C'est La Rentrée

Our first real ‘Rentrée’

We just returned to Paris after three months back in the U.S. and a few days after getting back our son (E), 3 years old, started his first year of French public school. A few hours into the first day my friend (K) called to ask how I was doing. She told me this.

“In France, ‘La Rentrée’ (translated as re-entry in the beginning of September) is more important than January 1st. ‘La Rentrée’ is actually the new year. All the kids return to school or daycare, and most of the adults return to work after having had a full month of vacation in August. December 31st we may have a party, but ‘La Rentrée’ is the most busy and important fresh start to the year.”

And she is right, it feels like a new year for us as E is in school now and the new ministry year begins. We have reconnected with our teammates after the summer apart and we are ready to jump back into our relationships, bible studies, service projects and more.

So as we jump back in, would you spend a few minutes to pray for our larger World Team France team?

  • Pray for the 10 different churches, church plants, and projects that are in process
  • Pray for our 18 kids who have returned to or started school for the first time, plus 1 who is in college in the U.S. this year.
  • Pray for our friends and the many people we will serve this year, for the Spirit’s leading in their lives and ours and for the softening of many hearts towards Christ.

Merci!

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woman begging in Paris

On the street in Paris

If you have ever visited or lived in Paris, then you probably noticed people begging all over the city. There are people in need asking for small change or a “ticket de resto” (a meal ticket) at every busy intersection, in front of your favorite bakery, and on the metro (the subway) as you travel around the city. It can feel overwhelming and disheartening because of the sheer scale of how many people seem to be on the streets and in need.

City-wide homeless census

Recently, Paris carried out a census in which over 1,700 parisiens volunteered their time to walk the streets of Paris between 10pm-2am to count people sleeping rough on the streets. They counted almost 3,000 individuals but acknowledged it is probably an underestimate because there were some areas they didn’t get to, and whenever they saw a tent, they counted that as 1 (not wanting to disturb the potential whole families sleeping inside). And what makes the situation more challenging is that the problem (according to local charities and the government) is getting worse. There are more and more people and whole families being forced into poverty and homelessness either through difficult economic realities or due to mass population migrations. Paris also receives an average of 40 new people every single day and unfortunately not all of them will find employment and housing.

Sorry, this sounds very bleak doesn’t it. That wasn’t exactly my intention, but it is the reality of the current situation. I hope to talk more about this issue in the future, but my hope for today’s post is just to share a bit about what its’ like, about the recent census, and also to share a bit of my heart change towards people on the street.

Small gestures really do make a difference

For the first couple years here, I never gave homeless people anything (I made occasional exceptions for the musicians on the metro, if they were good). But I was afraid that if I started to give, either I would be enabling someone to make poor choices or what’s worse, enabling a mafia type situation that exploits and enslaves people (which is a real concern). Truthfully, I was also afraid to become soft, that if I gave, I would somehow become out of control and lose all common sense (I thought the only way to survive city living was to become a bit hardened otherwise I’d be taken advantage of). I was so afraid of these things, I did nothing.

But doing nothing really didn’t sit well with me. I desperately wanted to do something to help, but didn’t know how or what. So I found an association in Paris (Agape Street) that I volunteered with for a year. Every week, we gathered to assemble the food and hygiene supplies, then in small teams we went out and spent time with our neighbors who sleep on the street. We tried to go to the same places so we could develop relationships with people. I enjoyed it so much that this year, I started doing the same thing in our neighborhood. The biggest encouragement has been the realization that even though I probably can’t solve the bigger problem of getting 3,000 people off the street, I can do a little good right in my community. Within a 10-minute walk from my apartment, there are between 8-14 people usually and we actually can provide them with a humble dinner, a coffee, and a conversation. It’s not everything, and I still have A LOT to learn about how else we can help, but it feels good to do something.

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C'est La Rentrée

New Prayer Book

For quite some time Ryan has said he wanted to write more, and maybe someday even to write books, you know maybe later in life when he has more wisdom and more experience. But recently he decided that it was kind of silly to wait, and that, even though it’s probably true that when he’s older he may have more wisdom and experience, it’s not like he has no wisdom and experience now. And more time is not really a guarantee anyway, is it?

So this prayer book was born, How to Talk to God: Developing a Meaningful Practice of Prayerand it is very Ryan. What I mean by that is that it’s very deep and spot on in its wisdom, but it also comes across very clear and practical in its story and advice. That’s how Ryan is. He is brilliant (although he won’t admit it), but he has a way of communicating complex ideas very simply and sometimes with perfect analogies. He often helps me understand things on a whole different level than I thought about them before. And what matches Ryan’s intelligence is his discipline. Those of us who know him well, know how disciplined he is. Sometimes I admire his discipline like crazy, and sometimes it drives me crazy, if I’m being honest, because I do not have the same gift. Even if I said we were eating healthy from now on, we’re still ordering pizza tonight (it’s pizza night after all), and I’m even lactose intolerant. But not Ryan, if he values something highly, he sticks with it and spends a lot of time pursuing it.

And prayer, being in dialog with the God and King of the universe, is one of his top priorities. It’s not the longest book, it is a solid six chapters, but it’s all good stuff. So if you’re interested, check it out (in kindle or print edition) on Amazon here. The more ratings and reviews it gets, hopefully even more people will read it, so if you do happen to read it and like it, please comment on it too. Thanks!

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Bonne Année 2017

Happy New Year! A lot has happened since our last post, but instead of giving you the full Fall Recap, I will just write about what’s exciting us right now. Currently, our church is 6 adults and 4 children. We meet regularly for prayer, just to hangout, and to celebrate who God is and what he is doing in our lives. It is amazing to be a part of a true Christian community, who loves God and is learning to love one another. We are also practicing regularly serving and meeting one another’s needs. We are eager to figure out how we can serve God by loving our neighborhood and our city and we are ready to try out a few things this year. And we have developed dozens of new relationships in the last few months!

We’re beginning to realize and experience that although we live in a big city, we are also community members of a pretty tight village (or “quartier” in French) and a lot of our new friends have lived here most or all of their lives. Some close to our age had left but are now returning to raise their kids here. We still, at times, feel like outsiders, but we are working hard to weave ourselves into the local fabric and are humbled by what a privilege it is to be here. With so much darkness in the world, we desire to bring God’s goodness and love to bear here in our corner of the city.

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Summer Wrap-up

Our time on Home Assignment in America is over and we have returned to France. So how was it, the summer that is? Like most things in life, it was kind of a mixed bag, because we had so many joys and good times but also a lot of fatigue and stress when it didn’t seem like our financial needs could be met. But overall there were many more joys than stresses for which we are thankful.

Seeing family was wonderful and having it be a bit more laid back and not rushed was truly a gift. E got to meet so many family members he didn’t know he had, and do so many fun things with his grandparents. We even squeezed in a week of vacation in Tennessee with my (Erin’s) family. We will cherish the memories of these times until we’re together in person again, but we are so thankful for technology; which allows us to keep in touch regularly even from a distance.

We spent quality one-on-one time with over a hundred individuals and families, which we enjoyed so much because we got to better know what’s been going on in their lives. We saw many of our good friends, although one of the bittersweet elements was that some we didn’t get to see and some we could only see once or twice because of all the other things we needed to do. But we reflected on how unique it is that we can do this, not many people, as part of their jobs I might add, get to take a couple of months every few years to travel around and see people they know and care about. So even if it will never be perfect we are really thankful for this privilege.

We also visited 12 churches and several small groups and bible studies. It was a joy to be with all these different church families and worship in English! While visiting our home church in Massachusetts we dedicated E to the Lord, a simple act that acknowledges our hope and faith that he will make a personal decision to love the Lord too one day. It is incredible to have so many brothers and sisters in Christ who walk alongside us in our lives and work. Thank you to every person who has blessed us or invested in us in some way this summer and the last several years. We simply cherish your friendship, your partnership and your ceaseless prayers on our behalf.

And now, we’re back in Paris, “La Rentrée” or the start of the school & business year has begun and our church plant is truly getting started. We’re pumped and ready to go!!

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Home is where your heart is

So we are back in the U.S. for three months on our first “Home Assignment.” It used to be called “Furlough” which means rest, but the name has been changed because most workers run around constantly while on home assignment and don’t find much rest until they return to their host countries (France for us).

We’ve been back 3 weeks already and it’s been mixed for us. We have had really busy days and slow days. But on the slow days it is true that it’s hard to rest because we have so many people we want to see and so much support we need to raise this summer, that even when we don’t have anything scheduled, it feels like we should keep working to schedule something. I don’t think this is good, so we are praying and striving to find a better balance.

Upon arrival, it did feel a bit strange to be back. The way we’ve learned to greet and spend time with people in France is a little different than here. Everything seems bigger and more spread out as well. But after settling in, the old comforts of America begin to feel comfortable again. Seeing family has been the sweetest highlight so far, for them to get to hold and love on our son means the world to us and them. To visit ministry partners (both churches and individuals) and friends is such an encouragement that has boosted our spirits.

Overall, we’ve settled in and are excited for our summer back “home”. Many people have asked if it’s good to be home. And it really is. But also, we’ve realized that now we have more than one home, which can feel either or both bitter and sweet depending on the day.

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Fall 2015: Where did you go?

So a lot has happened in the last 2 months. As most of our readers know, all 12 of you (just kidding, kind of), our son Elias was born on September 13th. There will be a “Having a kid in France: Part III” post coming soon about actually having a baby in France. But in the meantime, this is just a mini-update.

Elias is an awesome little guy and we couldn’t be more thankful to God that he is healthy and there were no complications to speak of. We know this is never a given or a guarantee so we don’t take it for granted. He has added much joy and love to our lives and has taken quite a bit of our sleep, patience and grace at other times. He has already been to the American Embassy to apply for his social security card and passport. He has also been with us to the French Police Prefecture to reapply for our VISA’s, which we were approved for again (whew!). And he has taken lots of strolls around the city, mastering all modes of transportation except traveling by boat.

Even though we are still in a huge adjustment stage, little by little, we are feeling able to do more normal things. Going to church, hanging out with friends, getting administrative and other important ministry tasks done, and even traveling. We are really thankful for these things, as much as it’s fun admiring and caring for Elias, it feels really good to have other things going on too. We are feeling encouraged about our work as well. We had a great team meeting a few weeks ago that made us eager for the year ahead. We are feeling more and more rooted in our neighborhood as we recognize and get to know more people nearby. We joined another “club” about the history and architecture of our area of Paris. And we’ve started attending the regular “town meetings” where people from our area meet to discuss new initiatives and other local issues. Last week we attended a training with our organization in Italy and gained some new skills to better thrive here in France and in our work. This is just a brief peak into what we’ve been up to the last two months, other than feeding and changing a baby.

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Pray for Paris

Many people have been asking how we are doing and also wanting to know how you can pray for Paris. As I mentioned on Facebook (but I know you’re not all on Facebook), we are safe. We really appreciate the care and concern so many of you have showed in reaching out and praying. Thank you so much. We were wrapping up a training in Italy on Friday so we were not in Paris at the time of the attacks, we didn’t even know what had happened until Saturday morning and we flew home later in the day. It felt strange to be away when this happened and it is good to be back home in Paris, our city, so we can grieve, pray and respond alongside our Parisian brothers and sisters. Of course, now that we are back it is not easy to know how to respond. So here are some ways you can pray.

  • For God’s comfort for the family and friends of those who died so suddenly and needlessly.
  • For the survivors and all who were directly affected. They will remember and for some relive this tragic day for the rest of their lives.
  • For peace and justice to be restored as the Government searches for those involved.
  • For a response of love and restoration to spread throughout the city and country.
  • For wisdom for us and others in knowing how to respond and share the love of Christ with our neighbors and friends.
  • For many to put their hope and trust in Christ, the only true light that exists in the darkness of our world.

As I prayed this morning for our city, God led me to this verse that brought me comfort…“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” — John 14:27

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2-year mark

Without even realizing it, we hit our 2-year anniversary in France a week ago. So needless to say, we didn’t celebrate because we forgot. But it still warrants some reflection. 2 years… In a foreign country. Ryan still hasn’t set foot back on American soil, I did have a little visit for my Grandma’s 90th birthday celebration back in February. But it was brief, and I didn’t go home to Ohio or Massachusetts, so I don’t know if it hit me in the same way returning there would.

Even though France is still a foreign country, I have to say it is feeling less and less foreign. We are used to our surroundings, used to walking everywhere, used to hearing everyone speaking in French, and even used to speaking French ourselves. We have learned so well French “politesse” (the rules of politeness), that even we sometimes unconsciously get offended when people don’t act politely to us (in the French way). For far too long, I avoided shopping at the market, because let’s face it, it’s way easier going inside a grocery store and picking things off the shelf without having to articulate what I want in French, but I realized this summer that I’m not afraid of the market anymore and I went several times. We read French books now, mostly books at an adolescent level, but a year ago, that would have seemed impossible. Subtle shifts like this are markers of how we’re adapting to French culture and our life here.

One of the strangest things about the 2-year mark, however, is our evaluation of our overall progress. Because even though we have made much progress in many ways, we are just beginning to be able to work on what we came here to do, start new churches, and it will still take much time and commitment before we feel effective at it.

So it’s a mixed bag, really encouraging some days and really discouraging other days. But we still feel just as incredibly privileged to be able to serve the Lord in France today as we did on day 1. It is something we thank God for each day.

2years
On our way to France 2 years ago
2years2
2 year mark, photo taken by one of our French friends

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New World Team France Colleagues

We are really pumped to welcome new World Team France teammates and friends Riley and Alissa Brookings to France this week! We’ve had the joy of knowing Riley for many years, he and Ryan share a deep love for The Simpsons, and we’ve loved getting to know Alissa the last couple of years. They are a very impressive couple who bring with them a lot of great gifts and strengths. They will follow a similar track that we followed, starting with language school this year, probably an internship next year, and then they will be placed on a church-planting team. Please join us in celebrating these new workers into the harvest (always a huge answer to prayer) and also in praying that they would have a great start here in France. Please pray…

  • For their adjustment to French culture and their ability to learn the French language
  • That God would be their source of strength and joy in the midst of culture shock, which we all go through in one form or another
  • Also, that he would direct them to the team and project here that is the best fit for them
  • And lastly, remember their families and friends in the U.S. Often people will ask us (or even praise us) for the sacrifices we make to leave home, but remember the huge sacrifices our loved ones also make in seeing us go, often when they didn’t have much of a choice in the matter. Thank you!
NewTeammates1
Riley and Alissa at their first day of language school
NewTeammates2
Standing at the door of their first apartment in France!
NewTeammates3
Like us they are on the 4th floor with no elevator

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