Home E News E Alumni Story: Missionary Tales, French Pastries, & Closed Countries

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Aaron takes a bite of his chocolatine, a flaky pastry filled with rich chocolate custard, while Ezra has just finished off his viennoiserie, a croissant filled with sweet almond paste. The bakery they visited today is in a little town in southwest France, nestled between gently sloping hills of lush green vineyards.

Though it sounds more like a posh vacation than a ministry assignment, both Ezra Matteo and Aaron Lucas (whose names have been changed for their safety) long ago made a choice to follow Jesus to the ends of the earth and share the gospel story with unreached peoples. The story of how this ‘odd couple’ of young LPU alumni were called to the nations and deployed thousands of miles from home is a narrative only the Spirit who guided them could have written.

Both Aaron and Ezra grew up in the United States, with an average American upbringing that may not differ much from your own. But then, something happened. Both young men found themselves one day on the LPU campus, prepared to have their worlds rocked and their lives catalyzed to be on mission with Jesus. “I knew I would be a missionary and a pastor since I was 14,” Ezra recalls. “I felt led to go to LPU twice (bachelor’s and master’s) as I knew it would be the best place for me to learn and grow.” Ezra and Aaron graduated in 2011, both with a B.A. in Biblical Studies – Ezra from the cross-cultural missions track and Aaron from the worship leading track. Soon thereafter deployed as missionaries, Aaron explains that they still made time for graduate studies. “We both graduated with our [M.A. in Strategic Leadership from LPU] in 2016 [while we were] missionaries in Central America.”

Their current residence in France’s wine country enables Aaron and Ezra to study and practice language skills that even now have opened doors for ministry in the tumultuous regions of North Africa. The contrast between their protected names and this beautiful stopping point on their lifelong journey as missionaries is stark – reaching people groups with deeply rooted Muslim backgrounds in ‘closed countries’ isn’t a mission for the faint of heart. Yet even now, while attending language school in France, Aaron finds ways to connect with a beautiful tapestry of people groups: Moroccans, Tunisians, Turks, Iranians, Saudis, and others. But it’s not microwave evangelism he practices, it’s the steady rhythm of living life together, building friendships, inviting friends to church… and seeing souls won to Christ.

“Aside [from] ‘undercover discipleship,’” Aaron says with a smile, “[I] play on the worship team at our church, help with mentoring in the media department, and also disciple a few men from different countries – Morocco, Slovakia, and Gabon. I also work part-time as a web developer” – it’s a ‘side hustle’ that he and Ezra are working to develop into a reputable business that will enable them to travel more freely in and out of nations that usually require a ‘missionary visa.’

Ezra’s French is more fluent than Aaron’s, so he doesn’t go to language school. Yet, this young linguist has found that language has become a pathway rather than a barrier. “I am grateful to be able to study the Bible in Hebrew/Greek. [Going back] to the original text and culture of the Bible is one of the most useful tools to be able to teach to another culture. Hebrew, being a Semitic language like Arabic, helps us create better connections that are culturally intelligible. At the time of my studies at LPU, I would have never thought that my background in Biblical Studies would go further than ‘just’ having a firm biblical foundation.”

Ezra explains why their language study is more than just a skill added to their toolbelt. “We often venture into North Africa for special projects, recently with Foursquare Disaster Relief. Our understanding of the French language and its history as a colonial power in North Africa has helped us better engage with people in France and in North Africa.”

While Aaron studies French, Ezra spends time assisting at the local Foursquare church, as well as “doing special projects for FMI MENACA region leading the BonjourJesus Team.” BonjourJesus is Ezra and Aaron’s team of FMI missionaries who share the gospel message in France and MENACA, which is an acronym for the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia.

“We are headquartered in France and currently work within the Foursquare Church and in the community as Muslim evangelists and as church disciple-makers. We lead worship and help with the media team, children’s ministry, and small groups. Outside of the church environment we work closely with Iranian, Moroccan, Tunisian, and Turkish immigrants and invite them to church. Our focus is on getting the members of our church connected to the immigrant community, as we believe they are the ones truly called to serve the people in their community. We also work with networking missionaries in North Africa with the Foursquare Church in France. We believe there is a bridge to be built between France and North Africa, as there is a shared history and common language. We hope to one day see French nationals sending missionaries to North Africa and getting the Gospel into those nations, even though they may be closed off to the message.”

When asked how his time at LPU prepared him for the missionary life he now lives, Aaron chuckles. “How did it not?! From spiritual disciplines to practically living theology, to how to contextualize the Gospel to people who live in hard-to-reach areas and difficult access countries…” He pauses. “I literally use everything that I’ve learned on a daily basis.”

Lifelong students of scripture, Aaron and Ezra’s surroundings seem to mirror their lives. “In the center of our ‘Petite Grande Ville,’” Ezra describes, “We have a river that flows up half the day and flows down the other half of the day due to its low level and the tide. It’s an interesting trait, as we don’t have a clear river, but a river that is full of sediment and is the color of the surrounding buildings.” Like the river they walk by each day, Ezra and Aaron draw on a lifetime of learning and experience, and take on the “color” of those life lessons. It’s especially true of their time as LPU students.

“LPU gave me the foundation for my biblical knowledge, but also challenged me to become someone led by the Spirit.” Ezra’s appreciation for his alma mater is deep. “In the years that I spent at LPU, I fell in love with Africa on my first mission trip. Aaron and I prayed for the mission field daily and became partners in the spread of the Gospel. I learned that in my weakness, [God] is made strong and that it is in His Authority and Kingdom that I can truly boast. I learned that failure is not bad, but an opportunity to grow, and I continue forward because of Him.”

The biggest lesson Ezra learned at LPU? The simple application of Jesus’ commission to His disciples. “I think the most important thing that I learned at LPU is not that I have crowns to accumulate in Heaven, but rather that at the end of this age, I want to lay down my crown before the feet of Jesus, alongside everyone else that I helped welcome into the Kingdom. I’ve dedicated my life to Jesus and to reaching the lost, not in order to rack up good deed points, but rather because His free gift needs to be given to as many people as possible.”

To follow Ezra and Aaron, or to pray and partner with them in their missionary journeys, visit https://bonjourjesus.com/ .