Thursday was the day of Ascension, a public holiday in France. We had the day off, then the school system took off the Friday as well to make a long weekend. It’s called le pont – the bridge. This was such a jam-packed, joy-filled four days of utter exhaustion and bliss I thought I would share the stories and photos with you.
Thursday was the calm before the storm. All I had to do was make hydrangea cupcakes for a bachelorette party, then drive through Paris to get there. Upon my return, I needed only hold the fort while Matthieu went to the stag party. (Mild, both of them, as these were church friends).
The couple getting married are children of friends of ours. But since they got started early on as a family, and we got started late here we are attending our friends’ children’s wedding. The couple is mixed English-French and they became Christians in Boston a couple decades ago. Their son, Pierre, married Debbie, the daughter of a family in the Boston ministry (but the two sets of parents had not met back in the day). She had come here to study abroad, and although Pierre was in Sweden working, they ended up meeting in four different countries in rapid succession through mutual friends. And the rest is history.
That’s for the background. Thursday was a blast. Friday, I had two Bible studies scheduled, plus a lunch in between. And since the kids had off school, they played together while we studied. For one of the two people, we were preparing for her baptism by counting the costs (this comes from Luke 14:25-33). Like Thursday, this was also a relatively calm day, despite the Bible studies and extra kids.
On Saturday, things started to get heated, beginning with the weather. I went to our town hall to meet a friend who is building her portfolio as a photographer. We found a few places to take official photos for my blog and next book.
Then we came home and finished the photo shoot here. She’s also expressed interest in doing a cooking photo shoot so that there are photos of me cooking, alongside the food. We’ll be setting up a time to do all that. And I’ll share the best photos with you when I get them. It was a great experience.
Then it was time for the wedding.
It was held in a chateau less than an hour from us.
It was so brutally hot, I was happy to see that they handed out straw hats and fans, along with bottles of water as the guests entered. The setting could not have been more perfect.
The bridesmaids wore plum, and the groom danced his way down the aisle.
And they got married.
I promised my friend I would be responsible for keeping an eye on the kids so we set up a rotation of parents to focus specifically on that. Everyone was wilting under the heat –
but once the ceremony was over, we stuck to the shade and gulped down glasses of cold beverages at the cocktail hour. The reception was held inside a cool room that was once a stable.
The food, music, and company was exceptional. And by the time we got home and in bed, it was after one in the morning.
The next day, I was up at 7:30 because we were hosting house church, which we do at least once a month. I knew we were getting a lot of unexpected guests, so I wanted to cook extra food. There was someone visiting from Halifax, a couple from Indiana (she’s half-French) who will be moving to Lyon to work in the ministry. There were our usual mix of Australian (Samoan), Malgash, La Réunionaise, French, American, and a (welcome) invasion of Indonesians. For once, the service was in English and I translated in French for those who couldn’t follow. Usually it’s the reverse.
And this is really the story I wanted to share with you – this jam-packed, joy-filled day. There were 3 couples from Indonesia, including one couple’s 2 daughters, in addition to our Indonesian friend who lives here and is a close friend of mine. My husband asked Harlam to give the message since he leads the churches in Indonesia. (I go to the Paris branch of the International Churches of Christ and we have a sister church in the big cities all around the world).
Harlam’s message was just great. But what was so neat is that I met his wife, Vania, in 1998 when I went on a business trip to Jakarta. She met me in my hotel lobby and I treated her to dinner, though she could easily have stayed at home with her young children. But she wanted to make me feel welcome.
This was the time of the riots and massacres of Christians in Jakarta and our dinner was so memorable, I mentioned her in my memoir. It was then incredible to have her in my home nearly 20 years later. She didn’t remember meeting me because she did this often for people passing through, but she did ask for a signed copy of my memoir, which I happily gave her.
So back to Harlam. His message was on how, often Christians are content for Jesus to be a good, moral teacher, but not content for him to be Lord. And this is why people don’t stay faithful in the long run. They can be diligent in reading the scripture because it has such good moral teaching, but the minute things get confusing or hard, they don’t stick around. It was the same with his disciples. When Jesus said, “I am the bread of life” and again, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood you have no life in you” people turned away because it didn’t fit into the teaching of a good, moral person. Peter, on the other hand, knew Jesus was Lord and on that faith he was able to walk on water.
When Harlam was sent to Indonesia to start a church, even other ministers in the fellowship set the bar low. They said, “It’s hard to start a church in Indonesia, since it’s predominantly a Muslim country. The people aren’t open. If you can get even 100 disciples, that’s already a victory.” At first, because he believed it was impossible, they never had any visitors. But when he started to focus on the splendour and lordship of Jesus, he turned that around, even if that included enduring death threats and getting beat up by his neighbors. Now there are 34 churches throughout Indonesia, with thousands of disciples, and they send out 3-4 mission teams per year.
One of the two couples that was there yesterday, Harlam and Vania had traveled with. But there was another couple present from Indonesia (visiting Paris) that they knew very well, and who had also been to our house once before. So Harlam decided to have them give a testimony, and he introduced them by sharing a bit about the husband. He said that 8 years ago, when his friend told him who it was who wanted to start studying the Bible, he started to tremble. Together, he and his friend Kiki, scoured google for everything there was on the man so they would be prepared to study with him. And they knew that in doing so, they were taking their lives in their hands.
Suryo was head of the Indonesian mafia.
How. HOW did such a man become a Christian? A man whose hands were bloody, who was in league with every corrupt official in the country, who had hundreds of illegal businesses and spent over $500,000 on himself each month? How?
Ha. Short answer. Because Jesus is Lord and is nothing is too hard for him. No one is beyond his reach. Longer answer is because Suryo came to the realisation that God must be greater than the president (whom he was friends with) and so he wanted to get to know him. He figured God deserved respect, whoever He was. When Suryo found out his neighbour was studying with Kiki, he wanted to study too.
His counting the costs was getting rid of every illegal activity, and confessing and repenting of every sin he had ever done. His wife (who trafficked weapons from Eastern Europe) followed suit. They lived on $5 a day until they could get an honest business going. And eight years later, he gets up every day at 3:30 in the morning, dresses up, and prepares to meet Jesus, who (he says) deserves his respect.
When the Indonesians left right before lunch, it felt like we had just hosted angels.
The baptisms happened after lunch. Jesse and Lei, a Samoan-Australian couple have been studying the Bible. Jesse is a pro-rugby player, and they were met by Paul and Scarlett who are also here for pro-rugby (and are also from Australia).
It was another brutally hot day and I had been on my feet, cooking, translating, welcoming … but we all stopped to watch them get baptised. And everyone cheered and sang when they came up from the water.
(If you’re curious about the scriptural basis for adult baptism, you can read about it here).
When people left at 7:30 that night (after gobbling up the rest of the food), we were finally able to celebrate French Mother’s Day. My kids made me sweet things.
They each gave me a pair of earrings, which I’m wearing on different days this week. (When I picked the boys up from school, they wanted to see which pair I had on). I rocked on the garden swing in the shade and opened the gifts, and listened as they each said what they liked about their maman.
I had asked Matthieu to take them to buy flowers for me that we could plant together for Mother’s Day. And I asked for at least one hydrangea.
So that’s what we did.
I didn’t know I would want this life. I couldn’t have imagined this life full of adventure and joy and exhaustion – that it would be the one for me! I didn’t know I would want a life where Jesus meant more to me than a teacher presenting a good moral code. That I would want him as my Lord and my friend.
But I did. And God knew, before I did, deep down that this is what I really wanted. So He gave it to me.
Honey, lift up the camera a little. It will be more flattering.
Not that much! ha ha