Every year approximately five volunteers decide to spend their entire gap year in our ministry. Like Albert, from the Netherlands, who spent 13 months in our ministry. In this blog, he shares some memories of his Christian gap year in Amsterdam.
Over the past twelve months I had the privilege to volunteer for a year in the Shelter. During this year I gathered some stories that show God’s love for this ministry and his great miracles. I want to share some of these moments with you, so you get a glimpse of how awesome it is to serve here in the Shelter Youth Hostel Ministry. To be honest it is not always easy, struggles come and go. I could share with you only beautiful and super blessed moments, but then I don’t think it would do right to the richness of my time. So, here is some of my stories, I hope you like it!
My Christian Gap Year in Amsterdam
Amsterdam’s little music boat
On a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon, after eating fresh stroopwafels at the open-air market, I started to cycle home. I crossed a bridge where a lot of people were gathered, and I decided to I join them. The reason that they were standing on this bridge was for a musician called Reinier Sijpkens. Every he passes by and plays music from his little boat. That day he played a gorgeous serenade. The whole day, I looked back on this wonderful spectacle. However, God had placed another thought in my mind that specific morning: ”Albert, you are going to talk to a German guy this evening.” This thought was so specific, it could only have come from God. It was my free evening, but I listened to the voice of God and went to the hostel.
When I arrived in the hostel I saw a guy playing the guitar. Starting a conversation with an artist is always easy. After talking about cows and calves (this is Dutch saying for small talk), he asked me some heavy questions and underpinnings about my faith. I found it amazing to see that God gave me the words to say in these sometimes complicated conversations. By the way, the guy with the guitar came from Germany, of course!
I love star-trails. Laila (a colleague of mine from Germany) joined me on a bike adventure, to photograph the stars on a bright evening. It was a very successful evening, even though it was freezing (the picture below is the result). We had some spare-time because the process to capture the stars takes some time. We had the desire to come closer to God, so we decided to spend time praying.
On our bike ride back home, a foreign voice asked our attention. The voice belonged to a 40-year-old refugee from Iraq. He was collecting money for his trip from Amsterdam to Ter Apel. In Ter Apel he could find Shelter in a refugee camp. We believed the story of this sweet man, and out of compassion we gave the man what he asked for. Laila also had a Shelter bible in her bag and gave it to him as well.
A few days later we had the opportunity to share our testimony during small group. When I shared this story, I came to the realization that when Laila and I had prayed that evening, we had asked that God would use us to help refugees. I realized that it was a very fast and amazing answer to prayer.
The story jar came to rescue
One day during a staff meeting, one person came up with the suggestion to encourage each other in evangelism, by sharing testimonies of how God is working in the hostels. The idea was to write down encouraging stories from the hostel and put them in a jar in the hostel’s kitchen. But, as it turned out, I was actually the only author of the stories. A few months later, I had a hard day because of spiritual battle. I wasn’t myself; sadness was really pulling me down. One of the managers noticed that something was wrong. She is really gifted in helping people when they are struggling with these kinds of battles. She handed me ‘’the story jar’’, and I had to read the stories. While I was reading the stories, tears began to well up. It was very special to see how God had been using me and was continuously working in me. I read my bible and went to pray. On that moment God really turned my mourning into joy. I was reborn again. After this I could have a great conversation with a girl from Asia; it was really great see God working through my struggles.
An easy conversation that seemed tough before
Basically, all the conversations I have here in the hostel are in English, shared with people from different backgrounds. The cool thing about this is that I learn a lot through these talks, and that I am aware of how much I need God in all of this. I need His help to position myself in their stories, their background and, last but not least, to find the words in a different language (which gets easier over time). But the thing I struggled with the most, was having talks with Dutchies. Even though they come from the same culture as I do, I don’t always feel comfortable talking with them about God. In my mind, they always have a different vision on who He is. I tried to avoid conversations with Dutch people about God, mostly because of self-protection.
One day, our computer was getting replaced by a very nice guy (a Dutch guy). We started talking about different kind of things and eventually we came to talk about God. That conversation was so awesome! I learned about what he thought of Christianity, and I could testify about God’s love and the awesome relationship we can have with Jesus. I felt 100% lead by God in this talk, and I learned that God leads me when I surrender myself to the Holy Spirit. What this talk brought him is unknown, but I know that God taught me a lot that morning.
Would you like to do a Christian gap year in Amsterdam as well?
Do you think: “Wow this is awesome! I want to experience this as well!”? Pray for it! We would love to welcome you in our team! Check out your application procedure here.