Today marks our second day in Paris, France. We were able to get here without incident, but many weird things have already happened to our group. My passport was either stolen or accidentally thrown out, another team member lost her passport as well. We both needed to travel to Buffalo, NY to get a passport ASAP. Praise the Lord we were both able to get them the same day we applied!
Once we got to the airport, one of our students accidentally left her passport on the van that dropped us off. Again, thanks be to God we were able to call our driver (the amazing Elliot Freeman) and get the passport very quickly. From America to France, no one had any more passport problems!
Another odd happenstance that occurred was shortly after we got to our hostel in Paris. The gentleman at the desk told our team that there was one less room than we thought. He stated to Jen Armenis and me that we could bunk together or room with a stranger. We both sat in stunned silence for about 10 seconds and quickly tried to figure out this weird conundrum. We came up with the idea that I could take the mattress of the bunk in “our room” and simply use it to sleep on the floor in the guys’ room. So we were able to take all of these awkward, frustrating things and make them work out in the end, thanks be to God!
Yesterday in Paris was an incredible time of ministry as we joined the Genesis Center in their Latino Night event. The Genesis Center is a community hub, run by Envision to develop evenings where Parisians can mingle with Americans, brush up on their English and engage in meaningful conversations. Our Aletheia team jumped right in. A few sang karaoke with the Genesis folks and others engaged in really incredible conversations. Each team member ran full bore into the trip by helping set up and clean up without being asked; they simply served joyfully and enthusiastically.
I (Marv) was able to engage with three French folks. We began our conversation by talking about Pokemon Go. God can literally use anything to get people talking. I was able to share passionately with a young man why we were there in these conversations. We talked about the state of the church in Paris and in America. He himself was not religious, but was willing to hear how a group of Americans wanted to learn how to better lovingly engage a post-Christian culture. He just happened to be invited by a friend that night and decided to come, even though he lived about an hour away from the Center; and God opened a door.
I know our team has been overwhelmed by two things thus far. 1. The beauty, enormity and history of this great city and 2. The pervasiveness and strength of the darkness. It is quite interesting how heavy the weight of spiritual darkness is here. The Free Masons (a demonic cult) have flourished in this city for many, many years and their spiritual influence is tangible. We visited the Louvre yesterday and saw this reality before our eyes as we beheld the Masonic glass triangle. I felt the heaviness of the lost in that moment and pretended to be OK, but was hit deeply with how powerful the darkness was.
Please continue to pray for our trip. The enemy does not desire us to be here. He doesn’t desire us to learn what God has brought us here to learn. The enemy doesn’t desire for us to create open doors with people like Jehn to welcome them into Christian community so they can hear the Gospel. Today, we will be headed to church, engaging with Parisian young adults and then inviting specific people to coffee to help them with English as well as to develop relationships with the people here. Pray for more doors to be opened.
Even as I sit here, our students welcomed a stranger from California to play cards in the main room of our hostel. It is incredible to see God use them to develop meaningful relationships with people they don’t even know. They are jumping right in!