Our team left the Mother Teresa International Airport in Tirana, Albania at 4:00 am. The Austrian Airlines plane was full of North American workers rotating off of the Albanian oil fields. They were heading back to places like North Dakota and Alberta. A sign of the times.
Our destination was Paris. We’d been in Europe for five weeks. We started in the northern chill of the Baltic and were leaving the southern warmth of the Mediterranean.
We’d seen and experienced a great deal by the time we landed at Charles De Gaulle International.
We’d been to cultural capitals and out of the ways villages.
We cleared brush in the forest and poured concrete in places where modeling a lifestyle of hard work and service is the best evangelism.
We studied the church’s complex past as well as what is working here and now to be an authentic witness for Christ in a culturally compelling way.
We openly and unabashedly proclaimed the Gospel is school yards and town squares in places where people are eager to hear of the Hope of Jesus.
We touched the deep parts of Christian community.
We met God in a new way.
And Paris was the place to start making sense of it all. It was the place to lay out all of the things we’d picked up along the way and examine each one of them. Things about the church, about European culture, about evangelism and discipleship and things about ourselves.
There was a moment that first night. One of those transcendent moments. Like that night at the Song Festival in Tallinn. We had visited Notre Dame during evening Mass. A smaller contingent carried on through the Latin Quarter to the Luxembourg Gardens. And from there to the foot of the Eiffel Tower.
As we sat on the grass and watched the sun go down on a day we’d started on the road from Ereseke to Tirana, a visible sense of awe and wonder overcame our group. I saw it on their faces.
These same faces that looked with anxious eyes wide open five weeks ago now looked with eyes seasoned by travel, learning and service. They showed the expressions of friendship and reflected the mystery of God’s grace in our midst.
The moment though was when the Eiffel Tower broke out it in sparkling lights. 10:05 pm. It felt almost as if the display was private even though there were hundreds of other people on the lawn, watching the same thing. God had shown us sparkling lights all summer. Through incredible people serving His church, through the movement of the Spirit, through each other, and now finally He’d driven the message home with literal sparkling lights at exactly the moment we needed them.
It was an object lesson of a lifetime. If these lights on this man-made structure can move us, how much more can He? If we can look with awe and wonder at the places He has shown us, how much more can we see in Him?