While the latest attacks took place in Belgium, I was in the Netherlands at an Interserve consultation on the migrant situation. The quotable quote came from a refugee of 22 years standing – now married and with a Ph.D who said: ‘It’s not the ground we serve with the gospel but people’. This puts mission agencies on the spot. Will they stick with their colonial geographic focus or follow the peoples, wherever in the world they are.
Specialist input came from Samuel Lee (http://www.samlee.org/iSam/Home/Home.html) who leads a “migrant church”; and also Jan-Peter Moritz, director of the “Gave Foundation” – a Dutch Christian charity. The letters used in Dutch to spell the name “Gave” stand for “fled”, “seen” and “loved”; which is just what they passionately believe i.e. the all seeing God both sees the vulnerable and walks with them (Gen.16:13).
These two men represent a whole constituency of Dutch Christians who believe and insist that “migrants are a blessing” on a number of practical levels; but not least because many are from Christian backgrounds or have changed allegiance to Christ and forced to flee as a result. Such people are like a “spiritual injection of life” to ailing churches in the host nations of the EU they are arriving in.
The belief that migrants are actually a “blessing” is profoundly biblical – if almost entirely counter-cultural. It challenges the popular public perception that the exact opposite is the case and migrant refugees are only “takers”.
The Gave charity offers a number of highly popular workshops, which are creating a waiting list for people to attend. Topics on offer include issues such as – the effects of trauma; Islam and Muslim cultures; working with women; working with children; working with teenagers.
Here are some good news headlines of what’s happening in just one of the EU member states – the Netherlands:
- 700 Arabic-speaking people (60% of them identifying as “Muslim”) gathered for a conference about Jesus.
- 300 young people attended a “Bible Camp”; half were Christian and half from other groups including Muslims.
- The first designated Somali church now exists – this is a world first.
- Many refugees arrive in the Netherlands having already heard the gospel in Turkey.
- In Athens, ‘Restaurant of Jesus’ is now well known among refugees, as the place where they can rest, take a shower and encounter Christians who care.
- Liberal churches, which have said: “It’s not appropriate to tell the gospel to Muslims, are themselves starting to do just that – not because they want to but because they are being asked to by many refugees, who are curious to know.
- The Belgian government is asking local churches to open their doors to do something with refugees as they don’t know what to do.
- It may sound bizarre, but Dutch Christians are starting to engage with refugees out of fear of terrorism (perhaps the idea is to get in and show love first); also some Dutch Christians want to feel the refugee’s pain.
The bottom line is that among some Dutch Christians, the gospel is proving to be a good “central-point” of reference – both for people of the “host-culture” as well as the people of the incoming cultures; both absorb from the other and enrich the other.
If this is the case in the Netherlands, then the gospel is indeed the hope for all cultures across Europe and the lands from which they are setting out on the, so called, ‘refugee highway’.