I remember the day like it was yesterday. All of us sat close to the TV – waiting – holding our breath – praying that the endless violence wasn’t real. I remember just sitting there and feeling completely helpless and completely angered. How could humanity become a place of hatred within one moment? How could men and women’s lives be threatened in an instance? How could life be shortened with one act of violence? This week’s #MillennialMonday features Abby Dente! Artist // Musician // Missionary. Abby gives us a glimpse at her experience during the Paris attacks. Read about one women’s journey of faith and how the violent attacks on Paris compelled her to reach out to those around her and live a life that reveals faith in the midst of fear.
What was it like in those first moments?
It was late at night, my parents and I were in the living room, I was checking my Facebook when we turned on the TV and the news hit us. 6 people had died so far, there were hostages, and bombings at the football stadium. The room was dead silent. All we could do was sit in shock. Then when it gave us the location of the attacks we started to send messages to everyone we knew who lived in the area. I was so glad my friends were safe, and that people were contacting us from all over seeing if we were OK, that was really encouraging!
What were your thoughts in that first moment that you heard what was going on?
It was like my heart just hurt, in a really slow… painful… processing way. I felt like this deep heartbreak and cry of pain were tearing through my heart while seeing the videos, hearing testimonies and waiting to see what we would find out next. It was such a weird atmosphere because we had just been attacked last year with Charlie Hebdo. No one was super panicked or afraid, we were all just very stunned.
All of my friends were telling me that they couldn’t be scared, or angry at the moment, those feelings would come later. But the cool thing is that through all the sad intense heartbreak and deep strife going on, every person that night and the next week that wrote to me, or that wrote on Facebook whether they be a Christian, or an Agnostic, French or American, each person signed it “Pray For Paris”. And that really spoke to me, because some of these people had been debating with me over Christianity and the power of prayer for years. Now the fact that now they all write to Pray For Paris was the most hopeful and encouraging thing that night. So were all the messages asking about safety and all the encouraging things people wrote, that was so thoughtful and encouraging!
Has this event tested your own faith? Has it caused you to question God’s grace?
It was so intense, and the news giving us every detail was overwhelming at times. So I mostly just prayed for people. I felt that to spend time debating over the One thing that is 100% solid in my life right now, would just make a bad moment worse.
Has it built your faith more than before? How so?
On Sunday our church had a special prayer time. It was so strong, so moving that after that, you just knew that somehow, everything is going to be better and God has a plan for this city, no matter what. So that really did bring me closer to God. Also, on Sunday and somewhat on Monday Paris was deserted because no one wanted to leave their homes, because Saturday was the big lockdown. I just remember having an epiphany while taking the subway… everyone was avoiding eye contact and no one was talking… The silence was palpable and I realized that even though I technically am alone, I'm really not, Click To Tweet because God was right there with me, taking care of me.
Have you found that people in Paris are looking for answers? Has this event brought people closer to God or made them antagonistic?
Initially people were much more open, much more receptive and ready to hear anything I had to say at school about what happened. I think it probably touched them that the motto was Pray For Paris, but a week after the teachers started saying stuff like: “All religions are the same”, which kinda made them go back to being a little shut down in some ways too. Please keep praying!
What is the atmosphere like in Paris for Christians? Is it difficult being a millennial Christian in Paris?
I think that Christians here are seen as more involved people, who care about people and believe that prayer can affect things. It’s really sweet! It has been difficult being a Millennial Christian in Paris, just because there are so few people my age who really believe. Sometimes it’s hard because there are so many jokes concerning religion and Christianity, and it’s hard being the person who doesn’t get the humor. But it’s also really great, because you’re also trained to be as ready as possible to answer all the questions people ask about all sorts of things the Bible talks about. I love sending people videos and explaining and telling them about my personal walk with God too!
How did the events affect your faith? Did you go through a process of fear becoming faith?
I did go through a process of fear, because everything was so deserted, and the terrorists were on the loose, but it was awesome to feel so sustained even through the crazy moment!
How has this influenced your interaction with Muslims in Paris? Have they been fearful of retaliation? How have you been able to reach out to people of Islamic faith and bring about unity?
Right after the attacks we set up a table on the street in front of church and served tea and homemade cakes, and I think that really opened doors for dialogue. It was really sweet to get to have that awesome interaction with them right after the attacks.
I do have to say though, it seems to be harder for the Jewish people right now. I went to a Jews for Jesus prayer meeting yesterday, and I realize how with all the antisemitism going on, and all the craziness, I think that the hardest bunch of people to be right now in Paris would be to be part of the Jewish community, so definitely pray for them, for their security and life in this city as well as the Muslims who also need tons of prayer against prejudice being brought against everyone!
What was the reaction of your peers in the church?
The people in the church were very calm, some were more silent, some tried bringing more joy, but when we all prayed together, there was so much unity and power and life, and I think we all felt a million times better after that. I think that was a core episode for our church because it really brought us closer to each other as well.
America responded with fear – talk of gun control echoed throughout social media. What was it like for you to read those posts? Do you think it’s that simple – would this have been prevented with stricter gun laws? Or is the act of violence greater than this?
We didn’t hear about any gun control posts here in France, but we have a pretty secure gun control system. I’m pretty sure you can only get a gun if you are military or for hunting. The terrorists certainly didn’t buy their guns here! They weren’t your average guns, they even had belts with explosives, they had grenades… they definitely planned this in advance. They had contacts in other countries, used different phones, it was a declaration of war.
How can we be praying for Paris?
If you could be praying for people to keep this close to heart, and that they remember the initial reaction to Pray for Paris, that they honestly just realize that it is God who saved Paris, that He is true, and that He is there for them in moments like these.
It’s easy to place a Parisian flag on our Facebook profile and call it a day. How can we really partner and make a difference in France?
I know that if Christians act like Christians and keep the message of love and grace, that is seriously going to affect their lives. I know that they need to see more kindness more generosity, more love. Because if they see awesome people sticking to faith after times like this, it would mean so much. Definitely please pray for Paris, please pray for cynical people, open people, closed people, for peace and a revival. 🙂 That means so much that you still care so much about Paris!
I love your photos! Why photography? How have you been able to use photography to share your story?
Thank you! I love taking natural beauty and showing it for what it really is, and highlighting the essence of something that might go unnoticed. I use photography for my work as a design student, so I can easily show my work for different schools I’m looking into. And yes, it really does help to tell stories. I love the way every picture can describe an atmosphere, or an emotion or a mechanism and just really capture the general moment in a way that I could never do otherwise.
What was it like growing up in Paris?
Growing up in Paris really has its ups and downs. It was really sweet living in a place with so much history even in the architecture, and now starting a design career it’s amazing to be able to see all the exhibits going on. It’s a very stressful city, but also a very exciting city. I’ve loved getting to know this place thoroughly and knowing the people and their culture more and more.
Do you feel like you’re American at all, or strictly European?
I was raised in a very American way at home, we always speak English with each other, but life outside of our house has been very much French. So I think for me, I’m a third culture kid, with glitches and fluidity in both languages and cultures which makes me a mix of both. 🙂
How has this colored your perspective and presentation of the gospel?
I’m not sure it changed my perspective and presentation of the gospel, I think it would probably be about the same, the only thing that changes is that I know the culture and learned their history, so I really understand where French people are coming from and what they’ve heard about the Gospel.
What is it like being raised as a missionary’s kid? Has it been hard to own your faith growing up in a Christian home?
Being raised as a missionary kid also has its ups and downs. It’s hard being the only practicing Christian in your class, and always having to defend what you know to be true. It’s also hard being rejected so much and picked on over the years, because even just saying you believe the world was created and designed and not based on an evolution just seems crazy to most people. But at the same time, that’s really some of what builds faith and makes it stronger too!
I think that’s another really amazing thing about God too, is that working through those moments of feeling lonely and weak, He uses that to make people strong and built up. It was also amazing to be able to work with the church and really find my identity through Christ! And what a great feeling it is to answer to all the smart and interesting questions people have and end up sharing the Gospel to your close friends!
What is your greatest hope for your generation?
Honestly, my greatest hope for this generation is that we keep being ourselves Click To Tweet – that we keep being creative, loving and that there would be more and more people from our generation that would turn to Jesus Christ and get to know Him for who He really is, for people to see His love, His grace, His awesomeness and the way He finds every person to be so precious on His sight. 🙂
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Connect with Abby Dente:
She is a 17 year old design student here in Paris and her parents moved to Nice in France to start doing missions here in 1997, and planted Calvary Chapel Paris in 2002. She’s lives in France her whole life, leads worship at her church and helps with visual communications for CCP. She enjoys Photography, Sketching, Hiking and playing music.
Facebook: Abby Dente
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