I tell him to go to the left
The effect that it had
Because he just did not expect
His eyes changed, guess that it helped?
And now a good conversation did start
A part of his heart
Just splintered in pieces apart
Then I saw
Just a little bit of all the troubles he had
He told me about how all his friends left
The effect that is had
Because he just did not expect
He really cared
In a split second his life turned into a mess
His wife threw away the ring that he bought her
In love with another
And she took his 3 year old daughter
He wept every night since the day that he lost her
But just before he went upstairs to his bed
I said that I was glad
Spoke with him about a Man I once met
And I shared
That God knows about the pain that he had
This man lost his tracks out of sight
Red lights on the right
Many other temptations to fight
Later I cried
Because of the story I heard on a regular night
But at the reception I was able to show him the Light.
Brookelnn discovered the Shelter as a non-believing guest in 2014. In 2017, Brooke returned to the Shelter to work there as a believer in Christ. Here she shares her testimony of how God revealed Himself in her life.
Our office wall is covered with photos of people that have been a part of the shelter community during the past three years. I am filled with joy, when I look at these faces and think about what God has been doing in all of these people.
Dear Shelter family, After many goodbye meetings of hundreds of staff members, it is my turn to say goodbye. More…