Monday, 9 February 2009

Various travels and visitors

The last few weeks have been rather busy one way or another for both of us. We have each made a trip to the UK and we have welcomed a number of people staying with us.

Gill's mother is ill and currently in hospital in Lancaster and so Gill took the train last week to visit her and, of course, her father who is in a retirement home in Carnforth. She is glad she did not try to travel the day before, after the UK snowfall when, apparently Eurostar trains were stuck in the tunnel for hours overnight, and, amazingly, her trains were on time. The prognosis for her mum is unclear; she has lost a lot of weight, she is clearly quite ill, she is 88, but she is very tough.

I had a Newfrontiers France team meeting from Thursday to Saturday last week. We often hold these meetings in New Ash Green in Kent at Pete and Kim Carter's house and we are always wonderfully well served by the church there. We had an excellent visit from Terry Virgo on Friday morning who brought us some important encouragements regarding being people and churches of the Word and the Spirit. As ever, we had a great time together as leaders and we spent some time planning towards the Bible Week RendezVous at the end of July.

I am going back to the UK this week for 24 hours as David Stroud is running a series of coaching days this year for leaders of the church plants in major European cities including, at present, Valencia, Dublin, Paris and St Petersburg. That is on Thursday at High Leigh in Hertfordshire and means I will have an hour or so with Philip at St Pancras on my way through on Wednesday afternoon.

Philip, in fact, and a friend of his from London called Matt, stayed with us for a few days towards the end of January. We then had a weekend visit from Han Na Cha and a fleeting one from Hannah Schofield from Coventry at the same time as Simon and Becci Brown were visiting the Perriers so we had some Coventry visitors at our Sunday meeting for the first time which was exciting.

We had more visitors this last weekend, Katy from Bedford and Kat from Norwich which has been fun too.

We are praying that God will show us where in Paris he wants us as a church to meet next. We haven't found anywhere yet. Visitors are still coming every Sunday which is very encouraging.

We have been advised we need to get registered on the french system for social security (essentially that will mean health etc). However, that is fraught with difficulty as seems often to be the case wherever the French and administration are too close to one another! On discovering in December that the UK would continue to cover me for health issues until Jan 2010, but that for some unknown reason Gill's cover exprired on 2 Jan 2009, we therefore cycled in the rain to the local office of the Caisse Primaire Assurance Maladie to register. How naive can you get! We left half an hour later none the wiser having, it seemed, really confused the lady by saying that I had been employed in the UK as a church leader.

Plan B was then needed. I sent Gill back a few weeks' later with Liz, a friend who could help with the language if necessary, with instructions to say that she was simply a student or unemployed and to try to avoid talking about me (always a good plan!). Gill returned with an extremely long list of instructions and documents and photocopies to produce before the matter could be taken any further. One of the required documents had to be obtained from the local Prefecture de Police who deal with foreigners.

Plan C was then needed. Apply to the Prefecture for a Carte de Sejour. I emailed the Police who were helpful, but in the end they told me to ring them. I did and explained the situation. They replied that, being citizens of a European Union state we did not need a carte de sejour. I told them we had to have one in order to qualify for French state health cover! They sounded confused, but told me nevertheless to apply. To apply for the carte de sejour, however, a vast list of documents needed to be provided (no surprise there!) and they would write to us with the list. Eventually the letter arrived and we started putting together the dossier. I have delivered this by hand to them and we are told that it will take two months to process (which isn't bad as I had feared they might have said 200 years). So, assuming they find no problems with our dossier, we might receive the cartes de sejour (which officially we don't really need) in April and will then start again with the Health people (they apparently do take 200 years to process forms). in other words, we are not allowed to be ill until April 2209.

Things are going well.