E.M. Hicham gives news of a recent week of outreach in the Paris area
This third annual week of outreach in Paris was organised by a local evangelical church in partnership with La Voix des Prophètes (French branch of Word of Hope Ministries).
Once again the Lord showered us with blessing. Here are ten reasons to give thanks:
About 70 people (most aged 18-25) were on the team, from all over France. This was a very encouraging number considering that the week was not during the Paris school holidays and therefore many students could not participate. Half the team were present for the first time and had never witnessed to Muslims before. They came enthusiastic to serve and learn and with a sound grasp of biblical teaching, a great spirit of prayer and an incredible motivation to spread the gospel. This gives us hope for the future of the church in France.
Training and opportunities
The week had two aims: reach out to the local ethnic minority community and train the team members through seminars. The seminars were open to anyone. About 80 were present at the evening sessions. The aim was to help those in attendance to overcome fear and give them practical tips.
1,300 Bibles were distributed during the week. These were taken gladly by people (including Muslims) who came to us asking for one. A Muslim lady took a Bible and later returned to ask for the CD of testimonies of Christians from a Muslim background. A Frenchman said that he had never read the Bible or had contact with Christians, but was curious to read it and find out more.
The team had more than 500 significant conversations, particularly with people from Yemen, North Africa and much of West Africa. The had good opportunities with a rabbi, Salafists, a young Catholic couple from Germany, a Bulgarian family and a number of Pakistanis.
I had a two-hour discussion with Younes, a young Algerian man. You could tell from his beard and clothes that he was a serious, practising Muslim. As we went through the classic objections, we read passages of Scripture together. One typical misconception Muslims have is that Jesus prophesied Muhammed’s coming in John 14 and 16. So I opened the Bible and asked Younes to read the chapters himself and tell me if the descriptions of the Comforter could fit a finite human being. Having read them his answer was: ‘Okay, I see, this is talking about the angel Gabriel’ (Muslims believe that the Holy Spirit is Gabriel!). He finally asked why I left Islam and became a Christian – a great question! This gave me a further opportunity to share the gospel of grace.
Lev is a Jewish man who was spoken to at length. The most encouraging thing was that a teammate read lots of Scriptures with him, including Isaiah 53. At the end he was offered a Bible, but refused to take it, saying: ‘If I take it, it will shake my faith and my family will be very unhappy’. What a sad thing.
Witnessing at Montmartre
On the Wednesday afternoon we were able to share the gospel on the stairs in front of the Sacré Coeur. A teammate gave an explanation of the history of Montmartre (Mount of Martyrs, from the beheading of St Denis, c.250AD) and many people stopped to listen. As the historical presentation finished, team members loudly asked questions such as: What is the gospel message? Can we trust the Bible? What can one do to be saved? So the gospel was preached in a friendly way. Bibles were offered afterwards. Literally every team-member had an opportunity to share the gospel.
Reaching the Malians
There are about 40,000 people from Mali living in the Paris area, making it the town with the second largest Malian population, after Bamako. Many of them live in a group of buildings owned by the council and most are illiterate. Every morning a team went to visit them, sharing Bible stories using audio/visual resources. Last year five of these Malians were converted and baptised following the week of outreach. They are going on well with the Lord.
A final evangelistic evening was held. The church room was so crowded that we had to subtly ask the Christians present to leave in order to make space for the numerous Muslims who had come.
One room was full of Christians praying for the salvation of those listening in the main room. At least 35 non-Christians (probably more), had responded to our invitation to the evening meeting entitled ‘How can we find forgiveness from a holy and merciful God?’ The vast majority of them were from a Muslim background. The team could hardly believe their eyes. We stayed talking with the visitors until midnight.
A veiled Muslim lady had a long conversation with one of the girls on the team. Another female Muslim student asked serious questions and I was then called over to speak to her. She said: ‘I was very moved by the message. It is so beautiful that I can hardly believe it can be true’. We encouraged her to pray and ask God to help her. She went home with a New Testament and other resources.
As far as we know two conversions took place. Soumya, a North African girl, works as a bank adviser. She had been witnessed to by a Christian colleague who is now a missionary. She attended the Friday meeting and immediately after I had finished speaking she came straight to me with a smile to say, ‘I want to tell you that I’ve been struggling with many questions and tonight God has given me the answers. I know where to find forgiveness now’. I asked her, ‘Do you think you can say that your sins are forgiven tonight?’. ‘I can say that with all my heart, now that I understand that only through Jesus forgiveness is given from the holy and loving God.’ Soumya took my details and we are seeking to put her in contact with a local church.
Boubaker, a Muslim from Benin, seems to have given his life to the Lord after the meeting. After a long conversation he asked if someone could pray with him. He was back at the church on Sunday morning, as well as some others contacted during the week. What an encouragement.
Please pray that the Bibles and other resources distributed will all be read and not shelved. Also, pray for Z, a Tunisian man contacted last year. He kept in touch with a team member and came to see us this year. He had lunch with us nearly every day. He is not far from the kingdom. He lives near the church and a church leader has begun Bible studies with him.
Pray too for the young people who were on the team and who no doubt feel a sense of anticlimax after such an intense week. Pray that the Lord will guard, keep and guide them, so that they will be able to make the most of what they learned during the week.
One of our goals is multiplication. Our hope is that those who participated in the outreach will take the vision back with them and share it with the leaders of their home churches. So far, there are six weeks like this one running in France and Belgium. Pray that this type of week of outreach will be repeated in many other places.
As a result of last year’s outreach week, we started a Facebook group called atteindre (reach), through which team members can stay in touch and inform each other of the evangelistic opportunities. The group now has about 1500 members.