Hearing the Call to Go...
In a way, it all started about four years ago at a Christmas party someone we had just met prayed for us and as he was praying, he felt led to say “God is not done with you in Europe”. Our 5 years serving in the UK was an amazing time of ministry. There was one incredible 9 month period in youth ministry there when we saw at least one young person beginning to follow Jesus every week. But, we thought our time in Europe had ended. We were back in the States, blessed with three very little boys and leading a growing youth ministry in Colorado. This prayer was like putting spark to a pile of tinder that we hadn’t realized was growing in our hearts.
When we were serving the church in the UK, we learned a lot about ourselves and the ministry environment in which God seems to use us most powerfully. We love to work together closely, we love being used by God cross-culturally, and the models of church planting and evangelism that work in Europe fit us. We are both artists and love using music, words, food, and visual arts to communicate God’s love to the lost. As we prayed and discerned with our close friends in community we felt more and more led towards France.
We started to realize as we moved down this road towards France that God had been preparing us for this for a long time! Joanna studied French at university and as part of this degree spent a year studying in Angers, France. We’ve both love the people and the country and we visited often when we were living in the UK. Early on one trip, we stopped in a church on the side of the road, between Angers and Saumur. The church was built in the 1100’s and its structure was made up of creamy white stones, almost the color of bones. We had to walk down several steps to get to the ground level of the sanctuary, the cobblestones were worn from the footprints of pilgrims past. The church was beautiful, and empty. The walls called out silently for worship with every echo of our grainy footsteps on the uneven floor. We walked up to the altar, looking for a living soul who would be guarding such a treasured space, and there was no one. It was like being in a skeleton that longed to have flesh and blood, and a heart beat again. We felt the walls aching to hear the sound of worship to the God it was built to glorify. So we decided to sing a song of praise to God. Our voices echoed throughout the church, the song bouncing joyfully the way it was meant to.
It was then that we decided we would stop at every church we passed and go in and sing a worship song. It was easy to do when we were in a small country churches with no people around, but we also sang in the cathedral in Angers, the Abbey Fontevreau, and the protestant church in La Rochelle in front of tourists and worshippers. We felt obliged to keep our commitment under the gaze of stoney saints and bewildered visitors alike. It may sound like a silly thing to do, sing in every church, but we believe that God was opening our eyes to the need, breaking our hearts for the people of France who had abandoned the church or simply didn’t know why it was there in the first place. At the time we simply thought we were being a bit silly in our efforts to obey God. Now we can see that even then God was stirring our hearts towards the people in France. To join God in accomplishing the promises of Isaiah “They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.”
We are hoping and praying that if the Lord wills, we would be able to serve Him in Angers, in the Northwest of France. Not only is this region one of the least reached by the gospel in all of France, but Angers is also a city we have come to know and love having studied there and visited several times over the past ten years. Using music and the arts as a vehicle for evangelism along with a rapidly reproducing model of church planting, we envision significant Kingdom impact in Angers and NW France.