65 years ago this month, American GIs rolled into Alsace and declared freedom from German tyranny. This moment is refreshed for the citizens every 5 years with a parade, complete with men driving US military vehicles while tossing chewing gum to happy spectators. This year when they rolled by, I couldn’t stop the tears. And while visiting the temporary exhibition of articles, photos, and war paraphernalia, I learned 2 more details that hit me emotionally: The Nazis entered Alsace on my birthday (years before me,) and US soldiers used Barbasol Shaving Cream that was proudly made in… Indianapolis. That tube and box, and the first aid supplies displayed next to it provided the only English text in the hall. I’m glad people walk away from that glass case thinking that America was part of the healing. And here I am walking in the same role spiritually where God has sent us 60 years later. Enjoy the photos and roll over them for more details…
I think I also connected to the event because I had just discovered a French author, Joseph Joffo, that Olivia recommended to me. The first book was called ” A Bag of Marbles ,” and is the true story of he and his brother spending a year outrunning the SS as anti-Semitic activities encroach on Paris. Though they were not practicing Jews, it was clear that God had His hand of protection on them, and it was nothing short of gripping. In the sequel called ” Foosball ,” he describes a much calmer life after the war as a teenager, but befriending a certain American soldier added adventure to his days that were otherwise filled with dreams of becoming a famous boxer in Las Vegas like Joe Louis. Even though I had to wade through mountains of French slang used in that era, it was quite a history lesson. It also made me proud to be an American. When I speak to a stranger here, often they will assume that I’m English. When I correct them, without fail, their countenance changes completely, and they are eager to talk. I have no doubt that those friendly, generous GIs unloading post-war supply trucks to desperate Europeans paved the way for me.
We are also celebrating a personal milestone at the same time – 10 years on the field – and I am suddenly seeing a lot of parallels to these books. I am so grateful that God finally intervened in our small, selfish lives, healed our marriage, put us on the path of serving others, and broke my heart for France. And when we started to feel our way there independently, it looked a lot like Joffo and his brother, living on the thrill of not knowing what the next step would be until it was time to take it, and watching God lead us in supernatural ways through the highs and lows of German family training, Slovakian outreaches, Scottish life as YWAM school staff, language students in the Alps, and more staffing in the south of France. Those boys grew up fast in that book and our faith grew at the same pace during those first 5 years. But now that we’ve arrived at our “promised land,” life has become more routine, much like the second book. With our gradual assimilation into this culture, we also started struggling against the influence of the negative spiritual forces here. And just as the GI blessed Joffo and his corner of Paris, visits by other Americans (and English) have been crucial to keep us strengthened and encouraged personally. But this year some of our reinforcements are coming to stay, not just to visit, and this is the dynamic we’ve been waiting for. I wonder how much of our service here has been done in the flesh, because our bodies feel like they have aged a lot more than just 10 years! With teammates who model an interior life that knows how to listen and wait on God to win our battles for us, we hope to be much more efficient in this next season!
Unfortunately, Joffo’s dreams of tasting America’s riches never come to pass, but at least 14 of our church members have traveled to the U.S. and other countries in the last year to drink from other spiritual wells needed to hasten freedom from their French mindsets that can keep them from moving forward in their walk with the Lord. This is such a clear picture of how desperately France needs input from “the nations“- the unique callings and giftings of people groups that contribute to the rich diversity of the body of Christ – in order to have a full understanding of their identity and role in the Kingdom of God. “Freedom!” was the prophetic word declared over me during our sending-off service 11 years ago. And as Jesus works that out in me in deeper ways, I pray that I will be part of the spiritual liberation of this people in ways that will make the events of 1945 pale in comparison!