Olivia and I just got back from an escapade in Paris and we have been humming La Vie en Rose ever since. It’s a great description of our wonderful spring – it’s been like looking through rose-colored glasses!
The last week of March, we welcomed Willemijn from Holland, (despite my vow to never host another exchange student in a previous newsletter!) She was delightful and along with her classmates, participated with our students in a fun run to raise money for the persecuted church. We raised over 3000 euros, which is amazing, considering our school struggles to pay the bills most months!
On the occasion of my 50th birthday, Jesus used all of my local friends and family (and even strangers!) in myriads of ways to show me how much I am loved. After leaving everything and everyone familiar 12 years ago, I have never felt so rich. This gives me immense hope as I look towards the future (and all the unknowns that come with aging!) Here are 7 of my girlfriends from our church who celebrated with me one day at my favorite restaurant in Germany followed by a long soak in the local thermal baths!
One birthday blessing was getting a call to help one of our students with English homework – my first paying job after getting certified to teach English! He’s a relatively motivated 14 yr. old boy who lives in our village, so it’s easy money!
Noah was also home for his spring break and we had a delightful 2 weeks together in beautiful weather, while Olivia and David were still at school all day. During our 4-day Easter weekend, we held a 6 hr. tabernacle on Good Friday to lift up Jesus as King over France at the onset of presidential elections and we invited Alana and Nadine over for my traditional leg of lamb meal on Sunday.
A few days later we picked up the Richards at the airport for their fifth 3-month stint with us. Janet and Nadine will be busy with sozo training seminars during this time. Right now our individual sessions revolve around just a few people whom we see every two weeks. The teen that we helped a year ago referred another teen to us who was barely functioning. After 4 sessions with us, having transferred to our school, and staying with a healthy host family during the week, she was able to attend a full week of school recently for the first time in years. She even participated in the fun run!
And that brings us to our own spring break and Paris. My old friend Corinne turned 50 two weeks after I did, and I hadn’t seen her since she her father’s funeral 18 months ago. She had sent me 20 roses and I wanted to take her to a gourmet restaurant run by YWAMers in the 19th arrondissement. She’s moving out of Paris this year, so I decided I should take Olivia along while we still had free lodging, since her last visit was 11 yrs ago on outreach from Scotland and she remembers nothing! La Vie en Rose was playing during our boat ride down the Canal St. Martin.
During that time, David drove to a prayer house near Lake Thun, Switzerland with the Richards and some of our youth worshippers to fill a few days with worshipful musical and artistic collaboration and prayer. Guess who came home exhausted and who came back refreshed!
Next week Olivia leaves for another class trip with her German teacher to visit Vienna and Berlin. So far, she is the only 11th grader enrolled for next year, so she may do independent study while her classmates go off to public school. Ah, the ups and downs of high school in Europe!
I had good reason to be silent last month – physical attacks on both of us plus an extreme cold snap turned us into moles for much of the month. It was almost painless with a boxful of new, used English books to dig into from the annual book swap at Black Forest Academy, until the end of the month when David and I both crawled out of our holes just in time to help make the French Christian teacher’s conference a success.
I was in on the food, of course, making 100 sack lunches to sell with Olivia’s class, raising money for their spring trip to Berlin. This photo gives you a vague idea of the setting and how many people are involved in Christian schools in France, Belgium, and Switzerland. (300ish) The main speaker was an American, so Olivia was asked to be her hostess during the conference and also pitched in with food service. David supervised the setting up and tearing down of the sound reinforcement from our church, to this rented hall, and back again.
So after getting over that mountain, the next one staring us down was planning our summer trip back to the U.S. It was time to buy the tickets, but the details were overwhelming us. We hadn’t been back as a family for 5 years, and the demands were much greater than when we visit individually. We needed house/cat sitters for 6 weeks and free private lodging to help us get through this extended family transition time (relating to Rachel on her own adult turf, battling random menopause symptoms, and returning without Noah!) We would also need a car of our own for a road trip to visit my parents and then a car for local use in Indy. I also desperately wanted some private spiritual retreat time in a comfortable place, as this does not exist here. Even though French retreat centers are located in beautiful isolated locations, they are obviously designed for the sole purpose of mortifying the flesh.
So we laid the whole thing on the altar, letting God put it together, or not, as He saw fit. We told Him that if He wanted us to go, we needed some details in place in order to decide on departure/return dates and we gave him a week to do it, nervously keeping an eye on ticket prices.
We are happy to report that our Father, in cooperation with His children, has gone above and beyond for us!
- That week, two families (that we trust!) contacted us, needing free lodging and a car in our area, perfectly timed during our absence!
- I had also "put out a fleece" by applying to attend a 4-day retreat for full-time cross-cultural North American missionary women at a luxury hotel in Denver. Because churches and fund-raisers subsidize most of the cost for the attendees, they only accept 100 applicants, you can only attend once in your lifetime, and there is always a waiting list. Free gifts, massages, haircuts, pedicures and counseling are part of the package. And guess what? I got the acceptance e-mail that same week and my parents covered my travel and fees as my 50th birthday gift! With those dates in stone, we were able to pinpoint a departure date.
- Then we sent out an e-mail about our car needs and found just the right one so the family can come pick me up in Denver, drive to NM, and then back to Indy via Texas. Rocky Mountain residents need to keep July 7-8th open and we’d love to see our friends in Texas while passing through!
- For our remaining 3 weeks in Indy, we were still waiting for God to provide the housing we needed, but we confidently bought our tickets, knowing that our Father would take care of this too. Since then, not just 1, but 2 wonderful options became available for us! And speaking of housing, my sister-in-law Jane has graciously agreed to keep Noah during his freshman year, so I’ll spend some of that time fixing up his future bedroom.
With Rachel and Noah both graduating from their respective schools on the same day on different continents, we are also planning a belated open house to celebrate and at last meet all of Rachel’s radical friends in person! Her last quarter of school has been a busy one as she has already started working part-time for a marketing firm, has a couple of freelance jobs on the side, and is part of a worship band that has just cut their first album!
Finally, here’s a quick snapshot of how God is also keeping our ministry visions moving forward here this spring, making mighty mountains out of our little molehills!
- Translation of the marriage course materials (mentioned in my Jan. newsletter) will happen, thanks to the French Swiss, making this event a real possibility for next fall, if travel schedules line up!
- Worship is growing! We sent 2 of our youth to a professional seminar for sound training and another group of youth attended a first-ever conference in Paris for raising up French youth in worship-leading. This weekend, our worship teams will be playing in another church’s first effort at a 12 hr. worship tabernacle. We heard that it was quite a battle for them to get it organized, so we know we are pushing the enemy’s buttons!
- The Sozo ministry is gaining momentum! My French teammate, Nadine, has just been named the national director for France – a necessary role as new teams start to sprout around the country. The team we are building in our church will travel together by train to get the advanced training from the Bethel leaders in May. If anyone is interested, I’d be honored to do sessions while in the U.S. – It’s so much more fun doing it in English!
Looking forward to April!
Our village invites residents to decorate their windows for Christmas and this year I signed up and did a Ps. 23 theme. I covered a tree with sheep, candy canes, snowflakes, and the first 3 verses on paper ribbons to remind passersby of the goodness of God. This newsletter will catch you up with us in the same vein…
The LORD is your shepherd, you lack nothing.
It seems that I don’t feel a lack until God is ready to provide it. Whether it is home renovation or a haircut, just when I reach the end of my rope, He provides for it. We’ve lived with one high performing desktop computer all these years and it has been adequate until recently. With my approaching 50th birthday, and the invention of the tablet computer, my soul began to feel the void that this device could fill. I wanted something light and portable of my very own without having to wade through all of David’s virtual clutter, but the iPhone was too small. Olivia was also fed up with her limping machine and started encroaching on our time on the desktop. During the holidays, while Noah was home and David was not working at school, it came to a head when we were playing musical desk chair almost 24/7! I let David know that "the cobbler’s children needed new shoes" and waited for provision. It came flooding in from many sources just after Christmas.
So last week, my husband surprised me w/an iPad, Olivia got a new laptop (that she will share when we travel) and with Noah back to school, life has become very serene in the evenings!
He makes you lie down in green pastures, He leads you beside quiet waters,
He refreshes your soul.
This verse is a good image of our holidays. It started with a great Thanksgiving hosted by the Richards. Though Rachel stayed in Indy this year, we had a sweet time with guests on Christmas eve, with each other on Christmas Day, and then we welcomed 3 different friends of Noah’s in the following weeks of his vacation time. We refreshed ourselves with lots of outings that we haven’t had energy, money or time for in the last several months. (And if French films are shown near you, don’t miss Untouchables - a blockbuster here that is full of hope and joy and has the power to annihilate any traces of racism in your heart.)
He guides you along the right paths for His name’s sake.
We continue to seek God about marriage ministry here. Our pastor is asking us to keep working towards this and as we initiate discussions with the Love After Marriage leaders in the States, we come up against the same French hurdles – translation of materials, a poverty-mentality, and fear of transparency – in order to come up with enough couples in leadership nationwide who are willing to be transparent, can afford to attend, and have a workbook in French! Only God can pull this off, and when he does, it will demand our full-time focus. We need the timing to be right, with so many other things pulling for our attention. In the meantime, I take solace in the Sozo ministry that is healing individual hearts so that ministering to their marriages will be more effective.
Even though you walk through the darkest valley, you will fear no evil, for you are with Him; His rod and His staff, they comfort you.
Looking back, I believe that all the gains we made last March at the marriage seminar were to hold us together for the turbulent months that followed with David’s declining health. How wonderful it is to have my husband back, with new and improved emotional and physical energy available for us again (as long as he stays away from raw cauliflower!)
He prepares a table before you in the presence of your enemies.
Despite the above mentioned setbacks, serving good food continues to be my favorite way to bless others. I volunteered to donate dessert for 60 at this year’s teacher Christmas banquet. Lucky for me, the French appreciate small portions and I had it covered with 2 pumpkin cheesecakes and 2 pecan-date tarts, both new taste sensations for them!
He anoints your head with oil; your cup overflows.
Olivia was spoiled for her Sweet Sixteenth birthday this month: We bought her some clothes, took her out to eat, and then presented her with a card announcing that she was going on an 8-day father-daughter trip to Ireland! (We tried to capture the moment here.) She’s visited a lot of countries, but this has been her dream destination for a long time. They will be attending teachings on the spiritual history of the land at a YWAM base there and then intercede on-site in Dublin and Belfast. (David will get to hook up with an old friend from his Up With People days one evening as well!) If you feel led to pray for their trip, the dates are Jan. 22-29th. I will also relish my week alone w/no one to worry about except the cats!
Surely His goodness and love will follow you all the days of your life, and you will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
I am now living this out concretely with my new toy: the only worship music I listen to now is from the International House of Prayer live and archived on the internet from Kansas City and it cannot be downloaded easily. Living in a house with thick walls and lots of closed off rooms meant that I could only worship in our den, sitting in front of the desktop, which is very limiting (and distracting) for a housewife. Now, my favorite worship troubadours follow me all around the house! No more housework in silence, long sleepless nights, or neighbor negativity invading my kitchen! "Practicing His presence" just got a lot easier!!
Happy 2012! Angela
"Consider it pure joy, my brethren, when you face (terrible, horrible, no good, very bad) trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
If your kids were born after 1970, you are probably familiar with an award-winning children’s book resembling my title. Being a children’s literature fan, I couldn’t resist borrowing it to describe where my last newsletter left off (as if that wasn’t bad enough.)
But let’s start on a happy note: (In late Sept.) Olivia and her 4 classmates had a ball in Budapest. Let me remind you that there was only ONE Christian high school in all of France until we opened up a 10th grade class a couple of years ago. Can you imagine how ostracized these kids feel here? So it was a breath of fresh air to hang out with kids from 30 other mainly eastern European Christian schools for 4 days. The English-only leadership conference didn’t bother them at all – just warmed them up for my class that started when they got back.
This is the teaching job I’ve been waiting for my whole life: no discipline problems, only 2 teaching hours/week, and free to create my own curriculum based on a children’s book! How I’ve missed transmitting my passion for books to children here. So I chose The Tale of Despereaux as our text for the first semester, reading most of it aloud, and they are eating it up! I supplement with worksheets I’ve created to help them see the Biblical truths hidden throughout, while mastering vocabulary related to the world of mice and rats living in a castle. This setting makes remarkable parallels to the Protestant church in France! Read it and weep. As you will see, this class has been one of the few bright spots since I wrote last.
The grand total for Sept.’s gall bladder nightmare (5 consultations, endoscopy, blood work, ultrasound, 2 ambulance rides, laparoscopic surgery, 6 nights, and meds) was under $800! However, David started going downhill again last month and this time the culprit was a UTI. Not wanting to feel left out, I got a yeast infection, my sozo team leader started fighting appendicitis symptoms, and our head intercessor was battling terrible side effects after hip replacement surgery. Hopelessness hit David in a rare attack, and I’m sorry to say that with a well-timed string of migraines, I went down with him! Thank God the Richards were arriving mid-month as reinforcements, providing daily worship/prayer coverage that has helped strengthen all of us, despite Janet’s own physical struggle with a broken wrist.
Towards the end of this trial, (which we were not considering "pure joy," my brethren,) my pastor’s wife called to ask if I would keep a visiting Australian director in Christian education for a week. I was her last hope, so what could I say? God gave me the grace to accommodate him and his easy presence lifted our morale. But towards the end of his stay, a tragedy hit that brought us down again. I was happily decorating the church to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles for our next 4 hr. worship tabernacle. Then my cell phone rang and we learned that a father of 3, whose extended family I’ve mentioned here before, had died of a sudden heart attack at work. So much for celebrating. The mother of this man and his daughter and nieces all came to worship that night anyway – what a beautiful sacrifice of worship that was for all of us.
Our guest wanted to take the school leadership team out to dinner the following evening before he left, but David and I weren’t feeling well enough to attend. Disappointed in missing the chance to enjoy a restaurant meal, we were taken by surprise when handed a monetary gift from him after his departure, in US dollars! It is tucked away for our trip back next summer to move Noah over.
Then our terrible, horrible October finally ended… with an alarmingly small support deposit. Enough to eat on, but the bills would have to wait. We had also planned to visit Noah on the 1st, after 2 1/2 months apart. I wanted to celebrate his 18th birthday a month early, while the fall leaves were peaking and the sun was shining. A visit to the Basel Zoo was at the top of his wish list. (And fortunately, I had bought his birthday gift (red t-shirt below) far in advance!) With one glance at the bank acct., David was nixing all expenditures except the gas to get there. A head v. heart argument ensued that the enemy wanted to snowball, but then we got the victory: The HS convicted me of my wrong attitudes in the argument and I apologized. Then I blessed his head while he blessed my heart. Then I laid our plans on the altar. When we arrived at BFA, Noah admitted he had a lot of homework and the zoo sounded like too much to bite off. We smiled at each other and drove to a beautiful park with a pedestrian bridge that spans the Rhine River where Switzerland, France and Germany meet. We fed a bevy of swans, enjoyed an ice cream cone and watched the kids run and jump and climb on every available surface. We got him back early to start homework before dinner and stayed for a free meal at the dorm.
The rest of the week, money trickled in daily: a computer repair job, a small property tax refund, web site work for an old client, anonymous cash in our mailbox, a paypal donation. And the icing on the cake today was receiving our national identity cards for the French health system with a chip that streamlines the processing of any medical treatment!
Here’s hoping that we have passed all the perseverance testing scheduled for 2011!!
Apologies for the 3 month silence – it took some time to recover from all the highs and lows we’ve experienced, (especially the lows) and our roles for this new school year are just starting to take shape. Here are my diary highlights:
July 1st: Just returned from my last all-school mountain camping experience with 100 kids. No quaint wooden cabins here. Just another rundown, spartan hotel structure with a confusing maze of hallways, obviously conceived so that one could hose the whole place down after a group came through! My roommate was a deaf mother, lucky woman. Every whisper resonated off of the tile floors and plaster walls. When I tried to find a sympathetic ear, everyone laughed me off and said that this was the stuff of wonderful childhood memories for them! The fun started by making the kids hike 4 hours to get to the place. Then after eating poorly and staying up most of the night, lots of kids were too sick to hike back. They can’t wait to do it again next year! This was the last hurrah for Olivia’s ninth grade class, (they got to sleep in tents) many of whom have been in class together since she arrived at age 7. All but 5 will move on to public high school/trade school settings.
July 20th: David and I are “worshipping with the Word” together during the week at church and I am starting to get new revelation about Jesus as we sing “new songs” based on a section of scripture. David has another blood test and ultrasound due to increasing discomfort. Results show that the culprit is his gall bladder. What a relief to finally have a diagnosis!
July 30th: Enjoying several days of painting at the school to spruce up the neglected primary building with “toxic” paint I bought a yr ago at 1/2 price. Changed my mind about using it on my stairwell and am migraine-free as long as I am outside. I had only planned to paint a couple of doors, but the paint went a long way, and I ended up doing 12 doors, a bench, and the walls of the play hut before the cans were empty. I’ve asked to be let go of my Janitor for Jesus role, and this is my final offering.
Aug. 18th: We schedule gall bladder surgery in Colmar for Sept. 6 and David gets pain meds so that he can enjoy our up-coming getaway. We receive a large gift that really helped with dr. bills and back-to-school shopping and check-ups for the kids.
Aug. 26th: Happy 50th to David – He’s in good company with our pastor and his wife also born in 1961!
I am attending my first YWAM staff conference with David and really enjoying it with him, despite sleeping on the floor and eating on cheap plastic for 4 days. YWAM France has had a huge growth spurt in the last year, so there is lots of young energy here with new implantations after years of stagnation with aging staff at the 3 bases. Now that these French-speaking teams have met us and know where we are, we hope to welcome them in future outreaches to help with our school and church needs.
Aug. 29th: We are leaving the conference a day early in order to celebrate our 25th wedding anniv. tomorrow. On the way to our B&B, we drive around Verdun to see some WW I sites. Now I know where all the fathers of France are buried – there are hundreds of thousands of them here.
Aug. 30th: Our romantic getaway was all we’d hoped for and the luxuries were so much sweeter after roughing it at the conference. God’s hand stayed my PMS migraines and David felt good. Thank you, Jesus!
Sept. 6th: David’s surgery reveals a very sick gall bladder stuck to the liver, so more invasive probing was needed. He will stay an extra night. Happily, a friend at church is a nurse at the hospital, which is 40 min. away, and she conveniently transports him during her commutes. My friend Helen (that I help weekly) is also rushed to the hospital with blood clots.
Sept 8th: Helen and David come home (and his surgeon goes on vacation.) I learn that Olivia’s class doesn’t have an English teacher and can’t figure out why no one has told me about it. After talking to the director, I decide to accept the position for the first semester, but will not start until the end of the month, after their class trip. This turns out to be a smart decision…
Sept. 11th: The devil seems to be partial to this day. At 1am David wakes up with increasing chest pain and I call an ambulance when it becomes unbearable. He spends the night in the local emergency room and an x-ray reveals a chest full of gas bubbles. His care is delayed without his surgeon available and slower test results on Sundays (?!) I go over after a few hours of sleep and try to comfort him – I have never seen him so miserable and the morphine is not touching it. I can’t believe how well he is communicating in French in the middle of it all. In the meantime, Helen was up all night praying for us without knowing why.
He is transferred back to Colmar at 11am and I go straight to church from there with a tear-streaked face. Announcements are being made and I am called up to the front immediately for prayer and hugs. I learn from another nurse that these gas bubbles are a side effect that is very painful, but they must pass out of the body naturally. I go home relieved, and when I visit him with the pastor that evening, he is much calmer and feeling better.
Sept. 12th: We learn that he will stay for testing and observation for 3 more days. See his blog for the gritty details!
Sept. 14th: I make 3 dozen Hungarian cookies for Olivia’s fund raiser to go to Budapest. I notice that the cat is scratching his ears too often. I attend a Sozo team meeting to organize new recruits who need to start observing sessions.
Sept. 15th: David has been brought home when I return from a heavy Sozo session this evening and he needs to unload. I listen for one more hour. Olivia has a terrible cold 4 days before her departure and found a louse on her scalp. The cat definitely has ear mites. Noah is wanting to come home for the weekend. My PMS has started. I am running on fumes. I douse the cat with vinegar water, smear mayonnaise on Olivias head and pop her a Nyquil, refuse Noah’s request, and go to bed until my exhaustion, migraine and depression passes a few days later.
And that brings me to now. I put the photo of David serving me coffee at our B&B on our desktop to remind myself that this was not a dream.
You may be asking, “How would you rate your first socialized hospital experience and how much did it cost?”
“Did Olivia survive her trip? Is teaching English to 5 sophomores easier than keeping a chateau clean?”
Well have more complete answers for you very soon, so stay tuned till next month!
Hate v. Love :
Our school here has remained France’s best kept secret for 25 yrs until we came under the French media spotlight last week: A beloved teacher and church member of 10 years who had renounced his homosexual lifestyle, secretly starting living it out again last summer. When reconciliation was impossible, the school had to let him go. He had found a job in the public schools, but suddenly decided to take his story to the press and file for discrimination. When interviewed by the press, our pastor was very honoring and respectful of Cyril as a person while still drawing a distinct line about the values we could and could not support as a private Christian school. Yesterday, Cyril sent an apologetic e-mail to our pastor, not realizing how far it would go (hate mail from the public, re-opening the wound, twisting of the story by the time it reached the French AP, etc.)
So during our Sunday service, we worshipped victoriously – Love had won!
The free publicity has put our school is on the map – Will we draw more families with hearts to support our values and efforts?
Our pastor also forwarded to us all the e-mails of support from Christians and pastors all over France, Belgium, and Switzerland. God is using this to separate the sheep from the wolves and build unity to strengthen the French church for future attacks!
And the timing of passing this “test” the same week that we gained ownership of our church building was not missed by our pastor either. We celebrated crossing the Jordan and possessing the land! Details below.
The Kingdom of the world v. The Kingdom of God
In 2007, a Christian businessman bid on an abandoned 4-story building and won as the only bidder. He was willing to rent it to us, and we managed to renovate one floor for our sanctuary. When we needed more space, but we weren’t willing to invest anymore as renters, and he wasn’t willing to sell…until the economy collapsed a year later. Then a small group of capable church members set to work on how we could finance not only the purchase, but the renovation as well – not an easy sell to the banks, considering the size of our church. After each meeting, it felt like they had taken 1 step forward and 2 steps back, but 2 yrs later, (covered by lots of prayer and faith declarations,) the purchase is complete with the bank willing to count the sweat equity already invested as a large part of the down payment for the loan. Our intention is to create 3 stories of multi-purpose, rentable spaces, generating the income needed to pay back the mortgage.
We sit in an industrial zone of ugly buildings that are empty or being rented by a humanist organization, a Muslim mosque, and 3 mechanics (whose cars fill up our parking lot space.) So after a final hit from the enemy on the school side last week, God hit back with a KO that stood for Kingdom Ownership! And with that comes authority and advancement not only in our little zone, but for our region!
Death v. Life
The Sozo ministry has had its heavy moments for me with teenagers in particular. When they spend years in our Christian school and still carry a spirit of death, you know they are hiding something. One girl, recently baptized, had had 3 sessions and had stopped cutting herself, but still struggled spiritually and emotionally. Because I knew her family dynamics, I wondered if it was worth continuing, knowing it would be a miracle if her father would ever seek help for his issues that were hurting his daughter. Then lo and behold, after her last session where she finally confessed her darkest secrets and we finally gave a death blow to her self-hatred, her father walked in to pick her up and asked if we knew how to break off a death curse that was put on him! “Why yes sir, we do! When would you like an appt.?” But it gets better.
Her troubled guy friend finally got expelled from school 2 weeks before the end of the year (and his absence really helped seal her last healing session.) After all I had heard, it was all I could do not to march into the principal’s office and set him straight – we had to stop accepting students from families who wanted us to fix their kids without fixing themselves because at this age, they were a terrible influence on other vulnerable kids like this girl. This boy’s father was also on my radar screen all year, but now that they were no longer at the school, it seemed too late to help them, and I’d said, “Good riddance.”
Well, Thank God Jesus is on the throne and not me. He has used it all to His glory. It turns out that the boy’s expulsion got his dad’s attention enough to admit that he doesn’t know how to love his son and he is asking for help now. The boy saw such a change in the girl the next time he saw her that he is considering a session as well. And the girl’s father and another friend of the family both admitted that her transformation in the last few months has accounted for them wanting help for themselves. I thought a girl’s life was being sacrificed on the altar of male egoism, but like Jesus, her sacrifice is bringing 4 people to life! (In fact, I found out later that it was prophesied over this girl at birth that she would be the key to her dad’s healing!)
Now weren’t those better than the State of Florida v. Casey Anthony? We’ll keep you posted on the developments as they unfold!
Our summer has just gotten started and I’m trying not to think about this being our last one with Noah. It also marks the end of jr. high for Olivia, which is capped in France by passing a nationwide exam on the year’s learning. After a year of constant harping by the teachers and 2 formal practice exams, this hand-written test is graded by a human, but not returned, nor given a precise grade when results are viewed on the internet. Just “passed,” “average,” “better than average,” or “very good.” (If you fail, they don’t even bother to list your name. In Olivia’s class of 17, 2 failed, several only passed, and only 1 did very well.) Olivia did “better than average” and our “baby” will be the first to tackle 3 yrs of French high school. We’d like to reward her with a set of books she’s been drooling over: the Anne of Green Gables series.
Because they are expensive in euros from amazon France, we thought we’d ask if any of our readers had copies that they would like to pass on to her? She would also like to sell the first 11 books in the Mandie series (great Christian mysteries for pre-teens, like new.) Are there any takers for $30?
Until September, we’ll be having fun with a few family day outings, sprucing up the primary school building, installing new (used) computers in the lab, continuing 2 hours of mid-week worship, getting Noah ready for his senior year, and attending the annual mandatory YWAM staff conference in Champagne at the end of August, while simultaneously trying to celebrate David’s 50th and our 25th anniversary!
Our readers have been pretty quiet this year – Do stay in touch!
Imagine attending a church where almost everyone grew up in a dysfunctional family.
Now imagine that half the congregation consists of older single women. This reflects a particular dynamic in France’s history where everyone was married in the Catholic Church, but many were not living out any kind of real faith. If the woman, who is typically more spiritually sensitive, had a born-again experience, she was often rejected by the family and depended on the evangelical church for emotional support after the marriage dissolved. Those who converted at a younger age have lacked godly young men to choose from, and also remained single. Those who were born into an evangelical family are rare indeed.
Next, imagine most of the married couples struggling so much that only one spouse attends regularly, and the pastor never teaches on marriage for fear of putting off all the singles. (And we’ve noticed that any seminars offered occasionally by ministries in the area are lightweight weekends that do not address serious issues.)
Now picture the behavior of the children of these single moms and limping marriages.
Finally, imagine that same church without a paid, trained family or children’s pastor on staff.
Welcome to the average French church, ours included.
Yes, I have bragged about our radical worship and our big faith for our big building, but our body was still full of hurting people in self-protection mode and our vision to impact our city would go nowhere fast unless some healing happened. Well, we turned a corner this month , and I am so honored to be one of the drivers. It’s time to tell the whole story…
12 years ago, when we were being sent out on the mission field by our church, I received a prophecy that I would be involved in counseling. Like Abraham’s wife Sarah, I laughed. I wanted breakthroughs for myself and others, but not enough to go back to school in order to be qualified. I also hadn’t heard a single person say that counseling changed their life, but that it simply facilitated a lifelong process.
During our 2 years running YWAM schools in Scotland, I saw that pastoral care was such a necessary component that students with those giftings took on the role for other struggling students when they saw it lacking in the staff. I started getting hungry.
Then 2 years ago, Janet Richards brought the Sozo inner healing ministry from Bethel Church to our church and trained some of us who were around during the summer and could follow English. (This is a Greek word meaning “saved, healed, and delivered” used in the Gospels to describe Jesus’ impact on people.) It turned out to be exactly what I was looking for. The tools were simple to learn and use, and after a gentle 2 hours or less, most people experienced an intimate encounter with the Trinity that started them down a new path of walking in confidence as a beloved child in the arms of their happy heavenly family, whose every need will be met. And for a culture who had no emotional needs met as children, this kind of healing must follow salvation in order for them to be a healthy part of the Body of Christ. (And now you know why the Parisians have such a bad reputation!)
In the last 9 months, as the first Sozo team in France, we’ve led 30 other people down this path, and we have a 3-month waiting list. We’ve offered these sessions without charge to our body,
and I fully expect that we will have ministered to almost everyone at least once, by the end of the year. And as it expands outside the church walls, I anticipate this as a source of additional income for us as people recommend us to friends and family members.
That corner I mentioned, was turned when we held a Sozo testimony night at church recently. I had already testified about my personal victories over rejection and our healed marriage, but that night, I had something even better: I had just returned from visiting my family in Phoenix and had the privilege of doing sessions with my parents and my brother. I tearfully announced that my brother was healed and delivered of the shame and guilt that had plagued him his whole life, and our relationship, that was stolen over 30 years ago has been completely restored!! He celebrated his own resurrection on Easter Sunday this year and I am completely undone every time I think about how God aligned everything that allowed me to be part of it.
This was followed by several more testimonies and by the end of the evening, there was a definite shift: Up until that night, we all had to be very discreet and people were ashamed to admit they needed help and kept the experience to themselves. After the service, people flocked for an appt., and at a gathering the next day people talked freely about their specific struggles with me that they hoped we could address. FREEDOM!! Another person remarked that love was growing in the atmosphere in the church!
We are offering training next month in order to enlarge our team and better equip those who pray for the sick in our healing rooms. We’ve also just started to invade the school by leading groups of kids in “heavenly encounters” (quality time with Jesus through visits to heaven in their imaginations) and doing mini-group Sozo sessions to close doors of fear and hate in their lives. It beats the heck out of a flannelgraph story.
Do you sense an acceleration towards the end of the age with increased instability, natural disasters and shifts in economic and political powers? But at the same time, God is releasing more effective evangelism through media and technology, greater supernatural gifts, and quicker inner healing so that we are ready to be victorious in our assignments that will hasten Christ’s return!
Are you getting ready?
PS: The other goal of my trip home was to have Noah do some college visits, and God set this up as well: Not only did Noah firmly decide on the School of Informatics at IUPUI (Indianapolis) to study an aspect of game design, he also met a soulmate at Rachel’s young adult group who will start his studies there next year in the same program! They both got prayer and prophecy for their futures and want to impact gaming for the Kingdom of God. He also benefited from a Sozo while home and will finish his junior year wearing his first suit to the big school Spring Banquet with his first date.
When your testimony revolves around a healed marriage 15 yrs ago, it’s easy to coast and think, “We’ve got that covered.” We’ve had a couple of boosts since then, but nothing like what happened to us 2 weeks ago. The Richards highly recommended this 5-day version of an 18 week course, started by a couple from Bethel Church 3 yrs ago called Love After Marriage. This is the same church that has fueled our inner healing ministry and whose teachings have transformed our minds and spirits in the last year. So when we found out that a bi-lingual training course was happening over in Germany, we eagerly set aside the week (to celebrate our 25th anniv. + my birthday a little early) and watched the 1100 euros come in to cover all the costs!
The actual course is well-described on their website. Here is OUR testimony from 50 intense hours together:
I discovered hidden self-rejection that was hindering my ministry and my marriage, got rid of it, and have tools to attack it if it comes back!
We learned to stop trying to solve relational problems with our minds, which fed arguments and rarely worked. Now we ask the Holy Spirit for revelation instead. Wow – it came in waves that week. We could suddenly see the spiritual roots of our behavior and attacked the evil spirit attached to that sin (often in our family line) instead of each other.
We learned a method to reconcile with each other to heal important wounds that were 25 years old and that we had given up on ever resolving. Behold, He really can make all things new and it’s even better when it happens in the springtime when creation is doing the same thing!!
We were asked to write and then read a letter from Jesus to our spouse, with the help of the Holy Spirit. David had me in tears as he recounted how much Jesus loves to dance with me. The bonus was that our 10-hr days of sitting were broken up by learning to dance as a couple to a certain romantic worship song, and by Friday, we were in perfect sync, like I’d always dreamed of!
We were reminded that our physical intimacy is of high importance to God because it is a declaration of the restoration of being emotionally, physically, and spiritually “naked and unashamed” with each other and with Him through the sacrifice of Jesus. We “nailed to the cross” a list of issues that have kept us from having “a more perfect union” and we have invited the Holy Spirit into our bed to break us out of old patterns and help us walk out the Song of Solomon in deeper ways…
I have heard that the French tend to believe that passion can only exist in a context of adultery, so one of our “ministries” is marital public affection. We are a very visible couple in the church, so our actions give a model for the youth and create hope and desire in the broken marriages around us. Our pastor and school founder is desperate for help in this area, knowing full well that healthier couples mean happier students at our school.
We also know that when we lead worship with deeper love and unity between us, it can only enhance greater intimacy in worship for our church body, and we saw concrete evidence on the Sunday of our return: the husband/father of the little boys that I help care for unplugged his computer recently to focus on writing music. He had also gone through an inner healing session with us about a month ago. His countenance and demeanor have changed drastically and his song that we sang could have been an advertisement for what David and I had just lived! We have been waiting a long time to see the French write their own intimate worship songs from healed hearts (instead of singing translations) and it has happened! And the second time it was played (in the context of our 12 hr. tabernacle) couples started waltzing to it!! It brought tears to my eyes…
This year’s royal wedding in Britain has become a prophetic sign for me – William and Kate decided to wed at the same time that God is restoring us for the second half of our married life! What a wonderful reminder that God is preparing us all for the ultimate royal wedding with King Jesus. The marriage at the end of Revelation takes us back to Genesis: access to the Tree of Life in the garden await us in the new heavens and the new earth, but now the snake is forever trapped in his lake of fire. We will spend eternity naked and unashamed with everyone else who has ever said, “I do” to Jesus while on the earth, but why not join us and start living eternity now ?
Noah and I leave for Phoenix on Saturday. I will miss David like never before…
Over Christmas, we made a little film of our life here and it includes an abbreviated tour of our house. We are very excited about it and we hope it will give our supporters a better idea of what they are supporting. I used to complain about my house and our inability to make it the home of my dreams, but now I know better. If I bless my house, it will bless me. I also read a book recently by a woman who gets visions of heaven. She reports that we will have the house of our dreams to enjoy for eternity, (and has cool testimonies to back it up,) so I am no longer worked up about where I live for just 30-40 more short years!
But back to our theme, it seems that in the last couple of months, God has been using my house to communicate deeper things with me, and there’s nothing like a secret message to liven up a housewife’s day! Let’s start with the trash…
I have 15 wastebaskets in my house, thanks in part to all the recycling we have to do. Ten years ago, during our time in Germany, this new idea took a huge amount of mental and physical energy. Now it is second nature. In my kitchen alone, I have a trash can for non-recyclables, a pedal bin for biodegradables, and a bag for collecting paper, plastics, and aluminum. Under my stairs, I store the bags until pick-up day and have a bigger bin in which to collect my little cornstarch bags of biodegradables. In another small closet nearby, I collect my glass in a cardboard box and toss regular trash bags into a normal trash bin. But to encourage better recycling and make collection fees more fair, we will be given a new bin next month with an electronic chip. On collection day, it will be weighed and we will be charged accordingly. And what message is coming from all of this?
Well, January has been a quieter month, so I’m taking advantage of it and feeding a lot of good books that are making me hungry for more of God. If I’m serious about pursuing that, I have to look at how I spend my time. Having my trash weighed every week is a good reminder for me to weigh in where my time was wasted. A line from a favorite worship album is my new mantra: “I’m makin’ plans to waste my life on You…” And God seems to be using all the bottles in my house as a visual aid right now. It seems they are all getting empty at the same time: the oils and vinegars in my kitchen, the laundry detergent and softener, my shampoo, my astringent and face cream, the hand soap. Having this many nearly empty bottles make me a little nuts because I need to buy the replacements, but have no convenient storage for them while waiting to finish those last drops. So my house feels cluttered for a few weeks until the switch is made. God has done a lot of work in me in the last year, but compared to what I’m reading in these books, I feel like one of those bottles, and I am restless to get filled up with more of Him.
In stark contrast to the trash cans, I have only 6 windows in my house, and 3 of them need to be replaced. 2 of them are the front windows right on the street, so they let in lots of noise and cold air. The French literally shutter themselves in at night for privacy, but I like to keep the shutters open so that passers by can see the life going on inside. (But in the winter, there is so much condensation that they see nothing! ) So in order to keep out the bad and still be a lighthouse in the neighborhood, I’m allowing window salesmen to come to the house for estimates. This has been very entertaining because they are some of the few non-Christians to darken my door, and I love sharing who we are and how God provides for our needs, just to see their reaction!
Moving on to my cramped cave-like laundry room, I have a top of the line washer and dryer, which I justify, since laundry is one of my ministries here (see the dvd.) Anyway, you might recall that we had a generous Christmas this year. I just wanted to mention that the house, via the washing machine, contributed to that when it stopped working and started blinking at us to check the filter. We dug out $9 in change! None of us keeps loose change in our pockets, so that was a real mystery. That was only 1 of many financial miracles in the last 2 months and God just keeps reinforcing the fact that He will continue to provide for us in a myriad of ways.
And then in my kitchen, I had hung this image taken from a French picture book. The theme was “Don’t worry, be happy!” (and this positive outlook is extremely rare in French children’s literature.) It was a very powerful and prophetic story for Noah and I ten years ago when we were really struggling with his schooling upon arrival in France. So I decided to frame the image and keep it before me until joy was a permanent reality in lives. Well, over Christmas I spontaneously grabbed Noah’s hand and asked him to dance with me while worship music was blaring in the kitchen, and he did! It was then that I knew that God had done a that work in both of us and that it was time to take the picture down. Another thing worth noting is that Noah has outgrown our house this year: There are 3 places where anyone over 5’10” has to duck. David has an automatic sensor, but my son was hitting his skull on a regular basis during his 3 weeks at home. Combined with the positive changes I saw in him over the break, this physical manifestation reassures me that he is ready to move on to “bigger things!”
In the verse, “As for me and my house(hold), we will serve the Lord,” the Hebrew word for “house(hold)” really does include the physical building. The French tend to decorate their homes with impersonal and generic art and decor, but chez nous everything on the walls has a story and testifies of God’s personal touch on our lives. What is your house saying to you and the world?
I have discovered “faisselle.” I’d seen this product in the dairy aisle, but because I didn’t know what it was and had become intolerant of milk and yogurt, (as well as coffee, tea, and o.j.) I never bought it. Then a friend ordered it at a restaurant and I had a spoonful. It’s a sour cream look-alike in complex packaging, but is actually a cheese. They like to eat it with honey for dessert. So why am I happy? Because honey in “sour cream” is a new taste sensation and I can digest cheeses! The recipe in the packaging recommended dumping it on french toast and sweetening it with maple syrup instead – YUM – Breakfast is fun again!
A YWAM intercession team of 8 came to our living room to pray for us and our house specifically. The timing was perfect because I had just had a rare attack of fear come on me after seeing x-rays of my neck with proof of encroaching arthritis. We kicked fear in the head that day.
Olivia is working at giant fish store for this year’s “sta-ahge,” as she continues to explore career paths the French way. She made an excellent choice since this is the coldest week of the year and the building is naturally heated and humidified by hundreds of fish tanks.
My son’s e-mails have become downright affectionate. As a freshman, he signed off as “Noah.” As a sophomore, he warmed up with “Love, Noah.” But his last e-mail finished with “I love you!” My cup runneth over.
I got to see the Christmas lights along the Champs Elysées with my own eyes in the middle of a rare Parisian snowstorm. We won’t talk about what happens when drivers abandon their cars and descend to join the throngs in the subway. Obviously, I lived to tell about it.
While I was shlepping around Paris, helping to plant the sozo inner healing ministry there, my husband was pulling off a handyman tour de force in my tiny laundry room. He has made Jesus’ words a living reality for me: My (laundry) yoke is now easy and the burden is light!
In preparation for Rachel’s much anticipated Christmas homecoming, I’ve done lots of decluttering and redecorating. Aaaaah!
I volunteered to set-up/decorate tables for the teacher’s Christmas banquet, but I’ll have my creative/tall kids around to help me!
We received a generous gift and a big inheritance check both this month!, so I am not shopping at the Salvation Army this year!
We get to give our family testimony during the church Christmas service with all 5 of us present and wearing new clothes!