I’m CSPC missions partner Esther Van Schie with the Organization of Faith Integration in the Netherlands. We help migrants here come to (or keep their) faith in Christ. Plus, we equip migrants & locals to live together as Christ-followers in this largely secular society. Here’s how I’m living deeply.
Luwam was about 20 when she decided to escape her war-torn, oppressive home country of Eritrea. Her journey, which eventually led her here to the Netherlands, set the hard, heartbreaking storylines of her life irreversibly into motion. She told me about her experience when I visited her in her small, government-provided home. (I went at the request of one of her acquaintances, who was concerned about Luwam’s shy demeanor & mostly solitary existence.) Given what I had heard about her, I was surprised Luwam even welcomed me inside when I showed up at her door. But she did and we started talking. Before long she was telling me her story. I learned how she paid a smuggler a lot of money to get her & some friends out of Eritrea in a Jeep, only to leave them stranded without water in the Sudanese desert. She had to walk for days to find water- one of her friends didn’t survive. Of course, all her money was gone, so she had to stay in Sudan for a year and a half & find work. Finally, she & a friend saved up enough money to get to the Mediterranean & board an overcrowded boat headed for Italy. Her friend, who was sick, died on the boat, and others wanted to throw her body overboard. Luwam said it was only God’s kindness that allowed her to make it to Italy, where she could give her friend a proper burial. Most shattering of all, somewhere along this journey, a brutal man raped Luwam. As a result, she became pregnant & gave birth. Because her situation at the time was so unstable, she left her baby girl in another country with a neighbor she considered trustworthy at the time. Now she’s trying somehow to prove it’s her child so she can get her to the Netherlands. She’s torn apart not only by that, but also by the excruciating reality that just looking at her daughter’s face can be triggering & remind her of the trauma.
Luwam is one of countless international refugees who’ve fled to the Netherlands. Compared to where they’ve been, most things here are safe & stable. Luwam has food, some money, & a roof over her head. The government will practically take care of most of these things if you fit into the system. Now that everything is stable, these past traumas sometimes burst out from people like Luwam. One of the most important things I can do is sit next to her and listen to her story. If she desires prayer (and Luwam did), I pray with her. Hers isn’t a happy story, but it’s a very real story. And this is the type of stuff we are dealing with all the time. The troubles and hardships, of course, look different from person to person and nationality to nationality. I often visit the women at the Ukrainian refugee shelter. Sometimes they’re calling their husbands who are right on the front, fighting. You can hear the bombs falling, so it’s trauma in real time. That’s the thing about sharing the love of Christ holistically through missions: It’s not only about teaching & preaching the Word of God, but also at the same time being there with people amid their problems. We’re looking into the important questions together: Where is God in this situation? How do we feel about Him? How does He feel about us? It’s seeing if you can help them make this connection. Sometimes I’m speaking to Christian refugees, but there are also Muslim refugees, or atheistic refugees, and they also open up. If I ask them, ‘Do you want to pray about your situation?’, they will almost always say yes.
Here are a couple of our key outreaches to pray for: The first is our church plant, where 26 different nationalities come together. There are about 120 people at each week’s service, which is translated into six languages! Many are seekers, others are just trying to hold on to their faith. Second, we develop training materials other churches can use. Our most recent is a course for traumatized refugee women. It’s especially for multicultural groups, written from a psychological & biblical point of view. Please also pray for our wisdom, the Spirit’s guidance, and more wise people to join us in this ministry.”