I’ve had (and am still having) some difficulty with Internet connectivity. I had something all set up to dial my ISP in Scotland just to download/upload e-mail via our long-distance calling card. It worked great halfway through Paris but then it stopped working. Because local calls cost money over here it was important that I had an arrangement that didn’t cost our hosts any money. This was such an arrangement. I’ve finally bought a calling card that facilitates the same thing and has a certain amount of minutes on it. It may actually be cheaper too. In our last stop, I had to go to an Internet café and fumble my fingers on a French-layout Mac keyboard to try and do e-mail…never again, hopefully!!! Anyway, I think I’m back on-line now!
Much has transpired since the 29th of October in Paris….duh…!
I’ll just do more of an overview to cover the last two weeks or so…
In addition to the prayer times we had during the day in Paris, on Halloween night (which is ONLY 4 years old as a “holiday” in France…imported from the good ol’ US of A), Angela had the opportunity to go with the pastor’s wife and daughters to an all night Halloween prayer and worship vigil. 500 people of all denominations gathered in a large Catholic church to worship and pray. Angela didn’t stay all night but what she was able to attend was powerful.
We finished the week in Paris with a time of sharing and praying for our hosts, Monika and Josef Berchtold. It was a very valuable time. They really opened their hearts to us and I feel that we got a good picture of what a great many of the pastors in France experience. In addition to our chance to pray for them, I think that one of the main reasons we were hooked up with them for that week was to more closely identify (as much as we COMPLETE outsiders could), with the circumstances and struggles of a typical pastor’s family (and what a wonderful family they are!)
From Paris, we drove north to Roubaix near Lille, to attend the Heart for France conference. This conference was put on by World Horizons, an international missions organization. The conference was primarily targeted towards people NOT from France who have a heart for France. There were a good number from the UK and the US, and everything was bilingual (speaking and worship) between English and French. World Horizons staffed the conference with a group from Iceland who were part of a school that they were running and they helped take care of our kids during morning sessions.
We stayed about a 5 minute walk from the church where the conference was being held in a budget hotel chain (shared bathrooms, etc.) It worked out well though as they were able to give us a wing all to ourselves with a door. That helped a lot since the “spirit” of the hotel was not exactly a family-friendly one. Fortunately, the conference staff agreed to feed all of us along with the other staff and that made our lives much easier.
Getting our clothes clean was hard enough! Laundromats here are stripped down: no change machines, no rolling baskets, 2 chairs, one big table, and lots of smoke. It took us an hour just to get there and round up the right change! It takes another hour to wash and dry, and another half hour to fold and sort the laundry of 5 different families! (You know you’re on outreach when you’re folding other people’s underwear!)
The conference itself was really outstanding for many of us on our team. There was fantastic revelation into what God is doing and wants to do in France. Each morning there was a time where the “French half” of the conference leaders shared several strategic prayer issues and we had a time of corporate prayer. This was great and confirmed much of what we had been sensing as well. There was worship every morning and night.
I say for “many of us” because some others on the team were experiencing some intense input from the Lord simultaneously with distractions of the spiritual environment of the area, that completely consumed their focus and made it difficult to “connect” with the conference. It was good for us to understand what each person was experiencing during this time and better accept our differing perspectives.
I was blessed to be able to join the worship team at the conference to do percussion. The conference was relatively small (about 200 people by the end) and the small worship team consisted of a wonderful, talented Irish guy, Ian McMaster on guitar, a French keyboard player and an American (living in Belgium) synth player. They were lacking a sound technician for a few days and put out a call for anyone who knew a “little” about sound. Since I barely qualified for that, and no other hands were raised, I foolishly raised my hand. I was able to turn the knobs but when it all started, it was MUCH more eventful than I expected. My hat is off to all sound technicians for their ability to work under that stress. Once they got a sound technician I played around on a djembe that was lying about and the worship leader asked me to join in on the team. It was wonderful fellowship between hearts and with music. A week of straight hand drumming was more than I’ve done before, however, so my hands were quite sore by the end.
The kids made worship streamers and enjoyed participating in worship with the other banner wavers. At one point, after people prayed on a huge map of France and lit small “tea candles” and placed them on the map, Olivia remained up there and waved her streamer while we continued worshiping. Several people said they were touched by her presence there. We’ll have that Kodak moment on the website as soon as we get back to Scotland! I’m excited by the new relationships started there with wonderful people from the UK, France, and the States.
The week was stressful for Angela and me as a couple. As has happened many times in the past, as I become more involved in something (worship activities, making contacts with people, etc.) there seems to come a separation between us. It becomes a perception from me that Angela’s not joining up with what’s happening and a perception from Angela that I’m abandoning her and the children. This causes inevitable strife between us until I finally get a clue and understand what is really going on. We’re still trying to overcome that week just a bit. It’s obvious to me that God continues to allow circumstances for us that put us into these reactions until we learn to NOT react in our usual ways. Life patterns of behavior are very hard to adjust…Help God!
We drove from Roubaix on Saturday to a gîte near Troyes for one night and then last night to Matour.
Today we drove through the gorgeous Burgundy countryside in the rain to tour a small winery. We wanted to buy the most recent vintage that they sold to use for a communion time at Cluny abbey, pouring out the remainder of the bottle on the ruins, symbolizing our desire for God to pour His “new wine” out on France. The Abbey in Cluny has a rich history in Europe. It was once one of the most powerful forces for reform and renewal in the church. It’s influence for God throughout Europe was significant. We prayed there for God to renew that flow of His Spirit in France and Europe. But the best part was that Noah and Olivia decided that they wanted to ask Jesus to live in their hearts right then and there. Until now, they’d had no desire. So standing in the rain (God’s baptism?), up on the ledge of a ruin, side-by-side, I led them in a prayer of salvation. We all clapped and then sang “I have decided to follow Jesus” before taking communion with them for the first time. This was an emotional and prophetic act for our family being that it occurred in France and in a place like Cluny. Ironically, this morning, I got up in a HUGE “funk”. I was good for NOTHING and yet God is so much bigger than my puny emotions. His eternal purposes stand regardless of my temporal purposes! He showed me that He can redeem any situation and use it for His Glory!
Tomorrow…an overnight stop and then on to Nice!