Beauty covered in grime

The Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and French fries—that’s about all I knew about Paris before I went there. 

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Paris was the place where romantic movies were set and the city every girl had on their list of “must-see” cities.  That’s all that I had ever known, but then I went there.

Paris is a hurting city.  Visually, it is filled with beautifully ornate buildings built hundreds of years ago, but they are covered in dirt and graffiti.  Beauty covered in grime. 

And that is a great picture of France spiritually.  France is a country of incredible history— Christian history even—but that history is covered with the dirt of human reasoning and the graffiti of atheism.

My group was there for about a week. Our main goal simply was to learn how to start spiritual conversations with the lost.  Basically, as we strategically walked through the marketplace or sat next to people in random coffee shops, we would attempt to talk with them.  That type of conversation was not like any witnessing that I’ve ever done.  But it was very real and very normal.  It is not the knocking on doors that works so well in countries that are hungry for God.  But it was wonderful for places where we just needed to plant the seed.

For the most part, we talked to Muslims.  And they were extremely welcoming to us.  Muslims know a lot of Americans look down upon them because of the “terrorist stereotype.” In fact, several times when they told us that they were Muslim, that statement immediately was followed by a playful assurance that they didn’t have a bomb with them.  Then after that, we would just talk to them.  We would talk about books or coffee, and eventually the conversation would move to hearing about their Islamic holidays and giving us a chance to tell about Easter and what Jesus did on the cross for our sins and also for theirs. It was a really amazing and humbling experience getting to share the wonderful news of Jesus to these beautiful people. 

At one point during the trip, I talked with a French woman who owned a small bookstore around the corner from a beautiful church building.  She was a very friendly lady, and she made us delicious smoothies and told us about some good places to sightsee in her small town.  We made small talk and after a while started asking more spiritual questions. 

At one point in our conversation, she told me she felt the entire country of France is depressed, that you could look into the eyes of any young person in any part of France and all you would see is depression.  And the real sad part of this is that when I asked what role she thought God played in helping with this, she told me that she didn’t believe in God, and that it was humans who needed to help themselves.  That breaks my heart, because she completely brushed off the One who could help her and her country. 

France is a very hard soil, and we did not have any conversion stories over the week.  But our time was not wasted.  In Matthew 13, Jesus told a parable about a sower (Christian) who goes and sows the seed (the gospel) out among the fields (the lost).  The interesting thing about this story is that the sower sowed the seed in all types of soil.  He sowed the seed on the path, the rocky soil, the thorny soil, and the good soil.  He did not just go where he though there was good soil.  He sowed everywhere. 

France is a very hard soil, but it was such a blessing to get a chance to sow there.    God is doing things in France, and our team had the incredible opportunity to spread the seed and trust in the Holy Spirit to use what we said and what we did to convict at a later time.  It is our job to sow the seed and it is God’s job to do something with it whether or not we ever see it grow.

Please pray.  Pray for Ann, the woman in the bookstore, who sees her depression but is searching for answers in all the wrong places.  Pray for Sonny, the immigrant from North Africa who has become atheist but has such a kind heart.  Pray for Al, the Muslim bookstore owner, who is selling books filled with spiritual rules and regulations that blind from the One True God.  Pray for the three men that I met in a coffee shop, for the missionary who walks the markets, for the Muslim shop owner who cannot get over the fact that Jesus is God—please do not stop praying for the people of France. 

Philip Jorgensen, a student at Howard Payne University, served in France.

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