The Parisian Desert: A Different Kind of Culture Shock

Study Abroad and mission trip to MoroccoMy host family. Muslims. College students. High school students. Classmates.

How would God use my life in Paris for four months? What would he make of my heart during this time? I had ideas of how I would selflessly serve those around me and how I would bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Paris.

Then a lot happened I didn’t expect and a lot didn’t happen I expected to.

My Veritas Abroad program in Paris became four months of trusting God to take care of his child and four months of trusting his plan is bigger than I could comprehend at the time.

These four months stretched me to be a woman of faith, a woman of truth, and a woman who lived out what she believes more than words could ever explain.

Before this trip, I had no idea what it meant to live out my faith, defend my faith, or even truly believe in it. My whole life has been spent in Christian communities encouraging me to believe without ever questioning. In Paris, I had expectations of leading people to Christ, but I had never imagined my faith would be shaken and questioned.

I experienced a whole new kind of culture shock: a spiritual one. 

After 21 years of countless believers mentoring me, it shocked me to know only one Christian: Parker Windle, my Veritas Mission Mentor. Every week in Paris, I had the blessing of sitting in community with him discussing our book Center Church by Timothy Keller, Christianity in Paris, and my role in it all.

While I felt my faith weaken from life in Paris, my theology grew sounder through meetings with Parker.

The first two months felt like my heart was in the desert—too weak to even pray for an oasis. In my mind, I thought Christianity could be dead in Paris, but in my heart, I desired to be proven wrong.

Then came two weeks that proved this wrong and restored my heart in the most beautiful way.

When I started my internship teaching English with a missionary family at a local church, I connected with other believers and gained a sense of purpose in Paris.

teaching english in Paris

Teaching English to people in the neighborhood not only benefited their language abilities, but also gave us the opportunity to walk alongside them, hear their stories, and show them what a community of believers looks like. Week one with the missionaries showed me even though the number of Christians in Paris is low, the few faithful have been called to rise up and lean on each other through it all.

Teach ESL in Europe

During spring break, I took a trip with Veritas and ISA to Morocco. This trip completed 180 turn I had been taking.

Morocco is a third-world, Muslim country whose population is nothing short of the most generous people I’ve ever met. My heart stretched with the knowledge of Islam and North African culture, broke for those who do not know the love of Jesus Christ, and filled with goodness and blessings from the natives.

Bible Study in Sahara Desert

 

Sitting in the Sahara desert gave me a glimpse of what my heart experienced the first two months in Paris. One verse came to mind again and again:

“A voice cries, ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.’” Isaiah 40:3

This verse never says following Jesus is easy, but rather the opposite. I have not been called to a place where Christianity flourishes and thrives, but to a place where it is dead and needed. This walk of faith is symbolized in the desert because it shows the realization of suffering, hard times, and desperation.

In the desert, I met a fellow ISA Paris student who loved Jesus in the most radical way. In the desert, we shared each other’s hopes, dreams, and understandings of our callings this semester. In the desert, I saw the sovereignty of God and the abundance of his love and grace.

I always felt I had to do some great thing if I ever wanted to do missions—that
I would need to be the next Billy Graham bringing thousands of people to Christ every
year.

After being in community with people in Paris and constantly talking to Parker about my role, I realized I will be quite the opposite of Rev. Graham, and that’s okay.

When asking Parker what is needed most in Paris, he simply responded “Christians.” Paris needs a body of believers to be a light in such a dark city.  Christians who take time to build relationships with Parisians and try to answer their questions.

Parisians are deep thinkers who want to understand life. Simply saying “Jesus loves you” and leaving is no way to reach European culture; however by living in community, we give them an opportunity to ask questions, to wrestle through the Bible, and to see how someone of faith lives.

study abroad in paris

My Veritas Mission Mentor would be considered unconventional in the US and may even be told his way of ministry is wrong. Parker walks in the way of Jesus more than most people I know. No place for him is too far gone from God’s grace. No person should feel like they are out of the reach of Jesus.

Parker doesn’t wait for people to come crawling to his church. Instead, he goes and meets them where they are.

Polyglot has turned from a language tool to a ministry opportunity for Parker and Veritas students. Meeting on Tuesday nights getting to know Parisians and foreigners in a bar is nothing short of God’s hand working in Paris.

Conversations can lead people to ask questions, learn more, come to church, and become a child of God in one of the most natural ways I have ever seen.

Mission trip to FranceWhat I learned through Parker and his ministry at Polyglot quickly taught me how to
share my faith and be faithful every day, every place I go to. It taught me how to use an opportunity of being at a bar, garden, or concert to talk about Jesus and show the love of Christ to the people around me.


Veritas Christian Study Abroad StudentsAllison Woodfin, a student at Wheaton College in Illinois,  studied and did mission work with Veritas Christian Study Abroad for a semester in Paris, France.

Missions doesn’t look the same everywhere. Veritas Abroad wants to help students develop as mission-minded leaders and loving members of the body of Christ, no matter how or where they’re called to serve.

Ready to step out of your comfort zone for the sake of the Kingdom even if it means a little culture shock? Apply to study and serve with Veritas today.

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