By: Robin Ford Wallace, Reporter
Here’s an old
French adage, in the best French the Sentinel can manage with an American
keyboard: Plus ca change, plus ca reste
la meme.” That translates to: The more it changes, the more it stays the
The reason the
Sentinel quotes it now – and especially the reason the Sentinel does so in
French – is that Chris Musser disproves it so utterly, so stupendously – and so
also in French. The appointing of a 22-year-old from Lyons, France, as the new
executive director of the Dade County Chamber of Commerce cannot in any
reasonable sense be described as “staying the same.”
“I love Dade
County,” said Musser, speaking to the Sentinel last week at the Chamber’s
offices at the Trenton Depot. “I love the small-town feel.” But he also admits:
“It’s a big change from France.”
in addition to native-quality French, equally perfect American English. That’s
because, though he was born in France and went through the French school system
until he left for college, he is an American citizen, the son of American
missionaries in – yes – France.
Those who might
consider France a pretty cushy missionary assignment merely because it is a
modern Western democracy with a high standard of living and world-famous
cuisine, young Musser, who has clearly heard this before, directs with
characteristic quiet humor to consider the French.
“In terms of
the emotional hit, my parents had a tough time,” he said. “Both of them left
their whole families, everything they knew, to move to a foreign country where
people were pretty hostile to the Gospel especially, but also to Americans.”
Most French are
nominally Roman Catholic just because it goes with being French, said Musser.
“But they say that in terms of evangelical Christianity, about 0.2 percent of
the French call themselves Christians in that sense,” he said.
Nor, he added,
is la belle France amenable to changing its mind on these matters. “They call
it the missionary graveyard,” he said.
Musser’s parents, who work for a missionary organization called International
Teams, managed to start a small church in the south of France, where they
raised him and his brother until he was 13 and the family moved north, to
The church was
nondenominational, said Musser: “In France, there’s so few evangelicals we
don’t worry about denominations.”
That church is
still alive and well today, he said, though the elder Mussers have been
reassigned yet again and are now traveling through Europe, pastoring other
sent both their sons back to the States to complete their educations, and Chris
Musser like his brother before him attended Covenant College. “That’s how I
ended up in Dade County,” he said.
There are few
reasonable senses in which persons of 22 can be termed as having “ended up”
anywhere, but Musser was quite definite he did not wish to leave Dade after
school. He traveled abroad for nine months after he graduated Covenant in 2012
but then came right back to Dade, where he is rooming with a Covenant buddy,
Kent, at the home of Dade fixture Rex Blevins.
Why? While he
was at Covenant, he and Kent began a youth ministry at the Baptist Church where
Blevins served as deacon, explained Musser. Since then, it moved out of the
church and morphed into a weekly youth discussion group called Rex's Café,
because it meets at Blevins" house and Blevins cooks the crowd a meal each
week. Those kids are important to Musser and he did not feel he could leave
family situations, because of parents who aren’t around, because of drugs,
because of utter abandonment by society, we’re in some cases the one constant
element in their lives,” he said.
with Blevins and his buddy in their Dade bachelor pad, he said, “I fell in love
with the community more and more.”
studied economics and theology at Covenant, says that he still may go into the
clergy – he’s taking seminary classes even now, he says, and thinks he can
manage them with his 30-hour work week at the C of C – but that he felt able to
commit this season of his life to the Chamber in good faith.
I’m not interested in furthering my career with this job,” he said. “I’m
interested in loving Dade County well and seeking the prosperity of the city
and the county.”
already has the infrastructure, the organization and the people to grow and
thrive, says Musser. “I want to be a part of that,” he said.
But he said
Dade also has the societal problem he’s seen in more urban environments, in
France as well as America – broken families, disaffected youth, children with
no one to look after them.
A girl in his
youth group told him, “I’ve never had anyone in my life who loved me the way
that you guys have loved me,” said Musser. That says something, he said: “All we’ve done is show up once a week for
three or four hours.”
these neglected youth can be a part of where the Chamber, and the county, are
headed going forward.
“If they were
taken under someone’s wing, if they were taught, if they were cared for, I can
see them being the next entrepreneur who starts a business in Dade County,” he