Testimony of Conversion
My name is Michel Gabarri, and I was born on May 3, 1987, in Marseille, France, in a Spanish gypsy family. I am married to Pierrette, and we have three children: Naomie (12 years old), Serrano (8 years old), and Eliana (3 years old). When I was born, neither my parents nor anyone in my family were Christians; only an uncle named Noyo Gabarri was an evangelical pastor. In 1991, we moved to a small town further south called Lunel.
A few years later, my parents converted to the Lord. And our home was a Christian home. So I grew up in a Christian environment. Since I was a child, I was always attracted to the things of God, there was always a particular fear of God. I have always lived with the awareness that God saw my every deed. I was a more or less well-brought-up child; I didn’t go out, I didn’t drink alcohol or take drugs or anything like that. But I knew I was not a Christian, and at the age of 17, I decided to commit myself to following Christ and was baptized. So I was a young man who was “supposedly” a Christian. But it was just a disguise that I had in front of people. My heart loved the world and the things in it. My whole life was a pure appearance of godliness, but no power, no transformed life.
In September 2007, I married a young woman who was not a Christian named Pierrette Garcia. The first years of our marriage were very bad. Many quarrels, fights, conflicts, and lies. Despite that, we always attended church, and during the year 2009, my wife decided to follow Christ and was also baptized. But my wife nor I had a life with the Lord, just a church life, following in this environment with our other friends. One of them, Joseito Garcia, with whom I had a lot of fellowship and trust, who one day encouraged me to listen to some internet preaching that was a blessing to him. Though I didn’t want to listen, I began listening to some of them. It was the first time I was exposed to a solid Gospel. One of the series I listened to was on assurance of salvation.
At that moment, for the first time in my life, the Lord opened my eyes to the SUFFICIENCY OF CHRIST to atone for all my sins. That discovery was revolutionary for me! From that moment on, many changes began to take place in my life without my being fully aware. A deep thirst for reading the Word of God. A deeper sensitivity to my sin. The world lost its attractive force in my heart. A love for the Church. A passion for the person of Christ. My private prayer life, my dealings with my wife…everything changed. In short, I was a new man. I was born again.
Although I thought it was just a personal revival, the truth is that everyone around me was looking at me, saying: He is no longer the same! My wife used to say to me: “He gives me the impression of living with another man; what has happened to you? It was as I grew in my knowledge of the scriptures that I understood that until the end of 2013, I was never born again. A deep shame came to me for having discredited the name of Christ with my life for so many years! But also, deep gratitude to see how the power of the Gospel radically changed my life! Abundant grace for an outraged sinner!
Call to Ministry
In the months that followed my conversion, I felt that the Lord was calling me to serve Him. Understanding the Gospel produced such joy in me that I could not stop talking about it. I shared my new understanding of the Gospel with everyone in the church I was in. What was surprising is that before my conversion, I never had any facility in expressing anything, but now I could speak about the things of God with clarity, ease, and passion. Many were surprised because they had never known me this way before.
Early on, I disciplined myself to the daily life of private prayer and study of the word because the Lord taught me that I could not be helpful unless I were a young man walking closely with Him. My thirst and passion for the truth and my love for Christ only grew. I began to feel a heavy burden to make the truth of the word known to others because of the ignorance I saw in God’s people. I felt responsible for this truth that I now knew. I felt that this truth had been entrusted to me, and it became a pressing burden for me to share the truth, even though I was forbidden to speak. I identified with the words of the prophet Jeremiah 20:9, “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.”
It was an intense inner call to proclaim the truth, mixed with deep pain for seeing a people who did not know the truth of God, the Gospel of Christ. I knew that the Lord was calling me, but I also knew that it was not yet the time. I had to mature more in my faith and character if I wanted to fulfill the requirements of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. So without telling anyone about my calling, I began to work on specific areas of my personal life and put an order in my home.
The Lord was working impressively in my character, my marriage, my home, and my whole life. This process took three years. In 2017, after our separation from our former denomination, I was still serving on the new church plant in many areas, minus teaching. It is at that time that the brethren in the church began to discern that God was calling me into ministry. I also shared my desire with my uncle Noyo who was my pastor and witnessed my whole process from the beginning. Then Pastor Noyo, together with the Church, put me on probation for five years.
During these five years, the Lord was fantastically using me for the edification of the brothers of our church plant in Lunel, also the church plant of Marseille and Arles. In 2017 The Lord allowed me to establish new relationships with sister churches. The IEG in Barcelona. Pastors David Barcelo and Jairo Chaur, from the beginning, also followed me in the process, and later Pastor David Vaughn. The advice and teachings of these mature brothers were a great help and blessing to me. The pastors of Barcelona, our pastor Noyo, and David Vaughn ordained Joseph Garcia and me as official pastors of the EEG in Marseille on October 3, 2021.
Our departure from the Pentecostal denomination “Life and Light” (mostly gypsy) at the end of 2016 has been the cause of much criticism and attack against us by these churches for having adopted a reformed (Calvinist) doctrinal stance.
The church plant had 8 people in Lunel, but with time some more people joined, who also came out of these Pentecostal churches. So we started with a group of 10 people in Lunel and another 15 in Marseille.
Recently some people from the gypsy community were awakened to the truth of the scriptures; despite the intense pressure and influence of the gypsy evangelical community, about 20 people have come and joined our church. This imposing gypsy evangelical community hinders the extension of the work in Marseille, but we believe in the power of the word of God, which is not imprisoned.
I am part of a pastoral team composed of Joseph Garcia, Noyo Gabarri, and myself.
From 2017 to 2020, I participated in all the 9MARKS intensives in Barcelona and Simeon Trust. Also, in March 2020, I participated in the 11-day intensive at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. I can’t even express the impact these teachings have had on my ministry. Understanding what a biblical church is was revolutionary for me and grew my fear of the Lord in my relationship with my local church.
With the Lord’s help, we have been working with Noyo and Joseito to establish certain biblical principles in our new church plants. During these years, we are learning to work as a plurality of elders. We have adopted the London Confession of Faith of 1689. We have also taught much about the Gospel, conversion, the Local Church (membership, church discipline), and its mission in the world. From the beginning, we are trying to preach in an expository way, which is a great blessing for the people.
I have a real burden for our nation France, which is a desert as far as the Gospel is concerned. Specifically, a burden for the gypsy people in France. A people are primarily evangelical but ignorant of true knowledge of God and his Gospel. Our church plant in Marseille has a particularly great potential for advancing the kingdom of Christ, with a population of about 1 million people, with a lot of racial-ethnic diversity (North Africans, Gypsies, Latinos, Africans, etc…). And to this is added the mission point in Arles, where 30 to 40 people meet every week, hungry for the Word of God.
I desire to invest my life in loving and serving these brothers. I desire to see Christ formed in them. To have the joy of seeing them walk in truth. To work to raise other faithful men. To work so that it will be a Church such as Christ desires and has left us his directives in his word. For the church in Marseille to shine as a light in the world.
I identified greatly with the HeartCry motto, “That His name is great among the nations.” I have a great desire to see the Gospel of Christ being spread in Marseille, Arles, and all of France. To see the name of Christ be glorified and to receive the full reward of his sufferings. I desire to see the name of God become great in this city and this nation and sanctified in each person.
And for these things, who is enough? God help us.