The Siege of La Rochelle

 Cardinal Richelieu at the siege of La Rochelle, Henri-Paul Motte

Cardinal Richelieu at the siege of La Rochelle, Henri-Paul Motte

By the Edict of Nantes (1598), King Henry IV gave French Huguenots extensive rights. La Rochelle, situated on the Atlantic coast of France, became a Huguenot stronghold, and at that time, the second or third largest city in France, with over 30,000 inhabitants. However, the assassination of Henry IV in 1610, and the advent of Louis XIII under the regency of Marie de' Medici, marked a return to intense persecution. Louis XIII wished to suppress the Huguenots, and his Chief Minister, Cardinal Richelieu, declared that to be the first priority.

In 1627 Royal forces began surrounding La Rochelle with an army of 7,000 soldiers, 600 horses and 24 cannons. Cardinal Richelieu acted as the commander of the besieging troops. Once hostilities started, engineers isolated the city with entrenchments 7 miles long, fortified by 11 forts and 18 redoubts. A seawall was built to block seaward access to the city. The surrounding fortifications were completed in 1628, manned with an army of 30,000. The residents of La Rochelle were surrounded and cut off from receiving food and vital supplies. They resisted surrender for 14 horrific months. During the siege, the population decreased from 27,000 to 5,000 due to casualties, famine, and disease.

To escape persecution, many Huguenots migrated to dozens of countries around the globe during the 16th-17th centuries. (Some went to the New World and founded the city of New Rochelle, New York.) And yet, the Reformed Faith of the Huguenots remains alive to this day in France! The Huguenot Fellowship exists to help support the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the French-speaking world, focusing on the Reformed Seminary in Aix-en-Provence, France (La Faculté Jean Calvin). Please consider becoming a friend and faithful partner through your prayers and regular contributions!

Team Aix in 1979

 Standing: François GONIN, Pierre BERTHOUD, Paul WELLS, Peter JONES, Pierre COURTHIAL Seated: Jean-Marc DUMAS, Eugène BOYER, Pierre FILHOL (President), William EDGAR, Gérald BOYER

Standing: François GONIN, Pierre BERTHOUD, Paul WELLS, Peter JONES, Pierre COURTHIAL
Seated: Jean-Marc DUMAS, Eugène BOYER, Pierre FILHOL (President), William EDGAR, Gérald BOYER

In 1979, when Barbara and I arrived in Aix-en-Provence to teach at the Seminary, this was our team. Only six of us were full-time. There were possibly 40 students. But we were able to cover all the disciplines, plus organize a world-class choir. These were truly halcyon days, though the seas were hardly calm. ~ Bill Edgar

Paul Revere, an American Huguenot

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The “eighteenth of April in Seventy-Five” is a date familiar to Americans thanks to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s stirring poem “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.” This vivid recounting of the courageous night ride that gave the alert that British Regulars were marching on Lexington and Concord has thrilled readers for generations. The ensuing skirmishes, which forced a retreat of the British, are considered the first battles of the American Revolution.

Who was this Boston silversmith, the American patriot with the French-sounding last name? Paul Revere was the son of Apollos Rivoire, who was born in 1702, in Riocaud, in the Gironde valley, near Bordeaux. The family was French Huguenot, and because of the persecutions following the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685), many thousands of Huguenots were forced to flee to Protestant tolerant countries. The child Apollos was first sent for safety to an uncle on the island of Guernsey, but then the uncle paid for his nephew’s sea passage to Boston in the New World. Puritan New England was a welcome destination for the Huguenots escaping persecution. In 1735 most of Boston’s 14 established churches were Calvinist; one was French Reformed. Apollos turned 13 on that sea voyage, and was apprenticed to a master goldsmith where he became a skilled artisan, skills and training he eventually passed on to his son.

Apollos changed his name to Paul Revere (easier for English colonists to pronounce), and married Deborah Hitchborn, a 4th generation descendant of English forebears who had come from Lincolnshire in what is called the Great Puritan Migration. Thus both sides of the famous Paul Revere’s family were deeply rooted in Calvinist, reformed, independent thinking. And, it was said that Paul, the American patriot, “attended church ‘as regularly as the Sabbath came’” (David Hackett Fischer, Paul Revere’s Ride).

Paul Revere’s service to his country did not end with that midnight ride. He was a leader of the famous Boston Tea Party, and worked for the cause of liberty as a bold and much respected member of his community. The faith and courage of Paul’s Huguenot father, who crossed the Atlantic as a boy to build a new life on a new continent, was manifest in the life of his son, the American patriot Paul Revere.

David Hackett Fischer’s excellent Paul Revere’s Ride, (New York, Oxford University Press, 1994) is the source of much of this information, and gives a careful, well researched account of the man and the beginnings of the American Revolution.

Linda Boice

This Time It Was Different

 Lt.-Col. Arnaud Beltrame

Lt.-Col. Arnaud Beltrame

The news from France, this time Trèbes, was depressingly familiar. A jihadist terror attack, again. A radicalized Muslim man known to police on a rampage, again. Civilians about their daily business under siege, again. It happens a few times a year, and the president of France, and the French security services, and the friends of France abroad issued their customary statements, again. 

Except that this time it was not the same. Something different happened amid the terrorist routine in Trèbes. Lt.-Col. Arnaud Beltrame of the French Gendarmerie nationale was on the scene at the supermarket in Trèbes. The terrorist had already killed two people, and was holding hostages inside. Beltrame was the right man. Second-in-command of the region’s police, he was a decorated veteran of the French special forces and esteemed by all as the best of the Gendarmerie.

The lieutenant-colonel then offered to take the place of a female hostage. It was an act of both outstanding courage and tactical brilliance. The jihadi agreed to the swap, and so Beltrame was able to draw close, leaving his mobile phone on so that the police outside could hear what was going on. When they stormed the supermarket, Beltrame was stabbed and shot by the jihadi, and died of his wounds the next day.

His widow noted that he died the day before Palm Sunday, when Holy Week begins. In these holiest of all days for Christians, the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is recalled, made present again. All that was somehow made present in the death of Arnaud Beltrame.

His widow insisted that his sacrifice could not be understood apart from his Christian faith, nourished by the monks at the nearby Abbey of Lagrasse. It was one of those monks who attended to Beltrame in hospital, administering the last sacraments before he died.

We have not heard the account of the woman whose life was spared when Beltrame took her place. When her Friday morning began, she did not think that she would need a saviour that day. She was going to buy groceries. But she found herself held hostage by a murderous terrorist. And she needed to be saved.

We might imagine that she desperately thought about how that might happen. Might the jihadi get distracted so that she could make a run for it? Might the police outside manage to take him out with a sniper’s bullet? Might the other shoppers somehow subdue him? Did she imagine that deliverance would come from a member of the Gendarmerie offering to take her place? That her mortal peril would be relieved by Arnaud Beltrame himself assuming that same peril? That she would not go to an early grave because he was willing to do so?

Did she think, even for a moment, that the man who was ready to kill her would let her go, because Lt.-Col. Beltrame had come? What did the jihadi say to her? Perhaps: “You may go; he has come.”

You can see why Arnaud Beltrame’s wife, mourning her husband, was thinking about Holy Week. Is that not what happened then, long ago in Jerusalem?

That is what Christians mark on Good Friday. A terrible estrangement between God and man had been wrought by sin, and the wages of sin are death, as St. Paul teaches. And so because of sin we die.

Can that estrangement be overcome? Can the debt of our transgression be repaid? Can all that sin has destroyed be restored? After the fall of man, Christian theology considers the human race to be held hostage as it were, in mortal peril because the reality of death cannot be overcome.

Then comes the One who can overcome. Jesus is man, the faithful believe, but also God. And the hostages are freed, not freed by overwhelming power, but because there is One to take their place.

On Good Friday, Christians look to the Cross and hear just that: “You may go, He has come.”

The good news of a Saviour is only good news to those who know they need saving. On that Friday morning in Trèbes, the people did not think they needed a saviour until they needed one. On that Friday morning in Jerusalem, the people did not think they needed a Saviour, even though one was at hand.

Christians celebrate the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ because it means that a Saviour has come. Holy Week — whether in Jerusalem or France or Canada — is a reminder that the world needs one.

From Canada's National Post

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For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ~ 
Romans 5:7-8

I Felt the Call

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My name is Marlies ten Voorde and I am 29 years old. I come from Woudenberg, a small village in the center of the Netherlands, near Utrecht. After studying medicine I began working in neurology in 2012. In 2015 I began the six-year program to become a specialist in neurology.

However my plans changed in 2016 when I felt the call to become a missionary. This was a completely unexpected turn of events, as I had thought I would be a neurologist all my life. After a few months of prayer and reflexion I decided to respond to this call. I applied to the mission board of my denomination to serve as a missionary in Guinea (Conakry). I stopped my studies in neurology and since June 2017 I have been getting ready to work in Guinea. I am in Aix for 3 months to work on my French, the language spoken in Guinea. I follow classes at the Faculté Jean Calvin and take part in church activities. Also I am living in the home of the family of the pastor Marc Toureille. It is a great opportunity to practice French (even theological vocabulary!) and get to know some French Christians.

I am due to return to the Netherlands on March 23 and leave for Guinea on April 10 for an indefinite period. For the first two years I will be learning the local language and culture. After that I will find out how I can spread the Word of God and maybe be able to work in health care.

Marlies ten Voorde

Do You Care About Souls?

 Pastor Marc Toureille

Pastor Marc Toureille

I was born into a Christian family and through the example of my parents, my brother and sister I learned to know God. In 1986 I responded to God’s call during an evangelistic campaign. From then on I found myself in the place God had prepared for me, in the church. In 1992 my father died, a turning point in my life. At the time I was studying biology. For a few years I had been leading Bible studies for teenagers and I felt the call to study theology to deepen my knowledge of the Bible. I enrolled at the Faculté Jean Calvin when I was 19. During my three years’ study I kept active in the life of the church. The yearly internships taught me more about the practical life of various churches. As I studied I became convinced, in response to Isaiah 6:8, that I should undertake some kind of Christian ministry. But what, exactly? I was only 21 and didn’t feel ready to become a pastor; the Lord convinced me otherwise. I was asked: “Do you care about souls?”, a question that seems old-fashioned. But, then came the day when I said, “yes, I do”, and I understood that when the Lord calls someone he equips them with everything they need. I took for myself the Lord’s words: “My power is made perfect in YOUR weakness.” I then applied to become a pastor in the Union of Reformed Evangelical Churches. After a year’s internship I became pastor of the Reformed Evangelical Church of Alès in the south of France.

Over the last 20 years my wife Florence and I have served in three different churches: in Alès, Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines in the Paris area, and in Aix-en-Provence. We have learned so much! We have felt the love and support of Christian brothers and sisters of all age groups and many different geographic origins and from many social backgrounds. Through home visits and church gatherings we have learned what is meant by “fellowship”. We thank the Lord for all the “great cloud of witnesses” he has brought us into contact with.

Marc Toureille, Pastor of a local church of the Union des Églises Protestantes Réformées Évangéliques de France (UNEPREF) denomination, Aix-en-Provence

Hope, But On What Basis?

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Dear Friends,

        Nicolas Baverez is a lawyer, essayist, and journalist, justly renowned for his perceptive views of where France and Western Europe are going in the next few years. He has been called a pessimist, because he has written books such as France Is Falling, which looks at sobering trends in the country, such as cultural lag, loss of a competitive edge, and a generalized fear among its people. But he considers himself more of a hopeful realist than a pessimist.

        His latest book, due out next month, is titled, Violence and Passions: A Defense of Freedom in the Age of Universal History. His argument is that no one escapes the forces of history in our times. Contrary to many predictions since the fall of communism in 1989, there is little reason to be optimistic. Forces reign such as terror, revenge, xenophobia, all of which confirm what French poet Paul Valéry said long ago: “Civilizations are mortal.” And yet, Baverez still says there is hope, hope for liberty, if only we would look in the right places. Unfortunately, while he says good things, he stops at the most important. He argues we need to resist terror, to strengthen our institutions, and to “take responsibility.” Sure, but on what basis? He says we simply need “faith is freedom and the courage to defend it.” Sure, but where does it come from?

      Only the Gospel can ensure such things. Our hope is not in the fall of communism or the strength of institutions, but in the rise of resurrection power, inaugurated by our Lord Jesus Christ. The Seminary in Aix-en-Provence is training leaders for churches and missions that will proclaim this message loud and clear. Thanks so much for your support of this great cause.

Very Truly Yours,
William Edgar,
President