Saturday, February 23, 2019

How Did You Find This Place?

This is the rather long answer to the short question above:

I'd reached the conviction this past summer that I needed to take a vacation.  I would always use my vacation days for conferences or travels, but not to truly rest; and it was catching up with me.  I'd shared with my missions director who takes a week of solitude to pray for us each year of my request and need for vacation, which SAMS requires and he gladly prayed for.

Of all cultures in the world, the Swiss are probably the ones who take vacation the most seriously, at least that I’ve met!  When I shared with my boss, he encouraged me to take the week (or even two) at Thanksgiving.  To be honest, it was later than I would've chosen as I was scheduled to return to the US the first of December, but of course I wouldn't be picky!  That same week, a good French friend I'd lost contact with for a couple of years "randomly" re-connected with me and let me know she had moved back to Rixheim, France.  Then I read that a French missionary to Cambodia would be speaking in Rixheim of all places that same weekend I was scheduled for my vacation.  Wow!

Backing up, I first heard of this missionary during my travels in Thailand from an Australian woman.  She told me about him and shared his blog with me.  Anyway, my thought was to hear him speak while visiting my friend in Rixheim (a town I lived in many years ago), then spend a week at a place I found in Brittany, France.  It was beautiful and affordable, and I was excited to visit a part of France I've not yet visited.  

I was dialoguing with the couple who owns the place, but wasn't quite ready to confirm.  Something was holding me back.  I asked my Swiss friend to pray with me about this vacation opportunity.  That very night my twin sister called and shared that she was actually thinking of visiting me for Thanksgiving.  Oh wow.  At first we talked about going together to Brittany, but then realized we couldn't go there as well as Switzerland; and she'd want to see where I live, etc.  I informed her that there was a conference I would be going to the weekend she came, but otherwise we could be flexible.  

Then I started feeling guilty at the thought of my sister flying all the way over and being taken straight to a conference she wouldn't understand.  I checked in with the Lord, trying to be willing to give up what I wanted.  I decided to check and see if the missionary would speak somewhere the week before and discovered he would be speaking at a place which also was a retreat center.  I inquired if I could stay there, and they said yes.  Perfect!  I could work from there, but it would also give me the chance to have some time to myself and to pray before meeting up with my sister for our vacation.  

After making arrangements, my sister called, so upset, that she wouldn't be able to come after all!  She felt terrible, and even though I was disappointed, I understood her situation and even felt like she’d made the best decision.  I even had the sense that the Lord was "in it" and decided to make the best of this new plan.

I was yet again surprised when I arrived at the center called La Porte Ouverte to learn that the missionary I’d come to hear was speaking locally, but not on site.  It's the whole reason I'd gone there!  I knew I would hear him in Rixheim, so wasn't too sad, but talk about a mixup!  He was staying on site, though.

I think it was that Monday that he was on his way out the door when I showed him a picture of the lady who'd told me about him.  I kept quickly scrolling through my photos of Cambodia since he'd lived there.  At one point, he took my phone in his hands, saying "That's my house."  I started to refute, thinking he was mistaken because I knew whose house it was.  But he insisted, "That's my house.  I lived there for 5 years."  At this point, I abandoned French and said "What?!?"  He went on to explain an incredible story, which I won't share here because it's his and not mine; but for the purpose of my story, the SAMS missionaries I'd stayed with during my April visit had bought his house!!!  We were both completely shocked.  There I was in this tiny village in France that no one's ever heard of talking to this French missionary I'd heard about in Thailand whose former home I'd stayed in during my two days' visit to Cambodia!!!

That week our team received several inquiries for ministry in France.  We don't have ministry in France, though it's something I've pushed for since I joined the team in 2016.  We'd had interest before, but in need of the right people.  We're still in need of the right people; but while I was there, I couldn't escape the recurring message in my Bible Study not to shirk God's call even if we feel unworthy or unfit.  I was listening and getting excited at the thought of opening up to helping with the French training despite my very rusty non-native skills.  I also agreed to share the center's needs with those I know.  Even so, as I left the tiny town of Lux,  in my mind it was more of an "adieu" (goodbye) than an "au revoir" (see you again).

The next week in Rixheim was a series of events, conversations, prayers, etc. that left me returning to Switzerland wide-eyed in awe and ready to entertain the idea of returning to France, something that seemed more like a forgotten dream than a possibility.  As I shared all that had happened with my missions directors and boss, they were all fully supportive of me taking this step of faith to leave the tremendous blessings I’ve had in Zurich to go to France where I'll be better situated to help build a ministry there.

Since I learned that the place I'd visited houses missionaries, I inquired with them if it would be possible to be based there; and they've agreed.  So, in less than a weeks' time, I'm about to return to Lux, France where I'll spend the next three months, my "next step"!  This little community I'd never heard of and got to through a series of misunderstandings and foiled plans...or so it seemed.   THAT's how I found this place.  The Lord is an amazing and mighty God!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Plan B

I love how the Lord invites us to be a part of what He is doing.  Several months ago, I had been asked to do a workshop for a local church's missions week.  Since it fell during the months that I'm stateside, I gladly accepted.  Knowing I'd have the intensive course the week before the workshop, I set aside a day to prepare the week before I left.  I had already been praying and was so pleased when ideas came about "sharing your story," and I was able to flesh out the skeleton draft that had already been forming in my mind.

Right before I left for the course, I read something that made me sensitive that some people in the local Anglican community have recently had training in this.  Mmm...  Then after my course, I started sensing that I needed to speak about the 5 points of the Gospel itself.   Monday's prayer request with my Bible Study group was for discernment to know if I should abandon my seemingly well-planned talk and shift the topic with only one day more before the workshop.  By the time I arrived back in Charleston that evening, I knew the answer: Plan B.

I admit, I was tempted to question why the Lord would lead me to prepare a talk I'd never give.  Or did I miss something?  As I contemplated this thought once I arrived at the church last night, I thought how it was a good lesson and even test in following the Lord.  I could've gotten tripped up in whether or not I'd misunderstood how I thought God had led me or frustrated that He would allow me to waste precious time especially when I had planned as to avoid the pressure and stress of last-minute prep.  But in His grace, it was okay; and I was thankful to have others whose prayers gave me confidence and peace rather than regret.

As I saw my Bible Study leader there, I was even more encouraged when she not only affirmed my decision, but shared that a prayer group had literally prayed that very morning for more opportunities for their church to be equipped with evangelism tools!  Wow!  What if I had been stubborn and not been willing to change the plan?

Right up until the talk began, encouraged though I was, I felt depleted and drained.  I had started the day with a 6 AM meeting, and I was feeling it.  Would I have what I needed to deliver the message I believed God had given?  My prayer request shared with friends earlier in the day for refreshment was answered as I left the meeting energized rather than empty.  

The evening was really encouraging as a room of young adults really engaged as we covered the 5 points of the Gospel (according to EE) and then went through some the Great Thanksgiving (from the Book of Common Prayer) they hear recited every single week, identifying which part of the Gospel each line of the liturgy corresponded with.  The insights that each person brought were deep and meaningful.  I felt like the evening passed quickly and would've liked more time together.  

How encouraging it is to glimpse the multitude of ways that God is at Charleston, in Europe, in MENA, all around the world...and to get to embrace the opportunities He's given us to do our part within the framework of what He is already doing.  It's a privilege.  I can't say it enough: thank You, Lord!

Unexpected Blessings

Note: Been wanting to write, but so busy!  This is backlogged a bit.

This Monday during Bible Study, we talked about "unexpected blessings."  It was timely as I know all about those lately!  Backing up to a couple of weeks ago: I was so close to not going to Florida for a women's development (missions) course because I started coming down with something.  (Another story for another time, but God's kindness and the prayers of many were special and effective!). The morning I drove to Florida I met with my missions director who was in town.  I recall very honestly telling him I wasn't looking forward to this course.  When I'd signed up for it back in October, it looked like a perfect course, addressing several issues I regularly encounter but have really had no training.  When all of my prayer requests were granted within a week (housing, funding, feasible dates), I took it as confirmation and signed up!  

When I received our reading material, though, my gratitude turned to complaint.  The books were on the place of women and sometimes as specific as the dreaded "gender roles" which makes me squirm internally.  I felt duped and like the Lord had set me up here.  Had I known this was the major topic, I'm fairly certain I wouldn't have signed up.

But I would've missed out!  First of all, it was one of several topics.  As the group of amazing women ended our week together, I felt so honored to have been among these ladies and to have received so much.  I understood why I don't completely know where I stand on this subject and why there's so much confusion.  There are 8 different views within the "inerrancy of the Bible" camp, not to mention the mixed messages we get about women from the different areas of our lives.   While I didn't leave with "an answer," I left with much more: I had modeled to me how to have a non-threatening conversation about a controversial topic as well as the importance of humility, specifically the possibility of being wrong, when we enter these dialogues.  (And not to focus on being wrong versus being right anyway).  Wow, that was invaluable!

And quite honestly, I believe it was answered prayer.  You see, last June, I was having a heart-to-heart on the beach about this very topic.  I wasn't the one to bring it up, but it stirred me; and I cried out for the Lord to answer my questions.  I didn't understand why He wasn't just answering the way I'm used to.  As the week neared, a bit annoyed, I was equally impressed at the ingenuity of the Lord's strategy to send me to a course for me to dig deep and search the matter out rather than a simple fix.  There's still some digging to do!

We also learned coaching skills and got to practice on one another.  That's right up my alley!  Not to mention super useful as I believe the Lord answered some other deep-seated questions that I've been wrestling with for months just through these practice sessions!

Personally speaking, one of the ladies has a French connection just down the road from where I'll be in France!  This is shocking as no one's ever heard of the place I'm going.  I also got to re-connect with a friend I made in Thailand last April who actually found me housing for the week.

There was more, but I'll stop there.  Talk about unexpected blessings at an exponential rate!  We don't deserve the Lord's kindness, but His very nature is just that.   Thank You, Lord!