It’s Sunday evening at a community center in Mechelen, Belgium, and volunteers are laying out tea, juice, and cherry pie (the pie is special—this week they’re celebrating a birthday). Visitors trickle in, grabbing a chair and a cup of coffee. As everyone settles, Nici Overduin opens her bible and reads from the Gospel of John, asking the room a question. Who are you in this passage? While visitors reflect silently, Nici sings a song, then says a prayer. Next, Pastor Stephan Overduin steps in, beginning a conversation about the passage. Questions are encouraged, digging into scripture foundational.

Welcome to Holy Club. Twice a month, volunteers travel 80 kilometers from the Netherlands, from the Church of the Nazarene in Breda. Once for a traditional Sunday service in the city center and once to connect on a deeper level through Holy Club. These are the beginnings of something new, of the Church of the Nazarene in Belgium.

In 2022, while pastoring the church in Breda, Stephan began asking questions about entering Belgium, a place that had been on his heart and in his prayers. He knew it would require persistence, een lange adem in Dutch. A long breath.

“Reaching the unreached is a very difficult task in Belgium,” Stephan says. “People say it’s like plowing through syrup. You look behind and nothing happened. You’re in a deeply secular culture.”

Stephan met with district leadership and a Nazarene living in Mechelen, exploring the potential of a church plant. Leadership approved, and Stephan next approached the Breda congregation. Immediately, a handful of people stepped forward, committing to join in. “There was no hesitation,” Stephan recalls of the response. “‘If you’re going to do this, we want to be involved,’” volunteers said.

In spring 2023, the tiny team launched a trial series of services in Mechelen’s city center, renting space inside a 360-year-old Catholic Church. The location is perfectly poised for community interaction, wedged into a street filled with brasseries, optical shops, and an H&M.

“It’s a beautiful location,” Stephan says. “People accidentally walk in when coming to view the church. You can walk right out on the street and talk to people.”

The response has been small but mighty.

“I can’t say we have numbers, but I do feel there is depth,” Stephan says, noting that those who attend services or Holy Club have expressed a true curiosity about Jesus, a hunger for getting to know him. “And everyone from the team has passion,” he adds, “so we’re not leaving. We’re doing it.”

Stephan believes that things are bustling just beneath the surface in the hearts of locals. “God is busy with all these people in the city,” he says. He prays that the Holy Spirit would continue to work and move, “and that we as Christians will be connected to this movement, find the right relationships, and be able to minister and share God.”

How can you support the fledgling Church of the Nazarene in Belgium? Pray, Stephan says. “Pray that people in Mechelen will become spiritually hungry and come seeking Christ,” he asks, that the community would “start to get a strange hunger for the person of Jesus.” Second, he adds, please pray that this hunger will be fed, “that we will find them, connect with them, and be able to further disciple them.”

Back at Holy Club, Stephan is laying out several photos of nature on a table. One shows a waterfall, another a series of forked roads. He asks the group, Which picture do you identify with most as a follower of Jesus?

“People start to share the most beautiful ideas,” Stephan says.  “A waterfall on a rock. It’s plain and simple; it’s black and white. Someone else takes a picture of the flowers growing at the bottom of the waterfall and talks about their life flourishing…You start using metaphors, but below that you start exploring beautiful things.” Visitors find a space to share their perspectives, a space where they’re able to hold those perspectives up against scripture and discover a fuller picture of who God truly is.

“Be clear that God is at work here,” Stephan says. “Everyone involved feels that there is this longing, the Holy Spirit is at work…We hope that we may be part of some spiritual awakening here. But we do it because we’re compelled by God’s Spirit.” He adds that the road ahead is unclear, but the band of believers know who to trust for guidance and direction.  “It’s a little bit driving in the mist,” Stephan says. “You don’t know exactly where you’re going, but you follow those lights in front of you. God is the light.”

-article written by Sarrah Norris