The young Latina in the community French classes for immigrants blends right into the diversity of Toulouse.
Except, she is different. She is a missionary from Mexico.
Big city? No problem
Toulouse is a vastly multi-cultural city in southern France, near Spain. The city’s prime location, and the fact that France allows refugees, attracts many immigrants. Also Toulouse is home to Airbus, the plane manufacturer, which brings employees from all over Europe.
Lyd has served in Toulouse with Partners in Christ International for nine months in pre-church planting alongside the EFCA ReachGlobal city team there. They are building relationships and studying the Bible in small groups in hopes of one day planting a church.
Toulouse’s diversity has proven to Lyd’s advantage. She takes free French classes with many other immigrants and meets many people that way — including one of her closest friends, a Muslim from Turkey. While living at the YMCA for a time, she met another close friend, an Afghani refugee.
In addition to sharing God’s love in many informal ways, Lyd started a weekly Bible study with a Korean Christian woman and participates in the group’s “pre-church” meetings, where they eat dinner together, worship, pray, and have a brief message. She also is in a community rock climbing class, where she met a couple from Russia and Senegal who she is getting to know well.
Being a Latin American missionary in Europe has its benefits and its challenges. Many people might feel a little insecure in a culturally diverse city like Toulouse, but Lyd is comfortable there.
“Maybe it’s because I’m not white or maybe it’s because I’ve lived in Mexico City, a place that is not considered safe,” Lyd says. “Sometimes missionaries want to live in a secure place. But for me, I came here for that, to take the risk to share Christ.”
Devoted from the start
Devotion is nothing new to Lyd. After her parents separated when she was 6 years old, she moved with her mother and sister to her grandmother’s coffee farm in Coatepec, in the state of Veracruz, Mexico.
Coatepec is a very religious town with Catholic churches on every corner. As a young girl, Lyd went to school, finished her homework, and attended Catholic mass daily. She arrived half an hour before the service just to sit and talk to the Christ figure in the front of the church.
“Looking back now, I think I just really missed my dad and thought Christ could be like a father to me,” says Lyd.
From an early age, Lyd knew she wanted to be a religious woman, perhaps even a nun.
“When we were young, my sister and I would play: She would be the doctor, and I was the sick nun coming to visit her,” says Lyd. Her mother was always very involved in church, and Lyd followed her example. After learning sign language, she interpreted mass for deaf people for nine years.
After high school, Lyd spent a few weeks in a convent to see if that was where God wanted her. During that time, Lyd’s mother suggested that she apply to the local university as a backup plan. Lyd agreed to take the entrance exam as the deciding factor between attending college or entering the convent.
To her disappointment, Lyd passed the exam.
In her final year of college, Lyd went through a difficult time with many life decisions to make. She asked her trusted friends for their advice, but nothing they said helped. It was then that she met an Evangelical Free Church missionary named Katie.
Katie and Lyd began a weekly Bible study together, and Lyd asked a lot of questions.
“I saw her life and her faith,” Lyd says of Katie. “That really impacted my life.”
One day Lyd talked with Katie about all the decisions she had to make and asked what one should do in a “life crisis.” Katie responded by telling Lyd about Christ.
Katie explained that Lyd could have a personal relationship with the Lord. It was what God wanted, and she had to respond.
“Oh no, not another decision,” Lyd thought at the time.
“It was like being on the side of the pool— either you jump all in or you don’t,” Lyd says.
Paying the cost of discipleship
When Lyd left the Catholic Church, she lost relationships with friends and part of her family. She quit her secure job as a special education teacher to attend seminary, much to her mother’s chagrin. She felt alone. Some days she wished for her life back at the convent. At the same time, her new Christian friends always encouraged her to trust God.
“I have never met anyone like Lyd,” Katie says. “She pursued the Lord with an intensity that impressed me — it should be that way, of course, although it isn’t very common. Being a good person from a culture that emphasizes good works, Lyd at first struggled with the concept of grace. But when she understood the gospel, she embraced it and has allowed Jesus to transform her life as she follows him.”
Answering the call
After seminary, Lyd felt God calling her to serve in missions. She visited Peru, Guatemala, and different locations in Mexico, but none of these places seemed right for her. Then a friend invited Lyd to consider working with a church-planting team in Toulouse.
Through prayer and a visit to Toulouse, the Lord confirmed Lyd’s calling to serve there. Though support money from Mexico was hard to come by, Lyd was able to raise a lot of her budget through Katie’s connections in the United States and elsewhere.
There are other challenges living in a foreign country, including differences that arise working on an international team. For example, the French tend to be more private, while Latinos are very friendly and open with the emotions.
“I’m learning how I can be part of an international team in an international city, being myself, adapting to the good things that this culture has, bringing light to the culture, and respecting the other cultures too,” Lyd says.
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Find out how you can serve alongside the ReachGlobal Toulouse City Team. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
- That God would use Lyd and her international team to proclaim His word in truth and love in Toulouse.
- For Lyd to continue to build and grow friendships that point towards Christ, and for God’s strength to serve Him well as a foreign missionary in a difficult place.