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Celebrating 50 Years of Ministry at the Chateau

Over fifty years ago, Tom and Doris Julien stepped out in faith to purchase a dilapidated 14th century chateau in a small village in Burgundy, France. Their goal? Create a bridge between the Good News of the gospel and French society.

Since then, the Chateau has served as a vibrant ministry center for Encompass. It has been a place for adult and youth activities, outreach weekends, sports camps, spiritual retreats, and Bible discovery. The ultimate goals for this ministry have been fruitful evangelism and discipleship, and the ministry has been successful in achieving those goals. As the President of Encompass’ Board of Directors, David Lawson says,

“Only eternity will reveal the countless men and women who were reconciled to God, who were challenged to grow in their faith, and who were trained as leaders at this beautiful and unique ministry center.”

However, the Chateau has had its challenges. For those unfamiliar with the term, a “chateau” is a large French country house or castle, and maintaining this 600-year-old structure was a significant financial challenge for Encompass. The goal was for the Chateau to become financially sustainable, but even after 50 years of striving, that dream did not materialize. 

It was with a mixture of sadness and celebration that the Encompass Board of Directors recently announced its decision to conclude our years of ministry at the Chateau de St. Albain. David Lawson said,

“Our movement owes a great debt to Tom and Doris Julien and countless others who sacrificed their time, talents, and treasures to create and maintain this ‘bridge’ between the church and society. While we believe the Chateau has fulfilled its purpose, we celebrate that the vision behind it has been successfully passed along to the churches it birthed and the leaders it trained.”

Encompass’ Executive Director, Dave Guiles points out that there is a difference between a ministry’s “essence” and its “form.” For missionaries, the task is to plant the essence of Jesus while leaving behind cultural forms (or preferences). He reminds us that the Chateau’s essence of relational evangelism lives on and will never die even though our leadership is asking us to surrender the form of this unique facility.

We are deeply grateful to God and all the people He used to make our long season at the Chateau possible. We will always look back fondly on our time at the Chateau and cherish the memories we made on this historic property. 

In John 12:24 Jesus says, “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” Our prayer is that God would lead us to many fresh expressions (forms) in which the Chateau’s essence can be multiplied!