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Bixby News

Building update following second visit

21 October 2017 | by Bixby

Thank you for many expressions of interest and for your prayers regarding the recent building opportunity our church has been given. It has been more than a month now that in a conversation with the owner of the restaurant where our church presently meets, he mentioned that he had heard somewhere of a building that was coming up for rent. That “chance” conversation has lead us on quite the wild ride! (If you want to refresh your mind on how the details, please read our blog post here). Since several have been wondering, I thought it would be good to update those who are interested to know where things stand at present in our search for a church building.

 

Zoning problem

Last week, we were able to revisit the facility. (To read more about why we believe the building is so ideal, please see here.) I went with a letter in my pocket from a Christian architect who had researched the details of the building for us to find any potential problems. His one concern was that the area in which the building is located is zoned “for commercial development only.” This, he said, could very well be a reason the mayor’s office might use to deny us authorization to use it as a church. I decided to be very open with the owner and just show him the letter from the architect, so that he would be aware of what could be a potential hurdle to us in purchasing the building. To my amazement, he told us that his partner had met with the mayor of Sarcelles just the week before (concerning another project) and while there he had talked to him about us and our desire to buy the building! This means that the mayor of the large city of Sarcelles is already aware of this possibility and gave no indication that he would want to put a stop to it! The owner continued, “Of course, if this purchase moves forward, we will go with you to meet the mayor and present the project together. Everything in this city goes through the mayor.” He expressed his own confidence that their meeting the mayor along with us would avoid any such problems altogether! It may be hard to understand how significant this element is, but the only two other options to rent that we have ever had previously were both turned down by the mayors of those neighboring cities of Sarcelles! We have never had such a positive reception from either the local government or a proprietor concerning a desire to use a building as a church! Even if God should close the door through others means, this openness on the part of the owner and city has been an immense encouragement to us that God can and does work on behalf of His Church.

 

Financial problem

For the moment, it seems the one remaining hurdle for us is the cost. While the formal offer has yet to be given, the owner did give us a hint of what they are preparing. To help us to avoid going through a bank or paying rental taxes, they will likely suggest that we would need to be able to put down 300,000€ as the down payment. This figure is mind-boggling. It has made us wonder if we should simply pull out of the negotiations. However, we feel like it would be wrong to do so at this point for the following reasons:

  1. The current owners understand that ultimately we may not be able to purchase the building, and that we are waiting for them to give us an official offer before we give them a final answer. (They are still working on their formal offer, which gives us more time.)
  2. We have never before seen God remove so many other barriers. For example, we remain amazed at the willingness of the owners to work with us so that we could avoid having to get a loan from a bank. And it is certainly no small thing that they are willing to work directly with the mayor on our behalf, essentially advocating for us, to help us avoid certain zoning hurdles that have been so frequent in the past.
  3. We believe that the same God who has already worked wonders on the parking and political zoning end can also work wonders on the financial end.

 

This is why, in the same spirit in which we first sought financial support in order to come to France, we are asking for help with this project. Our weekly meetings as a church plant are presently limited to two hours in a restaurant on Sunday mornings. The work is handicapped because of this, and our visibility in the community is limited by the fact that we don’t have a “permanent” and visible outpost. For us to establish a long-term witness in the city, we need a place where people can come, where we can meet without distraction, and where people have a haven in which to flourish spiritually. I believe that the long-term effectiveness of our church is tied to having a permanent address to which people can come. The church is not the address! However, a church is a “gathering”, an “assembly,” and we need a place that will be conducive to living out the imperatives given to the local church. Would you consider supporting this effort with a one-time donation, or with a regular, specially designated support for 5 or 10 years? Not having ever seen such a beautiful opportunity present itself before, we believe we should at least inquire among God’s people to see who would have the ability and desire to help with this project. If God does not provide, we will know that it is not because He is unable, but unwilling for us to have this building at this time. Either way, we are confident His will is always best.

 

In the previous post, you will find a letter from a French businessman who is part of the leadership here in our mother church. I think it will help you better understand the opportunity and need. Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have. Though we do not yet have a deadline given to us, we will probably need to know something during the month of November.

Letter regarding potential building purchase

20 October 2017 | by Bixby

Below is a letter that seeks to explain our current situation as we look toward the possibility of purchasing a building for our church plant. It is from a friend and fellow church member Vincent Dormieux, a French businessman who is part of the leadership in our mother church at Saint Denis. We trust it will help you better understand the opportunity and need.

_________________________________

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The goal of this letter is to give you a better understanding of recent developments in the search for a more permanent meeting place for the Sarcelles church plant (Eglise Biblique Baptiste du Grand Roissy).

When I was 3 years old, my family moved to Sarcelles, and that is the city where I grew up. Now 53 years old, I was raised as a Roman Catholic and became a Christian 11 years ago, having been led to the Lord by an American co-worker. I have been a member of the Baptist church of Saint Denis since shortly after my conversion.

I would like first to give you a bit of background. Originally Sarcelles was a quiet farming village built around its 13th century church, in the midst of orchards, 10 miles north of Paris. In the 1960s, with the aggressive growth of the French economy and the rural exodus, it became necessary to build housing for this new population everywhere around Paris.

In this context, it was decided to build an entire “ville nouvelle” (new town) in the north of Paris, just one mile south of the village of Sarcelles: “le Nouveau Sarcelles”. While the population of “Sarcelles Village” was around 8,000 in the 1950s, le Nouveau Sarcelles was designed to house 50,000 people in brand new 5- to 10-story condominiums built around wide avenues in a model town. Although the project was ambitious and designed for middle-class French baby boomer families, le Nouveau Sarcelles soon lost its attraction and became progressively populated by an economically lower-class population.

Today Sarcelles (Nouveau and Village) is a community of 57,000 people with a very wide range of ethnic/religious backgrounds including: French (many of this group were repatriated from North Africa when France lost its colony there, helping to explain why 1/3 of the population in Sarcelles practices the Jewish religion; among this group are also many from the Caribbean islands); North Africans (i.e. Maghreb, usually Muslims, 1/3 of the population is Muslim); Africans; Turkish (many of this group are Assyro-Chaldean Christians, a rather recent immigration).

The church of Sarcelles was organized about two years ago by members of the mother church of Saint Denis (Eglise Evangélique Baptiste de Saint Denis, five miles south of Sarcelles), in an effort to plant a church in this spiritually needy area. With a regular attendance of around 30 to 40, this group currently meets on Sundays in a room rented in a restaurant on the southern fringe of Sarcelles Village (only 300 yards from where my aged parents still live).

Obviously, this situation can only be temporary, and Tim Bixby and Michael Cole and the other church members have been looking for two years for a more stable situation, i.e. a building or a room that they could rent or buy. Finding a new hall has not been an easy thing, especially since, on top of finding a suitable place, they also need to meet strict safety rules imposed on “buildings used to receive the public” (number of fire exits, number of parking spots). The church in Saint Denis and the church in Sarcelles have been fervently praying to find such a building.

Now it seems that a door is being opened by the Lord. At the end of September, Tim became aware of a meeting hall that will soon be available located very close to where they currently meet. It is a 5000-square-foot room on the second floor of a brand new building, occupied on the first floor by a Ford dealership. This hall has been built to receive 300 people and seems to be already in compliance with safety rules. This Ford dealership is located halfway between Sarcelles village and le Nouveau Sarcelles, on a main highway in front of a recently built mall.

Tim, along with another of the pastors from the Saint Denis/Sarcelles churches, has met with the management team of this Ford dealership. These people seem to be very serious about this possibility, and are not opposed to renting to a church (which is not a minor thing in this area). This business is a large dealership with seven branches in the French département (equivalent to a county) of the Val d’Oise. They first discussed the possibility of renting, but more recently they have begun seriously discussing the possibility of selling the facility to the church.

The option of buying seems to be the most attractive. The space is extremely well located in a fast-growing, densely populated district, not far from Charles de Gaulle airport. It is about 10 miles north of Paris, and such a facility would tremendously help the church develop its influence in the département.

From a spiritual point of view, France is a barren land. All the fruits of its great Christian past, with Calvin, Farel, Beza and their fellow reformers withered away a long time ago. True Christianity is scarcely present, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is hardly preached. So the need for theologically sound, Bible-believing churches in France is enormous, and all the more so within a multi-ethnic population where the name of Christ is often just not even known.

Now, there is the question of financing. The present owners have suggested that 850,000 € would be needed to fully own the place. The amount may seem big, but one must keep in mind that this facility is close to Paris, it is very large (5,000 square feet) and it is brand new. To give you a point of comparison: an apartment of only 1,000 square feet in the center of Paris would cost around 600,000 to 800,000 €. So in that sense, the price seems rather attractive.

The available savings of the two churches of Saint Denis and Sarcelles combined are nowhere near such an amount of money. We do not doubt that our church members will sacrificially give for this project, but this will not be sufficient. This is why we ask you to prayerfully consider the possibility of contributing to the financing of this project.

Thank you for your interest in the work in France.

Sincerely in Christ,

Vincent Dormieux

_________________________________

Building update

29 September 2017 | by Bixby

September 29, 2017

Dear friends,

We thank the many who prayed regarding an important meeting we had yesterday concerning the possible purchase of a church building. For those who are interested, I’m including below the report I wrote last night to our church people (translated into English, of course).

If you want to know more about why we think this building of around 6,000 ft2 would ideally fit our needs, see blog here.

Thank you so much for your prayers and for your gracious notes of encouragement!

Grace & peace in Christ,
Tim Bixby

 


 

Dear all,

I know that you have prayed for the meeting today, so I owe you a report! Albert and I spent more than an hour meeting with three people, among whom was the CEO of the business and the “general director” (over their multiple Ford dealerships) who happens to be the owner of the building.

Here is the first request that I asked you to pray for in my last email: “Pray that God will clearly close the door if this building is not what He wants for us. We should never pray to force the hand of God, but to implore him to act according to His will.”

The door is not closed. In fact, far from it. The decision-makers acted as if they want to pursue this possibility with us.

Here is another request I mentioned: “Pray that, if God wants us to advance in this project, He will make these men very favorable to us and give to them a desire to help us make it happen.”

Towards the end of the discussion, the general director said that he thought that this possibility would be “a good path to pursue.” Albert and I both felt that he was sincere in his desire to see us move into the building. I find in that one fact an immense encouragement. Because of the loan obligations that presently exist on the building, they cannot resell it for another four years. But they are willing right now to start negotiating the selling price. In addition, they are going to consider offering us a “rent-to-own” option that would allow us to avoid having to go through the process of seeking a bank loan.

Here are the next steps:

  1. On our end, we are planning to revisit the building to confirm that it is suitable for us and that we would desire to purchase it.
  2. On their end, they have given themselves a month to prepare a concrete offer, taking into account our special requests, etc.
  3. After we receive their offer, we will tell them if we can accept it or not.

Honestly, the doors seem to be opening before us in every area but one: money.

Here was another request that I mentioned: “Pray that God will provide financially in a way that fills us with wonder and demonstrates His grandeur.”It is here that we haven’t yet seen the answer! It may be that it will be this factor that the Lord uses to close the door before us. But, since He hasn’t done it yet, we must continue to pray!

Here are two ways in which God could act if it’s His will:

  • God could move these men to offer us an even better deal than what they have proposed so far; and/or …
  • God could provide from another source the money that is needed.
It is, of course, only after they present us with a concrete offer that we will have to give them an answer. So for now, we have some more time to pray in order to see what God will do!Here is the last request I shared in my email: “Pray that God will grow our faith through this experience.” I sense that God is already doing this! Let us pray that He will continue this work in us!
 
Fraternellement dans sa grâce,
Timothée 

Additional facts about potential meeting hall

29 September 2017 | by Bixby

For those who are interested in more information about the building we are considering for a future meeting hall, here are few facts.

 

How we came into contact with the owner:

The CEO of the business (among other ventures, he owns multiple Ford and Citroën dealerships) told us that we were lucky to have already heard about the building’s availability since it is not even posted anywhere yet. (A dance school presently occupies the building. However, they haven’t paid rent in more than a year! The owners can’t do anything until the police evict them, which should happen during the first part of October. That is the reason is why they have yet to advertise the place to seek new renters.) We assured him that it was not by chance that we learned of their need!

However, humanly speaking:

  • The only reason I met the owner is because I happened to walk into the building at a time he himself was visiting. (He works out of another city.)
  • The only reason I went into that building is because the restaurant owner of the conference room where we presently meet mentioned to me that he had heard they were trying to rent a room. (How he knew, I still don’t know!)
  • The only reason I learned about this possibility is that I had gone to see our restaurant owner specifically about a complaint he had about our children’s chairs leaving marks on his floors!

 

Some of the details that would make this meeting place ideal:

  • It is less than three years old. It feels new and the entire area is flooded with light from windows on nearly every side. (The room in the restaurant where we presently meet has no windows!)
  • It is large with nearly 6,000 square feet.
  • It already meets fire code for large groups. The CEO told us in the meeting, “We didn’t know what it would be used for, so we went ahead and spent a little extra money to put in emergency exits, etc., so that it could be used to hold up to 300 people.” We presently have a Christian architect checking on all the details to confirm this fact for us, but we find it amazing that the building was constructed in this way, since even a large “office space” would not have the same government regulations as a “public meeting space.” These requirements have been a major hurdle in finding a place to rent since the average storefront or office building is not zoned to receive public meetings.
  • It has parking. This, too, has been a big hurdle in our search for a meeting place. At this location, there are more than 20 spaces right out front that we would share with the Ford dealership. (They like the fact that our main activities will be on Sunday since their business is closed that day.) However, right around the corner a large multiplex cinema is being constructed. The city is building a huge public parking lot that will extend from behind the cinema building all the way to right behind the dealership! That means that eventually there should be more than enough parking spaces for even our largest events!
  • This site would be well suited to us because of the situation with our would-be neighbors in the other part of the building. The part of the building that we are considering is actually attached at the side and over the top of a Ford dealership. (The main entrance for our church building would be set off to the side, but the largest part of the space, the area where we would hold our church services, stretches out on the floor above the dealership.) We know of other French churches that have established themselves in a residential area where they have had to deal with complaints about noise, parking, etc. Here, the dealership would be closed on Sunday and in the evenings, at times when the majority of our activities would take place.
  • It is highly visible. The building faces a major road. It is right across the street from a very large shopping mall. A large cinema complex is being constructed right next to it. Another car dealership may go in on the other side.

Urgent prayer request regarding a new meeting place!

26 September 2017 | by Bixby

Please join us in prayer regarding some recent developments concerning a new potential meeting place!

Here are the details:

Two weeks ago I discovered that the owner of the restaurant where we meet on the Lord’s Day was unhappy that our children’s chairs were leaving marks on the floor in the waiting area of the restaurant where the children had been having their class. He wanted our group to stay only in the back conference room where we have our main church service. Our using this area alone would eliminate the possibility of having a children’s Sunday school class. I have since visited the restaurant twice during the week to speak to the owner. The Lord has given us good conversations, and the owner has agreed to let the children meet in another, smaller area by an outside door, if we use our own table and chairs. We thank God for this provision. However, it still presents many challenges. Here is a picture of the area as we found it this last Sunday morning.

Thankfully, the workers moved the motorbikes outside and cleared away the dishes and drinks as our children’s workers worked to wipe things clean just before the children began their class. The area is, however, right next to a main exit through which the workers pass while taking out the trash, etc. Right behind the teacher is also the closet which they have to access for their uniforms and other things! Then there was also the vacuuming and cleaning which is going on all around them! (You can scroll down to the end of this post to see some videos that our coworker Kristi Colas filmed this last week.) Need I say that we really would like another place to meet?

In my conversation with the restaurant owner, I assured him that we would move away as soon as we found a better place. He suggested I go to a nearby Ford dealership as he had heard they were trying to rent a large meeting room that is attached to their dealership. I won’t give you all the details, but I have been amazed at how God has arranged the events that followed.

  • When I arrived at the dealership, to ask about a building I could not find listed, but had only heard about from a restaurant owner, I found not only the local boss, but the general director of the business that runs at least seven Ford dealerships in the area. This general director works out of another location in another city, but just happened to be there that morning when I showed up. He is the one in charge of this property and with whom I have been interacting ever since. Just a coincidence that he was there?
  • The building is presently rented out to a business that they are in the process of evicting, because they are not paying their rent. So technically they don’t even have access to it. However, the man they are evicting happened to be there, so the general director at Ford offered to go over right then and to knock and see if the current renter would let us in, which he did.
  • The area available is itself very large (500m2) and nearly new. It meets the codes for fire safety, etc. This is literally the only building we have seen that we could move into nearly as is. The location is ideal as well: right in Sarcelles, but on a major road, across the street from a very large mall, and right next to a multiplex cinema that is under construction.
  • What is the most significant for me, is that the owners of the Ford dealership (which is attached to the building we are looking at) have acted very favorable to the idea of having us as neighbors. This was to me the biggest surprise!
  • The current price for renting is far beyond our means, but the director told me they were also interested in selling it. I left encouraged by the fact that our project had been so favorably received, but wondering where in the world we could find enough money! Later, we had the idea of asking them if they would be willing to rent-to-buy, since finding a loan will be humanly impossible for us at the present time as well. I left him a message and he called me back from a business trip in Portugal and said, “That would work perfectly for us because that is exactly what we had in mind.” He then invited me to come meet with him and the CEO of the group in another city here in the department to present us with an offer.

All that to say that I, along with Albert Xandry (lead pastor of our mother church in Saint-Denis), will being meeting with these two men this coming Thursday at 2 p.m. (8 a.m. EST). We really don’t know what to expect, but we want to follow this lead as far as God will allow.

Here is what I am asking our church members to pray for:

  • Pray that God will clearly close the door if this building is not what He wants for us. We should never pray to force the hand of God, but to implore him to act according to His will.
  • Pray that God will give much wisdom to Albert and me in our conversation with these men.
  • Pray that, if God wants us to advance in this project, He will make these men very favorable to us and give to them a desire to help us make it happen.
  • Pray that God will provide financially in a way that fills us with wonder and demonstrates His grandeur.
  • Pray that God will grow our faith through this experience.

Would you please join us in praying to God for these things?

 

___________________

This is what the restaurant looked like when we arrived last Sunday morning:

This video will give you an idea of the vacuum noise we are up against during our children’s class! (Enter this password: trbixby.france)

[vimeo

 

kids’ SS class from Ruth Bixby on Vimeo.

]

 

Some spring activity before we hopped into summer: June

19 July 2017 | by Bixby

The last six months have been a whirlwind in many ways, and we have had very little discretionary time to post anything about all that’s been going on here. So without further adieu, we’ll give you a few pictures to at least hit the highlights …

June 3-5: Tim preached and our entire family attended a weekend seminar on the theme of worship (Ephesians 1) in northern France (Thionville).

June 5-10: We enjoyed hosting missionary (to Cameroon) Ellen Doyle for a week who was in France to visit Tim’s mom and receive some follow-up medical care. Her visit intersected with another visit from our good friends the McCauleys and the Musical Mission Team. We were thrilled to receive a handful of unsaved guests, notably Zacharie’s teacher and her boyfriend, who attended the evangelistic concert that was hosted at the church of Saint-Denis.

June 11-14: Enjoyed a visit from some more family! Tim’s brother Dan and his wife Brenda as well as Tim’s sister Donna came through on their way to and from spending some extended time with Mom Bixby. It was also great to host our nieces Isabelle and Patience who were traveling with them.

June 27: A couple busy weeks of end-of-school-year activities coupled with big trip preparations culminated in our departure for a 9-week furlough in the USA!

Some spring activity before we hopped into summer: May

19 July 2017 | by Bixby

The last six months have been a whirlwind in many ways, and we have had very little discretionary time to post anything about all that’s been going on here. So without further adieu, we’ll give you a few pictures to at least hit the highlights …

May 19: We had the joy of hosting in our home an associational charter meeting to officially incorporate our church (l’Eglise Biblique Baptiste du Grand Roissy) with the French government.

 

Some spring activity before we hopped into summer: April

19 July 2017 | by Bixby

The last six months have been a whirlwind in many ways, and we have had very little discretionary time to post anything about all that’s been going on here. And now we are presently in the thick of preparing for our 9-week summer furlough. So without further adieu, we’ll give you a few pictures to at least hit the highlights …

April 1-7: We used the first week of our kids’ spring break to return to the Bordeaux area to see Mom Bixby and to help with the church of Pessac. We were able to spend some time with lay elder Lala and his wife Ando where we discussed and prayed for the uncertain future of the church.

April 7-12: We traveled to the beautiful countryside of southeastern France where Tim was able to preach for the wedding of some dear friends from the St-Denis church and where we enjoyed a brief family vacation.

 

April 15: Back in Saint-Denis, it was a joy for our entire family to participate musically in a very international Easter celebration.

April 27-30: Visit with family! We had the pleasure of housing 14 people under our roof while Mom Bixby and Tim’s sister Johanna and her husband Brian along with their five kids spent a long weekend with us.

Quick and tiring trip, but safely back in France

13 March 2017 | by Bixby

After a 5-day trip to the USA for the funeral services of my father, we are back at home in France. We are extremely tired, but grateful to God for all the grace He has poured out on us. Thank you for your prayers.

December news & events

4 January 2017 | by Bixby

Home school inspection: While we do not yet have the final results, we think the inspection went quite well overall on December 15. The inspectors were kind, and the Lord definitely helped Miriam as she responded to their questions. Thank you for praying.

Christmas outreach: Thanks so much to those of you who prayed for our December 16th outreach. In lieu of a mass distribution and Discovery Meeting during the month of December, we chose instead to focus our efforts on the friends of our church members and other contacts we have recently made. The Lord did exceedingly above what we expected or hoped for, bringing more than 80 attendees altogether, more than 20 of whom were first-time visitors. Among that group of first-time visitors were two friends’ of Micaiah from school who came with their entire family of seven. We were also thrilled to see three unsaved families from our coworkers’ town of Luzarches come to the event. While the Coles have worked hard to develop redemptive relationships in their neighborhood, it was the first time any of these friends have come to a church event. There were a number of repeat visitors as well, including some former church attenders who have not been to church in a long time and several individuals from some of the home Bible studies we have done in the past. Thank you for continuing to pray for ongoing opportunities with all of these visitors.


Celebrating the holidays with friends and family:
 Following a special service with our brothers and sisters in Christ at the church of Saint-Denis, we were glad to host several people in our home on Christmas day, providing a Christian atmosphere to celebrate the incarnation for some of our church people who have no Christians in their family. We were able to give each of the four individuals who came a Christian book with resources from the French Christian Literature Fund. Thank you for your prayers and participation in this ministry.

Two days after Christmas, our family piled in the car to head down to spend the latter part of the Christmas vacation with Tim’s parents, Bob & Bonnie Bixby. We had a very enjoyable visit with them, and were able to help execute a surprise birthday party for Dad Bixby’s 70th birthday. It was a joy to see him honored and celebrated among Christian friends from the Pessac church and the three other sister churches in the greater Bordeaux area.

 

Recent contacts: Last month, we mentioned the name of Dahlias as one of our contacts from our November Discovery Meeting. While Dahlias was unable to come to our Christmas outreach, she has invited us to visit with her in her home in January. Please pray that God would continue to open the door to this Gospel opportunity. Please continue to pray for the young teenage girl at the Saint-Denis church we mentioned in our last prayer letter. Ruth had a profitable meeting with her, but the situation is complicated, and the entire family is in need of much grace and help from the Lord. She gave birth to a son on December 29. We hope to pay her a visit very soon, and long to see God do a great work in this household. We recently encountered an obstacle with Anabela, particularly because her husband is increasingly hostile to our relationship with her because of our “religion”. Zacharie’s teacher came to our home for the first time just before Christmas for an afternoon of music-making. The Lord gave us an excellent conversation in which she proved to be very open about spiritual things and her godless background. Pray for wisdom for us to know how to proceed, as we must be very careful not to overstep our bounds in the educational setting, and yet long for more opportunities to share the hope of the Gospel with her. We were also able to reconnect with one of Miriam’s former teachers recently. Ruth is very encouraged in her studies with Lydie, who seems to be expressing genuine faith in the Lord.