As much as we loved seeing so many of you in person last month, it’s still good to be off the road and back on the keyboard. The tears I cried over France when we first received our call always return during our descent over Paris. My mother tells me that every time she meets a transplanted European, they say, “Yah, Europe is a great place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there.” My sentiments are the opposite: “America is a great place to visit, but…”
This week we Europeans got a day off, (except the Germans, that is) to celebrate the end of WWII, thanks to the American invasion – a convenient theme for this newsletter as we relate how Americans have been invading our lives all spring.
Back in early March, a high school French class from Peoria, IL came out for their third annual visit during one of our many school breaks. It was a smaller group this time, coming during a school break. Since we were the only staff on-site, our family connected well with them. With the students gone, they were able to do lots of spring cleaning projects with great enthusiasm. They worked hard to speak French, and were also a very musical and artistic bunch, joining our worship team on Sun. morning. They invited us to come visit their school in April, which we did.
A few weeks later, our French church sent us off with visions of angels before us and relational bridges to build, money to spend, and secured promises that we would return! The stress of preparing to leave the house for a month suddenly got lighter. (photo w/pastoral couple)
With 2 layovers, the door-to-door travel time takes about 24 hrs, and it gets harder with every trip! I have great admiration for my in-laws who have made the trip regularly for the last several years. I also have grace for my parents who can’t conceive of a voyage of that magnitude. I guess we fall somewhere in between – once every 5 years is about all we can take! (And thank God we don’t have to make the trip by boat!)
Back in America, we were treated like returning soldiers during the entire visit. In Kansas City, a couple we’d never met graciously squeezed us into their home for a week and juggled cars with us, even though they were already housing another family of three, and had a daughter who needed a quiet house during the day for sleeping, as she does the nighttime prayer watch at IHOP. Speaking of which, we were all touched by the spiritual atmosphere there in some way. The highlight for me was to spend a few hours with Lenny LaGuardia, director of the children’s ministries there, and he gave me all 16 of his teaching CDs – worth $80! He has a very different paradigm of Sunday school that I want to tap into, if God should use me that way.
The second week we had hoped to fly to Las Cruces to be with my family, but we couldn’t afford the outrageous last-minute ticket prices. We were all very disappointed and will have to make that visit on a separate trip. Instead, we all got in the car and headed for Illinois to visit the 2 Christian high schools that had visited us. We were thrilled to stay with one of the chaperons and meet the rest of her sweet family, and we got to share our lives and pictures with lots of kids. We squeezed in a mini-Leigh family reunion while in the area before the week was out, celebrating my niece’s first pregnancy together. (photo)
It was good to finally be in a familiar city during our third week in Indianapolis. David’s parents had invited more than 30 people to come over for our one-night-only Powerpoint event. Many had declined early on, but then changed their mind the day before, and we had a hard time fitting everyone into the family room! David was thrilled to reconnect with his old high school gang who came from all over to reunite for that evening. (photo)
The other important event was saying good-bye to my grandparents. They were having good days and awful days, and God gave us such a gift – our visit fell on a very good day. Rachel played her violin. Olivia played a piece on the piano. We sang in French, German, and English, and despite Alzheimer’s, my grandfather quizzed us lucidly about our life in France. Afterwards, we enjoyed a relaxing dinner with my brother and his wife. I received news of my grandmother’s death 2 weeks later, soon after we returned. I can’t wait to see them on the other side…
Leaving Noah behind to have his own adventures, we drove the girls back to Kansas and shipped Rachel back to Germany with her new contact lenses. Then we got on a plane to Denver with Olivia and stayed with old friends for our final week. The Sunday morning service at New Hope Church went smoothly and again, lots of old friends showed up that we didn’t expect to see, and almost didn’t recognize! I highlighted my desperation to renovate our house, in hopes that one of the many skilled laborers there would come and help us one day, and a very generous offering was taken up before we shared a French potluck meal together. It was just the beginning of so many special meals with special people, giving at every turn. I even had favor with the gynecologist as a new, self-pay patient: She only charged me half the cost of a regular visit, she gave me all the free samples of migraine drugs and estrogen patches that she could lay her hands on, and she gave me her personal e-mail so that she could send me more! But the best thing was that my finger prick revealed anemia! The count was so low that she did it twice, and I have never been so motivated about taking my “Women’s Ultra, Mega Dietary Supplements” with the hope of renewed energy levels!
Needless to say, it was hard to leave Denver. Noah felt the same way about his visit. He met up with us at the airport in Kansas after a 3-day getaway to friends in Mississippi and a weekend with his cousin-in-law(?) who is an adult Lego designer and builder. We heard all the details over our “last meal” at Outback Steakhouse before heading to the airport – I boosted my iron levels, Noah tasted his first BBQ ribs, and we finished with a dessert called “Cheesecake Olivia!” Thank you again to everyone who made our trip so memorable – we have never felt so loved and supported by so many people than we do now, and that’s saying a lot for a family that doesn’t get back very often.
Back in France, David hit the ground running, with 20 intercessors coming to our church 5 days later from the US, the UK, and Germany, and many details still to organize. Also the one immediate family member on David’s side that we didn’t see in the States was coming to visit at the same time – our 21 yr.old nephew who is studying in Spain this semester. Rachel also came home to be in on all the action, and everything fell together beautifully: The cousins were finally old enough to enjoy each other and bond well. The UK worship leader Godfrey Birtill had us worshiping in a 4 hr. frenzy and gave us new depths to plumb in our expression of worship. The new French president was fully covered in prayer. There were extended times of US-French reconciliation prompted by the new president’s call for a renewed friendship with the U.S., and much more…
The same day we got the last of those troops off to their home shores, another batch of Americans came in the form of 5 students from Oklahoma with their principal. Helping out at our school for a week is the focus of their Senior missions trip, and the one female is staying with us while the boys bunk at the local campground. If they run out of things to do, I’ve got my house renovation project list on standby…
Next week we have another 4-day weekend to celebrate Christ’s ascension, and David takes off to lead worship for a Christian educator’s conference in Switzerland with a friend. I will be in a prone position on my couch, listening to my Lenny LaGuardia CDs during that time. Should you have the urge to call, do not be surprised if you get the answering machine…
Praising God from whom all these blessings flow,