The following story was related to me by Bob Schultz, a friend of ours who used to be a missionary in France. Apparently, the story in our last update of the outreach at the flea market jolted his memory. He's getting pretty old, so his memory needs to be jolted from time to time. The following is the unedited version of the story as he sent it to me:
"The first time I went to our twice weekly open market in La Garde, France and
the person in charge of collecting the fee for a stand (based on its size) saw me
there, he did not know how much to charge me (I was between the cabbage
vendor and the olive vendor). He said he would check with the (Communist) mayor
and collect from me four days later at the Friday open market. Friday came, as did
the fee collector. He got to my stand (stacked high with a tower of Bibles and an
open Bible for people to pick up and read for themselves) and just walked right
past. I ran to catch up with him and said, "Wait, you didn't collect a fee from me."
He replied that the Mayor had said not to charge me anything. The following
Monday I visited City Hall and asked to speak with the Mayor. I was escorted to
his office and I told him that he had created a real problem for me by not allowing
me to pay a fee for my market stand. He asked how that could possibly be a problem.
I told him that I would have to report back to our supporting churches that part of our
ministry was subsidized by the Communist Party. He laughed until tears ran down his cheeks.
After that, we had a very good relationship and I was able to go door to door once a year
while others (Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc.) were denied authorization. And, I
never had to pay a fee for my market stand.
There are a few follow ups to that story.
One of them is the Communist mayor told me he read the Bible.
I replied (in French), "Oh, I see."
The mayor said you replied like you don't believe me!
I knew I had put myself in a difficult situation.
So, I honestly said, "I was just accepting what you said as a politician speaking.
I didn't know a Communist mayor would read the Bible."
He replied that he had a Bible in his desk drawer in his office in City Hall and one
on his night table by his bed.
He must have seen the questioning look I had and opened his desk drawer and
took out a Bible!
Years later we left France and came back to the US permanently.
Ten years after our return to the US, Slater Baptist Church sent Liz and me to France
on a three week short term missions trip. While in France, I paid a visit to the
Communist mayor (he was still mayor of that communist town of about 30,000 people).
When I walked into his office, he greeted me and then, with a twinkle in his eye, he
opened his desk drawer and pulled out a Bible!
We prayed for Monsieur le Mayor DelPlace for years and I trust that the seed of the Word
of God was planted in good soil and I hope I see him in heaven!
Sorry to bore you with stories from an old man's past."