Wednesday, July 15, 2015

When They Think They See Us, But It's Not

 They thought it was us, but it wasn't. It was him.

In a land where warm fresh bread was just a morning's walk away -- the long crusty-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside French baguettes-- and where buttery pain au chocolates "croissants" with inner chocolate streaks elicited moans every morning, everything was vivid. Our team of thirteen senior high students and adults savored the two weeks with our French friends. Partnering with a French church in northern France, we worked alongside them to reach out to and get to know the residents of Roubaix.

"Why are you here?" the shopkeepers and kebab sandwich vendors asked us, in warm wonder. "It's the poorest city in France," another one told us.

"We love Roubaix and the people of Roubaix," we told them. "God loves Roubaix and has given us his love for this city too."

Roubaix is a vibrant city full of Europeans, North African Algerians, Moroccans, Romano nomadic gypsies, and Middle Eastern peoples. Tall narrow rowhouses rub shoulder to shoulder down winding cobblestone sidewalks. Butcher shops display skinned lambs and chicken breasts; fruit venders corner the lanes, their apricots, peaches, and dusky purple grapes blushing out of slanted wooden crates. Bread shop boulangeries and patisserie pastry shops dot the avenues regularly, such a staple of a daily French person's life that they are more common than cathedrals and post offices combined.

We relished our time with old and new French friends, the two weeks passing entirely too quickly. They taught me about hospitality and generosity, their platters of chicken, garlic potatoes, and tuna fish appetizer salads brimming and spilling with food. They said our students' joy and love for God and one another encouraged them "like a breath of new life." I watched the ten American students run a three-day Bible Club for children, use mime sketches to share stories of God's plan from the Bible to rescue his creation from a broken world, and I smiled proudly at the hours of cheerful work the teens did again and again, often breaking into song while they worked. I saw the way they loved the kids around them, using broken French, English words, and lots of smiles. Love flowed out from them.

At the end of a beautiful evening at a friend's house, our host put his hand on his heart to thank us for coming. Overwhelmed by our host's gracious hospitality for us, we placed hands on our hearts and issued the grateful thanks right back. "No, no, it's our delight and joy to be here with you," we told them. "It's a pleasure to be with you," we said.

He demurred, touching his heart, and we saw it in his eyes. He thought it was us, but it wasn't.

He was seeing the beauty of Jesus in us, and it drew him.


8 comments:

Dolly@Soulstops said...

Jennifer,
Yes: "He was seeing the beauty of Jesus in us, and it drew him." What a wonderful experience...Thanks for giving us a peek into it :-)

Bill (cycleguy) said...

Sounds like it was a fantastic time of ministry. Hoping lives were touched permanently for Jesus- yours and theirs. Question: is this the city where the Paris-Roubix bike race ends. It is done on cobblestones mostly.

Betty Draper said...

Ok, thats why your blog has been silent...you putting into action the love of God. Not just talking about it, not just writing about it, but actually doing something for others that will draw them closer to Him. This post blessed my heart Jennifer...only wish I could have went with you. Blessings sister.

Floyd Samons said...

Well this is wonderful.. I was wondering where you were at... I should have known you'd be doing the will of your Father. Blessings to you and yours, sister. I recognized your husband in that picture. Well done! Love the story and the way you shared it. Makes me want to join you.

Caleb Suko said...

That's the key to ministry and missions, doing it in a way so that they see Jesus in us and through us. Sounds like God did some great things during those two weeks.

Lisa notes... said...

What a wonderful time you must have had, Jennifer! I've never been to France but would love to visit. What a blessing you and your group must have been. Showing the love of Christ is always the best moments of our lives.

Cheryl Barker said...

So wonderful how you and your team were able to be a breath of fresh life to the people you served, Jennifer. And what a blessing to know that they were seeing Jesus through you all, huh? What an amazing and loving God we have!

cabinart said...

Sounds beautiful! That explains the lapse in posts. Makes me have a million questions, so I may email you with them in awhile!