City of Light or Missionary Graveyard?
Did you know that Paris is often referred to as “the missionary graveyard”? Yet our Paris team is privileged to be part of His redemptive work in that very difficult city.
Where to turn? by Joshua Turnil
A couple of years ago, Josette was looking for something more than what her Orthodox Jewish tradition had offered. She began a search on the Internet, and many different options popped up, including “Jews for Jesus.” Fascinated, she actually picked up the phone to call us, but hung up when someone on the other end said, “Shalom, Jews for Jesus.”
A couple of years later, Josette’s daughter, Hélène was in the hospital, dying of cancer. Josette did not know where to turn, and she remembered Jews for Jesus. Again she picked up the phone but this time did not hang up. I received the call asking if I would visit Hélène. I asked my wife, Delphine, to pray that Hélène would be awake, and was on my way to the hospital within fifteen minutes. I arrived to find Hélène not only conscious, but staring right at me. I introduced myself and explained why I was there:
“In a few minutes, I will leave this room. Going out the door, I will turn left, take the elevator to the garage, get in my car and go home. Soon, you will also leave this room. Do you know where you are going? You CAN know.” Then I explained the gospel and invited her to repeat the prayer of repentance and salvation. She struggled to speak, but she clearly understood and made the effort to repeat the prayer. At the end, she mustered all her strength and gave a resounding "AMEN!" I added a prayer and a blessing and as I prepared to leave, she again made another huge effort, and lifted her hand. As I gave her mine in return, she squeezed it hard.
The following week Josette attended our Hanukkah event. During the evening, she heard the gospel and asked several questions. That very night, she too prayed to receive Christ in her heart. But there is more….
Apart from the leading of God’s Spirit, I can’t explain what prompted me to bring Josette to a specific church that I’d had very little contact with. When I called the pastor and explained Josette’s situation, he told me of a woman that he wanted Josette to meet. A retired teacher, Irène had known and loved many Jewish pupils and often prayed for their salvation.
When Josette and I arrived at the church, the pastor and his wife, along with an older woman, greeted us at the door.
Josette whispered, “I know that woman!” The two women fell into each other’s arms and cried. The pastor and I looked at each other, perplexed. We later learned that Irene had taught all of Josette’s children when they were young! As soon as Irene saw Josette she realized that the little Hélène she cherished as a child was in the hospital, dying. After the worship service, she and Irène spent the day together. Josette is in good hands with this congregation.
Meanwhile, as the family began preparing themselves for Hélène’s demise, Josette asked me to officiate at the funeral. Other family members were opposed, even though they’d seen a change in Hélène. In fact, her father said to Josette, “She is luminous! What happened?” What happened? God brought eternal life to a woman on her deathbed—praise God that He can bring life from the dead! But there’s more.
I was flying to the U.S. for a Jews for Jesus leadership meeting when the call came that Hélène had passed peacefully into the Lord’s presence. I felt torn not being with the family, though I was sure I would not have been allowed to officiate at the funeral. However, the day I returned home, another message awaited me. The funeral had been postponed, and the rabbi had backed out of officiating. Perhaps he had even heard that Hélène had been associating with Jews for Jesus. Josette was not sure where to turn. I had just enough time to get home, shower and make it to the graveside, where I was allowed to conduct the service after all. I chanted the customary liturgy and prayers. Then, as I spoke about Hélène experiencing a dramatic change that brought her peace, heads nodded, and I was able to give a clear gospel presentation. Please keep this family in your prayers, that God will continue His work in their hearts.
For another example of how God brings life from the dead, check this out: Last year Joshua completed (as director and producer) a DVD project about Ruth Gottlieb, a Jewish believer in Jesus who fought in the French Resistance, survived Auschwitz and ultimately came to faith in Jesus. As of this month, the DVD of Ruth’s story is now available (45 minutes long, in French with English subtitles).
Prince of Peace in Paris
Jesus’ words, “I am the way, the truth and the life” were needed more desperately than ever on the streets of Paris last January. You’ll recall how a jihadist-motivated massacre tore through the offices of a French satirical magazine… soon followed by hostages taken and murdered at a kosher grocery… and the slaying of a police officer during a traffic stop.
When we contacted our Paris branch leader, Joshua Turnil to see how our staff and their families were doing, he said,
“Three attacks were within 15-20 minutes of our office but we are all well. We ask not for protection, but for opportunities to minister and to be available to our people, and to all people that need the peace that passes all understanding.
“All the Jewish shops and places of worship closed their doors as a security measure, and riot police armed to the teeth were walking back and forth in our neighborhood. Yes, our office has been a target in the past.
“Many of our friends and supporters asked us to close down the office; they are worried about us. One observed, ‘Of all the Jewish shops and buildings, you guys are the only ones that have the word “JEWS” printed in big letters over your window.’ Notwithstanding the situation, one of our core values is ‘stepping out in courageous faith and taking risks for God.’ I felt that if ever we needed to remain open, it was now.
“We put up a sign in our window: ‘Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.’”
You may recall that following these events, there were massive rallies in Paris. The slogan “I am Charlie” became a call for unity and freedom of speech. Our Paris team took to the streets and each of our missionaries handed out one of three titles of new literature prepared to invite people to consider Jesus’ “I AM” statements in the Gospel of John: “I am the way,” “I am the truth” and “I am the life.” See a brief on-the-street video of our Paris missionaries in action.
In addition to reaching out to unsaved people on the streets, Karl DeSouza found the situation to be a teachable moment for his own son. You can read about it here.
When you pray for our ministry in Paris, in addition to the requests in the stories you just read, pray for strength and encouragement for each of our staff and their families, and for all the details to come together for Chantale, as she plans (and will be leading) a witnessing campaign in Paris this June.