In the summer of 2011, my family and I were preparing to move to Paris to begin the second phase of language school. We were eager to explore the area and get plugged into a ministry.
That’s when Bill Boggess, our ministry area leader, called to inform us about a possible church planting opportunity in Versailles. We were ecstatic because the location was only 12 miles from our new language school.
My wife and I took a train the following weekend bound for Paris. While looking for housing, we had lunch with Patrice Kaulanjan, the former pastor of a church near Versailles and current president of one of the evangelical organizations in France, the Alliance des Eglises Evangéliques Interdépendantes (AEEI). The AEEI is an association founded by TEAM missionaries many years ago. Pastor Kaulanjan informed us that there was a church in one of the neighboring towns that had lost their pastor and was considering closing its doors. Pastor Kaulanjan wanted to take the small group that was still meeting and invite them to be a part of a church plant in Versailles, a strategic area representing 144,000 people. After the group agreed, the work began. Pastor Kaulanjan began looking for a building in Versailles. Meanwhile, my family and I prepared for an adventure.
We moved to one of the neighboring towns in Versailles and began meeting with the families that would soon become a part of the new church plant. Each family was eager to teach me more about French culture, and fortunately, they were very patient with my strong American accent. This period of transition was an opportunity to build strong bonds with the families involved in the church plant while learning a great deal about those whom we would be serving beside.
February 8, 2012 was an unforgettable day – we had our first service in Versailles after seven long months of praying and planning! The Lord had provided a building in the heart of Versailles, just next door to the infamous Louis XIV castle. Pastor Kaulanjan, who is normally rather stoic, had a permanent grin on his face. The Lord had planted a church in an area hardened to the Gospel, and everyone at church that morning knew that it was the Lord who should receive all of the glory.
Fast-forward to February 2013, and our little church is thriving in a country that is less than one percent Evangelical. We meet weekly in homes for prayer and Bible study. The men meet once a week for fellowship and encouragement. There are many opportunities to canvass the streets of Versailles with the Gospel. It is not uncommon to find a college student visiting for the first time after finding our website online, or for a young family new to the area to show up at our door, looking for solid Bible teaching. The Lord is building His church in France, and for that we rejoice!
-Written by Ryan Powell, TEAM missionary in France
-Photos by Ryan Powell