In Numbers 13, the Lord commanded Moses to send some men to explore the Land of Canaan which He is to give to the Israelites. Whereas Moses chooses the strategic number of people, 12, we were three: Awenam, me, and you, who spiritually accompanied us for our 12 day vision trip in France. Unlike the Israelites’ spy mission to a land that needed to be conquered, our vision trip goals were to experience God’s work; to get oriented and connected cross culturally; to receive affirmation of God’s call and to enhance our enthusiasm for this mission.
While the 12 Israelites conducted their spy mission from south to the north of Canaan, the land that needed to be conquered geographically, our vision trip was moving from north to the south of France, a country that needs to be engaged.
During our first three days, we attended the annual meeting of the Federation of Evangelical Baptist Churches of France (FEBCF) in Wasquehall, France. We were privileged to meet the council, the committee, pastors and staffs of the FEBCF, and many other guests from Protestant and Catholic churches with whom the FEBCF has developed an ecumenical partnership. It was a time of worship, prayer and praise, fellowship, and breaking of the bread. It was a time to meet other American missionaries outside of the IM connection. At the end, we were blessed to be presented as American Baptist – International Ministries missionaries to France.
We are now able to share the exciting news that our first placement will likely be in Biscarrosse, France, about 7 hours southwest of Paris. After the annual meeting, we drove 91/2 hours to Biscarrosse where I preached the next day at the “Centre Chretien” (Christian Center), had a meeting with the area executive and the church council, and where we spent 4 days making visitations. We’ve heard heartbreaking stories of people thirsting for church growth, community outreach, and youth ministries, and stories of people’s lives, interests, passions and creativity.
Biscarrosse is a unique city of 14,000 inhabitants which swells to 140,000 in the summer every year because of its seaside location. It is also a military city where Europeans test heavy arms. “Centre Chretien” is the only Protestant church in town and the congregation has not been led by a pastor in 15 years! Its attendance can shrink to 15 people on Sundays. But the day they heard of our visit, about 60 community members came to hear the gospel. The next closest church is Pentecostal, about 35 miles away.
Geographically, Biscarrosse might become a home for immigrants and refugees, who are moving west from Marseilles. Churches need to be equipped and prepared to welcome migrants. Spiritually, Biscarrosse is a mission field for disciple making, for church growth and planting, and youth ministries.
Here are some words that the people of Biscarrosse shared with us:
“We have banished faith in France... Youth are leaving France to join jihadists because they are looking for a place to live out their faith.” One stated, “In France, people rely on reason, not God. We need help to take God, the real reason to them.” A 70 year-old man literarily said “All I can say is SOS, Save Our Souls, now.”
As I asked a youth how he would describe his church, he said “Our church is rusted and in need of a reboot.” A retired Assembly of God pastor and frequent attendant of the church said, “France is THE 21st century mission field and there is so much to do. We need you to come and help this church take off again.” A mother of four shared with emotion that, “There are confidences such as anguish, needs, joy…that could be shared only in a circle of women; can your wife come and help launch this group?” Another said “Our youth need companionship and biblical teaching. This community needs the church, but the church is absent.”
“Centre Chretien,” the only church in town, looks abandoned outside and deserted inside. Although these are the realities, our mission can only be built around God’s plan and provision as Biscarrosse is just a part of our mission.
When God sent Philip (Acts 8:26-40), He said “go to the road.” God never said why, and Philip did not know his mission until he found himself with the Ethiopian Eunuch down the road. Awenam and I are not wise enough to know the scope of God’s plan for this mission, but we believe that this mission is going to be challenging, church transforming, and life changing.
Our French partners expect us to start the mission as of September 2015. At 30% of our 100% needed support, our mind laughed at the deadline, but our Spirit is optimistic; your pledged support or upgraded pledge support and prayers can make it happen. Please pray for spiritual, moral, and financial provision as we pursue God's call to France.
Be filled with the Spirit of Pentecost. Amen!
Rev. Holale & Awenam.