Feature

Time On Our Side

Effective ministry equals engaging people in everyday activities

By and

Participating in community clubs; chatting with neighbors at the mailbox; visiting the local hair-dresser; buying fresh ground beef from the neighborhood butcher. While these activities are a far cry from tent revivals and the gospel sweeping over entire people groups, they form the backdrop for developing relationships with future believers.

As Alliance missionaries in France, our ministry unfolds in the fabric of everyday living. Ours is a story of perseverance and faithfulness in the little things—and lots of patience.

Friends on Purpose

I met Karine* in 1995. Our daughters attended the same school, and we often found ourselves chatting while we waited for them to get out of class or while they played together. After a while Karine asked me what my husband and I were doing in France. I told her about our work with the church and shared a little about my faith. She said, “That’s fine for you, but I’m not interested in religion and would prefer not to talk about it again.” I respected her wishes as I continued pursuing a friendship with Karine and her family.

In 2001 Karine moved to another town, and other than an occasional phone call or visit, I had little contact with her. One day she called and, after a bit of small talk, tearfully launched into a litany of problems she was facing. Remembering my earlier promise not to discuss religion, I hesitated briefly before saying I would pray for her. The next time she called, she was more upbeat, telling me how each problem had been solved.

A few months later I received another phone call. Karine asked a few polite questions before getting to the point—she was going through another crisis. This time I was more daring. I asked if I could pray for her right then over the phone. She gladly accepted and, once more, told me several days later that things had worked out fine.

Several months passed before Karine called again. Without any preamble she said, “I was calling to ask if you would pray for me, because when you do, things seem to turn out right!”

Sometimes I get frustrated with her slowness of heart, but I remind myself that each visit and phone call are building blocks that God is using to draw her to Himself. Karine has not yet accepted Christ, but she has realized the value of prayer.

Recently I’ve had opportunities to talk with Karine’s 17-year-old daughter, who is dealing with normal teenage struggles. I’m praying that our e-mail conversations will have a positive influence in her life as well.

Shaky Bridge

One might be tempted to say that evangelism is a slow process in France only because we’re missionaries and not nationals, so it takes longer for us to build bridges. While there may be some truth to that, it’s not necessarily easier for our French brothers and sisters to share their faith.

Isabelle, a national in one of our C&MA churches, met Xavier at a renters’ meeting for tenants in their complex. They developed a friendship and had a number of discussions about spiritual topics. Isabelle sensed he was searching for something more in his life.

Several months later Isabelle met Xavier’s longtime, live-in girlfriend, Françoise. The friendship between the three grew, as did Xavier’s and Françoise’s interest in the gospel. Then, as suddenly as it had begun, the friendship seemed to end when Xavier had “had enough” and asked Isabelle not to talk with them anymore about spiritual things. He and Françoise began to avoid her and seemed uncomfortable when their paths crossed.

About two years later when Isabelle was “coincidentally” on sick leave from her job, Françoise came to visit. She was going through a difficult time and shared that she had continued to read the Word and would like to participate in a Bible study. She couldn’t meet in the evenings when Xavier was home—he was still opposed to discussing Christianity—and Isabelle worked days.

An Alliance missionary was able to study the Bible with Françoise during the day. The study lasted a year, and both Isabelle and the missionary felt that Françoise made a commitment to the Lord during that time.

However, the study came to a halt when sickness and family problems consumed Françoise’s time and energy. Weighed down by many burdens and isolated in her new beliefs, she did not pursue her fledgling faith.

At the same time, God was softening Xavier’s heart to the gospel. In spring 2004, at Françoise’s request, he agreed to attend a Reformed church. Unfortunately it was not the church experience they needed, and both once again lost interest in the gospel.

Step by Step

Isabelle kept her home open to Xavier and Françoise. She sensed a change of heart, so she invited them to
the baptism of a young couple in our church. Françoise attended and was pleasantly surprised by the experience and the people she met. Everyone made her feel welcome.

Isabelle asked Xavier and Françoise if they would like to join her for the church’s Easter program, and they readily accepted. They connected well with the congregation and eagerly accepted an invitation to the Alpha course study.

Throughout the course their interest in the Word remained high. They appreciated the open format that allowed them to express their doubts and questions. No one pressed them into a decision about Christ.

A few weeks into the course, Françoise arrived at church one Sunday as we prepared for the service. Upon verifying that this service was the right time and place, she returned to the car to get Xavier. Later we learned that they had driven to church the two previous Sundays and, lacking the courage to go inside, had turned around and gone home. What a good reminder this was to us that we should be grateful for every little step people take toward Christ!

This couple has blossomed and continues to grow as the Holy Spirit works in their hearts. Fourteen years after meeting Isabelle, Xavier and Françoise now attend church regularly, though Xavier has yet to publicly profess faith. We believe that many years of prayer and faithful effort are about to bear fruit in his life.

Each fall when the pace picks up in our ministry, it’s easy to for us to think that our “leisure” activities are a waste of time. Then I remember Karine, Xavier and Françoise and the countless others with whom we have rubbed shoulders over the years. I ask the Holy Spirit to remind me that there are no “ordinary” encounters in His plan and to give me patience to see some of the seeds we’ve planted grow up into the fruit of salvation!

*Names changed to protect identities.

Past Alliance Life Issues

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