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A new start: working with students in Belgium

After a long history of service with CMS, including more than a decade in Tanzania, Howard and Trisha Spencer have returned to missionary work. They share how God has answered prayer and prepared their way for ministry to students in Belgium. 

In July 2021, amid complex COVID restrictions, God enabled us to leave Australia, move across the world and settle into Brussels with relative ease. Since then, we have been busy adjusting to a new country, learning culture and language. 

Finding fellowship at church 

We have joined a French-speaking small group at our new church, Lifepoint. Thankfully, the pastor speaks very clearly, so we understand quite a lot, although we can’t say much. This year we have been asked to also join an English-speaking group with other expatriates. The pastors have been welcoming to us, expressing their appreciation in having some older Christians in the church. Praise God that there is great potential for synergy between GBU and Lifepoint as they form part of the small evangelical network here in Brussels. 

Learning language 

Most of our days are spent in French classes and doing homework. It is very intense, but we are keeping up with the work and learning so much every week. We have classmates from 12 different countries, and friendships are forming. Most students are here alone. It helps being in a French-speaking environment as we are hearing and understanding more but it is still difficult to put a sensible sentence together! We are not discouraged yet, although we often struggle, so we continue to ask God for fluency to come with time. 

GBU Belgium 

Every week we meet with GBU national director Alex Manlow and his wife Sara, who also serves with the GBU, to pray, talk and plan ministry. We are working with them on communicating and implementing the GBU Strategic Plan. This is exciting as we have been focusing prayer on some specific goals and God has answered beyond our expectations. 

The student groups that meet in Brussels and Liege are mainly comprised of first year students. They have been studying Mark’s gospel and have explored the centrality of Jesus. The semester ended with an event where they (apprehensively) invited their university friends to dinner and to hear the gospel. In both locations, more than double the expected number of students turned up and there were many great questions.  

Praise God for answered prayer 

We thank God for this encouraging answer to prayer—despite COVID these gatherings were the largest GBU meetings for many years. The GBU in Belgium desperately needs more staff and workers to start groups in other universities. God has answered this need in CMS missionaries Michael and Rani Grivas-Allison, who have been accepted to come to Belgium in mid-2022. They have experience in student ministry with AFES and will initially spend time learning culture and language.  

Knowing more workers will be joining the team this year is a massive encouragement for us and for Alex and Sara who have been serving faithfully with little support. Please pray as we identify and train local graduates as future GBU campus workers for Belgium and beyond. 


Do you have a heart for student ministry? There are many needs and opportunities to serve on university campuses around the world. Get in touch with your local CMS branch to find out more.