The First French Congregation In Los Angeles

Jan 11, 2003 06:45 PM EST

Frederic Schoeler, a missionary from France has come to lead the French-speaking people in LA in worship and service. On the Santa Monica pier, a group of French speaking gathers each Saturday evening in worship in the only French-speaking Protestant congregation in the city. Their numbers run between 10 and 15, but this congregation is vibrant with vitality and youth.

The worshipers are from French-speaking countries--France, Martinique, Mauritius. Some are Americans who teach French or were missionaries to French-speaking countries. The church facility--owned and operated by Santa Monica Community Church First Assembly of God--rings with the sound of acoustic guitars and praise.

"Gloria a ton nom, alleluia! Change-moi, Seigneur, et purifie-moi ... Jesus, tu es le potier, je suis l'argile," they sing.

The missionary, Schoeler, dresses in very unorthodox Hawaiian shirt and khakis, and is well received by the attendants. Schoeler was born in France and pastored there for 17 years. In 1998, he was invited by the A/G Southern California District to plant this church in Los Angeles, where 135,000 French reside. He and his family started the French American Christian Church of Los Angeles, with a first meeting in 1999. They have met weekly ever since.

One of the attendants, Jerome Niquet, a studious man in his 30s, came to America four years ago to continue his postdoctorate work in neuropsychology at UCLA. When he got divorced, the devastated Niquet began to search for friendship and spiritual answers.

"Something was empty inside my heart, so I came," he said. "I felt something was calling me, but I didn't know it was God."

In the course of a year, he became convinced of the truth of the gospel. "With the help of Frederic, I discovered the Bible and the gospel. For me, it was a revelation," he said.

Schoeler's sermons end by 7 p.m., and after taking communion, the group adjourns to the fellowship hall for a convivial potluck. The table fills with salads, fruit and fried chicken.

Other attendants include David and Cindy Anderson, who were "media missionaries" in France and Belgium for four years, helping with video production and correspondence courses. Back in Los Angeles, Cindy teaches French and Spanish and David works at a hospital.

The task, Schoeler said, is difficult but not impossible. To attract the nonspiritually inclined, the church hosts French club meetings and is active with the French chamber of commerce.

"If the church grows well, we can have an influence," Schoeler said. "We have this vision that French-speaking people can attend, give their hearts to the Lord and go back to their home country and join a church there."

By Pauline C.