Delight yourself in the Lord - Missionary Story of Lise Lalonde
The first impression I had of Lise Lalonde was laughter, laughter and gaiety of spirit that poured forth from a heart teeming with genuine joy. I could hear the smile on her voice for most of our conversation and it seemed like I was sitting right beside her rather than connecting by phone thousands of kilometers away.
This joyful spirit, centered on her hope in Christ, has served her well amidst the challenges and trials that her and her husband Francois have faced throughout life. Lise repeatedly maintained that God had a plan and still has a plan, and I think perhaps it is this certainty that gives her hope and happiness. She knows she is where she is supposed to be and she is confident that God is working through her to reach the French communities of Canada.
Many years ago, under the mentorship of Margaret Carson (mother of D.A. Carson, co-founder of Gospel Coalition), Lise discovered her calling to work with children. One day when asking her mentor for advice and counsel in regards to children’s ministry, Mrs. Carson replied, “Dear Lise, if God has equipped you to communicate to children His love and His salvation, why would you want to do something else?” Lise said that question has resonated with her even to this day. She says, “I got it…it sunk in… and never left me.”
She enrolled in off-site Seminary Theology courses and later attended Tyndale Seminary to earn a Bachelor of Christian Education. Though she didn’t know exactly how or where, Lise was convinced that God would use her in children’s ministry. She had volunteered as an Awana Commander for over twenty years and in 2007 Lise officially became an Awana missionary to the French communities of Canada. Her love for children’s ministry continues to thrive. Even to this day, what she most enjoys about her work is when she sees the eyes of a small child light up when they successfully recite their verses.
In a province that has less than 1% of it’s population affiliated with evangelical Christianity, the Quebecois have been called the most unreached people group in North America. For hundreds of years, since the Huguenots were persecuted in 1600s, there has been very little French-Protestant presence in Canada. Just sixty years ago men were spending time in jail because of their faith. But slowly, God is reviving Christianity in this place and Lise is thrilled to be a part of the work!
Awana in Quebec is unique primarily because of the language difference but also because Lise has started with such a small Awana presence. When Lise joined Awana as a missionary, there were only six clubs in Quebec and only two of those were French clubs. The clubs had very little support and struggled to communicate with leadership. The lack of French resources made reaching the French-speaking communities a real struggle.
I could tell that language translation is still constantly a challenge and a huge amount of work for Lise and her translation partner Chantal Bilodeau. These translations are key to providing kids with a relevant Gospel message as well as Bible memorization and discipleship. Lise explains, “a kid can understand what ‘go’ means and take off in a running game; he can even make something out of a passionate message from God’s Word; but when it comes to memorizing, to taking to heart a verse that is not in your mother tongue, it is almost impossible – I know, to this day, I struggle with memorizing a verse in English”.
French children need and deserve to be discipled in their own language. Lise described the intensive process that is required in order to produce relevant and consistent material for children and leaders to work with. They carefully study the texts and spend hours endeavoring to portray the correct sense and meaning behind their words. Then Lise has to digitally reformat and edit each book in order to produce quality material that coincides with the English books. Lise is excited and proud when she can say that “now both the French and English kids can have the same book, it’s not identical, but it’s pretty close - in colour, in quality…in content, page for page.” In fact, Lise asserts with joy that the French books are almost better than the original English due to all their efforts to make them understandable and consistent. Their translated material remains one of only a few French resources available for Christian children’s ministry.
Not only is there a need for resources, Awana needs leaders. Leaders make a significant impact in children’s lives and Lise tries to impress upon them the importance of being a role model. This comes from her own personal conviction that she needs to be a model. She shared with me that 2 Corinthians 11:1, where Paul says, “be imitators of me, just as I am of Christ” has really helped her to view her own life in the right perspective: “I want, before God, to be a model, realizing that I influence… whether you accept it or not; whether you realize it or not, we are always influencing someone.”
I could hear the excitement in her voice as she envisioned Quebec with enough of an Awana presence - clubs, materials, and leaders, to really make a difference in the province and to reach so many more kids than they are currently able with such small numbers.
And that is what we are called to do – reach the world around us, imitate Christ and make disciples. Through Awana, Lise is influencing one of the most unreached people groups of North America. Hers is a hands-on ministry and a never-ending one. Quebec needs Christian influence and Lise is excited to be seeing a growing number of 2nd and 3rd generation Christians stepping up to make a change. Her joy continues to overflow as God’s truth is proclaimed in this region.
That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
(1 John 1:3-4)