Testimonials from the field: "Faith in action in the city"

Field testimonials

Magali is the director of the Service d'Entraide Protestant (SEP), an association that supports the most vulnerable people in La Grand Combe, in the Gard.

"The real director of the SEP is not me, it's God", laughs Magali, when presenting the Protestant Mutual Aid Service, which she founded and has been running for more than 35 years in La Grand Combe, in the Gard.

"It's an old mining town in the south of France, in the Cévennes. It was a big town that became enormously impoverished after the mines closed in the late 70s."

Since then, the town has been emptied of its inhabitants. There remains in La Grand Combe an aging population, and another very fragile and precarious, often from immigration. It was in this context that Magali, then a social worker, arrived in the small Cévennes town in 1987, at the request of the pastor of the local Church.

Coming out of the walls of the Church

"At that time, the Church sought to open up to others, to bear witness in the city", recalls Magali.

"The members had been challenged in particular by the number of wandering young people. So they wanted to get out of their walls, to launch a social action so that our faith overflows into the city."

So the young social worker, who dreamed of combining her faith with her profession, threw herself body and soul into this project. Very quickly, the municipality lent him a room, to open what they call the Point Rencontre Jeunes.

"It was full of coal (laughs). It was a space where we received young people to chat, do homework, have a drink... Very quickly, we structured ourselves, we created the Service d'Entraide Protestant (SEP)."

A place of testimony

Thirty-five years later, the SEP is still there. Thanks to its teams of employees and volunteers, it supports the most vulnerable and deprived people, through four sectors of activity: the environment, integration, childhood and family and finally accommodation, with its 15 emergency accommodation places and its 24 places in boarding houses. A pride for Magali, who recalls in passing the importance of her faith in her daily life.

"It is she who carries me, and who also carries some of the employees of the SEP."

A faith that Magali wishes to bear witness to through her work.

"What we do with the fragile people of our city, we believe is a true witness to the Gospel. We are not a place of evangelization, but a place of concrete witness. Because the Church does not would never have had access to certain populations without the SEP, remaining within its walls."

"Tools at the service of God"

A testimonial that bears fruit. Like this group of residents of the Pension de famille, who have converted and who are now committed to the Church of La Grand Combe.

"Today, they are a real testimony for our beneficiaries, but also for our teams" rejoices Magali.

"It's the kind of moments that remind us that we are only tools in the service of God. And that encourage us to bring ever more benevolence to all the people we meet. Children, adults, young people... Few whatever their situation, that we can give them as many advantages as possible."

Theo Lombardo

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