Hello family, friends, and brothers and sisters in Christ,
I write to you with a heavy heart as France has once again been hit with a terror attack, this time in the beautiful southern city of Nice, the largest city on the French Riviera, on its most well-known and sophisticated boulevard, the Promenade des Anglais. I am currently doing ministry in Saint-Raphael, a small city about an hour’s drive from Nice. I was just in Nice about three weeks ago, as I had had a day off and decided to visit the city, as it is one of my favorites on the French Riviera. I enjoyed my day very much and the people were very kind to me. It is hard to imagine all the carnage that occurred there last night. Here in Saint-Raphael, we have been having problems with the mistral, a strong wind that sometimes comes into Provence, so the fireworks were cancelled last night. I had really considered going to Nice to see the fireworks there, and I almost went, but in the end I didn’t. I give credit to the Holy Spirit for holding me back.
Today, the French people are in a state of shock. They are sad and angry at the same time. There were so many different emotions on the faces of the people I saw today: sadness, disappointment, anger, confusion, determination, bewilderment, and patriotism. President Hollande has ordered three days of mourning in France. Today I saw France’s flag at half staff for the first time in person. All other times I had seen it, it had been on TV or the Internet. It really affected me, as this is the first time I have been in France during a tragedy. I am mourning with the French people.
Yesterday, a day to celebrate blue, white, and red, started off so well and yet ended up so badly. The day always starts out with the military parade in Paris. At home, I usually have to set my alarm for 3:50AM to get up to watch the parade live. Here, it was nice to be able to watch the parade with Gaston and Mauricette, as Gaston so proudly served France for so many years. Normally on Bastille Day, the French like to see a French rider wearing the yellow jersey in the Tour de France. Well, that didn’t happen yesterday, but I did get a good laugh, as it was the first time I had ever seen a rider running without a bike. Chris Froome, a British rider, wore the yellow jersey and his bike was broken in an accident. So instead of waiting for a new bike to arrive, he started running up the hill to make up time before a car arrived with his new bike. A gendarme finally saw him and stopped him, making him wait for his bike to move on. (Technically, in the Tour de France, you cannot move forward except if on your bike.) The announcer made the biggest deal out of it, repeating over and over, “The yellow jersey is on foot. We have never seen this here at the Tour de France.” It was hilarious. I was laughing so hard, not knowing that I would be getting to bed late that night to make sure my family was reassured that I was safe and well, and not the victim of a terrorist attack only a few miles away. I had a difficult time sleeping last night, thinking about all the people who died without Jesus. How many of those 84 victims had trusted Jesus Christ for eternity before a terrorist in a truck ran them down? How many of the 50 or so people between life and death now know Jesus? I remember telling Jeff after the November 13 attack in Paris that I wish I could have been there when it happened so that I could help all the people in need. Well, here I am, right beside Nice, and there is an open mission field in front of me. Please pray that God will give me wisdom as I talk to people in these next couple of weeks. I feel like God is asking me to do something besides relationship evangelism and counseling in light of this tragedy. Please pray that God will make it clear to me what I am supposed to do. Please pray Romans 8:28, that God will take this terrible tragedy and turn it into a medium for souls to be won for Christ.
Before leaving for this trip, Jeff asked me if I was excited about coming. I was excited but I was a little apprehensive. Before leaving, there was something about this trip that I couldn’t put my finger on. I felt like God was telling me in advance that there was going to be a terrorist attack. I had never had that occur before, and I had come over to France many times, including two times right after 9/11 and I had never had that kind of message from the Lord. I didn’t have it when I came here last year, either. I had always just been secure in His protection. I discussed this with Jeff and we decided that I was going to come here anyway, as we both knew it was the Lord’s will for me to be here. We both talked about how I cannot change the day that I die, as Psalm 139:16 says, “The days allotted to me were recorded in Your book before one of them came to pass.” I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen, or even if I was going to be involved, but I knew that I could trust Jesus with whatever it was that was in front of me. This is my story of the past 24 hours.
There have been a good amount of other things that have happened this week, but I don’t want to make this email too long or overwhelming. I will email again. God is doing some great things and I am always in awe of Him.