Evangelism, the Holidays, & My Atheist Grandpa

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Here we are again, launching into another holiday season. Most likely, many of us will be spending time with relatives of various spiritual persuasions both this weekend, and over the Christmas holiday. Times with lost relatives can be tricky.

I remember one such situation with my French, atheist grandfather who passed away a few years ago. His name was Georges Lycan, and he spent most of his life as a carefree, pleasure-loving actor in France. That I know of, he appeared in over a dozen Broadway-like plays in France, several TV shows, and about 50 movies, probably the most well-known being his role as Sheriff Stone in the Charles Bronson Western, The Red Sun.

From my early teen years, I often spent summers with him at his country home in the Loire Valley. He enjoyed spending those warm days showing me pictures from his acting days, taking me hunting, teaching me about French wine and cheese, and making me repeat the most difficult French words 100 times until I pronounced it right (e.g. “grenouille”).

But our relationship changed a bit when the Spirit of God gave me the new birth and I put faith in Jesus Christ. Not long after I was saved, I was off to France for another visit. I stumbled along as I attempted to explain to my grandfather that Christ had substituted himself on the cross for my sins. He fired back, proudly, “Je suis un athee” (“I am an atheist”). He tried to comfort me one day by saying, “Well, Eric, if I was going to be religious, I would be a Buddhist.” I often struggled with what to say and how. At times he was perplexed. Other times he would mock me. For example, when he dropped me off at the Paris airport that summer, he gave me a swift, “Bravo, Eric, on this new religion thing.” He had lived a life where, it seemed, he was always able to take care of himself. He had wealth, fun, and fame. The idea of Christ was as foreign as it was intrusive to him. For these reasons, family is often the crux of evangelism.

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