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Want to grow in evangelism? Try, try and try again!

During my time working as a volunteer in the Christian Shelter-hostels in Amsterdam, I learned a lot about evangelism. A manager told me: “Trying three times and succeeding once is better than not having tried three times at all”. So I decided to step out (uncomfortably, haha) and see what happens! In this blog, I will tell of three accounts where I had the opportunities to talk to people and to grow in evangelism.

Small group challenge: Talking about Jesus with a stranger

I was walking one afternoon beside the canals of Amsterdam. Our small group challenge for the week was to talk to stranger on the street about Jesus. TALK ABOUT A CHALLENGE. I was still feeling pretty jittery and somewhat nervous. For some reason, I feel like it is easier to talk to someone I know about Jesus rather than someone I do not know. But if you want to grow in evangelism, you just have to step out, right?

I saw a girl sitting alone taking a lunch break by the canal so I asked her if I could sit with her and she said yes! Her name was Fenni and I felt like I should jump straight to the point. So I went for it and used my food analogy: imagine if I would say I brought some of my favorite food, and that it is the best thing I have ever had? Would you be interested in tasting it as well? She answered “Yes!”. When I told her that this food was a relationship with Jesus, she responded with an disappointed “Oh”. She explained to me that she believed in a higher being who governed the universe, but did not believe in God nor in the fact that Jesus existed. She said she did not think people should force their beliefs onto others. We got into a debate about believing and knowing. I told her that the one thing that I knew was that the God and Jesus love her immensely. That was about the end of the conversation. So I thanked her for her time, got up, and left.

I still think about that interaction with her. I don’t know if I was too direct with her and should have been more gentle in bringing up Jesus. Maybe I should have dived more into the hurt and listened to her more, plunging perhaps into her misconceptions about who God was. But what was said was said and there is nothing I can do to change the past.

Another conversation about God

There was another man I met that day, also sitting by the canal. His name was Vladimir. I was surprised by his hospitality because when I sat down, he pulled out this organic dark chocolate. I decided to go with a slower approach. We slowly got to know one another and eventually he asked what I was doing in Amsterdam this summer. I told him I was working at a Christian Hostel right outside the red light district. From that, I was able to ask him if he had any experiences with the church. He said he had actually grown up in the Church and that his parents were still believers, but he no longer believed in God. He told me that he didn’t want to talk about this subject anymore.

I, wary of how my conversation twenty minutes ago went at this point, backed off from this topic and asked him what his travels were like. When that topic began to die down however, I felt the Spirit prompting me to go back to the topic of Jesus, but I really did not want to. I ended up awkwardly asking him “So I know you said you didn’t want to really talk about your experience with the God, but do you mind me practicing sharing my relationship with God with you?” And he said “Sure!”

I began with “In the beginning God created everything in the world and us; and we were meant to live in perfect relationship with Him”. He interrupted me with a question and then went on explaining his view on the manipulation of the church leaders in relation to taxes and scripture taking out of context for forty minutes! That opened the door for me to just listen to him instead of shoving truth down his throat. There were several moments where I interjected and proposed the thought that maybe we ought to separate the imperfections of the people from the perfect God.

He talked about a tiny detail in the Russian translation of a passage that was translated incorrectly from its original. I asked him if I could show him another passage of scripture and ask him if he felt like that passage was also translated wrong or was taken out of context. I felt nudged to share with him Romans 5:8 and I invited him to read it. But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” I did not know the Holy Spirit would lead me to sneak in the Gospel so cheekily!

At the end of the conversation, he stated again that we all have our own beliefs. He even said very honestly that he may not have the right answer in regards to his beliefs, but he was okay with it. I was floored by his humility, but at the same time felt lost because I did not understand how someone could settle with not having truth and instead settle with an answer that does not satisfy. Looking back at it, it is my hope that he was able to see God more clearly that day.

Spirit led conversation in the hostel cafe

One day, while working in the café, I felt the Holy Spirit call me to raise up my hand and point to someone. So I started pointing at a guest until he made eye contact with me. After I got his attention, I walked over and began a conversation with him with much ease. He was a really cool dude and I was impressed by his vulnerability. He told me he was waiting for a friend to come down. Her name was Miranda. I invited them both to come to our Open Mic night later that evening. They came later that evening and they performed some songs with us!

The next day was my day off. I felt the Holy Spirit tell me, “Share Jesus with Miranda”. I was like “Okay, but not today”. So the next day, I was biking really fast to the hostel for my shift. I still do not know why I biked so fast, but as I was about to come into the hostel, Miranda was heading out of the hostel. I told her my shift ended at 9 and would love to talk to her and she said “Sure!” We talked later that evening and I got to know her better. The topic of what I was studying came up and I told I wanted to become a pastor. She told me she grew up going to Church but was no longer was a part of it. There it was. I felt like that was the door, so I asked her more about it.

Miranda told me that she did not know much about Christianity or even God. So she asked me questions like “So who is the God you believe in” and “How do you know more about who God is?” From that, I was able to ask her if she had a Bible. She said she had one at home, but not with her. So I got up, ran to get a bible and handed it to her. I gave her two guiding frameworks to never forget when reading the bible: that God is a God who loves you immensely and that the Jesus who interacts with the people in this bible is the same Jesus who loves you right now.

I asked her if she was ready to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. She told me that this would be a big decision and she would need time to think about it. I really appreciated her honesty and was glad she was taking it all very seriously. The next day she told me that she read the first few pages! I was amazed and really excited to see what God would do on the rest of her journey. She left that afternoon to continue with her journey across Europe.

Grow in evangelism, just keep on trying

So here is what I have been learning. How will people come to know Jesus if we do not step out to have those conversations in the first place? Although none of these three people came to faith, that is not to say misconceptions about who God were not broken down, that hearts were not softened a little more, and that people did not hear the gospel. In fact, I know God is constantly drawing people to him, not desiring that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). I know God misses these people and longs for them to come back home to him more than I could ever. So we have to keep on trying.

I think I am getting over my personal fear of failing in conversations, knowing that it is not we who convict their hearts or can radically change their beliefs. God does. It is up to them whether or not they choose to believe or not in who Jesus is. I found out it is fun proclaiming Christ and presenting his love for others and seeing how people react to it; and it has been a joy growing in this endeavour.

Interview with a guest in our hostel ministry, Amsterdam

Coming home to God in our ministry in Amsterdam

For us, he is a beloved and regular guest. For him, our hostel ministry in Amsterdam is not just an accommodation or workplace: “It feels like home.”

The average stay of guests in the hostels is about two nights. Ronald exceeds that average. For the past two years, he has been staying for three nights every week in both of our hostels. The fifty-eight-year-old man has thought carefully about what he wanted to tell. He also prayed about it. “‘Coming home’ was the word that came up to me in prayer.”

Traveling back and forth

A few years ago, Ronald and his wife found out his mother-in-law had gotten Alzheimer’s. They chose to move to France to take care of her. Ronald, who works in The Hague, travels therefore a lot between France and The Netherlands. During the week he stays in Amsterdam, because he wants to be near Schiphol. He is in France on the weekends. “Fortunately I can work everywhere, so I’m not always tied to a place.

Losing my religion

Ronald stayed in different hostels in Amsterdam, before he ended up in the Shelter Jordan. He was attracted by the term ‘Christian Hostel’. “I was raised in a protestant family. My parents were active believers, I would say. I attended a Christian primary school. We read the Bible after dinner, we prayed together and I remember we often talked about faith. That all changed when I was about twelve years old. Through things that happened in our family and societal changes in the seventies, my parents started losing their religion. We stopped going to church. I started studying, working, got married and became a dad. I wouldn’t say that belief in God was completely gone, but I did not do much with it. “

Buddhism

“After some years I started to explore Buddhism.” On his smartphone Ronald shows a picture of Lama Karta (a clergyman in Buddhism). “During that time, this man became important to me. Dharma, literature, is very important in Buddhism. But it is not just about studying: you have to make the things you learn part of your lifestyle.

You notice the difference between someone who only has knowledge and someone who has lived through it. Lama Karta – he died a few years ago – was an authentic man. I got to know him when I followed some retreats with my wife in a Buddhist center in Belgium where he was in charge. I have read a lot and learned a lot from that. But just meditating on the things I read, didn’t get me much further. Meditating on my place in the universe made me feel pretty lonely. There has got to be more to life, I thought.

Ronald in front of the Shelter City

Coming home in the Shelter

After fifteen years of active involvement in Buddhism, Ronald stayed a night at the Shelter Jordan. “I felt so welcomed and loved when I entered the hostel. I was immediately put at ease. That is what I meant by coming home. First in the Shelter Jordan, later the Shelter City. I started talking with the volunteers about my questions. My doubts. I was very open about my involvement in Buddhism. I had a lot of nice discussions with volunteers and other guests, from all over the world. It was very enriching.”

Coming home to God

Ronald participated in many of the hostels’ daily free activities: Bible Meditation, Bible Inspiration, evening prayer, etc. Ronald often heard about the sacrifice that Jesus made for his sins. It made him think. “I was particularly touched by prayers for me. In Buddhism it is often about awakening. I feel like I woke up as a Christian. Here in the Shelter I came back on the path of the Christian faith in which I was raised until I was twelve. And the beauty is: the moment you embrace the faith, you are a child of God. Then you are no longer alone, for He is your Father. In this way I escaped the loneliness of Buddhism. I came home for the second time.”

Alpha course

“I know many Christians are negative about Buddhism. I am still trying to find my way in this. Because Buddhism taught me a lot. About love. About wisdom. I found that in God. Because I’ve found him, I do not feel like searching anymore. The Bible gives me new inspiration.

There is a text on the wall in the Shelter City that says: Jesus loves you. I truly experience that here. I experience God in everything. Also in the many conversations I have had in the Shelter. I am grateful for that and I see something of God in it. In the Shelter City, I participate in the Alpha Course together with some of the cleaning volunteers. I am very thankful that God sent me here, a place to call home away from home.” And we are really thankful to see how God is moving through our ministry in our guests’ lives!

“I never thought I would ever come back to faith” | Michael’s testimony

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.

Michael’s testimony

“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.

Father-son relation

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.

Getting baptized?

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.

5.000 miles away from home

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…

BLOG image - Christian Gap Year Opportunities

Christian Gap Year Opportunities: How to prepare for your gap year?

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:

  1. Pray about it!
  2. Talk with people around you
  3. Make a top 5 list of things you would like to do
  4. Get insight in your budget
  5. 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.

 

 

BLOG image - Reception

Light at the reception

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
Anyone cared
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
Nobody bothered
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.

BLOG image - Testimony

Brookelnn’s testimony

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.

More…