A Vision Through L'Eau Vive

by Dr Briand and Hélène Tatford


When we started working in Lille, among young people who had never even had a Bible in their hands, it meant seeking to be articulate to their generation. Young people in France don't feel at ease with a rigid programme, they prefer spontaneity.



As a young student in Paris, Briand was challenged by George Clark (USA) of the Navigators: "You want to teach others, but what place does the Bible really have inyourlife?" This verse became ingrained in our lives: 'Your Word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You' (Psalm 119:11). The Word spoke and worked in and through us to others.


A guiding dynamic of l'Eau Vive is 'The things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also' (2 Tim. 2:2). Through teaching the Bible, our lives and the lives of others were changed. New local churches that developed were composed of young, enthusiastic Christians, and continued growth came as we sought to emulate the lives of 1st century Christians.


L'Eau Vive began in Lille, where we transformed a garage into one of the first Christian coffee bars in France. Those who had drunk too much in the neighbouringestaminets (pubs)came in to sing at the top of their voices and discovered a living Saviour. Many made professions of faith and joined in with all that we did. It was indeed 'the church in the street and the street in the church' (Alain Choiquier, France). The early leaders - Rose, Nicole, Monique, Théo, Daniel and, later, Evelyne - and others serve the Lord today in local churches. These young people needed significant, personal relationships in order to grow into 'Timothys'. Our friendship was not based upon their understanding of the finer points of our theology but on meeting a living Lord.



The Lord spoke to us by another vital verse: "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes to you, to testify about me" (Acts 1:8). As a young boy, Théo caught our enthusiasm for making the good news known, and later he became president of l'Eau Vive, Lille. Together with a team from Operation Mobilisation, we helped Alain Choiquier launch theCommunauté Evangélique de Paris Nation (Church of Paris Nation). In time the believers purchased a hall under the auspices of l'Eau Vive, Lille. They launched l'Eau Vive, Ile de France, with Claude Grandjean, later president of a Bible school and faculty. Catherine O'Connor worked with us for over 50 years and was always there to help. Without her the work would not have progressed in the same way.



We were concerned that those leading should have roots in the Word of God and learn how to communicate it to their generation. Leaders in Paris organised regular in-house training sessions at the Church of Paris Nation. We had a growing conviction that a centre was needed where short courses could be offered to help people to become more articulate in their presentation of the gospel.



In Provence we were concerned about the needs of young people in the university city of Aix-en-Provence. Every Saturday, with the team, we drove our minibus into an area of the town where drug dealers and burglars gathered. One evening Briand was caught up in a conversation about the Bible. Losing sight of our team, he suddenly found himself a prisoner of a closely knit gang and overheard the words, "We've got him now. Let's give him the works!" Suddenly inspired, he sat down on the pavement and continued his conversation with them. They were so embarrassed that they all sat down with him. That's where our team found him half an hour later. We met Marie Thérèse, a staunch Roman Catholic, on the city streets. She discovered, through counsel with Hélène, that Jesus Christ is a living Saviour, and today she is much in demand for teaching onBiblical Counselling, having written several books on the subject.



Another verse in the ethos of l'Eau Vive is Matthew 28:19. The Lord Jesus told His team of leaders: "Therefore, as you go, disciple people in all nations."


From l'Eau Vive, Provence, we began churches, firstly in Aix-en-Provence then in Istres, followed by Apt and Vitrolles, often with the help of Operation Mobilisation. Under the slogan,Disciples Together, we held a training year at l'Eau Vive, Provence. One participant has lived in Colombia and another spent two years in the Ivory Coast. The Lord also opened doors in Madagascar, where André Tabailloux (France) was a 'missionary-apostle' and we were able to begin a clinic in Tuléar in the south of this big island.


A year or so later, while teaching at the Université des Nations, Togo, we met a group of men from the neighbouring Republic of Benin, who asked us to help them. Then our African brothers asked if we could launch l'Eau Vive in Benin. We made it clear that we were not an evangelical credit bank but that we ourselves lived by faith, depending on the Lord for our daily needs. The two or three churches of those days have become nearly 160 local churches and preaching centres.


Each year visitors from France go to teach the students atCentre de Formation Biblique (Bible Training Centre); some of them will probably be led into a pastoral ministry while others may have a gift for teaching and will help at the Bible centre.


In the city of Cotonou  is theCentre de Santé Eau Vive (the Eau Vive Health Centre), built entirely by the believers. They have a fully equipped ambulance, donated by German believers. Bryce, the head nurse, is responsible for minor operations and is appreciated by all. Dr Hervé, the medical advisor, is carrying out research for the World Health Organisation, seeking to develop an easily absorbed, inexpensive antimalarial drug.


Standing with these believers, and those in Benin, is the team calledMission Diaconale Eau Vive. It comprises faithful workers such as Rodolphe Uhlmann in Aix-en-Provence, Bernard Gotter in Vitrolles, and Théo in Lille, who are all in full-time employment, but seek to encourage others to pray for Benin.


Our vision is to see the local church not as a building for meetings and ceremonies, but as a mobile unit of the body of Christ, growing numerically and in maturity. 

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