John Stumbo Video Blog No. 28
November 12, 2015
France is home to over 600,000 believers, which is less than 1 percent of the population. But there is a definite sense that the Word of God is active and that the harvest has begun one by one.
Related video: “From Nothing to Everything”
You know that I enjoy including you in some of my travels, so today I’m in France—home of world-renowned museums and artists and bakeries with baguettes and pastries. I think I have gained four pounds this week.
I have enjoyed the beautiful countryside, the quaint villages, the fascinating cities, Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, and our fantastic team that serves here.
This is a land also of spiritual darkness. I’m told that at the end of World War II there were only about 50,000 evangelical believers in this whole nation, but the church has grown. In recent decades, there has been significant growth in the church, and The Christian and Missionary Alliance has been part of that growth, as we entered in the late ’70s with just a few churches to start with.
Today, we have over 30 Alliance churches in this nation, and there are over 600,000 believers—still only less than 1 percent of the French population of 67 million people. But there is a definite sense that the Word of God is going forward and that the harvest has begun one by one.
The wife was a believer, but the husband had no interest. When he did finally come to church, the pastoral couple found him standoffish. The wife started to attend a women’s Bible study and prayer meeting with a very committed group of French, believing women who decided that they would pray for this husband and not cease praying until there was some sort of breakthrough.
The pastoral couple went home on home assignment for a few months and came back. To their surprise, here was a very joyful, free-spirited, winsome man in their attendance. This formally standoffish nonbeliever had come to faith in Christ, completely changed his personality. And just this weekend, he is planning a major sports outreach event for their church.
Boss grew up in a wealthy home in Thailand, a Buddhist family, and he himself became a Buddhist monk. But he discovered in his study of Buddhism that the end goal is nothingness—having nothing, being nothing, desiring nothing. Nothingness. He felt there had to be something more.
His travels and studies took him to Paris where he became an architectural student and was invited by a young Chinese believer to attend Trinity International, our church in Paris. There, he found it humorous that these people actually believed in God. He believed that atheism was a better line of thinking, and he also struggled with the whole sense of community, because as a monk, he had learned solitude well but had not learned how to do community. But he was intrigued by these people; he saw something in them he had never seen before. He learned that difference was Jesus, and in time, gave his heart to Jesus Christ, got involved in the worship team, and was baptized with a testimony that left not a dry eye in the place.
Recently, he’s felt called to return to his family in Thailand. As so often happens at our international churches, we get to minister to people for a season then send them off again. His family has expressed great disappointment in his decision to follow Christ, yet Boss has returned to see how he can honor Jesus and honor his family at the same time.
One of our workers shared with me the story of teaching in a class where he explained that we have direct access to the Father through the name of Jesus, and we get to pray for people—pray for anything, pray for someone’s healing.
Well, after the class, one of the attendees asked our worker if he would go to the hospital with him where there was a family in crisis. They had come to this city because of a medical emergency with a newborn child who had significant birth defects, and in that, there was a need for an operation.
The mom was staying at the hospital while the family went back to be with the older kids, and the mother was starting to feel lonely and isolated. So our worker went and offered to pray for this baby—prayed in the name of Jesus for healing and recovery and that a surgery wouldn’t be needed.
Well, after our worker left, the mom, who had been very distressed having been separated from her family and worried about this medical-fragile child, said with astonishment, “Didn’t that man have to wear special robes? Didn’t he need some special water, or didn’t he need something to pray? You mean he could just talk to God like that?” She was very moved by the depth and significance and power of his prayer—the freedom of it—but she didn’t know that that was possible.
Three days later, they were released from the hospital without a need for surgery, sent back home for the family to be reunited. I don’t know where that story leads, but one by one, the Spirit of God is opening hearts and opening doors for people to know Him, understand Him, and come to see a different representation of Him than they have seen in their country.
I was moved to be in a Syrian home—refugees recently arriving in Europe, some of those who we have seen on the news fleeing their homeland and trying to find a place of refuge. To see the tension on their faces, to hear the stress in their stories, to share in the generously provided meal that they gave to us, and to try to leave with a word of hope and blessing, and one of our workers slipped one of the women quietly a JESUS video and with a promise of follow up.
I was honored to meet a believer from a repressive country who had come to know the Lord even though she had grown up in a M*slim home. As a 15-year-old, she heard the message of Jesus for the first time and without her family’s knowledge started to secretly attend a church. That church was raided during a baptism service. She, as a 15-year-old, was arrested and was shamed in front of her family by the police just as a prostitute would be in their country.
Well, the father obviously had to control his daughter from doing any type of public demonstration of her faith, but fascinating, he allowed her 10 o’clock every night to listen to a Christian radio program that had come into her country. Well, through the years, now she has been able to come to Paris where she has much greater freedom in her faith and is very active in sharing Jesus, even going back from time to time to her homeland to bring the gospel to the M*slim people she loves.
I was stretched to speak at Trinity International Church—this only evangelical church in their precinct of Paris; some 60,000 people in their neighborhood; dozens of nationalities represented; a fascinating, vibrant, alive congregation; joyful worship. Many of these people transient in the sense they are in Paris just for a season, and the church gets to minister to them and then send them off again. It was seven years to the day that I had gotten sick, and so getting to share my testimony with them was especially meaningful to me.
I was enlarged by being part of an English conversation that Genesis, the ministry site in a section of Paris with no evangelical churches and operated by our Envision team, as every week dozens of Parisians and internationals are coming in to experience what it is to speak with an American-English speaker. But many of them are finding much more than just conversation. They are finding community, and they are also finding a message about Jesus.
This nation—rich in culture, rich in history, beautiful—has come together as an evangelical church to say, “how—not just The Alliance but other evangelical organizations in this nation—how do we partner together to be a stronger church-planting movement?” Currently, there is one church for every 30,000 people in France. Their goal is that there would someday be a church for every 10,000 people. Tripling the number of evangelical churches in this country is their goal.
I celebrate it, and I’m thrilled that The Alliance is part of this.
Last night was the last evening of the field forum where I am speaking to our international workers, and they were doing kind of a group activity. I was needing to just get some solitude, so I walked into the little village that’s next to this conference center. I was the only person on the sidewalk. Silent night, only the bark of a German Shepherd interrupted the silence momentarily.
I ended up sitting, just to relax, next to one of those high-speed train trestles. I prayed for the country of France. I prayed for this video blog. Then I began the slow walk back home, and I just paused by the pedestrian gate that keeps walkers like me from stumbling onto the track, when I heard a chime.
A woman emerged from the darkness, or some side room, into a little booth that I hadn’t even noticed. To my surprise, she reached over and started to churn a manual hand crank that lowered the gate where the bar of it came down to block motor vehicles. Two cars made an abrupt stop as the bar came down. Then catapulting at a speed I have never seen in my lifetime was this train that hurled past me and was suddenly gone. It all happened in a moment’s time. Then she reemerged, cranked the mechanism the other direction. Up went the gate; off went the vehicles.
I walked away thinking, How many lives are in her hands? In this highly mechanized world, she’s still manually operating that gate. I’m guessing there was not a single person on that train that even knows she existed. They couldn’t see her; they were moving so fast. And I’m guessing there is not a single motorist in those cars that stopped who knows her name. She just silently emerges, does her job, and then returns. But at that moment in time, unseen and unknown, she is the most important person in her whole village.
I’m really not closing this video blog thinking about trains. I’m actually thinking about prayer warriors, those of you saints who hear the chime, so to speak, of heaven. You hear the call, the summons, and you take your post. And, yes, while this is an extremely powerful world of the gospel advancing in human hearts, there is still the very human, in a sense, role of those of us who need to take our post and pray. To call out to God for those that may not know our name or may not ever see our face, but to do our job of intercessory prayer. Carry on the good work; don’t grow weary in well-doing. God bless the prayer warriors.