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First Glimpse 37




Quelle est la Croix?

“Quelle est la croix?”

My brain slowly deciphered the unfamiliar words. “What is the cross?”

I glanced down at the small pendant lying in my palm then back to the beautiful, young clerk. She smiled and nodded.

I stood in a quaint jewelry store on a quiet street two blocks from the bustling center of Nantes, France. Founded a century before the birth of Christ, the city has been ripped from the pages of a worn history book—narrow flagstone streets, vine-covered buildings, majestic château, ancient cathedral where the toe of Saint Peter’s marble statue has been rubbed away from centuries of kisses from passionate Roman Catholic pilgrims.

After a week with my French hosts, I had ventured out on my own for the first time to find a souvenir—a very specific souvenir—for my wife. My quest for a Huguenot Cross took me through twisting streets and tiny shops armed with only a well-worn map, a smattering of French words, and a smile. After long hours, my search finally ended at a small, corner shop with the tiny pendant lying in my palm.

The Huguenot Cross is a cherished symbol of protestant believers who endured severe persecution—even death—at the hands of Roman Catholics before the Edict of Nantes granted them the right to practice their faith in 1598. The cross, which adds a dove and fleur-de-lis to the traditional Maltese cross, recalls centuries of faithfulness in the face of persecution.

As I looked into the curious face of the young Frenchwoman before me, I wanted so badly to communicate the deep symbolism behind the pendant—the hope and salvation the cross brings. She endured a long moment of silence as my mind groped desperately for words. Finally, I held the cross up to the afternoon sunlight filtering through the windows and blurted out the only phrase I could remember: “Je crois…I believe.”

It was my first personal experience with the difficulty missionaries face when they step boldly across cultural barriers to share the Gospel of Christ. They start as learners, acquiring new languages and learning history, culture, and traditions in order to build redemptive relationships. They encounter curiosity, suspicion—even outright antagonism as they enter close-knit communities bound by religion and tradition.

In recent years, American missionaries and missions agencies have encountered new challenges: the plunging value of the dollar, rising travel and living costs, and a growing hostility toward the influence of western culture.

In spite of these and other difficulties, dedicated, passionate, and innovative men and women continue to take the gospel to hard places. As you read this issue of ONE Magazine, travel with them—to Bulgaria with Tim and Lydia Awtrey; with Tim and Kristy Johnson to the Spanish city with a heart of stone; and to comfort a grieving military widow with Chaplain David Trogdon.
As you travel, learn more about what it means to take the Gospel to the hard places and—more important—how you can help.



©2009 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists