Philippe Joret - Montauban, FRANCE

How I Accepted Christianity. There were different parameters in my life. My parents were kind of Catholics. But they were also involved in a kind of cultism. My mother was healing people through certain kind of prayers. My father had a lot of superstitions too. In his money bag, he had an umbilical cord. They were middle class people. They wanted to be high class. When I was small, they spent a great deal of time caring for me and my sister. As I grew older, because of their ambitions and the work involved, they cared less and less.

As a teenager I began to wonder why I was here. I sensed there was something I didn't know. I wanted to end my life. When I was fifteen, I read Das Kapital. I went into politics. I was at the extreme, extreme left--an anarchist. I had a thirst for justice but was very much disappointed in what I saw among anarchists because human nature was still there--they

didn't really live their ideals. The reality was disappointing. For example, one day we organized a strike. We told the press we had thousands of strikers, but it wasn't true. I was very disappointed. My heart was tightening up--my disappointment with music, philosophy, etc., was leading to a hard heart. At 16 I left home, experimented with drugs, thought about suicide.

I did stick with school though. In philosophy I read a book called Marx, Young and Jesus. I found my values through this. A man asked me if I wanted to read Jesus and I said no. The man left. Eventually, I sought out the man and found him. We prayed together. As we prayed I saw a sword and that scared me because I was an intellectual. But this man was living his ideals--he lived a communal life--while the intellectuals were not. In his community, everyone shared their possessions. I asked why hadn't anyone told me that Christians do this. When I saw this I wanted to become a Christian right away. But when I saw them praying and lifting their hands I thought they were crazy. I said, "I don't want to give you my life," and I was released. I thought it was not real.

There was one girl at the service who was also not a Christian. I said that if she becomes a Christian as a part of your group I will be disgusted (because I felt her conversion would be a result of their group pressure). We both attended the same high school. One day, she came into the cafe and said she was a Christian. I said to myself, I need to help her. She came with books and I had books and we shared with one another. When she left, I felt that I was the winner intellectually, but my intellectual arguments did not shake her convictions. I told her to get a Bible for me so I could attack her on her own grounds. As I read the Bible, I marked passages which were intellectually sound in blue. Passages which I marked in yellow were those which I felt people could believe if they wanted to, but which did not convince me. I marked passages which were totally unbelievable in green--basically I felt, "if you believe this you're crazy."

I read Genesis, Matthew, etc. When I talked to her again we were on the same ground, but I still could not shake her convictions. She told me to ask the Holy Spirit to show me the Bible as it should be seen. Initially I resisted, because I was an intellectual. But once I had asked this of the Holy Spirit, I could no longer understand why I had marked the Bible passages in the colors I had. I realized that the colors were inside me not inside the Bible. Because I had read the gospel, I started to love Jesus because he was not religious. He was a living person, a friend, a revolutionary. His presence came to me in my room a white light and a presence I had not known before. I said Jesus I want to follow you but not as one of the masses. I want to be one of the twelve. I wanted to be a disciple. I wanted to LIVE something strong and real--not something from a distance. Since my childhood I had sensed something in myself. I would shoot an arrow at the target, but the more I tried the farther from the target I strayed. Jesus intervened and got me back on target.

I went to my school class and asked forgiveness for things I had done. I went to my parents and told my mother I wanted to bring her to Christ. She said no. So I shook the dust off my feet (as in Matthew) because she would not receive my testimony. My sister cried. I came back. She said yes. My father called in a Catholic priest who is an expert on sects to exorcise me. My mother went to see a witchcraft doctor to see if he could help me, but she could not go into the house because I had prayed about this. My mother became a Christian six months later. For my father it took eleven years, but now he is in full-time ministry with me. I have testified to my faith with young people.

Three years after my conversion we started a local church of which I was the pastor. My burden is to tell the people of my country that the church is alive and well in Christ. We started to plant churches in every county of this region (there are fifteen counties). Now we have twenty churches in this region. The notion of church planting has not only taken root in the city but in the areas around it. We tell the churches in the city that they not only have a mission to minister in the city but in the areas around it. My vision can be seen in my office. On one wall I have a map of my city, county and department with all the churches we have planted there. On the other wall, we have a map of the South of France which is where I live, with pictures of all the churches I have planted and plan to plant. On third wall we have map of France...