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L to R: Lel Fickett, Gentiane Berkoun, Marie-Colette, Marie Coetzer, Marti Mylin

Realizing “her” potential across France

by Laurie Lind, Entrust staff writer

Entrust Equipping Women is known in France as Potenti'Elles, a phrase combining the French words for “potential” and “her.” Through Potenti'Elles, women are discovering their potential and applying their new-found skills as Christ-like leaders in their local churches.

Women like Marie Coetzer, who found solutions to her “burden for women to be taught and strengthened in God's word.”

Women like Gentiane Berkoun, for whom the ministry training has awakened “the notion of making disciples, opening my eyes to see around me all those whom God calls to be disciples, and with them, to be a disciple.”

Women like Marti Mylin, who discovered that “using this training [could be] an effective way to equip Christian women to serve their churches and to influence other women for Christ.”

Over about 20 years, the training has multiplied into five generations of learners. It started with Lesley “Lel” Fickett.

Lel arrived in France in 1985 with Greater Europe Mission. A good portion of her ministry was with an organization called Christian Women’s Club. “We would hold regular meetings for the leaders of the [Christian Women’s Club] Bible studies. I remember wishing there was good material in French … in how to study the Bible in-depth and to give them more tools in their ministry.”

Enter Debbie Lamp who was at that time in charge of Greater Europe Mission’s women’s ministry. She knew the training process Entrust had to offer and was ready to introduce it to women serving the Lord in Europe. At the same time, Lel was interested in taking the Discovery Bible Study module. She had heard good things about DBS and felt that it and other Entrust modules “would be very beneficial for helping French women in ministry to further develop their gifts and skills.”

Lel took DBS in Germany in 2002 and Developing a Discerning Heart in France in 2003. She would eventually complete all four of Entrust’s core modules. After DBS, she began talking with French women and men in leadership to get their reaction to translating the material, to make it available to French women in ministry. “The majority of those I talked to were in agreement that it could fulfill a need.” Translation of DBS began in 2004. It was ready for use by 2006.

The first Entrust module offered in French was DBS in 2006. Lel co-facilitated with Jean Goetze, who’d been involved in Bible Study Fellowship for a number of years and had taken DBS in Switzerland.

Eight French women participated. Each one learned how to study the Bible inductively, how to dig in and learn from God’s word for their own personal growth, how to prepare a small group study of a Bible passage and how to give a talk from Scripture. These were skills they would carry into their lives and ministries wherever God took them. One of them, Marie-Colette, went on to help Lel co-facilitate DBS many times in the early 2000s. Her involvement was essential to the development of the modules in France.

In the early 2000s, Lel encouraged another of the women, Gentiane Berkoun, who demonstrated great potential as a facilitator, to consider using her gifts in the development of the modules in French. At the time, Gentiane felt she had to decline. But, a few years later, in 2016, she was ready. She took DBS again and decided to join the effort. “It was God’s timing,” Lel says.

God’s timing, indeed. Lel knew the time was approaching for her to leave France. So, she formed a small committee, something she’d tried to do previously but which only came together at this point. The committee, with the goal of overseeing women’s ministry training France, was made up of Lel, Marie-Colette, Gentiane Berkoun, Marie Coetzer and Marti Mylin.

In 2017, a year before Lel left France, Gentiane began to lead the committee. Under Gentiane’s leadership and with much prayer together with the committee, two new committee members who had taken modules and were potential facilitators came on board.

“Although I had Bible School training when I was younger,” Marie Coetzer says, “I found this method [DBS] very helpful.” She put the inductive Bible study method to work immediately in Bible studies and Sunday School classes. “I found these courses a real gain for French women since there is not a lot of this kind of training available.”

Gentiane discovered personal and practical transformation in the training.

“For a long time, I had dreamed of being able to accompany others on their spiritual journey, without bringing them ready-made answers, or giving them the impression that I knew everything (and believing that I had to know everything),” she says.

“Not having to know everything but being able to rely on each other — what a break!”

Lel’s mentorship helped form Gentiane into the leader she is today. “I appreciated having Lesley by my side to guide me, to prevent me from feeling crushed by the [amount of work], and to be able to observe her simplicity, her humanity, her humility in this role while at the same time having a rigor, a refusal to compromise in the areas that require it.”

DBS changed Gentiane’s view of Bible study. “Concerning my study of the Bible, it has created in me reflexes, the desire to go and look deeper.”

In fact, Gentiane says, the full scope of the training has impacted all aspects of her life.

“These trainings gave me keys that allowed me to change not only my way of facilitating, but also to listen to the other person in my everyday life, to know how to ask questions that make people think. It really changed my way of seeing life and others.”

Potential discovered, potential applied, potential in action. Women passing along skills and truths to next generations of women across France. It really is Potenti’Elles!

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