by Andrew Flores guest writer
“Bonjour, voulez-vous du café ou du thé?” asks a young American standing next to a small table outside of the Metro in Lille, France. A confused commuter takes off his headphones and sees the table with two carafes and a stack of plastic cups. “Pourquoi?” he asks. “Pourquoi fais-tu ça?”
This past spring break, seven Moody students travelled to several Muslim-majority areas in France and Belgium to work with Greater Europe Mission’s (GEM’s) ministry partners and to hear what God is doing in their ministries.
In Lille, France the team got first-hand experience in sharing the Gospel and their testimonies with people on the street. The team partnered with Stanley Okoro, who works with GEM there, handing out free coffee and tea to people who passed by the subway station. Many were surprised to be given something for free, so many asked why the team was doing so. Team members were able to share the gospel message, and those who wanted to know more were invited to a discovery bible study that Okoro hosts in his home.
Anmarie Sica, junior ministry to women of sexual exploitation major, was able to pray for a young woman who passed by.
“She was very curious and interested in what we were doing. I told her that we were just trying to show the love of God in a tangible and practical way,” Sica said. “She was shocked, and I told her about God working in my life.”
In Roubaix, France the majority of the population are immigrants from North African countries such as Algeria, Morocco or Tunisia. There the team met Ali — name changed for security purposes — who works with a Christian television channel that broadcasts the Gospel in Arab countries. Part of his job is to answer the phone when Muslims from all over the Arab world call to find out more about Jesus. Many accept Christ into their lives through the television network, Ali and his colleagues can connect callers with underground local churches in their area.
In Mouscron, Belgium the team worked with Peter Joy. Joy and his family moved from London to work with Muslims in Northern France and Belgium and for nine years worked with a local church that was mostly Muslim background believers. But in the last few years Joy said God has been challenging him about discipleship.
“Discipleship is about multiplication of disciples, not multiplying just church members,” Joy said. “How can we reach Muslims when many of them won’t step foot into a church? We need to reach them where they are and disciple them in [their] homes.” Joy has been meeting with Muslims who are interested in Jesus and having discovery Bible studies with them.
While in Mouscron the Moody team also got a glimpse of the refugee crisis. The city of Mouscron has turned an old hospital into mini apartments for 600 refugees. Over the last few months, there have been security concerns, so when the team arrived they were not allowed onto the property. But they walked around the complex and Joy pointed out all of the “for sale” signs across the street.
“Many residents have sold their homes or businesses to get away from this location,” he said. He explained that many locals are not happy that refugees have made their small town in Belgium their home and want nothing to do with them. So they moved and left the neighborhood where this hospital sits.
Joy works with the city to teach French to the refugees, and is seeing some fruit with his relationships with some of the guys in his class.
“I’m working with some Afghani young guys,” he said. “They are very eager to learn and have great questions about faith.”
Charles Cross, GEM France field leader, said, “In France, less than two percent of the population are practicing, evangelical Christians.” Even though the progress is slow and small, there are still victories to celebrate. After the team left, Stanley reported that they had a record 13 people show up to the Bible study the following week. To see photos and updates from the team’s journey, log on to Facebook or check out their Instagram @PCMFRANCE2016.