2016 Pastoral Trip- France and North Africa (February 2016)
Cherrydale is active in many ways through partnerships with workers sent across the globe. We pray, help financially, give to strategic projects, and seek to give personal care to those whom we send. The religious, ethnic, and economic tensions in our world can create particularly stressful times for those who are living in cross-cultural situations. This year Pastor Ed and his wife are bringing the encouragement of our church family to two of our workers as they persevere on the field. They will also be visiting a center that gives Biblical training to followers of Christ who come from countries that do not have Bible training options. Please follow their travels and pray for the requests each day.
In this last entry for this pastoral trip to France and North Africa we would like to share some impressions and a renewed conviction the Lord has laid on our hearts. The first half of our trip was focused on people and endeavors that reach into the Arab world of North Africa. In the US we do not often think of the rich Christian history of this part of the world, but we should think about some very significant church fathers in the early centuries after the life, death, and resurrection of Christ who lived and ministered in the regions of N. Africa. In the 20th century the people movement to Christ among the Kabyle in Algeria is also a little known or quickly forgotten activity of God that brings with it much encouragement as we look at the needs of the region. The Lord is reminding us, and Cherrydale and His church in the stable and prosperous West that He is God, His timing is purposeful, His gift of redemption is for all people groups & languages, and we as His children are called to give our lives away for others just as He gave His life for us. Taking a stand with Ali, Kirsten, CNA, Reach the Rest, and others like them, in partnership and prayer is a blessing that draws us closer to the heart of God.
A renewed conviction of the power and importance of prayer is a major take away from our time both in N. Africa and France. We spent the afternoon with Valerie praying for all the things we had discussed and seen over our past couple of days. Pouring out our hearts to God for His everlasting lovingkindness and for the people who walk in darkness is a battle we must engage in if we desire to see God's glory extend around this globe. A vivid picture of the contrast of death and life were so clearly juxtaposed in our walk around Charleville-Mez. First we visited a very old, very creepy cemetery with darkened, broken up tombs. We all commented on how this is such a picture of the spiritual deadness of France. Then we walked a little further and came to a little shop full of brilliant flowers. Such a beautiful picture of life and beauty. Christ alone can transfer someone from darkness to light, from death to life....this is this cry of our hearts for France and N. Africa.
Thank you for following this trip and for praying. Today praise the Lord for His incredible grace that can reach any human on earth. And ask Him to pour out His power on France and N. Africa so that many will receive life and worship Him in spirit and truth.
Today we got to see more of Valerie's city and we had a sunny day, which she said is unusual in the winter in the N. of France. We were very blessed to see some of the locations where Valerie and her team have outreach events. The beautiful park along the river where we are standing in the photo is a common place where the team goes to use a survey of questions to see if people are willing to discuss spiritual topics. In the warmer weather many people spend their spare time enjoying conversation in the park so it is an opportunity to engage people with the gospel.
We also visited a main square in the city where the church rents a facility a couple of times a year during some of the local festival times. The church seeks to coordinate their outreach initiatives with other local events that are already drawing a crowd. Their next outreach will highlight a claymation artist who will display her work and offer workshops for those who are interested.
Finally we saw the location where the church meets. It is the store front with the heart in the window beside where Ed and Valerie are standing in the photo. We spent two hours there as we joined in with the "Speak English" class that Valerie teaches every Tuesday evening. This class draws people who already have some level of English but they want to inmrove their speaking ability. Valerie's desire is to develop relationships with her students so that she can meet with them outside of classes and share her life and faith with them.
Please pray today for:
1. The continuing outreach efforts in Charleville-Mezieres and that these efforts will lead to clear opportunities to share the love of Jesus.
2. Valerie's students to feel a connection with her and the desire to know more about her life and faith.
3. Creativity and energy to pursue new avenues of outreach, and mainly for the hearts of those who will join in for a receptivity to the church's witness.
Charleville-Mezieres in the NE of France has been home to Valerie for about 1 1/2 years now. We spent the day together hearing about the characteristics of the city and taking the time to walk and drive around the city to get an idea of the atmosphere and the people. The area has gone through periods of prosperity and decline since the 10th century. The presence of a large Basilica above the river reminds everyone of the glory days of the Catholic Church and also of its decline of influence on society. The deep influence of the Enlightenment, Rationalism, and Existentialism is manifested in our day in the atheistic, agnostic, and even anti-religious attitudes of the people. You can begin to imagine some of the challenges that Valerie faces.
We shared a meal and had a wonderful visit with Valerie and her team leaders (see photo) dialoging about some of the ways they are strengthening their church in discipleship and reaching out to the people in their community. Valerie's team leaders are French nationals who have an insider’s view of the culture and also much wisdom regarding some of the key opportunities to reaching the French with the gospel. Considering the vastly different approaches needed to impact an 18 year old vs. a 60 year old, an atheist vs. a cultural Catholic, someone born and raised in the North of France vs. the immigrant population, the team seeks to explore creative opportunities while persevering in the face of little fruit. We as a church can stand with this team in prayer. God alone can change a man's heart and He delights to do this in response to the prayers of His people.
Pray today for Valerie and her leaders, Alain and Manuela, that they will know the encouragement of the Holy Spirit as they labor for the Lord and seek to disciple their flock. Praise the Lord for their faithful witness and ask the Lord to give them ideas and opportunities to lead people into an understanding of the relevance of the gospel to their lives both now and for eternity.
Greetings from the Light to the Nations Church in Roubaix, France. We brought greetings from Cherrydale to the 50+ in attendance at this church today and rejoiced with them that God is building His church around the world. Ali is one of the leaders in this church that has people from about 15 different nations. After joining with them in a spirit of worship and singing praises in French, we heard the testimony of a Syrian man who has started attending with his wife and 10 year old son (see the photo). They were forced from their home in 2014 because he did not agree to work for ISIS building mortar shells. Their very difficult journey took them through Lebanon, Turkey, and now they are asylum seekers in France. In Lebanon they heard the gospel through the outreach of a church there and turned to Christ. This dear man said that he realizes he wasted 33 years of his life until he met Jesus. The entire Light to the Nations Church is actively helping refugees in a variety of ways as they seek to rebuild their lives and grow as disciples of Jesus.
After this man's testimony, Ed preached the word from Luke 14. Ali translated into French and Arabic for the gathering. The children are on school holidays so they remained in the service the entire time. We were so graciously received and had a wonderful time of fellowship with this international body of believers.
1. Please pray for all the efforts in discipleship in this multi-national, multi-lingual church. Many of the families face enormous challenges yet express great faith and thanks to the Lord for His continual provision.
2. Ask the Lord to fill each one and enable them to bear the fruit of the Spirit. Human strength is not enough for all they face.
3. Pray also that the love they show to one another would be a bold witness to the community around them and that many would consider the love of God that they embody.
Travel day. We woke up early and had a 2 1/2 hour car ride to the airport, followed by an Air France flight back to France. Then we boarded a train and headed North to Roubaix, France where Ed will preach at a church on Sunday (tomorrow). We met up with Mike again who we traveled with Day 1-3 (see photo). Mike is the President of REACH the REST which is one of the organizations that Cherrydale is partnering with to reach the Toureg for Christ (see Day 3 entry).
REACH the REST was formed in 2000 because the founders wanted to 1) focus specifically on Unengaged Unreached People Groups (UUPG), and 2) partner with local Christian leaders who are in close proximity to a UUPG. They started in N. India and now have partnerships in over 20 countries-- engaging over 200 people groups most of which were unengaged and all of which are unreached. Cherrydale got connected with Mike and REACH the REST in 2014 when the missions committee was was looking for a worthy endeavor to utilize part of a memorial gift that the church was given. This trip has allowed us to travel with Mike and interact with Ali as he heads up multiple outreaches into N. Africa. It is a true blessing to work together with leaders who have a heart for the least reached and the relationships needed so that integrity and accountability are clearly in place. If you have interest in learning more about REACH the REST take a look at www.reachtherest.org.
Today please pray for Mike as he travels nearly half of each year to various locations to search for new national partners on the field and to follow-up with current partners who are on the ground in tough places. Ask the Lord to give him supernatural wisdom and discernment so that all that RtR does will be right in the center of the work that God is doing. Pray also for the local leaders (like Ali) to be full of the Holy Spirit, increasing in love for people, consistently and effectively sharing the gospel, and enduring hardships with a joy that can only come from the Lord.
It was a day filled with a variety of experiences, all shared with Kirsten so that we could get to know her and her environment better. We took the morning to explore some Roman ruins in a nearby town. It was quiet, beautiful, uncrowded and a good time to relax from the normal busy city life filled with challenges and responsibilities for Kirsten. She would love to take one day a month to get away to a place like this just to enjoy nature, peaceful surroundings, and some solitude to recharge...we can pray with her that this could be a reality. After seeing the ruins we had the chance to also get to know the team she shares life and ministry with. We joined in the celebration of the 7th birthday of one of the family's daughter. We were reminded of the bonds between team members, children and adults alike, as they care for each other and invite school and neighborhood friends and families to see how followers of Christ love one another.
After all the people interaction we decided to walk through town and get a little more of the flavor of life for Kirsten as she shops and moves from place to place. The unpaved roads, "interesting" traffic patterns, narrow streets and shops here and there all provided a multi-sensory experience. We even had an encounter with the police (foreigners in this town are very conspicuous) but it was all well and good as they wanted to be sure we were safe. We headed home and spent some time in prayer together for Kirsten, her roommate, and the people in this country. Prayer, petition, supplication, intercession...basically crying out to God in every way brings such encouragement and perspective. What a privilege it is for us personally and our church family as a whole to partner with Kirsten and pray for her with the confidence that nothing is impossible for our great God.
Today please pray for Kirsten to lean on the Lord for all things and to know with confidence that she is uniquely gifted and equipped to fulfill all that the Lord has called her to. Pray for her to be blessed in her role within her team and community and to be a blessing to others. Ask the Lord to strengthen her in her inner being day by day as she abides in His word, walks by faith, and serves with joy.
We flew across the Mediterranean Sea and arrived in N. Africa to visit Kirsten. She is living in a small city and is a part of a team of 8. Two days a week she is teaching English at one of the three Universities in her town. We walked through town and then took a taxi to the University. University education in this part of the country is relatively new, only developed in the past 10-15 years, and it is free for all students. That may sound wonderful, but in Kirsten's first class we met only 7 out of 38 enrolled students because attendance is not required. The second class did a little better with 25 of the 40 students showing up.
Kirsten also teaches English at a private company and currently has a class of high school students. While we were walking through town we came across a group of girls (see the picture) and one had been a student of Kirsten's. The town is small enough that she often meets former students on the street. Teaching English has given her team opportunity to meet many people and share their lives together.
Today please pray:
1. For Kirsten and her team as they live and work in this small city seeking to be a witness for Christ. Pray that they will have wisdom and courage in every conversation to point to the redeemer.
2. Ask specifically for the Lord to work in the heart of "M" who was introduced to the concept of our adoption in Christ during a recent conversation with Kirsten. M has also read parts of scripture. Ask the Lord to open hearts, use every effort according to His power, and reveal His love to each person who has had contact with the followers of Christ here in their city.
"Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil." Ephesians 5:15-16
Learning about the history, politics, languages, culture and customs, religious beliefs and practices, and family structure of the peoples of North Africa has been quite the education for us as we have interacted with Ali. The challenge is how to relate some of this information to you, our church family, so that you can also have an interest in and passion to pray for some of the least accessible unreached people on earth. We as followers of Christ want to make the most of our time because our Lord is worthy and there are still many who have not heard the truth about their only hope of salvation. So here we go...
Before the land of N. Africa was divided up into countries for colonialization, the people flow was hindered or motivated by the need to find water and food in the vast desert sand and rocks. Now for political purposes the people are labeled Tunisian, Algerian, Moroccan, Lybian, etc. This whole region is considered part of the Arab world because of their ties to Islam, however, ethnically most of the people are not Arab but Berber. Even within that general term, Berber, there are numerous people groups and languages.
We as a church are participating in the beginning efforts of an organized outreach to the Toureg people through one particular man, M, who came to Christ in the 1980's and began traveling into the desert to share Christ with the people. Over the years he developed a love for and understanding of the Toureg lifestyle and beliefs and continues to have a burden for seeing the nearly 1.2 million Toureg speakers reached with the gospel. The gift Cherrydale gave for the translation of the Jesus film into Toureg is in process and the goal is to have the film shown house to house all over the region.
How can we pray and participate in the battle for the souls of the Toureg people?
1. Safety for M as he travels into desert regions where ISIS is making inroads and paying Toureg to be guides through the desert. This is a prayer for safety like we can hardly understand because of the instability of the region. Ask the Lord for supernatural protection over His servant M as he travels quarterly over long distances and with barely adequate transportation options to share the gospel among the people.
2. Pray for the hearts and minds of the Toureg to be stirred by our Almighty, redeeming God so that they are prepared to hear the truth of Jesus and respond in life changing faith.
3. Pray for the translators, technical people and equipment to come together to produce an excellent Jesus film and that this tool will open the door for many Toureg to flood into the family of God.
Today we explored the seaport city where N. African disciple-making leaders will be coming for concentrated bursts of Biblical training while they are in the midst of outreach and disciple-making in their home countries. The building in the picture has already been purchased, but the insides are nearly empty -- a blank slate for the visionary design and purposes that Ali and his team have in their hearts. Their vision is amazing and flows from their desire to see N. Africa reached with the gospel in the same manner that Paul spread the gospel throughout the known world as recorded in the book of Acts. This team of N. African followers of Christ and partners in ministry plan to develop the property into a conference center for classes, a library for research and study, a studio for recording testimonies and Bible teaching for satellite TV, and offices for strategic planning and follow-up.
The core group of about 50 leaders who are already active in ministry will be able to come to receive much needed Biblical leadership training and encouragement that fits their context. Some are active in city centers while others are reaching out to nomadic groups that span several N. African countries. They all work in destabilized situations that make their work difficult in some ways, but where people's hearts are more open because of the chaos around them. Meeting the need for solid training and communication between the leaders will enable them to move forward in faith with more tools in hand and a deep sense of encouragement that they are not alone, but rather are working alongside many others devoted to the Lord Jesus and the spread of hope to their countries.
Today we also heard some of the rich history of the church in N. Africa before Islam flooded in, as well as some of the modern history of missions in the region. Ordinary people who followed God into the lands of the Arabs, Berbers, and nomadic peoples of the desert to bring news of salvation and transformation in Christ. Ali & his family are moving to this city in S. France to spearhead the realization of the vision to train disciplers and leaders, believing that God's purposes will be accomplished as they step out in faith and join with others in partnership as they reclaim N. Africa for the gospel.
Pray today for the Lord to supervise all the planning and development for this training and media center. Ask Him to bring in all the media, teaching, research, and business/financial expertise needed to make this venture useful, viable, and sustainable for the spread of the gospel into N. Africa.
After a smooth flight we arrived in Paris and met up with our host for our first few days, Ali. We spent 4 hours together on a train headed to the South of France and had a blessed time hearing Ali's life story. There are uncountable details that point to God's sovereign redeeming work in his life, but let us just highlight 4 as a representation to encourage you as to what our Savior is doing in the hearts of N. Africans in our generation.
1. No one is out of the reach of God's saving grace
. Ali was raised in Algeria and knew nothing except Islam and his controlled environment. He said that he had no idea that there was any other way to look at life except through the lens of Islam. He was looking for answers to life's questions but he didn't know where to find those answers, until....
2. The fervent, friendly witness of followers of Christ can be mightily used by God. At age 18 Ali traveled to Germany for a few weeks and encountered a group of Christians singing praise songs in the public square. After singing, one of the worship/outreach team began talking with Ali and through her witness and persistence he heard the gospel, attended church (during his vacation) and was introduced to the Savior.
3. It took five years from that first encounter with the gospel for Ali to experience new birth in Christ. Many experiences, people, books, and direct encounters with God worked together in his life to lead Ali to an unmistakable, unshakable faith in Jesus Christ. We should not be surprised that it takes time and much input for a Muslim to come to know Jesus.
4. Stepping out in faith in a hostile environment has unspeakable joys and significant challenges. Ali endured being disowned by his family (although later his mom and all his brothers and sisters have come to Christ), having his faith tested while refusing to cooperate with corrupt bosses and unjust systems, and making choices without regret when God directed even though the way forward seemed impossible.
The joy of the Lord marks Ali's life and he is involved in the strategic process of outreach and Biblical training for N. Africans. He is pouring out his life to make disciples and disciple leaders. He proclaims that God is trustworthy and his only desire is to be found faithful with his life and gift of salvation.
Pray today for Ali, his wife and four children. Ask the Lord to empower them by His Holy Spirit for the work He has called them to do among N. Africans. Praise the Lord for His love and rescue of all, from any nation, who will deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him rejoicing in the gift of life in Christ.
March 21-April 1, 2013