“My heart is for the youth in Belgium,” says Johan Menheere, part time youth worker with OM. “There is so much work to be done right here. Driving down the streets I see youths hanging out, and I find myself wondering “Who will reach them for Christ? Who will disciple them?””
Johan, who is originally from Netherlands, grew up in Belgium with his parents and siblings. 15 years ago, they joined the local church that meets at the OM Center. This led to year-long involvement with the GO-conferences where Johan and his father, both professional chefs, ran the kitchen. Johan invited some of the youth from the Belgian church to help as volunteers, doing practical work as well as receiving solid Bible teaching.
God’s call – when your home is somebody else’s mission field
As Johan listened to stories about how others met God’s call to missions, he asked God for direction. Was this the time to leave his home in Belgium and go to a mission field somewhere else? Others were being called to the mission field right where he lived! As he prayed and asked God for direction, he also questioned whether he was supposed to remain in Belgium. When he decided to stay in Flandern (Belgium), he experienced great peace and knew he was already where God had called him to be.
Over the years, OM Belgium has sent more than one thousand teens to TeenStreet. This translates as 10% of the teens in the Evangelical churches in Belgium having been to TeenStreet at least once. Johan rejoices that the teens come for the one week in July, but he is also concerned about the other 51 weeks of the year. “Plus, how can we keep nurturing the teens in their faith in such a very secular society?” he wondered. Through the TeenStreet 365-follow up program, he is able to stay in touch with many teens: through personal contact, youth group and WhatsApp groups.
Meeting teens where they are – on the phone!
“The teens communicate with their phones,” says Johan, “so often this is where it begins. I may send a text asking how a teen is doing, and receive a text back, sometimes with questions or issues for discussion. After texting back and forth a few times, we may be able to meet for a face-to-face talk. Rather than complaining about teens being focused on their phones, I get onto the phone too; it is today’s way of meeting teens where they are.”
The new fACTOR programme at ZavCentre (OM Belgium) focuses on youth and volunteers. As at the GO-conference, the volunteers help with practical work, and in Belgium they are personally mentored by Johan and others investing into their lives. “We hope to see them more deeply rooted in their faith,” explains Johan, “by asking intentional questions, and trying to monitor and encourage spiritual growth in each individual the Lord is entrusting into our Factor programme.”
Being transparent and pointing them to Jesus
“Being transparent and pointing them to Jesus, basically sums it up,” concludes Johan and adds, “As the transparency extends to the painful moments of my own life, I cannot share success stories only, but also the grace I received from God and the church after my own shortfalls. It may be a growing experience for the young people, but I find myself growing through the process too.”
The fACTOR program is already proving fruitful, with deep relationships being built and the young volunteers returning – not just to work – but to keep the mentoring relationships and growing in their faith.
Johan Menheere, originally Dutch, grew up in Belgium. Through ups and downs, including some difficult years, he is now focusing on youth work with OM Belgium, aiming to join full time when enough support is secured.