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
“Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’” – Isaiah 43:5-6
“Therefore, give the exiles this message from the Sovereign Lord: Although I have scattered you in the countries of the world, I will be a sanctuary to you during your time in exile. I, the Sovereign Lord, will gather you back from the nations where you were scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel once again.” Ezekiel 11:16-17
Kfar Sava and Re’ut
I arrived Tuesday morning and was picked up by Nurit Amir, my dear friend Gali Kinel’s mom who lives in a Kibbutz about 30 minutes north of the Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, Kfar Sava. “Kibbutz” is the Hebrew word for a communal establishment. The first kibbutzim (plural of “kibbutz”) were founded some 40 years before the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. Their founders were young Jewish pioneers, mainly from Eastern Europe, who came not only to reclaim the soil of their ancient homeland, but also to gorge a new way of life. Overcoming many hardships, they succeeded in developing thriving communities which have played a dominant role in the establishment and building of the state. (CLICK HERE to Read More…)
Just a short train ride from the hustle and bustle of Paris, the scenery slowly begins to change. The sounds of honking horns and sirens fade, making way for the gentle sway of the train passing beautiful fields of blooming rapeseed—interrupted only by narrow roads leading from one small town to the next.
Our recent trip to the Burgundy region of France led us to one special town in particular: Arcy Sur Cure. Harvest Alliance missionaries Lucien and Bridgette Castera moved to the quaint community several years ago to open a bed and breakfast that serves as a vacation getaway for missionaries and pastors, as well as a ministry outreach to the local community. La Maison de Rafah has become a popular B & B in the area!
As with many European countries, sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ falls on deaf ears with strangers. Consequently, the value of building genuine relationships over time becomes a goal of missionaries answering the calling to share their faith.
The Casteras host small Bible studies with believers and seekers in their area, an English conversation class, and community events including cooking competitions and fun get-togethers. The fun part of the story is how the couple met! Bridgette, an accomplished chef and Florida native, met Lucien when the Frenchman came to work at the same Orlando restaurant she whipped up dishes for. A common love for Christ, and expertise in the food and hospitality industry made for an interesting combination! When they moved to France, they were drawn to the Arcy Sur Cure community and knew they wanted to open a bed and breakfast. The results have been impressive. Guests are spoiled with superb food, a beautiful view, and large bedrooms that rival some of Paris’ finest hotel rooms. Warm, flaky croissants and freshly squeezed juices are a great start to any day!
Cobblestone streets, faded brick homes with brightly colored shutters, and potted flowers lining the windowsills, round out the picturesque representation of the Burgundy region. Their seven-year-old son adds to the cheery setting.
Our visit included a workday to help prepare the home for the busy summer season. This fun day of spring cleaning allowed for a great opportunity to learn more about their ministry, see what their day-to-day life is like, and deepen a meaningful friendship with one of the many missionary families that Harvest Alliance is proud to help support. And of course, that evening, Bridgette sent us on our way with a freshly made Quiche Lorraine to enjoy on the train. What a treat!
Keep the Castera family in your prayers: for a strong faith, good health, and the spiritual endurance to continue to answer God’s call. Pray for hearts in the region to soften toward the Lord and to be hungry to learn more about the hope that is only found in Jesus. To learn more, visit www.raphahouse.net. -By Jenna Sampson