Since that first internship four years ago, many of those students have graduated and continue to be a light in their local mission fields. Some are now in the full-time ministry because they caught a dream to change the world while they were in Paris on the mission field. Since that first summer in 2014, Tom and Cortney's desire to help the churches in Europe has steadily grown.
Tom and Cortney have visited and taught in the churches of Dublin, Ireland; Stockholm, Sweden; Milan, Italy; Geneva, Switzerland; Madrid, Spain; Berlin, Germany; Brussels, Belgium; London, England; Kiev, Ukraine; Amsterdam, Netherlands; and Paris and Lyon, France.
When you leave the comforts of your own city, your eyes are opened to the outside world, and you can't help but be challenged by the enormous needs around you. Many of our North River members have experienced this personally. We also have our own challenges in Atlanta, where we struggle with desiring ease and comfort. With so much apparent religious faith around, it's easy to become complacent with a belief in God without it really changing the way we live or impacting the lives around us.
When you go on a mission to another continent like Europe, you can see that through the centuries people have grown tired of religious faith. They have observed centuries of traditional religion, abusing and imprisoning others. Now most view God as the problem instead of the solution. An entire generation has grown up not realizing their need for God, much less Jesus and the scriptures. The consequences predictably for them and their culture are often obvious. The city of Paris alone unfortunately is recorded to have over 100,000 suicide attempts annually. Jesus warned that as time went by the "love of many would grow cold" (Matthew 24:12). Sadly, most church buildings are empty, and so even if people feel a need, they struggle to find a place to go to seek God.
However, looking through the eyes of faith, there is so much potential in Paris. Over 600,000 students attend universities within the city limits. People from every race and background live there. If the Paris church experienced what North River has as a campus ministry, doors could be opened to inspire faith around the rest of atheistic Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Understanding this, Tom and Cortney have continued year after year to lead summer mission teams to the countries of Europe, encouraging the generally small churches there.
As of this week, they have officially accepted the offer to go to Paris and help establish and grow campus ministries around the continent of Europe. Tom was born 28 years ago in Europe. He and Cortney are in the process of obtaining their Italian citizenship and will be leaving for Paris in May. Our North River family will miss them greatly but are proud to send them off the"Aircraft North River" with our prayers and the belief that the best is yet to come!