The time that I lived in the South of France was a dream—wandering through vineyards in the sun, sucking on seaside oysters. My daily commute was on white cobblestone streets and my weekends were spent at the market. The biggest struggle was that there weren’t very many Anglophones in town. With the help of Google, I found a little house church led by a Welsh couple. The church met in a restaurant tucked away in an alley. We sang hymns off of cassette tapes and shared snacks at the end of each service, which made me feel like I was in children’s Sunday School all over again (in a good way).
It was a traveler’s church, mostly made up of people who were passing through, which meant scattered attendance and quiet Sunday mornings. Every week was a new group diffused with small pockets of conversation, and the silent pauses made me listen even harder for people’s stories.
I remember so clearly the first time I asked the pastor about the spiritual climate of the city. I was shocked at his response.
He told me, “We have been here nine years, and we haven’t seen a single French person come to Christ.”
“Then why are you still here?” I responded.
“Because God told me to be here.”
I couldn’t believe they would stick it out for so long, but for him, it was the most obvious thing.
He didn’t preach revival. But he also didn’t preach hopelessness. To me, that is an image of being steadfast. To be looking for signs of light. To believe that you don’t always see the fruit of the seeds you sow. To know that grace sometimes looks like earthquakes, but it can also look like the comings and goings of a fleeting congregation.