Speiser Newsletter January 2011
Praise & Prayer update from France
Hello and greetings from France! We just got through the coldest december in europe since records began at the beginning of the 20th century. We don't often get much snow in the Paris area but this winter several times we received 10-15 cms at a time. Roads were blocked, public transportation was halted, people were stranded at the airport, and there were calls for the French minister of the interior to resign (he didn't).
Unfortunately, all the weather also caused us to cancel the Ecouen church Christmas celebration, since nobody could get there. We only had a few kms to travel, but were stuck in our driveway. We tried to hold the celebration the week after, but the snow melted during the week and then came again on the weekend so that didn't work either. In the end, we had to be content with a Welcome the New Year service.
However, this first service of the new year ended up being a very encouraging one.
One of the people that has been attending Ecouen Church off and on is "Momo", short for Mohammed. Mohammed is now the most popular name given to boys in France, which is an indication of the inroads that Islam has made here.
I first met Momo when we did the summer campaigns in France from 1995-2000. To close off the summer we had a big party in a large garden with a bbq, music, skits, and a light gospel message, and at one of these events a very muscular and large north african man with an intimidating expression made his way through the crowd heading towards me.
I remember thinking "Boy I hope we didn't make this guy angry" as he came right up to me and started talking. To my surprise, he was telling me how much he enjoyed these parties and how we should do them more often. "It's the highlight of my summer!" he ended up by saying, which really took me by surprise.
Our contact continued, and Momo became a regular with the Hope95 campaigns. We met his two daughers, one of which was on the national French Judo team. Once he told the story of how one of the Judo trainers made what he thought was an advance on his daughter and Momo laid him flat with one blow, which wasn't at all difficult to imagine. He also confessed he had always struggled with his temper and this had gotten him into a lot of trouble in the past. This was a guy you wanted to be your friend, not your enemy.
Once you got to know him though, Momo was a very engaging character, and the team members loved talking to him. I overheard a conversation with him one time when someone said "Momo, you've been coming to these for years, are you a believer?" "No, no, not really", he replied. "Well, are you Muslim?". Pause. "Not any more", he said, "I guess you could say I'm in transition!". With a big smile.
When we started the church in Ecouen, Momo came every once in a while at the beginning. He has been having some health problems, especially with his heart, and is now on permanent disability, at which point he started to become more regular. At the beginning he would confess "I find this all very interesting, but I don't always understand everything".
We started a sunday service that was study and discussion oriented and at first Momo remained silent, but then when he started understanding things he started jumping in with comments and questions.
Which brings me to our first sunday service of 2011.
We were talking about starting the next study series when Joseph (the French lead pastor) said that Momo had talked to him this week and asked him about baptism. Joseph had replied that baptism is reserved for believers who have confessed Jesus as Lord and Saviour but that they could talk about it. Momo had said "Well, I think I can do that now."
So this last sunday Joseph announced that Momo wished to confess and accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour in a public way and that sometime in 2011 his wish was to be baptized.
Joseph then led in a prayer of salvation that we all prayed together, with Momo praying out loud, and there in the midst of our small church we accepted another brother in the Lord.
A wonderful blessing that God gave us for 2011! Needless to say we were very encouraged, and are looking forward to our first baptism in this church.
A church that still doesn't have a building.
And it looks like Momo has arrived in his "transition".
Thanks for praying for him and his family as he takes this step.
In other news, in about a week, Marjorie and I will be attending a conference for workers and groups in North Africa. Security is fairly tight and it is by invitation only. We will be attending as part of our role with Channel North Africa, seeking to establish partnerships and working arrangements with other interested groups, and to encourage and be encouraged by what God is doing. It is a difficult conference to get to, and every year it seems harder for people from difficult regions to get the visas necessary, but there is good work done there, and good relationships formed that encourage and foster the cooperation and partnership that is so needed.
This year has seen a huge increase in the persecution of Christians in North Africa and the Middle East, and I'm sure there will be even more problems with security and visas this year, and that many will have difficult stories to tell.
Thanks for your prayers and for you support that makes this work possible!
In His Service,
Russ & Marjorie