“You know you have a good project when the volunteers want to come back!” Pastor Dave Navarra (USA), who served with OM in Belgium for one year, shared his excitement about fACTOR, a two- to three-month volunteer discipleship experience in Europe. Participants serve in practical ways at ZavCentre, OM’s base and hospitality centre in Belgium; they also participate in discipleship and mentoring relationships to grow deeper in their faith.
Dave explained that Bible teaching and one-to-one mentoring make a real difference in the volunteers’ lives. He added, “ZavCentre is a base for world mission; ‘the world’ comes through ZavCentre, and the volunteers are exposed to first-hand information about what God is doing in other parts of the world.”
There is always a lot of work to be done at the centre. Nevertheless, the leaders find it important to manage the schedule in such a way that the volunteers are not getting too tired while they learn about serving others: guests, fellow volunteers and other team members. “Seeing how it encourages them to be creative and take initiative has been a great joy,” Dave said. He shared about the small, measurable and obvious signs of growth, evidence of what takes place on the inside: spiritual growth and personal maturing. One long-term guest away for the weekend returned to find volunteers at the train station holding up a welcome back sign. Other volunteers delivered hot soup to a sick guest. Simple acts of caring, such as helping a mother carry her baby up the stairs, were offered often—and freely. “These guys learn to love people as never before, often through simple acts of kindness. And, of course, it is also benefitting the guest experience,” Dave explained, smiling as he recalled the joy of seeing one of the young German volunteers go up the stairs to the balcony for a personal quiet time before the beginning of the work day.
Volunteer Melissa went back to the USA after finishing her commitment. A few weeks later, she returned to help at TeenStreet in Germany. Two German fACTOR participants also returned to help at the GO conference and recently came back to Zaventem for another week. “The work they did included cleaning bathrooms and helping in the kitchen,” Dave described, “but the relationships and mentoring helped them grow spiritually. I believe the evidence of success is shown by people returning and growing spiritually.”
OMer Johan Menheere (NL), another fACTOR leader, shared that the mentoring part of the programme includes asking the hard questions and sometimes having to confront issues with the aim of developing people to follow Jesus—whether they end up in missions or elsewhere. “It is important to receive them well and send them out well, or, indeed, if people are returning home... The important thing is to support them wherever God wants them to be,” Johan concluded.
ZavCentre is part of OM’s ministry in Belgium, on the outskirts of Brussels, hosting overnight guests and small conferences. The OM team there is also involved in church planting, youth work, running the GO conference in the Netherlands and helping at TeenStreet in Germany.