by Alan & Valerie Kyle
‘For when I am weak, then I am strong’ (2 Cor. 12:10). In October 2022, various officials, brothers and sisters from the Paris Region assemblies, friends from other parts of France and abroad, and representatives of evangelical churches, joined local Christians for a special ceremony to mark the opening of Rambouillet assembly’s new premises. Pierre Bariteau represented the French assemblies from across the nation. It was an important day for the church, opening a new chapter in its 50-year history.
Jean-Paul Burgat, who went to be with the Lord on the 31 August 2023, pioneered gospel work in Rambouillet and neighbouring towns in the early 1970s, which led to a group starting to meet in the town in 1972. Valerie had met Jean-Paul in that same year and remained in contact with him afterwards. Through this contact, and believing that the Lord was calling us to work for Him in France, we arrived in Rambouillet with our 11-month-old son in March 1982. This was two years after the Burgat family had moved to the east of France. We were warmly welcomed to the group in Rambouillet by four baptised believers and their families.
We experienced great help from the Lord during the first period of our 17 years of service in Rambouillet. Our main focus was evangelism by many different means, and teaching and structuring the fellowship. During this time we received about 15 GLO summer teams and some of those who served are in full-time ministry today. The church grew to about 50 adults and children on Sunday mornings.
Room to Grow
After 15 years in Dunkirk in the north of France, our second period of service in Rambouillet began in 2014. This was a year later than originally planned due to Alan having chemotherapy treatment for lymphoma. It was in much weakness that we recommenced a ministry in fellowship with Rambouillet assembly where numbers had remained about the same during our absence. We informed the assembly that given our health problems, we were not as able as we had been during our first period of service in the town but would willingly help in the fellowship as the Lord enabled.
Praise God that the work has developed much more than expected and our ministry has increased considerably as a result. The former church premises began to fill up quickly for the worship and breaking of bread service. Many of us had to stand in the entrance hall for the duration of the service due to the lack of space available in the main meeting room. We were aware that the cramped conditions understandably discouraged some Christians and other interested friends from attending.
The decision was taken to start a monthly prayer meeting to seek God’s provision and guidance for new meeting premises. We knew that finding a suitable building at an acceptable price in this desirable commuter town, 45 kilometres southwest of Paris, would be difficult. The well-attended prayer meeting continued for three years, during which time we visited just two premises that both proved to be unsuitable.
In May 2019, as the prayer meetings continued, the Lord directed us to visit a building situated on a busy road in Rambouillet leading to a shopping centre. On this occasion the building was suitable for our needs but seemingly out of our price range.
However, after being fully informed, the church enthusiastically backed the project and the sale was completed in January 2020.On the Sunday after completion, followingthe service and a fellowship meal, we walked the short distance together to the new premises. Everyone gathered in what would become the main meeting place, to praise God in song and prayer. A few months later the necessary conversion work on the building, which had only just begun, was halted by an unknown virus – Covid-19.
Praise God that the work has developed much more than expected and our ministry has increased considerably as a result.
During those years of Zoom meetings, the Lord remarkably enabled Rambouillet fellowship to grow. After lockdown and a period of hybrid meetings, growth continued as we gratefully started to take full advantage of the new premises. We now had, what seemed to be, an adequately sized meeting hall with six other rooms available for children’s, youth and other ministries. An added bonus was a garden that is now joyfully used for fellowship lunches and other purposes.
The amount of people who came to meetings was literally, at times, overwhelming. Although there was an outreach ministry in the church, most non-Christians came by themselves to meetings perhaps having contacted us beforehand through the church website, our Facebook page or by telephone. Others noticed the building when they were driving past on their way to or from the shopping centre. Both young and old came but we found in general more younger people showed an interest. God was blessing us too with the arrival of young families.
We welcomed a great variety of people of all ages and from many different backgrounds. At present we have over 30 nationalities attending on Sunday mornings from Europe, Africa, the Americas and Asia. It seemed we no longer needed to travel long distances to share the gospel among different ethnic groups; they were coming to us. This in itself is a powerful testimony as people witness those gathered together – with so much that could divide them – all one in Christ Jesus!
Growth has been such that our hall, which we believed to be adequately sized for our needs, is filled every Sunday morning. It is often necessary to open the folding doors to enable us to use the entrance as a small extension to the hall.
This growth brings particular needs. A first requirement is good regular Bible teaching. The current church programme offers various opportunities for all to grow in their knowledge of God’s Word. A discovery and growth group brought together ten people during the last school year, for a clear presentation of the gospel followed by teaching on the Christian life. One of our young people, who grew up in a non-Christian home, has taken on responsibility for this group and has much benefitted from it himself. Two practical theology groups meet monthly. Nearly 30 brothers and sisters come together for up to three hours after preparing for the group study beforehand. About the same number of people attend the fortnightly church Zoom Bible study.
Pastoral needs have of course increased with the growth in numbers, including situations that present us with a variety of modern-day challenges. Although at present Alan is the only recognised elder in the assembly, he is assisted by others who have a pastoral heart. We are much in prayer for God’s provision in this important area of church life.
Yohan Ouoba, albeit still young in years, was a fellow elder with Alan for a short time before the Lord called him and his wife to study at the Geneva Bible Institute. Rambouillet assembly supported them in this project. They intend to return to the town after their studies to engage in full-time ministry with the assembly. It has been agreed that they will come back, as the Lord leads, in 2025 after benefiting from practical on-the-ground training elsewhere.
We are very aware that we are engaged in a spiritual battle and ask prayer for the protection of Rambouillet assembly and the work of the Lord in the town and the surrounding area. We also long for the witness to spill over into the towns and villages nearby where there are no evangelical churches. As with most churches, during the pandemic we introduced Zoom prayer groups. After the crisis, the prayer groups continued and we now have many more people than before praying every week.
We praise God for those who have been saved, baptised and added to the fellowship. Most of them are from a non-Christian background. What a joy and a privilege to listen to them talk about how the gospel has changed their lives. Please join with us and with your brothers and sisters in Rambouillet church in praising our wonderful God for the great things He has done and is continuing to do. He is showering us with many blessings. To Him be all the glory: ‘Salvation belongs to the Lord!’ (Ps 3:8).