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.