Gill's mother died on Sat 21 February having battled with various quite serious illnesses for some time and having been in Lancaster Hospital for a month or so. She was 88. Gill's brother phoned us with the news late that evening which, though a shock, was, nevertheless, not altogether unexpected.
On the Monday the funeral was arranged for the Friday afternoon of the same week (26 Feb) so we hurriedly made arrangements for another trip to the UK. After hours of investigating different possible routes and assessing them for convenience and price, we eventually decided upon the Eurostar and borrowing, once again, my parents' car. The funeral went well and was well attended by family and friends from the village (Warton in Lancashire). All our three children were able to make it which made it more special for us. There was a burial in the church yard and then a very nice reception (mainly for family) in the local inn next door to the church building.
We then drove to Leeds where we stayed the weekend with Sarah and saw a fair bit of Michael too, of course. We enjoyed Gateway Church on the Sunday morning. The church is clearly growing there (as is the other Newfrontiers church in Leeds - "Mosaic"). I returned to Paris on the Monday and Gill spent a further few days with her father before returning on Thursday.
Church-wise, here, we had the very exciting news yesterday that we have had our first convert to Christ, a young Mexican man from a Catholic background who is working for a year as a language assistant (Spanish) in a local secondary school. We pray that this will be first of many thousands of similar stories.
We will be doing another "Treasure Hunt" on Saturday morning where we will gather a few people together to pray for a short while and ask God to give us some clues to follow. These, we write down and then go out into the city to find the treasure (those people whom God wants us to speak to/pray for etc). Scary, but very exciting.
We started four "life groups" last week of which Gill and I are currently leading two, one here in the south and one in nthe north east. We are sure these will prove to be really helpful in gathering people into the core of the church plant as well as, of course, reaching out to our friends and neighbours etc.
We have made zero progress in the last month towards state health insurance. As you may recall from our last post, we deposited our dossiers with the local prefecture of police who take two months to process them. After just over a month and not having heard from them, I was naively beginning to think that we had, eventually, defeated the system and that if we only waited another four short weeks we would get our cartes de sejour which we could then take to the Health Insurance people who would, no doubt after a further delay, give us what we want (Cartes Vitales). Oh, how wrong can you be!
A letter arrived from the police last week informing us that our very carefully put together dossiers were defective and saying we need to provide them with evidence of private health insurance. On applying to a number of insurance companies via the internet I was told that they couldn't help us without our having French social security numbers. Sadly we don't have these. I then emailed the British Embassy who replied promptly saying they don't deal with this sort of thing. I emailed the French government website explaining the problem and they have now replied saying that we need social security numbers. It seems that you get those when you are employed. We're not at present. I rang them and explained and they said that, in our case, which they said was "irregulier", we can go to one of two local hospitals and ask for l'Aide Medicale d'Etat, but on investigating what that actually is it seems that we have earned too much money in the last 12 months to qualify! It's not easy you know this administration thing here!
Gill, who is after all now something of an expert linguist, told me the other day that, if you go back very carefully to the original Greek, a more accurate translation of Revelation 21:4 is actually "and there will be no more death, nor mourning, nor crying, nor pain because French administration has been done away with". I didn't believe her, but perhaps someone would like to check for us...!
Amazingly, I was able on Saturday afternoon to watch live the Coventry City : Chelsea FA Cup quarter final on French TV. Lucky it wasn't on TF1 as we can't get that channel to work at present. I have complained and am now told that we have to reboot the system five times and then it should work. I feel a bit like Naaman the Syrian general when told by Elisha to bathe seven times in the Jordan. Ridiculous, but, after all, if it works, I suppose I'll do it.
This Sunday afternoon is the Six Nations Rugby international between England and France. We have invited a number of French and English folk to watch the game with us and a Polish girl who can sit in the middle and be our referee! However, after England's dire performance against Ireland, I'm not feeling very optimistic, but I am sure it will still be a fun and noisy afternoon!