Posted by: John Adams | October 30, 2008

Paris/Reims, France

It was a bright, beautiful autumn day in Switzerland a couple of weeks ago when I hopped a bus to leave L’Abri. The trees were aflame with bright red, yellow, and orange leaves, and their boughs hung over the highway as the bus navigated the hairpin turns down the mountain. There were several of us from L’Abri aboard, and we laughed and talked the whole way down, parting ways at the train station in Aigle, where I caught a train around Lac Léman to Geneva. From there, I boarded a TGV (high-speed train) for Paris and started a new chapter of this European journey.

Once I arrived, I bought a phone card (French pay phones don’t accept coins) and called Pastor Lesly. I got instructions on how to reach the church through the Metro system, arrived 45 minutes later, and was introduced to Erick, an impeccably cool African guy with whom it was said I would be staying. We drove back to his apartment and I promptly fell asleep.

On Saturday, I tagged along with a group from the church to do some street evangelism. We were handing out flyers that invited people to Eglise des Nations (Church of All Nations) and talking to anyone who would listen about Jesus. I stuck with Fabrice, an intense young man who told me on the drive over that he had pursued Islam for a short while before becoming a Christian. As we walked up and down the street, I could see that his zeal hadn’t been lost, but only redirected. He chatted for a while with some African Muslims kicking a soccer ball on the sidewalk, earnestly trying to share the Gospel of Jesus with them. He led a pair of Lebanese women pushing strollers in the Sinner’s Prayer and invited them to church. He even had a very interesting (and intense) conversation with a black Atheist in a shirt and tie who calmly turned away every attempt he made to prove that God does indeed exist.

It was a very interesting afternoon with a very intense group. To be honest, I felt a little out of place. It was a culture shock to go from L’Abri, where everyone is intellectual and has a million questions about everything, to the raw belief and confrontation of street evangelism. I wasn’t sure whether I believed everything these people believed, but I was touched by their zeal to spread the Gospel. I think their tactics were a little raw in some ways, but most of the people at EDN are like Fabrice in that they’ve been Christians for a couple of years or less. “I never set foot in a church until EDN, and now I know that God exists,” is a very common testimony at EDN. It’s a very uncommon testimony in France, whose population has been fiercely secular for over two centuries now. So uncommon, in fact, that French television networks have sent news crews to the church on several occasions to film baptisms. They can’t figure out how a church in Paris can be that vibrant. (As a sidenote, many of the converts within the church are former Muslims. Erick tells me that some of them have to hide when the cameras come so that their families won’t see them and attempt an honor killing.)

The Sunday service the next day was alive and full of energy. A young Muslim woman came forward after the sermon and spoke of how she had been wounded by her husband and other males in her family, but that she could feel the love of God at EDN and wanted to become a Christian. She had apparently walked off the street at random. After the service, I met many Haitian people who were living in Paris and got to use my Creole quite a bit.

For the next few days after Sunday, I did the typically tourist things – I went to the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay, etc. I enjoyed it, but I had to most of it myself since Erick had to go to England, Pastor Lesly went to Romania, and I know next to one in Paris. I began to feel especially lonely toward the end of the trip – Paris is the City of Love, and it seemed that everywhere I went, there were couples making out on park benches, in museums, at the top of the Arc de Triomphe. I really wished I had a girlfriend/wife, but I suppose my travels have supplied me with a working knowledge of Paris and an unassailable repertoire of places to snog. One day, when I am married, I will return.

On Thursday, I headed east to Reims, a mid-sized city in Champagne-Ardenne, the champagne capital of the world, to visit Ingrid, a girl who used to live in Haiti and knows my sister. I’d never actually met her before, but we’d talked on IM a few times and have a few friends in common, so it seemed like it would be fun to meet her. I had dinner with her and her boyfriend, Thierry, that evening, and spent a day and a half in a small hotel with a cathedral view. We visited the cathedal of Reims, where French kings were once crowned, and later took a tour of a champagne distillery (is that the right word?) on the outskirts of town. Afterwards, we walked through the town cemetery (Ingrid likes them), where Thierry and I took turns saying creepy things in order to scare her.

At the end of a long day, we all went back to her apartment and had dinner. Afterwards, Ingrid handed me a guitar and told me that it was the rule for guests who knew how to play to do so. We looked up lyrics to songs on the Internet and sang for a couple of hours, concluding with Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” It was a good rendition, and I decided to go out on a high note, so after the song was over, I said I was done and we walked back to the hotel. We all said goodbye and another chapter of my trip came to a close.

I asked the hotel for a wake-up call that never came, but I must have been worried I would miss my 7am train since I kept sleeping fitfully and waking up all night, finally crawling out of bed at around 6:00 in the morning. I made my return train to Paris, where I transferred to the train that would take me north to the Netherlands, from whence I am writing this post.

I will write about my time here before too long. That is all for now.



  1. Very cool, John. Can’t wait to read about the rest of your adventure!

  2. That was an incredibly fun read. Thanks John! The snoggin’ part was funny, too.

  3. John, I think you are going to find Amsterdam, uh, unusual. Can’t wait to read your report.

  4. splendid john, absolutely splendid. all of us at 6037 give you love. grace and peace

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