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Horrors of Paris Attacks Hit Hard for U.S.-based French Missionaries

December 2, 2015

Horrors of Paris Attacks Hit Hard for U.S.-based French Missionaries

December 2, 2015
(Dec. 2, 2015 - by Ralph Kurtenbach)  To Oliver Dossmann it was a cousin. To John Beck, a son. Like many others, they wanted to know on Friday, Nov. 13, how the Paris terror attacks had affected their loved ones.

On the social media site, Facebook, Dossmann wrote that his cousin and her boyfriend were watching the France-Germany soccer match when explosions occurred near the Stade de France. Security staff took French President François Hollande out of the stadium, but the game continued to its conclusion while post-match activities were canceled. Dossmann’s cousin was fine. “Pray for the people of Paris,” he said.

Daniel and Françoise Dossmann with their son, Oliver, in 1983 before leaving France to serve in Ecuador with Reach Beyond.Beck and his wife, Katherine, have known Dossmann since he was a teen. His parents, Daniel and Françoise Dossmann, learned Spanish with the Becks in preparation for mission work in Ecuador.

“Would appreciate prayers for our son,” Beck wrote of Nathan Beck, a missionary who had been in Paris teaching Discovery Bible seminars. With Hollande’s state of emergency declaration, all borders were closed, delaying by one day his return to Czech Republic.

“What you did not hear from the press is that a mere 24 hours before the attacks a group of over 40 missionaries was walking through the streets of downtown Paris, at times literally next door to where the attacks took place,” wrote Nathan’s Czech wife, Vera. “These people spoke the message of the gospel, the message of hope.” The couple serves with Greater Europe Mission (GEM).

John and Katherine BeckThe national stadium attack left one victim dead. In conjunction with the bombing, gunmen opened fire on restaurant diners and stormed a crowded concert venue, Bataclan, where 89 people were killed. The Dossmanns, longtime Reach Beyond missionaries, stayed abreast of reports on the attacks.

Familiar Places in Paris

Recognition was instant upon reading of places in Paris they had left decades ago. On Nov. 13 their neighborhood—where they met, fell in love, married and began their family—became a kill zone. The familiar took on surreal qualities, showing up in news photos of blood in the street and bodies covered by sheets.

“We have heard the name [Bataclan] throughout our childhoods,” said Françoise. “Daniel remembers going there with his parents. I believe my parents must have gone. I don’t have any memory of going there myself.” Reports put the death toll at 130, including assailants. A police raid later in a northern Paris suburb left three suspects dead (one by suicide) and several others apprehended.

Bataclan, the concert hall in Paris where 89 of the 130 fatalities took place during the terrorist attacks of Nov. 13.Referring to their Paris arrondissements (districts), Françoise explained that hers was No. 11 while Daniel lived in nearby No. 3. At age 16 she began formal study of guitar in No. 10—the district where they met.

Just around the corner from where Françoise had lived, jihadists also fired upon café and restaurant diners near the Place de la République, killing more than 20 and critically wounding several.

“Just to see the names [of those places], it brings up emotions,” Françoise said. The Paris terrorism comes 70 years after the liberation of Nazi-occupied Paris. During the war, Françoise’s Hungarian Jewish father had survived a concentration camp—experiences of which he shared with her as she approached her teenage years. To this day she avoids literature and movies about war.

The attacks occurred some 50 years after French troops (Daniel among them) were deployed to Algeria when the Front de Libération Nationale (National Liberation Front or FLN) launched armed revolts in the North African country, demanding a sovereign Algerian state. On Nov. 13, France may have seen its worst attacks since those tensions.

Testimony of Faith

An album released from the medieval classical music group, Les Ménestriers, in which Daniel Dossmann played.Daniel’s deployment marked a beginning. Beneath a starry sky of the desert, he started asking life’s bigger questions. Returning home two years later, he taught guitar and played professionally with a medieval classical music group, Les Ménestriers (The Minstrels). Françoise and Daniel married and lived in arrondissement No. 10.

Their search for truth led them to yoga and Eastern mysticism, including visits to India. Reading the Bible, however, Daniel became convinced of its truth, and Françoise recalls that “when I was crying to God the Creator, I had an encounter with Jesus in my heart.” She subsequently discerned that “if I can feel Jesus’ presence in my heart, He is alive [and] if He is alive, He is God. If He is God, the Bible is the truth.”

They became converts to Christianity in 1973, later moving to Geneva, Switzerland, to study at a Bible school. Later living at Amboise, France, they first heard of a missions opportunity in Ecuador via their pastor’s wife who was acquainted with Tom and Lois Fulghum, now Reach Beyond retirees living in Arizona.

Feeling called by God to serve in Ecuador, the Dossmanns began their Spanish studies in 1983 at Rio Grande Bible Institute in Edinburg, Texas. Among their first friends were John and Katherine Beck, also headed to Ecuador with the same mission group. Françoise, invited to a bridal shower, wondered if it would involve soap and water. It was Katherine who helped her grasp the American context for such events.

Serving in Ecuador and Beyond

John Beck, featured on a QSL (listener confirmation) card from Radio Station HCJB when he was the producer/host of the popular program, "Ham Radio Today."By 1984 the Dossmanns were producing programs for international shortwave radio audiences while John Beck served in various capacities as an English language programmer and manager of Radio Station HCJB. One special treat for Beck was hosting “DX Party Line,” a program that he had listened to on shortwave radio since high school. He also started a new program, “Ham Radio Today.”

In 2000 the Dossmanns transitioned to the West African country of Côte d’Ivoire. The Becks returned in 2003 to the U.S. where John serves as a broadcast engineer with the Bott Radio Network. Katherine is a home healthcare nurse in the Kansas City area where they live. Nathan is their oldest; their other children are living or have lived in places as diverse as Peru and Papua New Guinea.

The Dossmanns’ work was interrupted in 2004 when French expatriates were evacuated from Côte d’Ivoire by French troops during an uprising against the president. When similar unrest arose again in 2011, they were already producing audio content from Normandy, France.

The Dossmanns now live in the U.S. where they are helping at Eden Ridge, a missionary retreat center founded by their son,  Oliver, near Crossville, Tenn. They also continue to help Reach Beyond with French radio programming and communications.“Daniel continues to produce programs,” said Françoise. With age he’s lost some use of his voice, “but he’s working at remastering older programs that he did while in Abidjan … or even [while] in France.” He also composes and records music for the programs.

Françoise handles all communication, including people from the mission, donors and friends. She also helps Oliver and his wife, Rachel, with details for the arrival of guests at Eden Ridge, a missionary retreat center begun by Oliver and friends near Crossville, Tenn.

Daniel and Françoise Dossmann have served with Reach Beyond for more than 30 years.Audio content is posted to Reach Beyond’s French-language homepage (www.reachbeyond.fr). Among those downloading the programs are three Christian radio stations in Africa and three in France.

“We live in the U.S. now to be close to Oliver and Rachel and our four grandchildren,” Françoise said. Their focus remains on sharing the gospel with France and the French-speaking world.

Photo credit: AFP/Getty Images

Source: Reach Beyond