Interview with Pascal Portoukalian

Pascal Portoukalian run the web-magazine et the shop online Paul & Séphora (formerly Séphora Musique). He is carried by “music and the Christian lifestyle”, likes to observe the multiple facets of daily life with a gaze imbued with faith. He regularly shares his analyzes on Info Chrétienne as chronicler. We are happy to give him the floor this time to find out better.

Cis a structure that is almost 40 years old. It was previously called Séphora Music and worked to promote and develop Christian music in Francophonie. At the end of 2015, too restricted in a name which contained the word "music", and bearers of a new call which led us towards the "Christian lifestyle" - the diversity of ways of receiving, of living, of transmitting the Gospel, we changed our name to become Paul & Séphora.

We affirm that the Christian life is not a standard art of living Paul & Séphora is a Christian store and webmagazine. Paul and Zipporah are two characters from the Bible, a man and a woman, from the Old and New Testaments, with very different personalities and stories. They symbolize our desire to value the diversity of ways of living one's faith. We wish to convey the idea that the Christian faith is first something that lives, it permeates and irrigates all areas of daily life. Considering that each person is unique and created by God for a precise plan, we affirm that the Christian life is not a standardized art of living, nor a culture, nor a fashion, nor even a precise lifestyle ...

Christian life is based on two love stories: love for God and love for one's neighbor. This is why Paul & Séphora brings together on the same site all the products allowing to experience and live these calls to love: on the one hand, products of Christian inspiration to discover or deepen one's faith; and on the other hand products from all horizons aimed at blessing or supporting one's neighbor.

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  • What was the trigger that marked the beginning of your ministry?

“Why do you weigh money for what does not nourish, why do you work for what does not satisfy? "I was 23 years old. I was training to run a supermarket and I was challenged one day by reading the first verses ofIsaiah 55 : “Why do you weigh money for what does not nourish, why do you work for what does not satisfy? " This verse resonated with me in a strong way: I was selling food, and yet I felt so like I was not feeding people! I asked God to take care of resolving this inner conflict. A few days later, I unexpectedly lost this job, and then I developed the desire, then the certainty, to use my professional skills in a Christian structure. This is how I got to Séphora Music to take charge of the commercial and marketing aspect, then to take the direction of it a few years later, and to develop it in Paul & Zipporah.

I would point out, however, that it is not necessary to be in a so-called “Christian” structure to serve God: he also wants servants in secular organizations. But in my personal case, and at that moment, it appeared that it was in this type of structure that he called me.

  • What is the project or achievement that you are most proud of?

Proud, I don't know. But I would say that what gave me the most satisfaction was when I decided that everything I had belonged to God. Giving him his life is one thing. Telling him that his health, his reputation, his house, his bank account, belong to him is another. It pushes me to the humility to experience his grace and my dependence on him, and to give him my worries!

  • What is the biggest lesson you have learned through your ministry?

Jesus can fit into all cultural models
I continue to learn it and see it. It is because Jesus is not an animal that one tames. We don't give him an order, and we don't lock him up. The expressions of faith, and the ways in which God reveals Himself, can be so varied! Jesus can fit into all cultural models. I am amazed to see that the Bible and Christ's message can be appropriated by so many different peoples and personalities, in places and times so opposed to each other, without ever needing to be imposed by the constraint. You have to be God to succeed in this tour de force!

  • Who are the people who have had a major role throughout your career?

People trusted me and agreed to let me take responsibility. Their risk taking is precious! I know that my grandmothers prayed for me, that my mother prays for me, that people more or less close do it too. The entrepreneurial spirit of my father, the unwavering support of my parents, in-laws, sister, colleagues, the love of my wife and my children ... this strength and stability in my environment are a solid basis for build more serenely.

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  • Do you have role models, mentors, people who push you to move on and be better?

Yes, and in particular people who don't look like me, who don't have the same codes as me, and who generally like to get out of their comfort zone to get in touch with audiences, let's say, more difficult. These personalities stimulate me a lot!

  • What advice could you give to those who wish to embark on the same path as you?

Mixing entrepreneurial adventure and service for God is an exciting collection of uncertaintiesMixing the entrepreneurial adventure and service for God is a fascinating collection of uncertainties where you have to know how to be ready for reversals of situations and to adapt the course! At the same time, this boldness must be balanced with a lot of humility. Boldness without humility can make you believe that you are solely responsible for your successes: it damages your relationships with your colleagues, your loved ones, your professional contacts and God, and in the end, your relationship with yourself. Humility without daring slows down, or even blocks, progress towards your vision. The right dosage is an explosive cocktail, because it leads you to take risks by daring to take the step of faith.

  • How do you see your next years in the ministry? What are the projects that are close to your heart?

In 2014, we diversified our activity. In 2015, we changed our name and communication, and opened a new site. In 2016, we set up a web-magazine. In 2017, we will launch a marketplace to become a kind of "Christian Amazon". I have no doubt that other projects will emerge, and that God will open some doors and close others. He places the right people around me at the right time! As for my personal situation, he will use me well as he deems the most relevant! At your disposal, Lord!

  • The news is often troubled and sad. Persecuted Christians, adrift society, natural disasters, major ethical changes… What is your position in the face of these events? Are you more committed, attentive watchman, whistleblower, intercessor? ...

My family history makes me sensitive to the situation of persecuted Christians, since my 4 grandparents were the survivors of a genocide perpetrated mainly for religious reasons.

I can see that another, more underhanded form of persecution is taking place in Western societies.I can see that another, more underhanded form of persecution is taking place in Western societies. This affects Christians, but also, more generally, the values ​​which contribute to the common good. My personal journey has led me to want to work initially to denounce what I have seen or understood. Then I realized that denouncing was not enough, and that what our society needed was a stronger Christian influence. I wanted to add my stone to the building for a fairer, more loving, more equitable society, in short: better, by extending this commitment into my professional life. Thus, these ideals do not remain at the stage of good ideas, but are embodied in a concrete action: to promote and disseminate tools valuing the love of God and the love of one's neighbor.

So to answer the question, my history and my personality lead me to balance, alternately or simultaneously, all of these roles: committed, attentive watchman, whistleblower and intercessor!

Pascal, thank you for agreeing to respond to our interview. Thank you for your commitment and for your servant's heart. May God bless you and accompany you in your new projects!

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