Red, White and Bluebird – July 2017

I am writing to you on France’s Independence Day weekend that is really the start of the official six weeks of French summer holidays. Our church took the risk of a low turn-out and decided to host a worship weekend with singer/songwriter Samuel Olivier, who is creating my current favorite French worship songs as he experiences Father God in deeper ways as a new father. David so enjoyed playing alongside him, and for me, a song is even more powerful when the writer is singing them himself!!! The timing ended up being perfect because it carried us, as the church council, through a church crisis that was coming to a head this very weekend that would have been much heavier otherwise.

Getting back to this month’s title, Olivia has been the biggest focus of our attention since our last newsletter. She will literally fly the nest next month as our last French baby bird to bravely reconcile with her American heritage (before tackling her master’s to decide what she will do professionally with her multilingual studies.)

Since leaving the states at age 3, she has never felt comfortable in American culture, only returning for short periods at different stages of development and never really bonding with extended family. She also needs to re-establish relationship as an adult with Noah and Rachel, who left her daily life by the time she was 13. So she has grown up feeling like an only child with parents who are 10 yrs older and much less active than her friends’ parents. And because the French spend all major holidays with extended family, her French friends have always pitied her, which made her feel like an outsider, which she kind of is.

This is the lot in life of the Third Culture Kid, where your global life experiences are incredibly rich, but the most dreaded question in the world is “Where are you from?” In Europe, she can sound French, but she grew up with our American filter of the culture. In America, she will sound like an American, but she will react through a European culture filter. She has had the opportunity to testify of her need for Jesus’ help and healing in her personal struggle for healthy identity that we ALL have to wrestle with in one way or another.

So in a dizzying June… Olivia moved out of her dorm and said goodbye to all her college friends.

She found a 6-week internship in Germany teaching at a language school as her last requirement to graduate and rented a private room in a local German couple’s home.

She sang her heart out for the annual school fete.

She bought her plane ticket for her 10 month stay in the U.S. and applied for part-time work in Indianapolis.

And she attended her uncomfortably long French citizenship ceremony on one of the hottest days of the year 8 months after the fact. (A disappointing culmination when she was handed yet another bureaucratic form to fill out in order to get her French ID card!)

We are so grateful to our family members who are waiting with open arms to welcome her, especially David’s sister and brother-in-law, who have offered to house her, as they did for Noah. Do keep her in your prayers as the Lord brings her to mind!

Happy Summer !

Angela

Road Tripping

I hope you are coming out of the winter doldrums, enjoying the sunshine on your face and the flowering trees along your path!

The highlights this month were about getting out of town to both give and receive:

Mid-month, a new American missionary friend, Christi, invited me to accompany her to Zurich for a women’s breakfast where she was the speaker. Sadly, it was supposed to be a father-daughter trip and he passed away suddenly just 3 weeks before the date.
She decided to keep the engagement, but needed moral support for the 2 hr drive without him and I was thrilled to come along, all expenses paid, just before my birthday.

It ended up being pure “soul food,” sharing deeply with English-speaking ex-pats during the table talk time around Brené Brown’s theme of being courageously vulnerable.  (When Brown’s 2010 TED Talk went viral, her career took off and Christi is a certified facilitator with her Daring Way counseling program.) Christi did so well that my support role was minimal –she was a beautiful model of grace in all circumstances for herself and others! I even got a free copy of Brown’s book, Daring Greatly!
(I would include our selfie here, but my phone died with my photos inside…)

Birthday joy continued for the next couple of weeks, including the means to buy a new phone and a romantic afternoon in Colmar, with lots of other surprises and love from friends and family near and far.

David did road trip #2 to minister in Orléans last weekend. You may remember that Alana put out a French worship CD last year and David contributed some background vocals. Well, a group of charismatic Catholics and evangelicals there who meet together weekly to promote unity and worship got a hold of her music and invited her to come do a concert! On the group’s site, which is translated “Worship at the Center,” they promoted the event and you can hear one of Alana’s songs, read the program, and watch her promote the evening in French.

Alana was surprised to get this opportunity and rented a 9 passenger van for her “Trésor European Tour” with a team from church that included David. It was a 6 hr drive with stops and a very rich time for everyone. The lady battling cancer, that I mentioned last month, joined them as an intercessor and even though undergoing chemo, she felt great the entire trip. The organizer posted this video of David modeling how to “worship with the Word” after a brief teaching. He is singing Heb. 1:3 and got an enthusiastic response during and afterwards from the participants. He wore several hats, playing drums, the cajon, teaching and singing. They were also able to minister to the youth that were present and the organizers also took lots of her CDs to sell!

This coming together of different streams came at a good time because our apostolic network of churches in France is currently being attacked by an anonymous French heresy hunter site. Pretty heart-breaking, but a real wake-up call to communicate better who we are. David will be preaching his first sermon at church on Sunday based on the book The Culture of Honor by Danny Silk as another gentle reminder.

And on that note, we’d like to make you aware of Pray for France – the only American prayer initiative for this country. David has had lots of email conversations with the founder and was also the main contributor to the worship aspect of the prayer topics. Our pastor also contributed to prayer points for Christian education. Register on their site to get emails with the daily topic of prayer through Easter. They also have a Facebook page!

55 and holding, Angela

Foundation Firming

The first 2 months of 2017 have felt like new foundations are being put in place for the future and according to prophetic voices, this is supposed to be an amazing breakthrough year in so many areas! To those of us in Europe, this year also marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, and we expect God to bring new revelation to the Church to be a real answer in these challenging times.

With our church council, we are now meeting weekly to fast and pray over lunch before starting our “business” meetings. We are still struggling to get the renovation of our building finished 5 years later and that is slowing down the growth of our ministries. We are tired of banging our heads against a wall and against each other as we jostle for space and we are at the end of ourselves, asking Him to come through.

We were also back at square one with our preschool program, now that we had finished grieving for Flavy. It was basically up to me to get something of substance in place again, in order for young parents to make it worth their while to get themselves and their kids to church. The death hit the other young mothers very hard and I don’t want to lose them, as all 4 are great moms and the best ones qualified to teach this age group. So I listened to what they needed and wanted and what they could offer over a dinner. Because these kids are already in the Christian school all week, these women want to see them having real encounters with God on Sundays, not just more Bible knowledge or character building. So for the first time in 5 years, we have a real schedule in place where 1 mother + a young person rotates in once a month with clear guidelines, prayer coverage and accountability. With those foundational structures in place, we can go to new places!

G for GrainsIn my corner of Sunday school for the 6-10s, I have been the only teacher with rotating helpers for the last 3 years, which is fine with me because I still get the worship and communion time, but I don’t usually get much from the sermon anyway. David and I are firm believers that you need to be feeding yourself all week rather than wait to be fed on a Sunday morning. And how easy is that when you have a a House of Prayer to participate in, a Bible lesson to prepare and podcasts at your fingertips? This is a visual generation, so I spend a lot of time digging through images that represent a spiritual truth to teach most lessons. A tablet beaming with gorgeous art and photographs beats the heck out of a flannel graph! Anyway, while surfing for ideas, I’ve realized that free helps for French Sunday school teachers are seriously lacking on many levels and I have decided to fill that void with my own French blog called “Over the Doorposts.” The idea is that kids take home something that is lasting and beautiful that is worth hanging on the wall, fulfilling the command in Deut. 6:9.
This year I am creating a Biblical ABC book with the kids and I know it is something that they and their parents will keep in a memory box. I have never had so much fun and see it as a prototype for a children’s book I want to write one day. At the same time, I am dependent on others to correct my text before posting, but it’s high time I started making a concentrated effort to bring my French up another notch. Unfortunately, the lady I enjoy working with the most is dealing with a recurrence of cancer – please lift her up to the Father with us!

Another good reason to work on my French is because we will have to take a French test next month as part of our application for French nationality. I have no doubt that our level is sufficient, but still… Applying for nationality feels like another foundation that we need to shore up this year, esp. as our visas expire in 2018 and we are eager to put bureaucracy hurdles behind us. Having the right to vote also feels more important in these turbulent times.

With Olivia leaving the nest this year, it also feels like the time to consider a new foundation in the form of a home for our retirement years. An interesting option has come up that could to be the answer to our wants and needs within our budget! We’ll share more details if it starts to look like a reality by springtime. David and I have also been shoring up our marriage foundations this month, thanks to 14 free mini-coaching videos offered by Danny Silk to get us talking about an area where we have disconnected as a couple. It couldn’t have been better timing and we are moving forward again!

Ready for springtime, Angela

A Curious Christmas Dec 2016

Greetings from sunny and warm New Mexico, where I am celebrating Christmas alone with my parents – our first one together since Olivia was born back in Denver 21 years ago. I’ve always wanted a break from the exhausting pressure to make everyone happy and everything beautiful, and I’ve finally gotten my wish. I am downright giddy to have nothing more to do this week than to help my dad, shop with mom, eat at new restaurants and write this newsletter.

I’ve earned it this year, though you wouldn’t know it since I haven’t written since mid-Sept. That’s because I had a crush of people that needed my support: a friend who was having knee replacement surgery, a new missionary kid who started 5th grade at our school without basic French and needed my intervention, a hoarder who needed help throwing out before her move to a new apt., lessons that needed to be created for a new year of Sunday School, on top of weekly Sozos, church council meetings and House of Prayer sessions.

Florence and Angela LeighDavid and Jim LeighThen at the end of Oct, David’s dad, Jim, had a stroke, stealing his memory and making him less stable. Once he was back home, it was clear that they needed to make the anticipated move to a retirement village. But David’s mom, Florence, would need a lot of support to make that happen and everyone in the family was working full-time. So we volunteered to fly out mid-November and stayed 5 weeks. It was truly a grace-filled time: I cooked and de-cluttered and made sure Jim’s brain and body got exercised daily on the therapists’ off days. David led us in daily worship and prayer and did lots of administration for his mom, while keeping up with his own part-time work responsibilities. Florence dealt with Jim’s more personal needs and starting sorting thru 9 years of accumulation. The bonus was being with family for Thanksgiving for the first time in 14 years and celebrating 4 family birthdays in person!

Once David’s parents were settled in their new apt., the cold weather hit hard, so David was eager to fly eastward to be with Olivia for Christmas and I couldn’t wait to fly out west.
My parents are doing pretty well, but very isolated from family out in the desert. I’ve enjoyed this time so much that this needs to be an annual trip, as they are usually alone at holiday time and my kids aren’t nearly as sentimental about being together then.

However, our absence was harder on Olivia than anticipated because our church went through a tragedy while we were gone. A young family of 7 moved into our village/church/school community a few years ago (4 girls and a boy, ages 2-11, the youngest having serious heart defects.) Guillaume was a teacher at the school and was being groomed to take over as president of the school board. His wife Flavy was a beautiful stay-at-home, vegan mom that I had befriended as a neighbor. Her kids filled half of my SS class and she had just taken on the preschool program at church this fall. Then to everyone’s shock, she caught a flu and died of meningitis 5 days later. Of course we weren’t getting any emails to pray until she was in the hospital, so the news was very sudden and hit the day before Thanksgiving, making us very grateful to be near our family.

Our church contacted a respected French woman who had witnessed a resurrection in another country for her testimony. Eager to start living out Jesus’ promise that we would do greater things than He did (even in France!) they fasted, prayed and worshiped around the clock for a miracle until the moment she was lowered into the ground 3 days later. Apparently Guillaume has dropped everything to father his kids, as their extended families live on the other side of France. His mother stayed until she landed in the hospital as well with another problem. I haven’t heard what he will do for the long term, but I am relieved that we had flown out before this happened because it would have been very difficult to leave at such a time of need. People are needy everywhere, and so few have free time to help. I am so glad that I can be that person, as a supported missionary, whether at home or abroad! (And any resources on accompanying children through grief would be much appreciated!)

In happier news, Olivia now has her dual citizenship and showed me her French passport over Skype this week! David and I hope to ride on her coat tails, applying for citizenship next year before our ten year visa expires. This will reduce the time we spend on bureaucratic paperwork and allow us to vote – the candidates are looking promising!

A blessed 2017 to all of you, Angela

Traveling Mercies? Done!

Russian school

Our last newsletter described our spring trip back to Indy and traveling mercies continued throughout the summer…

In July, our intrepid Olivia took buses, planes, taxis and trains to get herself to a language school in Petrozavodsk, Russia. It is near the Finnish border – a 1700 mile trip even from the eastern border of France! While I was having flashbacks of “Taken,” she was befriending wild dogs in the park, making a video with her Italian classmate (far L) in a restaurant as a homework assignment, and discovering dill as an all-purpose seasoning. I believe it rained almost everyday, but she had a great host family set-up, learned A LOT of Russian (see the video for proof!) and got to speak at a church while seeing iconic Moscow on the way home. Putin’s anti-terrorism legislation went into effect while she was there and she was able to encourage evangelical believers there who had been fasting and praying against it. Why? Here’s the scoop for the uninformed.

Once Olivia was safely home, our Anna, who boarded with us in 2013-14, returned to spend her last days of vacation with us while we house sat in the countryside the first week of August. David completely unplugged from computer screens and relished passing his days creating music for pleasure and devouring our nephew’s first novel! I relished the peace and quiet without traffic or neighbors, drying clothes in the sun, taking care of pets, a yard and a garden and eating out on the patio everyday. With Olivia in recovery mode, I think the girls enjoyed doing absolutely nothing!

The following weekend we were invited to give our testimony and speak about the spiritual state of France at the YWAM base in Freiburg, Germany during one of their evenings open to local friends of the base. It was a lovely time of connection with about 20 people, complete with crepes. The base leaders housed us and fed us and the next day we took the scenic route towards Zurich to meet up with Tim and Sue Ellis who were in the “neighborhood” for an AIA (CRU) mission trip and to celebrate their 30th anniversary. They were married 2 weeks before we were and David and Tim were each other’s groomsmen, so it was fun to be together to mark this milestone!

Our own 30th anniversary trip was the grand finale this summer. In a newsletter 2 years ago, I mentioned that I wanted to do the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg one day. But David thought it would be too expensive since the 10 hr train trip would demand more than a long weekend stay.

And then we heard about a “Worship Vacation” offered by the Salzburg HoP – Free room and board for each day that you do 2 hrs in their prayer room, and perfectly located for sightseeing. Suddenly, a week in Salzburg was feasible! Not knowing the comfort level or privacy of the rooms, nor the food quality, we reserved 3 days there and our last 2 nights in a nice studio for guaranteed romance.

Salzburg HOP Prayer RoomThe trip exceeded all our expectations! The HoP is in a Catholic missions base that is beautifully decorated and backs right on the Salzach river. Bike and pedestrian paths pass right between the river and the HoP and they were still constructing an entrance where the public can walk in or have a drink in the adjoining café. We loved worshipping mainly in English together and praying into the river of worship joining the physical river to touch everyone passing by! Staff were busy with a leadership seminar that week, but the young people in attendance were delightful to share meals with. The icing on the cake was that our room was hotel quality, freshly renovated, overlooking the river! HoP entrance will be on the right!

After re-watching The Sound of Music, reading reviews and checking the weather forecast, I booked the 3 things we wanted to do the most in advance and David made sure we got there at the right time with as little walking as possible. I had fallen twice over the summer and couldn’t walk more than 5 min. before feeling discomfort in my foot and leg. But the city is small enough that transport is reasonable and convenient. A taxi got us to and from the hotel and Mozart dinner concert. A cable car got us up a mountain and we LOVED the Fraulein Maria Bike Tour! I unconsciously started singing The Sound of Music songs as soon as we arrived and they carried me through the week! Salzburg romance!

Apparently the Worship Vacation was so popular (80 people came through during the 3 month offer) that they may do it again next year. We hope so because we can’t wait to go back and bring Olivia with us!

Now that we’re home, David is working furiously to get our new website up and running before he has to return to school briefly to orient his IT replacement.

And it is now possible to give to us on-line through the Bread of Life church website! Thank you supporters, for your generosity this summer that allowed us to celebrate our 30 years so well!!

Till next month, Angela