September 27, 2020

Salt & Light Online

A current connection to each week's session


Beautiful Feet
Romans 10:5-15

Read this article as a Word Document

Carol Duerksen says evangelism is a loaded word (S&L, p. 22). Another term laden with similar baggage is missions. These verses in Romans 10 are talking not only about proclaiming the good news at home but also taking the message of the gospel to a new place. People need to be sent, and their “beautiful feet” take them where they are sent.

The word missions may evoke a troubled history of crusade and conquest. Often the beautiful feet aren’t bare feet but arrive wearing the boots of colonialism encrusted with the mud of the sending culture. To unpack some of my baggage around the word missions, I visited the Mennonite Mission Network website. I learned of two new missionaries in Paris, Toni and Matthew Krabill. I encourage you to read the description of their work at the Paris Mennonite Center and watch video interviews with them. Check out their Facebook and Instagram pages.[1] I was drawn to the painting of the beautiful blue-back bare feet that is the banner image on Matthew’s FB page. It was painted by Cameroonian artist Jean David Nkot, who paints on maps, depicting the journeys of immigrants.

The Krabills embody a posture of mutual learning rather than seeing themselves as those who “have” sent to those who “have not.” Because the Krabills arrived in Paris in December 2019 just as COVID-19 was emerging in Europe, they have had even more disruption than first-term missionaries usually have. They had just begun language study when the president imposed a 90-day lockdown. Matthew says, “It’s been a strange and bizarre time.”

COVID-19 disproportionately affected black and brown communities on both sides of the Atlantic, Matthew says, and then George Floyd's death ignited protest and outrage in Paris: “Communities of people that had been colonized in sub-Saharan Africa and now live in France and feel oppressed and marginalized here are particularly struggling. Those emotions are really raw. Frustration is at a boiling point.”[2]

Toni and Matthew have begun visiting churches of the African diaspora and building relationships with community leaders. They hope to offer biblical, theological, and leadership training, but for now they are learning. Toni says,

What we’ve learned is that there’s a wave of migrants that came to France in the early 1980s, many from Ivory Coast, many from the Congo. They came as students to attend universities, as diplomats, as workers, and for various reasons—crisis or war or issues in their home countries—many of them decided to stay in Paris. As Christians, they started planting churches here. This group has planted over 400 churches in the greater Paris area. They weren’t necessarily welcome here in France, but they were planted, and they continue to thrive. Through their ministries, there’s been an explosion of churches in urban areas and in the suburbs of Paris as well, gathering what people estimate to be over 10,000 people on Sunday mornings for church. We hear about how secular France is and the decline of the established churches, but we often don’t hear the stories about these 10,000 people worshiping on Sundays. We’ve been tremendously inspired by these churches. They offer multiple services, gathering over 500 for each service, filled with young people in their 20s and 30s. It’s incredible. We feel like we have a lot to learn.[3]

—Gwen Groff, bethanym@vermontel.net

© 2020

Resources for this session

  • NEW! Salt & Light Videos: These teaching videos are great for leader preparation or introducing each weekly session. The videos are free and available on MennoMedia’s YouTube channel.

1. Facebook: Faith on the move. Instagram: Faithonthemove.net
2. “A Conversation with Toni and Matthew Krabill: Part 1,” The Hope Series, Mennonite Mission Network, September 10, 2020.
3. “Conversation with Toni and Matthew Krabill: Part 2,” The Hope Series, Mennonite Mission Network, September 11, 2020.

Gwen Groff is pastor of Bethany Mennonite Church in Bridgewater Corners, Vermont. She lives in Plymouth, Vermont, with her husband and intermittently with her adult children.

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