A heart for france

Where is Spring???

29 May 2013

Winter this year has dragged on so long that even the most positive of people are complaining and feeling low. "Always look on the bright side of life" we used to sing (thanks to 'the Life of Brian' - sorry about the controversial reference!!) and as an Aussie I've always welcomed rain knowing that our reserves need to be filled.

Some see these climatic changes as a consequence of our bad management of the earth's resources (cf Genesis), others as natural, others as a punishment that God is bringing upon us .....

Putting these debates to one side, my husband and I are feeling low - low in energy, in motivation, and feeling solitary in our vision for our churches here. In fact, we have simply being doing too much and our reserves are not being refilled (inspite of all our rain!!). So officially on the borderline of exhaustion, we are cutting down on our initiative type actions and just maintaining the daily work. We have been able to fix our summer holiday dates (in July).

Thank you for praying for those of us who work in the Northern Hemisphere - our school year ends beginning July and many of us are in recess (not necessarily on holiday) for July and August. Pray that the summer period will help recharge our batteries. Pray that we will discern God's priorities for our work and that we don't get caught up in a sense of 'all-powerfulness'. We can confuse our personal identity with our ministry and can also fall into the trap of thinking that because we are capable (and trained for doing something) we should be doing it! Our job as missionaries is discipling and empowering others, as well as being a responsible model. We are also part of the Body of Christ - a part, with many others around us ......

Oh - a ray of sunshine - quick - I have to get my washing out!!

Gay marriage and gender choice debates in France

29 May 2013

I'm posting a commentary written by Lauren Moore who is also an Aussie missionary working in France. She sums up a very worrying situation and I'm grateful for her perspective. I'm really worried at the way government is operating here and rough shod decisions and lack of correct, informed, public, intelligent and respectful debate. Even if our rôle as Christians is primarily to proclaim the Kingdom of God and not to try and impose our way of living and believing (if not, we would be practising the equivalent of the sharia - think about it!), we do have a rôle to play in stating our beliefs and explaining why we understand things in that way - we have to be an alternative voice.

 

"The gay marriage debate is officially over in France last week, but yesterday the protests continued. There have been 3 major protests, gathering Catholics, Protestants and non-believers alike, to protest against the law to allow gay marriage and same sex couples right to adoption. There is also a change in the education system, to teach children that there is NO difference between male & female, that gender means nothing. (I promise I'm not exaggerating). Despite the protests being massive (hundreds of thousand up to millions of protesters gathered in Paris), nothing has been heard. Literally nothing in any of the articles of these laws have been stopped. Gay marriage, same-sex adoption, and the teaching that there is no gender have all been passed."

Grains of Hope

03 May 2013

Good luck to you French-speakers!

Here is the video clip created to promote a year-long collection of meditations on the theme of "May Your Kingdom Come". I contributed to this effort with one humble offering (those of you who heard me in Australia would have heard something on 1 Cor 15: 36-58).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUP7jIuqTv8

This collection was prepared for the 3-day Conference I helped with early April with 220 women from 30 different countries participating. We had such a blessed time. In the different sessions that addressed the theme what transpired the most was the fact that the Kingdom of God is advancing inexorably. One of the features of the conference was the chance several women had to share "Seeds of the Kingdom", in other words, ministries they were involved in (and had often started with one very small step of obedience) and that were the sign that the Kingdom of God was truly gaining ground.

A wonderful, rich time.

 

Being content

28 Apr 2013

Had a lovely 3-day retreat at the SIM France guest house and offices. Soula Isch took on the question of being content/satisfied. Here is one of the reflexions she found to share with us.

Vis le jour d'aujourd'hui, Dieu te le donne.
Live today right now, God gives it to you
Il est à toi,
It is yours
vis-le en lui.
Live it in Him.
Le jour de demain est à Dieu,
Tomorrow is God's
il ne t'appartient pas.
It doesn't belong to you.
Ne reporte pas sur demain
Don't carry over to tomorrow
le souci d'aujourd'hui.
Today's worries.

Demain est à Dieu, remets-le lui.
Tomorrow is God's - give it over to him
Moment présent est
The present moment is
une fête passerelle.
a festive passage/bridge.
Si tu la charge des regrets d'hier,
If you load it up with yesterday's regrets
de l'inquiétude de demain,
and tomorrow's worries,
la passerelle cède,
The bridge will collapse
et tu perds pied.
And you will stumble.

Le passé ? Dieu le pardonne.
The past? God pardons it.
L'avenir ? Dieu le donne.
The future? God gives it.
Vis le jour d'aujourd'hui
Live the present day
en communion avec lui.
In communion with Him.

 

by Bernadette Coupey.

Good Friday - thanks to Bronwyn for passing this on.

29 Mar 2013

Just thought I’d share this poem about Good Friday. Bruce Dawe, Australian poet, wrote this in 1964. I am shocked each time I read it. Although confronting, it conveys a clear image of that Friday, from the perspective of one of the soldiers…

AND A GOOD FRIDAY WAS HAD BY ALL

          You man there keep those women back
          and God Almighty he laid down
          on the crossed timber and old Silenus
          my offsider looked at me as if to say
          nice work for soldiers, your mind's not your own
          once you sign that dotted line Ave Caesar
          and all that malarkey Imperator Rex
 
          well this Nazarene
          didn't make it any easier
          really - not like the ones
          who kick up a fuss so you can
          do your block and take it out on them Silenus
          held the spike steady and I let fly
          with the sledge-hammer, not looking
          on the downswing trying hard not to hear
          over the women's wailing the bones give way
          the iron shocking the dumb wood.

          Orders is orders, I said after it was over
          nothing personal you understand - we had a
          drill-sergeant once thought he was God but he wasn't
          a patch on you
 
          then we hauled on the ropes
          and he rose in the hot air
          like a diver just leaving the springboard, arms spread
          so it seemed
          over the whole damned creation
          over the big men who must have had it in for him
          and the curious ones who'll anything if it's free
          with only the usual women caring anywhere
          and a blind man in tears.
 
 
          Bruce Dawe

We expect great things from God!

18 Mar 2013

The activities surrounding the World Day of Prayer brought together 3 of Lamastre's churches: the Catholic Church, the Reformed Church, which is now called the United Protestant Church (Eglise protestante unie- a combination of Reformed and Lutheran French churches) and our Free Evangelical Church. We had our struggles and our differences, but our de-briefing meeting this morning was positive and an acknowledgement of the blessing received by being a part of this effort.

We started in February with a typical Ardéchois meal: caillettes, tome de fromage frais, red wine, mandarines.

finding out about being a foreigner

The Wednesday kids' activities attracted 31 children and a number of carers stayed on to observe and accompany. My workshop went well, with interesting contributions from Vito (30ish Italian immigrant), Marie (30ish Belgian immigrant) and my 2 Franco-Australian teens! So proud of the way they helped.

During the afternoon service, 38 people attended. For the evening service we counted 56 with only 3 children attending. This was disappointing because we had hoped to attract more families.

However, we are encouraged, and know that all over the world people were praying for France. This, along with a 21 day prayer effort called 'Pray for France' and we are expecting things to move in France.

I was interrupted in this blog by a phone call which encouraged me a lot. One of our church families went to visit another more isolated family on Sunday and there was a good deal of sharing. The upshot is that hopefully for tomorrow morning's prayer and share time we will have 'a full house' followed by a meal together. Obviously this is unusual because people are not working 'normal' jobs, but it facilitates organising times together.

Please pray for these get -togethers. It's a sure way of building up relationships within our church and for opening up to new people. Our biggest need at present.

Campaign - Pray for France

12 Mar 2013

QUOTE:

This week (March 10-16) we are praising "The God of Inheritances" as we celebrate how God has used his people in France and how He is still blessing them and making them a blessing today!

Below you will find the major themes for each day (as translated from Objectif France's prayer guide)!

Prayer Topics

Sunday, March 10: Martyrs - Witnesses

Monday, March 11: Martin de Tours - Intimacy

Tuesday, March 12: The Huguenots - Prophecy

Wednesday, March 13: Destined to be a voice

Thursday, March 14: Hesitant destiny

Friday, March 15: Human and humanitarian rights

Saturday, March 16: Love and relationships

Virtually praying

This past Sunday, we tried something new to bring our community together in a way we'd never tried before with a virtual prayer group. Please "like" us on Facebook to see how to join us for the next two Sundays of the campaign at 7:00 PM Eastern here in the United States. There may be other "spontaneous" times of prayer that will be announced on our Facebook page during these next few weeks, so don't miss out!

May you be blessed again this week as you go forth in prayer and intercession for France!

In Christ,
signature
David Broussard
President, Impact France

What's on at the Vatican!

12 Mar 2013

Just heard yet another news item on what's happening at the Vatican on French National radio. 

 

Ever since Benedict announced his resignation, the French press, TV, radios and newspapers have been reporting on what's happening. 

 

For a country which has wanted to ignore religious beliefs in the public domain for so long, this is getting a bit ridiculous. Only 8% of the population consider themselves to be practising Catholics, although nearly 60% would say they are Catholic because they were baptized as babies in the Catholic church.

 

It's also interesting to see what and how the press are reporting on events. A few weeks ago (only!) they were full on about the the legislation on "Marriage for All" (the right for homosexual couples to get married and the question of adoption in homosexual couples) and very strongly supporting the bill being debated in Parliament. They minimized all opposition and tried to ridiculize those who spoke out against homosexual marriage especially in the huge demonstrations organised by religious groups - the main work and support base was done by Catholics and the Catholic Church tried to make its voice heard in a serious, valid manner.

 

Now, we have daily snippets of information which don't tell us anything major: apart from the main news about the resignation and the information that it's the first since 1400s;  the Cardinals all arrived the other day: they will soon lock them in; the fire has been lit. This mornings news was about the crowds in the Vatican square coming to see, wanting to be part of the action.

 

It's significant the way they talk about religious facts: the crowds were multinational and the cacophony of different languages spoken compared to those in the TOWER OF BABEL! What's the implication ? That these people are all waiting for the judgement of God and for the Tower (The Vatican) to be knocked down? What's the attitude of the reporter in this? Is he just trying to show off a minimal knowledge of Biblical history? Is he anti-Catholic (hoping they will be judged???) Why didn't he at least give them credit for being believers and use the image of Pentecost??? That would at least have been a proper Christian image and relevant to the beginnings of the Christian church. 

 

Even if the Catholic Church has deviated from the vision God first had of building up His people, there are real believers in their midst. Many in those crowds are there to pray and not just to all the Saints and Mary Mother of God, but to their Creator God who made it possible for all of us to enter His Kingdom through the faithful actions of His Son Jesus Christ.

It's France's turn this year...

19 Feb 2013

 

Here in our little country town - there is LIFE!!!

 

For more than 15 years, women from the Catholic, Reformed and Free Evangelical (that's us!) churches have been getting together to organize the local version of the Women's World Day of Prayer (that is now open to all, by the way.)

 

When I arrived as the new Pastor's wife, it was expected that I get involved. The first year was 2009 - Papua New Guinea. Quite close to home really! It was a nice, staid experience, but not necessarily my cup of tea. However, I was called up for the next year's organisation. The group was getting older and looking for younger women to take over. The several women that I took along with me to the meeting were all younger and very involved in the children's ministry in our church. We said that if they wanted younger participants, they would have to reach a younger age-group in order to pass on the richness of the idea of Christian unity and prayer along with the discovery of a different country each year.

 

The Catholic church was in the process of holding a Mission in the region; their version of evangelizing their own people to re-awaken believers and renew the church.

 

So our mixed group of women, including Catholic nuns involved in their mission, came up with idea of involving children in the WDP celebrations.

 

In practice, this meant organizing activities and an introduction to the World Day of Prayer and the featured country on the Wednesday afternoon preceeding the first Friday of March. Probably the only time I thanked God for the French education system of no Primary School on Wednesdays, and only the mornings for the Junior and Senior High Schools!

 

The kids came along for the afternoon, then we invited them to take part in the Friday evening celebration. Of course, this meant that the families would come with them. We held a traditional celebration in the afternoon for those who preferred it and who don't like to go out at night, then the family celebration in the evening. It worked really well - great attendances and a generally positive attitude to the different churches getting together. It's always held in our church, too, so we are better identified now.

 

To these celebrations, we added a participative Bible study in the morning to get the most out of the prescribed texts and a meal based on the recipes of the featured country.

 

This year is a little different. We held a meal and Bible study earlier, in order to recruit new people to help with the kids' section and the actual celebrations. Now we are finalizing our preparations for Wednes 27th Feb for the kids afternoon. Then we'll have the 2 celebrations in our church on Friday 1st March.

 

This is also an opportunity to invite kids from non-practising families, especially since the issue of migrants in France is a hot one now. How do Christians understand their rôle in welcoming/integrating foreigners? What does Jesus ask us to do? Compare what He says with the Old Testament rules stated in Leviticus 18 and 19. What is the definition of 'foreigner'? In French, the word for 'foreigner' is 'étranger' which means 'stranger' as well, so this year's celebration, written by the French committee, asks participants to define "who is a stranger to me?" In the kids' section we are going to help them to understand that anyone who is different to me could be considered as a stranger/foreigner, so Jesus is asking me to accept that person and to value his/her differences as if we were reaching out to Jesus Himself.

 

A precious lesson.

And a bit ironic that I'm involved in promoting a positive attitude to foreigners as I am one myself!!!

 

May His kingdom come ....

 

See the Aussie WDP web page : http://www.worlddayofprayeraustralia.org/world-day-of-prayer/2013-france

The English Invasion

11 Feb 2013

We (church workers) have been aware for a number of years, that the fastest growing evangelical church in France was the Anglican Church establishing parishes in France to cater for its ex-pats. And I use the description 'evangelical' knowingly because many of these congregations have a vision of impacting their local community.

From time to time I buy an English paper called The Connexion which is full of articles about French politics, economics, helpful legal advice to ex-pats and ads for services where 'English is spoken'. Many are from ex-pats themselves setting up business in France. With house prices in the United Kingdom being so high, many were selling up and buying here in order to find a better standard of living (ie get away from the rain!!!). Many have retired here. Many have contributed to renovating lovely old buildings that the French couldn't afford to do. Some deserted villages have been entirely bought up by Dutch, for example, who re-build everything then rent out to holiday makers, especially from other countries.

However, the English in particular have brought their faith with them and, funnily enough, the French are very partial to their version of faith! Just as cup cakes are in fashion, and Gospel has been appreciated and sung everywhere, now Christmas Carol services are the 'must' and local Anglican communities (as well as other international churches) are making the most of this desire to really experience Christmas by organizing Carol concerts and home-made mince pies for their communities.

The English churches bring with them the community activities and spirit typical of their culture and the article gives a whole list of chances to meet together, to help one another and others, socialize, offer mother and toddler groups, etc; and chances to explore the Christian faith.

Rev Jeremy Cross of Christ Church, Brittany, has also noticed congregations are growing because "many people are happy to find a readymade English-speaking community".

The article concludes: "Whether in search of deaper meaning, family support, security, companionship, good works or even mince pies, the English-speaking flocks continue to worship."

In my experience, people are often more open to 'the idea of God' when taken out of their usual context or comfort zone. That can be through difficult circumstances, crises, change of lifestyle, travel, camps, adventures of all sorts. It's one area churches can help in and why it's so important to support Christian camps and seminars.

I have often longed for our anglo-saxon way of organizing our church life, because it does promote more chances to confront faith and to grow. But have always thought the French have to find their own way of provoking encounters, conversations, community experiences and bonding. In order for Christian community to endure, it has to be relevant to its base culture, although we missionaries are always confronted with the need for Christian faith to question cultural practices in the light of Biblical principles. So when I see growing evidence of French Christian initiatives, I rejoice and praise the Lord for the maturation of His Church here.

Some examples:

* the CNEF - conseil national des évangéliques en France

* a new Masters Degree in Church planting

* a coordinated effort to plant churches based on reliable statistics and wise use of resources

* the growth of Christian counselling which is vital to help Christians find balance and well-being (I don't mean in a new-age, individualistic selfishness, but in a wholesome, mature Christian way which allows Christians to fulfill their 'mission' in God's Kingdom)

* the growing number of training sessions on many subjects, including the all-important theme of CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP

* the growth of the Christian artistic and music industry/ministry.

And the list continues. This is on the national level, but I should find more local examples, especially in our own domain, (otherwise, I might feel discouraged about the impact or usefulness of our ministries!!!)

To be continued....

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