EDITOR'S NOTE: The annual Week of Prayer for North American Missions, March 2-9, and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering provide support for missionaries who serve on behalf of Southern Baptists across North America. With a goal of $70 million, this year's offering theme is "Firmly Planted." For more information, visit AnnieArmstrong.com.
LENNOXVILLE, Quebec, Canada (BP) -- Canadians easily dismiss Christianity, especially in Quebec. The history of mistrust is woven deep within the fabric of Québécois culture, a culture that's decidedly Catholic and, at the same time, increasingly secular.
But Lucas Aube in Lennoxville, Quebec, has worked to make rejecting Christ a greater challenge than ever among the thousands of students of Bishop's University and Champlain College.
It hasn't been easy.
The immediate response many give to Christian outreach has been one of disdain, skepticism and even, as Aube has experienced, disgust at the crazy religious people. Intentionally engaging people in ways that destroy stereotypes is changing that perspective.
"We are living as the hands and feet of Jesus on a weekly basis," said Aube, who is planting Encounter Church with a goal of having a self-sustaining church that reaches students and the families in the surrounding communities.
Aube is one of six missionaries featured this year in the North American Mission Board's 2014 promotion of the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. The church plant he pastors is part of NAMB's effort to help Southern Baptists start 15,000 new churches in 10 years. Half of NAMB's financial support comes from the Annie offering.
Aube and his leaders train members to share their stories and to talk of faith in Christ as a journey and a process.
"When you talk to them in these ways they see you as at least an option on part of their journey instead of something to avoid at all costs," Aube said.
"They expect Christians to be nasty and terrible to them," Aube said. "They're blown away with the love and hospitality that we are showing them. The barriers seem to be coming down. They're like, 'Wow. We can't believe you guys are Christians. You're so nice.' They're blown away that Christians are there in a way that has no strings attached."
Aube is quick to point out how crucial partnerships with other churches have made his ministry possible.
A team from First Baptist Church in Midland, Texas, learned of Encounter on a mission trip to Quebec, and the church has been part of the ministry ever since. First Baptist Midland has been integral to Encounter's continued growth and vital for weekly outreach efforts -- efforts that require significant resources.
"Without them we would not be able to continue the work we have here," said Aube, who says FBC Midland helps provide the food that goes into weekly meals to several hundred students.
Hospitality along with Tuesday night home cooked meals for about 300 students have provided the primary opportunities for students to emerge from atheism, agnosticism or some other belief into belief in the Gospel.
"These opportunities really take a lot of time and energy and sometimes you feel like it's going nowhere," said Aube. "But over time we've seen people experience radical transformation."
Aube says that students actually look forward to hanging out with the people of Encounter. Chances are that before university, going to church for a meal was the last thing on their list.
"The students love it," says Aube. "Because that trust relationship is there we've been able to go deeper in conversation. On Tuesday nights, for example, they say, 'We're going to church to have a meal.' That's their language. We've never used that language with them."
Aube says that in a lot of ways the work of reaching students in Quebec often boils down to working hard to remove every barrier, but then working hard to get out of the way to watch the Gospel bring people to life.
"At its very core the Gospel is offensive," Aube says. "We aren't supposed to add to that offense. We are supposed to seek and create opportunities for the Gospel to do the work."
To view a video on Lucas Aube's work and learn more about his ministry, visit www.anniearmstrong.com.
Adam Miller writes for the North American Mission Board.