… you know what follows. Would you like to live the presence of God? Get together with other brothers and sisters. For this interview, I contacted several colleagues and I must confess that their responses made me jump with joy. God is at work in our country, in diverse sections of the population, in diverse ways. These three narratives, unique in their genre, describe the same thing: people, believers or non-believers, getting together to discover who God is. Here, we’re not talking about the local church, but of communities, each with its own peculiarities. I will let you discover.
Growing According to God’s Plan
Several years ago, the path seemed clear for Reiner and Angela: move to another region to take over a church planting project. But reality doesn’t always conform to theory. Forced to move a little further away than planned, they had to, a little while later, grieve a new ministry that was slipping through their fingers. What to do? After a lot of prayer and long discussions, the Mission leadership said, “Find yourselves a team.” While continuing to pray, Reiner and Angela were “recharging their batteries” in a local church where they met a couple living in their small town. These were the first foundational stones of a community which has since continued to grow in number. Every two weeks, the participants gather together to read the Bible, share, listen and worship God. Other private moments are reserved for prayer, 3D (*) groups or informal activities as a community such as a stroll in the woods or a meal. Other members of the group are involved in several social and cultural projects, and are looking for ways to help those in their circle of friends. They desire to become disciples of Jesus who, as Luther said, “seek the good of the town” so that their small community would increase and blossom according to God’s plan.
Welcome to Your Place
When someone talks to me about a trailer park, I imagine vacations spent in a bungalow or in a mobile home. But then, you have Willy and Sue who live there all year long. Their chalet, which was intended to be a cushy retirement home in the middle of the woods, has become the point of departure of a new community. One could compare the 100 permanent residents to a ‘tribe’, identified by a common interest: unwind in the great outdoors. Friendships are formed without effort, while out for a walk or from the exchange of a few words between neighbors. Let’s count 200 extra people during the weekends, a number that could increase to 600 at the height of the vacation season. Do you see it, the opportunity? By choosing to stay faithful to their convictions, to do good around them and to live with the refusal by many to address the things of faith, Willy and Sue have seen some surprises. For example, this lady who didn’t want to hear anything about faith and then, one day, knocked on their door to learn more about Jesus. After several months of Bible studies every two weeks, she accepted Christ as her Savior and was baptized in their inflatable pool! A baptism that had positive repercussions on other residents from the park.
The traditional “welcome to our place” offered to new visitors to a meeting has been replaced by “welcome to YOUR place”.
On another note, Willy and Sue offer their friendship and their time to current and former prison inmates they met when Willy was a prison chaplain. People who often have difficulty reintegrating into society and who find in our friends a point of reference for their new life. Some start to study the Bible, sometimes accompanied by their family, they meet the Lord and get baptised. Several desire to move near the chalet in order to continue to live life together.
Even if it looks like little has changed in their ministry, Willy and Sue have evolved in their manner of approaching people. The traditional “welcome to our place” offered to new visitors to a meeting has been replaced by “welcome to YOUR place” ever since they have fully integrated the two “tribes”. The result? An expanding group of participants and a growing interest to meet other Christians. The church is there, she lives. If by some wild imagination she were to go public, that would be by a divine plan.
God at the Center
Several months after our marriage, my husband and I latched on spiritually to another young married couple. We were going through the same phase of life, the same questions; and we met regularly for prayer, to grow in Christ and to share meals. Since then, our quartet has grown to becoming today a small group of believers desiring to better understand what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. That was in Wallonia a little over ten years ago. When my colleague, Ben, spoke to me about his group that meets on Fridays, I felt like I was seeing us back then. This time, it’s in Flanders and it’s happening now.
We were going through the same phase of life, the same questions.
Ben and Berit meet every Friday with two young couples living in the same town. This personal initiative, parallel to their life in the local church, assembles six disciples sharing the same season of life. Fellowship around a meal, recap of the week, free worship, prayer and spontaneous reading of the Word, moments of silence, no time limit: tailor-made community evenings that permit the new generation to let God fashion their marriages and their future families.
It’s Your Move
VIANOVA’s vision is quite simple: gather disciples in community who are not afraid to reflect the character of their Master where they have been placed. You can start small, with some friends that share your passions, or simply with your neighbors. Your group might never evolve into a local church, but maybe that isn’t necessary. What is vital is that believers in Belgium fully assume their position as disciples of Jesus, that they gather together in one or more communities where they can grow spiritually, so that the reign of God would be established in our country. So, when will you start?