For the language students among us, organising a year abroad can be a bit of a challenge. We can do almost whatever we want wherever we want, so long as we’re using the language we’re learning. But a year abroad can be a challenge spiritually-speaking.
Good churches can be hard to find, services are in a different language - it’s easy to let Christian things slide. Knowing this, I wanted to do something during my year abroad that would be beneficial for my Christian growth, and a way of using my time to serve the spread of the gospel.
I’m a French student and so, after considering a few options, I ended up in Brussels with Crosslinks. To be honest, Brussels was not my first choice – I’d originally planned to go to the Alps and this wasn’t even France! With hindsight, however, I can safely say that Brussels was the right place to go, and I thank God for providing the opportunity and bringing it to my attention. For starters, the Belgian ‘nonante’ (that’s ninety to us anglophones) is far easier to remember than the French ‘quatre-vingt-dix’! Joking aside, Brussels was a great place to spend my year abroad.
Life was busy and varied, with my time split between being an intern at the Protestant Evangelical Church of Woluwe and studying at the Belgian Bible Institute (IBB). At both of these places there was plenty of opportunity to get stuck in and see what Christian ministry looks like in a French-speaking context. I got involved with many areas of church life, ranging from playing the piano at Sunday services, to running the youth group, to painting the Sunday School rooms (in terracotta, if you’re wondering!), to doing admin, to joining in with student bible studies.
I was also privileged to spend time being trained and taught, the vast majority of it in French. I spent a day a week studying theology at the IBB, joining the full-time students for Homiletics and Evangelism classes. At church, I was taught and discipled at team meetings and through meeting weekly with one of the pastors to study the Bible together. All of this was of huge benefit to me, both in terms of my personal growth and in terms of my ability to teach God’s word and communicate the gospel to others. This has given me skills that will be useful to me as I head into my final year at university and beyond.
It was great to see what church and Christian ministry look like in French-speaking Europe and I was hugely encouraged by my time there. I’ve been reminded that the good news of the gospel is for all people (Woluwe is a fairly international church!) and isn’t just limited to the English-speaking world. It was great to meet brothers and sisters in Christ with whom I am united, even though they speak a different language and come from different backgrounds. It was also a joy to see the perseverance and faithful service of gospel-workers – both native English and French speakers – in a context where churches are often small and the numbers of Christians small.
A year abroad is a unique opportunity. If you’re studying French and want to serve God’s people and grow in your knowledge and love of Jesus, let me highly recommend Brussels to you!
Find out more about Crosslinks year abroad opportunities.
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