We are working on something new at ICP. In the spring we want to start a Bible study program for non-native speakers in various places in the Netherlands. Eszter Bruinings has been leading groups for non-native speakers for years and knows from personal experience what the existence of such a group can mean in the lives of our non-Dutch speaking brothers and sisters and fellow citizens.
Is that really necessary? Another group is added, yet another place where believers gather. Is there no possibility in the Dutch church for foreign-speaking believers to receive Bible education?
Why would we want to organize a Bible study for non-native speakers? Read on to get the answer. From the heart of an immigrant and from the practical experiences of life in the Netherlands. It goes deeper and further than you might initially think…
I can still remember the time very well when I came to the Netherlands. In the congregation, where everyone knew my Dutch husband, I felt welcome and loved. The people were very nice and they tried their best to talk to me in German. Over a year later we moved to another church where my husband didn’t know anyone either. I went to church services and to various church activities, but I never felt so lonely than in the Netherlands among Christians.
How happy I would have been if there was a Bible study group for non-native speakers back then! A group where everyone could feel welcome and at home, seen and heard, regardless of the level at which he or she masters the Dutch language. A group where I could also understand something and do Bible study with others in simple Dutch. Unfortunately, such a group did not exist.
Something to hold on to
Many migrants, new status holders, live scattered in the country where no Christian activities are organized in their own language. They speak little or no Dutch, but they often do not speak English either, so they cannot understand a sermon with an English translation. Many people, also from other religious backgrounds, have many questions about the Christian faith. They seek deepening in faith, in Bible knowledge or in the Dutch language. They are looking for something to hold on to in their difficult situation. Many miss their family, friends, the church they left behind in their country.
Together we are stronger
In a church where you understand little or nothing and you are not understood, it is difficult to ask your questions and to persevere spiritually. It is not easy being a Christian alone. Wood burns longest together and together provides a lot of heat and light. When a piece of burning wood is removed from the fire, it extinguishes faster. It is the same with us, foreign-speaking Christians. If our faith is not sufficiently nourished by the language barriers in the churches, the fire within us goes out faster. We need each other, we need a place where we can meet and help each other and be there for each other to keep our faith in Jesus.
A place for us
A place where we can grow in knowing God and in our relationship with Jesus, but also in Bible knowledge. A place where we can get an explanation of a part of the Bible in an understandable way and where we can talk to each other about how we can apply the Biblical message to our daily lives. A place where there is room to receive but also to share and to ask questions if someone does not understand something.
Community and integration
Through the Bible studies and conversations, the Dutch language is also practiced and improved, so that in the long run Dutch sermons become more understandable and the participants more easily dare to talk to others in Dutch and testify to their faith. Nowadays we can listen to church services via the internet in our own language, but that does not help us to learn Dutch better and that is also important to feel at home. Moreover, we cannot directly ask questions via the internet and we miss the community with each other.
Eszter is motivated, partly through her own experience: It is important that Bible study groups for non-native speakers arise all over the country and that these groups become places where everyone comes enthusiastically, is seen and heard, shares joy and sorrow, fervently for and with each other. pray… where we receive strength and where new hope is born… despite the fact that in our often very difficult situation nothing has changed (yet). By sharing a lot with each other, we also gain more insight into each other’s cultures and more understanding for each other.
Song 404 from the Revival Collection provides an appropriate answer to why it is important to organize a Bible study group for speakers of other languages: “…People wait, hearts yearn, for a love that warms… Love cries… for those who fall, those who falter , to receive in His name. Let the flame burn again… let love burn like a fire, like a fire…
Are you interested in the project ‘Bible study for speakers of other languages’ and would you like more information? Please feel free to email us. We are happy to talk to you. firstname.lastname@example.org