A brief summary of Bethel Church’s impact on us as missionaries to France:
– 4 yrs ago, we traveled to Germany to see Bill Johnson, the pastor of Bethel, in person, where I received a personal breakthrough that I still carry today.
– 3 yrs ago, our marriage was reignited by Bethel’s marriage ministry.
– 2 yrs ago, we visited the Bethel campus and found out everything we heard about the church’s revival culture was true.
– This year, 5 of our church leaders who can read English are going through their on-line leadership development program and are becoming the most faith-filled folks in the church. David and I plan to do it next year.
– And last month, (in the magical month of April,) Bill finally stepped foot in France.
The timing couldn’t have been better. It was a tough month for the following reasons, (but thank God I live with two joy-filled teenage girls whose presence has kept my head above water!):
- I was battling depression most of the month, feeling like a failure in almost every area that I had given my energies to during the school year. I know now that this is a lie.
- Daring to express my opinion at school brought relational conflict for the first time. Ow.
- Deeper involvement with the church leadership has revealed issues that I have been ignorant about until now. Yuck.
- David is currently down with a 3rd round of a vicious flu in the span of 5 weeks. (For those of you waiting for his prayer bulletin, here it is: Please pray for a stronger immune system for David and grace to finish well the last 8 weeks of school for Angela!!)
I thought the trip to see Bill would be the perfect escape, (and fortunately it fell during one of David’s healthy weeks!) But David did NOT want to do the 8-10 hour drive in our aging car especially without A/C or cruise control, and going by train or plane was impossible because it was taking place in the middle of nowhere! Even worse, internet reviews of the local hotels were atrocious, and looking on Google street view, I didn’t see a single restaurant within walking distance. In this kind of setting in Europe, I thought the organizers would be lucky to get a couple hundred in attendance! But as rough as it sounded, we wanted to be there to witness the event.
So the group going from church decided to carpool and book fully-furnished cabins at a campground in the area. Oh boy. In my mental state, I really needed to spend that drive time unloading on my sozo teammates and then falling into a freshly made bed with some local wine and cheese. Instead, I made the best of being in a car with 10 hrs of small talk with 3 other women acquaintances. David jumped in a separate car with friends when the pastor had to cancel due to a shoulder injury. We shared our cramped cabin with one of the ladies, and on arrival we realized that the campground ended up being 35 min. away from the convention center on picturesque, but winding, carsick-inducing roads, which meant that in a 72 hr. trip, we ended up being in the car for 24 of them!! (However the title is misleading – the weather down south was gorgeous.)
But all of this was worth it when we pulled up to the vast, gravel parking lot… it was filled to overflowing! Attendance was 1,300 – an amazing number in a country where Bethel podcasts, music, and books have only gotten translated into French in the last couple of years! The early arrivers had signed us in and saved us seats up close, and French women I had sozoed from all over France came up for hugs! I’ve never felt so at home in a new place.
The first word the French would use to describe Bill is "humble," and that impresses them because they have been so disillusioned with self-promoting superstar ministers who come expecting to be honored and served. In 5 short sessions, Bill shared about the power of the testimony to reproduce miracles, transforming cities by serving local leaders without a agenda (like Daniel did in Babylon) in order to bless believers and non-believers alike, hosting the presence of God (we bought the book), and how to sustain long-term revival that will usher in Jesus’ return. His church is living out all of this in California, and it looked like this sector of the French church is ready to start being a solution to France’s growing crises, rather than "throwing stones of judgment and criticism over the walls of the city from a distance," as Bill put it.