Greetings from France to our dear brothers and sisters in Christ. We rejoice in the hope that this letter finds you all under God’s Gracious care. Here follows our report concerning the last few months in France.
Coming Back Home to France
Because of my wife, Mayra is in the high-risk group for the Corona Virus, we spent most of the confinement period in our native country of Brazil. We sought to avoid the peak of COVID-19 in France and intended to come back before its climax in Brazil. By our Lord’s grace, we were able to reach this goal and to come back to Paris safely. God was generous during this time. I was able to be in Brazil for my family when my grandmother passed away and we had numerous opportunities for edifying believers and sharing the gospel with the unconverted. It was much better to be Brazil during the quarantine, and yet, we were able to maintain our church meetings in France via the internet.
A New Building for our Church Gatherings
While COVID-19 was starting to spread in France we were dealing with major transitions with church and family. Church attendance was already to the full capacity in the place where we were meeting and we were looking for a larger place, not only for our Sunday services but throughout the entire week. Also, we were looking for a location that was more visible to visitors. We were using our tiny apartment for mid-week gatherings and pastoral counseling. Each week our apartment was feeling smaller with the growth in our overall attendance. Now, due to safety measures required for resuming church gatherings (distance between families, ventilation, etc.), we can no longer use the place.
A few weeks ago, the confinement period began to come to an end, and we resumed our search with even more urgency. We are convinced that a visible and accessible church structure would be very helpful to build a solid work in such a metropolis as Paris. From a spiritual standpoint, any kind of Protestant/Evangelical church buildings inside Paris is rare. Since the French Wars between the Catholics and the Huguenots, even the scarce and temporary edicts of toleration would only allow protestant churches to be built outside the main cities. God’s people had to travel miles to meet in the closest building.
Today, a post-modern-attitude of suspicion towards religion coupled with socialistic bureaucratic protection to tenants make the way for owners to become extremely rigorous in their warrant expectations and unenthusiastic to host a non-profit organization – particularly, an evangelical church. For example, one place that seems to fit our needs is demanding not only the usual three months rental-fees as a caution, but also a bank assurance deposit of one whole year. This is an obvious challenge for a small church plant, but we trust that our Lord, with your prayers, will grant us the right place to meet and the necessary means for renting it.
The great news of Mayra’s third pregnancy [our first boy] came during the quarantine period. Because of this, we were even more convinced that it was time for our family to move from inside Paris to the suburbs. After almost ten years of mission work in the city, we trust we did our best with what we had by investing our all to plant the seeds of the church. By God’s grace, we did everything with joy, but we also recognized the cost to our family life. We had to move four times inside Paris as our family grew, but we always felt that more space was lacking for family life and the cost of more space was beyond our means. Thus, we began to look for a place in the suburbs of Paris. Even small places inside Paris are extremely expensive.
By God’s grace, we have finally found a place that seems perfect. We are overwhelmed because God gave us much more than we expected. Now we are busy working on moving into our new house. We are living in a small village called Médan, in a calm rural region surrounded by woods and fields. It is 35 minutes (25Km) northwest from Paris with only about 1.400 people. The house offers a fair garden for the children to play, a guest room, and finally and happily, an office for me to work. The whole region has almost no evangelical presence. As we will continue our work in Paris, we ask for your prayers that the Lord will also use us here. Please pray for Mayra and baby’s health during this final period of her pregnancy and for the labor due in mid-August.
Spiritual Life in a Pandemic Season
With this period of confinement coming to an end, we are able to discern and rejoice in some evident signs of grace that were brought into our community during these confusing times.
- First, we have received many testimonies from the members of our church about how they were edified during the quarantine and how they had an influence on their homes through the gospel.
- Second, many people from outside of our church attended our on-line services. Many of them were trapped in the prosperity gospel movement. They asked important questions and shared beautiful testimonies after each sermon. We even reached beyond France. A handful of people were following our services from Kongo Brazzaville in Africa.
- Third, God seems to have used the quarantine period to effect one of the most popular Pentecostal churches in France. They appear to have repented of their former false teachings. The church had hosted a huge conference just before the COVID crisis and many people were infected. About 30 church members died and the pastor required hospitalization as well. In his illness, he realized how far he was from preaching the Sovereign and Righteous God of the Bible that rules over the nations. He publicly repented of putting too much emphasis on experience, human achievements, and not on sound doctrines, such as knowing the one and true God of the Bible. His attitude spread like a shockwave in the French evangelical world. It impacted some neo-Pentecostal and more triumphalist churches. Our church saw in this event an answer to prayer—that God might clean and purify His church through the crisis.
- Forth, by preaching on-line, we discovered how a Q&A session right after the sermon is a useful tool. People were able to digest, clarify and apply the teaching more profoundly to their lives.
- Fifth, our congregation also started two new prayer meetings online during the week. These meetings are still being attended by many.
- Sixth, during the quarantine, hospitality and closer relationships were surprisingly developed. Our elder candidates took advantage of some extra time to be even more engaged in personal discipleship. Even though we are still not able to meet at the same place again, some smaller groups are already meeting at some houses to follow our online services.
- Finally, a series of meditations on the attributes of God was launched by one of our members and is developing into a biblical and beautiful compilation of devotional articles written by brothers and sisters from our own church. I rejoice grandly in our Lord for these signs of spiritual health in the midst of this pandemic season.
Church Gatherings and the Annual Conference
As we are still dependent on finding a new place to resume our physical gatherings, we are keeping our meetings online. On Fridays, we are meditating on and guiding our prayers by the book of Proverbs. On Sundays, we are moving on with the series on the Ten Commandments. Every Thursday we are also continuing with our pastoral meetings online. Recently we also resumed our annual conference plans. Because of COVID, we decided to wait until next year to hold our conference. We plan to have brother Paul Washer speaking along with Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, Dr. Robert Godfrey, and Paulo Junior. By God’s grace, the date we set for this conference is on the 9th and 10th of April 2021. Please pray that our Lord will confirm this event.