(Photo With Tjebbo in Stockholm)

Searching for keys… How do I communicate the gospel with my neighbors? Fun folks, I like them a lot and they like me, but when I try to talk about my faith they get this ‘what-on-earth-is-she-talking-about’ look in their eyes. They know their neighbor keeps herself busy with urban mission – and this can cause some curiosity – but that’s about the extend of it. How do I communicate with folks like them, the riches I find in knowing and following God, in a way that causes a response like: “Wow, I need to find out more about that!”

Inspiring examples

I’m not alone in this search. Jim Mellis, who lives in a neighborhood in Amsterdam and works there with YWAM, found some interesting keys in his communication with his Muslim neighbors. Rikko Voorberg, a creative pastor in this same city, was asked by a major Dutch liberal newspaper to become ‘pastor in residence’ during the days before Christmas. In the paper he wrote small responses to the news. The editors had asked him, so he obviously had found some keys. In my city, Rotterdam, Nico van Splunter is church planter in a challenging neighborhood. He was asked by different neighbors to organize a Christmas meeting in their area. He also had found keys to connect with different believers.

What are their keys?

What are the keys, these guys have found, so that people seem to open up to them, and want to listen to them? But also, what can be barriers; what are (sub)conscious thought patterns that close doors and hinders communication? But, I realized, these ‘what-questions’, even though important, might be wrong to start with. The ‘why-question’ gives us insight in the most important key. Why did these guys get keys?

I’ve interviewed Jim and Nico, and what I saw and heard is that they befriend their neighbors; eat and laugh with them. They don’t fear getting close to ‘the other’. That is how trust is built. They live out 1 John 4:18. ‘There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear’   Love; they main key That’s what I realized afresh, when visiting Tjebbo van de Eijkhof in Stockholm. We are both passionate about urban mission. In the centre of town we enjoyed some good cappuccinos and a good time of sharing. One sentence Tjebbo said, keeps coming back in my mind: Gea, only when you love, you get keys.’

This is a free translation of a column I wrote for IDEAZ (1-2014)