In June 2016, the ladies went to share Jesus in Europe for 30 days. They went to Paris (France), London (UK), Amsterdam (Holland) and Munich (Germany). Here’s the first installment of what transpired in Paris:
A Dream Come True
It was such a wonderful trip to France, from riding horses on a Sunday afternoon, to buying delicious fruits, vegetables and pastries at the grocery store, to staying with Edmee’s family, and being catered to for every breakfast and dinner by Edmee’s sister, Gabrielle. We felt ‘magnifique’! It was a dream come true to be in France. One thing Bevelyn said that Jessica thought interesting was, “Seeing and getting the grasp of a country is not touring around, but actually getting to know the people of the country, their culture, and food.” Jessica agreed that this is how you truly see a country’s culture: both the good and not so good. We obviously weren’t there just to see the culture of France, but to serve God. We wanted to head out to the unglamorous, forgotten parts of that country, and serve those in need. There were several parts of our mission work in France that impacted our lives. One part that got us particularly excited was going to Gypsy camps and teaching the children about Jesus.
As a result, we didn’t try to enter the site, and passed by instead. We encountered an older woman under a bridge begging for money and food. We found out that she was Romanian: A gypsy. The proper name for what people call Gypsies is Roma—and some see the term Gypsy, and its negative connotations as pejorative. We prayed for the woman we met and gave her some money. A young man saw what we were doing, and asked if he could translate since he was also Roma. He was a well-kept man on his way to work. We asked the woman various things, such as if she was a Believer, and he translated. As he chatted with us, interested in what we were doing, we found out that he worked for a nonprofit. He told us that he was helping Gypsies like the woman we were ministering to, and trying to push forward getting legal addresses for the Gypsy camps to help their residents live in certain areas legally. He also told us that he grew up with a family other than his own. As he spoke, the puzzle pieces of his life slowly came together for us: As an adopted young man who was culturally Roma, he found success in helping other Roma with a less stable foundation. We could see he had a great heart for helping his fellow Roma people. We trusted that by helping the older woman, we were able to impact this man’s heart towards Jesus Christ.
After we spoke to the woman, the young man speaking with us pointed to the entrance of the Gypsy camp. Edmee shocked to find out that the place she thought was a construction site was actually a gypsy camp. Jessica had been right! We quickly, and excitedly, walked to the camp. We found many children there, and they were all so precious. It didn’t take a long time for them to warm up to us. Both the parents and children enjoyed our company and were happy to host us. It wasn’t often that they had visitors come to the camp. Edmee thought of getting candies for the children right away. What transpired next confirmed that this was a God-given idea.
One of the children followed us to the grocery store. She was excited at the idea of coming along, and we were looking forward to see her take part in what the Lord had in store. On our way to the grocery store, we met two firefighters who were fundraising for a local initiative. While contributing we engaged in a conversation with them. One of them was intrigued as to why three women from America were walking around in that that specific neighborhood. We shared our mission with him and explained the reality of a living God. He told us that he did not necessarily believed there is a God, but had to admit that he was intrigued by our undertaking. His young daughter had recently inquired about God in a profound way. What he had just heard from us reminded him of his daughter’s inquiry. We encouraged him to ponder his daughter’s question some more and blessed him.
When we arrived at the store, we commissioned our new-found volunteer to pick candies, cookies, chocolates, and more. We had about 50 people in mind, so we wanted to make sure we had sufficient supplies. We noticed that our little partner kept asking for money, despite the fact that the treats were for the whole group. We told her to take it easy, and that she could pick something for herself. Once we passed the cash register, she asked for money again. She could not have been more than eight or nine years old. We realized that it was ingrained in her to beg for money. This inclination to beg is a stereotype often associated with Gypsies, and sadly we encountered many Roma inside the camp with this mindset. This opened opportunities for us to teach them to trust the Lord as their provider.
We came back with a great deal of candy. The children were delighted to get gifts—maybe a little too delighted. They weren’t letting us share the treats we’d bought for them individually, one by one. Even the parents were impatient, trying to haul away the bulk of candy to give to the kids themselves. We decided to get a little stern with the children and asked them to queue into one line. Jessica was looking after the line as Edmee and Bevelyn were passing out the treats. There was one cute, rambunctious boy in the line and we had to keep him in the line because he kept running back and forth. Later on, when Jessica picked him up, the little boy would squeeze and pull her this way and that. At first, Jessica thought it was fun, but she soon noticed that his strength was more than what a child his size should be. This became a concern, and she knew that strength was coming from something beyond himself: a demon. Bevelyn thankfully caught on quickly and rebuked and bound up the demon inside him. After this, the boy calmed down.
After we gave all the candy to the kids, Jessica wanted to tell them a story. She knew this was, as she’d later say, “Soooo God!”—because she had no idea what the story was going to be about. So she started the story out hesitantly, stating, “Once upon a time, there was a boy and a girl who lived a village. They played every day, and had so much fun playing.” In that moment it dawned on her what God wanted her to talk about. She then began to revel in her story, and elaborate: “One day the boy’ and girl’s parents were making a feast for them. They couldn’t wait! They couldn’t wait so much that they started bothering their parents, and asking them every other second when the feast will be ready? But the parents said to them, “patience children, patience.” She continued, “Every single time they impatiently asked, the parents would patiently remark to be patient.” Marie, a twelve-year-old, was our translator, and the children understood Jessica’s story. Jessica even started saying “patientez, patientez,” French for have patience. Jessica had a blast telling that story, as she wanted to illustrate delayed gratification—and what patience looks like.
A Boy & A Girl
We then sang kids’ praise songs, twirled the girls and boys, and played with them throughout the day. We taught them who Jesus is, and prayed the salvation prayer with them. Every boy and girl repeated the words of the salvation prayer. Marie, our translator, was a very smart girl who knew some English, a good deal of French, and, of course, the Roma language. The last thing we did before leaving the camp was to yell out Jesus’s name, videotaping our doing so. Sadly, we had to go, but our goodbyes and hugs lasted at least fifteen minutes.
Upon leaving the camp we spotted a girl running after a young boy screaming and crying and reaching her hand out as if pleading with the boy to give her back something. We then realized that the boy had stolen something we had given to the young girl. Bevelyn immediately stepped in and told the boy to come to her. She directed the boy to give the young girl back what he had stolen, and rebuked him from stealing. Bevelyn explained to the boy that stealing is not OK, and encouraged the boy to trust in God for what he wanted, instilling in the boy “You are better than that.” She then blessed the boy with five euros, and told him to look to God for all that he needed and wanted.
We then walked toward the train, thinking we had completed our Holy duties for the day, only to see that the Lord had a little bit more work for us, so we came back to the camp to bless a few more people. We particularly wanted to bless Marie’s family, as we saw so much potential in her. We felt she was meant to lead the whole Gypsy camp in the things of God, and to be an ambassador for Him. So we blessed her mother financially, and shared with her what we saw in her daughter. Once we officially left the camp, while walking out, the boy Bevelyn had previously rebuked ran up into her arms and hugged her with so much emotion. It was beyond a mere thank you, and it was a touching thing to witness. We then carried on…
As we left the camp and got to the front of Saint-Denis Train Station, we encountered a crippled man who was begging. We felt the need to challenge him to stand up—just as Jesus had done in the Bible—but he refused, and started crawling away from us, begging people around him for cigarettes. A man who was standing close by told us not to bother. Edmee, who is usually not offended and often very patient, looked at him and said sternly “Who do you think you are?” She did not welcome his discouraging our intervention at all.
We soon learned that this man had a history with, and deeply rooted anger towards, the church. As we engaged in conversation with him, he expressed how he met a woman he eventually fell in love with at a church in London, due to working there, and how he had dedicated himself to the church and had changed a great deal about himself. Ultimately, the woman was not who he thought she was, and the situation ended in heartbreak for him—and his turning against he and the church. Listening to his story helped us understand why he was angry with the church, and helped us to understand his aggressive discouragement of our intervention. We then encouraged him, and prayed for him, asking the Lord to build him back up into the man He made him to be. He then left us to get on his tram train, and bid us farewell.
A young man named Cedric walked up to us and asked us to pray for him. He had seen us ministering, and knew we were Christians. He shared how Jesus transformed his life, and asked if we could specifically pray for him to remain strong as he was recently engaged and did not want to compromise sexually. He explained that when he submitted his life to Christ he gave up all of his sinful ways, including fornication. He also detailed that before Christ he was a very sexual man, dealing with porn and multiple women. He asked God for a wife, and he knew he would have to get himself together through Christ before he could receive his blessing.
He then went on to tell us that his sexual desires had been submitted for a while now, but because he was engaged and so close to being married, he felt those desires flaring up again, and he feared he could not control them. Edmee then reminded him that this was the enemy tempting his mind, because he knew the amazing potential he had in the Lord. We encouraged him to not let the enemy conquer, and to remain strong in the Lord. We were so blessed by seeing how much of an honorable man he was. We blessed him in return, as well as his future marriage, and amazing ministry. What a privilege it was to see this young man carrying Jesus the way he did!
La Queue S’Il Vous Plait
We decided to do a neighborhood feeding in Saint-Denis because it was such a rough area. We started planning on making 300 meals, composed of a sandwich, apple, potato chips and water. It was a dream come true for Edmee to see her mother, sisters, nieces and cousins in the kitchen preparing the meals with us. It was also a delight to see Edmee’s 12-year-old niece, Jade, volunteering to purchase 300 bottles of water with her own money. Once the food was bagged and organized, we packed the food, Edmee’s family, and ourselves in the car, and drove down to Saint-Denis to set up shop. We decided to have a table with a poster on it that stated “Free food in the name of Jesus.” Orlane, Jade’s sister, volunteered to make the sign and to hold the sign to alert passersby of the free meals, while we fed the people. Bevelyn started singing, and we joined her in doing so, as we started getting things ready. Another cool thing for Edmee, was to see that her father had stopped by to see us minister. He had never gone to the church with the family prior to her parents’ divorce, and she believed that his coming by was one step closer for him to get saved.
Before we could even finish setting up, people crowded around us. Some even started to grab bags without asking, and walk away. For a second Bevelyn had to calm down and contain herself from getting in the flesh. She was so used to the American way of thinking that she felt like this was the ultimate disrespect. From her perspective: People just didn’t do things like that in America, no matter what hood you go to from West to East coast. We were all in agreement on this point, that this type of unruly behavior was not the norm back in the States. However, we shouldered part of the blame for the free for all that was starting to bubble up in Saint-Denis: This scale of food distribution was a first-time activity for us, so we were not that organized. On top of that, with the exception of a few, the majority of people we were serving lacked the patience to even try to understanding what was going on, and how to be orderly about getting the food.
Bevelyn has such a “gangster” way of thinking at times that she almost turned into one on the spot, but Jesus gave her strength. In the midst of giving out food and screaming, “La queue s’il vous plait!,” which means “Please get in line!” every two minutes, otherwise, it was very fun interacting with the people and learning the cultural differences in France.
We can’t say whether or not they found Jesus through the ministry underpinning the distribution of lunches: It seemed as if all they wanted was the food. Nonetheless Bevelyn was blessed in the experience, as it helped her to tame her inner “gangster.” While all of this was going on, Edmee’s mother went into preacher mode. We had Bibles and children’s books on the table, and by the end they were all gone, as were all 300 meals. We had fed people in the past, but that particular mission in Saint-Denis was special.
We visited the gypsy camp a second time. Marie, the twelve-year-old girl, and her family had invited us to their home. It was very small, and, surprisingly, there were two families that lived there. It looked as if it was a homemade shack. There was no privacy. It was just one small room, roughly the size of a small American bathroom. The smell of the mildew and bacteria living in the openings of the walls permeated the home, and the floor was made of dirt. We asked the family how they washed their clothes? They showed us the bucket they would use, and also where they hung their clothes to dry. The conditions were so far below the legal standard of living, even in France. As we spoke with Marie’s parents, we fell in love with them. She and her parents were all Believers.
We prayed against the asthma symptoms the father was dealing with, and also prayed that he would know the Father’s love. The Father’s love was so present in his life, yet he did not know. We also prayed for Marie’s mother. Her mother was so delighted to have visitors, she was smiling from ear to ear. Most importantly, we prayed over Marie’s life, and that it would be blessed. We felt from God that Marie was a leader, and that she would help to guide the kids in the camp. We believed that she was a pillar in God’s kingdom for these kids. Jessica told her that God is guiding her the right way to go for her community. People might come against her saying go this way or that, but God would protect her as a righteous woman of God not to waver in the decisions that God would put in her heart. We prayed that she would grow into a beautiful and strong woman of God.
Hebrews 13:2 reads “Let brotherly love continue. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.”
While visiting with Marie’s family in their homes, which to the naked eye looked more like a shack, there was a great temptation to judge these people by their living conditions. While they did not seem to have much and were part of a beggar-centric culture, we were blessed by the warmth with which they hosted us. The verse mentioned above admonishes us to be hospitable to strangers. Could it be that it also admonishes us to let strangers be hospitable to us? For by so doing, we may end up being hosted by angels?