The City of Light
Rebecca Morrison, Kalli Christenson, Christa Wolgemuth, Elliana Naegelen, Daniel Scottum, Asher Cress, Rachel Riebe, Chris Folkestad
“Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”
John 12:26 NIV
At the beginning of the week, I observed that Parisians are pretty much one to themselves; taking advantage of time during travel in the city as a quiet break from work for the day. There are many headphones, phones, and books out on the metro and train, but don’t get me wrong, they are fast movers! Here’s the catch to that- the majority don’t make eye contact or say “bonjour”; it’s awkward when you’re so close to people next to you, but branching off of that, if they’re going to form any sort of relationship, it’s going to be a real one, not a shallow one. So, in my own words, there are imaginary walls in front of individuals that block them from having a connection with anyone else. This also brings about that lack of hope atmosphere that Rebecca wrote about in her blog post.
Within the hours on our first metro/train trips on Tuesday, I did notice Parisians having conversation with travel partners they have relationships with. This was a breather for me- to be reminded that these people are living souls and characters, not just beings moving from point A to point B.
Well, it was bound to get better; I could feel Jesus excited for what was ahead for my team’s experience! Our first Genesis activity, English conversation class, basically gave us our first look at what French look like when they smile and open up. It was casual, engaging, and often hilarious (our topic was school), and they were all very willing to share and curious to learn. A light really does illuminate from that beautiful, comfortable building.
As the journey is wrapping up, I noticed how differently I view the people I pass here in Paris than before. This week, several were introduced to Genesis for the first time, and I’ve been blessed with engaging in growing relationships headed towards Christ. So, I now find it easier to naturally see everyone as people with relationships just like us and everyone associated with Genesis. Our songs and smiles can be a link in their chain that could climax towards their love for God. Of course, we must remain respectful, but serve where our Jesus leads you to serve- sometimes I forgot I was in Europe when I just followed with expectant faith in His work.
When imagining Paris, I think of a huge city with gorgeous cathedrals, buildings with years worth of history, bustling people filling the streets, bakeries and shops selling their goods, and of course the Eiffel tower standing among it all. I think of its culture as artistic, modern, bold, full of hope and success and most of all, full of life.
This is all true. The city is full of interesting people, culture, success, beauty, and history. However, one thing was, and still is, missing for me. Paris feels empty. There’s a feeling of loneliness, hopelessness, and desire for more but no way to reach these things. Empty is not a word I ever dreamed of using to describe Paris. A city of 2.2 million people feeling empty makes no sense to me, so what are we doing to fix this?
A bit of work we have done has been located in Genesis, a small building in Paris, which hosts events hoping to create community for Parisians. We participated in an English conversational group at Genesis and this was the first place that felt full. The Parisians who joined us come to find friendships, build relationships, and find a community that cares about them as individuals.
This work was not preaching the gospel, singing worship songs, praying for each other, or the “common” mission work. This was a time to learn about each other and have conversations in hopes they may develop into faith-filled conversations. As Raeni Roos explained to us, “this is patient, long-term work. We don’t get immediate results all the time”. And as an intern, Paige, also stated perfectly, “each conversation you have, small as it may be, cracks a door open a little more each time until someone can walk through that door. It might not be you, but you help give us the opportunity to walk through that door and have those faith-filled conversations with them.”
You don’t cover a lamp under a bowl but you instead let it’s light shine bright (Matthew 5:15). Everything becomes visible when exposed by light (Ephesians 5:13). And nations shall come to your light (Isaiah 60:3). Walk as children of the light (Ephesians 5:8).
God calls us to be lights in this world, and even if it might feel useless, as it often can, no deed done for the Lord is ever too small.
We had a great day in Paris! We started by hearing more from The Roos’s about the work that is being done in Paris. Then we were able to go and be a part of our first English conversation group. Everyone really loves the new people we were able to meet.
We then participated in a prayer walk around the neighborhood of the ministry center.
To end the night, we shared a great meal together and played games and got to know some of the Interns that are working with Envision.
It was a great day!
Rest assured, Kalli was not the only one who was caught napping. In fact, the list was shorter for those who were not caught napping…
Needless to say, there isn’t an update other than we had a great time seeing the city. We took a boat tour through Paris. It was beautiful. We cannot wait to see more of this city and to meet the people who call this place home.
Thanks for your prayers.
For a trip like this I feel like usually I’d be extreamly nervous for such an adventure, but really my worries and anxious thoughts have been continually calmed by all the support and prayer from everyone and instances where God has proven to me that he knows the plans that are in store for me. The thing that I am most anxious about is getting to the point in a conversation with a compleat stranger where I feel that I should share my testimony. Who knows, maybe it’ll be easier talking about that with someone I’ve never met than with someone who I know very well. All in all I’m mostly filled with excitement and joy for the opportunity to go on this trip.
Submitted by Daniel Scottum
I stand in the travel section aisle of Walmart at 10:47 pm, weighing tiny bottles of green and white shampoo in my hands. I read the labels without really reading them, my mind already wandering to what the shower will look like at our apartment in Paris. Ever since our team meeting Friday night, I’ve felt a strange sense of alertness, as though my brain has switched energy levels from battery-saving mode to full power.
It’s not fear or worry; I’m just… ready.
Earlier in the day, I was talking with a friend about skydiving last summer, and how right before the jump, I had to shut off the part of my brain that wouldn’t stop feeding me anxious thoughts. Instead, I made myself focus on trivial matters at hand, like making sure my shoes were tied. After all, the big thingswere already taken care of: the plane, the parachute, the guide, the gear. All I had to do was jump.
Somehow, helping lead a mission trip of six students to Paris feels a little like skydiving. There are so many things to plan, to prepare for, and to overthink. Yet at this point, a day away from leaving, all the work is done. The flights are booked. The schedule is made. Our partners at Envision are ready and waiting. All we have to do is go.
My mind is at an impasse with no new information to process. It travels down the same well-worn paths: how will my family do when I’m gone, will everything at home run smoothly, how will communication work since the only French phrase I’ve trulymastered is “Je sui un Americain stupide. Parlez vous Anglaise?
I have prayed over, under, around and through these concernsoften the past six months, and asked others to do the same. I’ve also managed to pray less self-focused prayers, for things likestrong listening skills, team bonding, opportunities to be of service, conversations to be Holy Spirit-led, and for grace to break us all wide open as we experience God’s presence and purpose for our lives in a completely new context.
We go on this mission trip with hands that are both expectant and uncertain. We know the basics: learn about the local Christian and Missionary Alliance church’s efforts in Paris, offer English conversation skills to their classes, encourage connections, share our own faith stories, help refugee efforts, be of service.
What actually happens between those black and white lines will change lives.
I end up scrapping the pre-packaged shampoo and buy a few empty bottles that I can fill at home. The rest of the cart slowly fills with family needs. Six pounds of apples. Ground beef. Trail mix. I walk from aisle to aisle, buying groceries I won’t eat, andtentatively let myself day dream about beignets and Parisian coffee and new friends.
It is strange, straddling this point between two very different life experiences. But a familiar and favorite verse keeps pinging in my brain:
The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8
No fear. No worry. Just readiness.
Here I am Lord. Send me.
Submitted by Rachel Riebe
Thanks to our amazing Church family, the support of our friends and family, and most importantly, the work of our generous God, we are now 75% funded for our summer mission trips! This is fantastic! We are so thankful for everyone who had helped to make this trip possible.
Please join us as our Paris team prays for our upcoming trip. We believe that even the best human plans fall short of God’s plans. We want to be sensitive to God’s leading as we prepare. We know that HE has a perfect plan and has already lined up conversations, interactions and connections. We are praying that God would prepare our team for those important God moments during our trip. Would you join us in praying?
Stay tuned to this blog. We will be updating with more details about our trip as we get closer. Today we just wanted to stop by and say THANK YOU for those who have supported our trip so far, and to encourage you to continue to pray for us as we prepare.
Please also pray for our Dominican Republic team who will be serving in the DR June 23-July 1.
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