This is the eighth testimony in our ongoing series of posts regarding how saints have participated in the Lord’s move to Europe through praying, giving, and going. Our hope is that many will be encouraged by these testimonies and that the Lord will gain our cooperation to be one with Him in His move in Europe!
Regarding Europe, we were first touched by the Lord during our two years in the Full-time Training. There was one particular message with a strong emphasis on the burden for the Lord’s move to Europe, and after the sharing we returned to Grace Court and told the Lord that we were willing to go to Europe if and when He so chose. After finishing the training, the Lord’s leading and the fellowship in the Body was to return to San Diego to serve on the campus.
During the years we spent in San Diego serving, going to graduate school, and starting a family, our burden for Europe never diminished. In fact, my wife would regularly ask me to look into exchange programs in Europe related to my graduate studies, but the opportunity to go didn’t arise. During this time, we were built up with another couple, and regularly prayed, fellowshipped, and cared for each other’s’ needs. This relationship proved vital in paving the way for our eventual move.
At the beginning of my final year of graduate school, I received an email about a three year postdoctoral fellowship in Paris, France. There was a strong response in both of us to this opportunity, and we brought the matter to the other couple for fellowship and prayer. Would this be the Lord’s way and timing to get us to Europe? Under the Lord’s sovereignty, we were soon able to visit Paris with our two children for my interview and to blend with the saints there. Staying in a vacation rental in central Paris, we were able to visit the saints and have them visit us. During that time, we had much prayer and fellowship about the possibility of us moving there, but the Lord would still have to open the door through granting me the research fellowship.
Upon returning to San Diego, we continued to pray and fellowship with many saints, including the elders. I continued to explore other research options and another opportunity developed in Florida. Our fellowship with the saints there was also sweet, and the Lord was truly waiting to make His choice clear for where we should go. But then the Lord granted me the research fellowship in Paris and the Body confirmed that moving to Europe was what He wanted.
With the spiritual support of the saints and the practical support of the foundation funding my research, we moved with our two children, ages 4 and 18 months, in the summer of 2010. Due to my status as a researcher, visas were no problem. Housing was a bit more difficult to find but the Lord opened the right places for us to live as we needed them. We even needed to change our oldest daughter’s school midway through the first school year, something we were assured was impossible by others. But even here, the Lord made the way.
One of the most challenging things was understanding how best to contact the French people. Both practically—most university students still live at home—and psychologically—the French generally consider being absolute for something to be naïve and shortsighted—much of what we had learned serving in San Diego was less relevant. It was difficult learning how to interact with French people, particularly when speaking French. At one home meeting, a new one came for the first time and when I apologized for not speaking perfect French, she responded, “That’s clear”, meaning either a compliment, “What you just said is clear”, or a light insult, “It’s clear you don’t speak French well.” But we couldn’t tell which one she meant. And while many French people speak English to a degree, many do not. Speaking French and having a home meeting in French were imperatives for truly contacting new ones. These situations left us more on the sidelines, not participating as much in conversations as we would have in the States. We also felt isolated, both by these kinds of interactions, and by the expectations of French society, particularly those related to employment. While I did research and then secured a full-time job to support our living here, my wife mainly took care of the children and supported the campus work. For her to explain her situation to others was awkward at times. Prayer, the Spirit, the Word and the homes (and learning French) had to be our primary means of contacting people. In addition, few full-time serving ones could remain in Paris long term. Therefore, there was a real need to just seek the Lord in prayer and fellowship to determine the best way to go on. Praise the Lord that we are now able to have a weekly home meeting primarily in French with several French new ones regularly attending.
Practically, moving to Paris limited us in many ways. We initially lived in three small dorm rooms south of Paris while my wife was taking intensive French classes. We were then able to find a furnished two bedroom apartment with a loft in central Paris. But after my research fellowship ended and as the Lord kept us in Paris by opening up a permanent job for me, all we could afford in Paris was a 600 square foot, one bedroom apartment (due to the common rule that rent cannot be more than one-third of one’s take-home salary). At this point, we had three children, ages 7, 4, and 6 months. But through this all, the Lord supplied us both with saints to help us move and with a precious older couple who let us stay with them the few months during my job transition. Now, after three and a half more years, we’ve been able to rent a second home in Normandy, which is much larger and less expensive, for a business my wife started, teaching French children English during the school holidays.
Seeking the Lord’s leading about how best to labor among the French people has also recently proven fruitful, as we have, through fellowship, started a series of Saturday church conferences on basic truths with all the saints in Paris. Helping all the saints, new and old, with the foundational truths of their Christian life and service has been a tremendous encouragement, and the first three of these Saturday times have seen high attendance and participation.
Our greatest need currently is for the new ones who have been meeting with us for some time to overcome their culture to consecrate themselves to the Lord completely and enter fully into the church life. Another great need in Paris is for the Lord to increase the number of saints with a stable living situation. This includes visa and employment considerations, as well as where the saints would live. Even with a stable job and permanent visa, because of living costs, some live more than an hour away from other saints, making fellowship and blending difficult. For those without permanent jobs, such as full-time serving ones, the French government often makes it impossible to stay for more than a few years. One solution to this could be for the Lord to raise up more European serving ones who don’t require a visa to stay in France.
Our burden for our generation is threefold. First, we pray that we would follow the Lamb wherever He goes. Despite struggles and difficulties, our way in France has been clear, straight, and narrow. All our needs have been met—for our living situation, our children, and our church life. The Lord has abundantly proved that He will provide if we simply follow Him. We would therefore encourage all the saints to just follow Him should He open the way and if the fellowship in the Body confirms His leading. Second, when we follow Him, particularly to a place where we may not know the language or culture, we should aspire to be pillar builders. We will never be “French” enough to pass for locals (although our children will be) but we can build up the French ones we care for to be the pillars in the Lord’s move here. And third, our burden is that we would grow to maturity so that we can build on the foundation that the previous generation has left for us and come into the leadership of the church in an organic way to stand in the gap and meet the Lord’s need to hasten His return. –Brother in Paris, France
Click here for last week’s testimony.