Mercy Hill College loves students that have a passion for the nations and we want to cultivate that. That’s why we are fully supportive of students that want to study abroad (as long as they commit to leveraging their time for the sake of spreading the Gospel). I learned two valuable lessons when I studied abroad: 1. Life is hard and 2. Christ-centered community is important.
Life Is Hard
Upon landing in the Paris airport, it did not take long for me to feel like an outsider. I instantly knew that I was no longer in America. First of all, the signs were in French, and there was barely any English spoken. This made it easy and convenient to be friends with the Americans. I went out Friday and Saturday nights with them, ate most of my meals with them, traveled to different countries with them, and found myself in some classes with them. They became my community.
When my French Pal dropped me off at my room for the first time, she saw my bible, picked it up, and asked me in French “what piece of Literature is this?” I explained to her it was my Bible, and she then asked me why I brought it. I felt very uncomfortable, and I quickly answered, “So I can read it in the mornings.” As she flipped through the pages of my Bible she said, “We have many beautiful churches here in France. If you want, we can go visit one.” I smiled and said yes.
People love churches in France. They are big, beautiful cathedrals on every other corner, but people do not love Christ. As I adjusted to being in France, I too began to fall in love with the beautiful cathedrals and neglected my love for Christ. In January, Sunday morning looked like drinking a lot of water to get rid of Saturday night’s hangover, going for a run with an American friend, and watching a Matt Chandler sermon so I could tell my parents I “did Church” that Sunday. There were no “Christ-Centered” churches near me that I knew of. This became my excuse not to search for a body of Christ, but rather to live for Christelle Kidibu, as I penciled time with Jesus into my everyday schedule. I was in a whole new country; therefore, it was “easy” to create a whole new me.
During the second month of my study abroad experience, I became very home sick. Drinking with friends and going out was no longer enough for me. As a result, I was no longer happy or joyful. At that point I started to feel very convicted about my present lifestyle. Through being raw and honest with friends back home, I was able to see my habits at the time as sin, turn away from them, and trust God through his Holy Spirit to give me strength to say no to past habits because Christ is better! Praise God for conviction.
Christ-centered Community Is Important
Soon I began to search for a church. Through God’s grace I was able to find a gospel-centered body of Christ on the outskirts of the city. In all honesty, going to church Sunday morning was an inconvenience. It took me about forty-five minutes in public transportation connections to get there. Yet, this body of believers changed my whole study abroad experience. Through this church I was able to connect to a few other students that attended my university and others nearby that were believers. As I grew to love the church, I joined a bible study that met on my campus during the week and Agape (which is CRU in France). I had a whole new set of friends that loved Jesus like me and wanted to share the Gospel.
I also felt conflicted because I did not feel right abandoning my first initial group of friends. My new goal was to merge these two groups in order to share with them the love of Christ. This task was very difficult. I had to start saying no to going out because of what it led to. My small group kept me accountable, and I started to invite friends that I partied with to church and bible study events. The Christelle they knew and grew to love was now this “Christian girl.” Hard conversations had to be had as I explained to them that I was a believer, and the past month I had been living for myself and not for Christ who had died for me and all my sins. I wanted them to see the beauty and grace of Jesus in his forgiveness of my failures and struggles.
As I started to live a life worthy of the Gospel, I became closer with friends from my church. There was one friend from America, Christina Grace, who would come to church with me every Sunday morning. God used this church and bible study to show Christina and I the importance of Christian community. Even in my brokenness and failure, Jesus was so gracious. Christina, although growing up in church all her life, came to know Jesus while in France! It would have been so much easier for me to just “live for myself,” but I am so glad I didn’t waste my study abroad experience. God strategically placed me in France for about six months. There will never be another time in my life where I am in classrooms filled with foreign students and French students who have not experienced the saving grace of Jesus Christ. When I finally realized that, I found myself wanting to live out the Gospel in order to share my faith. God put me in France, in those classrooms, to make his name known in all that I did.
-Christelle Kidibu (College Residency Administrative Intern)
To learn more about how to leverage your study abroad, come to the breakout session at Fall Retreat.