Sunday, August 17, 2008

My Frenchies

If you've ever spent time in France, you will know that France is not a particularly religious place, especially Paris. Most of the French campers we get at Chop Point come from very wealthy families in the suburbs of Paris and they have no time for faith. They talk about God as a thing of their grandparents and being Christian really just means that they attend private Catholic schools instead of public ones. Many of them know stories from the Bible and have a basic understanding of who God is, but Jesus has no importance in their daily life.

One of the most exciting and challenging parts of the summer for me was leading Bible study with the French kids every other day. We would read scripture together, discuss it, pray together, sing sometimes, and answer whatever questions they had. With some groups of French kids, it was like pulling teeth to get them to talk about anything spiritual and I often felt like we were getting nowhere. But as the summer progressed, we saw little signs that our closed off Frenchies were learning something.

Gabrielle and Elsa were my biggest Bible enthusiasts. They had dozens of questions every day. How do you pray? What does it mean to praise God? Isn't it unfair that someone who lived without God their whole life would get the same eternal life as someone who has followed God for 100 years? What happens to someone like a rapist or a serial killer who asks for forgiveness? How can God forgive us over and over? On our last day of Bible discussion, Gabrielle asked when we were going to meet again. I told her that we had no more days of Bible time left and she freaked out. "Can we do Bible time in the vans tomorrow on the way to Freeport?" I won't say no to that! And at the airport, after 15 minutes of sobbing good-byes, it was Gabrielle who said, "I think we should all pray."

Baptiste was one of the kids who I thought daydreamed through the entire hour of Bible discussion. But he must have been listening at least a bit because in his good-bye letter to me, he gave me one of the greatest compliments I've ever gotten: "Kez, you are an example of God."

Augustin also seemed like one of the tougher kids to crack. He was always quiet during Bible time, but I was pretty sure that he only listened because he respected me, not because he had any interest in God. He left after 3 weeks and his close friend, Pichou, came for the next 3. Augustin sent me an email that said, "Kez, don't hesitate to share your faith with Pichou. I think that it will do him a lot of good, just like it has for me."

Louis, the boy who I call my French little brother, loved the Christian songs from Chop Point when he was there last year, so I mailed him a CD of them. He came back this year able to play several of them on his guitar! It was amazing to stand and sing with him on the beach or to lead the other Frenchies in songs about God. It was also sad to hear him singing them knowing that he didn't fully believe or mean what he was singing. He and I had many serious talks about what the songs mean and about my prayer that he will sing them in full sincerity one day. Like Augustin, Louis' main reason to pay attention during Bible time is his friendship with me and his desire to please me. He knows that Jesus is the center of my life and since he loves me, he is willing to listen when I talk about Jesus. I was deeply touched by his good-bye letter which read, "You know, in France I do a lot of sins that would shock here in America. Bible time with you gave me the opportunity to really think about that and yesterday in my bed, I confessed all of that to God for the first time."

It's just baby steps, but it's something. Watching them leave is doubly hard because of how much I will miss them but also because I don't know where they are going to hear about God once they are back in France. God is a big God and I believe that he will find a way to keep touching them. Even if it's years from now when they look back and remember how different camp felt from the pressure-filled, prejudiced society that they know in Paris. Whatever it is, whenever it is, I don't care. I just want my prayer for them to come true: "That you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ." (Ephesians 3:17-18)

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