Experiencing the vitality of Christian faith in Paris, North American pastors and mission administrators learned new ways to address the secularization of their own communities.
Paris Mennonite Center sponsored a visit for its supporters Sept. 16-26 to share a deeper understanding of its ministries in France and throughout the French-speaking world.
James and Jeanette Krabill, former longtime workers with Mennonite Mission Network, co-hosted the visit with their son and daughter-in-law, Matthew and Toni Krabill, who serve with MMN as co-directors of the Paris Mennonite Center.
The elder Krabills served for 20 years in West Africa, and James was a Mission Network administrator for 20 more years before retiring from full-time employment in 2017.
The two-generation Krabill hosting team welcomed three participants from Ohio congregations — members of Matthew and Toni Krabill’s ministry support team — and two MMN staff people who observed the vibrant spiritual life of post-Christendom Paris, often described as one of the world’s most secular cities.
Paula Snyder Belousek, a former MMN Service Adventure leader and pastor of Salem Mennonite Church in Elida, was joined by Erin and Hank Unruh of Salem Mennonite Church in Kidron, where Hank Unruh pastors. Erin Unruh is a pharmacy technician.
Marisa Smucker, MMN senior executive of ventures, and Kayci Detweiler, divisional coordinator of advancement, experienced firsthand the ministries they support.
The group met with French Mennonite leaders, members of the Muslim community and professors of French church history and secular culture.
For Snyder Belousek, highlights included learning about collaborative efforts of French and North American Mennonites, especially Domaine Emmanuel (now known as AEDE), an organization that provides housing and a sheltered workshop for people with developmental disabilities and mental health needs. French Mennonites started this ministry at a time when these services were rare in France.
“We also worshiped with the Chatenay-Malabry Mennonite Church, a beautiful example of a multiethnic community, where people from a variety of backgrounds form a Christian community against the backdrop of a secular society,” Snyder Belousek said.
Detweiler wrote: “Matthew Krabill said that Mennonites from the United States often come to Europe for Anabaptist heritage tours, but they don’t get to hear or learn about the context of the French Mennonite church today. . . . This trip opened my eyes to the current work of the Anabaptists in France and French-speaking nations, as well as the history that brought them to this point. The global church is alive in ‘post-Christendom’ France!”
Have a comment on this story? Write to the editors. Include your full name, city and state. Selected comments will be edited for publication in print or online.