Friday, 19 November 2010

Gill and I enjoyed an excellent weekend in Coventry with Jubilee Church last weekend and I have been reminded/encouraged that to post news on a blog only once every forty years isn't quite a real blog. Therefore...

Some of the things that really encouraged us last weekend were seeing how so many of our friends in the church had so evidently grown so much in the last year or two and to see that the church has virtually doubled in size in that time. Quite amazing.

In Paris, the church plant here continues to grow, albeit at a much slower pace. We have about 30 adult members and a further 10-15 who currently want to become members. Beyond that, there are quite a number more who, perhaps, have not yet got sufficiently involved in the church to think of being members, but who would, nevertheless, think of CVV as their church.

We have just started an exciting project which is effectively a much shortened version of the Alpha Course. It will essentially last four weeks. We felt that to reflect Parisian culture it would be fairly hopeless to expect friends to come to something they are not convinced about for ten consecutive weeks travelling up to an hour to get there! Four of our five life groups have started the course this week with a total of ten guests. Very good news. A neighbour of ours and one of my students are among the ten. We are praying for breakthrough.

I have just reduced my hours with Berlitz so that from next week I will only work there on Tuesday afternoons and Wednesday mornings and then all day Thursdays at a local law firm. The reason for this is that I am starting working for the church plant on a part time basis as a self employed person (in other words, I will bill the church for my services...ummmm... does that mean the longer the sermon, the more I should charge?).

Philip got married to Libby 7 weeks ago in Woking. It was, of course, a wonderful day which was wonderfully wet in the afternoon and evening. Given that the reception was in a tent you can imagine the consequences! Unforgettable.

Gill passed a French test recently and has graduated to the next level at her course run by the local town hall. She has clearly made quite a jump since the summer.

In the summer we loved doing the children's work at the Bible Week (Rendezvous) and then had two weeks in our caravan in three different places (Atlantic Pyrenees, Basque coast and Ile d'Oleron) all of which we loved.

Right, enough for now...

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Once upon a time there was a blog. After a busy 18 months the blog disappeared until one wet day in Paris it returned...

With some very good news: at long last Gill and I have been able to buy a house. No, not in Paris (houses here cost about twice the Greek national debt - and that would only get you a studio of 10 square metres). The house is in Headingley Leeds and is currently occupied by six student tenants. The rent they will pay us should go a very long way towards the rent on this apartment even after putting what is necessary aside to provide for income tax, insurance and maintenance etc. So, together with the salary I earn from Berlitz and the amounts Gill receives from her ironing business, we should have enough to live on from our own income resources for the first time since moving here! Praise God!

I am enjoying my work which recently has mainly been teaching English to French lawyers who, it seems, more and more need English in their work. I work 22 hours or so each week which leaves reasonable time to prepare the odd sermon etc. Actually I don't think all my sermons are odd, although last week I did manage to tell everyone authoritively that Joan of Arc died at the butcher's rather than at the stake - the two words in French sound similar! Gill, went one better when we were registering at a local doctor's surgery when she announced that she was very pregnant rather than saying that she was in good health (not that the two are mutually inconsistent, of course).

The church is enjoying some good times together on Sundays although it remains a challenge to gather more than 60-70% of the church at any one time. We are, however, growing slowly and we are looking for somewhere new and bigger to meet on Sundays. We visited a local hotel recently which could be good although at present they are saying no because they are linked with the medical profession and only rent out their meeting rooms to associations in that domain. We are praying that they will change their mind so that we will have a new place from September.

We have a UK trip coming up in ten days' time, our first this year (although Gill spent a week with my parents a couple of months ago when my mother was not very well).

It is Monday tomorrow so Gill, who has a season ticket, will be going to the dentist to continue a long series of treatments.

On Saturday evening we have what we are calling a Cafe Concert evening to which the church are encouraged to invite their friends. There will be eats and drinks and a number of musical items which will include songs, cello, piano etc. It promises to be a lot of fun.

We will not this summer be able to get to the Brighton leaders' conference, but will try to make it a priority in 2011.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

2 3

We have a couple of hours this afternoon before the ex Coventry folk in the church plant here arrive for a meal and a skype conversation with a number of friends from Jubilee Church this evening. I have run 8 miles today, partly along the Seine, and am now recovered sufficiently to write a blog.

Much has happened in the last four weeks.

Gill thinks I have lost lots of weight recently. She's actually right although I claim the bathroom scales work differently at this latitude and so there's nothing to worry about. Still 5 kilos is quite a lot apparently. Anyway, she wants me to eat more. Last night we were due to go round to a friend's flat to watch a film with her and so we decided to eat before we went out, rather earlier than we usually do. Gill had made one of her excellent pizzas and served me a huge segment. To keep her happy, I ate it and asked for more. I ate another segment and felt absolutely stuffed.

At 7pm our friend rang to ask if we were still coming and we set off down the street carrying my still hot cup of coffee and a dozen fresh scones with jam and cream which, despite looking amazing, I had no intention of sampling due to pizza induced stomach cramps. Imagine my thoughts on arrival when our friend said that the scones would go rather well with her crumble and that her other friend was bringing the main course which we were to have with various salads and breads. I felt like an already overinflated balloon being further inflated to dangerous levels.
Gill has started a French course run by the local town hall. It is about 10 minutes away on the bike and she goes for two hours four mornings a week (not Wednesdays). She is confident she is in the right level and is enjoying it very much saying her teacher is brilliant. As usual Gill is making lots of friends. It is also good that one of the girls from the church plant, Grace, is on the same course.

In the afternoons Gill continues to go as often as she can to the conversation group in St Germain des Pres in the city centre (about 15 minutes on the bike). In ten days' time she and her French friend Lucile are doing a musical evening for the conversation group regulars when they will sing and teach some classic French children's songs.

The church plant is now a year old and we celebrated with an excellent party which included lots of fun and games and amazing food. Our worship times have since the summer really grown in depth and the sense of God's presence which is so encouraging. I am preaching about once a month and am currently working my way through Mark's gospel and it will be the end of chapter 3 tomorrow morning (a challenging section on the unforgiveable sin!). I estimate Jesus could well return before I finish the series!

We have started the Alpha Course and that is going well. We had lots of guests to the Alpha Supper, but almost all of them are unable to come regularly to the eight week course (distance, time etc).

More personal news: we are trying to buy a flat in South London to rent out. The first one we tried last month fell through (fortunately just before our surveyor had visited) and now we are looking at one in Clapham North. Ideally we would like to start renting it out before Christmas. We may need to furnish it a bit first. It is very well located (a few minutes' walk from the tube station). We are hoping that the London rent will virtually cover our Paris rent and then we simply need to find enough money for me to keep eating enormous pizzas.

I bought a new bike a month ago as the old one, though still running, needed extensive and expensive repairs and I judged it was not worth it. However, the new one was stolen after two weeks (while it was chained up against railings in the city centre). That meant a four mile walk home that night as I had no money with me to buy a metro ticket. So I currently use the Paris city council's hire bikes called Velib (see picture 3 above). Occasionally it is possible to find one in prime condition, but more often recently I have had to use velibs (see picture 2 above) with at flat tyres, or with no saddle, with pedals that do not revolve at all, with handlebars which "float" and thus give little direction to the bike, with only first gear....that's perhaps why a one year pass is only €29.

I started a part time job as an English instructor at Berlitz two weeks ago. I work at the company's centre on Avenue de l'Opera which is extremely posh (see picture 1 above). I have to be available at fixed times during the week (roughly 22.5 hours) although so far my clients have frequently not turned up so I have had free time to do other things. It is relatively straightforward and with no preparation at all which suits me fine. The pay is not exactly great: it is apparently equivalent to what the average Roman slave received in the first century AD, but funnily enough, I really have the sense that that is where God wants me (Berlitz, not Rome, that is). And, encouragingly, one of my new colleagues, a young Australian called Nathan, came along to our life group this week and I have already been able to share the gospel with a number of others.
Gill had been offered one morning's teaching at a private school as a replacement for a lady having a hip operation next month. It is a French school, but on Wednesday's it becomes an English school! She is wondering whether this might lead to further work in the new year. That would be good. Wonderfully for her the English day is Wednesday when, of course, she is not at college. She has also started ironing and cleaning for a neighbour on Friday afternoons.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Return of the blog!

I have been rebuked nicely by a few blog readers recently for lack of blogging and that has prompted me to do something about it. I shall attempt to report briefly on the last couple of months...

We spent a total of 10 nights in our flat between the beginning of July and the 20 Aug which included, of course, the Newfrontiers conference Together on a Mission, Sarah's wedding in Leeds, a few days with Gill's father, a day with my parents...then a week at home before driving south to the Newfrontiers Bible Week at Gagnieres. Then the longest holiday we have ever had and finally returning to Paris.

We had offered the use of our flat to Annalisa, an Edinburgh Uni student of Spanish and French who told us she needed to spend two months in France. Given that we knew we would hardly be here we suggested she became our flat sitter. Great deal for her you might have thought save for one thing...

The day before we set off for Rendezvous our neighbours here on the 5th floor moved out of their flat. That, in itself was not a problem. However, theirs had been the only flat in the whole block which had a serious infestation of cafards (cockroaches). So, as the neighbous moved out, they disturbed all their little lodgers and as the lodgers' food supply diminished, the lodgers, not unreasonably, packed their bags and left too. In their case, they simply entered the neighbouring flats, including the nearest (ours).

At the end of Rendezvous Annalisa returned to Paris to find our flat crawling with the little blighters (and some slightly bigger blighters). She was terrified, but brave. She hardly slept for a week and when she did she would wake up to find them crawling over her pillow! However, armed with traps and sprays she began to fight back and, by the time she left in mid August the battle was virtually won. Thankyou very much Annalisa.

The Bible Week was a great time particularly for us as a local church with 95% of our core folk there and almost all camping together on site. It was extremely hot, but that's usual there. I helped with the Just Looking course which was fun. A lady who was on that course received sight in one eye in the main evening meeting. That eye had been blind from birth. Wow. Praise God. Another highlight were the baptisms we held in the river at Besseges at the end of the week. We baptised five folk including one from Paris. We were left wondering how many folk had been baptised there during the days of the Huguenot revival 16-18th centuries.

Our holiday was spent touring in our caravan and hoping to find campsites with available pitches as most had refused to take reservations in advance. We started in mid Provence, near the famour Gorges du Verdon, then we had a wonderful few days at the very beautiful Lac de Serre Poncon further north. Then several days by the appropriately named Lago di Piano in northern Italy and from there we went to the Brenta Dolomites and finally three days at Lago di Garda where we met up as arranged with Philip, Libby and her family and had a lovely time with them. That was not just because they let us have some of their seriously strong Parmesan cheese!

We were very active on holiday with loads of walking and cycling although one cycle route involved an 8 km climb in 34 degrees which, perhaps was rather stupid.

We've now been back in Paris for a month and the church plant has re-started after a long break. In fact, Paris was still virtually dead when we got back as it seems most people refuse to return to the city until the last possible moment at the end of August. There are a number of new folk in the church which is very encouraging and we are starting our first Alpha Course with a special dinner next Friday night. We are hoping for at least ten guests. Our diary particularly for the next two months of weekends is a nightmare!

Gill has an interview on Monday morning for a place on a language course run by the local town hall (basically to determine at which level she should be placed) and I, having applied for dozens of jobs, finally have an interview also on Monday morning, with Berlitz for a language instructor post. It would be a part time position which sounds OK.

With the proceeds of sale from our Coventry house we are buying a maisonette in Kennington South London and hoping to rent it out as soon as possible (ideally to some of Philip's friends from ChristChurch!). That should seriuously help on the income front although rent from a three bedroom place in Kennington is still less than a 1.5 bedroom flat here on Rue Gazan!

We still do not have French social security cover. We hope we get some before we retire.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

We've managed in the last month to sell a house, buy a car and marry off a daughter so it has been most fruitful indeed.

Our house on Spencer Avenue finally sold at the end of June and we now need to decide how best to invest the money left over as we will need some income from it. We do not have enough to buy a flat big enough to live in here in Paris, but we are wondering about buying a flat somewhere else and renting it out (even in London). We need to do some serious research over the next month or so.

We bought a Citroen C3 and have had a tow bar fitted. In France however, you should not drive a car around with towbar sticking out the back unless you are actually towing so it is a detachable one. As usual everything is much more expensive here (second hand cars, towbars etc), but that's life and we're getting used to it. God doesn't seem to mind of course!

We are just back from ten days in the UK. We left Paris on Sunday 5 July to look for the caravan which had been on a farm in the middle of nowhere since last August. We followed the google instructions most carefully and ended up completely lost. However a local kind farmer told us he knew of the caravan place (it's near to the farm where they sell chickens apparently) and he printed out a map for us which was great. The caravan was duly found in one piece although a little dusty. No signature or identity were required by the farmer so we drove off. Actually I suppose we could have taken any caravan there although ours is the only one the C3 is big enough to tow!

We then set off for Calais camping overnight in a recognised motorway service area. At 2.45am I was awoken by metallic scratching noises at the caravan door and suddenly realised it wasn't a simple nightmare, but someone was actually trying to break in (while we lay in bed!). I got up, banged on the inside of the door and shouted (I can't remember in what language) and the person ran away and I heard a sound of a car revving up and driving off. The lock had been broken unfortunately and I spent the next week unable to close the door!

I left Gill at Caterham to take the train to London and thence to Leeds while I drove to Brighton. Just short of the M25 at a roundabout a passenger in the car behind ran up to say that my driving was erratic: when I indicated left I then turned right and vice versa! I wasn't sure whether to believe her so I checked it out at the next layby. She was right, so I finished my journey to the campsite at Brighton by indicating left when I wanted to turn right etc. Really weird. It hasn't happened again since!

As the conference started at Brighton I was involved virtually the whole day in caravan door repairs (unsuccessfully) and got totally soaked cycling to PC World in Hove. I enjoyed Wednesday and Thursday, particularly hearing Terry Virgo speak about things vital to our churches (such as the baptism in the Holy Spirit) and the future of Newfrontiers.

I spent four nights in the caravan at Brighton with Philip who had just recovered from an unpleasant dose of Shingles. It was great to spend some time with him although he was still in pain the first night.

On the Friday morning we drove to Chorleywood to pick up Charlie Gordon one of Sarah's bridesmaids and arrived in Leeds in time for the wedding rehearsal.

Sarah and Gabriel's wedding was a wonderful day and experience for all involved. I had the privilege of walking Sarah up the aisle while Michael and Philip played some of Dvorak's New World Symphony. The service was full of worship and people. The reception was great fun. The newly weds are now in Turkey! You can view some of the wedding photos at

A couple of days with Gill's father and finally back to Paris for a week before we leave again for Rendezvous on Thursday.

We then have some holiday in the caravan in France and northern Italy as the church here in Paris effectively closes for a month.

I am still looking for a job!

Monday, 15 June 2009

House sale

Good news indeed. We have today exchanged contracts on the sale of our house in Coventry! Yippee! Praise God. It went on the market at the end of Feb 2008 so it has been a long time. The completion date is next Tuesday!!

Another interesting development is with our application to be included on the French social security system. We first applied an extremely long time ago (January 2004 we think, it's so difficult to remember now!). We managed a number of visits to the local offices which resulted last time in their taking lots of photocopies of our passports, birth certificates etc and saying that they would need to send them off to a different office as our application was "irregular". Anyway they promised this other office would phone us. They didn't of course, but, on Friday we had a letter from them. That's the good news. The slightly less good news is that they are asking us to reply to a few simple questions (we should be OK with that) and asking for more photocopies of documents they already have (our conclusion from this request is that, perhaps as a result of the world economic crisis, the French civil service has sold all its stock of photocopiers).

Church wise, our Sundays in the last month or so have been extremely quiet, largely due to the fact that most weekends at this time of year there is a French public holiday and most people use these weekends to go away. We only had 20 people in the meeting a couple of weeks ago!

A week ago Gill and I had our first trip on the famous TGV train when we went to Nimes where I was teaching on "Pastoral Ministry" to the Newfrontiers South region leaders and wives (in fact there were folk there from 6 other churches too which was great). We stayed with Joel and Cathy Trefcon. I preached at the Marguerittes church on the Sunday and then we spent some time with Jenny Fancett, formerly of Jubilee Church Coventry and in the process of moving to the Paris region this summer. It will be great to have her here as part of the church.

Gill has been enjoying her conversation group held in a very posh part of central Paris. She goes for a couple of hours as many afternoons as she can each week. She is making friends very fast and describes herself as "having a ball" at the moment.

We enjoyed the Fete des Voisins (neighbours party) on 26 May, which is now here an annual event. Although it was a cold evening, we had a great time over glasses of champagne and delicious finger foods. Then after a couple of hours we were invited in by folk on the third floor and we spent more time talking with them and another couple.

We have one of the 40 members of L'Academie Francaise living in our block. He is lovely old man of 94. The members of the Academy are the official guardians of the French language which is quite ironic when you hear some of our attempts to master it!

We are off to the UK on Wednesday as I have a training day near London on Thursday. Then we go to the Together at Envision event on Friday (near Bromsgrove) with all the Newfrontiers churches in the western Midlands. I have the privilege of speaking at the opening meeting on Friday night. In English!!!

Then on Sunday we drive to Bishop's Stortford to celebrate with my parents their 60th wedding anniversary! Then back to Paris on Monday.

Our next trip to the UK is to get me to the Brighton conference on 6 July where I am helping with a seminar on church planting on the Thursday. Gill will be taking the train to Leeds to spend the week with Sarah before her big day with Gabriel on 11 July.

Last thing for now: we are buying a car! Not sure where we'll park it. Bit of a nightmare finding anywhere here for it, but we're told that there's lots of space in Belgium. Well, we'll see.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Another month has rushed by. Much has happened and for the sake of our reader I'll try to be brief!

We so enjoyed having both Sarah and then Michael to stay for a few days just before and over Easter (they overlapped by 24 hours). Sarah repeated our unfortunate experience of the week before by missing her flight at Charles de Gaulle airport. It was totally not her fault. She left lots of time for the simple train journey, only to find that the trains weren't going that way that day (at least, not all the way!). So I accompanied her as far as Gare de Lyon from where an Air France bus was supposed to take hundreds of anxious passengers to the airport. The problem: no bus. Even a last minute dash in a taxi was too late and the poor Sarah spent what she later described as the worst day of her life waiting for the next flight to Leeds (10 hours).

As a church we were privileged to have a team visiting us from Mosaic Church Leeds over Easter to serve us in our mission to reach the people of Paris with the good news of Jesus Christ. They were an outstanding team extremely well led and well motivated. A number of the folk from the church here were able to join their activities which often included "treasure hunting". Quite a number of amazing stories resulted including my current favourite: three of us, after praying, compared our "clues" to find we were supposed to be looking for a red sailing boat, a fountain, some steps, some orange clothing and a bad shoulder or neck! We set off for the Jardin de Luxembourg and, on entering the park, we found a large park map which showed the lake in the middle with an image of a little "red sailing boat". Then we saw the "fountain" in the lake as we descended the "steps". Then we saw a man in an orange jacket. We approached him and discovered he was a Chinese surgeon living in Innsbruck on holiday in Paris. He was in fact filming himself! We explained the story of our treasure hunt and asked him if he had a bad shoulder. He did. We offered to pray and he accepted after we had explained what we were going to do. He was healed and amazed. We then started to tell him about Jesus and he told us he had just started an Alpha Course in Innsbruck. Absolutely remarkable!

Gill visited her father, her brother and sister in law for a few days after Easter and then we had a wonderful weekend in Coventry staying with Simon and Carol Collyer and we realised again how many lovely friends we have there. The church is doing very well and has obviously grown a fair bit since we left. Everyone was so supportive and loving. We were truly blessed. A big thankyou to Jubilee Church Coventry. I got to preach in English on the Sunday morning which I enjoyed. I hope the church did too!

Then we spent half a day with my parents and a couple of hours with Philip and Libby in London just before taking the Eurostar home.

This last week we have seen our friend Carla (the gardienne of our block of flats) healed of back pain. Gill saw her on Thursday morning struggling to walk (she explained that she had a twisted pelvis and had pain in her back). Gill offered to pray and Carla duly arrived. We prayed for her and she was slightly improved, but still in too much pain to sit down. She said that the doctor had told her that she had one leg longer than the other. We prayed again and she was then able to sit down for us to verify. Yes, her left leg was a good 1.5cm shorter than the other. We explained that Jesus was well able to grow the left one. We prayed. The leg grew to the perfect length. She was wearing stripey socks so it was quite easy to judge. She was absolutely shocked and could not believe it as she had actually felt the leg grow while we prayed. She was then pain free and went about her work as normal. Then yesterday she asked us where our church meets and this morning for the first time she and Tino came to our meeting (to hear me preaching on giving!!). The moral of the story seems to be that miracles do help people to be much more open to the gospel! Praise God.

I am going to be looking for some part time employment to start any time from between now and the beginning of September.

Good news on our house sale. The previous purchaser was taking far too long and some four months after her original offer, said she would proceed quickly if we reduced the price by £25000. Not surprisingly we declined immediately and in return gave her a 5 day ultimatum to exchange contracts at the agreed price. She failed. We said "bye bye!" to her. The estate agents, Loveitts, then wonderfully found two new prospective purchasers and we are now proceeding rapidly with one of them and at a slightly higher price!!