Video & Vision, ministry in Paris

Thank you for supporting this mission, sharing the Gospel with the nations, and discipling believers into deeper levels of intimacy with Christ, serving and caring for His Church. Thank you for your support!

Check out this incredible video to hear my personal story of being called to missions, arriving in Paris, years of preparation and learn exactly what we’re up to in ministry now. Please pray for us to constantly follow God’s leading, and please consider supporting this ministry with monthly partnership and year-end-giving here. We could not be doing this life changing, light spreading work without you!

I have been joyfully serving alongside a team of incredible leaders and believers at this church plant mentioned here, since September. Check out my last blog to learn all about it. Moving into Paris, as mentioned here, will mean an increase in monthly expenses (& support), but will translate to a huge impact for ministry where I can use my home to host bible studies, prayer meetings, meals after service; a need that currently is met only by our pastors and their generous families. I would love to serve the Church and help it grow in this way.

I praise Him for who He Is. It is my absolute JOY to be here, witnessing in 1:1 relationships almost daily God setting people free, calling them to confession and repentance, calling us to be disciples together, BUILDING community and unity in His Church, His Beloved. It’s hard work, in many many ways. I remain in AWE of who He Is, constantly working everything together for the Good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. His Word never fails. His character never fails. His promises never fail. Thank you for joining me in proclaiming the good news that He may continue to bind up the brokenhearted! (Isaiah 61)

With my love,

Jenn

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Church planting & discipleship in Paris – Pushing back darkness!

Check out this update on what on earth God is doing in and through us for reaching the lost and equipping the saints!:

FINALLY! THIS is the time we have been preparing for since 2008. It is here. I’m thrilled to be sharing this season of ministry & these answered prayers with you after we have worked for YEARS to arrive at SUCH A TIME AS THIS!

SEPTEMBER

In September, I began serving with a church plant (meeting in a rented cinema) in the center of Paris. We are made up of many ages, races, nationalities, hearts and cultures and I could not be more proud to be a part of this beautiful body of believers. The church I belonged to during my first two years in France recently launched this church plant, in the heart of Paris. I joyfully joined the two pastors and their families along with several other believers to begin this work to share the Gospel and Be the Church for each other and for the nations.

We meet together for worship, we share meals in fellowship, we pray together for unity, together we study God’s Word. We are building community and inviting the city of Paris to join us. Our small group even rejoiced with us as a few of us Americans prepared for them their first ever Thanksgiving meal!

Please pray for us that Jesus would be the beating heart center of all we do, that He would unify us in His vision, that He would give us courage and fruit in the work everyday and that we would all stay firmly attached to Him as we share the Gospel. Thank you for praying for us! We know that He is before all things and in all things and in Him all things hold together. Colossians 1 encourages us that He is the head of the body His Church and that he is the firstborn among the living and the dead. We do not have to fear. We know who we serve. And, we serve joyfully!

OCTOBER

Equipping for Care

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Sampling local cuisine–Pierogis in Poland. YUM!

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In October, I participated in a week of training in member care (caring for missionaries and cross-cultural workers on this hard journey). For me, member care is just as important and a part of my calling as the role in church planting. In my heart, both are simply Being and Building the Body of Christ, just helping all believers stay attached to Jesus no matter the circumstance, and never walk alone. This session was an excellent time of training in team building and caring for missionaries serving in their first 1-5 years abroad, a very sensitive and turbulent time, to say the least. I still fall in that category and can speak to the tender struggles this brings. I was delighted to spend a week surrounded by people with years of experience and training, strengths, passion and motivation to help us all Be the Church better in caring for one another. I learned so much and I am eager to find ways to apply it with my dear friends and fellow believers all over France.  Please pray that God would equip me to share and translate this work to serve my colleagues and my local church.

 

Training for Care

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A second session of training brought me to Southern France where I attended a Sharpening Your Interpersonal Skills Workshop–offered entirely in French! This was a fun and tiring challenge. I have learned and used these materials over the years in Biblical Counseling settings. But this was a new and important time for me to complete this training in French. Now I can work to incorporate this kind of helpful relationship building and biblical healing in our French relationships and churches.

NOVEMBER

Serving Pastors in France

IMG_2204Along with a few others, I  joyfully served a room full of 50 pastors last week who came from all over France, Belgium & Switzerland to spend three days being trained and equipped in preaching Jesus in the Old Testament. This was a massive encouragement for my heart to see these men who spend their lives pushing back darkness in France. Please pray that God would call hundreds and thousands more like this to peach His name in France.

I am delighted to be settling into daily life here in church planting and caring for others in Paris. God is blessing me and meeting me in weekly routine of church, bible study, prayer, relationship building. Please pray that God would give me continued structure and routine in this season. Please pray that God would constantly cover me with His grace and keep my eyes fixed securely on Him, my only Hope, as I work alongside my pastors in this church plant.

Please pray that God would call the hearts of people like you to support this mission with monthly partnership and end-of-the-year giving. You can do so here, through my sending agency, TEAM. I literally am only here doing this work because of God providing through people like you, your sacrificial and generous giving to spread the Gospel. Thank you for partnering with me for Him!

A Very Frenchy Thanksgiving

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Friends-giving 2013 Calvary Fellowship West Hartford

One of my favorite personal traditions is Friends-giving. That is, for many years, I’d extend an invitation to anyone who didn’t have plans to be with their families on Thanksgiving, to come feast with me, and be church family together! Here’s a photo of my last Friends-giving hosted in Connecticut before leaving for the mission field. #JOY

Getting established in life here in France has been turbulent and unpredictable, and for my first three years, I have deeply missed many beloved traditions, including this one. This year, God blessed me enormously to allow me to re-establish this tradition for the first time since 2013. HOORAY! I joyfully invited two beloved friends to join me at home for a Thanksgiving celebration. 

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There are many things about living in American culture that I have missed very dearly (all the things we do together, like the Superbowl (parties), watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, the World Series, the 4th of July, watching the Ball drop in Times Square on TV, to name a few, the Oscars…).  So, it is a gift from God to be able to celebrate my culture here with people I love.This year was the first year I was able to find a full sized turkey in the month of November! It may sound bizarre, but our French friends aren’t celebrating the first union of the pilgrims and Native Americans at the birth of our country. So, their stores aren’t stocked with turkeys in November. Talk about a head-scratched….what’s an American to do when November rolls around and all we wanna do is be THANKFUL?!?!? Traditionally, our French friends eat turkey for Christmas, so it’s never before been possible to find a full sized turkey before December. God Bless America, Costco has opened it’s first ever store just a few miles from house and they very happily provided full sized turkeys to all the Americans piling in only too happy to celebrate American culture in such a cliché way–buying in bulk. Honestly, it is a JOY to shop there. It feels like going home every time I walk in. For this, I am #THANKFUL!

 

 

 

Thank you for your support in this mission. Thank you for your partnership with me. Thank you for being used by God to bring His Word to the lost and to Build Up His Church everywhere, I desperately need you on this journey with me. We are the Church. Better Together. Just as He intended.

For HIM!

With all my love,

Jenn

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“Fear Not, For I am with you. Do not be afraid, For I Am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

So, I won’t be afraid. I’ll pray and keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, the Author and Perfector of my faith.

Finally! The Life I’ve always wanted.

You might imagine my surprise when those words tumbled out of my mouth while in prayer, spending some quality time with God the other morning.

“This is the life I’ve always wanted.”

It’s incredible. That’s not exactly what I expected to be feeling or to say. But God and His wonderful Word have this way of reading us and revealing our hearts to us. David said in one of the Psalms “search me and know me O God” in a desperate prayer that the One True Living God would reveal David’s own heart to him, that he could even understand himself. O how little we really know about ourselves in comparison to how deeply and completely God knows us.

As my time in prayer and Bible unfolded that morning, I could be honest with the Lord. Living a life an ocean apart from my family is not something I wanted. Living on planet earth without my sister, having to wait until heaven to see her again, is quite frankly a nightmare most days. Living in a foreign culture wondering if you will ever again feel like you belong anywhere, is not a box of chocolates, shall we say.

But what God was and still is revealing to me is that this truly IS the life I’ve always wanted.

I have always dreamt in the deepest parts of my heart of a life where my priority and the focus of my time is to share the truth of Jesus with others. Got it.

I have always desired to live in Europe, to experience other cultures, to travel to foreign countries. Doing it.

I have always wanted to speak a foreign language, to have friends and to know people, God’s beautifully created people from every corner of the world. I’m meeting more and more everyday.

I have always wanted to share God’s Word with people that have never head it before. We are THERE, my friends.

I have always wanted a career in science that makes a difference in the world. Done. (I am still able to do pediatric cancer research part time from here in France! Isn’t that incredible!! I LOVE IT!).

I have always dreamt of a life where I am constantly learning and constantly being challenged and constantly offered new ways to grow.

THIS. IS. IT.

IMG_9962This past weekend, I spent time with two wonderful friends in a time of encouragement, prayer, discussing God’s Word and sharing our lives together. THIS is the life I’ve always dreamed of. My days and weeks are made up of conversations focused on helping people get connected to God, to get connected to other believers in the Church and to dive into the endless promises of God’s Word. This is what I do everyday. Praise God!

IIMG_9894n this weekend of discipleship and friendship, I also was able to make a new friend. A beautiful young woman who comes from a country where the Word of God is 100% illegal, to believe in Jesus is nothing short of treason, and to be a Christian is punishable by law.

I saw her face light up (and my heart lept with joy inside my chest) as she told us about God revealing Himself to her, her relationship with Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior and her hope for the future. Praise God! He is going after his children all over this world saving people from death and hell and the grave and we get to witness it! What could be more incredible than that?!!?

Please pray for my new friend, K, as she has suffered rejection and ostracism from her family due to her trusting Jesus as the Lord and Savior. She longs to be in relationship with her mother again, and she is currently pouring herself into the life of her new church where she says “she has found a loving family”.

All this she has suffered just to be able to say out loud that Jesus is Lord and still, she didn’t even flinch telling us her stories over meals shared this past weekend. She literally LIVES OUT LOUD Romans 8:18

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

She literally glowed, the light of Jesus Christ shining from her beautiful face and clear in her steady, unwavering voice as her confidence in God was revealed in every word she shared. IMG_9892

I had the wonderful privilege to pray with her and over her. THIS IS THE LIFE I’VE ALWAYS WANTED! I took her hands and prayed God’s covering over here, before her and behind her as the Lord promises in Isaiah 58:8: “your righteousness shall go before you;
    the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.” I prayed that the Lord would protect her from all attacks this world and the enemy could bring and I rejoiced through happy tears with her that we are now sisters, forever.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

The IMG_9952Joy of the Lord is truly outshining all evil this world can bring. And the sufferings of this world are not even worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us through our Lord when He comes.

Praise God with me as we welcome this new sister into eternity with us.

And thank you for praying with me that God would continue to bless the relationships of prayer and discipleship and Bible study that I have with many women here in France. We are building up His kingdom and shining His light to the nations.

THANK YOU for partnering with me like this to truly reach the world with the love of Christ.

There is a need for a few additional monthly partners to meet support budget needs for this ministry in Paris. You can partner for any amount you feel led, for any amount of time. To partner with me, and be one of the called who support this mission, give here.

With all my heart, for Him!

Jenn

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Settling in, looking ahead

Hello friends and family everywhere!

(Want the super quick update: watch the video below! For a few more details, read on then watch!)

IMG_9467Thank you for all of your prayers while I tackled a summer of movement between many ministry projects and cities! God has cared graciously for me through it all and given lots of great opportunities to share His love with others. I’m so thankful.

I am rejoicing at God’s faithfulness in how preciously He has cared for me over the last three years. Let’s be honest: they’ve been some of the most trying and difficult times of my life. They have also been the times when I’ve leaned harder into Who He Is and found His faithfulness more intimate than ever in every precious moment in His Word. Our God is real. He is beyond measure in mercy, love and kindness toward us. I praise Him for all He has done to hold me together and to use me even in any small way to point others towards Him.

IMG_8432I had the joy and pleasure of welcoming dear friends (who happen to also be my pastor and his amazing family from my Memphis days) to visit Paris for a few days in late July. IMG_8518It was such a blessing for me to spend quality time with them and enjoy this city that I love together. Thank you for the amazing conversation, encouragement and laughs we shared! And thank you for the investment in the Church and in me by supporting me here in Paris!

 

IMG_8837I spent a week in early August at All Europe Conference in Italy where kingdom servants from all over Europe (with TEAM) gathered together once every three years. It was an excellent time of vision and strategy, prayer and worship, rest and laughter as we came from all corners of Europe around God’s Word and around the table to Be the Body of Christ together. I thank God for this inspiring time together! (pictured here is my friend Steve, a man of God who inspires many with his life of leadership and love!)

Thanks to the awesome film crew at All Europe Conference, I filmed a quick video to catch you up on ALL that’s happening now! Enjoy!

Watch here!

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I’ve returned to my apartment near Paris (the same one I’ve had since October 2014) and after a year away for the ministry internship I completed last year, I have been delighted to be home. I don’t think I’d realized how much I’ve missed this place.

 

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I have already had lunch dates and prayer dates with many friends here in the Paris area, since I have returned. I am honored that God has put so many wonderful people in my life and allows me to build friendships of encouragement and prayer with them. Please pray for these friends as I do my very best to share Jesus with them and we just enjoy living this life together.

Just around the corner is the beginning of the school year here in France when everyone comes back from vacation, the new school year kicks off and all businesses are back on schedule. We even have a weekend together with our whole church to kick off the new year. Please pray for me and my church family in Paris as we spend three days together at the end of September around God’s Word. I’m so thankful to be able to serve, too, during this weekend. Please pray for God to build relationships and draw us all into deeper relationship with Him as we Be and Build the Body of Christ together in community as He commands.

Please pray:

  • that God would continue to guide and direct me as I dive into more ministry opportunities at church.
  • that God would lead and direct me as I continue to conduct cancer research with the Global Neuroblastoma Network (as I have been so thankful to continue doing since my arrival here in France). It is a true opportunity to open doors in ministry, a continuation of my career before full time ministry, which I love, and very important work that I am proud to be a part of

Thank you all for Being and Building the Body of Christ in partnership with me.

Please share this mission with your friends and family, as we cannot do this work without partners like YOU! If you would like to partner financially, you can do so here.

Praising Him for each of you!

With love,

Jenn

Transition is My Home Address > Ministry IS Movement


Where in the World is Jenn Hylton?

Well, it really depends on what day you ask. 

Between May and August, ministry will take me and I will take ministry to all these places:

Champs-près-Froges, France 🏔

Geneva, Switzerland to the USA! 💜🗽🇺🇸

New Jersey > Memphis, TN > New Jersey

Champs-près-Froges, France 🏔

Lyon, France 💒

Paris, France 🇫🇷 

London, England 🇬🇧

Massy, France 🏡 

Champs-près-Froges, France 🏔

Paris, France🗼

ITALY! 🇮🇹 

Paris 🇫🇷 finally!

I had the most delightful and unexpected opportunity to return to the States for a few weeks in May, specifically to visit HighPoint Church, who boasts ME as the first missionary ever called out of that wonderful church! I have been part of HighPoint since the 6 years I served with them when I lived in Memphis 2000-2006. HighPoint is partnering with me in monthly support and prayer as I serve in churchplanting and making disciples in France. That trip to Memphis in May also gave me the chance to see many people who partner with me and to spend some MUCH needed quality time with many beloved family members and friends. Truly life-giving for my soul! I love my family!!

Thank you, HighPoint, for supporting me in ministry in France, where the need is great. I couldn’t be here without you. 

If you feel led to support sharing the Gospel and making disciples in France with me, you can learn more and do so Here. I am still in need of a few more monthly partnerships ($40, $50, $100) to fulfill the need for continued ministry in France.


Thank you to my priceless family and friends who cared for me, welcomed me, celebrated with me, laughed with me, worshiped God with me during this refueling and refreshing visit home! Thank you to the AMAZING family at HighPoint Church for rallying around me in support to bring the Gospel to Everyone!!!!





So, where in the world am I now??

Currently on a train underneath the English Channel, sharing the story of what Jesus did on the cross and why it was necessary with a very nice man named Kevin. 😆

Please pray for him. He listened intently and dialogued in depth with me as I shared the entire Gospel message of Jesus Christ. He had so many questions, and based on his answers, I believe this might be the first time He’s ever heard the Gospel at all. Please pray he would find his faith. That was our closing remark, his desire, his words– that he would find his faith. Please pray that he would find it in Jesus Christ and be our brother in eternity!

Now, back to our edition of “Where in the World is Jenn Hylton?”

I recently finished a year of internship as a Biblical Counselor at a bible school called DEFI for young adults who invest a year apart with God. It was profound, not always easy, but always rewarding to see the growth and transformation that happened in these young people as well as us the leaders who serve them.


So, I packed up my belongings to leave the lovely little chalet house I’ve been living in since September, and launched into the next chapter of my journey as a missionary for France.

​I started the journey north by stopping just outside of Lyon to participate in meetings and spiritual retreat for a new ministry that is being birthed in France of which I will participate. It’s a program designed to help receive well new missionaries and Chrsiatian workers who relocate to France to serve. It’s designed to partner them with French leaders that can invest and mentor, to offer them coaching and educational resources to help them advance, and to offer them support in networking and community with other Christian workers and within the French church. I could not be more delighted to be a part of this beautiful association. I spent 3 days surrounded by compassionate, intelligent leaders who have launched this ministry to help build the French church in a way that unifies believers and supports us mutually on the journey as brothers and sisters in Christ. Unity in Christ is the goal, and helping people like me arrive well and succeed in partnership with the French church! Praise God for this ministry! I look forward to sharing more as next steps unfold in the future. Please pray for this ministry.


It’s nice how a road trip can feel like an old friend. On a familiar route North from Grenoble to Paris, I followed France’s highway A6 for , and I found myself filled with anticipation and delight to be returning back to the Paris region. I always split my times in road trips between silence, prayer and music, usually in that order. I thoughouly enjoyed what felt like coming home as I got closer and closer to the city of lights. I thanked God as I recounted the many ways He’s filled me during my time in Memphis and spoken to me through the few days of spiritual retreat in Lyon.

Look at the great car I dreamt of driving when I stopped for gas on my road trip return North!:


Next, just a few days in London visiting friends and supporters. Then back to France (back to Champfleuri where I spent last year) to serve at a camp which welcomes over 100 people for two weeks in July. I’ll be serving in the kitchen and among the staff members to support and encourage as God allows, while the kids of all ages hear the good news of the Gospel! Pray for the campers who come, that they’ll hear from God and respond.

I’ll be happily returning to the Paris region after serving in July to get resettled in the area and begin working again in churchplanting in Paris. Hooray!

God really directed all of my movement since arriving in France and we find ourselves on the edge of the unknown where the possibilities are limitless looking out to the horizon of the future which is made possible by all the progress we’ve made in the last three years!

  • 2 years of language school, while serving in the local church in Paris
  • Cultural adapataion and education (always ongoing)
  • Establishing and noursihing a growing network here in France
  • Successfully completing an excellent year of internship serving as a biblical counselor and support alongside other kingdom workers, making disciples!

And now, here we go: to join a network of dedicated, spirit filled, Gospel preaching people across the Paris region planting churches so that everyone may hear the good news and know that they have a place in God’s kingdom that only they can fill.

Please pray:

>PLEASE pray for the man I sat next to on the train to London. He listened intently and dialogued in depth with me as I shared the entire Gospel message of Jesus Christ. He had so many questions, and based on his answers I believe this might be the first time He’s ever heard the Gospel. Please pray he would find his faith, that was our closing remark, his desire. Please pray that he would find it in Jesus Christ and be our brother in eternity!

>Praise God for answering my prayer of this morning, as I left the house, that He would somehow be glorified on this trip! 🙏🏼🙌🏼 And then he gave me two glorious hours of sharing the death & resurrection of Jesus Christ with a man on a train who’d never heard it before! Praise God!

>that God would help me to stay focused on Him through all this transition

>that God would provide the additional $400 monthly support needed for me in this role in churchplanting in France; please contact me with any questions or connect me with your church if they are ready to support churchplanting in France

>that God would be my family and provide every need for them, as some very precious people to me are going through challenges, and we know He can heal!

>pray for God to continually transform me into Christlikeness, with a willing heart to follow Him anywhere

>that God would give me discernement for decision making and power with prayer partners against spiritual attack during this work 

Thank you for helping me reach the nations with Jesus!

For HIM!!

Jenn


Never The Same Again – How Refugee Ministry in Greece Changed Me

I have wrestled (and prayed) with hitting the publish button on this blog post for weeks. As someone who loves to write, longs to share and thrives on connecting you to the mission you’re supporting with me, I feel that there is no way to ever do justice to this story in type. It feels as though I could never adequately write to connect you to the depth of this story. But I must try. So, I apologize for the delay, and pray that you will understand that my heart has been both broken and restored many times over as a result of this 17 day journey serving refugees in Greece. I long to share with you, to honor my commitment as your partner in ministry. Praising God that Jesus Christ is a perfect home for imperfect people, I pray you will be moved by this imperfect telling of my story alongside my refugee friends in Greece, to bring the Gospel to the world.

This blog entry is the fruit of me rising to the unthinkable challenge of communicating with you  experiences that occurred over the span of 17 days which broadened and deepened my view and understanding of the world and everyone in it. I am certain these 17 days will continue to shape and influence all the rest of my days. In reading this you are entering with me into my new world. I think you’ll understand why writing this will never feel complete. I pray God will use this to change us all for His Glory and our joy, in Jesus’ name, Amen!

I have been living and serving at a Bible School near Grenoble where students come from all over the world to study the Bible intensively for 3-6 months and to serve the local church in many ways. The Bible school, called DEFI, is a place to live in community and to live out loud the life of a disciple of Jesus Christ. This has been a transformative time for them and for me. I have been honored to serve as a biblical counselor, to walk with them through this unique time in life as they invest in their relationships with God. As a close to the year, the students were offered the opportunity to go on a short term mission trip to put into practice all of the beautiful things they’ve studied all year, to love, serve, practice peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, forgiveness, and selflessness, to share Jesus. I quickly offered my services leading and organizing the group to make it happen.

With two girls (ages 18 & 21), we set out to spend 17 days serving with Refugee Ministries in Greece.

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This was a true beginning for me. I began this journey with the goal to learn because I felt very uninformed on the realities of what is happening for refugees globally and how the world leaders (and especially the Church body) is responding. So, I went to learn. I went to learn what their lives are like, to learn truths about this situation and to learn how to better serve and pray for positive change.

IMG_5052 Here’s what we learned:

850,000 refugees entered Europe (the vast majority through Greece) in 2015. Most arrived fleeing their own countries due to war. This is not something that is easy for many of us to understand, as we have never experienced anything like open war destroying our neighborhoods or hometown. Because of the massive influx of refugees arriving in Greece, all the countries within the European Union struck an accord to respond to the situation on a global scale. This new agreement often referred to as the EU-Turkey Refugee deal, which came into effect March 20, 2016. To summarize, the deal says that migrants arriving in Greece are now expected to be sent back to Turkey if they do not apply for asylum or their claim is rejected. All “irregular migrants” (people arriving illegally) crossing from Turkey into Greece from 20 March 2016 will be sent back. Each arrival will be individually assessed by the Greek authorities. One of the primary aspects of the deal states “For each Syrian returned to Turkey, a Syrian migrant will be resettled in the EU. Priority will be given to those who have not tried to illegally enter the EU and the number is capped at 72,000.” This provides a dilemma for how the Greek government and all authorities involved may respond to the other 55% of refugees seeking asylum when recent statistics say only 45% of people arriving this year are Syrian and the agreement only mentions the treatment of Syrians seeking refuge. It is complex, not always clear and multi-faceted. It is a perfect example of lots of people trying to do the right thing and working together to find the best solution for everyone. It is not black and white. It is grey. And, if you know me, you know that grey is not my strong place.

I cannot speak to the politics of the situation, I can only pray and ask you to do the same for all the people involved. I can only share what I saw, what I learned, who I met, the eternal impact a few moments in time can have, and how God is still using it to change me.

Here’s what our trip looked like:

We began by serving for a week in Athens, Greece. Welcomed by a dear friend who has been serving in refugee ministry for years in Athens, we got settled in and rested up for what was ahead. We were warned that the work would be eye-opening and sometimes shocking.

During our week in Athens, we worked about 4-5 hours a day at different locations across Athens serving many refugees in many ways.

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We served meals, toured facilities where bible studies and English and Greek lessons are offered for free to people interested. They also have great rooftop terraces for people to rest while they do their laundry with services provided by the center. We played with some wonderful kids and spent time with women, sharing conversation and laughs. We also enjoyed serving at a women’s & children’s center for refugees, where we served a meal, helped with arts & crafts with the kids, sang songs, played games and assisted while the inspiring leaders of this center shared a Bible story. There was even a separate time for women to take apart to be together while we enjoyed time with the kids.

Our time in Athens was an important introduction into the world of caring for refugees. I spent many hours in conversation with different people and was able to hear their personal stories. I spent two afternoons sharing conversation with a beautiful woman from North Africa and was even able to pray with her and encourage her. She was separated from her family after surviving 5 years in a war torn country. She doesn’t know where her husband or children are. Her story was heartbreaking. And still, her warmth & smile lit up the room.

She shared her desire to do something important with her life, to use her time well, to work. She is simply seeking to be productive and positive. She shows up to the center every week when meals are served to the refugee community and the Greek poor and she serves, because she wants to. It was such a gift to just look into her eyes, listen to her story, and encourage her. (Praise God too for unending opportunities to use the French language in service and ministry! He really does make a way!)

I will continue to pray for her and all the people she represents, homeless, separated from their families and friends (maybe forever), fleeing from their homes looking for safety, a new life, peace.

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The second leg of our journey brought us to Lesvos Island, a Greek Island just off the border of Turkey. We spent 11 days living and serving on Lesvos Island, in a refugee camp where asylum seekers are “detained” (for lack of a better word) until they are either given the asylum they seek, given permission to cross Greece to another country on their way to seek asylum elsewhere, or refused their request and reported back to Turkey or to their country.

Arriving on Lesvos Island, I had no idea what to expect. I can assure you that what we saw when we arrived was not something I could have prepared for any way. Our plane landed on Lesvos, and we were due to work our first shift in camp just a few hours later. Following the GPS directions provided by the volunteer coordinator to the camp, I asked myself upon arrival if this could possibly be the right place. We parked the car along a road next to a 30 foot tall cement wall which was topped with spiraling barbed wire. ‘This looks like a prison’, I thought. ‘This looks like a concentration camp.’ It was shocking just to look at. The truth is, it IS a prison, or it was. This refugee camp is housed in what used to be a military prison. Now, thankfully, I can tell you that the people who live there (the refugees, or residents as we began affectionately calling them) are not treated like prisoners. I am relieved to report that we found much joy, life and friendship among them. But, upon first arrival, coming into the camp was shocking for me to see, without having any idea of what to expect.

This is a photo of the camp (found on the internet as photography of any kind was legally forbidden and strictly enforced):

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What we found was a rhythm of life and community among the volunteers who serve at this camp. It is the Greek police and the Greek military who officially run the camp. They really do everything that would be official to run the camp. But it is the volunteer organizations that we worked with, (Eurorelief, among others) who do everything else imaginable for daily life for the residents. Our job was to bring life to the camp and love to the people living there. Eurorelief volunteers do everything from arranging volleyball games, to projecting football matches for the residents to watch, distribute meals three times a day, offer translation services when needed (always!), help residents get to and from doctor’s visits within the camp, answer questions, spend time chatting and playing games, share coffee and tea, share meals, and just hang out with residents all day long. The volunteer staff even welcomes new people arriving and work with refugees already living in camp to find appropriate housing for new arrivals. Our job was truly to bring life to the camp. To listen to these wonderful people share their stories and just give them a safe place to talk. We listened for hours, for days, and I was moved when I realized the depth of gift we were giving to them just by being available to listen.

90 hours. I spent just 90 hours of my life living alongside the residents of this camp. 10 days of service, 9 hour shifts, it seems so short. But in some ways it felt like a lifetime. I could never recount all the things that happened in those 90 hours. I would love to, but it’s simply not possible. I feel as though I lived 10 months worth of experiences in those 10 days. I don’t know how to help you enter into that time with me fully apart from inviting you to join me next time I go, so I will just share with you one of the moment’s that will forever remain with me perhaps the most deeply.

Prince. On one of my first days in camp, I met a man named Prince who came from the Democratic Republic of Congo. We met as I was distributing meals for the 165 men who lived in a section of camp which was predominantly French-speaking. I spent almost every day in this section of camp because my heart was shredded with compassion for these men at the thought of them not having anyone to communicate with regularly outside of other residents. The vast majority of volunteers who come to serve in this camp are English speakers. Many of the refugees come from French-speaking African countries. I was so moved that God gave me this gift, this ability to give these people such a simple thing: the ability to have a conversation in their native language. I was able to just be present and listen to them, joke with them, share conversation with them, affirm them, encourage them. While I know how painfully isolating it must feel to not be able to have anyone to talk to, (especially in a crisis time of life) I am not sure I understood just how deeply my gift of conversation could touch them until I met Prince.

Prince came over to say hello while I was passing out food, and we struck up a conversation. (In French) I could tell he was a bit suspicious, guarded and not really sure if he trusted me even enough to entertain a conversation. So, I prayed silently that God would lead the conversation and give me the right words. I felt my guard drop when I prayed that prayer. I opened up to however the Lord would lead the conversation.

Prince asked me why I was there. He asked me why I had come. I responded honestly: “Prince, you know, I am here to learn. I don’t understand this situation. I do not understand what is happening politically, economically, socially or spiritually with all of this refugee crisis all over the world. I am here to learn, because to be honest, I don’t often believe what I hear on the news. I don’t really trust that I am being told the truth all the time, so I came to see for myself. I came to see your faces and hear your stories and serve in any way I can to learn and to help in whatever small way I can.”

Prince looked at me skeptically and asked, “What do you think you could possibly learn from us?” I thought for a moment and decided to be transparent, and prayed silently to myself while I answered: “You know, Prince, by the Grace of God, I do not understand why, I have never had a family member who has been killed in war. I have never had to leave my home because war was happening in my neighborhood and it was no longer safe to live there. I have never been forced to see war in my homeland. I do not understand why. I have had suffering in my life, but I do believe I have a lot to learn to from you.”

Prince thought for a moment, looked at his friend Glody, who was with us for this whole conversation, looked back at me and said, “Jennifer, you’re very smart, aren’t you?”

I told him I didn’t know about that, but I did know that it was an honor and a privilege for me to be with him even for these short 11 days. I apologized that I couldn’t stay longer. I apologized again and again. I explained that as soon as we got to the camp, the very first moment we entered, we realized 11 days couldn’t possibly be enough to do all the good we wanted to do for these people, to enter into their suffering with them, to bring light and love. We knew 11 days couldn’t possibly be enough to fully understand this very complex situation. It really was an honor and a time of blessing, stretching and faith-growing to be among them, to share life with them. A privilege, even though it was physically, emotionally and spiritually one the most taxing and difficult seasons of my life.

Prince’s gaze softened, he looked at me intently and said, “you know, what you bring to us is worth more than that. You can speak with us, you can listen to us (because I speak French). We know that all the volunteers that come here love us and want to show love but we cannot share anything with them. (because they don’t speak our language and we can’t speak theirs) You come here, to talk to us, and you bring more love than you know. You say 2 weeks isn’t long enough to come here and help us, but the love you bring will last for years.”

I was just about moved to tears. I thanked Prince for sharing honestly with me. I told him it is true that all we want to do is make their life more livable and full of love for the time we are there, and I repeated again what a blessing it was for us to be among them, to enter into their suffering, their daily lives with them.

Things were different between me and Prince after that. He was always poking his head around the corner looking for me when I came to work in his part of the camp. He went out of his way to share a smile and a hello. He really touched my heart, and I believe I may have shown him a bit of the love and acceptance of Christ that I so desperately wanted to convey.

This is just one story. This is just one man. This is just one moment in conversation among those 90 hours. I consider Prince my friend. And I have no way to know if I could ever see him again. But I pray for him. I pray for all of my friends in that camp. There are many other truly great men and women with whom I shared laughs, conversation, meals, time and space during those 90 hours. Ali, Glody, Aboubakar, André, Abass, Ali, Sharif, Shafi, Shero, Philip, Mengis just to name a few. These people are my friends. I will never forget them. Lord willing, I will never stop praying for them.

And, there’s so much more! It’s hard to know what to share because so many profound and eternal moments happened during those 90 hours. Many of the men living in this camp are believers and God has raised them up in real ways to be the Church of Jesus Christ among the residents in this camp. I witnessed a young man who led a small group Bible study gathered outside one of their tents as dusk fell. They gathered around a table in a courtyard and begin to pray together. Praise God for bringing hope through His people in suffering! I also heard the profoundly moving testimony of a man who shared that he heard the Gospel several times, for months, before he responded to God speaking to his heart. He shared through happy tears how thankful he was that God kept calling to his heart to respond to this message, and when he finally did, he found freedom like he never dreamed possible. He shared that it is completely illegal, punishable by death, to have a Bible or speak of Christianity in any way in his home country. He shared that he spent most of his life wanting to die, wishing he could find a way to commit suicide, but that now, after having heard the voice of Jesus, heard the Gospel and believed in God, he felt true freedom for the first time in his life. He exclaimed with joy (and a smile so big it was contagious and powerful!) that he didn’t want to die anymore, that he wanted to live and to live for Jesus sharing this joy and this untouchable freedom with everyone. And, that is exactly what he was doing. We met him on church on Sunday as he translated the service into his language for people from his country.

Are we getting this? God is saving people and calling them out of the captivity of a lifetime in refugee camps on the Greek coastlines!

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I went to serve for 17 days in Refugee ministry in Greece. I went to learn. I learned a lot of things.

First, I learned there is not an easy answer to this global situation that affects us all.

There is no easy solution, there is not even a clear line of what is just and what is injust. For someone like me who loves black and white, this is new territory for me because this entire global situation is nothing but grey.

And after conversations with many other volunteers, leaders, directors, missionaries, world traveler,s refugees, mothers, fathers, Greek citizens, local police officers the only conclusion I can come to is that it is not up to us to discern what is just and what is injust. It’s too complicated. There’s too many layers, cultures, people groups, countries, hearts and souls involved. It is not black and white. It is grey.

The bottom line for me is that I am not here to discern justice here. It is not possible to discern what is the best course of action for global powers, leaders, international authorities. My job is just to love people. I don’t know who is really running for their lives and who is just looking for a better life. I don’t know which presidents and prime ministers have the best ideas or strategies for solving this crisis.

But I do know that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever. And he commands us to love our neighbor.

So, I showed up, observed like it was job, prayed like lives depended on it and I loved my neighbors from the Ivory Coast, Congo, Cameroon, Benin, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Eritrea, Egypt, Morocco, Greece, Turkey, Sudan, Guinea, France, Canada, Costa Rica, Haiti, Nepal, Sri Lanka, India, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and beyond.

It is not my job to solve world politics or economics or the agreements of the United Nations. It is my job and my honor to love people no matter where they come from, to validate their dignity as humans, to affirm their voices on this planet and to share an open heart with them. because they were created in god’s image, they are eternally beautiful and the Lord is calling them back to Him. I will do everything in my power to walk alongside them on their journey and point them to the One who holds everything in His hands yesterday, today and forever.

I plan to return to Greece. I plan to continue leading short term trips from France to love our neighbors in countries outside our borders. I plan to dedicate time and resources to make it possible for YOU to come serve your neighbors here in France, to love with the love of Jesus, for the Great Commandment, the Great Commission and the glory of His name. 

Partnership for the Gospel

Now, as I approach three years of service here in France, I need you to partner with me.

Will you partner with me in monthly financial support and prayer to reach people like Prince?

Will you pray that God would speak to your heart what place He has for you in this mission? It is only possible for me to be here, sharing the love of Christ because of the 3 churches and 50 families and individuals who partner with me in financial giving monthly. There are HUNDREDS who pray regularly for me and for God to keep giving me ways to point people to Jesus in this life of ministry in France.

I could not be here without you, and as we approach the third year of service in mission, we need new partners. During the 4 years I spent building our support team in Connecticut, 4 years of vision casting and fundraising, we were able to save funds which were used in monthly increments over my first three years in service. Now that three years has come, those funds have been invested in the ministry of church planting and discipleship you’ve sent me to in France since 2014. To meet the need of monthly support for ministry in France, we need partners who can invest $20, $30, $40, or $50 monthly to keep partnering with the Church in France and opportunities like this one to love our neighbors and share the Gospel.

Please pray and ask God if He is calling you to be one of those partners.

You can partner with one-time or recurring donations TEAM page here AND you can stay connected to frequent ministry updates and prayer requests on my facebook page here.

Thank you for your priceless prayers and financial partnership with me to bring Jesus’ love to everyone from across the world!

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In case you’d like to see more moments of our 17 days of service in Greece:

Please Pray!

Serving with Eurorelief in refugee camp in Greece. The French speaking residents of this refugee camp are thanking us everyday for coming, they’re thanking us that they finally have someone to talk to (as not a lot of French speaking volunteers come through). They’re telling us that they pray for God to bless us and thank Him for the love we bring just by showing up and spending time listening to them. My heart is shredded. I cannot describe the life stories I’m hearing everyday, families and lives torn apart by war, people running from their homes to save their lives, to save their families. I see their faces. I listen to their voices. I hear their stories. I know their names. I pray for them. And they tell me they are praying for me. Jesus, come! That your reign would come on this earth and end injustice, end war, end suffering. These people are my friends. They give me their food, they share their music and laughter with me. And I’ve only been here for two days. Lord Jesus, Come! Heal and save and redeem and restore the lives of these people, your children, my brothers and sisters, my friends! Pray with me! Pray for them! PLEASE PRAY!