When Everything Goes Wrong…
In all our years of international missions, we have never encountered so much resistance before and during one of our trips. From sickness before the trip, to massive flight delays resulting in missed and re-routed flights, lost luggage (for 4 days), a police stop, unexpected costs, and even a dinged guitar, EVERYTHING that could go wrong was going wrong… We were tempted to ask “Why?” But we already knew the answer. If we allowed our eyes to be guided by frustration towards ourselves and the crazy circumstances, they wouldn’t be open to see what the Lord is doing… and wow… He is doing something so beautiful in Europe!
… Something Beautiful Is Happening
In both Portugal and France, Christianity boasts no more than 3% of the population. Europe is spiritually parched. The continent that sent so many of the early missionaries around the world has lost its identity. The vast majority of Europeans have exchanged a trust in God with an allegiance to the institution of state. But as we walked the streets, there was an unmistakable feeling that Europe is on the brink of a powerful move of God. Like an old Bible sitting dust-covered on a shelf… Under that layer of dust there is still power, life and hope… The dust just needs to be shaken off!
In Portugal, we ministered and led worship at a conference hosted by a local church, Igreja Presbiteriana Aliança Da Graça. From the first night, it was clear the Lord had beautiful plans for the days ahead. The worship times were powerful and the personal ministry times at the end of each service were really special! The Lord seemed to be reminding each person that He sees them… and He loves them!
Our first stop in France was Bordeaux where we visited an old friend from Brazil! She is currently working on a master’s degree in political science and was able to give us an accurate assessment of the condition of the young generation in France. When seen with natural eyes, the outlook is dim. However, the light is at its most effective when it is introduced to darkness!
Finally… based on some very specific things we felt like the Lord was speaking to us… we ventured into the Brittany region of northwest France. Through a mutual friend, we were told of an 80 year old gentleman and his wife who pastor a church in the city of Brest. The stories we heard of their humble church, their history in the area and the challenges they were facing compelled us to visit them. Not even sure how we would be able to communicate with them (they speak no English and our French was not exactly sharp) we decided that we would go… and leave the details to God. They were tremendously gracious to host two complete strangers for two days and gave us the most wonderful tour of their homeland.
The most amazing thing happened as they opened their home and hearts to us… Courtenay, after not speaking French for more than 17 years was able to understand most everything they were saying… It felt like a miracle! As they poured out their hearts, we couldn’t help but be simultaneously moved and encouraged by their stories of hard-fought victories and many bruising defeats… because threading through it all was an undying hope for a new move of God in their nation. After decades, they had not given up! Sitting at their dinner table, we joined our faith with theirs, prayed over them, gave them an offering and let them know that God sees them and He loves them!
We believe with all our hearts that we will be back and will be a part of the plan God has for His next move in Europe!
Jeremiah and Courtenay Bowser