A Faith Ambassador
Jinto Jose shares his journey of hopes, dreams, disappointments and challenges of trying to establish a faith centred community in the atheistic heart of Europe.
The Lord touched me and called me during my final year of Bachelors at NSS College of Engineering, Palakkad Kerala. I had gone for a Jesus Youth program called ‘GPNS’ at Emmaus, Cochin, and got introduced to a few JYs from different colleges in Kerala who were completing their studies. GPNS widened my exposure to a life of mission. Later on I went for a short one month mission which was then called ‘Professionals to Mission’ – the destination being Jabalpur and its neighbouring tribal areas. I had a profound experience with the Holy spirit, that would go on to shape my life in ways I couldn’t imagine.
The one-month mission gave me memories for a lifetime. An experience with the Spirit who did his wonders by pushing me out of my comfort zone. After my mission in Jabalpur I had around 6 months before joining an IT consulting firm. Elders in the ministry suggested using this time for Jesus Youth. It was another level of mission formation for me. Then after my training at work, I chose to be in Chennai where I thought I could contribute to mission. In Chennai I was blessed with wonderful mentors, elders and spiritual guides who helped form me further. People who guided me, people who were thrilled when a new encyclical came out, people who studied about what the church teaching is on various topics. This is where I grew close to the Universal Catholic Church.
My eyes opened towards the beauty of the Catholic faith. This is where I started connecting the dots of what and how the universal church is, and it was during this time that I heard the call for Re-evangelisation. I do not know how it came into me, but I heard or read Pope Benedict speaking about the re-evangelization of Europe, and somewhere deep inside my heart it stuck with me. Not because it was Europe but because it was where the mission was weak. I took it in my heart and prayed. Over the course of next few months there was a wonderful growth of leadership in Chennai, with the various formation programs becoming fruitful, and I could see a new line of young leaders coming up. I realised that Chennai was becoming a comfort zone for me. I loved being with the people there and was having the time of my life. I was around 25 years old and I felt a calling to an uncomfortable zone.
Netherlands – My mission place.
My call has always been to go to uncomfortable areas, where mission is weak, to strengthen it up – to help build structures. Over the course of the next few months, I saw the Lord opening doors one after the other in a miraculous way. I asked the Lord many questions – how will I reach the mission land? Will I be lost? The Lord answered it through various people. I wrote the necessary exams, did the necessary assignments and applied to Universities in the mainland, all with the prayer “Let your will be done”. Finally, exactly one year after taking the decision, I was in Europe (summer of 2012) – in The Netherlands. At one point in the history of the Church, 1 in 6 missionary priests came from The Netherlands. But since the dawn of the new millennium, Netherlands has become a place where almost 100 churches are closed every year – almost 2 churches per week. People often think of Europe as a wonderful place to live in and have fun. I did not paint that picture in my head when I was moving here.
I was coming to do my mission, in the pretext of an MBA course. I wanted to live a life of witnessing, I was in a hurry to setup prayer groups. Somewhere I had heard that a man on fire cannot sit on a chair. Well, Reality was different. I was one of the only 10 Indians or so in the entire university (which had about 3000 to 4000 students). Of course, it was an opportunity, but I felt numb. I considered myself an expert in reaching out to people and organizing prayer groups, but it turned out to be absolutely impossible by the day. I found myself struggling for context, friendships, support and even at my home parish church, I felt lonely and isolated. Churches were usually sparsely populated even on Sundays, with much white hair in attendance. Whichever church I went to (except the international parishes), I was the youngest person on any given day. All this was new for me. By the grace of God, there was one chapel close to where I lived, where I could go for mass and adoration daily. This Holy hour was my lifeline. From excitement and zeal and preparation for prayer groups, it became isolation, silence and tears on knees in front of the Lord. What I never imagined was the disconnect from my JY Fellowship/circles. It was almost impossible to stay connected to the movement when you were on a personal mission in a country where you are the only Jesus Youth. This was a time when Whatsapp was not that common and I lived in a totally different time zone from all my family and friends. Luckily, I had some contact with JY Germany, and with some JYs who kept in contact.
I remember that often there were weeks when there was no one to talk with. But then I came across a Franciscan priest who was on deputation in Netherlands. He had met Christ through Jesus Youth. We organized a weekly adoration at his congregation house. This became the starting point for ‘adoration for mission’. Later slowly, JYs started coming to Netherlands – around one JY per year. After almost a year in winter 2013, we organized the first gathering of Jesus Youth in Netherlands, and one of the senior leaders from the UK came to help us. There were around five of us from the entire country. Although the country is small it is expensive to travel. But we took a decision to get together once a month for prayer and fellowship. And started a skype intercession regularly.
Slowly one by one Jesus Youths started coming, few of us got married, we started having more avenues to gather. And here we stand now. We have started prayer groups in 2 cities and in 2018 (almost four and a half years after we started), we had our first one day program. Majority of the attendees were of non-India descent. Soon afterwards, we began getting requests to organize retreats in parishes, and speak at events organized by the Charismatic movement. We got involved with the local charismatic movement. JYs from Netherlands have moved to neighbouring countries and started gatherings and are taking small steps in evangelizing there.
People from other countries are slowly coming here. It is interesting to see how the various factors influence the winds of mission – language, work, study, passion, marriage, culture, the list goes on. Netherlands is a country that has a Nordic culture that brings its own advantages and disadvantages. What stands out when compared to the East is the freedom of expression. What I have come to see is actions speak a lot louder than words. The historical background of the people of the land sometimes limits speaking out for religion, but as one Bishop once told us that even though people don’t like to hear about Christianity, no one can deny Jesus, no one can hate Jesus. I have come to see that this is what is helping us in living or preaching the Gospel. Prayer meetings of Jesus Youth in Netherlands are blessed with a majority of non-Indian crowd. This is indeed a blessing and also a challenge. It adds a different flavour to the formation and dynamics that we as JYs have received over time, and this is where the Holy Spirit is asking us to depend on him more. We (JY in BeNeLux) clearly see our calling as reaching out to the people in this land.
Dreams for future mission
Personally, the Lord has blessed me and our small family from the moment we dedicated our efforts to the Kingdom of God. Never has he disappointed us (of course, he has made us wait for HIS time). Catering to a crowd/generation/ audience who do not carry a historical affinity to talking about faith is what is ahead of us. As I look into the future the only constant in the whole equation is the same constant that has been there from the beginning – the creator of culture, the mover of hearts – the Holy spirit. The steps we are taking are much slower than before. But the fruits are becoming sweeter and sweeter. The calling is for grassroots, the challenge remains the same. At each gathering we pray for more laborers, people who are ready to listen to HIS calling, to take up this mission. The mission here is not physical endurance or sacrifice, the mission here is to fight the culture of relativism and lukewarmness. To reverse the trend of not having a church that is open, to sit and pray. The challenge is not being catered to, but to cater. The challenge is to listen to his voice when all are plugged in.