Gezellig and God
Gezellig is my favorite Dutch word. It translates to a feeling of togetherness in a cozy, comfortable atmosphere. You can use the word to describe a quaint café, dinner at a close friend’s house, or even to describe a lively, warm person. It can also be used to describe a familial sense of community.
I first learned of this word when I moved to the Netherlands for a semester of study in January 2018. As I quickly experienced, the Dutch culture reflects the coziness of “gezellig” in many diﬀerent ways: I would feel gezellig as I walked down a cobblestone street graced with pastel-colored flats, or when my coﬀee order came with a stroopwafel on the side, or in the midst of a fresh market lined with a plethora of tulips for sale. The whole culture captivated me by its charm and loveliness.
However, one area I knew lacked a true sense of “gezellig”, or familial togetherness was my exchange housing I lived in with about 200 other students from around the globe. We all had come to the Netherlands as foreigners, mostly alone, not knowing anyone, and unfamiliar with everything. We all craved that feeling of community, but none of us knew how to obtain it among other strangers. So, naturally, God gave me the perfect opportunity to bring people together and share His name.
Every Tuesday night, I would host dinner for whoever wanted to come. It was served family-style and gave others the opportunity to get to meet new people and share in the beautifully bonding act of eating a meal together. I would bike down to the market and try to get as much food as I could carry on the back of my bike. I would then carry it up to our disheveled but functioning hallway kitchen. A couple of friends would help me prepare the meal, and then a varying number of students would come together each week to eat. Word about this spread quickly within the dorm, and people would come eat a free meal then leave to go party for the night. Thankfully, there was a one-hour break between when dinner would normally end and when the bars would open in the evening. Thus, God again moved!
Through the Lord’s guiding, I oﬀered a chance each Tuesday night for people to join me after the Gezellig dinner and before the parties, to be with me as I opened the Bible and facilitated a seeker-friendly experience with the Word of God. No strings attached; anyone was welcome. You would be amazed at the ways in which God’s Word spoke for itself, without me having any prior seminary training (at the time), in the lives of these friends from all over the world. Most people who came to this study each week had never read the Bible before because they always felt intimidated by it, so having someone there with them as they read it was intriguing and inviting.
God moved powerfully each week through simply opening the Bible with my friends. We read a passage once together out loud, then once silently. I would ask if anyone came across a word they did not understand (because we were reading an English Bible with many diﬀerent international students). Then I would just ask them four simple questions:
What did this passage say about God?
What did this passage say about mankind?
What did this passage say about God’s relationship with mankind?
If this is true, how would it change your life?
The “if” question was key. The conjunction is a strategic approach to remove the pressure in confronting a person about their salvation. I did not have to know the answers to all their questions; I simply had to be faithful in opening the Word with them in love, in humility, and in community. God did the rest! I cannot tell you how many came to know the Lord as their personal Savior that semester, but I do know lives were changed, and I am confident seeds were sown on fertile ground. All thanks to the power of loving community and the power of God’s Word.
About the Contributors
Meg Dunlap (MBTS, 2021) served as the Social Media Manager in the DTS Marketing and Communications Department overseeing creative design, copywriting, and marketing strategy of organic social media posts. Currently, Meg lives in Dallas, TX, with her beloved husband where they are both active members of Eastside Community Church.