Coucou tout le monde! Hi everyone!
Here, as promised, is an update of some of the highlights from these past two weeks. I would like to start by sharing a few stories from my time on campus having spiritual conversations with students, and with students! What do I mean by that? No, it is not a redundant typo! These last few weeks, we have been challenging our Christian students to come with us on campus to talk with their peers about Jesus. We have truly seen God show up to bless their steps of faith in amazing ways, and I would love to share a few of their stories with you.
Here's Hayley on Paul Valery (the liberal arts university and also the campus where she is studying). I met up with her for lunch on campus before we went out sharing, and was able to get to know her a little better while also explaining to her our strategy, vision, and goals. She had never done anything like this before, and was a little nervous and concerned about approaching people in a sensitive and caring way. I was able to assuage some of her fears, and reassure her that we don't need to worry about our incompetency, because the Spirit is the one that makes us competent for the ministry He gives us. (2 Corinthians 3:5) She had shared with me during lunch that she spent a year in Istanbul, Turkey as a high school student and we talked a bit about her experiences there. Imagine how surprised we both were when the first girl we approached was Turkish - and not just Turkish, but from Istanbul! They even have mutual friends on facebook! We had a great conversation with her and I was able to share the Gospel. She reached out to Hayley and asked for her number, and we're hoping to see her again soon. It's so beautiful to see the ways God, as a good Father, blesses our steps of obedience and faith and gives us good gifts!
Chelsea, left, is an American study abroad student here for the year. She has been involved with Agape since the beginning of last semester, and has been growing by leaps and bounds. This semester, she has felt really challenged to share her faith, and has been enthusiastically seeking opportunities to go with us. I went with her for her second time sharing on her campus, and was amazed by her heart and her courage doing something that she told me she would never have imagined herself doing only a few short months ago. The Lord continues to do an amazing work in her life!
Here is a photo of Girish, and Indian doctoral student in biology involved with Agape, during our weekend retreat last semester. Girish has been a Christian for a long time, but shared with us last semester that he has a really hard time talking about his faith. He is nervous and said that he doesn't feel comfortable or confident since he doesn't know all the answers. Since we had talked about this before, I was surprised and excited to see that he had signed up to go on campus and volunteered to go with him. We went on the science campus together, and was encouraged to see in talking with him that he was choosing to take this step of faith despite his fears - his feelings hadn't changed, but he had decided to act courageously despite his fears. He was especially nervous about having a spiritual conversation in French, since he is still less than confident in French despite having made enormous progress since arriving last fall. Once again, God blessed and surprised us by leading us to a Canadian student and we were able to talk to her in English! It was a great conversation, and at the end, she asked me for my phone number! I'm hopeful about being able to hang out with her again. While she doesn't have any faith beliefs herself (she operates more under a moral system of the Golden Rule than a particular religious system), she is very open and enjoys hearing about what other people believe. I'm really looking forward to new steps of faith Girish is able to take, and I hope that this experience has encouraged him to keep sharing his faith.
This past week was the Agape France National Conference - where the whole group of anyone on staff with Agape in France (campus, music, sport, and art ministries, human resources, accounting, staff services, etc.) got together near La Rochelle (in the north west of France) for a week of learning, connection, and planning for the future. It was really fun for me to be there, and a lot less intimidating than last year to connect with the staff - especially since I know some of them much better! One of my favorite moments from the conference was the group prayer time, where the national director called up to the front everyone on staff or interning who was under 35. Altogether, we were a little over half of the whole group! When we were all up front, they took some time to pray over us and to thank God for us. It was so beautiful and so touching to see and hear such tangible proof of their support and love for us. Next, they asked everyone who had been on staff for 25 years or longer to come up and stand with us as a model of perseverance and faithfulness for us to look to, and we were able to pray for them. It was so sweet to see that living record of how God has been at work here in France.
Another of my favorite moments happened at the end of an evening planned by the art team in Paris. They had us each write our anxieties, fears, and weaknesses on pieces of red paper, and then with a series of several clever folds and cuts, we opened it up to see a cross. After we laid these things at the foot of the cross in a tangible way, we all brought our crosses up and laid them out around the map of France they had created on the floor out of tealights. Then, we read and meditated on several verses they had chosen and used art supplies they gave us to write or draw a one-word prayer for France, what we hope for God to do here in this country, and put them in the middle. Then they lit the candles around the outside, turned down the lights, and we spent some time praying over the country of France and singing praise to God. It was a poignant, beautiful moment.
Also during the week, I was blessed by the natural beauty around us - like this sunset! - and by some really sweet and intimate times with the Lord. I am learning a lot about grace - how to accept His grace for me, and how to extend grace to myself and others. All in all, it has been a very busy and very blessed two weeks. I'm glad to be home, and energized & excited for what God has in store for the rest of the semester! Thanks for your continued prayers for me, my team, and our movement here in Montpellier. I am so grateful for you all!
A la prochaine! Until next time!