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Peter and Rebecca Jones with Gabrielle and Eowyn

An Original MTW Missionary Family Serves 50 Years in Europe

By Chelsea Rollman, Jun 13, 2023

One day in 1972, amid the honking horns and biting Chicago wind, an American and Frenchman step to the edge of the sidewalk and hail the same cab. 

Back in New Jersey, a young Peter Jones is eagerly applying for seminary professor jobs while finishing his Ph.D. at Princeton Theological Seminary.

Meanwhile, a group of Presbyterian churches in the South are forming a new denomination with global missions as a foundational tenet.

The thing no one knows yet is that God is about to braid the threads of these three events together and catapult the Jones family into a combined 50 years of MTW missions work in Europe.

A Shared Taxi Ends With a Plan to Go to Europe

The Frenchman opened the yellow taxi door for the older American gentleman. They realized they were headed to the same Christian conference and struck up a conversation.

The Frenchman explained he was recruiting Reformed professors to teach at a seminary in Aix-en-Provence. France needed seminary professors, but pastors and seminary staff didn’t know where to find them. They figured this conference was a good place to start.

The American smiled and introduced himself as Ed Clowney, president of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He said he could help. The first people Ed approached with this job opportunity were his daughter, Rebecca, and his new British son-in-law, Peter Jones.

While the list of places the Joneses were willing to go to serve the Lord wasn’t short, France was not on it. 

“I had no desire to go to France. Being English, I did not consider France to be a wonderful place,” Peter laughed.

“My wife faced me with this question, ‘Where would you be most useful? Where do the people really need you? Let’s make a list.’ I discovered, of course, that France didn’t have serious Reformed training and I could not avoid the fact that that’s where I needed to be.”

Once they made that decision, they had to figure out how they were going to get there. Ed told them about a new Reformed denomination beginning in the South that was excited to support and send missionaries. Peter and Rebecca traveled to these churches in Alabama and Mississippi, presenting the need for Reformed teaching in France. 

They raised their support in just five weeks. 

They returned to the Northeast and joined a church in Delaware intent on joining the new denomination. Then at the Presbyterian Church in America's first General Assembly at Briarwood Church in Birmingham, Alabama, in December 1973, the newly formed Committee on Mission to the World commissioned the Joneses with four others as part of the first group of missionaries.*

The next year Peter and a very pregnant Rebecca boarded a one-way plane to France.

Original professors of faculté Jean Calvin in Aix-en-Provence: Peter Jones, Pierre Courthial, Paul Wells, Eugene Boyer, Pierre Berthoud, and Gerald Boyer.

Getting Started

Peter remembers facing his classical Greek class his first day on the job. He was an English speaker tasked with teaching Greek to a group of French speakers. He had an idea.

Peter assigned one student in each of his classes to write down every mistake he made with the French language during his lectures. They went over the list at the end of each class until Peter became fluent.

Rebecca and their two young daughters were also busy learning the language and culture. Slowly the family settled into life in Provence and the ministry God had for them. 

But the road was not without challenges. In the early years, Peter and Rebecca not only faced a language barrier with the outside world. They also ran into an unexpected one at home.

Deafness Leads to a Powerful Ministry

About two years after they moved to France, Peter and Rebecca realized their second child, Gabrielle, was deaf.

“Here we are in a bilingual situation and … we don’t know sign language,” said Rebecca. “If we teach her French, she won’t be able to talk to her family, and if we teach her only English, she won't be able to talk to her neighbors or go to school."

One day as Rebecca rifled through a stack of information on deafness her mother had mailed from the U.S., she came across the term "cued speech." Cued Speech combines the mouth movements of speech with a system of hand movements that make every sound look different, so a deaf person can distinguish different sounds in spoken language.

Rebecca and Gabrielle traveled to America to learn more and brought the method back to France. It solved the communication riddle for Gabrielle, who was able to communicate in both French and English. It also was a key that opened the door to a new ministry platform because Cued Speech allowed the family to have all kinds of friendships and gospel conversations naturally. 

Rebecca especially cherishes the story of a young mother who had been learning Cued Speech for her deaf son and asked Rebecca for help. She was only supposed to spend an afternoon at the Joneses’ house but a train strike turned her stay into three days.

While they taught the mother Cued Speech, Rebecca and Peter also shared the gospel and gave her a Bible. As she sat with the Bible in her lap on the train ride home, a woman approached her and said, “God told me there’s somebody in here I need to talk to, and I think it’s you.” The two talked about Jesus, prayed, and the young mother became a Christian on the train.

“The Lord turned something that was a great problem into a wonderful source of ministry,” said Peter.

Peter and Rebecca would go on to help plant a church in France, start a Christian school, have five more children, and welcome countless people into their home for fellowship. They praise the Lord the seminary continues to thrive with a number of French Reformed scholars, maintaining the seminary's faithful witness—in perfect French.

Peter Jones (center) chats with missionary professor Eugene Boyer (left) and pastor and seminary dean, Pierre Courthial.

A Second Generation of Missions

Thirty years after God first called Peter and Rebecca to France, the Joneses’ oldest child, Eowyn, found herself in a similar spot as her parents.

Growing up on the mission field gave Eowyn a love of Scripture and a passion for sharing it with others. She and her new husband, David Stoddard, had recently graduated from Westminster Seminary California. They were excited to work overseas but confused as to where God was calling them.

They had just gotten back from an MTW vision trip to Berlin, Germany, and the Czech Republic. Neither field seemed quite right. A blanket of spiritual darkness covered Berlin, and they weren’t sure the Czech Republic was the right fit.

David and Eoywn (Jones) Stoddard

Then Eowyn’s email pinged with a message from her father. All Peter sent was, “Don’t forget what Martin Luther said: ‘Go where the battle is raging.’”

“It all just fell into place,” said Eowyn. “The reason we didn’t like Berlin was because it’s such a needy place. The reason we should go there is because it’s so dark and there is a battle going for it.”

David and Eowyn have served with MTW in Berlin for 22 years and God has used them in powerful ways. MTW’s Berlin team has been involved in planting five churches and a campus of Martin Bucer Seminary. David currently serves as MTW international director for Europe, and Eowyn assists David in his role and supports church-planting through evangelism, teaching, and outreach to refugees.

Peter and Rebecca Jones (center) gather for a Jones Family Reunion in 2020.
Peter and Rebecca returned to the U.S. in 1991 after nearly 18 years of work in France, and continued their ministry at Westminster Seminary California in Escondido, where Peter taught New Testament. In 2003 they established a ministry called truthXchange, which equips churches to effectively preach the gospel in a neo-pagan culture.

They have lived their lives with open hands, joyfully serving the Lord wherever He leads, knowing God uses something as simple as small talk between strangers in the back of a Chicago taxi to steer people in the direction He desires them to go.

*Our records show that at the first General Assembly in 1973, the PCA had 11 missionaries. Four were on the mission field, one spouse was absent, and six missionaries attended.

Chelsea Rollman

Chelsea Rollman is a marketing specialist and staff writer at MTW. She formerly served as the girls’ discipleship coordinator at Village Seven in Colorado Springs, and as a marketing assistant at The White Horse Inn. Chelsea graduated from Covenant College in 2016 with her B.A. in English. She and her husband, Hudson, live in Jacksonville, Florida, and attend Christ Church Presbyterian where Hudson serves as the youth director.

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Give thanks to God for a movement of the Spirit spreading across Europe opening doors that have been long-shut.

Pray for missionaries seeking to minister to those who are critical and hard to love. Pray that missionaries would love their neighbor as Christ loved us.

Pray for the declining Church in Europe. Many see Europe as post-Christian and without hope. But we know that Christ will build His church.

Praise God for breaking through barriers in Germany and producing long-sought-after fruit! Pray for new believers to grow in their faith and lead others to Christ. 

Pray for Europeans who have heard the gospel but are hesitant to fully commit to Christ. Pray that God would draw them to Himself.

Give thanks for the work God is doing in South Asia in the wake of COVID lockdown relief. Ask God to grow the new believers who came to faith in Christ as a result.

Pray for those who have entered into life and death questions of faith with missionaries in Berlin as a result of the pandemic. 

Pray for the national pastors serving in Mexico and Cuba, many of whom are bi-vocational, and the work God is doing among them.

Pray for the people of Mati, Greece, who are responding with spiritual openness following disaster response efforts of the Greek Evangelical Church and MTW. 

Marseille, France: Pray for the church’s vision: one church for 10,000; the need is 4,000 additional churches. Lord send workers into the harvest fields. 

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