I moved to Rawdon Quebec 10 years ago this month. In case you did not know, Quebec is the French province in Canada. When I arrived, I could not speak one sentence in French. But fortunately for me, Rawdon is a bilingual town. So, I am able to function in English here. By God’s grace, I was able to plant a church in our town. Over the past ten years I have seen many changes in Rawdon. New houses, new stores, and new people. But one big change I have noticed is that we are becoming less and less English and more and more French.
My desire when I moved here was to learn French so that our church could transition from an English speaking church to a bilingual church. But, when you live in a place where you can maneuver in English, the chances that one will force themselves to use a new language is very, very low. This is what happened to me. At first, I was intimidated by learning a new language. I saw it as a mountain that was impossible for a Georgia-born boy to climb. I took some free French classes in my town. That gave me a good base, but after two and a half years of the class, I knew that much more was needed if I was going to improve. Thankfully, a local Bible school called Capernwray Quebec had a French-speaking staff member that was offering classes to the staff. The director, knowing my desire to learn French, allowed me to join their staff in learning French. This is where my French took its first huge step forward, and I am eternally grateful. But I was still far from being able to communicate fluently in French.
So now, here I am, ten years in Quebec. This past Sunday we announced that all the preaching on Sundays now will be in French! How did we get to this point? How did our English speaking church turn French? Just two years ago, our church’s music, announcements, children’s Sunday School, and preaching were all in English. Two years is not that long ago!
Well, like I said above, the original vision of our church was to eventually have a French worship gathering each week on Sundays. I have always shared this vision as often as I have had the opportunity. But, two years ago we only had three people attending our French Bible study. Then, something happened! A new family was added. Then another. Then another. And all spoke French. We bought simultaneous translation equipment to help with the language need, but we knew this was only a temporary fix. Then, something else happened. The Lord called away two families out of our church to Ontario. They both were English speaking. All of a sudden, in a matter of about 8 months, our church transitioned into a church where the majority spoke French, and many ONLY spoke French.
This is when I semi-panicked. I realized very quickly two huge things. First, I was the pastor of a French church (even though everything we did was practically English). Secondly, if I did not make some very big conscience personal steps to learn French I was going to be in big trouble. This was a huge struggle for me. Most in my church have no idea how hard this was for me at first. Because God is extremely gracious to me, He gave me three very awesome things. A patient congregation that loves the gospel more than their personal language preferences. An incredible wife that never quit encouraging me. And He gave me a French teacher who is my friend, neighbor, and fellow church member. Twice a week for the past year and a half (except during our busy summers), I have been able to have one on one help with my French. What incredible gifts!
So here we are. Two years after the flood of new French-speaking church members started to come. I cannot believe how much we have changed. As I look back at my emotional roller-coaster experience, I can see four clear qualities that God helped me with.
God called me 10 years ago to move to Rawdon to share the message and love of Jesus to the people here. Knowing that most would be French-speaking, I knew that in order to do what God called me to do, I would have to learn French to the point of being able to communicate it.
Two years to a year and a half ago, when I began to panic about my situation, one thing that I could not expect was to learn a whole new language in a week or a month, or in six months. I needed to be patient as I sought to learn.
Giving up simply could not be an option. I have to be honest here. There were two different times where I seriously thought about giving up learning French and moving away. Those were two very brief moments where I went into a self pity party and whined to the Lord that I could not do it, and I was right. And that was the point I needed learn. I must stay committed to the Lord in my relationship with Him. And I must stay committed to the process of learning the French. I had to realize that He was going to equip me for what He had called me to do.
I had to trust that whether I was able to learn the language or not, that God was in control and that I could trust Him, even if it meant that everything in my world fell apart. While everything in my world might have fallen apart, nothing in God’s economy crashes. He has never not accomplished exactly what He wanted to do. So, I had to trust Him, and Him alone!
BUT, I HAVE NOT YET ARRIVED
While I am able to preach and teach in French, I make tons of speaking mistakes. I must keep learning and improving. Because the vision is clear to reach this town, region, and province with gospel, I must press on toward that goal. And that includes improving my French all the more.
While I deeply desire to improve my grammar and increase my French vocabulary, I must be patient and not expect things from my self that unreasonable to attain right now. I also will need my congregation to continue to show me patience as I improve my French communication skills. I still need my amazing wife to keep on encouraging me, and I will still need my wonderful French teacher to keep pointing me in the right direction.
While we have made a huge vision shift in our church, I cannot coast. I must stay committed to the call. I cannot give up the effort. I cannot rely only on my past accomplishments. I must look ahead to the next prize, the next goal, the next victory. In order to do this, I must stay committed to my French studies and try even to step it up a bit so that I can improve more.
While I never thought I would ever get this far in learning a new language. I must remember that I have not accomplished this by my own strength. It is God who has helped me (Psalm 121:1-2). And must not forget that, and I must keep on trusting in Him. I pray almost everyday for my French because I know that without Him I can nothing. But with Him, I can all things through Christ who gives me strength.
THIS IS THE CHRISTIAN LIFE!!!
Something hit me as I thought about all this.
This is the Christian life. God calls us to follow Him, and that call does not change or go away when things get hard or even undesirable to do. The call to follow Christ is a call that is to last unto death, and even if it means our death.
The Christian life without patience is futile. As God is patient with us, we too must exercise patience. With our own spiritual maturity, our fellow church members, and our ministries. Without patience in the Christian life, every believer could find hundreds of reasons to give up and turn away.
The Christian life is a commitment. Scripture says that Christ never gives up on His bride (the church), so it is inconceivable for the born-again, spirit-filled believer to give up. All thoughts on giving up are sin and from the devil and must be repented of. If not, those thoughts could destroy us. As Tom Hanks said in the movie A League Of Their Own, “There is no crying in baseball!” So too the Spirit clearly says to us, “There is no quitting in following Jesus!” We need people in our lives like my wife who encourages us to keep pressing on. We need the God’s word, the Holy Spirit and the church body to keep us on course!
The Christian life is one of faith. Faith in God’s promises. Faith in all He says. We almost never see or understand all that God is doing in and around us. We often do not understand why things occur the way they do in our lives. But the thing we need to know and never let go of is that God is on His throne, He loves us, and we can trust Him completely in all circumstances.
I pray that God gives me ten more years here in Rawdon Quebec that I will be able to write about all things I saw Him do in and around me. I have not arrived yet. I must press on. I must fight the good fight. I must keep the faith. and so must every single person who calls Him Lord and Savior!