Meet Anne and Menno Menninga. Here is a pre-post quiz: Anna and Menno are (a) merchants (b) artists (c) craftsmen (d) innkeepers (e) teachers (f) missionaries (g) restauranteers?
Answer: all of the above—though (g) is in the planning stages.
The Menningas are originally from the Netherlands, but have been missionaries for some thirty years, first in Belgium, and then in France. Back then they were part of the Assembies of God, though now they are “independant”–though they are quick to point out one is never independant as a Christian. It is perhaps better to call them non-denominational or inter-denominational.
They are also “outside the box.” One first encounters this engaging couple through their charming pottery and home decoration store La Grange aux Couleurs.
The name means “the barn of colors” and describes the place perfectly. An old fashioned stone barn–cattle feeding troughs still in place–has been converted into a boutique and filled with delightful items to enhance home or garden.
Next to the barn is their three-story home, where they run a bed and breakfast. They host biweekly worship services, alternately featuring an agape meal and a time of sharing. This was where we attended church this morning, in fact.
Five years ago, they were not at all sure where the Lord was taking them. The church in Reims, where they had been in leadership had been shut down by the “powers that be,” ostensibly for safety reasons–but y’know… evangelicals here are still viewed with suspicion. But after a year had passed, plans and dreams lying dead on the floor, the Lord showed up with His resurrection power and His “beyond what you can ask or think” proclivities.
One of their sons heard about this property for lease in the nearby village of Hermonville, not more than six or seven miles from the big city, but in the fresh air and greenery of the French countyside, nestled next to an ancient church tower and over looking the champagne vineyards lining the hillsides. The lines have fallen for them in pleasant places.
Their ministry has largely focused on troubled and at risk youth, and they have taken a number of young people into their home over the years. Having had a church-building-based ministry for so many years, the last few years have called for creativity. A church building can be a box, however, and the French people don’t always like to be placed in a box. At least, society has enough obligatory compartments to it, that the Gallic spirit balks at yet another one. Thanks but no thanks.
But the love of God is not contained in a box, comes not with obligation, but with joy, with freedom, and with life. Having the right “virus” is enough to be contagious. Anne and Menno are committed to living the life of Jesus, and letting that life do the catching.