Christel used to love her well-paid job, but then she became bored with it. She was demotivated, she had to take sick leave, and she finally gave up the job, convinced that God was calling her to do something else. But rather than sit around and do nothing, Christel joined the local Red Cross volunteers. She was meeting people, felt useful again, became part of a new social network and found herself better integrated into the local community. Then came the question of finding a new job, but still with the aim of reflecting God where He would lead her. Christel and her husband were convinced that part-time work would be ideal for her. Then came a miracle from heaven – a suitable job right in the heart of their town, being advertised as full-time, suddenly became part-time!
For Christel, the key to integration is not so much that a Christian should be working locally as a volunteer or in a professional capacity, but that their local church should also be part of local life. If the ‘open’ meetings of her community were to take place in a public venue that everyone knew, it would be easier to invite outsiders to come and meet their neighbours, who happen also to be disciples of Christ. Today, with the support of her family, Christel is carrying on her work of listening and coming alongside the people she encounters. She has certainly found some opportunities to speak about God and to invite others into her community, but she knows that everyone’s journey is different. But she is able to do her bit, however small it may be.
As she thought about different ways of proclaiming the Gospel in a multicultural society, Drienie carried out a survey in the area of Borgerhout in 2001. The results led her to move there in 2004 so she could be better integrated in the local community. And in 2010, she created De Brug/Al Jeser (DBAJ), (The Bridge) a project that now occupies her full-time.
DBAJ is a meeting-place based around culture and faith. The organisation serves as a bridge between different cultures. It’s about going out to meet other people with the aim of building long-term relationships. Everyone is welcome! DBAJ brings people together and proclaims the Word of God. Drienie does this by organising multicultural meetings for ladies, film evenings, bible studies and much more. “Like Jesus, we want to be part of people’s daily lives. We hope to be the means by which they meet Jesus,” she explains. “Our organisation seeks to be integrated into society as much as possible. We take part in various activities in the town; we participate in volunteer work and often collaborate with secular organisations. Integration is about living amongst people and sharing their lives. It’s also about being honest, taking the time to listen and accepting everyone for who they are.”
For Drienie, 1 Thessalonians 2 v.8 sums up this approach, “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.”
ANGELA & REINER
Angela and Reiner have been church-planters for 18 years. Their new project is based at Heusden-Zolder and even before the BEM announced its new vision, being integrated
locally was important to them. Their motto is Close to God and close to people. “As volunteers for the local soup kitchen, we meet a lot of people. This enables us to integrate into society and let God’s light shine out. It’s an open door into society.” Reiner tells us. Angela and Reiner hope to gather the people they meet into a Christian community close to God and people.” We want to love God and our neighbours by bringing the missionary message of Jesus to Heusden-Zolder in a way that is relevant to them.”
“If we want to integrate more, prayer must be our first reflex. We need to ask God where He wants us to get involved in society. Actually, in the beginning we wanted to join another church, but God led us to Heusden-Zolder” continues Reiner. “To start to integrate, try beginning to meet some of the obvious needs of your neighbourhood. Choose something you like so you can share your passion. Find others in your church who are ready to start shining God’s light outside. Meet up from time to time to pray together, to encourage each other and share experiences. “