Volunteering Abroad – Everything you need to know

The why, how and what of volunteering abroad

Everything you need to know about volunteering abroad!

Are you – like us – dreaming of an opportunity to live and work in another country for some time? And are you looking for ways to make this dream become reality? It might be easier than you think: consider volunteering abroad for a while! It is a perfect, cheap and uncomplicated way to make your dream possible. In this article we created an overview of the benefits of volunteering abroad and tools of how to find the best places to volunteer abroad. We created a test which helps you in finding out what is important to you, what are your reasons of volunteering abroad. Feel free to start with our free Volunteering Abroad Test right away or read the full blog first.

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Why volunteering abroad?

It’s cheap. Fun. Satisfying. Adventurous. There are numerous reasons to go volunteering abroad, especially with the numerous volunteer abroad programs out there! But maybe you still need to convince yourself, your parents, your friends or your dog that you want to do this. So let’s start with a number of benefits that proof volunteering abroad is an excellent idea.

Benefits of volunteering abroad

  • Make the world a better place – Cheesy, but true. There are many non profit organizations in need of some helping hands to impact people’s lives. Use your time to make a difference!
  • Grow in self-knowledge – Through working in a different context, you gain more understanding of who you are, why you do the things you do and what your gifts, strengths and weaknesses are.
  • Spice up your resume – Sustainability is a core value for a lot of companies worldwide. Extra-curricular activities like volunteering abroad show your future employer that you really care for people and the world and that you have international experience.
  • Explore a foreign country in a deeper way – Volunteering abroad gives you the opportunity to experience a country in a deeper way. Use you time off wisely to explore the country, culture, people and history off the beaten track.

Of course there are more reasons to go volunteering abroad. Check out our full list here!

Is volunteering abroad something for you?

Volunteering abroad is not just for a specific type of person: everyone could (and should) do it! There are so many volunteering opportunities and organizations, that there are perfect options for everyone who is interested in volunteering abroad. Whether you should go volunteering abroad is out of question. Rather ask yourself: where to go and what to do? Do you have money to spend or are you looking for options to volunteer abroad free? There are so many options!

How to choose the right volunteer abroad program?

You might wonder: “There are so many volunteer abroad programs. How can I choose the best places to volunteer abroad?” Indeed, finding a perfect and maybe free volunteer abroad programs can feel like a tough exercise. Especially because there are so many agencies and intermediaries. These agencies often ask high fees, without any guarantee for better quality. While there are numerous volunteer organizations who opportunities that make volunteering abroad cheap. For example: you could volunteer abroad cheap by working in exchange for accommodation and small food fees. So, avoid high expenses and find the best volunteer abroad programs yourselves. How? No stress! We created a step-by-step checklist, to help you finding the best volunteer abroad programs cheap.

Step-by-step guide to find a perfect and cheap volunteering opportunity

Step 1: select your favorite type of volunteering

Firstly, before you start searching for volunteer abroad programs, ask yourself in what type of volunteering work are you interested. For what good cause would you like to work? To what kind of charity or volunteering organization would you like to donate your time and talents?

It is an important question. Volunteering abroad in a work field that is close to your heart will be a first step to finding a successful experience. If you feel like you don’t have any idea what to answer to this question, maybe the global Sustainable Development Goals can help you (see image below). It is a list of areas global issues we need to invest in to create a better and more sustainable future. Of course this list doesn’t contain all possible options, but it might lead to valuable ideas. Use it as inspiration to create your own list. Make a top 3 of your favorite sustainability goals, to see which topics interest you the most. Write down your ideas of how you could contribute to solving this problem.

Create your own goals for volunteering abroad using Sustainable Development Goals UN

An example of how you could translate the sustainable development goals into volunteering abroad options:

Favorite goals Peace, justice (16)
Good health (3)
Climate action (13)
Ideas to contribute while volunteering abroad – Local church or ministry

– Refugees

– Human trafficking

– Prison

– Work in a local hospital

– Join a sports program for children in slums

– Beach waste clean up

– Volunteer in wildlife conservation

Step 2: create your top 3 of countries

This might be an obvious step, but it will help you to specify your search in the next step. Make a shortlist of three countries you would like to go to. If you really don’t have a clue, start with making a list of requirements for the country that you want to visit (f.e. climate, continent, specific language, developing nation or not etc.). Or use simply a map of the world and choose three countries that seem the most appealing to you. Important: don’t forget to check if you are able to get a visa for this country with your nationality! If you like to come to Amsterdam, click here to find out if you would be able to get a visa. 

Step 3: write down your talents and passions

Are you good in photography? Would you like to work with children or animals? Write down some of your passions and talents! When selecting volunteering options, it will help you to see what suits you best!

Step 4: start your search for volunteer abroad programs

There are a lot of volunteer abroad programs out there, and choosing one can become overwhelming if you don’t specify your search. When using Google to find the perfect volunteering abroad opportunity, use the input of step 1, 2 and possibly 3 to be as specific as possible. Use different search queries and write down the opportunities that caught your eye. You could use our template to collect and select your favorite abroad program.

Step 5: Choose, apply and go!

If you used our template, you now have one overview of your favorite opportunities. Based on your requirements (costs, type of work) you can decide which opportunities suits you best. Check out the application procedure and make sure you apply in time. And before you know it, you are ready to go!


Interested in volunteer abroad programs?

One thing is sure: volunteering abroad is an experience of a lifetime. If you love to meet new people, experience different cultures, live in an international community and make the world a better place, volunteering abroad is an experience you shouldn’t miss out! We hope that our step-by-step guide will help you finding the perfect volunteering opportunity.

If you love to work with people from all over the world and are looking for volunteering work in Amsterdam, join our international volunteering team! Meet new people, live in an international community, experience various cultures and make a difference. Check out our volunteer opportunities here.

What is important for you?

Do our Volunteering Abroad Free Test

Gain insight in what your focus should be for your volunteering abroad experience. And find out what topics the best places to volunteer abroad for you should cover!

Best Gap Year Programs Abroad

Gap Year Programs – What is important to you?

Find yourself the best gap year programs!

Step out to the unknown!

So you are looking for the best ways to spend your gap year? And you are wondering what kind of gap year program would suit you best? Don’t just look for free gap year programs or sign up for expensive gap year opportunities. Rather spend some time reflecting on what you should do to get most out of your gap year! On this page we like to give some more general information about finding the right gap year opportunities. Feel free to start with our free ‘Gap Year Program Test’ right away or read the full blog first.

Overview of this page:

Start the Gap Year Program Test

Everything you need to find the best gap year programs for you

Congratulations! You found yourself an opportunity to take a break from school and do a gap year. An excellent choice, we would say! A gap year is a great opportunity to develop yourself, step out of your comfort zone and do things you have never done before. At the Shelter Youth Hostel Ministry we understand this desire. You probably want to travel, learn more about yourself, develop new skills and getting in touch with different cultures and worldviews. That is why we offer year-round gap year opportunities for people between 18 and 30 years old in which they grow in a personal, professional and spiritual way. On this page we posted everything you need to know about finding the right gap year program. Do the free gap year program test below to see what type of gap year program would suit you best!

What is a gap year?

Firstly, let’s start at the beginning. What is a gap year? You probably heard other people about taking a gap year. And maybe you were wondering what it is and if it would be something for you. A gap year is any year between educational transitions: after graduating high school, as a break during your studies, or right after you graduated. So strictly taken, a gap year means that people take time away from their education to pursue something different. We rather define a gap year as an experience of a lifetime: a unique opportunity to take a detour from your regular life and do things you’ve always dreamed of. Invest in yourself and discover more about who you are. And where can you do this better than in a foreign country?

Reasons for choosing gap year programs abroad

You might have to convince people around you about this whole gap year thing. Therefore we wrote down some reasons that could help you explain why taking a gap year is a good idea. And why spending your gap year abroad is even better. While there are loads of gap year programs abroad, the advantages usually are universal:

  • Get out of your comfort zone
  • Get life experience by living away from home and from your safe environment
  • Broaden your horizon and your network
  • Get in touch with people from different cultures and religions
  • Learn new skills, like communicating with people from other cultures
  • Take time to think about your future and next steps in life
  • Gain work experience, when you spend (a part of) your gap year volunteering or working
  • Return home with a fresh perspective on life and renewed energy

Why the best time to do a gap year is NOW

Why settle into a career so early on in life? You have plenty of years ahead of you to settle down and get rooted. But this stage in your life, with little responsibilities or attachments, offers you a unique opportunity to gain a new perspective. One of the best ways to find out who you are and what you’re capable of is by going out of your comfort zone. Joining gap year programs abroad, instead of in your own country, challenges you to do this. Being away from home will help you to become more independent, mature and grow on a personal level. So at the end of your gap year, you will most certainly be different. You’ll likely have different values and a deeper understanding of the people around you. In short: no matter how you choose to spend it, a gap year can be a hugely significant time in a person’s life.

How to find yourself the best gap year programs abroad

So you know what a gap year is and all the reasons why it is an excellent idea to do a gap year now. One important question remains: what to do during your gap year? We want you to get the very most out of your gap year. So before you start looking for gap year opportunities, it is good to know what topics are important to you. Would you like to learn more about cultures or would you prefer expanding your career opportunities? Would you like to reflect on yourself or is impact on other more important to you? Do the test and find out which topics mean the most to you. After that you have everything you need to find yourself the best year programs abroad!

What is important for you?

Gap Year Programs Free Test

Gain insight in what your focus should be during your gap year. And find out what topics the best gap year programs for you should cover!

Great ministry experience

Great ministry experience: a conversation at night

One of our team members about a great ministry experience he had at the Shelter City in Amsterdam:

“ Two nights ago, around 3 am, a group of people stood before the Shelter City. One of them, a girl, wanted to come in. She was clearly drunk. I told her that we don’t want alcohol in our hostel and that I couldn’t let her in. She said that she only wanted to grab her charger, so I allowed her to do so as long as she was quiet. When she came back down, she had this really angry look on her face, and she started saying that I was judging her. “Jesus still loves me, even though I have messed up. You are judging me for drinking. This is a Christian hostel, you guys all think you are better than everyone.” was what she kept saying. Eventually she went back out and joined her friends again.

Ministry experience – God is still at work

An hour later the group came back. I opened the door for them and her friends were kind of making fun of this girl for being so drunk. They helped her to get upstairs and they all went to their rooms. After a while the girl came back down, because she wanted to smoke. She still seemed pretty upset with me for telling her to be quiet, but as she was walking past the reception all of a sudden she asked a question: “Do you believe that God beliefs in people?” I answered: “Yes I absolutely belief that, He looks way past our mistakes and sees our true potential and identity. That’s why He send His son.” And she just started weeping, explaining how she was always so close to God, but how she messed up, and she mentioned how she thinks that she is a failure. She kept saying that she really messed up tonight. I told her that the fact that she feels convicted means that God is still at work within her.

Ministry experience – God still wants people to come home to Him

I told her that God wants her to come home. She was afraid to lose her friends, because to them she was just ‘the girl who is fun to party with’. She wanted to leave that life behind, but she gets her identity from it. I told her my story and how we can find our true identity in God: that we are His beloved children. I asked her if she wanted to come back home. She said yes while crying and we prayed together. Then I got to encourage her a little bit and gave her a bible. She was thankful that I told her what she needed to hear, she didn’t expect to go to Amsterdam and to be praying in a Christian hostel. Then she went out for her cigarette and on the camera I could see her (what looked like) praying to God, which was really beautiful to see.

I am really thankful for what God did in her heart that night. For some reason telling her that she was drunk convicted her so much, and God really personally reached out to her. This was a great ministry experience to me, and all I did was just being at reception…”

Are you looking for a great ministry experience yourself? We offer mission opportunities from 1 up to 12 months. Check out this website for more information!

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 ed-hrvatski.com. 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. “


“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…

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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.