Montauban is a small city of 50,000 people situated in southwest France, 30 miles north of Toulouse. The church there was started as an outreach from the church and Bible Institute in Toulouse in 1970. Several teams of students from the Institute had worked there over the years. In September 1980, Judy and I rented our first apartment and gave ourselves to the work there.
The church had about 10 to 15 in attendance on Sundays. The church service had been placed in the afternoon so that someone from Toulouse could come and preach, but the people got used to this arrangement and it stayed that way for a number of years, even after I was doing all the preaching. This small but faithful group prayed for the salvation of souls and for a revival in Montauban. It was a close knit group that was dear to our hearts.
In 1981, François Miterand was elected president of France. One of his campaign promises was to legalize private radio stations (up to then only state-run radios could legally broadcast from French soil). As soon as his election was officially announced, there were transmitters already in place and they were immediately turned on and began broadcasting. Within weeks, there were hundreds of independent radios all over France.
Sometime later, at our weekly Wednesday evening bible study, one of the Christians asked "Why don't you start a Christian radio station, it only costs about $1000?" (Someone from a church in Toulouse had told her that). We didn't have $1000 but thought that we could find that. This was the beginning of our project to start Radio Sentinel which had its first broadcast October 17,1983 with an investment of around $5000, the Lord had provided!.
We moved to a small house and put the antenna on the roof with the studio in one of the two bedrooms. At first we broadcasted for 3 hours per day, then 4 hours and 15 minuts. In 1985, we built a house on a hill about 6 miles from Montauban so that the radio could reach more of the surrounding area. With a homemade automation system (using a Commodore 64) we went to 13 hours a day and then to 24 hours a day.
The program consisted of Christian music, bible readings, testimonies, and different programs that we found that already existed in French. Then Eric and Eylane Hossack came to work with us and they produced a large number of recordings. By the way, even though our French is very fluent, we did not speak on the radio because of our foreign accent, but we did the administrative and technical work.
There was another event that took place April 10th, 1983. Our daughter Rebecca was born. Then Nathanael our son was born September 9th, 1985.
Our ministry over these years has consisted of the pastoral responsibilities of the local church in Montauban: Sunday worship service, Wednesday evening Bible Study, prayer meeting, Bible Stand in the market place on Saturdays, Children's club and eventually we did an Awana club. Then there has been special evangelistic meetings, and of course we kept the radio station going. Around 1995, I was asked to teach Bible doctrines and hermeneutics at our mission's Bible Institute which had been moved to Paris in 1981, so I would go up to Paris by train once a month and stay 3 days to teach at the Institute.
After over 20 years of ministry in Montauban, time had come for a change. One of our objectives had been to be able to have a French pastor take our place, but up until then, we had not had a satisfactory possibility.
During our last visit in the States, we had Didier Silberstein, the French assistant pastor in the church in Lille, fill in for us for 4 of the 6 months that we were on furlough. The church people in Montauban really appreciated his ministry. I asked Didier if ever we were to consider leaving Montauban, if he would be interested in taking our place. He not only said yes, but said that Olivier Bourrel, the pastor in Lille, wanted to turn the church in Lille over to someone else so he could give more of his time to the work in the church in Somain as well as better fill his responsibilities as director of the Bible Institute in Paris. This led to the proposition that Didier replace us and that we assume the leadership of the church in Lille.
One of the big advantages of us going to Lille was that we are able to be more involved in the activities at the Bible Institute since Lille is only a two-hour drive from Paris. This is something I have had at heart for sometime. I could possibly help with forming teams with the students, as was the main thrust of our mission's work when the Bible Institute was in Toulouse many years earlier.
In February 2000, we went to Lille for the first time and I did a seminar on the family. Didier visited Montauban to talk with our church people and we visited Lille once again to better know the church there. We called for a vote in the two churches and both churches accepted this proposal in the spring of 2000. We moved to Lille at the end of August 2000.
The church in Lille was started in 1993. It has mostly singles, either young adults or older divorcees, without many families. Lille is a large agglomeration of several cities with a total of about a million in population with over 70,000 university students. In the past it was a coal mining and a textile-manufacturing center, but both of these industries have disappeared. This area is emerging as an European commercial hub. By train, one can be in Brussels, London or Paris in less than two hours.
Leaving Montauban, we left our radio ministry to André Frenzel who was willing to continue it, but I would like to use our recordings and put them on the Internet. The DSL Internet connection is available in Lille and is not yet possible in Montauban.
Pray for us, as we're beginning a new "adventure" with God in this new ministry in Lille.