Marseille is a city of immigrants—abounding with jokes around the themes of being a northern neighborhood of Algeria or the capital of the Comoros Islands. While French social services are great—providing benefits like low-cost health care and housing—the general mood of Europe’s immigrants in gloomy. The largely Muslim immigrant community continues to identify with their home country, even after three to four generations being born in France. While they have the basics needs of life, they live in a parallel society that feels excluded from mainstream jobs and opportunity. Cultural themes of renewed ethnic identity, jadedness, and emptiness abound.
Many are calling for a major effort to see Europe turn to Jesus these days. While this effort is laudable, there are very few success stories and the continent, including France, which continues to have very few followers of Jesus—even among the large Catholic community. As old models continue to fall short, we need to try (and possibly fail in) new initiatives. Anyone interested in working in Marseille should come with the idea of trying new things! As Servant Partners in Marseille, our effort is focused on “third culture kids”—neither French, nor African. They are bi-lingual, bi-cultural, and bypassed by society. Yet they are open to relationships, help with schooling, small business opportunities, and the new emerging world youth culture. This may be a unique opportunity to impact French society through its urban, poor, and emergent youth.