“Lord, I have left my country. I’ve struggled with the French language. I’ve gone to the markets to sell Christian books. People are wary of me and accuse me of being in a cult. I’m tired. I’m not going to try any more. I’m fed up. Nothing is working. I’m staying home. Do Your job. Send me a sign!”
So prayed a lonely, frustrated, and discouraged missionary to France. He had done everything he knew to do. In desperation, Don Sexton prayed with his wife Billie that God would make something happen. As he concluded his prayer a knock sounded at the door. When they opened the door a man said, “I am the salesman who’s come to sell you the Renault 5 for Charolette Tallent….”
This is that salesman’s story.
I am Yannick. I was born in 1956 into a family of five children. Our family was Catholic by tradition, but we were non-practicing.
From a very young age I searched for God. As a 13-year-old I envisioned becoming a Catholic priest. However, my parents didn’t encourage me, and later I hoped to marry.
On January 22, 1977, I met Dominique and she became my wife on April 28, 1978. We have three children. Samuel, 25 years old, is a fireman in Paris. Vincent, 20, is a student and wants to join his brother. Agnes, age 18, is also a student but, thankfully, does not want to be a fireman!
My story begins in 1978, the year Dominique and I married. I was a car salesman for Renault. One day a colleague told me a pastor wanted to buy a car. My colleague was “allergic” to priests, pastors, and anyone who resembled them. Rather than meeting this pastor himself, he asked me to go. So I went to see this man with the dreadful accent. If he would buy a car from me I was willing to listen to it.
Our interview was cordial. His wife made good coffee and gave us little cakes. He had an attractive personality. He gave me his business card on which was written: “Don Sexton, Free Will Baptist Pastor.”
I asked him, “Are you like the Mormons or the Jehovah’s Witnesses?”
He replied that his ministry was to bring the Word of God. He said the “Free Will Baptist” label was undoubtedly difficult for me to understand, but he would explain if I would grant him a little more time.
On my second visit I had only one goal: to conclude the transaction and leave these good folks to their spirituality. Once the business was completed, Don smiled at me and said, “May I ask you two questions?”
“Yes. Please do.”
“Do you believe the Bible is the Word of God?”
As a good Catholic, even if I had never read the Bible, I did not want to pass for an imbecile. So I answered in the affirmative.
“If I show you a passage in the Bible that is not subject to a Baptist interpretation, are you ready to obey the Word of God?”
And there I was trapped!
I told him I would agree on one condition: he must read the passage in the Jerusalem Bible translation (the official translation of the Catholic Church). Not a problem! He picked up that translation and read the passage that changed my life forever.
“It is by grace that you are saved by means of faith and that not of yourselves. It is a gift of God, it is not by works, so that no one may glorify himself” (Ephesians 2:8,9).
For a Catholic to hear this message of salvation by grace was revolutionary. I had always been taught that if I wanted to be saved by God, it would be by works. I went home troubled. I couldn’t sleep. Something in me was not the same. For the first time in my life the Bible made sense. I understood! So every day I went to visit this pastor who explained to me the Word of God. And every night I shared his comments with my wife.
He invited us to a worship service in the rented dining hall of a school on the east side of Nantes. I heard people praying and sharing what God had done in their lives. I saw what they lived daily. We were even more troubled. So we gave our lives to the Lord in 1979.
We had struggles. Our families closed their doors to us. They felt we had betrayed them. The day we were baptized by immersion, no one from our families came to the service. It was hard.
Although both Dominique and I had very good professional situations, we took three-month-old Samuel and went for a year of biblical studies at Emmaüs Bible Institute in Switzerland. Upon returning to Nantes we continued our spiritual walk with the Murray family. They strengthened our training in the service of the church. The church of Nantes, with pastors John Murray and Steve Riggs, and the church of St Nazaire, with pastors Jerry Gibbs and Tom McCullough, prayed for us.
Today I am 48 years old. Every time I enter my church, which sits 100 meters from where I knocked on Don Sexton’s door, I thank the Lord I met Don and his wife.
Recently I was unemployed for 15 months. During those 15 months, I was able to be more available for the church. Steve Riggs gave me the responsibility for the Wednesday night prayer service. I was able to visit those in difficulty. Seeing the problems of other people allowed me to forget my own troubles.
I was happy in spite of the negative responses to my job search. Though it weighed on my morale, I had to be patient. Each month we had to take from our savings to live. Our unemployment allowances were not enough to pay our bills. But God did not allow us to be tempted beyond our strength.
Now I face a choice. The harvest is ripe, and there are few workers. What is my place? I wait today for God to confirm His call by opening the door for full-time service. I also wait for brothers and sisters of our church to recognize this call on my life.
My meeting with Don was not by chance. It is also not by chance that the church you allowed us to buy sits only 100 meters from the place Don Sexton lived! I see the hand of God who has a plan for it all.
Some quickly judge the success or failure of a ministry by the number of converts. Take care, dear brothers and sisters. God does not use the same accounting system we use. Had I been the only person needing forgiveness, Jesus would have gone to the cross just for me. I’ve wondered, “Did God send Don and Billie Sexton to France just for me?”
Pray for us, that we may have joy and know His will for our lives. Remind yourselves that it is not in vain that you support missionaries financially and in prayer.
My testimony is proof of that, and to Him be the glory! May the Lord bless you.
Yannick Kermovan is a member of the Nantes FWB Church in France. He is currently employed as sales manager for an Opel dealership.