Members of the Amsterdam missions team share stories from their 12-day trip ministering to refugees.
This August, a group of eight young people from Summitview journeyed across the Atlantic to minister to refugees in Amsterdam. Before they left, I asked a few of them how they were praying for God to use and direct their time. Read on as Sarah Lemons, Katelyn Carr and Julia Turner share how God directed their steps and the stories of people they connected with along the way.
Their answers have been edited for clarity and length.
Sarah Lemons: The overall goal for the team was to form relationships and share the gospel with individuals and families in the Asylum Seekers’ Centre (ASC). We wanted to be intentional in meeting lots of people and getting a sense of where they were at spiritually. We also wanted to serve alongside Patricia and Matthijs van Engelen and give them contact information of the people we connected with so they would be able to follow up after we left.
We had several meaningful and spiritual conversations with refugees. After some of these interactions, our team members were invited into the refugees’ living quarters inside the ASC. Accepting the invitations of those who had to leave their homeland and belongings behind, and allowing them to make us a meal and give us gifts was difficult, but it allowed us to move into a position of vulnerability with them. It allowed us to enter into their world so they could share their experiences with us. It was especially meaningful when a group of roommates from Iran and Iraq invited Cory Nickell, Philip Allmendinger and Nathan Hrouda to have dinner in their home and discuss questions of faith, creation, sin and the hope of Christ.
One particular incident of how God answered our prayers to soften hearts and provide meaningful conversations stands out. A Turkish man approached our team and started telling us about his story. He shared that he had spent several years in the U.S., and that he had once walked by a church and was drawn to the voices he heard inside. He went inside and discovered it was an all-night prayer meeting. Since then, his curiosity about Christianity has been growing. Cory was able to share the gospel with him. The next day, Cory and I met with him to do a Bible study together and were able to give him a Bible and share the gospel again. While he did not accept the invitation to know Christ personally, he asked many more questions, some of which were about Paul, and he said that he was from Tarshish. We explained how the Old Testament stories all pointed to Jesus, which he had never considered before. He thanked us for sharing with him. A seed was planted that day, and we have hope that God will continue to work this “soil” and bring this man to salvation.
Katelyn Carr: We were trusting God for gospel conversations. It really felt like walls were coming down to talk with some of the refugees directly about the gospel. After we prayed for more opportunities to speak with women, Julia got the chance to share the gospel with a teenage Dutch girl who came to one of the events there.
We also prayed for chances to connect despite language barriers. Nathan got to have some good conversations using Google translate!
God blessed our desire to connect refugees with Patricia and Matthijs. There were a handful of people who were willing and eager to have a Bible studies or continue spiritual conversations with the van Engelens.
Julia Turner: God has really opened new doors for the sharing of the gospel in Amsterdam through a flood of refugees from countries that are largely closed to Christian influence. We wanted to build relationships, meet needs and share the gospel while helping the small team already established in Amsterdam. God opened doors for deep relationships through meals, music, Bible studies, games and just plain conversation. The Holy Spirit presented each of us with opportunities to serve, to be bold in word and deed, and we were humbled by God’s hand as he put people in our path.
Patricia specifically hoped to see a baptism while we were there. While that didn’t happen, we did meet with a variety of people who seemed open and willing to hear the gospel. Many of them asked great questions and some pursued more study with members of the team.
We knew the people we would be meeting would have experienced a lot of trauma. During our time in Amsterdam, we were privileged to hear many stories about refugees’ lives in their home countries, the reasons they had to leave, the heartbreak of loved ones left behind, and the current hardships they were dealing with. These stories left us speechless. God used these conversations as opportunities for us to point to him as Comforter and Father. People of all walks of life seemed receptive to prayer for everything from headaches, to reconnecting with their families left behind, to knowing God.