Discouraged? Rather Talk To A Plastic Bear… Or Be Introduced To God? (+podcast)

Friday, December 8 2023 by Richard D. Hunt

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“Warme William,” a plastic bear offered by Belgian government to try and prevent suicides
Don & Pam Lynch/IMB/Belgium
“Warme William” - a plastic bear offered by Belgian government to try and prevent suicides

By Richard D. Hunt, News Feature & Digital Content Manager

With good intentions, the regional Belgian government created a campaign to prevent suicides. It features the character Warme William, a big blue plastic friendly-looking bear. His purpose? As the sign on the bench translates: “Something bothering you? Talk about it. Warme William listens.” 

Cute, But Mute

But clearly the conversation is only one way. William does not have a brain, soul, or a voice. There may be some value to simply sharing your worries out loud to thin air, but there is a QR code on William that can offer information for seeking professional help. Warme Williams have also been placed in schools and other locations to raise awareness of mental health.

Real Ears To Hear

But there are two real people ready to listen, empathize, and offer a person life-changing hope and prayer. Don and Pam Lynch are Americans, IMB missionaries in Ghent, Belgium. They have rigged up an electric bike to become a coffee cart. They roll into a park, display their sign, and serve up free cappuccino “so that we can offer conversations,” explains Pam. “That’s the biggest challenge we have in Belgium, meeting people and starting conversations due to this private nature of the people.” Don adds, “It’s not that they just don’t talk to us, they don’t even talk to each other. They very much respect other peoples’ privacy to the point that they don’t speak to others.” 

Rather listen to our story?

Coffee: A Universal Language?

“That it is! It very much is over here. And a lot of people don’t meet in peoples’ homes. They will meet in coffee shops. So, to have coffee out on the street – and to have it free – is something that resonates well.”  

Conversations around the coffee bike, Ghent, Belgium
[Photo Credit: Don & Pam Lynch] Conversations around the coffee bike, Ghent, Belgium

The hot coffee serves as an ice-breaker. And inevitably, the coffee drinker asks, ‘why are you doing this?’ And that’s the starting point of what could become a real conversation. Rather than being coy, the Lynches share outright, “We’re believers in God and we believe that we should love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, and soul – and also love our neighbor as ourselves.” Don smiles, “That way they’re not looking for the hook,” no hidden agenda. “We went ahead and told them why we were there.” Pam adding, with the coffee they’re able to talk “with people that we normally wouldn’t be able to.”

“So, to have coffee out on the street – and to have it free – is something that resonates well.”  

What Issues Do People in Belgium Have?

“The main thing I see in people is that they just don’t have any hope. They don’t have any hope for the future” and they measure themselves by the world’s standards, says Don. 

There are hardly any practicing Christians in the country and a lot of Belgians “have never actually met a believer before – that, to them, is very different.” The Lynches have found that college age people are fairly open to talking about spiritual things, “not just about Jesus, but about all religions, so we try to engage them where they’re at and then lead them one step closer to Jesus,” says Pam. 

Zero Knowledge About Jesus

Pam and Don’s hearts are troubled by the complete unawareness of the message of Christ in Belgium. “It’s not that they’re not interested, they don’t have any knowledge” of Christ or the Bible. And that drives the Lynches to share at a compassionate basic level, praying that the Holy Spirit will do a work. “The biggest problem that the world has is lostness,” reminds Don. 

Lost for eternity… without a Savior.  


This summer, the 10-day Ghent music festival takes place with thousands coming from all over Europe – and it’s guaranteed that the Lynches’ free coffee and listening hearts will be nearby!

There are ways you can pray for Don and Pam’s uphill efforts. Learn about that in our complete interview podcast just below. 

Don Lynch, Missionary (and barista)
[Photo Credit: Don & Pam Lynch] Don Lynch, Missionary (and barista)
Ghent, Belgium
[Photo Credit: Google Maps] Ghent, Belgium

Ghent, population 265,000

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