Friday, June 17, 2016

Ten Totally Trivial Tidbits

1. This week I visited Geneva for the first time. While there I went to the famous Reformation Museum, and I bought this replica of a 15c board game, which is a sort of Calvinist form or "Chutes and Ladders." The instructions crack me up, and include rules such as "If a player landing on square 24  knows the principal quality attributed to King Solomon they can move forward two squares. If not, they must contemplate their ignorance whilst losing a turn." We've played it once. I spent most of the game stuck on square 31 "lamenting with Jeremiah." I never made it to paradise. I'm glad the game does not have the power to predetermine my eternal state!


 2.  I'm working on a baby blanket for Virginia, my assistant. She's due in October with her first baby. It's a great pattern, and I'm sure I'll use it again. No photos for now...but I'll post some once it's completed.

 "Assistant?" you ask. YES! Because sometimes God does even more than we ask or imagine! I've been praying for a few months for an assitant--a bilingual person who could volunteer about 5 hours a week to help me with marketing and communication for Elan, the French association that I am in the process of launching. One day, about two months ago, Virginia came to our church with her husband. They live in the neighborhood and were looking for a local church that they could call home. She is a young French woman with a Masters in English who is currently not employed. When she found out she was pregnant, she put her job search on hold, deciding that she did not want to dive into a new career on the brink of motherhood, At the same time, she felt like she had way too much time on her hands and had been praying about ways she could spend her time that would be beneficial for the Kingdom of God. When I told her that I was looking for an assistant, but that I would not be able to pay her (at least for a year) she said that she would be interested in the position. We sat down and did a semi-formal interview. She was captivated by the idea of helping missionaries to transition to the field and delighted with the possibility of being able to use her language skills.  We clicked, and Virginia agreed to work for me on a volunteer basis for about 5 hours a week. So at least one morning a week, Virginia comes to our home and works alongside me, answering emails, creating contact lists, and doing some translation She will also help create a website and market Elan to missionary sending organizations. Virginia is becoming a dear friend, and I am so thankful for her partnership in ministry.

3. This week I hosted a day-long meeting with French partners and missionary leaders to talk about Elan and officially create the organization. I had twelve participants, an even mix of French and non-French. It was a productive day!


4. It is SO MUCH FUN having Graham aand Chan BOTH in the house for the summer months. Since David and I are still working full time and I am still in classes, we have asked the boys to each plan and prepare two meals per week. They are doing a great job, and we are eating well! Chan has made pork chops with blue cheese and pears, and Graham has made japanese dumplings! 

5. While in Geneva, I had some time to lay down and watch the clouds go by. As I lay, I looked up and saw this lovely sight. It's like God was saying, "Hey there, little one. I love you." 


6. I'm currently taking a class on American Church History. My professor is a Native American of Cherokee descent. Let's just say that the class did not begin with the arrival of the Pilgrims. It is ironic to me that so many settlers, who were fleeing religious persecution, quickly became religious persecutors. The things that were done in the "name of God" are beyond comprehension. And yet, in the end, the Republic that was born offered more religious freedoms and boasted more religious diversity that had ever been found in one place.

7. I now officially wear glasses. Not just reading glasses, all day, every day glasses. My friend who is a Fashion Consultant advised me to go with a neutral color for frames. Which makes a lot of sense. I picked pink. Which kind of goes against the general understanding of the word "neutral." Oh well! I liked the pink ones best. 

8. I've been taking a calligraphy class this year at the local community center. I'm not very good at it. I can spend three hours practicing a single letter, and still not get it just write right. But here is my first attempt at writing out a whole quote. This is a favorite quote from Ijeoma Umebinyuo in "Diaspora Blues" and it resonates with me deeply, as an expat. It says, "So, there you are. Too foreign for here. Too foreign for home. Never enough for both."


9. The weather has finally turned warm here in Lyon. Which makes me want to eat ice cream. A lot. Every single day.

10. The European Cup (or Euros) is currently going on, and France is the host country this year. The Euros is a once every four years Europe-wide soccer tournament. Matches are held in all the major cities of the host country--which means many matches are being played here in Lyon. Fans from all across Europe and flooding into France, and there is a general spirit of excitment in the air. We are watching at least one match a day, and loving every minute of it. So far, France is undefeated! Allez les bleus !

Monday, June 13, 2016

La Place la Moins Importante

***Traduction de l'article "The Least Important Place," publié 26 mai 2016 sur Four For France
Par Virginia LE BIHAN

Quand j’étais adolescente, ma famille est allée en thérapie. A l’occasion de notre première visite, le conseiller familial avait placé dans son bureau des chaises de taille et de confort variés. Lorsque nous sommes entrés, il a porté son attention sur la manière dont chaque membre de notre famille a choisi son siège. Avant qu’aucun de nous n’ait pu ouvrir la bouche, le conseiller était déjà capable d’analyser certaines dynamiques de notre famille rien qu’en observant la manière dont nous étions entré et nous étions installés. Moi par exemple, étant la plus jeune, j’ai souvent été reléguée à la table des petits ou sur une chaise pliante selon les contextes. Pour cette raison, bien que je fus la première personne à pénétrer dans son bureau, j’ai choisi le siège que j’ai perçu être le moins confortable. 

Le conseiller en a pris note. Dans le chapitre 14 de l’évangile de Luc, on voit Jésus faire des observations similaires. Alors qu’il était invité dans la maison d’un Pharisien haut placé, et que les autres invités arrivaient, il remarqua comme ils entraient et prenaient les meilleures places à la table. Le maître sait reconnaître un moment d’enseignement quand il en voit un, et offrir une leçon d’étiquette, qui s’applique aux invités comme aux hôtes. 

Récemment, j’ai été amenée à réfléchir à cette histoire à travers le prisme de la mission. En tant que missionnaires, nous sommes des invités. Les habitants du pays dans lequel nous nous rendons, les hôtes. Je pense que les remarques faites par Jésus en Luc sont pertinentes pour nous, primordiales même. Après avoir passé l’année dernière à étudier la productivité et la durabilité de la présence missionnaire, je décèle des connexions avec cette histoire biblique. 

Le passage commence par Jésus remarquant «la manière dont les invités choisirent les places d’honneur ». 

Quand j’ai lu ça, je me suis demandée « Jésus ne ferait-il pas la même observation des missionnaires arrivant sur le terrain ? » N’avons-nous pas tendance nous aussi à débarquer et à adopter des rôles de leaders ? Arrivons-nous avec un certain degré de suffisance ? Considérons-nous que ce que nous avons à offrir (l’Evangile !!!) nous donne le droit d’occuper des places d’importance et de plus grande visibilité ? 

Nos motivations et notre hâte peuvent bien être saintes, mais notre manière de faire est douteuse et défaillante. Oui, nous avons reçu un appel. Oui, nous avons une mission à accomplir. Oui, nous avons un message à délivrer. Oui, nous avons une vision à offrir. Et pourtant, nous restons des invités. Et notre manière d’entrer va nécessairement impacter la façon dont notre message va être perçu. 

Si nous arrivons en nous attendant à être écoutés, attendus pour répondre à un besoin, respectés, et valorisés ; si nous avons confiance dans nos ressources, nos outils, et nos objectifs, nous graviterons naturellement aux places les plus hautes. En tête de classe. Au devant de l’église. Nous serons tentés de dire à nos hôtes comment ils devraient gérer les choses, proposant des cours et des séminaires… comme si nous – les invités – devions servir le plat principal. Alors que ce n’est même pas notre maison. Pas notre fête. Pas chez nous. Alors comment devrions-nous entrer ?

« Lorsque tu es invité par quelqu’un à des noces, ne te mets pas à la meilleure place, de peur qu’il n’y ait parmi les invités une personne plus importante que toi et que celui qui vous a invité l’un et l’autre ne vienne te dire « laisse-lui la place ! » … Mais lorsque tu es invité, va te mettre à la dernière place … » 

Que se passerait-il si les missionnaires arrivaient et prenaient la place la moins importante ? Pourrions-nous entrer en scène et servir ? Pourrions-nous offrir ce que nous avons en adoptant une posture plus humble ou d’égal à égal, plutôt que de manière supérieure ? Pensez à Jésus, le premier missionnaire interculturel, qui a choisi de naître dans une étable, a grandi comme un enfant quelconque, a été ministre auprès des pécheurs. Il aurait pu se positionner comme grand prêtre à la synagogue locale. Mais à la place, il a touché des lépreux, parlé à des femmes à la réputation ternie, lavé des pieds ! Je dirais que Jésus, de bien des manières, a pris la place la moins importante. Et c’est ainsi qu’il illustre la vérité de son message. Même lui est venu pour servir et non pour être servi (Marc 10 :45). 

Jésus a donné un chemin exemplaire. 

A mon avis, cela veut dire que moi aussi, je dois intervenir humblement, reconnaissante du privilège d’être ne serait-ce qu’invitée. Je dois me mettre en retrait, pour observer et apprendre discrètement. Ce qui ne veut pas dire attendre mon heure, jusqu’à ce que je puisse sauter dans l’arène. Ni attendre un moment de flottement dans une conversation pour enfin y prendre part et proposer mes idées. C’est mettre mes plans et mes objectifs de côté – pour un temps au moins. Observer et apprendre, c’est poser plus de questions et proposer moins de solutions. 

En prenant le temps d’observer et d’apprendre, je pourrai m’émerveiller devant la sagesse et la perspicacité de mes hôtes. Je donnerai mon temps, mon énergie et mes ressources pour servir leurs projets. Je travaillerai à leur succès. Je prendrai conseil auprès d’eux. J’adopterai leur manière de faire les choses. Et c’est ainsi que je commencerai à voir les faiblesses et les défauts de mes propres plans. J’encouragerai mon hôte à me donner des retours, à m’aider à modifier, préciser, ou même abandonner certains objectifs. Jusqu’à ce que je sois invité à agir autrement, je resterai à la place la moins importante – à laver des pieds et à mourir à moimême. 

Mais il y a une autre facette à cette histoire. L’hôte aussi a un rôle à jouer. 

Et voici les paroles de Jésus concernant les hôtes : 
« … afin qu'au moment où celui qui t'a invité arrive, il te dise: ‘Mon ami, monte plus haut.’ Alors tu seras honoré devant [tous] ceux qui seront à table avec toi. » 

et … 

« Lorsque tu organises un dîner ou un souper, n'invite pas tes amis, ni tes frères, ni tes parents, ni des voisins riches, de peur qu'ils ne t'invitent à leur tour pour te rendre la pareille. Lorsque tu organises un festin, invite au contraire des pauvres, des estropiés, des boiteux, des aveugles… » 

Le rôle de l’hôte est d’inviter les autres, et même les rejetés, à entrer. Celui qui reçoit doit être en mesure de connaître les forces et les dons que chacun des invités possède, et chercher à installer ces invités aux places d’honneur. Jésus sait que nous avons tendance à nous sentir plus à l’aise avec ceux qui nous ressemblent, et nous pouvons donc souvent construire nos vies et nos ministères au sein de groupes d’affinité : nos amis, nos frères, nos proches parents, les personnes de même nationalité que nous … Jésus invite les hôtes à regarder au-delà de leur réseau habituel pour voir aussi ceux qui sont différents. 

Les habitants du pays d’accueil sont les hôtes. Ils sont les seuls à pouvoir ouvrir la porte de leur culture aux missionnaires. Ce sont eux qui peuvent désigner à quelle chaise chaque missionnaire peut s’asseoir à la table, afin que chacun puisse donner sa meilleure contribution au travail dont le Royaume de Dieu a besoin dans ce pays. Les missionnaires peuvent et doivent apporter leur énergie supplémentaire, leur perspective et leurs dons à leur terre de mission. Et si ces richesses sont abandonnées à languir à la table des petits, alors c’est gâcher les ressources du Royaume. Les membres des églises doivent aussi chercher à comprendre et à découvrir les richesses que des personnes extérieures peuvent apporter à la table. Car ils peuvent eux aussi choisir l’humilité pour mieux reconnaître les brèches et les faiblesses que comportent leurs propres systèmes, et ainsi accueillir le missionnaire comme un envoyé de Dieu pour combler ces brèches. 

Si le missionnaire s’installe dans un pays où il y a déjà une présence chrétienne, il doit se soumettre aux locaux. Nous sommes leurs invités. Ils sont nos frères et sœurs en Christ. Nous devons commencer par leur témoigner du respect, de l’admiration, de l’intérêt et notre capacité à nous laisser enseigner par eux. Nous devons établir une relation de confiance et d’amitié sincère. Nous avons besoin, oui vraiment, de nous asseoir à « la dernière place » jusqu’à ce que nous soyons invités à monter plus haut. Et nos hôtes doivent eux aussi apprendre à donner ces invitations. 

Et s’il n’y a pas de présence chrétienne dans notre pays d’accueil ? Même dans ces cas-là, je dirais qu’il y a une période obligatoire d’observation, d’apprentissage, et d’écoute de la culture locale avant de se lancer dans la réalisation des nos objectifs … Quand Paul est arrivé à Athènes, il s’est imprégné de la culture avant de commencer à prêcher. 

C’est pour cette raison que je travaille actuellement en France à la création d’une association multiculturelle qui accompagnera les missionnaires dans leur adaptation au terrain. Cette association s’appellera ELAN, et je vous en dirai plus dans les semaines et mois à venir. La vision de ce projet est née du désir de mon cœur de voir une plus grande collaboration et coopération pour l’avènement du Royaume de Dieu. Mais elle est ancrée dans la croyance que Dieu nous appelle à la communauté … autour d’une table … où l’étiquette a de l’importance.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Now and Not-Yet Kingdom of God



For the past three years I have had the joy and the privilege of working with and learning from these 49 men and 2 women. Representing at least nine different evangelical denominations, we met together every six months with the goal of accelerating the rate of church planting in France. Among the participants, there is a vision to plant ninety new churches over the next three years...some denominations planting as many as 30 churches in that time frame, some as few as 4. All seeking to make their best contribution towards seeing God's kingdom come in France.

I was not on a denominational team for this project, but on the team that was facilitating the gatherings. My specific role was to plan and lead the times of spiritual reflection and formation. The facilitation team had decided early on that we wanted each gathering to be marked by a spiritual rhythm, so we did not simply begin and end each day with prayer; rather, we paused several times each day to read scripture, intercede for each other, and listen to God.

One of our final spiritual exercises was to build an "Altar of Remembrance." First we read the story of Moses and the battle of the Amalakites. At the end of the story, Moses builds an altar to the Lord and calls it, "The Lord Is My Banner." I talked about how the name given to an altar expressed both gratitude for what God had done and hope for God would do in the future. I then asked each person to consider what name they would give to an altar that was built to commemorate what God had done in and through us over the past three years. Next, each participant was given a card that had his or her own photo attached to it. They were asked to write the name of  their altar next to their photo. Finally, each person was invited to come to the front of the room to share the name of their altar, and then to add their card to our communal altar. In this way we proclaimed together what God has done AND declared our hope for what He would continue to do. Here was how our altar turned out:


It was a holy moment. We concluded by singing several songs of gratitude and praise together. So there's a small peek at one of the ways God is working in France. To Him be the glory!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Least Important Place

When I was a teenager, my family went to counseling. On our first visit, one of the things that that counselor did was place chairs of various size and comfort level in his office, and as the family entered, he paid attention to which family members took which seats. Before any of us opened our mouths the counselor was already able to analyze some of our family dynamics by observing how we entered the room and which seats we chose. For example, I, a youngest child, had often been relegated to the "kid's table" or the folding chairs in any given setting. For that reason, even though I was the first person to enter his office, I chose what I perceived to be the least comfortable seat. The counselor took note.

In the fourteenth chapter of Luke, we see Jesus making similar observations. He had been invited to the house of a high-ranking Pharisee, and as the other guests arrived, he noticed that they were coming in and taking the best seats at the table. The master recognizes a teachable moment when he sees it, and he offers a lesson in etiquette--one that applies to both guests and hosts.

Lately I was drawn to consider this story through the lens of missions. As missionaries, we are guests. Those in the countries to which we go are hosts. And I think the points that Jesus makes here in Luke are relevant to us. In fact, I think they’re critical. After having spent the last year studying missionary effectiveness and sustainability, I’m seeing some connections to this story.

The passage begins with Jesus noticing “how the guests chose the places of honor.”

When I read that, I asked myself, “Might Jesus make the same observation about missionaries arriving on the field?” Do we, too, tend to come in and assume leadership roles? Do we enter with a sense of self-importance? Do we consider that what we have to offer (the Gospel!!!) entitles us to occupy places of prominence and visibility?

While our motivation and urgency may be holy, our means are messy and broken. Yes, we have a call. Yes, we have a mission. Yes, we have a message. Yes, we have vision. And yet…we are guests. And how we enter will necessarily impact the way in which that message is received.

If we come expecting to be heard, needed, respected, and valued, if we have confidence in our resources, tools, and agendas, we will naturally gravitate to the highest places. To the head of the class. To the front of the church. We will be tempted to tell our hosts how it should be done, offering our classes and training seminars, as if we—the guests—should serve the main dish. But it isn’t even our house. It’s not our party. Not our place.

So how should we enter?

“When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, because a person more distinguished than you may have been invited by your host….But when you are invited, go and take the least important place.”

What would happen if missionaries arrived and took “the least important place”? Could we come in and serve? Could we offer what we have from below or beside, rather than from above? Think about Jesus, the first cross-cultural missionary, who chose to be born in a barn, raised as a commoner, minister with fishermen. He could have stepped into a head rabbi position at the local synagogue. Instead he touched lepers, talked to scandalous women, and washed feet. I’d say, in most ways, Jesus took the least important place. And his means of sharing his message only helped to illustrate its truth. Even he did not come to be served, but to serve (Mk 10:45).

Jesus modelled the way.

For me, that means I, too need to enter humbly, grateful for the privilege of even being invited. I need to sit back, quietly, watching and learning. This is different than biding my time until I see a place that I can jump in and take. It’s different than waiting for a lull in the conversation when I can speak up and propose my ideas. It’s setting aside my plans and agendas—for a time. When I watch and learn, I’ll ask more questions and offer fewer solutions.

When I watch and learn, I’ll marvel at the wisdom and insight of the hosts. I’ll give my time, energy, and resources to serve their plans. I’ll work for their success. I’ll take their advice. I’ll adapt to their way of doing things. And as I watch and learn, I’ll begin to see the weaknesses and flaws in my own plans. I’ll invite the host to give me input, to help me modify, refine, or even scrap my plans. Until I am invited to do otherwise, I will stay in that “least important place”—washing feet and dying to myself.

But there is another side to the story. The host has a role to play, too.

Here are Jesus’ words to the hosts:

“…when your host approaches he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up here to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who share the meal with you.”

And…

“When you host a dinner or a banquet, don’t invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors so you can be invited by them in return and get repaid. But when you host an elaborate meal, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.”

The role of the host is to invite the other and outsider to come inside. The host is to recognize the strengths and the gifts of the guests, and seek to provide those guests places of honor. Jesus knows that we tend to be more comfortable with people who are like us, and so we can often build our lives and ministries around our own affinity groups. Our friends, brothers, relatives, fellow nationals. Jesus invites the host to look beyond her normal network to those who are different.

The nationals are the hosts. They are the only ones who can open the door into the culture for the missionaries. They are the ones who can pull out a seat at the right place at the table, so that each missionary is able to make his best contribution to the Kingdom work that is going on in that country. Missionaries can and should bring valuable energy, perspective, and gifts to the host countries. And if those gifts are left to languish at the kiddie table, then Kingdom resources are sadly wasted. Insiders, too need to seek to understand and discover the contributions that outsiders can bring to the party. They too, could benefit from a dose of humility that acknowledges gaps and weaknesses they have in their own systems and welcomes the missionary as an emissary sent by God to fill in those gaps.

If going to a country where there is a Christian presence, the missionary must submit to the nationals. We are their guests. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ. We must start by showing respect, admiration, interest, and teach-ability. We must build trust and genuine friendship. We need, yes need to sit at the lowest place until we are invited up. And the hosts need to extend those invitations

But what if there is not a Christian presence? Even then…even then, I would say there is a mandate for a period of watching, learning, and listening to the culture before we begin to implement plans. When Paul arrived in Athens he made observations about the culture before he began to preach.

For this reason, I am working to create a multi-cultural association in France that will accompany missionaries in their transition to the field. That association is going to be called Elan, and I’ll be telling you more about it in the weeks and months to come. The vision was birthed out of my heart’s desire to see greater collaboration and cooperation for the sake of the kingdom of God. But it is rooted in the belief that God calls us to community…around a table…where etiquette matters. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Outreach in Old Lyon


All of the evangelical churches of Lyon are working together in a two-week long initiative called "Un Coeur pour Lyon" (A heart for Lyon) in an effort to touch the people of our city with the love of God. As part of the initiative, our church plant hosted an event on Sunday for families in our neighborhood. It was so much fun!


We had a workshop where children could make mosaics from painted eggshells. Parents sat and visited with us while their kids created mini-masterpieces. It was our first official outreach activity as a church, and we really enjoyed getting to know more people in our neighborhood.






David and another church member made balloon swords and balloon animals, much to the delight of many littles. Adults were invited to write messages on postcards, and then attach the postcards to helium balloons to send off to unknown recipients. People wrote simple words of encouragement such as "you are beautiful" and "you are loved" and then released their words to wherever the winds might take them.


We served homemade cakes and cookies, and as people enjoyed the goodies we shared a bit of our vision for the neighborhood. We also handed out invitations to evangelistic events (similar to a Billy Graham crusade) that will be held next weekend in a large stadium in Lyon. 


 It was pure joy to be out in the sun sharing the love of the Son with the people in our quartier. And it was a geuine team effort--with new members of our tiny church plant taking the lead in planning and executing the endeavor. This is what it means to BE the church. We look forward to doing similar events in the future. 


Monday, May 9, 2016

A Colorful Break

Last week was my break between my Spring and Summer semesters. Plus, because of the Ascension holiday in France, we had a four-day weekend from work! So I took full advantage. I started the week by finishing a baby blanket for a dear friend who is due next month. With some extra yarn I made a little monster that turned out so cute I almost kept him!


One sunny evening I met this cute boy for a pre-dinner drink. We thoroughly enjoyed being out and about in the city we now call home. Lyon is lovely, and we love being able to walk from our apartment to riverside cafés--living like locals. 


David brought some beautiful rhubarb home from the market one day, and I quickly turned it into a crisp that we devoured with great big scoops of vanilla ice cream.


And I spent a delightful afternoon with two friends from church, painting eggshells that are going to be used in an outdoor outreach next weekend. We are going to offer (among other family activities) a workshop for kids to make mosaics out of eggshells. After being painted, the shells were smashed into tiny peices, to be used as the "tiles" for the mosaics. 


I also spent several hours relaxing on the couch with these cuties and a good book. I'm rested and refreshed and ready to dive back in to school and ministry.





Thursday, May 5, 2016

Le Chambon-sur-Lignon: City of Refuge

On a remote plateau in the Haute-Loire department of France, the residents of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon and its surrounding villages sheltered and protected hundreds of refugees during World War 2, the majority of which were Jewish children.  The hospitality of the plateau stands in sharp contrast to the violence and bigotry that permeated Europe, and their efforts—though illegal at the time—garnered the praise of the French and Israeli governments decades after the end of the war. 

-This is the introduction to the research paper that I wrote for for my Christian History and Theology class. For those who would like the read all twelve pages, simply click on the link below.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B-I7NlNUYGpfamJzLUpiYnV2elE
 
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