Since May 4, 2020, Belgium has entered a slow phase of deconfinement after seven weeks of being constrained at home. On the internet, we have seen all sorts of initiatives, but what of the VIANOVA workers? The stories vary according to the ages and the circumstance of each family. In and of themselves, a perfect reflection of what the COVID-19 crisis could have looked like from the outside.
Stuck in the house, we set apart two rooms specifically for work: an office for Peter, and a sewing room for me. I’m sewing masks one after the other, at first for a home health business, and then for our friends and colleagues. As I am registered as a reserve nurse, I was called at the beginning of May to serve as an auxiliary volunteer at a local rest home. I have good contact with new colleagues and the residents, and I pray that each day they would see the work of God in my efforts to serve.
Everyone is confined to their homes, but the life of the church goes on by telephone, email and video conferences. During a spiritual retreat at distance, I took to heart an instruction to walk my neighbourhood between 3 o’clock and 4 o’clock in the morning and pray for the residents. What a memorable experience! It’s remarkable how this COVID-19 crisis has brought us closer to our neighbours: exchanging a friendly word; taking time to listen; offering a bouquet of flowers; sharing and understanding better what is behind a sad look. Pray that God will use us to carry his blessing to the lives of those around us.
These last weeks, keeping a sense of community with other Christians has been no small effort. I take time each day to call somebody on the telephone. Especially now, these phone calls are appreciated. In fact, it’s even the perfect chance to engage in a long conversation, which is not always the case after normal activities. What a great discovery!
I was thinking that I would have time to rest, but it’s exactly the opposite! I’m running all the errands for my mother and two regular customers of the café. I’m sewing masks and protective gowns for a local rest home. Overnight, my personalised masks made a big splash, so much so that old acquaintances found me on social media. Upon hearing about our café Expressé, they promised to come and visit once we are able to reopen. I’m also participating in a Facebook group for Bible journaling. These creative moments are very encouraging to me, and it seems that the illustrations I post are helping several others.
Can you believe it! Just when I moved to the other side of the country and was just starting to figure out how to integrate into my new socio-cultural context, the coronavirus stops me in my tracks. During the confinement, however, I use my daily walks and bike rides to pray for my new city. I offer help to my neighbours, and I registered on a volunteer site. This is how I ended up putting on my old teacher’s hat by taking responsibility via Skype for the school follow-up of the five children of a Syrian family. Little by little, they take an increasingly important place in my heart. God always works in his own way.
Jochem & Febe
During the confinement, the bookstore is closed. We are enjoying the sun, getting extra family time and launching those tasks that are impossible to take care of when the bookstore is open. We’re carrying on a huge Spring cleaning (retail space, garage and attic) and organising the stock. Jochem continues taking care of the paperwork, fulfilling orders and staying in constant communication with his fellow booksellers.
Jona & Sara
At the beginning of the confinement, in order to keep engaged with our neighbours, we put a postcard with our contact information on it in everyone’s mailbox, and we offered any help we could give on our neighborhood Facebook group. We have the chance to help some people in need, and by going out to clap for the front line personnel at 8 o’clock every evening, we get to see and exchange a kind word with those around us. This period also gives us more time with our children, helping them keep up with school, having family time and journeying together in our walk with Christ.
Teo & Elly
Funny story! We sold our house in order to live closer to the members of our community when the confinement started one week later. But the life of the church continues. Someone proposed filming the preaching and the Sunday school teachers have prepared some things for the children, so it’s the beginning of a video series of encouragement for all and that deepens our fellowship ties. We make short visits by bike, respecting social distancing—we stay on this side of the fence while our friends stay in their doorway or garden. We are journeying together, linked together by the Word, carrying each other’s burdens in prayer and living out the image of Jesus.
Sylvain & Déborah
During the confinement, we are participating in services and in times of praying and sharing that our community has set up on a videoconferencing platform. We are able to support one another in our spiritual growth, and to serve one another, like helping our oldest members to stay connected. As a couple, we are moving ahead in our personal journey: reading; listening to conferences; reviewing our Scripture memory; praying for the world, for our neighbours, for our friends. We offer help where we can in our village and Déborah has started sewing masks, first for our friends and then on a larger scale in response to a call from the town hall for volunteers.
Confinement, or the chance to slow down, to rest, to take care of things around the house, to take more time with God. I’ve brought out my sewing machine to make masks for family and friends and for the city of Gembloux. With Déborah’s help and that of Crac (our bird puppet), we set up a time every Wednesday afternoon with children of the church for 30 minutes of discussion, Bible stories and songs. To our regular group of children for Sunday school are added two girls from our kid’s club. What a great encouragement to be able to continue journeying with these children even though everyone must stay home!
William & Lyssa
Our community meets two times a week on a live, interactive video platform and we translate the teaching into Dutch and make it available for everyone on the Internet. Also via video, we are enlarging our networks of contacts with French-speaking pastors, a bonus for us as we had only lived in Flanders until now and just recently started our ministry as booksellers reaching into Wallonia. Lyssa participated in the distribution of masks in our city, which allowed her discussions with the organisers of the project, with two apartment managers and with several neighbours.
Our community is getting together twice a week online for meetings, which we make as participative as possible, and we have created a WhatsApp group to help with exchanging prayer topics and encouragement. Our 3D groups continue to meet using various internet platforms. Our work with migrants continues; we help in part with purchasing basic needs for them. Every evening at 8 o’clock, we gather with three other families to applaud the personnel of the rest home just across from our home. At times, the residents are given permission to get out on their doorstep, and they thank us for the encouragement.
Overnight, I found myself surrounded by the constant presence of my four children, and I had to manage their schooling. Suddenly, all my other ministries stopped, and I was left with a feeling of being less important. Questions spun around in my head: what will give me the feeling of having “accomplished” something? God chose this time to remind me of two truths. On the one hand, he considers me as his beloved daughter, whom he has chosen. He is not looking at my performance. And on the other hand, he calls me to obey him. Even if this obedience keeps me from “estimating” my value, even if nobody else realises what I am doing. If I practise the fruit of the Spirit in front of my children today, won’t that give him glory?
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