The Netherlands is a mission field. Many churches are actively reaching out to people in our country who do not know Jesus. In this letter we highlight two of such missional initiatives: church plant House of Peace, and IFES’ international students outreach.
House of Peace
House of Peace (Huis van Vrede in Dutch) is a church plant and community center in Kanaleneiland, a neighborhood in the city of Utrecht. House of Peace is connected to the RCN (Reformed Churches -liberated- in the Netherlands) and describes itself as a ‘community of people who together want to learn who Jesus is’. Christians and others who are interested get together weekly in family homes to share a meal and study the Bible. On Sundays, people gather for breakfast and for a church service. During the week, the community center functions as an open living room. People come in for sewing lessons, Dutch language classes, help with schoolwork, Bible studies, or simply for someone to talk with.
House of Peace is located in a multicultural neighborhood. By God’s grace, over 50 persons originally from Iran, Afghanistan and Syria recently started to follow Jesus and are now of the local Christian community. At the same time House of Peace observes that it has been much more difficult to reach the majority groups in the neighborhood: people with a Moroccan, Turkish or Bulgarian background. House of Peace believes that Jesus loves and cares for all these people, and the Christians in the neighborhood continue to seek for respectful and relevant ways to share Jesus’ good news with them too.
Therefore from 2018 onwards, House of Peace plans to employ a new pastoral-missional worker with Turkish-Bulgarian roots, Mrs. Chapkanova. Through her Muslim background, her personal history, her knowledge of the Turkish language and her positive personality, she is easily accessible to many people in the neighborhood. They share their stories, questions and needs with her, and over time, some of them want to hear more about the One she follows: Jesus. In preparation of this new ministry, Mrs. Chapkanova is attending a Bible school and continuing her Dutch language classes.
International Students Outreach
Thousands of students from across the globe come to study in the Netherlands every year. In university cites, churches and IFES (International Fellowship of Evangelical Students) work together to show hospitality, give practical support when needed, and share God’s good news with international students.
From 2017 through 2019, Verre Naasten financially contributes to the international student work in three cities: Breda, Eindhoven and Tilburg. These cities are based in the South of the country, where evangelical/protestant churches are fewer and smaller than in the Northern provinces, and thus face more challenges in raising local funds for Christian ministries.
Some international students come from a Christian family. For them, English-language Bible studies and meals in small groups are organized.
IFES and local churches also started social meeting places such as ‘I-café’ and ‘The Living Room’ where all international students can meet informally and make new friends. For students interested to learn more about the Christian faith, there are seekers Bible study groups.
Student workers try to keep in contact with students after they return to their home country or move on to a new country for further studies or work. Especially for those students who come to faith in Jesus Christ during their time in the Netherlands, it can be hard to go (back) to an environment where they may not know other Christians yet. Nevertheless, former students testify that God is faithful! A woman from China recently wrote to the student worker in Tilburg that she had a baby. She gave her newborn son a Christian name and wants to teach him about Jesus.
A young man, also from China, wrote:
How time flies! I’ve been back almost one year. I wish the seeker group in Tilburg is growing as it can be. […] I am so blessed to be one member of the seeker group. I learned a lot in the group and getting to know more about Jesus in this group. Now, I am leading a seeker group in my city as well and I am using the book of “Getting excited about Jesus”. I think our team members like the way of leading very much. I am wondering if this book have Chinese version? If so, I could give it to other team leaders. […] In my bible study team, we focus on seekers and people who are new believers. What is interesting is that my group members are of similar ages (around 30) and are all workers. One couple opens their house for our weekly bible study. We have 10 people in total.”