My anticipation voiced at the end of May’s newsletter came to fulfillment this summer. Looking back on the last 3 months, I have a lot of catching up to do, and “God’s summer school” is the best way to describe it! Here are the “courses” I took:
ADOLESCENT PSYCHOLOGY 101:
I have hosted my last foreign exchange student. Our 2 weeks with a 14 yr old Swiss-German girl were the longest of my life. Her school mandated that she attend a foreign school for cultural exchange and practical foreign language application. Her parents wanted a Christian school and we were asked to keep her. Initial e-mails were friendly, and we were excited. Then she arrived. She spoke as little as humanely possible. She lived on iced tea. After school she holed up with her friends on MSN all evening. I tried to be funny to get her to talk. I communicated my concerns to her parents. In the end, I gave up. David and Olivia communicated anything important to her in German. God bless her (and her parents too, for generously reimbursing us for our trouble!)
On the other hand, we will be hosting one of Olivia’s best friends this year 2 nights/week because as 8th graders, they will add Wednesday morning classes to their school schedule. Since “Pauline” lives quite a distance, and her younger siblings don’t come in on Wed., it is easier on the family for her to stay with us Tues. night -Thurs. morning. She has had visions of leading worship with Olivia, so we are planning for them to take voice lessons together as well.
I have not shared here my struggles with our current neighbors, but I finally got some breakthrough, so it’s worth telling now. On the ground floor, my kitchen window looks directly onto a paved private courtyard to which we have no access. It is an entryway for the landlord’s apartment and one of his rentals. This means we basically felt like zoo animals when in the kitchen. On top of that, our bedroom window faces the renter’s large kitchen window and balcony on the 2nd floor. In the warmer months, we share the lives of the loud renters pretty intimately as open windows are a necessity without a/c and sounds resonate off the concrete walls. So when a broken couple moved in with their young children last summer, it was a full-fledged attack on my heart. The kids were treated no better than dogs – let loose in the courtyard without supervision and screamed at from the balcony if anything went wrong. Of course the kids were curious about me, being in such close proximity, and would come to the window for a smile. Once I even passed some popcorn through the window to them. But the parents remained cold and distant, so I didn’t feel comfortable pursuing friendship with the kids, and we eventually put up frosted contact paper to create a privacy barrier. It was even more painful for me when the kids would climb on the window ledge and try to peer in. I would crank up my worship CDs to keep the anger from entering my house and my soul and I thanked God when pre-school started. But when their baby sister was born, a new form of torture began. I like to have my devotional time in my bedroom, but soon I started spending most of my time crying for the crying baby. (The landlord has kicked out loud renters before, but unfortunately, their noise seemed to coincide with the hours when he was running his sandwich shop down the street.)
Now dear readers, add to this scenario the onset of menopause, despairing thoughts of being left alone for 3 weeks when David visits Indiana in September and the conviction that we would never find the money for improving the ugly, worn areas of our home that I stare at everyday. So…we started praying over a house for sale in the quietest corner of Soultz, and I kept praying for that family – my heavy heart slowly turning from hatred to compassion.
And then suddenly one day, “Bam!” The landlord decreed that the children couldn’t play in the courtyard anymore and a great part of the noise was pushed back into their apt. Two weeks later a humble and anointed man landed in my living room for dinner and after listening to my heart, helped me see that the knee deep spiritual oppression that we live in was pulling me under after so many years here, and he strongly recommended a vacation outside the country – France isn’t called the “missionary graveyard” for nothing! He reminded me that “the devil is a bastard,” and he will kick that baby in the head if that will make me depressed and ineffective. Now that I see the situation with new eyes, I am no longer overcome by the victim spirit that reigns here (self-pity and powerlessness,) but will have victory by walking in the opposite spirit until I have the right to speak into my neighbor’s life (or one of us moves!)
This week I had my chance to love. I called out to my neighbor from my bedroom as she entered the courtyard. I smiled at her hard, ashen face and asked if she liked mirabelles and would she like some, since a friend gave us more than I could handle. She said ‘yes’ and I ran down to the kitchen window to pass them through. Don’t they look like the burning coals in Proverbs 25:21-22?
HOME DECORATING 101:
I am currently celebrating several generous deposits received throughout the summer! After our revelations about my state of mind, there was no question that the influx would be spent to beautify the bathroom and traffic areas at last. (And please don’t ask me why everyday paint is $20/pint in this country.) Though renovation is still out of the question, at least it will be appealing enough to sell, when we decide to move. Then when the money ran out and I unexpectedly needed to replace the frames of my glasses, I dumped all the cash in my wallet into the offering box the next Sunday to break the lie that I had hit my withdrawal limit with God. And lo and behold, another large deposit showed up a couple of days later that covers my glasses, plus back-to-school shopping for the kids and birthday gifts for David!
WEDDING PLANNING 102:
We received a record-breaking 4 wedding invitations this summer and felt like Charlie when he found the golden ticket in his Wonka bar. You see, when you receive a French wedding invitation, you are automatically invited to the ceremony and the social reception time. But only a select few, depending on the budget, find the additional meal ticket enclosed to participate in the late night banquet and entertainment. We got 2 golden tickets this year, which is a good sign that we are now considered part of the family! The first wedding took place in mid-July and it was so unique that I have to share some details:
#1: The bride fell in love just a few days after her mother renounced the negative words she had spoken over her growing up: “You are so strong-tempered that no one will want to marry you!” #2: We got the invitation 6 months in advance since the French make their reservations for summer holiday rentals in Jan-Feb. #3: The wedding took place at an ancient church with no foyer or convenient bathrooms. #4: The 2:30 ceremony was delayed at least 1 hr. – the irony being that the groom’s family was stuck in traffic, and they are Swiss, i.e. punctual! I spent the time roaming the village looking for a bathroom, and everything was closed on a Sat. afternoon! (And without the aforementioned church accoutrements, the bride waited patiently in a car nearby and stayed abreast of developments by cell phone.) #5: There were many small children in attendance whose parents weren’t prepared for the delay. As predicted, tired cries ensued from the balcony in the middle of the ceremony. When I asked someone if he always brought his young children, he replied, “Yes, because weddings are such casual events.”(!!) #6: Almost all the special music was performed in English – at least we enjoyed it! #7: The reception location was 30 min. away – too far for a tired and thirsty bunch of guests. Fortunately, I had brownies in the car, made for the reception, and handed out a few to some esp. desperate women who hadn’t eaten that day due to all the pre-wedding prep. #8: The banquet was held in a third location, right in our village. This enabled David to save the evening by walking home to loan our corkscrew and bread knife. (How could a French person forget the tools needed to enjoy bread and wine??) We left for good at 11:30 p.m. (missing the cheese and dessert courses) because we had to lead worship the next morning. When we learned that it went until 4 am, we warned Olivia that we were physically incapable of giving her a French wedding. Adjustments will have to be made!
TRENCH WARFARE 101:
You may recall that I was looking forward to a couple of seminars over the summer. They proved to be more like boot camp! The first was a banner seminar led by David Stanfield, (who ministered to me during my low point described in my sociology class above.) He brought our weapons: the huge, hand-painted silk banners that I saw at the France en Feu conference in May, and he gave us what we needed: good teaching and permission to enter in fully! When everyone grabbed a banner and headed to the parking lot, there were no spectators – we became a joyous, united, powerful army. What a prophetic picture of the week to come!
Rusty and Janet Richards followed his visit with their seminar based on the revival culture they have been living in the ministry school at Bethel Church in Redding, CA. Nearing retirement age, they have sold everything to pay to attend this school, will return in Sept. for a second year, and then believe God will make a way for them to settle here. We can’t wait! (My not having an American sister in Christ around for encouragement and support has taken its toll on David!) Their 6 weeks here broke the curse over France that “nothing can advance in the summer” because of the sacred July-Aug “grandes vacances.” They also offered great teaching, quality materials (I’ve read 10 books by the various Bethel pastors that they brought along!) and permission to enter into the Kingdom of God more fully!
Rusty headed the charge by manning a worship altar in the basement of our church with his guitar, keyboard and watercolors in 3 hour slots 5 days/week. David padded it with 2 two hour slots in the evenings. You might call it our “secret weapon.” We were trained in resisting the enemy’s propaganda until we started believing in the power Jesus promised us through the Holy Spirit before He left. We also learned how the “Generals” of the Trinity secretly communicate intimately to us through all 5 of our senses. Then we put on our armor, left the walls of the church and made advances into enemy territory. We shared God’s love to strangers in the street with a game called a Treasure Hunt, and the French were amazed to see strangers open up for prayer! Bethel also takes healing very seriously – to the point of resuscitating the dead – and we saw the first fruits of healing here as we learned the keys of perseverance, boldness, and believing that it is always God’s will despite the outcome!
Janet also commandeered video training of the Bethel inner healing ministry for those of us who could follow spoken English. This was to form a MASH unit, as our church is very weak in pastoral care. If you recruit “soldiers” who are already wounded, they won’t last very long in the fight (and they believe this is what accounts for the high attrition rate of converts.) We expect our church to grow as we touch the neighborhood through our healing room and clothing bank, so we must be ready to do quick and effective surgery (without years of training) to get them on their feet. Our “commando unit” has already experienced healing by “operating” on each other and we look forward to further reinforcement and training from England after the Americans return home! (We also have Alana, mentioned in my last newsletter, returning in October to do some more spying out of the land!)
Obviously, we have exposed our position and the enemy is not happy about losing ground, “What is that miserable French church doing in the streets praying for people?? Who do they think they are?” So we take some losses and counterattacks, but refuse to give up ground. We rest and strengthen ourselves with prayer and fellowship in a trench that looks like this picnic lunch by a mountain lake until the next advance. And finally, I find a quiet moment to type this newsletter.
Thank you to those who read this far and are standing with us! Love, Angela
P.S. Since these battles are really just drills for, in C.S. Lewis’ words, “The Last Battle,” I thought it would be timely to give the link to a very unique End Times website that Rachel created for her web-coding class last quarter.