Marc Mailloux's Blog


Haitian students in the Dominican Republic January 2020
February 20, 2020, 4:55 pm
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Aline and I occasionally take advantage of my regular teaching stints for a group of 25 Haitian ministry candidates in Santo Domingo to see our younger son Justin (37) there who’s been eking out his living giving surfing and tennis lessons to a few well-heeled tourists (including some celebrities) who patronize one of the fancy hotels near his town. In addition, Justin and Sebastian, his Argentine buddy, are trying to market their healthy, spicy “Salsa Macho” sauce in the D.R. and beyond.

Meanwhile, he lives rent-free on the property of a wealthy Serbian-Canadian woman of Orthodox background, where he earns his keep watching over the property during her long absences. On several occasions, Aline and I have been invited to join Rebecca, a beautiful, bright entrepreneur our age and her guests for a meal at her palatial beach mansion where a regular stream of high-roller international guests benefit from her gracious hospitality. These encounters have afforded us some unique opportunities to share the Word with a few influential people such as we do not normally meet in our daily routine.

On this last trip, at a sumptuous evening meal around a 40’ long table, I was seated next to M., a reputed architect who, upon hearing of my profession, admitted that he was a non-believer. I chided him about the logic of stumbling upon an intricate structure somewhere and concluding that it materialized with neither architect nor blueprint. We concluded that though we both had “faith” of sorts, his was greater though less reasonable than mine as he believed in the appearance of a magnificently elaborate universe without the input of a Designer…

After our brief (36 hour) stay with our son, I dropped Aline at the airport while I went to Santo Domingo for five evenings of classes with our Haitian students for a survey of the so-called ‘historical’ books (Judges through Esther in our English or French Bibles). I endeavored to convey to the students the discoveries that I made preparing these books of Holy Writ for their collective appreciation. What a wealth of wisdom one finds in Ruth and Esther…with magnificent literary artifices, to boot!

As always, the most frustrating part of teaching the Word to folks of an oral culture is the fact that most of the class had not read through it even once. Though they can recite many passages (Psalm 23 is a favorite) from memory—always from the same French translation—few, if any, have an appreciation of the what the Dutch theologian G. Vos called the “organic” nature of the Bible where all the parts converge at the cross of Jesus according to the Lord’s own words. Alas, getting people from an oral culture to cultivate good reading habits is like pulling teeth. Fortunately, they retain a good deal more of what they hear than we Westerners do. Still, there were five students in the class who have caught the vision and whose homework assignments revealed a better-than-average grasp of biblical theology. Alleluia! Pray their influence will rub off on the others…

I warned them that if they preached in their churches from Psalm 23 without making the connection between David’s shepherd and the “Good Shepherd” of John 10, then they should probably stay out of the pulpit until they see the Light. To paraphrase old Dean Courthial of our Reformed Seminary in France, “if what one preaches does not offend a Jew or a Moslem, then one has probably not preached the gospel.”

As usual, my responsibilities on this trip included delivering the Sunday sermon at a Haitian church which meets in an upper room on what’s probably the noisiest street in the world—80 decibels of constant deafening din from the passing traffic below. On this occasion, I used a text on the origin and meaning of marriage, which elicited occasional “Amens” of approbation from the unrestrained, uninhibited worshipers. Not very “Presbyterian” perhaps, but most encouraging for the preacher!

My next trip to the D.R. is scheduled for September when I’ve been asked to treat the Bible’s poetic books. Until then, Aline and I will be visiting a few supporting churches and I’m preparing a course for an eager group of students in a town in western Ivory Coast and another in southeastern Guinée. This will involve a 300 mile drive between the two towns over a foreboding jungle road in March, hopefully before the spring rains arrive and the road becomes impassible. In any case it will take me through some places I’m uneasy about venturing to so I ask your prayers of protection in advance.

On the home front, our older son (he does not want me to use his unusual name as it results in unsolicited internet queries) is still living with us while seeking a way to find flying time and an eventual pilot’s job. He’s intellectually gifted and applies himself assiduously at whatever he endeavors to do and was interviewed for a job in Sarasota. Normally, it’s a “Catch-22” situation where there’s no job without the experience and no experience without the job. But we’ve a Sovereign God capable of overcoming any obstacles. We appreciate your intercession on his behalf. blessings,

Marc+Aline



The Conakry Convergence December 2019
February 20, 2020, 4:48 pm
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It was my second trip to Guinée but my first time in Conakry, the capital. Last time (Nov. 2018) I was in this country was for a teaching program in N’zérékoré, some 500 miles to the east, an arduous 2½ day drive over bumpy, dusty, unpaved trails. Unfortunately, there’s no other way to travel between the two largest cities in Guinée as there’s no functioning airport in N’zérékoré nor any rail service. Hence the heroic but almost routine effort of our N’zérékoré colleague Pastor Haba K. who made the journey and introduced me to 27 Conakry pastors (including several women) of various theological traditions who attended our teaching program. None of them have any formal theological training; all were enthusiastic in their appreciation of the course on basic hermeneutical principles translated and adapted from my favorite instructors, including Drs. R.C. Sproul, Bryan Chapell, Rob Rayburn Jr. and the late Alsatian theologian A. Kuen.

We started each morning around 9 o’clock with some of the pastors (80% of whom have full-time secular jobs) coming from as far a 50kms away, well over an hour through horrendous traffic –probably the worst I’ve seen in Africa. We met in the church of the young (29), articulate Pastor Désiré G, a bright, well-read fellow who is clearly an educational cut above the others. He alone was familiar with Prof. Kuen’s book from which we derived some course material. His church meets in a relatively centralized location (as much as it’s possible to speak of a center of Conakry which is on an elongated peninsula). Zigzagging through rush-hour traffic each morning on the way to class on the back of his motorcycle was exhilarating.

I arrived on Saturday night, and pastor Désiré half-surprised me by asking me to preach at his church the next day. Fortunately, I had notes on my computer of an archived sermon… After I spoke, Pastor Désiré did a masterful job recapitulating the message for the 75 faithful—a good pedagogical way of reinforcing what had already been said. I was both impressed and encouraged to see that the tiny church in this 85% Mslm. country has such a gifted young leader.

The faithful included as many men as women with, invariably well-behaved children and infants. Once again, at 66 I’m easily the oldest person there. Africa is a continent of young people! Meanwhile, I still haven’t figured out why African worship services—characterized by long periods of vigorous rhythmic singing and dancing—are almost never interrupted by crying babies? Perhaps it’s too hot for them to cry and they learn early to conserve their strength and energy? In any case, there’s much to be admired on this continent where life is difficult for the vast majority of people, most of whom could instruct any Western Christian on the meaning of ‘longsuffering.’

A case in point: after class on Wednesday, we drove to the humble (i.e. primitive by Western standards) abode of pastor Augustin and his wife Cambella, who live only ten miles away but a thirty-minute drive from where the teaching program met. Pastor Augustin and his wife moved to Conakry from N’zérékoré two years ago with the intention of starting another church in a neighborhood where many government workers live. But they’re still looking for a locale, a considerable difficulty for the scorned ‘second class’ Christian minority in this country. After the visit to their home, another pastor drove me back to the hotel where I was staying. On the way, a young woman hawking bananas in the middle of the dark unlit street ran alongside the car as we inched along in stop-and-go city traffic while our driver counted out a few Guinean francs. She made barely a few cents from the sale of the fruit, risking her health and even life in the process. Such is the drudgery of life for this young woman and millions like her. Count your blessings in the West.

The program went for three full days as many in assistance could not get more time off from work and voted to prolong the daily schedule so as to avoid additional long trips back and forth to their home areas. They all claimed that they learned much and insisted that I return ASAP for a homiletics course sometime in 2020. Meanwhile, I promised a pastor in Ivory Coast that I would return there, and will have to go to Rwanda again (probably in November) to finish the second half of the church history course started last month.

So there would appear to be more African travel in my future. For this I solicit your prayers for the Lord’s provision for both energy and finances. As much as I’m reluctant to make certain journeys (some places are more dangerous than others), I’m overcome with shame for my reluctance when I see how needy, receptive, and appreciative our African brothers are for the teaching of the aforementioned theologians whose work I merely translate and adapt (along with a few personal anecdotes thrown in for good measure).

Though I may have reached official ‘retirement’ age, I’m convicted by the example of my own dad who flew down from Philly for a few days this month. He’s in his 96th year and still occasionally rides his bicycle to work! “We’ll have all eternity to rest…” he would say. So as long as the Lord gives me strength and provides the finances, we’ll keep pressing on… Next teaching trip is with the Haitian students of Santo Domingo the week of Jan. 20-27.

Our granddaughters won’t be with us this year as daughter Anaïs and her husband Eric have just moved into a new house in the L.A. area and have other commitments. It will be a quiet Christmas holiday for us. Hopefully we’ll see them in April as we plan to attend an MTW missions conference in California.

Our best wishes for a blessed Christmas,

Marc+Aline



Nov.2019 A fortnight in amazing Rwanda
November 21, 2019, 7:05 pm
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with Congolese students from Bukavu in Kamembe, Rwanda

 

In Kamembe, Rwanda with Congolese students from Bakuvu

I’m writing this from the Kigali airport where I’ve just arrived from Kamembe on the border with the Congo and have a 10-hour wait before catching a flight to Brussels, the second of four flights on what will be a 43-hour journey home. It was my second trip to Rwanda, (pop. 13 million) a country that many think of in association with the horrible genocide of April, 1994, when the Hutu majority slaughtered some 800,000 of the Tutsi minority, mostly with machetes. One would never suspect Rwanda’s tragic past by seeing it today as it is now a truly unique country by African standards or by any standards. From the arrival at the Kigali airport where one is greeted by smiling, courteous and efficient immigration officials, to the spotlessly clean streets of the entire country, one has the impression that he’s in a tropical Switzerland rather than in Africa.

I came to teach the first part of a church history course for two groups of Congolese pastors from cities 150 miles apart. We’re meeting in Rwanda as the conditions (security, price, accommodations, etc.) are significantly better here than just across Lake Kivu in the Dem. Rep. of the Congo—a country with fabulous mineral wealth but a corrupt and chaotic political system and a bloody history of factions fighting over the aforementioned minerals. Some 5 million Congolese have died in these struggles since 1996.

The first night at Guido’s quaint, immaculately clean Kigali BnB, was followed by a three-hour ride over windy, hilly roads (Rwanda averages 4,800’ above sea level) to Gisenyi (pop. 90,000) in the northwest corner of this Maryland-sized country. We drove past thousands of mostly young people (I’m the oldest person, and the only white I’ll see all week) and hard-working pedestrians who cultivate tea, coffee, corn, pineapples etc. on surrounding hillsides. But it’s Sunday, so many are walking to and from worship services. Rwanda is largely Christian and there seems to be a genuine fear of God in this land. A Rwandan sitting next to me on the plane said that the genocide had a cathartic effect on the whole country. Perhaps.

Surely some of the credit for Rwanda’s amazing transformation belongs to the visionary leadership of President Paul Kagame, the erstwhile military hero who stopped the massacre in 1994 and who has since been thrice elected as the nation’s chief executive. A Utube-video says he aspires to make his country “the Singapore of Africa.” All indications are that he’s succeeding admirably.

The first week of classes were in Gisenyi where the Congolese students came across the border every day from Goma (pop.2 million), ground zero in the recent Ebola outbreak. There were 13 pastors for the first half of a course which takes us from Pentecost to the Reformation. There’s a cultural gap to bridge as I’m dealing with folks of a mostly oral culture for whom even the names “Rome” and “Constantinople” mean little. At one point, I shared an anecdote taken from the Disney cartoon of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland.” None of the students had ever heard of either Carroll or even Mickey Mouse or Walt Disney.

After a week of classes (six hours/day of lecturing; a stretch for even a loquacious fellow like myself), it was off to Kamembe, a four-hour ride 135 miles to the south over a winding road to do the same course, this time with a group of 17 Congolese pastors from Bukavu (pop. 1 million) just across the border.

These fellows were a bit more inquisitive than the Gisenyi group and asked many thoughtful questions. Still, they’re Africans who tend to think more concretely—like the Hebrews—than abstractly—like the ancient Greeks (or the French). Indeed, there’s no platonic dichotomy between the material and the spiritual here. Neither were they particularly in tune with the analytical obsession and intellectual rigor of some of the early church fathers so meticulous in the formulation of doctrinal statements as we considered the careful wording of the venerable “Athanasian Creed.” The medieval monastic tradition seemed strange to them too. Most Africans-pastors included–have large families…

Likewise, it was a challenge going through the Scholastic period (XI-XIV centuries) with its preoccupation on the role of reason and philosophy in faith; Anselm’s ontological argument; the doctrinal debates on the Trinity between Abelard and “Doctor Mellifluus” (Bernard de Clairvaux) etc.—not exactly the everyday fare for a rural African pastor! For many it might seem parallel to speculations as to how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

I taught them the French translation of “Amazing Grace” and thought of teaching them Bernard’s famous hymn “Chef Couvert de Blessures” (O Sacred Head now Wounded) to music by J.S. Bach—one of my favorites. But it’s hardly the kind of melody they’re used to in Africa. Would that be cultural imperialism? What do they really need to know? We’re convinced that above all, they need a better knowledge of the Word. Of the three main “means of grace,” it’s knowledge of the Bible (as opposed to prayer and fellowship) which is so lacking in Africa where the Faith tends to run a mile wide and an inch deep. Hence our ongoing conviction for getting them French study Bibles…

Meanwhile, the Spirit is surely at work in on the “Dark continent.” Conversions number in the hundreds of thousands if not millions every year! Many of these coming to the saving faith have been converted through the ministries of some less-than-orthodox television preachers. It’s our job to help reform some of their thinking. The future may indeed belong to Africa.

Polygamy and Spiritism notwithstanding, many African Christians have a stronger family ethic than the decadent West and are dumbfounded by the idea of homosexual marriage. Neither have these ‘pre-Enlightenment’ brethren been deluded by the likes of so-called liberal theology with its pre-suppositional denial of the supernatural. You won’t find any Congolese Rudolph Bultmanns “demythologizing” the biblical miracles.

By the time you read this, I should be in Conakry, Guinee—a whole different kettle of fish from Rwanda—for a program organized by a zealous brother (Haba K.) who’d invited me last year to teach in his home town of N’Zérékoré. He has another group in the capital some 500 miles away—a risky two-day trip over mostly unpaved roads. Haba is a “mover and a shaker” with vision, energy and zeal. But he badly needs a solid 4-wheel drive vehicle to carry him around his underdeveloped country. Politically unstable Guinea (83% Mslm.) is more like Haiti than like Rwanda. I’d appreciate your prayers again as the adventure continues. May His Kingdom continue to advance!

blessings,

Marc+Aline



October 2019 Dom. Rep. and Colorado visits
November 21, 2019, 6:50 pm
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Calix and Elea

No.1 Son with no. 1 granddaughter Elea (the face painter)

 

Since our last letter; we received (Sept.10-22) our three little granddaughters Elea (4), Heidi (2) and Eva (15 months) for an enjoyable and exhausting visit. At around 5AM each morning, Eva (15 months) and I were among the first customers at Dunkin Donuts for a morning walk allowing my wife to catch up on missing sleep. An espresso helped get my sleepy eyes lined-up with their sockets as Eva slobbered over a mini-donut from her stroller in a local park filled with egrets and ducks just barely awake… Children teach us much about sinful human nature as well unconditional love. It’s not surprising that Victor Hugo once quipped that he “didn’t understand God until he became a father.”

On Sept.25, I left for the second part of a church history course for our Haitian student group in the Dominican Republic which meets in Santo Domingo the last week of each month. The students’ academic levels vary greatly. Hopefully, even the less experienced gleaned from the course a few ideas from the inspiring examples of some of our illustrious predecessors in the Faith. Wisdom means avoiding the mistakes of the past, which, in my opinion, is why we study history in the first place. We considered the influence of the so-called 18th century “Enlightenment”– with its philosophical a priori denying the supernatural– and the resulting ‘liberal’ theology which devastated much of the modern Western church. Pray that our third world students will avoid a similar fate..

Tradition has the visiting professor preach for the Sunday worship service at the Haitian church of pastor Naasson who organizes the study program. His church meets in an open-air upper room overlooking the busiest highway in Santo Domingo where the eternal din of the passing traffic makes any verbal communication a challenge. The service consists of two hours of fervent if not harmonious singing and prayer followed by the sermon delivered with the help of an inadequate sound system which regularly fails when it’s not blaring feedback at the 50-60 mostly young Haitians in assistance. It’s an acoustical aesthetic torture, like forcing a Mozart aficionado to listen to 100 decibels of heavy metal. I kept reminding myself that the sound emanating from the devoted hearts of these zealous worshipers is surely sweet music to Him who overlooks all our inadequacies.

After returning to Florida, there was less than a week before my scheduled trip (Oct.6-12) to Haiti to teach a course in hermeneutics for Pastor Dony St. Germain’s students in Jérémie (pop.35,000), an isolated town on the southwestern peninsula of the country. Its residents were apparently punished for their rebellious proclivities against Papa Doc Duvalier back in the early 60’s, as he refused them a paved road to their remote town. What’s more, Jérémie took a direct hit from hurricane Matthew in 2016. Recovery has been slow and painful.

I taught in Jérémie once before some five years ago and was looking forward to returning as I fondly recall the zeal of the students. But, recent political turmoil in Haiti has made travel there too dangerous so the trip had to be postponed. Fuel prices have risen dramatically and even the most basic necessities have become inaccessible to many. Most foreign aid sent to Haiti ends up in the pockets of corrupt politicians. The mysterious disappearance of over $2 billion from a subsidized Venezuelan oil program was the main catalyst for the recent anti-government demonstrations. The situation has become almost unbearable. Our Florida Bible school colleague Pastor G. (from Jacmel, Haiti) lost a brother there recently when the ambulance driver bringing the sick man to the hospital ran out of gas on the road and could not procure any more. The patient died in the car by the roadside. Such tragic stories are all-too-common in Haiti, alas.

With the trip to Haiti shelved, Aline and I took advantage of an invitation from a brother in a small fledgling church in Colorado to share something of our vision for the French-speaking world with some brethren in the Centennial State.

It was a providential opportunity to seek new partners for our ministry. Indeed, the recent promotion to Glory of several of our erstwhile supporters, and two consecutive sub-par months, have wiped-out much of the surplus in our MTW support account. Travel to Africa is expensive. Still, it makes more sense for us to bring the teaching to Africa rather than bring Africans to the West (even more costly) as experience has shown that many never return home after their studies…

Meanwhile, animist and Islamic opposition notwithstanding, the French-speaking West African church continues to grow numerically and the need for basic biblical instruction is greater than ever. The African fields are indeed ripe for harvest. We have more invitations than we can accommodate as there’s a shortage of teachers for the 24 French speaking countries on that continent. I’ve two trips scheduled for the next two months (Rwanda Nov.1-16) and Guinea (Nov.29-Dec.7).

At 66, I’m still willing and able (how much longer?) to go if we can find a few more willing to help send me. Hence this appeal. Consider it a tip on an investment that pays eternal dividends… for that’s what it is. We’d be glad to visit your church to share more personally something of our vision. Just send us a word…

Blessings,

Marc+Aline



Incident at Générargues Temple August 2019
September 3, 2019, 2:58 pm
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Temple de Generargues

We had just finished Sunday morning worship at the protestant “temple” (as reformed churches are called in France) in the Cévénole village of Générargues. There were about 100 people in attendance including 70 conspicuously taller, mostly blond, Dutch tourists who vacation in this region in the summer. My text for this Sunday (Aug.4) was I Peter 3:15 about the importance of defending the faith—a particularly pertinent verse in this overwhelmingly secular nation where—unlike the US and most places I travel to—one can hardly find the gospel on the radio. We had much prayed about this effort.

Naturally, the gist of the message was about being prepared for the responsibility we have as Christians to share the good news with anyone who would question us about our faith. For the occasion, we brought a stack of Dr. Kennedy’s book “Pourquoi je crois” (Why I believe) to offer the parishioners. I concluded with a brief allusion to a principle found in French, German and Andorran law according to which one can be indicted for “non-assistance à personne en danger” (not helping one in danger). It behooves us to share the gospel with the lost lest they risk the judgement of a holy God and we be guilty of the aforementioned offense. For who is more in danger than those without the Savior?

After the benediction and final hymn, I made my way to the exit to greet the departing faithful where I was verbally assailed for five solid minutes in the most acerbic manner by Mr. C., a seventy year old disgruntled Parisian who viciously berated me for my “narrow-minded American fundamentalist teaching” and “retrograde theology” with its implicit conviction that salvation is only through Jesus. It seems he was particularly offended by my ‘literalist’ invocation of John 14:6 “…No man comes to the Father but through me…”

Perhaps more revealing than Mr. C’s “humanist” (his own word) theology was the anger in his scathing attack as he repeatedly called me an “impostor” and a “dangerous and divisive individual.” He even criticized me for having publicly thanked a local evangelical group who had graciously renovated the church building, scornfully calling them a “sect.” Providentially, the Lord accorded me the grace to say nothing throughout his vicious diatribe allowing him to expel all his vitriol. “Don’t answer a fool according to his folly…” Prov.26:4. That was a personal victory for me.

More distressing is the fact that Mr. C. who lives in the French capital but has a vacation home here and who made no effort to hide his antiAmerican sentiments—is officially a member of the local church council! After he finished disparaging my evangelical views (including the ‘retrograde’ theology of Calvin), he proceeded to harangue the few French parishioners in the church assuring them that he was “agrégé” (has a fancy diploma) implying that he’s an authority who knows that they should not give heed to my outdated reformed evangelical views.

Finally, I asked one of the Dutch tourists whose French was limited but had the Dutch translation of my sermon if its words had not offended him. He replied: “Sir, if you had preached that same sermon in our church in Holland, the assembly would have stood up and applauded.”

We gave 92 year old Anne a ride home after the worship. She’s a devout sister who can barely walk but is still lucid. She expressed pity for this angry man who obviously is not at peace with God, she said, concluding that we needed to pray for him. Amen. Later during the week, I received phone calls and words of encouragement at the Wednesday church picnic from several devoted believers apologizing for the incident and the views of the pompous vociferous fellow who has a reputation for the strident and vigorous promotion of his unorthodox views. At the end of the picnic (also attended by Mr. C.) I announced the Monday night showing of a video (the French version of “God is not Dead”) as part of an evangelistic outreach. We later learned that Mr. C. did everything he could to dissuade folks from attending!

What’s the point in my telling you this? It’s just a reminder of the battle that goes on in the church for the allegiance of the faithful. Alas, the new pastor who will take over in September favors of homosexual marriage etc. and is hardly sympathetic to traditional reformed views.

One imagines that there will be some interesting discussions during the forthcoming church council meetings between the ‘liberal’ (not to say apostate) elements and the remaining evangelical council members who need our prayers. The plot thickens. The battle rages…

blessings,

Marc+Aline



The lessons of His-story
September 3, 2019, 2:41 pm
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Marc+Aline

Since our last letter, I made another trip to the Dominican Republic for a group of 25 French-speaking Haitian immigrant students in Santo Domingo. They dwell in a curious cultural mixture as they speak Creole as their mother tongue, were educated in French, and now live in a Spanish speaking country. A few are even learning English.

These students have day jobs so the classes are held in the evenings from six to nine and on Sunday afternoon. We’re studying church history at the moment and covered the 6th to the 16th centuries during this session (June 19-24). It was an occasion to remind them that, though much maligned, this period saw the birth of universities, hospitals and many charitable organizations (the Beguines, the Knights Templar etc.) and religious orders not to mention the likes of spiritual giants such as Bernard de Clairvaux, Francis of Assisi, and Raymon Llull (missionary to N. African Moslems), Thomas Aquinas and others who blessed the world in many ways. Alas, modern revisionism gives overwhelmingly bad press to the Middle Ages.

Most of our students knew little of European history or geography. What’s more, they’re considerably less analytical than the French and don’t relate to the arcane complexities of the medieval Christological controversies such as monophysitism and monothelitism etc. Likewise, it took some explanation to clarify the reasons for the divisions between Rome and Byzantium. But we got there…

After considering the great contributions of the likes of Pierre Waldo, J. Wycliffe, J. Huss and G. Savonarola, we finished the week at the Reformation and capped-off the Sunday session with a video: the French version of Eric Till’s excellent film “Luther.” Apparently more books have been written on the German Reformer than anyone in history, save for Jesus Himself. Consequently, we do well to learn what we can about the man who so greatly impacted the church and our western civilization.

Overall, the theme of this week of Church history was a reminder of how blessed we are to possess Bibles, the ignorance of which allowed so many erroneous ideas and false doctrines to infest the Church. Hopefully this motivates them to study the Word more assiduously. To that end, they’re thankful for the few French study Bibles we distribute at each session to the more serious students. We give them to those who’ve earned the best grades on their assignments…

After a week of study about the Western church, the students were perplexed by the large scale modern rejection of the Faith which had so clearly been the basis for Europe’s erstwhile superiority as well as the Light of the World! Why have so many rejected that which made them great, one student asked?

The short answer, I told them, was the sin of complacency and man’s inability to learn from the past. Think of the Book of Judges with its cyclical theme of apostasy, repentance and deliverance. For more elaboration, they’ll have to wait until the last part of the course which is scheduled for September when we’ll take on the so-called “Enlightenment” whose repercussions have largely bypassed the Haitians and Africans who have gone from an animist culture to one influenced by the Bible (syncretism notwithstanding) while foregoing the likes of Diderot, Rousseau, Voltaire and eventually liberal “theology.” Stay tuned…

While I was away in the Dominican Republic and then at the PCA’s General Assembly in Dallas (June 25-8), Aline was pleased to host daughter Anais and our three granddaughters (Elea 4, Heidi 2, and Eva 11 months) from California while their father Eric—who travels much for his job—was overseas. I only got to stay with them for a couple of days but that was enough to renew my respect for the tremendous vocation that is motherhood. Up every day at 5AM (if they sleep through the night) and going non-stop until all collapse of exhaustion at around 8:30PM. Whew!

We anticipate with both fear and delight their return in September as once again they will stay with us for ten days while their parents will be away on a business trip. On our calendar, for the dates Sept.8-20, is written “Viking Invasion” (son in law Eric is of Scandinavian origin). Aline has given me strict orders not to have any other plans during those dates!

Meanwhile, she and I are scheduled to return to the spiritual desert of the western world (France) from July 26 to August 27 for our annual summer ministry stint in a church in Aline’s home area. The Haitian students found it incredible that some churches in France close their doors in July and/or August—not even a Sunday worship service as there’s no one around to preside nor enough faithful to attend! Hence our participation, organizing the worship and preaching for a smattering of Huguenot descendants—the Lord’s faithful remnant—near Aline’s home town. We look forward to the annual change of pace and different kind of challenge and thank those of you who make it possible…

blessings,

Marc+Aline

 



Burkina Faso: land of the people of integrity
May 30, 2019, 1:40 pm
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p18_MAPafricaFRENCH_1013-1024x992

I arrived in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, on April 13 on an Air France flight from Paris. Daytime temperature was between 105-110F for most of the week when I came to teach an apologetics course for a group of students who hosted me for the fourth time. It was dry heat, for sure, but not unlike sticking one’s head in the oven. The AC didn’t function so it was too hot to sleep at night.

As usual, the travel itself was part of the adventure as it seems that Providence invariably places me in the path of someone who needs to hear the Word. On the flight from Paris to Ouagadougou, I was seated next to Jack, a 32 year old Air Force sergeant and one of the rare Americans on that flight. He was on his way to the US embassy for reasons we didn’t discuss but probably involved beefing-up security there as some Islamic terrorists are nearby.

A Roman Catholic from Pittsburgh, his heretofore perfunctory faith is being prodded by the metaphysical preoccupations of his inquisitive five-year-old daughter. That’s made him suddenly receptive to the teachings of Jesus. It’s amazing how the Lord uses the spiritual curiosity of one’s children to awaken some parents from their spiritual slumber…

Getting off the plane down the portable stairway in Ouagadougou, one is overcome by a blast of hot air that will be the reality for the rest of the week. The “Burkinabés” themselves (about 50% Mslm and 30% animist) are the friendliest people I’ve met in Africa. Two students sent to meet me at the airport immediately grabbed my bags. I asked them: “Are you doing that because I’m white or because I’m old?” “Les deux” (both) they answered. Indeed, I was the only white, and easily the oldest person around (life expectancy is short in Africa) all week. Yet no one bothered me… no stares or otherwise unsolicited attention. Even the Burkina children seem generally well-behaved and respectful. I’d stuffed a few toys (Frisbees and a soccer ball) in my suitcase for the group of children who hang out on the street near the mission center. They were delighted. One understands why Burkina Faso is known as the “land of the people of integrity.”

The Apologetics course went as expected. It included a section on the integrity of the N.T. documents, considerations on animism, and Islam, and a brief treatment of the so-called ‘prosperity gospel’ which influences many in Africa. One student wrote to thank me saying : “Nous avons été béni par votre cours car nous avons beaucoup appris”(we were blessed by your course because we learned much). Alleluia.

I brought a few French study Bibles provided by the generosity of supporters and gave them to students chosen by lot. Providentially, one of the recipients was Igor, a dedicated young Burkinabé brother [photo: green “Hope for Burkina Faso” T-shirt] who with his young wife Sonia (an African couple with Russian names) minister to 157 primary school children in a village that’s 99% Mslm. They teach them to read and sing Christian hymns and show them videos—even the “Jesus” film. The son of a polygamous “Catholic” (his dad has five wives), Igor came to the faith while singing with the choir of a local Protestant assembly. They’re part of the reason the church is growing so fast in Africa and why I feel good about going there to teach… Men like Igor deserve our encouragement.

A highlight of the week was the viewing of the scientific video “God of Wonders” which we watched together on the last day of class. It’s an excellent analysis of how the various marvels of nature (‘general revelation’ in theological parlance) manifest the greatness of the Creator. I think it helps foster a more scientific way of thinking generally lacking in Africa.

I stopped over in France on the way home to see our older son C.(38) who lives near Nimes. We attended Easter Sunday worship together in a tiny evangelical assembly not far from his village of Bezouce.

After years doing various jobs that haven’t suited his aptitudes, he’s come to realize that he would have more professional opportunities in the US and plans to move-in with us in Florida soon and hopefully re-start his suspended career in aviation. It will take a while (and some loans) for him to accumulate the additional flying hours he needs before becoming employable. We’re praying for the Lord to open some doors for him both spiritually and professionally. We appreciate your prayers for this too.

Speaking of France: while many are talking about the “accidental” fire at Notre Dame de Paris, there seems to reign a kind of collective psychosis in the country with regards to the 875 churches which were reportedly vandalized there last year. It’s no secret that Western Europe and France in particular is being overrun by a kind of militant Islam which is conquering the country mostly from the bedroom. Immigrants to France (mostly Moslems) are having 8.1 children/couple whereas the indigenous French are at 1.8. So unless there’s a major spiritual revival similar to that which took place during the Reformation between 1555-1562, the future for the land of Calvin looks bleak indeed. We would do well to join the efforts of groups like “Impact France” in prayer for revival before Notre Dame is converted into a mosque.

Blessings,                                                                                                                                          Marc+Aline