Trees return after 19 years in France

This article submitted by Stephanie Everson on 2/25/97.

Grayling Trees, his wife, two sons, and one daughter have returned to the United States after living in France for the last 19 years, seven of which were spent in inner Paris where he pastored a church. They are now residing in Paynesville.

Trees was raised in a Catholic home in Ohio, but he didn't come into the Christian faith until later in life. He became very much a part of the hippy movement of the late 1960s, and while in his early 20s he attended college on a basketball scholarship, but quit after becoming more involved with various drugs.

He found a common interest with the hippies, whose ideals were a peaceful and loving existence; but later became disenchanted with many of his friendís shallow and superficial lives. "They had the ideals, but no dynamics to reach those ideals," Trees remembered. He continued to search for something that embraced his ideals, but continued in the drug culture he had become part of, until he and a friend hitchhiked from Ohio to Arizona where he came to a turning point in his life.

One of the guys in the rock band he played with was a Christian. Trees was unreceptive to any talk about the organized religion of Christianity that he had been raised in, but one evening he agreed to attend a church meeting with his friend. Before they went, he took speed, a methamphetamine. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because when he returned from the meeting, his friends went to bed, but because of the drug he was unable to fall asleep and stayed awake for the rest of the night thinking over his life and what he had heard.

He later became a Christian and found a place with the "Jesus People," a separate group within the hippy movement who were followers of Christianity. Thinking back on that era, Trees feels that mainstream Christianity missed out on the perfect opportunity they could have had to reach out to many hippies with the help of the "Jesus People."
When he was 25, he enrolled at Bethany School of Missions in the cities where he later met his wife. He had a desire to go to France, but ended up taking a position as interim pastor at a frontier church in Gillam, northern Manitoba.

The year he spent in Gillam was one of his most challenging. The only way to get there was by railroad, and he didn't speak the main language, Cree Indian. He had a friendly relationship with the Cree, but was unable to cultivate any deeper friendships because of the language barrier.

Back at school after his year had come to an end, he saw a notice at the bottom of a church bulletin looking for people to go to France. This being the opportunity heíd been looking for, they packed up and moved overseas.

When they got there, he and his wife spoke no French at all, but they had to learn quickly because they lived with a family that spoke no English. At first they couldn't understand anything that was said, but in time they learned it fluently.

Trees sees that a lot has been lost in the meaning of Christianity because so many are caught up in religion and laws. Many Christians in this country are closed off to people of other faiths and backgrounds, and miss out on many opportunities. In the inner city of Paris, there were many different nationalities and religions living close together. Trees' children were friends with the Muslim kids in their neighborhood, and often played together.

He mentioned the awful things that have been done throughout history in the name of Christianity, such as the killing that was done during the crusades, but, having studied other religions as well, has found no other that embodies his beliefs.

Until Christians today stop seeing themselves only as physical beings, and start looking at themselves as spiritual beings, they will continue to miss out on one of the most important beliefs of their religion.

Trees has seen a lot lacking in American society, from the flippant attitude toward sex often shown on American TV, to the desire of extreme materialism; and feels what is needed in this country and this world is not a revival of religion, but a revival of Christian spirituality. When that happens, we will see a great change in our society.

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