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.