I’m not gonna lie, people look at you a little funny when you tell them you’re going to France on a mission trip. There’s a little bit of “Yeah, right!” and some “Dang! I wish I could go!” but when you describe the spiritual emptiness of this country known for its fine culture and rich history, they agree that the French people need Jesus as much as the people in less developed parts of the world who have never heard of Him. The challenge is that the French people think they know about God and don’t want anything to do with Him – or with the people who are trying to “push” His agenda.
This kind of mission field requires missionaries who embody the character of Christ and share His heart by being His hands and feet. This is where Lucien, Bridgette and Dominique Castera come in. They operate a bed and breakfast in the small village of Arcy sur Cure in the Burgundy region of France called Maison de Rafah – House of Refuge. They offer hospitality to traveling pastors and ministry workers, as well as to tourists who pass through the village. They teach English classes and host various events at the Maison to establish and build relationships with their neighbors – they are BEING the Gospel by loving and showing kindness and goodness, without “pushing” God and religion on anyone.
The Maison is operated out of a 150 year-old farmhouse that requires maintenance, repair and renovation. So our team came together to serve the Casteras in the summer of 2014 with handymen (and women), teachers and musicians to work on the Maison, teach English classes, haul and unload a winter’s supply of firewood, and put on three major events for the village. Our team painted some guest rooms, the kitchen and a “bookcase staircase”, refinished a floor and did major electrical work, floor preparation and wall/ceiling de-plastering in the room called La Cave. This particular room will become a café for hosting “philosophic discussions” – something French people love to have – and a perfect place to present the Gospel truth, with love and gentleness and no pressure. Our English teachers and musicians taught at Dominique’s school with “body parts bingo” and dancing the “Hokey Pokey.” Although it is a Catholic school, we were not allowed to teach from the Bible, but we did teach the song, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” and Lucien was able to talk about the God who created and maintains all things. Our music team led a worship night, played popular American music for a 4th of July barbecue and played music for the Sunday Jazz brunch. Oscar, a 12 year-old neighbor, got the thrill of his life when he got to “sit in” with the band and play “Let it Be.” The rest of the team cooked, served and cleaned up while also meeting and hanging out with the people who came.
Relationships. People need to feel noticed and loved for who they are before they will listen to what you have to say. What we say has to be backed up by our relationship with God from whom that love flows. Sore muscles, splinters, paint and plaster in our hair – - laughter, joy, good food and music – - new friends and, hopefully someday, new brothers and sisters in Christ. The song goes, “It only takes a spark to get a fire going . . .” May this spark bring spiritual Light to France.
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ . . . Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:2-6
For more information about the Casteras and Maison de Rafah, see the news post from Feb 12, 2014