My Miraculous Mirage

An Evangelical Christian girl ventures to France for her first time abroad and needs to satiate her need for religious fulfillment. She considers attending a Catholic mass regardless of her somewhat opposing beliefs. She briskly travels to and from French class every day, barely noticing her surroundings anymore. But in the distance, rich black text on white brick walls leaps into her field of vision as if God himself wrote the words "Église Évangélique de Perpignan." I am this girl, and for a moment, I believed the church was a mirage in a desert.

As I meandered across the eerily green river, I noticed the French word for "Evangelical" on the wall of a building. The building is the home of the church Église Évangélique de Perpignan, one of a few Evangelical churches in what I always assumed to be a completely Catholic country.

When one of my teachers here in Perpignan noticed the church, he was surprised and asked a French colleague about it. The colleague assumed he was mistaken. An Evangelical church, here? Surely, that must be incorrect. But upon further research, Église Évangélique de Perpignan was indeed a real sight and not the only one of its kind. I found seven churches similar in basis of religion around various areas in Perpignan.

Although the Pope resides in Italy, France has always seemed in my mind to be another center of Catholicism. In America, by contrast, the Evangelical population has such a presence that it can make or break any given political issue. If a presidential candidate can reign in and lock down the Evangelical vote, they can usually win 20 to 47 percent of the American voting population. Many politicians have blamed the lack of Evangelical votes for costing them elections. Given America's huge Evangelical presence, my sighting of the Evangelical church in Perpignan was set up for a shock-and-awe response from the start.

This American Evangelical Christian girl will be trotting into a French Evangelical church service or two this week, eager to speak with the pastor about how he and his congregation ended up in this little Mediterranean town. Sorry, did I just say, "pastor" about a church in France instead of "priest"? The excitement must be clouding my vision.

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About the Program

Fifteen college students came from North America to Perpignan, France, in June 2011 to produce these videos and stories. To find out more, read a welcome letter from program director Rachele Kanigel, meet the program faculty and explore the 2010 website.