This week I went with a group of friends to Blankenberge, near Bruges in Belgium, to evangelise. The main focus was the nightlife scene. There are many people that go to these places to fill an inner emptiness. Considering how Jesus is the living water, from which we will never thirst, these people are in desperate need of the gospel.
I quickly found that the Belgians are a very polite people. Often I found that they were unwilling to tell me outright that they did not want to talk to me, even though their body language clearly told me so. It also seemed to me that any mentioning of “God”, “Jesus”, or “the church” quickly turned their attention away. Likely this was due to the atrocities committed by the Roman Catholic church. And then there were of course the French speaking people. Whom only spoke a tiny amount of Dutch or English, if I even was so lucky.
Doubtlessly there is still a lot to be learned about Belgian culture. But so far I found that showing exceptional patience and gentleness is key. It also helps to ease into a conversation, asking whether they were having a nice evening and such. This helped to show that we we don’t just come to make converts, but rather because we really do care about people. Quite challenging, considering how in Eindhoven I am able to jump into conversation much more quickly.
Evangelising in Belgium was difficult, evangelising at the Belgian nightlife even more so. Over the past months I have been evangelising in Eindhoven every week. I didn’t realise how accustomed I had grown to the Dutch way communication. The Dutch tend to have strongly voiced opinions, but are open to discuss ideas – as long as everyone in the conversation is considered as equals. I had expected the Belgians to be much the same, but this is certainly not the case. On top of that, only 6% of Belgians goes to church on Sundays – of which a large part are Roman Catholic elderly people. So I had to adjust my way of communicating.
This was of course combined with keeping our eyes open for conversation opportunities. I once approached a man who was writing in the sand of the beach. Immediately I knew what I should talk to him about. However it turned out that he was from Guinea and didnâ€™t really speak any Dutch or English. Regardless he was kind and had a large smile when I pointed him to â€œJean 8â€ in a French Bible I carried with me. He then indicated that he would like to keep the Bible. And with the awkwardness of language barriers our conversation ended shortly thereafter.
I also at one point met a young man who at first didnâ€™t seem all that interested in the gospel. But my friend and I kept on answering questions patiently and gently. After weâ€™d explained the gospel, we asked him what he would need in order to believe. He replied that God would have to stand right in front of him, so that he could see God in person. Immediately a Bible story came to mind, but I did not have the chance to share it. When my friend asked if we could pray for him and what his name was, he said: Thomas. I couldnâ€™t hold myself any longer: â€œWhat!?â€ â€œThereâ€™s a Bible story that you must know about then!â€ And then proceeded to share the story of the unbelieving Thomas. In the end he seemed a lot more relaxed than when we first started talking.
Often these evangelism weeks are just as much outreaches as they are inreaches. The week was filled with conversations about Bible topics, experiences we had with the Lord, and questions that arose while out on the street. All of which was contributing to the spiritual growth of the group.
While we had originally planned a barbecue on Thursday, none of the people we invited on the street showed up. However, God showed that he could still use this. Some people from a local evangelical church had opened up their home so that we could have the barbecue there. (Or rather, the braai, as it turned out that they had lived in South Africa for multiple decades.) We had brought a guitar, a cajon and a bunch of song books with us. We had intended to sing a couple of worship songs, but our hosts clearly enjoyed it. So we went on for over two hours with singing and sharing of testimonies. Thus God turned the evening into a great encouragement for our hosts.
Considering all, I am very glad to have been part of the week. I am happy to have shared the gospel with some people in need. There may not have been anyone who outright repented; there certainly were people dismissing God by using the F-word; but there were also many people who thanked us sincerely for the conversation. Furthermore I am thankful for having such a great group to go with and grow closer to. And finally Iâ€™m encouraged by this experience with sharing the gospel in a different culture – doubtless there will be many more foreign cultures to adjust to in the future.