“We equip compassionate young Christians in Europe to walk alongside those who walk alone: to love, welcome and encourage children in their own communities."
We walk alongside those who walk alone...
A discipleship movement
Alongsiders Europe exists to help churches fulfil the great commission: to disciple. We focus on youth and equip them for discipleship: to go and make disciples.
One to one. One child at a time.
Alongsiders Europe - we walk alongside those who walk alone
Many children in Europe are vulnerable—26% of them, to be precise. That's one in four! In some places in Eastern Europe (like Romania) that number doubles to about 50%. Huge. Let that sink in for a moment.
These children are vulnerable or socially excluded in one way or another. This may be due to severe poverty or the recent refugee crisis. However, even children who are in financially stable situations don't have any guarantees. Think of the fact that many children grow up in single parent situations where parents work hard to keep the family going but - as a result - children are on their own much of the time. Children who have what money can buy may come home with no one to greet them, see them and listen to their stories and joys. Especially in urban areas, loneliness is said to be one of the biggest problems of this generation. This is what loneliness looks like.
Even children who have it all and seem to be doing well need a friend. Someone who is willing to invest time, energy and ideas into them. Someone who is willing to help guide them and encourage them to be the best they can be. To grow and learn in every area of life. What we see here is an opportunity to love in Jesus' name!
Throughout history, young people have been at the forefront of every movement for change. Therefore we equip young Christians to disciple one child each.
This is our dream for the next generation of young Christians in Europe - of one generation transforming the next. To laugh with them, or help them get through when life is difficult. To come alongside and be their Alongsider. To be brave enough to step out and take Jesus’ command to disciple seriously.
Our story begins 20 years ago in a slum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Craig Greenfield, the founder of Alongsiders International, left a corporate career and moved into a Cambodian slum. Together with his wife Nay, Craig began working with poor families devastated by AIDS, so that children who had lost their parents were not taken away from everyone else they knew and loved as well.
But as they grew close to many of the orphans who were their neighbours, Craig and Nay were frustrated that they could only personally reach a handful of children with the type of intense nurture, love, coaching, encouragement, mentoring and discipleship that would transform their lives.
Recognizing that you cannot buy love, they decided that more paid staff was not the answer. Instead, Craig began to pray for a volunteer movement of young Cambodian Christians to rise up from within the Church to reach the tens of thousands of marginalised children all across the country. This movement would be entirely reliant on the work of the Holy Spirit in people's hearts, rather than financial incentives. And it would not be dependent on outsiders, but would truly be a movement of the poor helping the poor.
The movement started with just ten young Christians. They made lots of mistakes and made even more changes. But gradually, by God's grace, they began to identify the keys to seeing such a movement take hold and go the distance. In 2003 Alongsiders Cambodia was born.
Today, thousands of young Christians faithfully walk alongside one vulnerable child each in their own communities.
But this is not the end of the story…
When Mart-Jan & Talitha van der Maas moved to Cambodia in 2014 they quickly realised that the challenges of the country were many, and the work was beyond what they could ever do. Feeling their own weakness as outsiders they were touched by the simplicity of Alongsiders and how it equips insiders (locals) to help children in their own communities. While seeing the results in Cambodia - and hearing of other countries as well - they began to ask themselves, “Where is the Alongsiders model in Europe?” When it became clear that they were heading for the Netherlands / Europe in 2020 they decided to take Alongsiders with them as well.
We dream of a movement among youth and young adults in Europe who will take up Jesus’ call to disciple the nations and walk alongside one child each. The best is yet to come…
Our vision is to see a movement in every country in Europe. Contact us if you're passionate about seeing an Alongsiders movement in your country. Alongsiders is currently working in these countries: