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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.

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