For three years now, Tom (26) has been meeting with Gvencio (14) from Rotterdam: "There is only one who can direct our encounters, that is the Lord Himself".
They have an age difference of 12 years, come from a totally different environment, but nevertheless have been going out with each other every week for years. Tom Evenblij (26) is Alongsider of Gvencio (14) from Rotterdam and enjoys sharing his faith with him. "I have really noticed that sometimes there are so few words involved, that someone's life changes just by you being there."
The two already met on Friday evening, at a Bible club for young people. "A very busy, creative boy, who flies in all directions. But he is very sincere. There are a lot of young people who have something made up these days. But Gvencio has no filter and says what he thinks. He is convinced that God exists, there is no doubt about that."
When Tom went to Gvencio and asked him if he could become his Alongsider, walk with him for a time in life, he was fine with everything. So did his mother, although "he didn't really need any help". That was three years ago now. In that time they have got to know each other better and better, but the boy has also changed. "I don't think I've done much," says Tom, looking back. "But a lot has happened. Gvencio always confirms that by what he says. God has started something, I'm sure. He has a different mindset, although he still lives in the world."
It is not a success story, Tom emphasises. It is searching for the right words, the good moments and the acceptance when there is just no deep conversation. "He's in high school, I have my own business. Lately we mainly meet on Fridays. Then we're out somewhere, or at my place." What they do together? "That's a bit all over the place. Sometimes we BMX every week, suddenly we play a lot of games or talk. There's no clear line in that. But sometimes you suddenly have a starting point. And sometimes not, then you're building the relationship."
If there is too much structure, Gvencio drops out. If I want to talk about God, I'll tell you", he says, laughing. "He's very clear about that. But sometimes things suddenly happen and then you have a nice conversation. For example, we once had a conversation about the end times, which is a very vague concept for a boy like that. He had seen something passing by on a film. Is that really going to happen? Then he would stand and listen with open mouth. But next time you can start that again, and after one sentence he'll start talking about school again.
So when do you get to a good conversation, what are the ingredients for that? "I think you need to know where the other person stands. That you can speak to him on his heart. That is the power of a personal relationship: if it doesn't work out once, we try again the next time. And he partly believes the things I tell him because I tell him them. And, of course, because God has revealed them to him. But if I had just met him somewhere else, he probably wouldn't have cared.
God has a big role in this, Tom notices again and again, when he tries to force things. "There is only one who can direct our encounters, and that is the Lord Himself. You can try to tell him something or start something. But if his head is not in the right place, it is a hopeless task. You just have to pray and hand over the baton to Him. I think it's really a prayerful process."
"I always pray for openness on both sides. Also that there is an opening to share something, that if there is something, that I can jump in on it. But if there is no opening, that we also have a good time. That is what I have learned: if there is 'nothing' for once, the meeting is also a success. You can always be an example of who the Lord is. You can do that just by living."
"I have noticed that sometimes there are so few words involved. That someone changes just by you being there. That has surprised me very much. People around him tell me that Gvencio has changed. I notice that his priorities have changed, whereas before he had a different view on things. Now he deals with his mother differently, he doesn't swear as much.
On a spiritual level, Tom does find it difficult to assess where his Alongsider stands. "God exists, that is a fact for him. How the whole story with Jesus and sin fits into that is complicated. I find that difficult myself: I can often tell him, but his heart must also be ready for it. Sometimes I try to explain things, but he still looks as if he sees water burning. You notice that some things I always learned as a child are completely unknown to children."
It is precisely because they meet every week that the friendship of the two is a constant factor in the teenager's turbulent life. Tom: "Sometimes we drive to my house and Gvencio talks non-stop. He goes through all kinds of things. Things are bad at school, or he has problems with a friend. You can hardly think away our appointment, it is almost a sacred moment."
"The friendship will never end," Tom thinks, although many things can happen. "I have a girlfriend now and we are also looking at where we want to live. You do that together with the Lord as well. Then you get a different environment and you don't live close to each other any more. For the time being I have to keep doing this: the Lord is busy, I know that. I am very curious where Gvencio stands. I would very much like, if possible, to see fruit. Not because I have done it, but to see that the Lord has added another sheep."