Last month I was able to go with our team leaders to Lyon, France. We were the first "eyes on the ground" for the team and hoping to get a feel for the city and understand what it will be like to live there a little more.
Tuesday was a travel day for the team leader's wife and her five year old and myself. Our traveling was relatively easy and we all got to watch movies and catch a little sleep. I am so so thankful that we made all connections and our luggage made it with out a single issue. If you know anything about me and travel, you know this in and of itself is a miracle!
Wednesday we arrived in Lyon to find a local from Lyon (a business contact) holding our name on a sign. JP is a true gift from God. I am already hoping and praying for his salvation and for the ways our group can love and serve him in the years to come. He took us to our hotel, walked us all around downtown Lyon and even bought us dinner. He even had a toy tiger waiting for the little one in the car... this tiger was also to accompany us every where from then on (with out getting lost!). We should've taken pictures of all the places that tiger went. We were exhausted and stayed in a hotel and slept... a little too well.
Thursday we were to meet F_ at 11am to go to the apartment we were renting in Croix Rousse (CR)... we got a call from the front desk at 11 saying he was there... we were all still asleep. We threw on clothes and went to the apartment... which was amazing. Then we headed straight out again to walk the streets and see if we could find our way around some of the places JP had taken us during our travel hang over the night before. We did it. We literally walked all day. We managed to navigate the metro (we are all pros by now, including the littlest), and find a great cafe creme, kebab, and other treats... namely bread and cheese. We only got slightly lost trying to get back to the apartment in the dark... we were about a block away the whole time but couldn't get our bearings b/c we didn't know which way was North or South and everything looks so different in the dark! We found our way though and decided to eat in the apartment and get to bed. Team leader hub arrived that night.
Friday littlest was going to attend a local school but that didn't work out. We did get to go to the school for our area (CR) and meet with the head of the maternelle (3-6yrs old). She was super helpful and gave us a tour of the school. They go to the Opera and invite artists and singers in to teach the kids and put on mini concerts for the kids. There is a cute little gym and playground and really seemed like a great place over all. It is just a stone's throw from the actual elementary school and about a 10min walk from our apartment.
I personally felt really encouraged and overwhelmed here... though it was great and all, it really hit me hard that I would actually be sending SJ to school next year and lose so much time with her and not really be a part of her development as much. However, I was comforting that they seemed totally ok with kids just going for a half day for a while and gradually working up to a full day. She said they would meet with parents to help them know how their kid is adjusting. After this we walked some more and TLW (team leader wife) and I had an AMAZING dinner out on the town.
Saturday afternoon we met with a local pastor/church planter (American nationality but raised in Africa and France) and his wife (who is French) and their three boys (and one on the way). They were super friendly and talked to us a lot about transitioning and what their church is like. They highly recommended bringing furniture and everything from the States b/c it's so much more expensive in France... we however don't have a lot worth taking so TLW and I briefly mentioned maybe all of our team sharing a part of a crate thingy and splitting the cost. The wife talked a little about how there are not a lot of stay at home moms and that there is not a lot of community. This seemed specific for their church simply b/c every one lives far away from each other and far from the city center, so it is difficult for many to make the drive many times a week. Then you factor in kids and school etc etc and it's nearly impossible.
Their church meets Sundays for one service and kids stuff is during the preaching. They meet throughout the weeks in smaller groups that are in the process of becoming church plants. Not as much a community group as a church plant it seemed... wasn't really clear on how this looks and works out. It was a long long-term plan. The pastor was SO generous and obviously has a vision for his church and a passion for the people and for church planting.
After we met he took us up to the Basilica to see Lyon by night. It was amazing and sad to look over a city so beautiful and so lost. He gave us a complete history of Lyon and Christianity in about 30 minutes and it was heart wrenching for me. Lyon has seen a repeated cycle of Christian growth and vitality marked by tragic suffering and persecution. The Basilica was actually built to worship Mary. It's hard to think about if we are a part of a resurgence of the faith... will our children or even ourselves then be a part of the persecution. I'm not proud of this, but that scares me.
Sunday we went to the church. The main thing I will say is that the people were so warm and friendly. We had a couple of invites to meals from complete strangers and many offered to help us as we plan and prepare to move. There were a lot of N. Africans and a good mix of Swiss and French.
More eating and walking after...
While at this church is really hit me: we have to learn the language to survive. I was worse than a toddler there, I was a mere infant, unable to communicate anything more than a basic hello or goodbye and a friendly smile. It's hard not to feel stupid and embarrassed in these moments... so I am channelling all those feelings into language learning!
Monday we met with two pastors from Acts 29 Europe (who are in Paris) and another local church pastor. The pastor is Lyonaise but his wife is from Ohio. We chatted over lunch. I have no idea what the guys talked about but the ladies talked more about schooling and their church. They encourage small accountability groups between men and women (separately) and have community groups through out the week. They also have women's ministries just beginning at their church. They have two grown daughters and a grown son, all who were raised in Lyon. They all went to public school until middle school ish and then attended the international school. She expanded a little on the stay at home mom issue but said she really tries to promote it when she can. This is a much bigger church than the other but there were a lot of things about it I resonated with. They do not have many N. Africans but a good amount of West Africans and then a mix of French and a few other Americans. Then there was a lengthy convo with the Acts 29 guys.
As far as where to live...Lyon is divided into 9 arrondissements ... we (I think it's safe to say we) are still a little confused. The 6th is very beautiful and seemingly family friendly with wide sidewalks and easy access to the center of town and metros. I fell in love with CR, which is the 4th but it is on a hill and that could be really hard for a double stroller and/or new babies... but we're not ruling it completely out b/c it is more affordable than the 6th. We didn't love the 3rd but it was close to the churches we visited and cheaper still. 1st is downtown and super pricey. JP said the 9th and I think 7th or 8th are no good. Many families live quite a ways out of town but I think we agreed we felt a little stronger about living in the city and having better access to metros etc.
Thankfully JP has mentioned helping us find a good apartment (he was very protective of us ladies) as well as the pastors and other believers we met.
I'm sure I'm leaving out a ton but I hope that gives a grasp for some of what we did. In all that walking around we were pricing home goods and clothes etc too so we can have a better grasp for the cost of things ahead.