I’d had enough. Endless strikes, friends who hated God and a society indifferent to him. I zipped up my last suitcase and headed to the airport.

A year working with Friends International in the UK lay ahead of me, but beyond that the future was uncertain. Should I become a mission worker – perhaps to Africa, China or Iran?

However, when I arrived at church in Cambridge, the vicar had a strange way of welcoming this French newcomer: “You’re French! Why aren’t you serving God in France?” What? Mission to my own people?

God changed my desperation to hope

I grew a lot as a Christian during my 5 years in the UK. But what changed me forever was catching a God’s eye view of my compatriots. The most hostile French heart can’t escape the seeking, saving love of Christ. God changed my desperation into hope, my despising into compassion. Could God really work among my people? Could he use me?

But where? We’d completed theological studies and a church placement. I had always felt burdened for the west of France, where many travel for miles to find their nearest evangelical church. My eyes scanned the map. Brittany … the Loire Valley … Surely not Bordeaux, Lord?

God opened a door

We prayed, we visited, we asked others for wisdom. And God opened a door in Bordeaux. The international church was seeking a French pastor to help them reach the French. We’d be working alongside Alan and Pat Davey (UFM) with whom I’d stayed in touch since leaving years earlier.

So we squeezed everything into our removal van and drove south. As we arrived in Bordeaux, the sun was shining over the city. We felt hope because God promises that the harvest is plentiful. We felt peace because God had opened the door for an unthinkable return.

Some are responding: the Catholic student who wants to know God’s word for herself, the new age healer drawn to the Lord Jesus…

And so, here I labour among my people. We speak the same language but worship different gods. Theirs, the god of the good life – of food, wine and free time; mine, the God who loves them and calls them to the better banquet in his company. And some are responding: the Catholic student who wants to know God’s word for herself, the new-age healer drawn to the Lord Jesus, the parent who wonders whether the resurrection really could be true.

Seeing through God’s eyes

We planted the church in 2018 and have grown from 8 to 28 people on Sundays, including those looking into Christianity. Our meetings are bursting with children and the café we meet in no longer has enough chairs (please pray for a new venue!).

Outside, the city centre bustles with students, entrepreneurs, families and a large Muslim community. We wonder how to connect with our city. How can we serve them and bring the good news of Jesus to them? Everyone is busy and the Bordelais are notoriously unfriendly. Lord, will you lead us to the people you are preparing?

I still see Bordeaux’s problems: the strikes and the indifference. But now I see my city through God’s eyes. And I’m praying for eight new churches to be planted here by 2050. People think I’m mad, but I’m just following the missionary God who loves to save the lost. He is at work wherever we are. It’s great to go to Africa, China or Iran, but it’s not an easy way out. Neither our hearts, nor the task of mission, will be transformed by taking a plane flight. Our heart for God’s mission needs to start here and now. Are you willing to share his good news where you are?

Maxime and Delmeza Soumagnas, with their three children, serve as church planters in Bordeaux