In as much as Day 1 was a tourism day, Day 2 was their first day of ministry in western France, and it happened in our neck of the woods…
(Incidentally… the feature photo – the letters AYC, spelled out with team members – was taken in Châtellerault, during our prayer walk)
Our Neck of the Woods
We spent time in two places on Day 2… Châtellerault and Richelieu (roughly 20 minutes from Châtellerault) although not in that order.
These two cities are located in the Vienne Department (province) and are roughly 300km (185 miles) from Paris.
Châtellerault boasts a fairly rich manufacturing history. As is common for manufacturing-dependant economies however, the past 50 years has brought about a reasonably steady decline in favour of larger centers.
Richelieu‘s history is less tied to industry and owes its notoriety to a prominent figure in France’s religious and political history, Armand Jean du Plessis de Richelieu… otherwise known as Cardinal Richilieu… advisor to King Louis XIII and Louis XIV.
(Ever read about the “Three Musketeers”… the villainous cardial is this man… Cardinal Richelieu)
Let’s begin there…
Cardinal Richelieu had gained favour with King Louis 13th who raised his native village to a dukedom and gave du Plessis (who became cardinal at age 21) the right to build a walled city and a castle.
Richelieu was an innovation in 17th century urbanization. Although small (5.9 sq. KM / 2.3 sq. miles) it was walled-in, surrounded by a shallow dry moat and perfectly symmetrical. Just outside of the city gate, was an entrance to the grounds of the castle (much bigger at roughly 1,110 acres).
When a young Louis 14th came to the throne, he relied heavily upon the advice of the cardinal, who had become more political advisor than man of God and who used his position to greatly enrich himself and extend his influence.
Do you see the two people preparing to cross a small bridge in the center of the top picture. The bottom picture is taken from that same bridge, looking not toward the castle but out towards where there once stood stables and service buildings.
Today, there is nothing left of that grandeur. Not a single stone of that castle remains, save the outline of the foundation in the moat and the little bridge that once led to the courtyard of honour.
The Lesson of Richelieu
The French Revolution was largely a reaction to the excess of the monarchy and, since the king was seen as a representative of God (and therefore the church reinforced the monarchy)… both had to go.
The French essentially cast off authority and the church (a representation of God) in one fell swoop. Where there once stood an incredible structure of wealth and beauty, there was now nothing left but a big gaping absence. So it is with God, to a large extent, in France.
The abundance of beautiful cathedrals and country churches attest to a past where God was at the center of communities. Today, the churches may still be there but they stand empty. God is largely absent from the lives of the French.
I wanted the kids to have a visual representation of that reality, which is why we went to Richelieu.
Click below for a video of what it looks like now, versus what it would’ve been like then.
(note: commentary is in French, but you’ll get the main visuals)
Following Richelieu, the #AYCFrance19 group came back to the church for lunch and some music practice before heading out to prayerwalk around our city.
That’s the best way I can describe it. We prayed at several key places in our city: City Hall, the monument to the French Revolution, the first UPC church building in Châtellerault, atop the smokestacks overlooking the whole city and on the Henry IV bridge.
The second stop on our prayer walk was a monument “to the glory of the French Revolution”, one of only a handful of such monuments in France. In essence, spiritually speaking it’s a monument that glorifies the throwing off of political and spiritual authority.
I’m not saying that there were not abuses take place. There were. But any place where people memorialize the act of casting off God is a place that’s also a spiritual stronghold.
When I looked up at the young people praying there, they reminded me of sentinels guarding a wall… in this case, watching over our city. I was filled with gratitude.
We went from there to a high point overlooking the city where we prayed Isaiah 43.5-6:
5 Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; 6 I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth
I’m thankful for young people who got hold of God for our city.
That night we had service. It was the most people we’ve had in church in over two years and members of the local church were greatly encouraged!
“It’s just what our souls needed” said one. “It takes us back to when we first met the Lord” said another of the joy and fervor of the young people.
In reality, what each one was feeling was the sum total of over 45 people, filled with God’s spirit, baptized in Jesus’ name, lifting up the Lord and submitting to His authority (as opposed to what had been cast off during the revolution).
On the faces of some of our church folks, I saw expressions that I’d not yet seen during the time that they’d been attending out little church.
Praise God for a great move of His spirit in Châtellerault and Thank you #AYCFrance19, for your part in making that happen.