The Tale of the Wealthy Frenchman

1 Jul 2017

Pioneers workers Peter and Ruth* live in a beautiful city in the South of France, and serve in a small but growing church. France enforces its secular state, discouraging any public display or discussion of faith. The tiny evangelical church is widely considered to be a money-hungry sect, and even those people who identify as Catholic are often practical atheists.  It is here that our story begins…

Fabien* was a successful French businessman with a beautiful wife. Their lives were happy and comfortable until something happened that threw everything out of kilter for Fabien.  Much to his private annoyance, his wife Amelie* became involved in a church, and not a catholic church, but one of those weird evangelical churches.  In spite of his irritation, Fabien outwardly accepted his wife’s choice of faith. He would even drop Amelie off at church meetings and pick her up afterwards, though he never got out of the car himself. She was clearly happy, and he was intrigued as he watched her grow in confidence and kindness, but Fabien was determined to maintain his distance from all things church.

One day Amelie told Fabien that the church camp was coming up and that she would like him to come with her.  There were lots of married couples and young families going, and Amelie did not want to go alone.  After thinking it over, Fabien decided that he would accompany Amelie to the camp, but that he would not take part in any of the Christian activities.  Over the weekend Fabien was surrounded by believers, and although he did not know it, in their presence he was experiencing the very presence of God. He ate with them and talked with them, but when they met for worship, prayer and teaching times, Fabien stayed away. But there was a major revelation going on in Fabien’s heart. He suddenly realised that for all his success these people had something he did not. It was joy.  These believers were experiencing and radiating joy.  A kind of joy that he had never seen, did not have, and wanted bad!

Fabien was as surprised as everyone else at the camp when he walked into the last meeting.  It was a time and place appointed by God for Fabien to meet his Saviour.  He heard the gospel explained, and that afternoon he chose to give his life to Jesus.

Three months after camp, Fabien met with Peter, a Pioneers worker, and said he had read the bible but he couldn’t understand it.  He didn’t mean he had read some of the bible that day, he had just finished reading the entire bible!  Peter began discipling Fabien and teaching him how to discover more from God’s word. Over the last year and a half Fabien has been transformed in so many ways. His work colleagues and his wife are rejoicing in the changes in his attitude to many things, but especially the speed of his temper! This once rather surly man now emanates joy and a servant heart.

In December 2016, mid-winter in France, Fabien was baptised outdoors in a paddling pool.  The church leaders had suggested he wait for spring, but Fabien was bursting to declare his commitment to Christ. The temperature of the water did not take away one iota of the joy he experienced that day. Fabien is now eager to teach others how to live as followers of Christ and is learning to be a bible study leader and one on one discipler of others. His enthusiasm for God’s word and His church is infectious. Those around him are all wondering, “What will God do with this man next?”

*Names changed for privacy

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