Monday, May 26, 2008

Our Vision Trip To France

Planning for the trip
Planning for this trip I have learned:1. Nothing is impossible with God. He will give you the desires of your heart when you seek His glory.2. The joy of being a member of the body of Christ. What a pleasure it has been to see the love of Christ through His dear saints. The prayers that we shared, the fellowship, and the discipleship has increased my desire to know Him more.3. Humility. I am so unworthy to receive such love, yet His grace abounds. Time after time, the precious saints of TBC gave up their time and finances to invest in a sinner saved by grace alone.4. He is faithful. The Lord has been with us through every want or need. He has strengthened us through the objections, comforted us during the tearful goodbyes to our children, and equipped us to reach out to those who do not know Him.5. My wife is beautiful. She has left behind three of the most precious things in her life to follow where I believe the Lord is calling. She has stepped out in faith, leaning not on her own understanding, to serve her one and only Savior who loves us and gave himself for us that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself his own special people, zealous for good works.


Our trip began in Senlis which is about 30 miles north of Paris. Behind Dana and me is what is called the "Crowning of the Virgin" located on the cathedral called Notre Dame of Senlis (most of the cities have a Notre Dame.) As we made our way inside this cathedral, we noticed that it was empty, cold, and lifeless. In France, less than 10% of professing Catholics are actually practicing their faith. Dan, a TEAM church planter, took us to the downtown market in Senlis during an election campaign for mayor. He stressed the importance of building relationships with the people of France, and introduced us to the soon-to-be elected mayor of Senlis. Dan's church meets in a hotel conference room each Sunday. They have attempted to purchase an abandoned Catholic church in the heart of Senlis, however, the city is waiting until after the election to make a decision on Dan's offer. In Senlis, Dana and I learned the importance of integrating into the culture of France. France is less than 1% evangelical and highly suspicious of religion. Therefore, it is essential that church planters make themselves known to avoid the label of a being a cult and to build the trust of those who desperately need the gospel.

During the Protestant Reformation, Annecy was known as the Catholic headquarters of France. Today, the priests in the area refuse to have any dialogue with protestant pastors. The TEAM church planter for Annecy, Steve Niles, noted that evangelicals have been banned from using certain meeting halls in the area. While touring Annecy, Dana and I visited one of the few evangelical churches in the city. Abba has a congregation of just over 100 believers on a Sunday. Steve noted that in this congregation over 14 different countries are represented. I met people from Italy, Sweden, Madagascar, and the Czech Republic. Tears began to form as I listened to these dear saints sing, in French, Knowing You.

All I once held dear, built my life upon,
All this world reveres and wars to own;
All I once thought gain
I have counted loss,
Spent and worthless now compared to this.

Knowing You, Jesus, knowing You
There is no greater thing.
You're my all, You're the best,
You're my joy, my righteousness,And I love You Lord.

Now my heart's desire is to know You more,
To be found in You and know as Yours,
To possess by faith what I could not earn
All surpassing gift of righteousness
Oh to know the power of Your risen life,
And to know You in Your sufferings;
To become like You in Your death, my Lord,
So with You to live and never die

Once a month, TEAM missionaries near Annecy gather together for prayer. Dana and I attended this meeting in Albertville. Albertville hosts many TEAM missionaries enrolled in language school. The theory is that most Americans will be able to understand conversational French after the first year of school, but it will take about two years before one can completely understand two nationals in conversation. Missionaries with kids find that their children are fluent in French after two days playing with the neighborhood kids.In Albertville, I learned about the struggles of the missionary life. We prayed for the weakened dollar which places a financial strain on many European servants. We also prayed for missionary children who struggle adapting to cultural differences and immediate family members who are gravely sick thousands of miles away and who do not know the Lord.There is much heartache involved in the life of a missionary, but one thing remains true. God’s grace is sufficient. Many have left the comforts of everyday life to seek and save that which is lost, and through all of the sacrifice His grace still abounds.

Behind us is the basilica Notre-Dame de Fourvière, which has been dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus, for protecting Lyon from a plague in the 19th century. Inside the basilica, we observed many praying toward a statue of Mary with the hope that she would intercede for them. In certain areas of Lyon, there is 1 evangelical church for every 100,000 people.Religion and politics is considered taboo by the French and TEAM church planter for Lyon, Jerome, commented of the difficulties of sharing the gospel to a culture that refuses to entertain such topics. It is very difficult for the French to understand the difference between religion and relationship. Jerome has found many creative ways to reach the lost. On Wednesdays, he meets with people of various backgrounds for a discussion at a theological café. Other pastors teach English for free at various welcoming centers.

Top Ten List
Top ten things you learn about France in 9 days:
1. The French will not serve coffee until you are finished with the meal.
2. Never hug a French woman unless she is your wife.
3. Always use your bread to clean your plate for the next course.
4. Lunch is the largest meal of the day, followed by a 4 pm snack and dinner around 8 or 9.
5. The French will know more English than you know French if you do not speak the language.
6. Grocery stores require that you purchase your own grocery bags.
7. It is cheaper to fuel your cars with diesel.
8. You must pay to use public restrooms.
9. The French eat with a fork and knife at the same time.
10. The toilets are never in the same room as the bathtub.

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