Monday, July 30, 2012

Processing #6

If you are just now reading, I would encourage you to go back to Installation #1 and start reading at the beginning of the journey!

Thankfully we were advised to take time and process the trip aloud with our spouse whenever possible along the way during our trip.
The funny thing was trying to figure out WHEN to process.
Maybe at 1am when we got back from dinner  or maybe first thing in the morning?  hmmm
I wouldn't say that I love mornings but I wouldn't say that I'm not a morning person either.  But for as long as I can remember, I do not talk in the mornings.  I remember my mom and dad trying to talk to me in the mornings before band practice in high school and getting made fun of for my variety of grunts.  Give me 30 minutes to wake up and get ready and then I'm perky and ready to go.  But right when I wake up, please be quiet.
One other problem we had was brain overload.  Neither Drew or myself are the most outgoing or most introverted but we both felt over-peopled each day.  Talking and getting to know people, while also taking in a new place every few days plus praying about difficult things going on back at home and then figuring out whether you feel "called" to move here permanently was a little overwhelming for the brain.
So we did process a little together on the trip but mostly I just felt like my brain was in stunned silence.
When we got back to the States I did my best to share with friends and family but I didn't feel like I could journal or really dive into any of it even on my own.  My brain had switched off and wouldn't even let me in.
After about two weeks, life was returning to normal and Drew and I had time to sit and talk and finally I felt like my brain was turning back on.
To sum it up, we both loved France and felt like we really could see ourselves fitting in a place like that.  We both felt the huge need that was there and desire to see people brought to Christ.
Neither of us felt that we would be disobeying if we didn't go or if we did go at that point.  We felt at peace to just sit and pray and ride out the process and see what happened next.
Well, we didn't have to sit very long.  Before we had even been back a month Drew was offered a job/internship with a new company.  No promises were made but there were some really good possibilities that this company would be interested in sending us, along with two other families on our team to France.  WHAT?
This may seem small and insignificant to you but it was pretty huge to me.  Over the last five or six years Drew has applied to COUNTLESS jobs.  We didn't tell people most of the time b/c we didn't want to get people's hopes up and then have to tell every one we didn't get it... again.  Turns out that was really wise b/c we didn't get any of them.  Drew was #2 again and again... as I previously mentioned.  We were open... we applied to Texas, Colorado, California, Kentucky, Indiana etc etc....
So for Drew to basically put in no effort and then get offered a great job that wanted to possibly take us to France.. was HUGE!
We had to wait a few weeks for Drew to finish well in his previous job... and to get a big quarterly bonus that will basically enable us to take the internship pay cut.  That's right... pay.cut.  As in, can't pay your bills cut.
So there was a little bit of faith leaping in there too.
So, we went from only mildly interested in our friends missions plans, to on a plane, to in France and now into a new job that Lord willing will have us in France fall of 2013.
And did I mention that I have been praying praying praying that the Lord would give Drew a job where he could wear jeans and chacos?  Well, this job does!!  He would've taken it regardless of dress code but it is AMAZING to be able to dress casual to work... I can tell a difference already in his energy and happiness when he gets home from the new job.  Today he even got to ride his bike to work!
Now you are pretty much caught up on our journey thus far and I would love for you to continue to follow and pray for us as we ask God to do big things in the next year to take our team to France and then for more big things once we are in France.
We will be doing language school, missions school, figuring out insurance, getting rid of most of not all of our possessions, preschool, and then normal church life and family life and trying to soak in all of our "lasts" over the next year.
There is a good chance this blog will also be going private really soon... there are some that I know follow the blog that will be notified if a password is put up but some of you may read this from time to time and really want to keep stalking and I want you to... but you'll have to let me know how to get you the password.
My main concern is not endangering any current or future missionaries and protecting our children from unwanted predators (they are all of course unwanted).

Thursday, July 12, 2012

5 The Trip Two

                          (Nimes, France)

 So we were loaded up and in the air, across the ocean and on new land.  France!
I have to admit that we were a little predisposed to like France.  Here we had been traveling for a day.. inside a dark airplane full of recycled air and terrible food and no sleep.  Then we were cooped up in the Paris airport, which was hot and cold depending on where you were and very dreary.  Then we took a short flight (where we all miraculously slept for an hour or so) and came out in Marseille, full on sunshine and warmth.  
We crammed into a couple of taxi cars/vans and drove the half hour or so to our hotel with the windows open flying down the highway, watching the coast of the Mediterranean the whole way.  Ah, fresh air and sunshine... two of my most favorite things in life!  I am pretty sure I exclaimed "I LOVE this place" at least a few times in the first hour.  
We drove into the city and found our hotel right between two metro stops and among apartments and bakeries and banks and normal life.  It wasn't a tall separate building but instead build right into an apartment-looking building.  The only thing that made it recognizable was the neon sign and sliding doors.  
I was pretty freaked about our accommodations b/c I am TERRIFIED of bed bugs and Europe is infamous for them.  We quickly discovered that this was a brand new hotel and that the assistant manager had become a believer through missionaries coming through like us.  There was free internet, the rooms were AMAZING with a kitchen and huge bathroom and drying rack and organic tea and sugar!!  Did I mention, "I LOVE THIS PLACE"?!
So, despite long and uncomfortable travel, I was fond of this place right from the start.  
Then we met the missionaries and they were each so sweet and kind and easy to talk to and REAL.  
The fact of their life and our trip is that there is spiritual attack and they are waging war in what might look like a losing battle to the untrained eye! 
The day before we got there some of the Ms had been robbed of all their summer finances.  Right after we got there the wife of the leader of the M team got really sick and then so did her daughter.  
However, despite many hiccups we settled in and got rested for the next day.  
The next day we scouted out a new area of town for them to distribute DVDs and other info about Christianity.  We sang in a couple of parks and some of the ladies did free henna (telling Bible stories through their art) and we prayer walked and distributed DVDS with Bible stories.  
Later we were able to go to one of the Ms apartments to get a feel for real life there and they were really open with us about finances and life there, which was great for us since we were really thinking about what it would be like to live there with our family.  
Did I mention I fell in love with the Ms?  
I don't know what it was but they were all so wonderful and genuine and interesting.  I loved hearing their stories and praying for their work and thinking about how our long term team might fit in with them, partnering to bring light to France!  
And we had amazing food.  (that would take a whole new post)
By late afternoon we were all bushed so they let us relax and take a ferry ride to a little island off the coast.  We walked (some hiked) and put our feet in the Mediterranean.  It was very refreshing. 
The next day was my favorite day of the whole trip.  
They told us to dress in our most modest outfits (we were already told to bring long skirts and shirts etc) and we went out to the North African market.
It is a market that is only once a week and it's like you've walked into Africa.  People are selling everything from trash to treasure on mats along the street and then you get into the actual market and it's teaming with N. Africans.  
Pretty much all N.Africans are muslim and many very conservative.  
So we broke up into teams of three and stationed ourselves along the entire street in front of the market and handed out DVDs of the prophets from the Bible.  
We handed out 800 DVDs in less than 2 hours.  
Our team rocked it out!!  
I was so so so nervous at first.  
I am not an in your face type of person and definitely not a solicitor.  But they assured us this was normal and acceptable in this culture... even to be a little pushy.
The first one was the hardest... who to ask first?
Then I lept.  
I just jumped out of myself and found myself speaking our three little French phrases and passing out DVDs faster than they could keep me stocked!  
I only spoke to women and some humored me but some were actually interested.  
I prayed for every single person I spoke to and some that I didn't speak to.  
I prayed for the hands that received those DVDs and the children tagging alongside those long flowing skirts.  
It was a thrill and an eye-opener.  What a see of deceit.  
The enemy has so many people completely blinded to the truth.  
Some of the teams even met open hostility while passing out.  
I know that the trip was not about me, but about helping these missionaries and encouraging them but man I was so blessed by this experience.  
To get outside of myself and feel the Holy Spirit working to give me courage and boldness and to prompt me to pray pray pray with genuine love for a people that honestly, I've always been afraid of.  
Those eyes, those hands.... they are human just like mine.  
They are sad or glad or mad or bored or excited just like the many people I pass in my every day life.  
That was Sunday so that night we led worship for the Ms at one of the local churches and heard from one of their pastors.  He is French... not really born there I'm pretty sure he was Belgian or something by birth but has been all over and in France for a long time.  More French than us for sure!  
His message was so stirring that if I ever had to pick a time I felt "called", it would be that sermon.  
The next day we went to Montpellier to meet up with a couple that had recently been sent through our church and the IMB and was still getting settled there.  They were there with one other family and not much was established there for us to do.  So we did a lot of prayer walking and exploring and it got cold and dreary and we got tired and over stimulated and more people got sick. 
The team leader of the Ms wife had to go in for emergency surgery and their daughter remained really ill and then the daughter of the leader in the second town was really sick and then the last day in the second place a guy on our team started to pass a kidney stone and got really ill and our plans continued to unravel and change every minute.  
Finally we stopped in Nimes on our way back to Marseille and it was amazing.  There was a Roman colosseum and other ancient artifacts and places and it was so quaint and full of personality.  But we were only there for mere hours.  
We also saw the full extend of segregation going on in France in Nimes.  The French and North Africans basically live in two different cities right next to each other and they do not mingle and they both call it Nimes.  It was overwhelming how huge the N. African part was and that there was no Christian presence at all.  It felt dark.  
We spent one last day in Marseille, filling up on our favorite foods and pastries and helping the Ms get work ready for all their summer project teams and saying goodbye.  
Then we left at 3am and started the long long journey home.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Four: the Trip

Deciding to go on the trip was relatively easy it seemed compared to the task of raising $6000 in support to go on the trip.
$6000 is a lot of money... like two months of living expenses, a really nice vacation or several nice vacations, more money than I have seen in cash ever before!
I really had basically no faith that we would actually be able to raise the money.  None of our friends or family are rich and honestly we don't have a ton of friends to even ask!
Thankfully our community group really called me out on my lack of belief.  They encouraged me to ask boldly from the Lord and from others and to trust the money would all come together.
So we took some family pictures, wrote letters, addressed envelopes, prayed and sent out about fifty support letters.
The funny thing about the letters... there were people we knew had money or knew loved missions that we were pretty sure would support us and then there were other people that we just wanted to keep updated on what was going on with us, who we would be thrilled if they could give $10 or just prayer.
However, when money started to come in, we were surprised over and over again at the generosity of people we never expected to give.  Family and friends both sacrificially gave to our mission trip and I was humbled again and again.  I can't tell you in words how thankful I was to the Lord for providing and to our friends and family for being so willing to join with us for this crazy journey.
Another awesome fact of the fund raising is that we had one specific deadline halfway through and got just enough money right before it was due.  Then there was a long period where we didn't get anything at all.  We were thankful for reaching the half way goal and were prepared to use tax refunds or savings for the rest and then the week before the final amount was due people generously stepped up again and we met our entire goal right in time.  Not a minute too soon but not a second late!
I am still in awe of how good my heavenly Father is and that even raising this money was a part of His plan to help me trust in Him for an even bigger plan.
We are also blessed with two sets of parents that helped us keep SJ while we were gone.  They are true champions (though I think they would gladly kick us out to keep SJ any time).
Leaving SJ was an even bigger fear for me than the money issue.  However, SJ did amazing.  We started talking about the trip just a few days before we left (we tried earlier but she didn't get it at all) and she was great with it and excited for her gparents to arrive.
However, two night before the trip she started screaming in the mornings for her mommy and I was pretty sure that was her little mind trying to cope with mommy leaving and a little spiritual warfare mixed in too perhaps.  It was so hard on my heart and then right as we were leaving she started crying that she wanted to go with us.  My heart actually broke I think.  I almost completely lost it and thankfully my mother-in-law stepped in to cheer SJ up about going to the park etc and so she was fine and then so was I.  I figured I would lose it after she left but I didn't.  My heart was totally at peace.  I knew she was happy and loved and going to have a blast and I was so thankful to be on this journey with Drew.
Praise God, she didn't wake up crying a single time while we were gone and never melted down for mommy or daddy but was then SUPER excited when we came back and was all love and cuddles for a few days.

So, we were paid up and loaded up and in the air... ready to meet France!