Dear ministry partners,
Since my last newsletter real progress has been made in terms of the relocation plan to France, which is still due to take place some time around August of this year. As you will easily understand, such a move is no small matter and the numbers of practical issues to deal with is actually just overwhelming. We are truly thankful for all the support that has already been provided by churches and individual believers to make this big step in the ministry of Reformed Faith and Life possible. Your prayers and your donations are also a sign that the Lord is accompanying us and leading the way, despite all kinds of uncertainties about the short, medium, and long term future. He will open all the doors which He wants to open, each in its own time. We continue to make an appeal to your generosity, though, as we are facing expenses which go well beyond our normal budget provision.
France’s Protestant background
Where precisely will RFL operate in France? Not in or around Paris due to unaffordable property prices; nor in a large city, for precisely the same reason. We will settle in the part of France known as the Loire valley, more precisely between two large cities: Angers and Tours, only two and a half hours from Paris with the TGV (fast) train. The nearest town to where we wish to settle is Saumur, which possesses a remarkable Protestant background, today extinct, during the seventeenth century, Saumur hosted for eighty years a famous academy of theology attended by lecturers and students from all over Europe. William Penn (the future founder of Pennsylvania) spent one year there. There were several similar Protestant academies throughout France at that time, not always on the same theological wavelength, one should add. The repressive policies of the French monarchy sought to eliminate Protestantism from France, putting an end to these academies, shortly before the fatal year 1685, during which king Louis XIV banned the Protestant faith from his kingdom, leading to the exile of more than 250000 French Protestants to other European countries (mostly the Netherlands, Switzerland, Brandenburg, England, and even the newly established station of the Dutch at the Cape of Good Hope on the southern tip of Africa). Those who did not emigrate started forming underground churches. When pastors (“prédicants” as they were known), were caught by the royal army or police, they were generally hung in public.
However, the decline of a solid Biblical faith in France is not just a matter of historical circumstances going back to the seventeenth century. When Protestants were eventually granted freedom of worship during the early nineteenth century, many became the prey of theological liberalism and mysticism, gradually abandoning the solid foundation inherited from the Reformers. This trend was accelerated during the twentieth century, and no Evangelical “Awakening” was in itself able to counter this powerful stream. If today Evangelicals and Charismatics are definitely on the increase, confessional Reformed churches are almost non-existent. There are still a few, though, and every year in April some believers meet for a few days at a conference held near Lyon. In order to meet them and to establish fraternal links for the future ministry of RFL, I will, DV, be attending this conference during a two-week visit to France. I should also be able to work out some practical arrangements in view of the move in July-August.
Continuing to Minister the Gospel in Africa
In the meantime, Reformed Faith and Life keeps being aired in French-speaking African countries, with old or new partnerships. Bibles in French and other literature continue to be sent to our correspondents from our Pretoria office. The level of requests from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and from Cameroon remains quite high. Since November of last year, all six hundred recorded programs of RFL, with their respective transcripts, have been safely stored on a powerful server managed by TransWorld Radio and made available on a special website: www.twr360.org (on top of the first screen click on “languages” and then on “French” to access the window of Foi et Vie Réformée).
We have also revamped our own website (www.foi-vie.org.za) which we invite you to discover. It is essential to adjust to new technologies and the opportunities they present, while always remembering that we must also stay tuned to the tools which the man and the woman on the street have at their disposal to be reached. In the end, our main goal is not to make use of the most modern technologies, but to keep proclaiming the Good News that will never age or become outdated: the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Thank you for your faithful support in all things.
In His service
Rev. Eric Kayayan