Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tangible Kingdom

I asked for help, and you people delivered! Thank you for all of the great suggestions of ways that we could bless our neighbors. I hope to use many of the suggestions in the coming months, and I received so many wonderful ideas it was challenging to decide where to start. But after some deliberation, David and I settled on S.S.'s idea. S.S. remembered that David and I had purchased a case of Washington wine to bring with us to France to share with new friends, and she suggested that we share that wine with our neighbors.

The "efficient" American way of doing this would be to leave a bottle of wine with a note at each doorstep--which was what we originally intended to do. However, just to make sure that our gift would be received well within our cultural context, we asked one of our instructors what she thought of our plan.

"Non, non, non!" she insisted. To leave something at the door, even with a card, would be "bizarre."

"ça ne marche pas!" That won't work.

If we just left something, ANYTHING, at our neighbors' doorsteps the strangeness of such a delivery would mark us as "odd-balls" and alienate us further from the very people we were hoping to befriend. Oh, but the wine...THAT, she assured us was a good idea. Only our method was problematic.

She encouraged us to go door to door and introduce ourselves and give our gift along with a note. One door at a time. One family at a time. One bottle at a time. One introduction at a time.

Aside: This is NOT in my comfort zone. I am the girl who would hide behind my mother's skirt when she tried to introduce me to her friends. I am the girl who is happy to speak in front of large crowds but struggles with small talk. I am the girl who would rather have three good life-long friends than be vaguely acquainted with everyone in my town. This very activity would have been outside of my comfort zone in my home country--where I speak the language quite well, thank you very much. In France this door-to-door proposition was not only outside of my social comfort zone, it was WAY outside of my linguistic comfort zone as well.

Oh, but then I remember, this is not about me. It is not about my comfort. It is not about who I have been in the past. It is not even about who I am becoming. So, what is it about?

Its about the kingdom of God. It is about living in a way that speaks of the goodness of God. It is about caring more for those around me than I care for my own comfort. It is about building community. It is about sharing, and hoping, and listening, and caring, and--for me--obeying that which God has asked me to do.

I wrote out a rough draft of what I wanted to put in each card and took it to school for a teacher to check for errors. After I was sure my wording was right, I bought pretty note cards and hand wrote my message 6 times. Yes, there are twelve units in our building, but since we are doing this one apartment at a time I figured we would be doing this in phases rather that in ten minutes on a busy afternoon.

The note says:

Bonjour! Nous sommes la famille Williamson,vos neuveaux voisins. Nous venons des etats-unis et ce vin vient de notre etat: Washington. Enchanté de vous connaître.

David & Jennifer, nos fils David (14 ans) et Chadler (13 ans) et Jack (notre chat).


Hello! We are the Williamson family, your new neighbors. We come from the United States and this wine comes from our state: Washington. Pleased to meet you.

David and Jenifer, our sons David* (14 years old) and Chandler (13 years old) and Jack (our cat).

David and I practiced what we would say to our neighbors when they answered their doors. We tried to anticipate questions they might ask. We prayed. And then last Saturday we made our first three deliveries. On Sunday we made two more.

I won't lie to you. I was nervous. So was David. And actually, so were our neighbors. Each one seemed quite suspicious as they came to the door. But once we introduced ourselves and explained that we just wanted to given them a small gift they became very friendly. They asked lots of questions. They complimented us on our French (they were being VERY generous). They expressed gratitude for the wine. A couple of families even asked us in.

We are not finished, but as the saying goes, "Well begun is half done!" We are not finished with our first little attempt at creating community, but we are encouraged to keep going. And when this project IS finished, we will not be finished. We have only just begun.

And so, I wonder, all you friends who gave such lovely advice: What will you do? What are you doing? Many of you shared ideas of things that you have already done--I am SO inspired by you--but was it the end, or just the beginning? We are the body of Christ. Are we living kingdoms lives? Are we living in ways that speak of the goodness of God? Did we live that way today? Will we live that way tomorrow?

Oh man, did that sound preachy? I hope not. I have NO desire to preach at you. I do desire to share honestly with you, that we might be mutually encouraged by one another's faith. I am quite certain that when it comes to kingdom living, my efforts pale in comparison to yours...but it isn't a contest, it''s a calling.

And I want walk this path with you.

I need you.

*Graham has not changed his name. Actually "Graham" is Graham's middle name. His first name is David. The name "Graham" is very difficult to say in French, and so he is going by his given name in France. We still call him Graham at home, and you can still call him Graham, too!


  1. I know you asked some questions but my brain cannot process right now ;)

    What I wanted to say though is that... I have appreciated ever since you sat with me in my living room months and months ago... is how our "culture" and social norms can be so easily misunderstood and that motives and expectations are so very complicated.

    Your experiences cause me to slow down and really pray through what I would like to convey to someone else and really think through the effectiveness for that other person to receive it.

    I can see so clearly (hindsight is 20/20) how my intentions with other people (mainly women) have been so misunderstood because my culture and my social experiences were different enough that I end up with hurt feelings while they are left feeling offended or judged instead of blessed.

    I'm very grateful for grace and that the Lord is teaching us to communicate in the universally understood language of love.

    Thank you Jenn

  2. Beautiful penmanship, Jenn! Way to step out with courage. You can do all things through Christ!

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  4. That's so awesome! The boys and I are making cookies each month and taking them to city hall and the post office. So far those are the only people we've met besides the neighbors. Although we did meet a few people over the summer when we were out walking--but we don't know where they live.

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