Missions to Belgium has been an experience that I didn’t quite expect.
A lot of thoughts have been put into processing through this recent trip.
I would like to direct you to a few videos I have linked at the bottom talking about Belgium being a missions field. I have gotten some criticism about Europe being a Christian playing field in some sort of general sense. We may think that way being that it is the western world, but it is not. The statistics show that Christianity is a dying faith across the continent being replaced by Islam and Atheism. Belgium is in desperate need of Jesus, just as the rest of the world. We cannot dismiss her because she was once a flourishing hub of Catholicism and played a key role in the Reformation.
We went on this trip opened minded knowing that we would be part of a working party and possibly be participating in some outreach. We did both of these, with us mostly working.
Some back ground on Operation Mobilization can be found at this link. We do want to point out that this mission is growing and thriving. The Lord has truly been doing a good work there.
The building that we were at is a central hub for OM’s European location. They have been turning this old paper factory, turned Nazi occupied office, turned van ministry into a conference center and church. The church has been in place since OM took over in the 1970s and they have been slowly adding on dormitory rooms, a dining room, conference rooms, and a large office space. They also have two residence areas in which the caretaker and the hospitality interns live.
Recently an Australian family has relocated to Belgium to start a prayer ministry. They were given the attic space in the OM conference area. The attic space was unfinished space. There was no weather proofing, only beams, roofing tiles, and a whole lot of random church supplies collecting dirt. Our job was to relocate and store the supplies, take down the roofing tiles, install weather proofing, clean the tiles and place them back on the roof, install windows and fix another area of the roof that was leaking.
My girls and I as well as our partner from Group LifeTree Adventures in Colorado were in charge of being handed the tiles from the roof, clean the tiles, and to hand them back up. We also cut the weather proofing for the leaking part of the roof, and were on clean up crew.
When I say that we cleaned 2,000 tiles, I may be under-estimating. There was many years of dirt, soot, and unknown substances on these tiles. Several broke from age, and others were stuck together by cement. Aching hands and backs followed us for five days.
This part of our trip has a few thoughts wrapped around it. First, we wanted to be used for whatever work needed to be done. This was tough, especially for my girls who don’t do hard labor for an extensive amount of time. This was good to see them working with diligence despite how tired they were. Another thought was that I surely saw God there with us. We thought that our work party was quite small. We were the only three signed up for this work party and we felt that we were in for some pretty intense days. We were surprised to see two others on our work party as well as our leader when we arrived plus several others came in and out to help throughout the week.
Our leader kept reminding me that many hands make light work when I told him that I felt as if I was in the way at times.
We hauled a lot of garbage, recycling, and dust out of the attic space. We laughed a lot about how our church has that random dumping ground where old church supplies go to die. It’s good to have that familiarity around us when we felt so out-of-place at times.
The girls and I also participated in some very mild relational ministry with the ministry intern from Hong Kong. We went out to the local market on Monday morning to invite the community to the Art, Coffee and Music night that OM had started this past January, 2019. They host this event once a month on Wednesday nights. My difficulty was the warning that followed us as we went.
“If you smile at them, they will think you’re crazy or that you’re hitting on them.” Thanks, Johann.
We also had to break through a language barrier. I felt that a lot of people tend to say they don’t speak English because they are already uncomfortable that a stranger approached them smiling. Then they are confused why you would invite them into your home place of worship to share fellowship with them.
They have had random turn out for these events. Sometimes they get a handful of people, and sometimes no one shows up.
This particular event they invited the church and all of OM which they don’t typically do. They had a famous Jazz piano player come to play and give his testimony through music. Knowing that only 1% of all Belgians are Evangelical Christians, to see this musician be part of that community was and remains encouraging. There was also a lady who painted during the music and fresh roasted coffee by the resident coffee snob. It seemed to be a hit.
I honestly don’t know if the community turned out because this event was packed. I recognized several people from the church and OM, so it’s unclear of who was new and who wasn’t. My gut tells me that the community may have not showed up, but I do feel encouraged that the community isn’t totally dismissive.
Aside from feeling right at home in the Dutch church we attended, seeing the William Tyndale Memorial still standing in a primarily Muslim community, and the enormity of the history in Brussels and Ghent, the thing that stuck out to me the most was the thriving church.
I learned that all of the little towns in Belgium were built around Catholic churches. You stayed local in your worship and relied on this little building, or enormous cathedral. Today most churches and cathedrals are closed to worshippers. Priests don’t have one home church but may have 20 churches which they travel to a different one each week. The Catholic faith is dying as the priests age. The same could be said of the smaller denominations such as Baptists and Pentecostals. Evangelicals are right there in those minimal numbers.
But… those small numbers are on fire for the Lord.
We attended the OM worship time on Tuesday morning. They had some wonderful worship and a lesson that really tied into the culture of Belgium and where the greatest need can be fulfilled. They spoke to the heart of matter with evolving post-modern thoughts and how to get back to the faith. How do we reach people who are getting sucked into darkness through mindsets of just not caring?
While deep in worship and through pin-pointed small group prayers, I saw a fire for the Lord unlike anything I have ever seen. The oppression that followed me for weeks before our trip was now a completely alien thought and something not even to worry about. God was in His house and these people fell to their knees in front of Him in 100% abandonment.
I felt small. If you would like to read a bit more about this, please read this post. I expressed some of my anger and angst over my feelings. American Christians are put to shame by the way these people are moved yet unshaken in their faith. I feel like I even saw light shining over this room of worshippers. When we talk about miracles happening in modern times we think about speaking in foreign tongues in the remote jungles of the Philippines or of mysterious healings along the Amazon River, not the fire burning in a small group of European and American missions in the middle of a Western nation.
The Lord humbles and the Lord moves, and now we must follow suit. This is where I get lost. This experience isn’t earth shattering, but it does change me. I really don’t know what my next step is outside of prayer and telling people the need for worldwide missions, not just remote villages and underdeveloped places. The world needs Jesus, and that includes the West which also means us. We need a revival and some heart adjustment.
What I look for at this point post short-term missions trip from you is this: pray. Pray, pray, pray for Belgium, for Europe and for the missionaries who get flack for what they do and where they are called to. And then pray for America. We are falling into the same rhythm that Europe as become accustomed and will soon have foreign missionaries praying for us if we keep up this Sunday Christian mindset.
I would also like to ask you to pray for the future work parties and projects at OM Belgium. Our leader as a very large and expensive construction project that he would like to complete in the next ten years. I pray that it is complete in five years because people come and people give and people pray. If you would like to give directly to OM Belgium and their construction fund, please follow this link and make a note what the funds are for.
My final request is to pray for me and my daughters. I want to see this experience to be more than some lame service project that they once did. I want it to be a lasting, impactful, Spirit- led job for the Lord that aspires them into a life long drive of service and to always be mission-minded. I would also like to have personal opportunities to serve in Belgium as well as other European locations in whatever capacity that the Lord may present to me as well as to make a difference in our Compassion child’s life in Thailand.
Please be encouraged to pray for and support local missionaries or those who your church may sponsor. If my daughters or even myself continue in missions, please consider sponsoring us as well. We plan to go back, God is calling and we are waiting for Him to open that door once again.
Thank you all for your prayers through this and for any monetary support. We look forward to future service. God bless you all. Thank you.