Thursday, July 19, 2018

Strasbourg Tour

Strasbourg is a beautiful and unique city.  It's full of history, charm, and diversity.   It is made up of fifteen neighborhoods, all with distinct looks and needs.

The center of the city is called Grande Ile, which is translated in English as "big island."  The reason for this name is because--surprise--it is a big island surrounded by the Ill River on one side and the Canal du Faux-Rempart on the other side.  If you think of a picturesque French city, you could easily be imagining Grande Ile, with its many tourists, shops, restaurants, timber-framed buildings, and narrow cobblestone streets.
Kléber Square: Strasbourg's largest square
and an UNESCO world heritage site.
Another view of Kléber Square
Beautiful now, but Kléber square was once was occupied by Nazi forces.
While there, they tore down the statue of J.B. Kléber, one of Napoleon's greatest generals,
 to signify that French military history was insignificant.
Kids next to the Ill River
So much charm in this area of the city.
The tram--the city's most prominent source of transportation.
It's above ground which was great--we didn't have to
carry our stroller down a bunch of stairs to get to an underground subway! 
Grande Ile contains perhaps Strasbourg's most famous landmark--Cathédrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg.  It is easily the most impressive cathedral I've ever seen (sorry Notre Dame de Paris and Sacré-Coeur).  That's because it is 466 feet high, which made it the tallest building in the world for 227 years, up until 1874.  It is still the second tallest cathedral in France and the sixth tallest church in the world.  The cathedral's spire is visible from any part of the city.

View of the Cathedral from our 5th story apartment
Side view of the cathedral
Inside view of the cathedral
I'm not sure which is more impressive--
the cathedral in the back or that we got all three kids
to smile and look at the camera at the same time! 
Our apartment was on the very top left.
It had a beautiful Cathedral view, and provided great exercise
as it was on the fifth floor with no elevator! 
Daddy and Marigold in front of the entrance to our apartment.
Another prominent part of Strasbourg is called Krutenau.  This area has a lot of trendy café's and shops, (more) beautiful timber-framed houses, and young people and college students attending the adjacent University of Strasbourg, which is the second largest university in France with an enrollment of over 46,000.  Krutenau is the hub for the existing evangelical ministry going on in Strasbourg.  I'll tell you more about the current ministry going on in this area in a different blog post.

This area is so beautiful!
Exploring the Krutenau area
The timber on the buildings shows
the German influence on the city.
In front of an old church
Love birds in front of the river
The ministry team we've been interacting with this past week started a café in Krutenau a few years ago called the Oh My Goodness Coffee Shop.  The ultimate goal of the café is to serve as a bridge between the church and the community, many of whom may not normally set foot in a church, but would happily set foot in a café.  No, it isn't a bait and switch type of deal where you go in for a cup of coffee and only get out with a cup of salvation 😂.  The café functions as a normal coffee shop, with a big case of books and games that customers can use and incredibly comfy chairs and couches.  However, the space also creates a unique setting for various types of events that enable fellowship, Bible study, and discussion about pertinent issues like current events, philosophy, and religion.  These events at the café allow conversations about God, Christianity, the Bible, and the gospel to happen naturally, in a comfortable setting, and among friends.  It's an awesome place!

The Café is right in front of the city's tram line
and is very convenient to get to. 
The front entrance of the café
Not only does the café have books and Bibles, it
has children's games and toys which was great
for keeping our kids quiet while we sat in on a team meeting!
One view of the inside of the café--the decorating is awesome.

Left to Right: Florimond and Andrew.
Florimond is a prominent artist in town and a member of the church planting team. 
Andrew is also on the church planting team and heading up a
new coffee roasting business--keep reading to hear more about that project. 
Another neighborhood of Strasbourg is called Orangerie.  It's where the European Parliament meets and diplomats' houses can be found all over town.  Other than the institutional buildings, it's mainly a residential area filled with wealthy and educated people.  There are literally no evangelical Christian churches here, and the ministry team is looking to plant a church here in the next several months. This is perhaps one of the hardest neighborhoods to pin down a ministry strategy, as it's difficult to know just how to reach a wealthy and self-sufficient group of people who may not understand their need for Christ.  We talked with the team about how to reach people in this area all week, and the team will continue to strategize and experiment with ways to contextualize the gospel in this area for weeks and months to come.

The Palace of Europe where the Council of Europe meets.
Ruslana in front of the building that houses
the Parliament of the European Union
Consulate of Romania
(shoutout to you, Eunice!)
The Orangerie area has a beautiful park, Parc de l'Orangerie.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again, the French know how to do parks.  This park is large, lush, green, and filled with multiple playgrounds, a place to rent old looking cars, a little lake where you can rent canoes, a little zoo, and a bunch of storks walking around (yes, stork as in a baby getting dropped off on your doorstep stork!). 
One of the playgrounds in the park
I spy a stork!
Outside of the historic and downtown areas of Strasbourg, there is an area called the train station area, or, to be official, the Quartier de la Gare.

This area has many migrants from North Africa and the Middle East--most of whom are Muslim.  In fact, there are over 70 nationalities represented in this area of Strasbourg alone!  While France has an open door policy to immigrants, their welcome process isn't exactly streamlined yet.  It can take about ten months for a migrant's paperwork to process once they get here, which means they can't get a visa or a job during that time, often resulting in major hardship for them.  The missionary family hosting us this week lives in this area (along with other members of the team) and they have been working in this area for the last 15 months with the focus of ministering to the migrant and refugee population.  They're doing an awesome job! On a daily basis, they interact with people everywhere, from the local park to the supermarket, and strive to build relationships, help them with their practical needs, share the gospel with them, and, if the desire is there, help them grow in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Construction on this road will take
about 2.5 years total to complete!
Tram line in the middle of the Quartier de la Gare
Birds eye view of multiple neighborhoods converging
You can see the Cathedral from all around the city
The ministry team in train station area has big plans in the works--one of which is to open a community center.  This would house a thrift shop (which would provide material needs as well as jobs for members of the community), an on-site trauma counselor, legal and paperwork assistance, a meeting space for a new church plant, and other much needed resources and services.  They are currently raising money for the community center and touring potential spaces to rent or buy.

Another awesome idea they're starting to implement in this area is creating a coffee roasting business, which would provide another source of jobs for migrants and refugees.  It would not only help them financially, but could also help fill their days with work instead of becoming involved in drugs, alcohol, prostitution, or fights, which sadly occur often here.  Through the creation of jobs and relationships, the potential to share Christ with them increases.

While the train station area has its share of hardships, the toughest parts of the city are on the outskirts--specifically the Cronenbourg Ouest, Hautepierre, and Elsau neighborhoods, which almost exclusively house migrants. 

Most of the other areas of the city have shops, restaurants, and plenty of fun things to do, but this part of town is made up of just large housing projects. While the buildings look ok on the outside, we were told that France only renovates the outside of these types of buildings, making the inside conditions horrendous. This part of the city has a lot of prostitution, drug usage, and crime.  As a result, as of yet, none of the French members of the Strasbourg church community are willing to move to these parts of town to do ministry work.  

The French government gives each unemployed migrant (once paperwork is processed) a certain amount of money each month for living expenses.  We were told that some new members of these communities start working as Uber drivers in order to make money, but then after paying taxes they end up with less money than when they simply receive unemployment benefits, so most just stay home all day, often getting into trouble. This is a really tough area that needs the transformative light of Jesus.

Project Housing in Elsau
More project housing
As you can tell by just a few of the neighborhoods highlighted above, Strasbourg is a very diverse city with diverse needs. Whether it's a wealthy, educated, white French neighborhood, or a poor, migrant neighborhood, everyone needs to hear the gospel and everyone needs a personal, saving relationship with the living God.  The missionary team we've been with this past week has a goal to plant an evangelical church in all fifteen neighborhoods of Strasbourg. The work to be done here can seem overwhelming, but with willing workers and God's power, nothing is impossible.  Let's join together in praying for a revival in the city of Strasbourg.  Perhaps God might even call you to play a part in the ministry here in Strasbourg.  God calls His people to spread His name to all nations, and seeing this city firsthand was a great reminder of all that needs to be done in Strasbourg, in France, and across the world.

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