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When Valérie was just 13, her parents separated—which is hard enough for a teenager—but then just three years later, she had to endure the death of her father. Can you imagine the heaviness she must have felt? She knew that God was loving from her experience growing up in the Catholic church, so in her brokenness, she looked to Him.
She looked to the church, but tragically, she recounts, “I saw a big gap. I thought God wanted to be close to us, but people in the church weren’t welcoming. I didn’t see them showing the God of the Bible.” That would have been the perfect opportunity for the church to care for someone who was hurting, but they missed the opportunity. Sadly, it was an all-too-common example of how the church can accidentally misrepresent God. In Valérie’s life, the church’s success rate was 0-for-1.
When Valérie went to college, she left her home in France to study in England where she was hosted by a Baptist family. That could have been an opportunity for God’s people to redeem themselves in Valérie’s life, but it turned out to be another missed opportunity. Valérie says, “They listened to worship music, but when I asked them about it, they didn’t tell me anything about God. It’s a shame, because I stayed with them for seven months.” The church was now 0-for-2.
After finishing her studies in England, Valérie returned to Paris where she got connected with a group of believers. They weren’t a part of any specific church, but Valérie was happy to finally be in community with other Christians. However, after meeting with the group for a while, the other members somehow decided that Valérie needed to “go through the desert.” So they cut off all contact with her, leaving her isolated. In Valérie’s life, the church now had a miserable track record of 0-for-3.
It’s unfortunate when the people who claim to associate themselves with God are the ones pushing others away from Him.
Even though the church had failed her over and over again, God still managed to reveal himself to Valérie through the Bible and prayer. During her time in England, she discovered the Footprints poem. In the poem, a man asks why Jesus was never there for him throughout his difficult life. In the poem, Jesus answers, “When you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.” Valérie says, “That was my first encounter with God. I would just cry and sing worship songs. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was God’s Spirit.”
It’s amazing how resiliently Valérie sought God. After being burned so many times, she still chose to go to a Christian camp where she met her husband, Thierry, who now works for Encompass. Nine years ago, they planted a church in France which has allowed Valérie to enjoy being part of a healthy Christian community. Looking back on her life, she says, “You have to see God’s hand at work in your own life, because He will hold you. Go to Christ first before anyone else.”
You never know when someone might come into your life who is hungry for God or aching for community. If God were to bring a “Valérie” into your life today, would you be sensitive enough to minister to her? Or would you be too busy with the daily grind to notice? Let’s be sensitive to God’s Spirit and ask Him to reveal people in our lives who need a little extra care today.