Katie Martin lives in Jefferson, Wis. She and her husband Josh are raising three daughters and one son.
We passed through an ordinary front door and a dark foyer to enter a room so beautiful it made us pause in wonder. As our hostess closed the door behind us, our eyes traveled in every direction taking in the unexpected beauty around us. The room had no windows other than the skylights which framed the domed ceiling above us. Designed as an interior music room, it was circular in shape and frescoed from floor to ceiling with doors that disappeared into the painted, curved walls.
The room was just one part of a historic home that had once belonged to the family of Marie Antoinette. A stone’s throw from the tree-lined parade route leading to the Palace of Versailles, its beauty transported me to that era of opulence. Today, centuries later, this room would again be filled with music, but not to entertain the lavish tastes of the French aristocracy. Rather, it would glorify the King of kings.
We were a group of eleven ladies from varied backgrounds and four different countries. Some of us were military wives, some married to local nationals, some visiting family members who lived overseas, and some following their husbands on a work contract. Some of us were lifelong Christians and others new to the faith. Yet we had one thing in common: a love of Jesus and his Word.
We had gathered for a women’s weekend in Paris to sightsee, have Bible study, and enjoy fellowship with sisters in Christ. Our weekend would culminate with a worship service in this beautiful room. The hostess, who had been baptized and confirmed only months before, invited us into her home for worship. This service would become one of the highlights from my eight years living in Europe as the wife of the WELS Civilian Chaplain.
Although living in Europe can be glamorous and exciting, one does not spend every day sipping coffee at a Parisian café or visiting world-renowned museums. Most days, the separation from family, language barrier, and isolation from those who share our faith can weigh heavily on the Christian living overseas.
One of the things I missed in particular was the “big church” experience. I longed to be with other Christians, surrounded by a throng of voices belting out praises to Jesus. Our worship life here was much different than it was in the States. Each week saw us traveling to different locations to worship: in a military chapel with 30 Christians, in a rented church with 10 fellow believers, in a living room with our family and only two or three others.
However, in spite of this distance and separation, God blessed his flock in Europe. It was common to meet Lutherans who would drive or take a train more than four hours one way to attend worship. Christians in London or Zurich who could only worship with a pastor once per month displayed a deep appreciation for the gospel. They reminded us that church is a “get to” instead of a “have to.” Those special times gathered around his Word with dear Christian friends at worship or a retreat became the best part of our time in Europe. Even the grandeur of the Alps or the majestic castles couldn’t compare to the blessings of being together around the Word of life.
On that Sunday morning in a music room in Versailles, France, we enjoyed a service that none of us would forget. As we sat down and the portable keyboard began to play the first hymn, we knew we were in for a treat. Thanks to the acoustics of the room, our eleven meager voices swelled, sounding like a choir of angels. God reminded us in a dramatic fashion of his promise in Matthew 18:20: “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” Whether around the dinner table for devotion, at the bedside of a loved one, in a living room in Switzerland, or a music room in France, God comes to us through his Word. Wherever his Word is proclaimed, God is right there strengthening faith, encouraging us, and clutching us tightly to himself for eternity.
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