Paris has long been called the City of Light (La Ville-Lumière). It is said that this nickname started because Paris was among the first cities to install gas street lighting and, probably more importantly, because it was the birthplace of the Age of Enlightenment and the center of education and ideas throughout Europe. Today it is still physically a city of lights. For example, almost 25 miles of illuminated garlands (20,000 sparkling light bulbs) are used to light up the Eiffel Tour and there are 33 illuminated bridges throughout Paris. However, these lights are just external. During our time here in the Paris region we’ve realized just how spiritually dark it is.
Even though Christianity is considered the largest religion in France and there are beautiful, historic churches and cathedrals all over the country (and we have enjoyed visiting several of them), for many French people their religion, if they even consider themselves religious, is cultural. According to the Joshua Project, only 1.08% of the population is evangelical. The Joshua Project also estimates that over 6% of the population has never heard the Gospel(considered unreached).
So, why are we telling you all about France? No, we are not changing fields or ministries (God has called us to Mango and we look forward to getting back there)! However, God has placed us in this mission field for the time being. We continue to spend most of our time at language school. However, we do have opportunity to interact with local French people and they need to hear the gospel as much as the Tchokossi in Mango do! (Actually, there are many West Africans here in France so often we feel right at home).
One of the reasons we chose Les Cedrès for language school is because it is a Christian language school. There are many French language schools around the world but not many that teach from a Biblical worldview or with a missional focus. This was important to us because not only do we need to learn French for daily life in Togo, but we want to be able to minister to the Togolese. As anyone who has learned a foreign language will attest, learning to pray in a foreign tongue is a challenge. It is not our heart language, but we want to be able to pray with our Togolese colleagues, friends and neighbors. To do so effectively requires us to pray in French. And of course, we can’t effectively share the gospel if we can’t do it in a language they understand. And so, in addition to our regular lessons on verb conjugations, grammar and pronunciation, we are also learning how to pray and share the gospel in French. We still have plenty to learn but have made visible progress since we arrived. We are extremely thankful for this training!
On Wednesday evenings we have been meeting with a local language exchange group. We break up into pairs and for about 75 minutes we alternate speaking English and French. This is a great opportunity for us (especially Mike) to use the French we are learning at school in a practical setting. But it has also been an opportunity for us to meet and get to know some locals. We don’t believe anyone else in the group are believers. So, as we continue to practice (and refine) our French, pray that we will have the opportunity to share the gospel with them. They are already intrigued by us and our “mission to Togo.” Also, since January the school has been using a language consultant to help implement the new learning method we mentioned previously (which we are settling into and enjoying, by the way!). While the staff at Les Cedrès are believers, this consultant is a nominal Catholic hired for her expertise in this new learning system. Since January we have seen her become more interested and open to spiritual things. The Holy Spirit’s work is evident! We believe God is actively pursuing her and she is close to surrendering to Him. Please be praying for V. and that we would be sensitive to the Lord’s leading as we discuss spiritual things with her in class. It is so exciting to hear her ask great spiritual questions and express great interest in our faith. Pray that we would be faithful witnesses and that God would do an amazing work in her heart!
We are so thankful and humbled by the many blessings God has given us during this transition period to ministry life as a married couple! We have made dear friends who encourage us and challenge us every day. We have enjoyed an unexpected blessing of several respectable snowfalls in February, a rare sight here in Paris and one we did not expect to be able to enjoy again for a few years. We were able to host our friend and nursing colleague from Togo, Amy, and have sweet times of reunion with her and another Mango teammate, Megan, who is studying in Switzerland. And best of all, God has opened doors for us to be involved in ministry and to allow us to be a light for Him while we are here in France! Please be praying that we will be a light to those around us here in the “City of Light.”
We are so grateful to God for His good gifts and for each of you who make it possible to be here through your prayers and your financial giving. You encourage us! Thank you.