We have put off writing our regular newsletter in hopes of including some good news about a home. Yes, I am writing this from a real living room… but it is not my own. We are house sitting for a Christian family just across the street for a week, and we are trying to enjoy every minute of it!! Oh, the luxury of being out from under a bunk bed, using a dishwasher, taking a bath, making homemade waffles for the kids on a frosty morning, having all day internet access and a coffee table where you can put a puzzle together… Being here is refreshing and frustrating because it renews our restlessness for a place of our own. So far, homes that have come up for rent are too small, too expensive, or too far away for a one-car family. Any real possibilities have been snapped up before we can even view them, and it is easy to get discouraged on a bad day. But we must choose to say, “That was not the house God had for us. But He has called us here and knows our needs before we ask.” So many of you have walked or are walking through this same situation right now all over the world – so you know how to pray!
And although we are still under all the stress that comes with adjusting to a new culture, we can look back on our first 4 months here, and be amazed at how God has already been able to use us!
Living at a camp that has been ministering in various ways over the last 30 years by the same people makes it easy to integrate into the Christian network here! The camp birthed a church several years ago, which was in the process of splitting up when we arrived. Half wanted to stay connected to the camp, and half didn’t. The half that did, are holding services at the camp, so church is now at our doorstep! Our kids don’t hesitate to go to Sunday school, and this has spared us from the painful search for a church home. We have lead worship as substitutes, and I will probably start helping with the Sunday school in January.
But the best news is that we’ve already gotten a chance to speak to couples! And they actually paid money to hear us!! (Well, actually they were paying for the meal that was included!) This was a holy day for our family, when we began doing in a small way what God originally called us to do – and we did it in French! It was so scary, but so rewarding. Before the meal we shared how lousy our marriage was and why. During the meal, we had discussion questions for them talk about. After the meal we shared how God intervened to help us operate in healthier ways and got us on the mission field. They laughed when we tried to be funny, and applauded heartily at the end. Wow…communication happened! To top it off, we were given a generous offering the next day – a complete surprise!
With that under our belts, I went into organizing Thanksgiving for 30 guests. This was a request by some of the staff that had the privilege of sharing Thanksgiving in the past w/other Americans, and didn’t want to miss the opportunity this year. Most Europeans have heard of the holiday, but have no idea what it is about. So we told the story and performed 3 Thanksgiving hymns as a family, and had lots of help with the cooking. We received lots of hugs and compliments the next day, making it all worth the effort! I also got asked to share the holiday with Noah and Olivia’s class earlier in the week, and boldly included the worship of Jesus in the history lesson. After that, we made hand-tracing turkeys, tasted cornbread, and did a dot-to-dot of the Mayflower. The kids were great, and the teacher has invited me to come back to read to them for English class!
I’ve also discovered that we are not the only Americans around! There are several American women in the region who have married French men. I have had lunch with a few, and will meet some more to sing carols with this weekend! (For you Lord of the Rings fans, one went to high school with Viggo Mortenson!) They are great connections to have, as many have lived in the area for many years.
David has been as much a student as a staff member, as he sits in on the teachings each week. Speakers are brought in from all over the globe with various takes on the subject of reconciliation. He has been challenged and changed by what he has heard: This week he has confessed his prejudices as an American and also received blessings from the Europeans for what Americans have contributed to the world. A young man has just recently joined the school midway, so David and another staff member have been assigned to him – a new responsibility as mentor. I got to sit in on one week of the lectures, helping to lead worship each morning as well, and we experienced deeper healing in our marriage because of it!
We are all so excited about the holidays this year with the arrival of David’s parents next week! Despite the winter weather, we are going to make sure they get a taste of Western Europe with a couple of sightseeing trips. If we’re still on your Christmas card list, we’d love to hear from you! Here’s our snail mail address:
P.S. For those of you who usually get something from us in the mail at Christmas time, we are going to follow the French tradition of sending New Year’s greetings from now on. We’ll be sending them home with David’s parents to mail more cheaply, so they should arrive mid-January.