The city of Nice was attacked last week on France's independence day, Bastille day. It has now been confirmed as a terrorist attack by a radical Islamist. These events always reminds me of the day we went to the Post Office to get my and Ellie's passports to go to France for our Vision Trip. While in conversation with the lady processing our applications, we told her that we are going to be missionaries in France. Her response was unforgettable. "I like that," was her response. "That's safe." This transpired just a few months prior to the November 2015 attack in Paris. I think by now we all know that no place can be deemed "safe".
After the attacks last November we had several people tell us we shouldn't go, and we had some family sharing their opinions that it is too dangerous. While we understand and appreciate their concern for our family, we are never more moved to go. We feel. We hurt. We pray. We love France and her people.
We aren't going to France because it is safe, or because missions is "fun". We aren't seeking adventure or excitement, though it does come with the territory at times. We are going to France because we are continually seeking Christ and He has called us there. Because the French need hope, love, and peace that can only be found in Jesus Christ. We are going because France needs the Body of Christ. Because we know we can add value as members of the Body of Christ. Because we are the Body of Christ.
Our call to move to France is no whim. It comes from years of following and listening to the Lord. Here is the "cliffnotes" version of my story.
My personal call to France and my heart for France has been a never-ending journey. It began rather quietly sometime in the early 2000s - so quiet I'm not even certain when it started. After a 2-and-half week trip to France with family in 2003 (during the time of Freedom Fries in the US), graduating high school, I then moved to Nashville to follow my previous life ambitions. It was during my years there that the Lord began growing a love for France more strongly. I do, however, remember when I said "yes" to the Lord's call. It was the end of the 2007 year. I threw myself into learning everything I could about France and missions. A few months later my boss of the Christian company I worked for called me to a meeting. There he stated that since I was pursuing missions I was no longer 'for' his company, and asked me to select my last day.
So like that, I was unemployed with nearly 3-4 months left on my apartment lease. In 2008's economy there was no other jobs to be found. I looked, applied, prayed, sought the Lord for direction. He somehow met all of my needs during this time. No bill went unpaid and I never had to go without. That summer I interviewed with a mission agency in Charlotte NC who decided not to accept me due to my former diagnosis of depression. This was probably one of the hardest rejections of my life. I went back to Nashville, and at the end of my lease, I sold the majority of my belongings and loaded my car and moved back to Louisiana to live with my parents.
My call and vision was still for France. I knew without a doubt that God has called me there. I knew I must go. For two years I prayed and researched and raised support, and I was finally able to spend a 3 month internship in France in the spring of 2010. I spent that time interning with a missionary couple who were in and out of the country due to a family emergency. I learned how to survive there. For the first time in my life I felt like I belonged. It was as if God said "This is where I want you, Bethany". I walked around Paris praying for people as I passed. I prayed for the city. I prayed for their hearts and souls. I prayed for my own - to be moved - to be broken - to see them as God sees them.
Since then my love for the people of France has only grown. I pray daily for them. I carry a deep burden for them and a longing to be there. God has given me a supernatural love for people I have never even met. It surpasses all understanding. I cry almost daily. This emotional bond I cannot break.
This call to go to France is unwavering. Life outside of the will and call of God is no life at all.