Paris is a a living conundrum in many ways. On one hand there is so much spiritual darkness and on the other there is so much physical beauty in their architecture and history. It may seem, as one walks down the road and maybe snaps a few photos that this is one big tourist trip. Yet, I assure you it is not. The best way I can describe it is thus; it’s as if a person walks from ACAC to downtown and sees our massive stadiums in person for the first time. It was simply a walk for this person, but there before them is an amazing never before seen (by them at least) site. In Paris, we literally have to walk everywhere. We are walking around 20,000 steps a day and hopping metros where it makes sense. In these walks from site to site, we bump into the most incredible beauty that man has created. We even joked this evening about how magnificent buildings that seem unimportant in Paris would be swarmed with people in Pittsburgh. We literally walk past a huge, amazingly crafted building every single day and it, to Paris and her people is unimportant. Sometimes one can be so overtaken by the beauty of Paris, that the spiritual ugliness is easily ignored. All of us have been struck deeply by both, but I’d venture to say more so the ugliness.
I want to give a picture that may help describe Paris. Many ask me: “Aren’t there strong Catholic churches there? If there are churches for Catholics, there must be Catholics!” Yet, sadly this is hardly the truth. The picture I want to give is of a small red-light district a small portion of our team prayed over on Tuesday. In this one strip of road, there are literally hundreds of sex shops. Peep shows, pornography, strip clubs and open prostitution were the life of this street. Even at 2pm, we saw prostitutes outside attempting to sell themselves. Yet, in the center of this street lay a large, old catholic church. It is magnificent, beautiful but it was black with soot. It hadn’t been able to clean its walls due to lack of people and lack of funds for decades. It was still open for masses and had clergy, but was ineffective and for all intents and purposes dead. When our team sought to go into this cathedral, the doors we locked. They were not welcome, nor were any of the derelict people on the streets. The one building on the whole street that could’ve been there with it’s doors wide open were shut. The house of God’s Light was quite literally dark.
As we interact with the people of Paris, we easily discover that the majority are Atheists. Yet, there is no hopeless situation with God my friends. I’d like you to hear from a young man on the trip named Aidan. He heard some things from the Lord that I think are spot on!
“This morning, we were given some time to find a quiet place in the city and spend some time with God. Part of my devotional reading today was Ezra 5 and 6. In these passages, the Israelites are in exile in Babylon, but in this time of darkness, God calls them to rebuild His Temple, which had since been destroyed. Through God’s will, the Israelites were permitted to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the house of God, ending in celebration and praise to God. I was moved by these passages, being drawn to the similarities between the Israelites in exile and the Parisians. In my first few days in Paris, it’s been clear to me that this is a city rich and alive in culture and beauty, but spiritually it has fallen asleep. Working with Genesis, however, has shown me that God is laying the groundwork to rebuild in this city. This foundation rests on the deep and meaningful relationships Genesis is developing with the Parisians through the English conversation groups.
Today, I had the opportunity to sit in and interact with one of the English conversation groups and really connect with some of the people who attended. One of the women who has a true passion for learning English was so excited to give us a detailed tour of the massive library she goes to all the time to study English. It’s small conversations and interactions like these that draw these Parisians to Genesis, and subsequently, to Jesus. From what we’ve observed about the culture, meaningful relationships seem hard to come by in Paris. Through our friendships with them, we hope to show them what a relationship with their Creator can look like. This week has been moving, and God has revealed to me that through His amazing power, this city will be rebuilt.” – Aidan John
We are all excited to be a very small part of this rebuilding. As we support the people on the ground here, we are being used to assist there amazing efforts of rebuilding! Please continue to pray as God uses us. Again, the enemy is trying to derail our team in many ways. This morning, a person on our team had a family member assaulted in her place of work. It is a daily thing that something happens while we are here. We covet your prayers and thank you for your continued diligence in hearing what God is doing!