A heart for france

An Update

15 Feb 2012

Just to let you know that we are settling into the new house ; still putting up shelves, unpacking boxes, but it's such a pleasure to take our time in order to see how things work out. It's also a pleasure to sort through things again. This winter has been extremely cold all of a sudden, so bedding, linen, household goods, clothes have been distributed to those in need. Lamastre is attracting newcomers who are victims of the crisis and needing to find cheaper housing. Welfare families are struggling to make ends meet.

Pascal and I have taken up our 'normal' ministry activities now. I felt like I was coming out of quarantine ! We can't say we were isolated, because so many people helped us and continue to. But all my energy was put into this move and the first settling in and I felt quite cut off from my friends.

Continue to pray for Murielle who is devouring books on different aspects of the Christian faith. Pray for Tanya who is so keen on evangelism, and for her contacts. Pray as I accompany Evelyne and Catherine in their outreach relationships. Pray for the World Day of Prayer organisation, and for our future Bible Vacation Club in April. We really need to be guided as to whom to invite and inform.

Please also pray that the church property in the other village will be sold so the new manse can be paid for.

So life goes on and nothing is ever really predictable. Thank God for God, who watches over us and gives us strength for each day, and for His Spirit which guides us in our choices.

Home at last !!

28 Jan 2012

We are praising the Lord for our new home. We were finally able to move last weekend and are really enjoying settling in and setting it up for our family life and ministry needs. The Lord has really provided.

We are praying for the sale of the former church and manse buildings which should cover the price of this new pastoral home and avoid drawn out loans.

We are thankful for so much help in moving; even the Reformed Church couple organised to have our moving team eat at their manse. It took away all the pressure to provide and set up, leaving me free to coordinate the move.

This week I also started up some of the ministry activities I had had to stop while renovating the house and preparing the move (not to mention the month we were all 5 of us ill just after Christmas!) It was great to be back and has made me even more determined to set up my office to be really efficient.

One of the pleasures of moving was being able to sort through so many papers. I had kept most of my notes from 3 years of Bible College, and really hadn't looked at them for years. As I sorted through what I thought I should need in the future, I was struck by how much we learned, how precious those classes were. I know where to look for much of the material if I need it again, but the other positive discovery was how much of our course work I had integrated into my life and ministry as well. So a big grateful prayer to the Lord for all those wonderful teachers, but also for His Holy Spirit who continues to teach us and guide us.

I realized also that it's vital to put into practice what we learn and that's the way it sticks even after all these years. I'm now looking out for opportunities to transmit some of this precious knowledge to other women - discipling them to disciple others.

God Bless you in 2012

08 Jan 2012

May 2012 be a positive year for you all with joy to share with all around you, peace to calm stormy waters, love which deepens and matures, strength to get through the inevitable hard days, and the right friends at the right time to support you. God bless each and every one of you.

The Girard Family missed out on the 'Good Health' side of the New Year, with all of us ill - some respiratory infection. 

We are still in the world record breaking longest house move of all time!! Unfortunately, there is still delay in signing the final sale papers, but we are planning to move the big objects 21st January, leaving us time to clean the current appartment. I cancelled all my appointments and meetings for most of December, and have done the same for all of January in order to get this house move completed and to set up the new manse for our family and our 2 ministries. Kitchen won't be in until near the end of February, but I'm so looking forward to inviting people again and building up the hospitality ministry. These are very material things, but our aim is to enhance our ministries and to build up important relationships.

Moving house

16 Dec 2011

Just to let you know we are in the full process of renovating and moving house with all the ups and downs you can imagine !

Our ministry work continues but on a reduced level. We are very thankful for the great help given by several of our church members, impressed by their endurance and patience, ashamed by our lack of physical condition (we have been living with muscle stiffness for over a month!!) and looking forward to being settled. It won't be finished before Christmas and will probably take the whole of January to get into working order. However, we are praying that this new manse will be a valuable tool for all the pastors in the future as well as a well-adapted family home.

The Lord be praised for all the material wealth we have available to us and pray we will use it wisely and for His service.

Two encouraging developments

06 Dec 2011

Praise the Lord for Murielle, the neighbour of one of our church members, who has accepted Christ and joined our Tuesday morning group of prayers.

Praise the Lord also for Serge who is slowly coming back to God after a number of years 'in the wilderness'. Pray he will continue along this path and be enormously strengthened in his faith. Pray for a wise Christian man to accompany him.

So this is Christmas .....

06 Dec 2011

In France, Christmas is relatively low key. Because we live in a so-called secular country, there is not the same religious build up. Lovely decorations go up and town councils have swapped to economic light bulbs; shops have beautiful windows; some houses are now decorated and lit up at night. But where is Jesus ??

The 3 main churches in Lamastre (Catholic, Protestant and Evangelical, but note that we are talking about an average of 40 people at each church service in a town of 2600!!) have got together to organise a joint Christian book stall in an empty shop right in the centre of town. Perfect! Our ladies got together to decorate the store fronts and now there are angels, and shepherds, wise men, manger scenes and bibles everywhere! People have been very admiring. Books seem to be getting sold also.

Pray that this will make the average non-church goer think about God for a bit and get curious.

Our Christmas celebration will be Sunday 11th December. Our teens have a big role to play this year with a half-hour comedy play on "who is the central figure in the Nativity play?", a couple of dances, organizing our Primary-age kids into a dance. We have formed a choir with 2 songs: one modern French praise song and one traditional Christmas carol (Good Christian Men Rejoice! translated into French last century!)

The French don't have many of their own religious Christmas songs and you hear all sorts of versions of our Anglo-Saxon ones in shopping centres.

Can you believe that the only reason our church has a service on Christmas Day this year is because the 25th falls on a Sunday!

Most French follow the Catholic tradition of celebrating Christmas on Christmas Eve. Heard of midnight mass?

Please pray that at this time people will respond to our invitations to our celebration and to Christ's invitation to enter into their lives.

Time and relationships

15 Nov 2011

So far this new week has not gone as planned, but, hey! that's life in the fast ministry lane!!

Monday is my early morning walk with another mum - this is a relationship-building time as well as valuable exercise!

Mid-morning I'm usually on the phone to a far away 30ish year old who used to be in our youth group at our first church. She drifted away from the faith but has made a fabulous come-back (thanks in part to a zealous Jehovah's Witness!) and because she knows me, she asked if we could 'meet' regularly to discuss the Bible. The hour long session lasted for 3 hours this time! We are using Rick Warren's book to re-centre on the essentials, but after our chapter, I asked if she had anything else on her mind. Well, did she ever !!! Partner relationship & dealing with a stepson teenager. I'm so grateful to have done lots of reading and reflecting on these subjects, as well as studying them in my Christian Counselling course this year.

Monday afternoon's English lesson put off to Thursday afternoon. Replaced by watching Alpha France's new DVD collection for The Marriage Course with my hubby. Brought back memories of the course we did at St Hilary's Kew when in Oz in 2005. We are excited by this tool and eager to get it up and going. It's slow to get organised because other activities are more urgent.

 

Tuesday morning is usually supposed to be an hour set aside for the prayer triplet. This turned into an all-morning session as we poured out our different concerns about .... you guessed it! Relationships! This time it included family and church. An important airing of ideas, but a feeling of frustration because we are not sure the church community will reflect the same energy and innovativeness.

Supposed to go to the new manse to work on redecorating but was so late for lunch and had to share with husband what was discussed the morning (as regards the church, not the private side). So finished admin stuff, emails and did some taping for an elderly couple Pascal will visit.

4pm expecting a call from another pastor to discuss someone I'm following who has psychological problems. Ended up being late taking my daughter to music after that. But met up with a couple of women involved in organizing the World Day of Prayer in March, so had an impromptu meeting in the street.

What will tomorrow bring ? I admit that I like the lack of routine, the adaptability of being a missionary who can organize her own time around family and people, the unexpectedness of each day's events. I believe the Lord is in all this as I commit each day to Him. In any case, I rely on Him because I know He has a bird's-eye view of everything.

I do sleep very well at night too !

All Saints Day

01 Nov 2011

Today is a public holiday in France.

.All over France families are gathering together to visit the tombs of their dear departed. They clean the graves and place chrysanthamems to decorate them. Many attend special masses or pay the priest to pray especially for their deceased relative in order to ensure their soul enters Heaven. Even though the majority are not practising this is an important moment for French families.

We Evangelicals don't agree with this doctrine. We believe the Bible teaches that we are faced with a choice in the here and now. As Moses said to the Hebrews in the desert :"The LORD has placed a choice before you. Life or death. Choose life!" (Deuteronomy). Having no opinion is the same as not choosing God.

8 of our teenagers including our 2 sons were presented with this choice this weekend. Our Union of Churches organizes a special 4 day camp for the teens of our Union and this year 250 young people heard messages on "Stop doubting, start believing!" mixed with social and sporting activities. We are so grateful for the effort that goes into these occasions - it really helps our young people meet with like-minded youth and to hear the Good News in a different way. We praise God that most of our 8 made a first commitment to God or a renewed commitment.

Here comes another weekend ...

14 Oct 2011

Gearing up for the taxi-ing, organisation, motivational roles my husband and I play - not only to our churches, but also for our kids!!!

This afternoon I leave for Lyon to continue with my Christian Counselling course. The topic is 'Sexual Abuse' - how to recognize the signs, describing the victim and the perpetrator, the psychological processes, how to accompany the victims in particular. I think it's going to be quite heavy going given the damage sexual abuse causes.

My husband will manage family life until I return Saturday evening. He'll have his Sunday commitments to prepare as well.

Sunday is a big day - Christmas choir rehearsals (I'm not really a highly qualified musician, but I know how to organize and lead, so it will be a group effort!), church service (thankfully, I don't have any Sunday School teaching this week), then a quick lunch before doing the final session of Neil Anderson's 'Freedom in Christ' course with a young lady. Followed by a dance rehearsal for our girls for the Christmas presentation and a play rehearsal for our young people until 7pmish. Pascal and I keep our eyes on things but are not the people in charge.

Home to eat and try and spend time 'en famille'; do the ironing so Luc goes back to boarding school with a clean kit; check homework, notices, etc for school then finally off to bed. The next morning Pascal takes Luc back to his school leaving at 6:45 am!

That's the busyness side. But behind all this is the desire to help people go further with the Lord. Discipling and mentoring have become our leitmotifs this year, but it takes time and energy before people are able to detach themselves from our accompaniment. We are conscious of wanting to accompany our own children as well, so need to make time for them.

We are particularly concerned by a certain passivity in our country parish. We would so like them to be more stimulated to reach out in their community. After 3 years here, we are still negotiating the cultural barriers to creating a more vibrant, Spirit-filled community. (I had used the words 'Christ-centred' but I think it is the case, but there isn't the responsiveness.)

As the Aussies say: "Havagudweegend!"

May the Lord be your motivation and inspiration this weekend.

Well, that was the weekend ...

09 Oct 2011

When many people are counting on the weekend to relax and wind down after a week's work, the Girard family is in full swing.

  • contacting people
  • rehearsing for the Christmas presentation
  • checking things are in order for the Sunday services
  • we have even been known to spend Saturdays preparing the service or sermon or teens' group teaching ......

 

Along with the church side, we taxi our 3 children around to their sporting and music commitments and try to communicate with each other so everyone knows what's happening for the next week.

Sound familiar ? We are no different to any missionary/ministry family, and probably any other committed family helping out in their local church.

Once the kids are back in school on Monday, we breathe sigh of relief, but our official day off is Wednesday, which is also the day the kids don't have school when they are at Primary age, and where they only have school in the morning at Secondary level.

Our eldest child is at boarding school during the week in order to qualify as a car mechanic.

We live and work in a country area in the upper middle part of Ardèche, a hilly, mainly agricultural part of France. We'd like to make the most of the quality of life here, but find our busy lives keep us concentrated on ministry and opportunities for ministry.

Each year we determine to be less activist, yet we always end up coordinating, leading, mentoring, witnessing, organising, preparing, doing ..... Our aim is to train leadership in our 2 churches to share the work and responsibility, and to encourage our church members in outreach.

Please join us in praying that the French church continues to grow, and that all our efforts do bear fruit for the Kingdom.

Pray also for down time for us so we can be wise in our activities.

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