Project Europe is going on - Belgium experience of Indonesian missionary:
Initial Proclamation of Jesus in Europe
By Dcn. Toni Berek, SDB
Indonesian missionary in Belgium
Belgium, 27 November 2017 -- After I lived in Leuven for four years (theology studies) and now I am living in Oostende, I feel that these two cities are totally different from each other. Leuven is a student city, where we can find some of young people taking part in activities in the church. While in Oostende, the city on the coast, the Catholic young people are difficult to find in the Church. Well, in Oostende we have a ‘Youth House’, which is opened for everyone from 12 to 25 years old. At this moment, there are more than 50 young people registered in our ‘Youth House’, and most of them are Muslims (the came from the Middle-East, Africa and East-Europe).
In this house we offer them a space to meet, to share, to talk and to play with each other. It is great, and now we want to do something more, for instance, we try to find moments for 'spiritual’ activity during formal and informal meetings with the youngsters. It is not easy, but like Jesus who told Simon Peter to “duc in altum” (sail into the deep, Luke 5:1-11), we want to try to ‘step out’, ‘go into the deep’ and ‘throw out the nets’.
In contrast, how many 'fish' will we catch is not the matter. Based on this principle, we organize the “Evening Moment” in our ‘Youth House’. Evening Moments The “Evening Moment” was actually an evening where we came together for a moment to talk and to listen to each other. It can be facilitated with a text, a work of art, a song, a poem, a story, a movie, and so on. On the first evening, we chose the song 'I am Sailing'. The method that we used was listen to that song, sing together, reflecting and exchange the ideas with each other.
During the exchange moment, there was some good thoughts came out from the youngsters. To illustrate, one of them said: “like a boat that sails over the sea, it comes sometimes across the waves, the storms, the rocks and the darkness, so it is also our life. We often have to face difficulties in our life, but we should never give up. The Lord will always guide us to the place where we hope and longing for”.
On the second “Evening Moment”, we took a ‘goodbye’ song, “Afscheid nemen bestaat niet” (Saying goodbye does not exist) since it was on the 1st November, which is a day for remember our departed families. There were lots of interesting and spiritual ideas came from the youngsters about the life after this life or the life after death. It was interesting to hear them talking about death and heaven in according to them. After words, we tried to give them some ideas from the Christians’ perspective.
Further, on the third “Evening Moment”, we watched a short film. The title of the film is Are You lost in this world like me?” It was about how we deal with the mobile phones in our society. In the exchange moment, someone said that sometimes we are so busy with our phones and we do not care to others around us. Even to say ‘good morning’ is a gift from God, but we have no time to say it because we are too busy with his own phones. It is true, and it is nice to hear such words from them.
Besides the “Evening Moment”, we also try to find some opportunities in every moment of encountering with the young people, such as in the sports, music, recreation time and in other informal meetings to “sail into the deep water”. After three months of my presence in this ‘Youth House’, I discovered that the first step that we have to do is actually to build a relationship or a friendship with them. This is very important because through friendship we can get a chance to know each other, discover who they are, what do they need and what are they longing for. If they already know well and trusted us, they will begin to ask many questions about life, God, faith and so on.
During these months in the ‘Youth House’, I noticed there are many questions about spiritual life, human existence and even some theological questions from the youngster, such as “how can we believe that God exist while we cannot see Him?”, “how do we live our faith in this secular country?”, “can we live without believe in God?”, “why are there men and women?” and so on.
Actually, through these questions we get the opportunity to speak to them about God, faith and Christian spirituality. Actually, what we need today is a style of evangelization or a style of youth pastoral in our context. Concretely, there are three ways that I always use in my youth pastoral, for example: - Friendship-Pastoral: going to the peripheries, meet young people, build a friendship with them and try to know each other (through sport, music, go out together, etc.).
Going into the world of young people, walking together with them, listen to them, invite them to our house to show them where and how do we live (‘come and see’- pastoral) and do something together with them - 'Duc in Altum'-Pastoral: after the friendship, listening to them and do some activities together, it is the time to sail together with them into the ‘deep water’ through our life witnesses. The important things in these pastoral styles are we have to dare to walk, to work and to live together with the young people and let them find the Christ in our life.
Those are the kind of initial proclamation or the style of evangelization that we need today. Witnesses in the Schools As Christians, especially in Europe, we should dare to find the opportunities in every moment to become a witness of Christian faith. That is why, when I was invited to a school in Tielt, WestFlanders, to give some testimonies about my Missionary life in Europe for 640 students, I did it with pleasure. Currently, we are asking some schools in Oostende to give testimonies in their schools. This is not a waste of time, instead, it is an investment of faith. Like Peter, let us listen to Jesus and “duc in altum”. How many fish do we have to caught is not our matter. Thus, with Jesus, let us “duc in altum” because He asks us to “put out into deep water and let down the nets for a catch”.