"Well, I just heard the news today;
It seems my life is going to change."
These rock lyrics thundered through the streets of France. Gray skies yielded to shouts of "X-NELO! X-NELO! Fantastico!" reverberating from the crowds. Shopkeepers stepped out from their stores and motioned to the band to crank up the volume.
A Christian modern rock band that could use both contemporary secular music and Christian music to effectively communicate the gospel would have the perfect mix. And the band Pepe Tolonen had in mind now stood before him and throngs of people. This was X-nelo.
Pepe, the music-resource coordinator of Agape Europe (Cru in Western Europe), recognizes the need for innovation to reach young people. X-nelo is a ministry of Keynote, the music division of Cru, and they share his vision.
The American group engages international audiences with themes that secular artists like U2, Creed and the Dave Matthews Band have already tapped into: purpose, truth and immortality.
X-nelo performs these secular songs, adding original songs and personal testimonies to their repertoire to communicate how Jesus speaks to man's deepest questions.
In 2002, X-nelo embarked on a pioneering venture with the campus ministry in France. The stage was set in hopes that this new strategy might cultivate the spiritual soil in a land where hearts and minds consistently reject Christianity.
"In the last 5 years we have seen practically no [Christian] presence," says Bill Morin, campus director in Paris.
Yet the ministry in Paris was launched in 1986 because of its strategic demographics. With 500,000 university students, and roughly 100,000 of them coming from around the globe, Paris has among the highest concentrations of international students on the planet.
Bill explains: "Most of them are from 'unreached nations' in North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia -- places where you can't [minister] to students openly."
X-nelo played 6 concerts at universities in Paris, explaining the gospel to 1,900 students. About 238 of them filled out comment cards to receive more information about Agape -- "more contacts than we get all year!" exclaims Bill.
In addition, X-nelo was invited to play before an additional 600 people in 3 unlikely places: Coolin's, O'Sullivan's and Flann O'Brien's -- all Irish pubs.
"Because X-nelo was raising money for [humanitarian aid to Afghanistan], these pubs went out of their way and added special concerts," Bill explains.
By the end of their tour, X-nelo raised $1,200.
X-nelo's tour included 14 concerts in 5 cities, including the city of Nantes, where an inquisitive young man would later attend the concert and give his life to Christ.
Hours before the concert, Michael overheard band members Pam Gaither and Dianne Kuklinca in a pool hall speaking English. After a few moments, he began telling them intimate details of his life.
Pam recalls his emotional scars resulting from "seeing his mom murdered when he was 10, his desire for the love of a parent and for the unconditional acceptance of friends."
Pam and Dianne explained to Michael how he could find forgiveness and healing through a relationship with Jesus.
After the concert, Pam and Dianne learned that Michael had trusted Christ and was planning on going to church the next morning.
X-nelo's itinerary also included the renowned Sorbonne.
Like most European universities, Sorbonne was founded as a Christian seminary, but has long abandoned its roots. A small, obscure cross on one roof recalls the past. Through the partnership of Keynote and the campus ministry, souls are finding meaning in that cross once again.