Do Tourists Experience the Real Paris?

Veritas Abroad is pleased to have Parker Windle, Mission Mentor for Veritas in Paris, guest post on the blog today.

Notre Dame. The Louvre. The Eiffel Tower.

Paris.France.2012.View from Below.Kyleigh Rose

What do you think about when you think about Paris?

The beautiful French capital is the number one tourist destination in the world, and those who visit do not leave disappointed. Whether they are promenading through the massive gardens of Versailles or enjoying some jazz music in the Latin Quarter, Paris never fails to leave its mark on those who stop over for a few days.

But do those tourists experience the real Paris?

Mosques. The red-light districts. Sikh temples. What do you find in Paris when you take off the pretty masks?

Christian study abroad in Paris France

The city of lights is now home to one of the most diverse populations in the world. Every tribe and tongue have assembled around this relatively small patch of land cut in half by its river Seine. These populations have not all taken to the baguettes and berets we typically attribute to Paris. They bring their cultures, their customs, and their worldviews.

The 93rd department of the greater Paris region is home to people from every country in the world except four (or, at least, so said my then pastor). The building I lived in had one native French family; the rest included families from India, Algeria, Bangladesh, Spain, China, and myself (a proud Alabamian). On any given Sunday, our church could host people from forty different nationalities, and our after-church lunches could include anything from Louisiana jambalaya to Nigerian fried plantains.

There are many elements to the mosaic that is modern Paris. Underneath this kaleidoscope of culture is a profound history of ideas and art that has been moving and shaking this world for a long time. Given the prominence of Paris in this world and the remnants of the nations that have assembled here, Paris is a strategic front for the church in her battle to see the gospel known amongst all peoples and the glory of God shining in the uttermost parts of the earth.

Yet, with a culture so complex, how do missions in Paris work?

How do you contextualize the gospel to a culture that is made up of thousands of cultures? How do you do church when everyone comes from such diverse backgrounds? How do you reach a neighborhood that is constantly changing? Is cross-cultural ministry even possible?

Mission work in Paris

Answers to questions like these do not come easily, and those answers we do get are usually not final. Mission work in Paris and other urban centers like it require constant learning, constant questioning, and constant changing. Urban church work is not for those who like monotony. There are no constants in this ministry.

Well, there is one constant. The power of ministry will always be the same.

The gospel is still the power of God for salvation, and that gospel can reach the citizens of Paris just like anywhere else. The death and resurrection of Christ has life-changing power for fundamentalist Muslims, secular humanists, traditional Sikhs, and the darkest nihilists you can find. Jesus died for them all, and while the application of the medicine may vary, the cure remains the same. As Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

So, let’s size up the situation. We have a Savior who told us the end wouldn’t come until the gospel had been preached to all nations (Matthew 24:14). We have a command from that same Savior to be his ambassadors in taking this good news to the world. We have God, the director of all human events, who is urbanizing the world and bringing the nations to accessible urban centers like Paris.

What does that mean? That means we have an enormous opportunity.


Could the famed City of Lights become a city on a hill? If so, it would be a torch the whole world could see—a heart that would pump the glory of God into the uttermost parts of the earth. I have personally seen how light sparked in Paris ignited flames in much more difficult to reach places. God is using the work done in Paris to reach the uttermost parts of the earth, and this is an exciting thing to be part of. Something you can be a part of too.

Hemingway once called Paris “a moveable feast” because of the way it stays with you for the rest of your life. Perhaps God is calling you to come and be a part of this banquet and see the glory of God advance in the City of Lights for yourself. A city on a hill can not be hidden, and neither can the light of the gospel.

Parker Windle is the Youth & Young Adults Pastor at Emmanuel International Church in Paris, France and also serves as the Mission Mentor for Veritas in Paris. He graduated from the University of Mobile with a degree in Religion, followed by a Masters of Divinity degree from Beeson Divinity School at Samford University. Upon graduating in 2008, he served as a Journeyman missionary in Paris for three years working with immigrant groups. Parker has a heart to see youth mature in their faith and a passion to see Paris know Jesus.

Do you share a heart to see Paris know Jesus? Engage in a culture with the support of Parker and other believers in France while you earn credit toward your degree. Find out how.

images via ISA

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