Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Last Days in France

It is Wednesday now of our last week. Events from Sunday till now have been a wonderful blur. I preached at the little church in our community on Sunday with Dorothee Bonall translating. It was so fun to preach again after this long break. The congregation was almost full (30 people).
Then in the hot afternoon Ken Satterberg took the train to Ales from Marseilles and spent two days with us. Each time we are in France we connect with Ken. On Monday we went out hiking on an ancient trail constructed by Cardinal Richileu in the 16th century on which he and the king’s troops from the north persecuted the rebellious Protestants from the south.
After a long and cooling swim, Martha cooked dinner for Ken and our host couple, Remi and Dorothee. After dinner we gathered in the dusty courtyard for a long and competitive game of “Petanque” (the French form of Bocchi Ball played with metal balls on gravel not grass). We played until 11:00 pm.
Tuesday we introduced Ken to one of our favorite villages, Anduze, and a retreat center outside of town that the Covenant might consider for gatherings. We dropped Ken off after our long and lingering lunch in Anduze at the Ales train station and we drove to St. Jean du Gard for another long meal out with the pastor and wife who let us use their summer home. The reservations were for 8:00 pm and we were early! Again, we ate until after 10:00 pm, with much laughter and love. We walked home through the abandoned streets to find our car and say goodbye to our good friends. We hope to have them visit us in California sometime in 2009.
It was our first time in five weeks driving at night. Our normal pattern has been to drive a lot (1,000 km per/week) but to be home for dinner and an after-dinner walk through the community.
Now today Martha is busy getting a last clothes washing in and cleaning up the apartment during the day. Tonight we drive back to Chateau Neuf du Papes for dinner with our “French son” Julien whom I wrote about earlier. He is hosting us for dinner to meet his fiancé and some friends. I’m guessing this too will be a late night and a long, dark drive home.
This has been an interesting visit to France this time. With my parents in not-great health, I went with some hesitation. Then my friend from church tragically died and I could not get home, but spent much time on the phone with his family and friends. The apartment above us was occupied by a grandson of the host couple who had to be medically removed because of emotional issues. All those relational issues sombered this time away.
I have had great time for reading (almost through Jeremiah) and writing (done with “Old Stones” and started two other projects), walking and eating great foods. But the time has come to return to where we belong, to where we speak and understand the language, to where we have jobs to do beyond observing the culture.
I am deeply grateful to be a part of a church that grants me such generous time away.


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