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.

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On our way to France 2 years ago
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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!
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Riley and Alissa at their first day of language school
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Standing at the door of their first apartment in France!
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Like us they are on the 4th floor with no elevator

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Having a kid in France: Part II

This whole pregnancy thing is going by so fast. I am in the 37th week now and I guess Baby Boy Bennett could arrive anytime from now until the 42nd week. Everyone asks if we are ready, and honestly I don’t know how to answer. Yes and absolutely not is probably pretty accurate.

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The growth of Baby Boy Bennett and me…

In this post, I wanted to share about how people interact with a pregnant lady here in Paris (case study: me). I can’t compare it to how people treat pregnant ladies in America, so feel free to comment and let me know (I’m curious). Maybe it’s exactly the same. But before being pregnant, and even in the first 25 weeks or so, I was treated like everyone else. Paris is a big city, and like most big cities as a general rule, you DO NOT make eye contact with strangers and you DO NOT talk to strangers. There are exceptions of course, and sometimes Parisians will surprise me with how polite they can be. But it’s a big place and we are all crossing paths with so many people everyday; there is a sense or maybe even a right, that each person has a degree of privacy and personal anonymity in public. This can cause some who aren’t used to the city to experience people as cold and rude, and while they can be at times, as an introvert I often like this personal privacy, because if I interacted with every person I saw, I would be exhausted all the time.

But things changed somewhat when I became visibly pregnant. Here are some highlights to demonstrate how people interact with me differently now.

  • Everyone looks at me, which I mention first because it is strange to go from no one looks at you to nearly everyone does.
  • People offer me their seat on the bus and the subway, and if no one does, normally someone else who is standing will boldly suggest that someone needs to offer me a seat. Sometimes it is embarrassing, but I appreciate the gesture.
  • Many strangers talk to me. In French, instead of asking if I’m pregnant, they will ask “if I am awaiting a child” (“Vous attendez un enfant?”). Many people also enjoy asking or guessing whether it’s a boy or a girl. So far only one has guessed correctly.
  • My new favorite question is “C’est pour bientôt?” or “C’est pour aujourd’hui?” which are different ways of asking if I am due very soon or maybe even today.
  • Lastly, often people will ask me questions with the goal of giving me some kind of advice. They want to make sure I am talking to the baby everyday, or inquire about whether or not I plan to breastfeed or have a natural birth. I don’t mind this, but it is striking to me how in a culture where people don’t typically dive in with personal questions (especially with strangers), pregnancy seems to be an open invitation to ask or say anything to me. It can be rather comical sometimes.

I’ve heard that this openness can continue once people have young children, and I am hoping it’s true. If having a kid helps open the door for giving and receiving more warmth from the people we meet, that can only be a good thing, right? Although, I may have to get out on my own occasionally so I can still experience the solitude and privacy that is also needed sometimes.

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Ryan’s first sermon in French

Ryan preached his first sermon in French a couple weeks ago. A lot of people, myself included, were very proud of him and he got a lot of encouraging feedback. He spent a good 2 months preparing, studying the passage and coming up with his ideas and outline, writing the whole thing in French, and practicing it so he could know it backwards and forwards. I wanted to share a little clip with you in case you wanted to see him in action.

The message was on Genesis 12:1–3

“The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.””

The main points of the message were:

  1. God has a plan to fix the world
  2. His plan works through a people
  3. Through Christ, we can join God’s plan to be a blessing to the world

If that video was too short for your liking, you can listen to the whole message here.

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Whirlwind June: Paris Prayer Conference

I wanted to tell you a little about the annual Paris Prayer Conference. It had also been 5 years since we got to be a part of the prayer conference because last year we were still in language school. But let me tell you, it was awesome. It was a week in length and during that time the group visited a church on Sunday, they heard from some of the most prominent Christian pastors and leaders about the state of Christianity in France, and they visited several World Team projects (there were also opportunities to eat well and explore too, the perks of being in a world-class city). World Team projects are churches at all stages of maturity, ours is the youngest, but there are a couple projects a few years ahead of us, and several that are 15–30 years ahead of us. And of course the main purpose of the prayer conference is to pray, so the participants spent a lot of time investing in the work of prayer.

Throughout the 19 years the prayer conference has been happening, there have been many amazing answers to prayer, some of the most prominent being when the group went to locations where there was no church and prayed, and within months, leaders were mobilized and projects started in those locations. Many people think it’s strange to go on a missions trip where prayer is the focus, they would rather build something or help in another very tangible way, but the reality is that prayer is a big part of the work here. France is a very spiritually dark place and there are a lot of strongholds that need broken before the outpouring of God’s loving presence really takes root. A main prayer focus for this year was (and is) for God to send & equip more French workers into the harvest. Of course, we need workers from everywhere to everywhere, but a huge need here is for more French leaders to be raised up to work alongside us. It is a prayer we can be bold and confident about because Jesus himself told his followers to ask for this and that he would grant it. So if you’re curious about this annual event, let us know. For us, serving at the prayer conference in 2010 was one of the key moments God used to call us to come back.

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Our Director, Jerry, introducing Daniel Liecht, a leading scholar who has done amazing work on the statistics of Christianity in France (much harder considering the government doesn’t collect any religious statistics)
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The participants getting to work, praying for France in light of what they just learned
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Some of the group in our neighborhood, learning about and praying for our project

 

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Whirlwind June: World Team Internship

I had planned to post a lot in June because there was so much happening that I wanted to inform you about, but often the most productive and fruitful times of ministry are when we are most likely to go silent because there just isn’t time for everything. So forgive these rather late updates.

One of the highlights for Ryan and I in June was helping direct the World Team summer internship. We had three awesome ladies take part and serve during that time. It had been five years since we really got to be a part of the internship, and back then… we were the interns, so it was awesome to be on the other side. Working with young adults is honestly one of both my and Ryan’s greatest passions in ministry. I love the energy and openness they have, and getting to walk alongside them, cheering them on, often as they make key life decisions. Here are just a couple of explanations about what the internship looked like this year.

  • During their time we jumped right in (literally the day one of our interns arrived, sorry Allison!), starting out with some Gospel-centered teaching sessions and mentoring times. This lasted for a couple days. We wanted to see where they were at and make sure they were feeling connected to God and were intentionally cared for by a mentor (this year since it was three ladies, it was me and two other women colleagues doing the mentoring).
  • Then there was a training time on the Paris Prayer Conference, where they learned about what all their responsibilities would be before and during that week. One of the more intimidating things they had to learn was the entire public transportation system of Paris & the surrounding suburbs, because once the conference started they met people at the airport and helped the participants with basically anything they needed.
  • Another key purpose of the internship was to expose the ladies as much as possible to French culture and the Christian culture here. So they got to visit several churches, hear testimonies of a few French pastors, and visit key places and museums in Paris.
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One of the Gospel teaching sessions at our place
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One of the interns leading her group throughout Paris

They were such a fun group and very quickly became an amazing team. It was such a joy to get to help guide their experience, but mostly just to hangout with them. The World Team internship is an annual opportunity for young adults, college age and older. It looks a little different each year depending on what’s going on here, but often helping with the prayer conference is a key component. Stay tuned in case you or someone you know is interested in applying.

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Shining the light of Christ through music

World Team France had the joy of welcoming college band “Damascus Road” from Cairn University for a few weeks. They traveled around Ile de France (the greater Paris area) putting on concerts and music workshops for kids. They kept their spirits high even as they battled fatigue and a bad cold that circulated throughout the whole group.

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In France, there is a lot of interest in Gospel music and American music in general. So the free concerts were a great way to invite people from different communities to come out for a good time and also get to hear a little bit about who God is, and about new churches that are starting in their neighborhood. The band also ran a kids workshop where they played for the kids as well as showed them a little bit about how to play each instrument.

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It was a great experience both for us on the ground here and for them, and as we sent them back to the U.S. this week, we pray the Lord continues to bless the band and direct each one of their lives! And if you’re reading this, you’re in a band, and you are thinking “I want to do that,” let’s talk.

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Having a kid in France: Part I

Ryan and I are excited to start this new adventure of parenthood, although it’s also true we really enjoyed our time pre-parenthood. We never viewed having kids as a necessity for a full life, nor as a decision that was fully ours. But we wanted to know if it was God’s will that more “Bennetts” exist in the world, and he seems to have answered our question. We know that from the first day of conception to the last day our child has on earth (prayerfully a long time from now), we are not in complete control of anything… but even just the idea of playing an important role in molding and shaping another human being is pretty cool and unreal. I’m sure once he is here, it will feel like even more of a privilege.

This is the basic “carte vitale” to show you have insurance.

But that’s probably enough deep stuff for now. One of the first questions people ask us is “Our you going to have your baby in France or go back to the U.S.?” And to be honest we never even considered going back to the U.S. for it. As far as we’ve heard and experienced so far, France has a very capable and good health care system. And not that $$ is the only thing to consider, but it seems to be less expensive in France. They tend to view a child coming into the world as a right, and a right that shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg. We have basic health insurance in France, most people here also have what’s called a “mutuelle” through their employer, which is additional coverage. But even with the basic insurance, so far I’ve had to pay a fee for each Dr’s visit and prescription (which has varied between 6-60 Euros depending on what it was). But from the 6th month onward (which has just kicked in for me), everything is 100% covered by the basic insurance, including labor and even some after labor services. I don’t know exactly how much it is in the U.S. since this is our first, but from what I understand it varies a lot depending on how good the insurance of your employer is. Here, it seems to be more standardized.

There is a hospital in Paris called “The American Hospital of Paris” and we did consider that briefly just because then we could do everything in English. But we decided we are ready to handle it in French. We have many fine examples of expats going through it before us, so lots of friends help out by sharing about their experiences. And several of our French friends are “par hasard” (coincidentally) in the same life stage, two of them just having had their babies last week, so they help us understand the French system as well.

But even though our French is quite functional now, sometimes we still miss things. For instance, my mid-wife was going to examine me “down there”, and I didn’t know the word for “down there,” so I said “Great, and what or where is that?” so she explained in French (which was sufficient, I got it), but just to be sure, she also drew me a picture. Doing anything in another country and language is an adventure, and giving birth will be no exception.

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