Last year I posted a blog about our new ministry partner in Paris. You can read that post here. Last month I went back for our bi-annual board meeting. (This trip also coincided with the launch of Europe X, which I will write about in my next post.) So many great things are happening with the @home church plant, but there is one story that I want to share. Outside of our board meetings, it’s not often that I have a chance to be directly involved in the advancement of the new church. This trip was different.
The Paris church plant, @home, is fighting the refugee crisis by meeting the needs of those coming from Sudan, Syria, and other countries. Part of our responsibilities as a board is to offer support, counsel, and encouragement to Samir Salibi, pastor of @home, and to the rest of the leadership team. Not only is Samir a great husband, dad, and pastor, but he is also a great friend.
At the conclusion of one of our board meetings, we had some downtime. One of the traditions that I, along with fellow board member and Senior Pastor of Fairfax Church, Rod Stafford, have is to walk to and climb up Sacré-Cœur. Along with a great view of the city, Rod and I always have great conversations about life, family, and ministry. We weren’t sure if it was because we stayed in a different part of the city, but for whatever reason we arrived at Sacré-Coeur in a different location than what we were used to. We thought it was odd at first and then maybe a dead end, but none-the-less it got us to where we wanted to go. We did our usual “thing” at the top. Took in the view, snapped some photos/selfies, walked around the corner to a pub, and sat and talked for a while.
It was the trip back that got a little weird for us, but in a good way. We decided to go back the way we came, to keep things different I guess. As we began our descent, I asked Rod about a ministry in Freiburg, Germany where he knew someone. (Side note: one of my daughters is interested in attending the University in Freiburg, and Rod knows a lady who works for a campus ministry there.) Rod began to tell me about her ministry, calling, and the work she was doing there.
Let me pause here and set the context. Rod and I were walking on a side path down from Sacré-Coeur, that very few people take. We are in Paris where we never hear English spoken. It was at this exact spot, when we were talking about “calling” and “ministry,” that our paths crossed with Amy. Seconds after Rod said those words, we heard Amy echo them in the form of a question, “calling and ministry?” She was just as shocked as we were!?!?! First, those are two words you don’t often hear in public, and secondly, in Paris you don’t hear anything spoken in English. As we stopped and talked with Amy and learned about her story and what brought her to Paris, the story grew more and more incredible.
Earlier that day in our board meeting, Samir was going through a report about what was going well and what was not going well with the overall ministry. He would give an arrow pointing up if something was going well or down if it wasn’t. The only ministry that received a downward arrow was the sports ministry. The person overseeing the ministry was moving on to something else, and there was no one to step up to lead. However, they had found that this was an excellent opportunity to connect with refugees, provide an outlet for them, and help them to integrate into the culture as they begin their new lives.
Back to Amy. Originally from Portland, Oregon, she moved to Paris to finish her master’s degree. Now completed, she was in the process of asking God what was next for her. She felt led to stay in Paris and work with refugees, but she didn’t have a direct connection to a refugee ministry. She went on to tell us that she had written her graduate thesis on, get this, “how to use sports to integrate refugees into a culture.” WHAT!?!?!?!?!?! Rod and I both looked at each other, awestruck. What are the chances of us crossing paths with Amy at that exact moment and on a sidewalk that we had never taken before? AND, she was studying the exact ministry that the @home church needed.
We eagerly took down her contact information and let her know that Samir would want to follow up with her. Later on, Samir told us even more of the story. Amy has a mentor named Betty, who is also from the United States. Betty had heard there was an Arabic speaking person who was doing work with refugees. She had been trying to get Amy connected to this person, however, Betty kept coming up against barriers preventing that from happening. As Amy was telling Betty about our encounter, Samir, and the @home ministry, she began to cry. It was Samir who Betty had been trying to get Amy to meet.
Amy has since joined the team and I cannot wait to hear how she and the sports ministry are doing when we return in the fall. This fall, we will be leading a small team to Paris to work with @home ministries as well as to facilitate a workshop on “Leading Ministry While Leading Yourself.” God is doing some amazing things through @home. Please keep them, Samir, and their work in your prayers!
(Pastor Nate is the Mission Advancement Pastor at County Line Church. His primary responsibilities are overseeing missions and church multiplication. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)