Three weekends out of the month, some of us travel to different places in Holland. Recently, we were scheduled to do outreach in Haarlem. Haarlem is quite far from our village; thus, our optimal choice for travel is by train. Since we would have to travel across the whole country of Holland, we needed to take more than one train to get to our destination.
During this particular trip, Ashley and I were the only ones from our community who were able to travel. We have never traveled by train before, let alone in another country with signs and symbols that don’t make sense to the average American. On top of this, Ashley and I were asked to bring our own bedding to our host homes. Since we don’t have sleeping bags, we tightly compressed our sheets and comforters into space bags (which make the contents more dense and much heavier). Additionally, we needed to bring our books for Dutch homework, Bibles, journals, breviaries, a weekend’s worth of food, a clean change of clothes, and other missionary necessities. To say the least, we had very heavy baggage and I totally didn’t feel that I was living out the missionary simplicity that we are supposed to be diving into.
Once we got onto the train, we didn’t know where we were supposed to put our stuff. I kept bumping into the people that were sitting in the aisle seats as I tried to find a solution to our problem. Since we couldn’t find a resolution, we kept our luggage in the seats next to us, as if we had purchased four train tickets. At one of the next stops, a gentleman boarded and asked if he could sit with us. Feeling a Divine Appointment coming on, we tried to clear our seats. He saw us struggling and showed us a little space in-between the rows of seats that were meant to house bigger luggage. Once we were all settled in, we started conversing with him. We tried to speak as much Dutch as we could, but he obviously heard our American accents and started speaking in fluent English. We came to find out that his aunt is a nun and he is a fallen away Catholic because he disagrees with some of the Church’s teachings. As Ashley and I listened to him, we became increasingly aware of how little we know of the mentality of the people here and why it seems to be such a spiritual desert. Though my heart became heavily discouraged during our conversation with him, I later realized the blessing of being able to listen to him, as he gave us insights into how some people here view the Catholic Church. This was confirmed through one of the priests I talked to once we reached Haarlem. He said that 93% of the people in Holland have similar outlooks to this man’s and only 7% are the faithful Catholics who attend weekly Mass. This crushed me, to say the least.
It made me question what the Lord is calling me to do and how He is calling me to minister to His people. So often, I go into situations thinking that I know what is best and needed. However, this experience showed me that I don’t really know what I am doing. In reality, I need to focus even more deeply on the Lord and be even more intentional to listening to how He desires me to be His instrument in Europe. Jesus is also calling me to a new and deeper level of trust in Him. I must let go of my desires and control. I must only allow Jesus. Please pray for me.
To be continued…