Missionary Diary: Making the most of strange times in France

After praying for other missionaries in France for years, Kate Morris and her husband, Daniel, moved to France seven years ago. They live in Lille in the north of France with their three kids. Kate works in various roles in the community and in church. 

I feel myself relax as I sit on the seat of my bike. My two-year-old, Ethan, is on the back and we’re heading to a lake to watch the ducks while the girls (10 year old  and six year old) are at school. The streets I’m riding aren’t the French cobblestone streets of postcards. I don’t pass iconic structures, the people I see aren’t à la mode and chic.

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Everyday, personal correspondence from missionaries working across the globe.

I pass the man from the local Gypsy community who begs in rags out the front of our driveway. I pass a lady hunched with age shuffling slowly with her shopping cart. I pass two men off to the gym and several workers walking to the local train station. I pass the man who has lost his legs and begs out the front of a shop. I pass a woman pushing her newborn in a pram. Each person has a different history, different hopes, different experiences of the pandemic that has shaken France to the core. Yet each has the exact same need for Christ. I can be certain that the gospel is for them, whether they know it or not. And I pray as I pass them.

There are very few Bible-believing Christians in France despite (well, in fact, in reaction to) France’s Christian heritage. It’s rare for a French person to be offered the message of hope in Christ.

Ethan and I arrive at the lake and we pause to take in the summer sights and sounds. The shush of tall grass in the breeze, the buzz of busy bugs, hills blushed with vibrant red poppies, fields blooming with wildflowers. I take Ethan off the bike and his giggles surprise sleeping ducks as he runs toward them. What peace this place offers! Yet the world’s captivating beauty has failed to fulfil humanity’s deepest needs. We were created with purpose, to be in relationship with the maker of all this. The French pursuit of pleasure and beauty is easily met in places like this beautiful lake yet it’s a poor substitute for the rich inheritance we have in Christ.

Today my husband, Daniel, is in the capital of distraction from God – he’s in Paris to run a training day. Daniel works with the Groupes Bibliques Universitaires (GBU) or University Bible Group, a French group bringing the gospel to university students across France, and training, discipling, and encouraging students to bring the gospel to those around them. Normally this means working locally but today Daniel is training GBU apprentices in the Relay program (like the Ministry Training Strategy in Australia). These students are so aware of the need in France that they have chosen to train for one or two years with the GBU for a lifetime of ministry. In the past, apprentices have gone on to work in paid or unpaid ministry across France either as their job or as a lay person.

This Sunday our church is meeting for a picnic after church, the first social event since the start of the pandemic.

Back on the bike, Ethan and I hurry to the school to collect the girls for lunch. Lunch is such an important meal for the French that schools give students two hours for it. Students can either stay to eat at the school restaurant or they return home, as our girls do each day. The girls chat about the morning as we return home and eat lunch together. I return them to school and Ethan takes his nap. I sit to prepare for Sunday School on the weekend.

Since we joined this church six years ago, Sunday School has grown from three children with me as the only teacher to now being over 12 children across two groups with an enthusiastic teaching team. During the first wave of Covid, church was online for six months. Since October last year it has been on and off. It’s had to split across two small congregations because of continued restrictions; our building is allowed to  hold no more than 25 people.

This Sunday our church is meeting for a picnic after church, the first social event since the start of the pandemic.

Kate Morris on a Zoom call from her home in France

Kate Morris on a Zoom call from her home in France

It’s pick-up time from school now (4:30pm). I chat to other mums as we wait for our children. I’m collecting my neighbour’s son today because she’s sick after her second Pfizer shot. I pray often for these neighbours. It’s never a coincidence that God places us Christians in someone’s life. Lord, keep working in their hearts, keep using me.

The children and I chat over dinner, we’re looking forward to daddy coming home later tonight after they’re asleep. They always miss him when he’s away but they’re sold on the mission here in France. They also want French people to know the salvation they have.

In the evening I have a Zoom meeting with the other Sunday School teachers. Some have only been teaching for a year or two and they share the difficulties and challenges. We all offer encouragement and suggestions before discussing the materials to use in the next academic year (from September). This is a great opportunity for us to reassess what Sunday School should be: why do we have it? What are our aims? What are children capable of at various ages? It’s so encouraging to hear the group agree on so much and work in love through the things we differ on, even when those things are quite significant. We pray for the kids and for each other as teachers and, with a click, the meeting has ended.

What strange times these are where meetings happen like this! Yet the gospel won’t be hindered, it will always be stronger than any hurdle.

Kate Morris and her husband, Daniel, moved to France seven years ago as missionaries. They live in Lille in the north of France with their three kids. Kate works in various roles in the community and in church. 

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