For those of you looking to do ministry in a foreign country, I have to warn you: it ruins the tourist aspect of things. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I have loved biking around here and seeing all the sights and taking a ridiculous amount of pictures, but there is something different about doing ministry in this city.
It’s as if I were in a scene from a movie where everything around me is moving at an insanely fast pace, a blur of sights, sounds and smells…all the while I am standing there, still and silent. Here I see the pain of the prostitute as I look in her eyes and see nothing but loneliness. Here I can hug the woman who is out on the bridge playing her accordion every day trying to earn money to send back to her children in Romania. Here I listen to the homeless man who can tell me about his day when no one else bothers to ask. It is here, in the stillness, my hands touching the cobblestone street as I sit on my knees listening for God’s voice that I can feel the heartbeat of this city and its people.
Last weekend I got to help out with the Open Mic Night at the Dwaze Zaken Café, which is hosted once a month by (soon to be married) Rebekka (pictured below) and Chris which they started a couple years ago as an outreach for youth mainly. Ironically enough though, barely any youth showed up this time, but some really good local musicians showed up and it was just a really relaxed night of music and getting to know some people in the area.
Monday I was actually able to go to a Youth House (youth houses in Holland are usually for those between ages 18-23) close by, actually the smallest youth house in Amsterdam with only about maybe 15 people living there, with Rebekka. A couple years ago Rebekka started going there in hopes to get to know the youth there and the director of the youth house asked her to come in and specifically have discussions about God (HUGE deal!) with them. So she brought me this week and we just went and hung out with them and I got to know them a little bit.
This week at the homeless ministry I got to know a man named Hans, from here in Amsterdam. He comes every Monday and Friday and gets his coffee and cake from us and then goes and stands by a tree, usually very quiet and shy. This week I went over tried to crack open his shell a bit and boy did he just come pouring out, haha. He ended up pretty much telling me his whole life story, which basically consists of growing up is a broken home, having a slight mental disorder as a child, and then getting hit by a car a couple years ago so now he has a replaced hip and is on and off depression medication. Though I shared the gospel with him, he is definitely resistant to anything that has to do with “religion” or “church” or the bible, since “it is so disconnected from God.” Surprisingly enough, he then tried to argue with me about hermeneutics, and how I interpret the bible…long story. We talked for awhile and although he seemed to hate what I had to say about God, his life now, and his eternal future, I told him that I was going to pray for him that he would read the Bible for himself and see the truth. God really needs to break down some walls in his life/mind. But I believe that it’s possible, and I know that all the hurt and rejection in Hans’ life can be redeemed.
Ministry in the Red Light District is hard, heartbreaking, but awesome all at the same time. This last week I was with my teammate Rebecca and she was talking to a woman named Maria about the gospel. It’s sad really, because Maria believes that since nothing is out of God’s control, that her work here must be what He wants for her… that was only part of the long conversation we had with her about her beliefs, Catholicism, and her occupation.
I think the hardest part about ministering to these women is knowing that in some situations, the only way to break out of this occupation and lifestyle is to make a choice, themselves. However, ironically enough, most of the time the biggest obstacle is themselves. It’s almost as if these women have been brainwashed, their logic is twisted, and there spirits are broken.
I posted a picture here of sort of the entrance to one of the several “sections” of the RLD, called “sexyland” so that you could get a visual of what I need you to pray for. As you walk past these signs in the picture, the walls get closer as you continue down the narrow pathway through a maze of windows. Everything is so close it’s almost hard to breathe sometimes. And it is here, specifically in this section that I can literally feel the presence of the enemy. Pray for God’s presence in this dark place.
“The Conquering Lion will break every chain. He will wipe every tear away, He will take all my fear and pain.”
This weekend I will be taking a train to another YWAM base in Heidebeek (the countryside in Holland). I will be sleeping in a tent for a couple nights and helping out with a the "GO Fest" that they are putting on- a large youth event to send a group of youth on mission trips for the summer. One of the nights there I will be with some other Lighthouse staff behind our booth/table answering questions about the ministry along with many other ministries who are there to raise awareness on different topics. So keep that in your prayers too…woo hoo camping in Holland!