Habiba dragged two large suitcases across the busy street, her black headscarf framing her face and her two young children close beside her. They’d traveled thousands of miles from the Moroccan desert to Paris, away from her abusive husband, hoping for a better life for her and the children.
Bill Boggess was waiting at the traffic light on a warm August afternoon in 2013 when he saw this little family struggling toward the train station with all their worldly goods in tow. He rolled down his window and offered to transport them the remaining 500 yards.
Habiba gratefully accepted his help. In the short drive, Bill quickly realized that this woman and her children had nowhere to go — and that God wanted him and his wife, Bobbie, to help them.
For the next 10 days, Habiba and her son and daughter found shelter in the Boggess home while Bobbie helped Habiba look for housing. A friendship began between this Muslim family and these two American missionaries that continues to this day.
In the nearly 33 years Bill and Bobbie have served as church planters with TEAM, befriending Habiba is just one of the many creative ways God has led them to reach out to the people of France with the love of Jesus.
Bill, who was born in Mississippi, came to faith in Christ through the testimony of a fraternity brother at Mississippi State University. Bobbie grew up in Georgia and gave her life to the Lord at the age of 14.
They met while attending Florida Bible College and were married in June 1977. It wasn’t long before they knew the Lord wanted them to serve him full-time.
Bill and Bobbie envisioned a stateside pastoral ministry, but the Lord used a missions conference at Dallas Theological Seminary to open their eyes to the need for pastors on the mission field. After Bill graduated in 1980 with his Masters of Theology, they joined TEAM and began developing their support system while Bill pastored a rural church in Mississippi.
On November 23, 1983, Bill, Bobbie and 3-year-old Brian arrived in Paris and settled in a southern suburb. Their first task was to learn the language. Bobbie, five months pregnant, grew in her French skills as she got to know other young mothers in their neighborhood.
Bill struggled through classes at Sorbonne University. Those first years in France were hard. So much was unfamiliar; Bill and Bobbie often felt vulnerable and out of place. Simple tasks were awkward and stressful. Baby Bradlee arrived prematurely, so Bobbie navigated Paris traffic every day to bring milk to the hospital’s intensive care nursery, toting little Brian along too.
But as the years passed, the Boggesses began to feel at home. Before Benjamin was born during their fourth year, they’d started to fall in love with the country.
In addition to Bill’s primary role as church planter (which includes evangelism, preaching, visitation and discipleship), he also served for nine years as the TEAM France ministry area leader, coordinating short-term visits and interviews, assisting missionaries with their needs and processing grant requests, among many other duties.
Bobbie assists Bill’s church planting efforts and also helps organize TEAM conferences each year. For the last eight summers, she’s facilitated their church’s conversational English classes, in which students also have the option to attend additional Bible discussion sessions after completing their course.
Bill coached baseball for more than 10 years. Bobbie’s gained friends through a common love of quilting. When there was no space in their church facilities to hold Sunday school, Bill taught a class of six little boys in their parked minibus. Bill and Bobbie opened their home for a new church plant during their second term, hosting worship services, meals, youth group gatherings and concerts for five and a half years.
The Boggesses have discovered that persistence and perseverance are key in missionary service. Faced with the lack of interest most French people have in the gospel and the slow growth of the French church, Bill and Bobbie have learned to keep planting seeds, cultivating relationships and trusting God’s faithfulness.
And, they say, the gospel works! An alcoholic man came to Christ, was delivered from his addiction and was restored to his wife and children. A Muslim woman who’d been studying in Bobbie’s English classes made a decision to follow Jesus after attending their church worship services. And these are just two of numerous others whose lives the Lord has transformed.
Now, with their retirement just a little more than a year away, Bill and Bobbie are praying for spiritually mature French believers to take over the leadership of their second church plant. There are still decisions to be made and unknowns about their future, but Bill and Bobbie know they want to stay involved in missions. And that will surely involve even more creative ways to share the Good News.
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