Finally recognizing the ‘lovely’ in Paris

When I was in middle school, I decided that I loved Paris. To my young, innocent brain, Paris was where dreams came true and where life was one glamorous adventure.

I covered my bedroom with posters, wall hangings and mini statues of the Eiffel Tower and other Paris landmarks.

Above all, I promised myself that someday I would visit the City of Lights.

Eight years later, I did just that. And I started to fall out of love with the city I spent years dreaming about.

Paris was nothing I imagined it would be. Within my first hour there, I witnessed a bad pick-pocketing. The streets were dirty and the Eiffel Tower wasn’t nearly as tall as I was expecting it to be.

Paris had lost some of its glamour for me, but I was still willing to go back on my second trip to Europe last January.

Then, on Nov. 13, 2015, horrific images and the headline “Terror in Paris” covered my TV while my social media timelines were full of the hashtag “Pray for Paris.”

On that day, I went from feeling excitement for my second trip to Europe to feeling pure fear.

Then the fatal blow to my love for Paris came on our first evening in the city.

Our leader got separated from the rest of us at a Metro station on the way back to our hostel. As the eight of us started to make our way through the creepy tunnels to our next platform, I heard footsteps run up behind me.

It happened in a blur.

A man attempted to seize my friend’s purse, but tripped and sprawled onto the ground. The smack of his body and the shattering of his smartphone pierced the air.

In the blink of an eye, he was back on his feet and marching right toward me. Then he grabbed my shoulder and started yelling in French. I didn’t know what was happening. Was this a terrorist attack? Was I about to die?

Then I heard one of the boys in our group yell from behind me and the man turned his attention away from me.

The other girls and I sprinted to our platform, and, after a short yelling match with the French man, the boys in our group descended the stairs. The eight of us stood in a huddle, bewildered and terribly shaken.

Fear paralyzed me, and I decided once and for all that I would never return to Paris again.

So, fittingly, that’s exactly where God has called me to go this summer.

On our last day in Paris last January, we took the train to a suburb to spend most of the day with some missionaries from Hillsboro.

Several times since then, people have brought up to me the fact that MB Mission is sending an ACTION trip to Paris this summer.

Then, following an MB Mission event in November, it became clear God wanted me and my friend—who’s been on a very similar journey in this respect—to go.

I resisted it as hard as I could. But for each excuse I came up with, the Holy Spirit had a rebuttal: God would be faithful in the timing, in the finances, and in the fear.

So over Christmas break, I filled out the application, sent in the deposit, and finally believed God is bigger than my fears.

In my previous column, I wrote about looking for lovely and promised I’d write about a place where I wasn’t expecting to find lovely.

In middle school, I thought Paris was the definition of lovely. Nine years later, I was convinced there wasn’t an ounce of lovely in the city.

Over the past year, though, I’ve realized God is doing something lovely in Paris, and he’s doing something lovely in my life.

This summer, God is bringing the two together in a way only God could.

Bailey Kaufman, a Hills­boro native, is editor of the Tabor College student newspaper this year and is an intern at the Free Press this month.