A small group of us went again in January, including my wife and daughter, George & Miriam, to visit and pray. It was after this trip that we decided as a couple, that ‘yes, we are going to commit to this.’ It hasn’t meant that it has been easy but it has helped to resolve in our hearts together and before God for this – ‘God has said and we have agreed.’
Shortly after this I had the opportunity to join Mike Betts in presenting the journey so far for the Lille initiative at the Newfrontiers Prayer & Fasting conference in Peterborough. When you share your heart on the matter before some 700 leaders, it tends to galvanise something in you; a kind of point of no return! And with each step in faith, God opens yet more doors.
In March, Graham invited Silvain Biville, leader of Ciel Ouvert, Lille, to preach in Ashford and I interpreted for him. It was a joy to minister with him and his wife, seeing people healed after a powerful presence imparting message.
We produced a promo video for the initiative in English, with an 18-30s angle, to launch at Mobilise in April. God was clearly bringing the plans for Lille to the fore as, slightly embarrassingly, the plant was mentioned every day from the platform in some way, shape or form. It was thrilling for me to be interviewed by PJ Smyth and find myself in many conversations with people interested in finding out more.
A lady prophesied over me at Mobilise saying that God was going to give us breakthrough in forming relationships with the Catholic community by His Spirit and that George and Miriam would be key to opening this up in ways that I alone could not.
There are many people groups in this city – it is very multicultural. I want to see a church built here that welcomes the nations of the world, becomes one in Christ, equipping and sending people to the ends of the earth from this place!
In May, a small group of us came to Lille to prayer walk around areas of the city. A well respected prophet by the name of Keith Hazell, who works closely with RM and has an incredible anointing, felt he had God impress the name ‘Charles’ in his mind one evening and thought nothing more of it. The next day, he awoke with the clear sense that God was highlighting this name for the Lille initiative, so he faithfully passed this on to Mike and Graham, who in turn shared this with me. I decided to search for the significance of this in the city and sure enough, came across a church on the map called église St Charles, in the Bois Blancs area to the west of the city. We decided to investigate and came in May to pray at this church and in this area. On arrival, the doors to the building were locked shut so we stretched out our hands to the doors and prayed ‘Lord, open these doors for us.’ A moment later, whilst chatting to the lady behind the bar in a café opposite, she pointed me to speak to the priest next door to the church. I went to do so and a chap came out of that house as I approached. I had barely finished saying hello and that I was interested in the church when he strode over to the church to open it up for us to have a look around!
The significance of this church or even this area remains unclear in God’s purposes for us. However I know that when we pray, God hears and acts – sometimes very quickly! Journey with us as we push on the door for what this ‘Charles’ word means.
In May we returned to Lille to meet with another Lille church leader called Eddy Wallez, a Belgian pastor whose church is based in the north-east part of the metropolitan area called Wattrelos. This church is part of the Destinée family of churches, the name given for Salt & Light churches’ work in France. Again, we were thrilled to find another man of kindred heart for the gospel and the clear favour of God upon apostolic movements fellowshipping and honouring one another. Eddy had received a really powerful picture, just the day before, that clearly illustrated how we could work effectively together:
- Eddy Wallez: “I had a picture of a large, galleon sailing ship, with many masts and sails. All the sailors on the ship were manning different sails, with several working in a team for each sail, ensuring that it was clean and pulled taught by the ropes; kept in good repair and ready to be gathered in if need be. And although each team were primarily focussed on their own sail, there was an awareness and even working together or sharing of teams for certain sails. All were guided by the captain and his direction caused them to work in unison to guide the ship with maximum efficiency.” This is a clear picture of how God seeks to build His Church, through many churches that primarily are to see to the condition of their own people, goals, fellowship, mission etc but also to be mindful of other churches and indeed to work together when God says to do so. And all is guided by Jesus, our great captain.
We left with hearts full and so undone by the favour and grace of God! What a picture! Can you smell the sea air? Don’t you yearn for something like that? God shows us a more excellent way!
“Allons enfants de la patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé !”
“Let’s go children of the fatherland,
The day of glory has arrived!”
La Marseillaise was composed by Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle in 1792 and was declared the French national anthem in 1795. The anthem is violently graphic, as it holds the vitriolic spirit that caused the revolutionaries to storm the Bastille prison in Paris in 1789, declaring independence from the monarchy.
When a group of about 20 people gathered from across the south of England for our first official prayer day in Lille on 14 July (Bastille Day), as the rain poured down, you could be forgiven for thinking that it wasn’t to be a glorious day after all! However, God was in our midst.
I lead the group on a tour of the city, stopping at various points to pray and upon arrival to Place Rihour at lunchtime, one of the main squares in the centre of the city, not only did the clouds part and the sun come out in full strength but a procession of worshippers suddenly arrived in the square. We spoke with them and learned that they were a church from Paris who had come to pray and worship in Lille for the day, so we asked to join them and asked if they could pray for us. And what followed shall remain with me always as we were surrounded by over 100 Christians, originally from French Guiana, worshipping with all their beautiful exuberance.
We were so encouraged and strengthened by God’s coinciding of our visits, to worship as God’s children in our Father’s land (everywhere!) and to depart from that first prayer day in Lille for this embryonic church plant with great hope, for the day of His glory is here!
Some of the prophetic encouragements that God gave us that day included:
“I saw an overcast sky, then a lightning bolt and the word ‘breakthrough’. God is going to tear down the walls of spiritual separation in Lille, just like the temple curtain when Jesus died, and there will be an outpouring of His Spirit.”
“I saw a poster on a building we passed earlier that said ‘Babel’ in large letters. In Genesis, God confused the language of the people because they sought to exalt themselves, but because we seek glory for Christ, no matter what nation we’re from or language we speak, we are united in Christ.”
Shortly after this first public prayer day in Lille, we joined around 600 other believers in the south of France for RDV2012 – the francophone Bible week that unites all French-speaking Newfrontiers churches for amazing times in God’s presence. In June, we had visited Lille to film a French version of the promo video with a slightly different storyboard with the aim of launching it at RDV2012. It was a great joy to share God’s plans for Lille with the existing Newfrontiers churches here in France with the hope that God will draw others into our midst for planting a church in Lille. I gave copies of the promo to the church leaders to take back to their localities thus casting the net yet wider as we seek to catch people up on mission.
Keep an eye on the Newfrontiers France website for details of RDV2013!!