When long-term workers Gerrit and Sonja think about their first 15 years on the field, in Turkey and in Iraq, they see that time as a foundation for their current role in Europe. “It’s almost like everything we learnt there, God put in a toolbox, and God prepared us for what we’re doing in the Netherlands, focusing on Turkish people,” Gerrit said.
Two years ago, they landed in the middle of what they described as the most Muslim neighbourhood in The Hague (city located on the western coast of the Netherlands). They also found a church there, ready to reach out to the community. “We all started together new,” Gerrit recalled. “That opened a lot of doors for ministry in the neighbourhood.”
On Monday, the Christian school Gerrit and Sonja’s youngest daughter attends hosts a 45-minute children’s service. Though the school has maintained its biblical identity, established when its students were 100 per cent Dutch, the neighbourhood has morphed. Now, 70 per cent of the surrounding population is Muslim, as are 70 per cent of students at the school. The teachers, however, are all believers and pray for the students weekly. In addition, at the beginning of every week, parents and students attend the opening service. “There are Turkish ladies standing there. Every week they hear the gospel,” Gerrit stated. “There are Moroccan kids and Turkish kids singing worship songs to Jesus while their parents are watching them.”
Tuesday and Thursday, Sonja meets with women. On Tuesday, she meets with a small group called Wonderfully Made—an organised space for women to work on creative projects. The name comes from Psalms 139, reminding participants that they are created by God and blessed with the same ability to create. On Thursday, she helps host a mother and child club, which consists of North African and Turkish women. Although Sonja does not openly evangelise at the club, she showed the Magdalena video at Easter, giving the Muslim mothers a chance to hear the story of Jesus.
On Friday morning, Gerrit starts at the school again, where he serves tea to the fathers and spends 15 to 20 minutes talking to them, building relationships with Muslims. Once Gerrit asked an Imam, whose son attends the school, why he chose to put his child in a Christian school rather than a public school. “In this school, there are models and values,” the Imam replied. “It’s much better for my kid to be in this school.”
Twice a month, on Friday afternoon, Gerrit mans a Bible bookstand for three hours at one of the biggest open markets in Europe, held in an area surrounded by 10 mosques. Probably 103 nationalities pass by his table, he estimated.
Pray for the Muslims living in The Hague to have soft hearts towards the gospel. Pray for the Turkish believers Gerrit and Sonja are discipling to be lights in their communities.
Nicole James is a journalist, ESL teacher and adventurer. As a writer for OM Middle East North Africa and OM Muslim Ministries, she’s passionate about publishing the stories of God’s works among the nations, telling people about the wonderful things He is doing in the world.