Monthly Archives: July 2014

Some initial reflections on France…

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The world can be such a merry-go-round at times!

When I was little, I hated when it was my turn to “push” my friends on the merry-go-round.  I’d run and run until I could hardly keep up with the momentum I’d created.  While my playmates cried, “Faster!  Faster!” my heart and head screamed, “LET GO!!!”

Sometimes I still feel that way.  I want to say, “No really.  You guys go on ahead without me.  I’ll catch up soon…honest.”

But in the same way that I instinctively knew I’d better not let go of the merry-go-round (or I’d face certain destruction) I know I need to just keep running with the pace of the days at hand as well.

We returned home a week ago today, but in many ways, our time in France seems like a life-time ago already.  We came home to many activities (not the least of which has been our daughter and son-in-law, along with 21 month old son, Elias and brand new son, Declan staying with us for a while).  VBS was already in full swing, laundry, illness, appointments and so forth have all clamored for my attention when what I really want to do is collect my thoughts and write them down before they fade into the haze that is becoming my memory.

Someone asked my husband what his one biggest impression of his time was.  He answered that the work is vast.

I would agree with his assessment, but with so many swirling thoughts I don’t know that I could have come up with one answer!

We worked with two different missionary families, and their approaches to their work could not have been more different, but I learned a great deal from each of them.  We spent a little over a week in the city and almost a week in the country.  We saw every day, ordinary life and we saw special events.  All of it was good and all of it taught us much.

I loved watching my children have opportunities to be their own, individual selves, with unique gifts and struggles to work through.  I was happy to see them rise to challenges and scared to death a few times when they were facing them.

I felt inadequate and victorious at the same times.  Inadequate because I knew I had so little to offer, and yet victorious over little things – like communicating in a combination of English and French to the point of real understanding.

We were exhausted and exhilarated by the quick pace and the many tasks we were asked to do.  We never really slept enough or well to feel rested, but we got up each morning with enthusiasm for what the day would bring.

I came away with a new appreciation for the transition that happens when you move to a new country.  Everything – E-V-E-R-Y  T-H-I-N-G, is hard.  Buying a train ticket is hard.  Going to the grocery store is hard.  Learning the traffic rules is hard.  Speaking the language is hard.  Meeting new people ALL the time is hard.  There are so many “comforts” that we take for granted when we are familiar with our surroundings.  We know the route to take to get to the bank and we know when it will be open.  We know where the pharmacy that is open 24 hours is (we know that there are pharmacies open 24 hours!).  We know where the best places to get produce, or meat, or pizzas are.  We know what restaurants are good and which ones to avoid.  We know where our friends life – we have friends!  We know how to use the telephone – we can understand and be understood on the telephone!

All of these things are new and strange to navigate in a different country.  We found these things to be difficult when we lived in England, but we were at least able to understand (mostly) the language.  In France, all of this was compounded by not only a language barrier but a real cultural difference in how we even approach these things.

In France, all the houses we went by had a tall fence or hedge along the front of the property.  You could see the tops of houses, but not too many front doors or yards.  The fences and hedges said, “keep your distance.”  How do you share the Good News with people who don’t want to let you in?

A suspicion of strangers was palpable – how does one become known to a people who seem to say, “stay away”?

All of these things are every-day struggles for the families we stayed with and worked with, but they have both found beautiful ways to overcome them.

I have much to learn, and am so thankful that they were willing to spend their time and efforts teaching us what it is like to live amongst and love the French people.

More thoughts to come… but dinner and laundry call

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Guest post from 14 year old Susannah

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We’re sitting here at Charles deGaulle airport waiting for our flight to England and then home. As I think about our time in France one of the things that stands out for me is a man we met named Joshua. Joshua is a refugee from Nigeria. On may 7th, he said goodbye to his family as he and his dad prepared to preach at separate towns in the north, during this, they were attacked. Joshua has no idea how he made it out alive, but by God’s grace, he did. He fled to France, because a Christian man saw him reading his bible and offered to buy him a plane ticket to Paris. Once there, he had no where to go, and lived on the streets for three weeks, then another man saw him and told him to go to Chalons, to the red cross. Through this, he got connected to the Marshall’s and started attending their church. Joshua still has no idea if his family is alive or not, he suspects that they are dead, but when Mr. Marshall called to ask him if he would help at the baseball camp. He answered the phone with “I can’t talk, I’m with Jesus.” to see someone who has suffered so much, and still has faith like a rock, was amazing.

Radically different perspectives…

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A guest post from my 21 year old son, Isaac…

 

Don, the guy we’re helping run a baseball camp here with, gave us about a five hour tour of this part of France, covering mostly the Revolution, and WWI. He does this tour to help people understand the French better. One of our conversations that we had during the tour was about his experience going back to the states to recruit from seminaries and Bible colleges. He told the story of being at a seminary recruiting one year during a conference, he had his little table set up and students would file past, looking for souvenirs and treats from France. One student made his way to his table and after looking about for a few seconds said “So, what does your organization have to offer me?”

Meanwhile, here we are at one of the larger US military cemeteries from WWI, looking at thousands and thousands of graves of young American boys and men, that died protecting France. They died for 21 years of peace. Most of them volunteered. They volunteered to die for a fight they had little stake in.

It’s striking that so many will voluntarily go die for a war that isn’t theirs, or for honor that would last a short time, but that when people try and recruit missionaries to simply go live somewhere else and be intentional about their faith, it’s nearly impossible to get anyone to commit long term.

Cemetaries in a war-weary land…

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The American Cemetary of soldiers killed in the single-deadliest battle in US history (including the Battle at Gettysburg) where 10’s of thousands of soldiers died on the fields of Argonne, France. We saw similar cemetaries for French and German Soldiers in the same region…

La soiree’ est finis…

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La soiree’ est finis…

Le club Anglais est termine’…

Le travailler est compe’ter…

Nous somme tre’ fatiguee, mais contents…

(The soiree is finished…  The English club is done…  The work is complete… We are very tired, but happy…)  My apologies to those who actually speak (and spell) French correctly!

Yesterday we started the day being encouraged from Hebrews 12 to not grow weary, but to finish well the work that has been set before us.

This week we have played games, painted faces, blown up balloons, done yard work, and cooked lots of food. We’ve also had many opportunities for good conversations with both French and English speaking friends and acquaintances.  One might look at this list and wonder (out loud!), “Why?”  Why go across the ocean to play games, sing songs, and cook???

Because by playing games and singing songs in English, we have offered French families something they hunger for for their children’s sake – so that they might be offered living bread that fills and slakes the real hunger within.

Because by blowing up balloons and painting faces with butterflies (papillons) and Spider Man (pronounced “Speeder Man”) families in the community were attracted to investigate what this “association” was all about – knowing that the only really important association any one of us will ever have is with the King of Kings and Lord of LORDS, Jesus, the Christ.

By doing yard work and cooking food, we helped prepare a setting where neighbors and friends gathered together to get to know one another – a taste of our Heavenly home where we will gather and celebrate the awesome God we serve together for eternity – something we all long for and try to fill with other things.

Praise God for many opportunities for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be shared and his love to be made known to the nations.  This is a place where so many people groups are represented – and the harvest fields are ripe with the harvest.

Many doors have been opened to widen the reach of God’s ministry here.  We have been blessed to watch it happen in front of our eyes and to play even the smallest of roles.  God is kind to seemlessly blend his will with our joy.

We have a 1-day break between our time in Champigny and our time in Chalons.  We are headed into the heart of Paris today to take a very quick look at the “sights”.  We will return this evening for one last dinner and evening together with our sweet hosts, the Campbell’s, and prepare to break camp in the morning.

We head to Chalons en Champaigne tomorrow morning (by train) to serve, support, and encourage the Marshalls.  Please pray that we would belss them well, that we would finish our time in France continuing to be mindful of our impact on the ministries already happening and on the reputation of the Gospel itself.

And while you are at it – please pray for the youth to come to the baseball camp the Marshalls are planning.  The local government office has given permission for the camp to be held – but with no publicity!

Please pray against this attempt by the evil one to thwart godly connection with a demographic open and starving for the Good News.  Pray for the word (Word!) to get out, flyers or no flyers!

Serving Christ with You!

Laurie

Isaac, Susannah, and Camille setting up for Cafe' Metro - the sign reads, "Take a coffee, speak some English"

Isaac, Susannah, and Camille setting up for Cafe’ Metro – the sign reads, “Take a coffee, speak some English”

Face Painting with Chloe and Camille - who knew this could be used for more than entertaining children?  :-)

Face Painting with Chloe and Camille – who knew this could be used for more than entertaining children? 🙂

La Soiree' de la liberte'

La Soiree’ de la liberte’

France 2014

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So much of our lives are ordinary…  We wake up in the same beds, we get about the same businesses, we arrive at the same places at roughly the same times.  There is beauty in this – our God is a God of order.  Living an ordinary life well can bring glory to God in ways we often don’t realize.  Routine, structure, sameness – these can be the seedbeds for faithfulness, duty, steadfastness… But once in a while, the extra-ordinary punctuates our lives in profound ways. That is what is happening in my world – today. Today, we leave for a journey in France to serve, encourage, and assist two families who serve the Lord with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength in France. This little blog will take a journey, too. Come with us as we learn humility by trying to speak French to the French.  Come with us as we learn about pride as we seek to serve.  Come with us as my husband and I, with four of our children, learn to see God at work in people we don’t know but who are deeply loved. The suitcases are packed, the passports are ready, the last minute items are purchased…  We just need to live this especially un-ordinary day well and arrive in France ready to serve and learn.

 

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