Nelleke and her husband Maarten are teachers from the Netherlands. Along with their four children, they have spent the last two years at Redcliffe College, Centre for Mission Training, in Gloucester, United Kingdom, preparing for church planting in Europe. This interview was done with Nelleke.
Q. Why did you decide to train for missions?
A. In August 2005, after a spiritual journey concerning missions, we were accepted by a mission organisation in the Netherlands. As we both were teachers but had no background in theological study, we were advised to go to a Bible college for at least a year to prepare ourselves for mission work.
We chose Redcliffe College because it offers a mission-centred curriculum and would give us the opportunity to meet, study and live with people from many different cultures. Moreover, we have four children and Redcliffe offered us living accommodation opposite the main college building. This gave us the opportunity to be very involved with student community life as we were only across the road.
Q. What are you studying at Redcliffe?
A. We each chose to study for different qualifications, but both are validated by the University of Gloucestershire. Maarten is doing the two-year diploma in applied theology and I am studying the one-year professionals in mission course part-time over two years. Redcliffe also offers short courses, a certificate and honours degree in applied theology and a masters degree. Being able to choose from a variety of courses enables students to tailor their study depending on their future plans.
Q. What has been helpful?
A. The professionals in mission course offers you many subjects relating to cross-cultural issues, mission vision and biblical basis of mission, and a choice of biblical subjects. These have helped me understand mission more and have prepared me for living abroad with kids.
Redcliffe College works from the holistic idea of being, doing and knowing and the personal growth programme is an important part of the course. Each student has a number of sessions with a pastoral counsellor. He or she also spends time with a tutor who helps him or her set goals for his or her personal growth plan. I found this part of Redcliffe’s approach very helpful as I worked through a number of issues that arose from living and studying in a multi-cultural community.
The programme of placements also allowed Maarten to spend time on placement in the area where we plan to minister, enabling us to test our calling to missions in Europe.
Q. What has been the biggest challenge?
A. The biggest challenges inevitably come from living in community and time pressures. It has not always been easy to find a balance between studies and spending time with our children and each other. Also, living in a shared house means having to “socialize” continually.
Q. How do you feel your time at Redcliffe has prepared you for your future ministry?
A. Living in an international community with Christians from different continents and cultural backgrounds has taught me that my faith comes with some cultural baggage. I discovered the core of my faith through what I have studied, but I have also gained a broader perspective through listening to how people with different worldviews interpret biblical issues. Living with different nationalities in a shared house has made me realise my cultural arrogance. It has been very good to learn that my way is not the best way. That has been humbling!
Moreover, looking at life from an African, Asian or East European outlook has been enriching and has made me see more of the inequality in the world. This has encouraged me to rethink my lifestyle.
Through studying at Redcliffe, I have developed as a person and as a Christian and this experience has been invaluable to me in my preparation toward working in missions.