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!
Greetings from our sickbeds where 1/2 of our church seems to have caught a spring virus!
So, if I could sum up these last 2 months, I would say they have been unusually international, which is always an enriching (and fatiguing) time for us:
“Those who prophesy strengthen the community.” I Cor 14.4
Last year, the director of Bethel Christian School came through for a visit to see if there was a connection to be made with our school here. We enjoyed a meal with him between Americans, but that was the extent of our connection. This year a small group of students wanted to come to start an exchange program, but their only available week was during our school’s vacation time. So the Kleins, a family in the church and school who organized the trip, had them come to minister at the church over the weekend. They decided to work on a relational connection and then enjoy a week of tourism, which was exciting for Jeremy, the team leader, because he is also their history teacher and it was his first time in Europe. And since he was raised in Montreal, he wasn’t afraid to dust off his childhood French!
We ended up housing him and one of his Canadian students. Because families from all over the world attend the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, their Christian school has kids from many nations. One of the boys is from the Netherlands. It was amazing to have five normal 8th graders who were very comfortable hearing the Lord’s voice and unafraid to offer it to others. They gave short teachings Sat. night and Sunday morning, offered words of knowledge to church members, handed out prophetic drawings while sight-seeing and taught the basics of prophecy to my Sunday school class.
In the natural, it didn’t look very anointed: the 3 girls were jet-lagged, using posters in English, needing Olivia to translate, and not making much eye contact to keep the kids attention. My biggest fear is bored kids and I started getting nervous. Then just when they wanted to start “activating” the kids, they were called to go back to the adults. With a sigh of relief, I jumped up and started quizzing the kids to see if they had retained anything at all. They had and they were all ready to have a go. I had not had much success in leading them in “listening to God” exercises in the past, but those girls had deposited their anointing after all. Following Jeremy’s model that encouraged taking risks in a safe environment in order to practice and grow, we practiced prophesying over each child in 4 different ways. And they all participated fully. For the first time. It was beautiful.
The team and the Klein family also blessed the church with some manual labor, tackling the invasive Japanese knot weed that is trying to convert our parking lot into a bamboo jungle. I was also waiting on their arrival to tackle 3 big trashcans filled with stinky unsorted garbage that someone had anonymously parked in our parking lot. They would never be emptied because they weren’t legal bins registered with the city. The only solution was to transfer the trash to our bins and pay for the extra weight ourselves. And because they had been outside for a few months, they had also filled with putrefying rainwater. They were so heavy that I could not tip them over. At least the men could take care of that for me, but surprisingly, no one else was as motivated as I was to open and sort 15 bags of trash in order to keep the weight down! (Recycling reduces weight charges and is not weighed.)
So like the Little Red Hen, I did it all by myself. At least the sun was shining and I was not all alone. The Klein children were at least willing to hold open recycling bags for me so I could practice my shooting skills at the same time. I filled 6 of those and 2 hours later had a dozen smallish trash bags piled next to the giant pile of knot weed. I was promised that the bins would be gone within 24 hrs so that this would not be a recurring event. And they were. Whew!
“In that day Egypt and Assyria [Iraq, Iran, Syria, Turkey] will be connected by a highway, and the Egyptians and Assyrians will move freely back and forth between their lands, and they shall worship the same God. And Israel will be their ally; the three will be together, and Israel will be a blessing to them. 25 For the Lord will bless Egypt and Iraq because of their friendship with Israel. He will say, “Blessed be Egypt, my people; blessed be Assyria, the land I have made; blessed be Israel, my inheritance!.” Is 19.23-25
The next international experience was a conference at the beautiful Basel House of Prayer to learn more about God’s view of the Middle East as laid out in Isaiah 19, shedding a lot of light on the refugee crisis. There are entire ministries working and praying to see this beautiful prophecy of reconciliation come true and we wanted a deeper understanding.
“Keep the fire on the altar burning day and night.” Lev. 6:3
Over the next 3 days, local Syrian refugees told their stories and got prayer. A Jordanian who is starting an Arab-speaking church for them in Basel, translated. A German pastor who had personally counseled Angela Merkel to keep welcoming the refugees despite protests (and who could pass for Burl Ives) contributed with authority as an early pioneer of this reconciliation movement. A messianic Jewish rabbi from Tel Aviv prayed the Sabbath blessing over us. The assistant pastor of the largest evangelical church in Cairo led a worship set, partly in Arabic. Then the main speaker, Tom Craig, honored everyone’s work and shared on his book, which we are now reading.
Praying with the German staff before worship.
We were reminded that Jesus is the only answer to the Middle East mess and God is even able to redeem war by getting Muslims to Europe where they are being saved by the thousands. (Unfortunately, it is only the bad news that gets reported because the good news is too dangerous to release publicly!) In between sessions, we were praying and worshiping and getting to know the staff there. David was thrilled when they adopted him as their drummer for the weekend. We also ran into one of our intercessors who came down from Italy and had a delightful Vietnamese lunch and prayer time together.
“I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples.” Ps 108.3
The final international moment was last Sunday when 30 (French-speaking) Congolese children and their chaperones entered our sanctuary and worshiped with us and for us with African abandon. Their Christian school is the fruit of seeds planted by our pastor many years ago. Our typically passive French kids looked on wide-eyed at these kids dressed to the nines, sang accapella and who knew how to sit still and listen to their team leader preach a fiery message on prayer. (It’s a good thing because I couldn’t have fit them all in our Sunday school room!!)
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!
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!
In 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!
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.
Then 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!