Monday, April 29, 2013

below sea level

It has been a long time coming, but I have once again returned from traveling with the Taboo Arts team. We spent the past month in outreach around Europe, and we went to Amsterdam, Lyon (France), and Linkoping (Sweden). We also managed to go several places in between.

Our first stop was Amsterdam. We stayed at the YWAM base in the middle of Amsterdam, and on the building it said "Jesus Loves You" in English and in Dutch. The proclamation on the building reflected our attitude the whole time we were there - we were bold. Amsterdam is a tough city, and it requires a lot of fighting to do God's work there.

Our main purpose in being in Amsterdam was to work with teenagers and children in the Biljmer, which we were told is the "ghetto." While it's true that the Biljmer is a bit underprivileged, we were amazingly blessed in our time there. We taught stilts, dance, music, and graffiti to the children and teenagers that we met in the neighborhood. It was interesting to talk to them in a mixture of English, Dutch, and Spanish, and still find ways to communicate, but by the end of the week, we had made several friends and promised to try to come back at a later date and host a festival for their neighborhood.

What struck me most about the Biljmer was the sense of community that we found there. In London, people are isolated from one another. We live in a row of houses, but we only meet our neighbors when the kids kick a ball into their back garden or when we bake cookies for them. In the Biljmer, the families share a common garden area and spend a lot of their lives with one another. You can tell that, although they don't have a lot of material wealth, they don't lack for friends or love. The children were polite and enthusiastic, not at all like the children that we work with in London. I loved working with them.

When we weren't in the Biljmer, we got a chance to use a prayer room in the Red Light District. All around us were windows lit up red and full of women selling sex, but in our window, we knelt and prayed for what was going on around us. We also led a night of music and testimonies at a youth hostel in the red light district. It was a really bizarre dichotomy - all around us filth, but we were able to be a little bit of light.

On our final day in Holland, one of our team member's parents treated us to a boat ride and dinner at a pancake house. They took us all around their country, to Utrecht (the city in which they live), a tiny town with windmills, and to Rotterdam. At the very end of the day, while everyone finished up their dinner, I managed to catch a beautiful sunset in the fields nearby. It reminded me a lot of the wanders I used to take in the States, and for a few seconds, I was really amazed by how full and blessed my life is. A year ago, I was a university student, but now I'm privileged to serve God around Europe.

I serve an amazing God.