Sunday, 18 January 2009

The thaw has arrived at last after some bitterly cold days and nights (down to minus 10 at night for a while).

The pollution has been bad recently also here in the city (because of the high pressure) and so, yesterday, we took the train to the end of our line and then went for a long walk in the country which was lovely.

We continue to see new people come to our Sunday meetings every week and, if it were possible to get everyone together at once, we would have quite a lot of folk! However, the habit of being away for the weekend (quite understandable now we know what is it like to live in a huge city) means that we are usually missing a considerable proportion.

We have announced that we are starting four life groups ("groupes de vie") in March of which, initially, Gill and I will lead two until we have trained up leaders to hand over to. We are determined that these groupes de vie will from the start be active in reaching out to friends, work colleagues, neighbours etc.

I have applied recently for a few part time jobs, basically teaching business people English, but as yet have heard nothing. As a leadership team we feel that I will be employed by the church as from some date later this year, whether or not I have any part time work outside the church.

Our house sale seems to be going through. We have, at least, now signed the contract and we understand that the purchaser's survey has been carried out and that she has received her mortgage offer. So...perhaps we might exchange contracts in the next couple of weeks!

Now a story to recount. While Irene, a French girl from the south we know from RendezVous, was staying with us just after the new year, we heard that our gardienne's parents were staying with her and that her mother was quite ill. I felt we should offer to pray for her and so Irene (who knows a little Portuguese which I thought might come in handy as the mother spoke no French or English) and I went down, knocked on their door and announced that we had come to pray for the lady if she wanted us to! This was translated into Portuguese and the answer was "yes". We went in and explained what we wanted to do asking Carla the gardienne to translate our prayers from French into Portuguese so that her mother would understand.

There were eight of us crammed into their tiny front room (Carla, her husband Tino, their 15 year old daughter Philippa, a cousin and Carla's parents, Irene and me). We asked permission, laid hands on the old lady who looked very ill, and prayed. The prayers were translated. The old lady fell asleep so we couldn't ask if she felt any better. Carla, on the other hand, said that she had felt all tingly (pins and needles) while we had been praying. We explained that this was simply a sign of the presence of God! Gill then arrived and we were offered port (as you are, of course, by the Portuguese!).

Three days later, still not knowing what if anything had happened, Carla came up and told us that her mother had got better straight after we had prayed and that the doctor had even pronounced her well enough to go home to Portugal. She was thrilled. So were we. Her mother wanted us to pray for her again before she left and so Gill and I were invited for a meal the following night. I have never seen as much meat on a platter. There was enough for a small village. Every imaginable part of a pig's anatomy was present and apparently I ate an ear and the nose during the evening! Anyway, in the end we prayed again with more translation, this time phrase by phrase.

Two days later Carla visited us again to deliver the mail. She explained that, not only had her mum been healed of a back problem and (almost completely) of her headaches, but that her relationship with her husband Tino had immeasurably improved from the moment we had prayed for her mother's healing. Strange, but wonderful, Praise God! Gill and I then spent an hour sharing the gospel with her showing her that the healing was not just to demonstrate God's glory and love, but was also a sign to her to follow Jesus.

We have Philip coming to stay for a few days from Thursday which we are really looking forward to.

I am preaching on the next two Sundays and want to speak about God's purpose for his church. Please pray that God will hugely help me.

Gill's French is coming on. Constantly she is receiving encouraging words from folk in the church.

Friday, 2 January 2009

Bonne annee

A very happy Christmas and new year to all and sorry it has been a whole month since we last posted on this blog!

We had a very enjoyable week or so in the UK over Christmas managing to see almost all our closest relatives in various places. My parents were kind enough to lend me their car and 750 miles and a week later we returned it in one piece, but totally covered in mud (more of that later).

Our Paris church plant, CVV, (Le Chemin, la Verite et la Vie) continued well during December and it was a privilege to preach on The Unsearchable Riches of Grace on 14 Dec to a group which included that morning 4 people who were not Christians (one Mexican, one French, one American and one Russian) all of whom were separately involved in deep discussions over our lunch together. We are eagerly awaiting our first convert to Christ. I am sure that will not be long now.

Julian Adams was with us on 21 Dec and, as I had to rush off for the Eurostar before the end and while he was in full prophesying flow, I have yet to hear all he shared, but in preaching he encouraged us strongly to ensure that the power of God is in the very foundations of the church.

Gill has started a new course at Alliance Francaise until the end of January and then hopes to do a further course run by the local town hall not far from where we live.

One of my main prayers, at present, is asking God for guidance and clear direction regarding the use of my time. One option might be to find a part time job locally and be supported by the church part time too.

Financially, we are very encouraged by our first two monthly offerings as a church (we don't pass the plate round each Sunday). Many many French churches are seriously hindered by lack of resources. We pray that we may have the grace to set an entirely different example right from the beginning.

Another prayer is for God's help in searching for somewhere new to meet on Sundays as we are, of course, getting too big for Gordon and Kerry's house.

Some very good news indeed is that, at very long last, we received an offer on the sale of our house and, after a little negotiation, we have a deal!!! Praise God. We still, of course, need to pray that it all goes through smoothly and it is hoped to exchange contracts in February.

As well as seeing our respective parents and most of our siblings and some of their families over Christmas we stayed in Michael's house in Bramley, Leeds which Sarah had warned us in advance would be seriously cold and she had wanted us to "implore" him to clean it! In fact, it was not too cold and it was clear that he had definitely cleaned some of it. It was lovely to spend a few days with all our three children, likely to be the last Christmas with just the five of us as Sarah is getting married in July.

Speaking of marriages, we had an enjoyable day meeting Gabriel's family at their farm cottage in the middle of nowhere: in fact it is an old farm cottage on the Castle Howard estate in North Yorkshire. Really quite the opposite of a 5th floor apartment in Paris! No other habitation anywhere in sight, no tarmac on any nearby road and, of course, mud everywhere. There is, in fact, less mud there now as much of it attached itself to my parents' car as we skidded down and then later up the farm track. We had a walk around the estate, a wonderful meal, we all prayed together and finished with a game of scrabble.

Back in Paris it is extremely cold and the lake in the park is frozen over. It snowed this morning and there's a beautiful winter-wonderland view from our balcony.

It is, however, the transforming by the Holy Spirit of the Parisian spiritual and social landscape that we will take even more delight in and we pray that we will see more evidence of that throughout this coming year.