An important part of the Shelter Ministries here in Amsterdam involves "the cleaners". Cleaners are people who get free room and board in exchange for cleaning the hostel a couple hours a day. They typically stay between a week and a month.
This past week, I became close to a brand new cleaner, Adam. Adam is culturally Muslim-- his parents are Somlians who fled to the Netherlands before settling in Manchester, England-- but Adam isn't really living out the Muslim faith right now.
Adam was super helpful in the hostel-- but not really during the times he was supposed to be working. So, he was here for a few days on a trial run before it was decided that he wasn't up for staying longer.
But, in the few days that I got to spend with Adam, we had some really impactful conversations. He told me he lives his life out based on love. He wants love to flow naturally from him. He wants love to be unconditional and not hypocritical (clearly, he's experienced this hypocritical, conditional 'love' in the past-- particularly in regards to his race and faith).
It came up then that Adam expresses himself through poetry and writing. I challenged him to write me a 'love poem' and read it to me. We giggled about him writing a love poem to me-- but he was really serious about exploring what love means to him through creative writing.
Adam was allowed to stay at the Shelter one day longer than his time as a cleaner to collect his belongings and say goodbye. He spend the majority of the morning ( I was working morning shift) in the cafe surrounded by books, pens and paper exploring what love means to him.
At the end of my shift, he read me his love poem. It's beautiful. I won't publish it here, because I haven't asked his permission. Its super special to me now. Handwritten front and back on a piece of paper is a tangible piece of fruit from Adam's time at the Shelter. He's still thinking and still growing. He took with him a Bible from Cheyenne and a Frederich Buechner book that Wheaton's office of Christian Outreach gave to me that I gave to him.
I've challenged Adam to write me poems based on other words he's 'inspired by'. He has my email and is excited to share more poetry with me. I'm so looking forward to seeing what he comes up with, but sad to see him go.
Pray that Adam continues to grow and continues exploring the ideas he already has going.
Pray for our other cleaners too! Their names are Tamar and Theo.