Catherine and Colin Puffett are Church Missionary Society workers who are church planting and discipling in Nantes, a city on the Loire River in the lower Brittany region of western France. They long to see this church community provide a visible and tangible witness to the surrounding population, which is practically unreached with the gospel.
Do you garden? I love seeing things growing – be they the ultra-hot chilli plants my son is obsessed with, the radishes that grow up to be harvested in just 18 days, or the plentiful tomatoes that we had over summer. Here in France, my family participates in a community garden. It has its challenges, and its joys! I’m hosting a Thanksgiving meal soon and I will be serving our radishes fresh from the garden, with a roast pumpkin that also grew up from the seeds we planted. The garden is a good excuse for thanksgiving, and Thanksgiving is a good excuse to invite friends over to share what we are each thankful for.
To be clear, Thanksgiving is in no way French – it is a quirky idea to host a Thanksgiving meal! But how could we not take this chance to open our home and pause to be thankful to God, who has provided us with so much. At our invitation, people are excited to enter into a tradition that is foreign but draws us to the attitude of thankfulness. I’m thankful for my garden, but so much more thankful for the God who can make things grow.
Gardening brings me a biblical perspective on our work of church planting too – it isn’t something that we have complete control over. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:6 that one can plant a seed, and one water it, but only God can make it grow. While I see this in practice in the garden, I see it all the more in this beautifully challenging job of church planting. A few years ago, I got to water and see the fruit of spiritual seeds that were planted over a decade earlier. In our church plant, we had a baptism this past May – our very first! In his testimony, Q spoke of the many different people who had sown the seeds of truth in him. Through reading the Bible with us at church and living in a community touched by the Spirit, they were watered, and God brought him growth, salvation and adoption into the church.
So, as I prepare my meal this weekend, I’m thankful. I am thankful for the pumpkin, for the radishes, for Q and his salvation. I am thankful for you and the many people who join us in this work in prayer and financially supporting us to be here to plant seeds and to water. I’m thankful to the God of the harvest. And I’m prayerful too for you, who might be thinking it is time to join in this joy of the harvest – in planting and watering, in prayer and care and giving, or even more radically, going to a place where the workers are few and the harvest is plentiful.
Europe has been a rich and fertile land in many ways – but spiritually, it has gone through a period of drought. The secular worldview is prevalent in France and more broadly. CMS has been sending people to France for 30 years, in student ministry with the Groupes Bibliques Universitaires (GBU), and in the past few years, for church planting.
We were at our French denomination’s bi-annual conference a few weeks ago. We heard many stories of the challenges and joy of ministry here. Over the past 40 years, the French Protestant church has been growing in maturity and number. But we still remain too few for our witness to be effective – the goal is to triple the number of evangelical churches. Would you take a moment to pray with me in thanks for this growth here? Would you take a moment to pray also that God would bring radical growth and revival to this dry land? Maybe this year you will be willing to open your home as well for a day of thanksgiving – a day to plant some new seeds in your friends and family, a day to recognise that God is working all over the world to bring growth.
Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of November, so this year, it falls on Thursday 23 November 2023. For more ideas on how to celebrate Thanksgiving, check out the Eternity articles below.