Short-term missions trip opportunity in France – Summer 2009

The private French Christian school where Angela and I volunteer and our daughter attends, (Collège-Daniel) recently acquired some land with some “cabins” on it. We have a project this summer to renovate those cabins into classrooms and office space for this coming September. We have partnered with EuroTeam, a branch of Greater Europe Mission, to oversee the renovation work.

At present the project is in jeopardy as we lack the workers to actually accomplish the renovation. This post is a call to any/all who might be interested in participating in a 2-week short-term renovation-project missions trip to the Alsace region of France this summer. Individuals and/or groups are welcome.

This printable PDF flyer gives more details and could be posted in churches or Christian schools, etc. Please feel free to pass on this blog post and/or PDF file to potentially interested people/groups.

For those who are interested, please use the contact information in the PDF file as WE are NOT the ones coordinating the team; that is what EuroTeam is doing. Thanks!

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Run Away! Run Away!

As a youth, I was a great fan of Monty Python. The Flying Circus was great and The Holy Grail was…well the Holy Grail!

One of the great expression from Monty Python and the Holy Grail was, “Run Away!”, which was uttered numerous times throughout the film if memory serves, as a replacement for “Retreat!”

Well, I’ve discovered recently that there isn’t a replacement for retreat!

I’m not speaking of natural flight before an overwhelming foe, rather the time-honored tradition of spending a block of time in solitude to re-focus and refresh.

This summer, my head was down in concentration and I was focused on attaining certain milestones in the evolution of the computer network at the private Christian School “Collège-Daniel” where I work in Alsace, France. I was determined to achieve breakthrough and had been working on certain issues for a loooooonnnngggg time. The artificial goal I’d set required that I achieve certain things during the summer break that I simply couldn’t work on effectively during the school year.

Angela had been gone for a month in the States, hoping-against-hope that I’d have wrapped it all up by the time I met her at the airport with flowers in hand (which I did, of course!), and then we could actually relax a bit during the summer break [peanut gallery “snicker” here].

Of course while she was gone, I couldn’t hardly get anything done because I was running the house (and not nearly as efficiently as she does!) So, when I went right back at it at school our “expectation conflict” was beginning to brew.

Eventually it boiled over and soon thereafter I got sick for a week…so, she was right that I was working too much and my priorities were messed up. Additionally, as we reflected together on our “summer of family transition” and our last 8-9 years of cross-cultural adventure and moving from house to house, the accumulated weight of stress in my life became more evident to me.

Run Away! Run Away!

I finally realized just how exhausted I was…spirit, soul and body. It was time for a change of scenery and pace.

I’d heard of a place in Alsace, near Munster, where there was a retreat center run by protestant order of sisters where one could get away for a spiritual retreat. After some checking around, I finally found the Community Center at Hohrodberg (Centre Communautaire du Hohrodberg.) About the same, time a good friend of mine in the States also took a retreat. I knew it was a confirmation. I needed to run away!

So, I took 5 days to spend time resting and talking and listening to God. Of course, I had naively hoped to come back all cleaned up, rested up, filled up and full of clear direction for the year to come (among other things). This was a similar sentiment that I had when I left for our YWAM DTS 9 years ago.

God doesn’t seem to work that way with me…;-)

No, He seems to have a preference for drawing me and coaxing me toward Him via “hedging me in” in ways that are uncomfortable…physically, spiritually, and emotionally. He understands that “perfect bliss” in my natural life doesn’t push me Further Up and Further In!

So Angela drove me about an hour northwest of our home in Soultz to Hohrodberg. The final 10 minutes of drive are a beautiful, winding climb up higher and higher in the Vosges.

The Centre Communautaire du Hohrodberg is a collection of 3 buildings that straddle this winding road as it continues on into the Vosges. I was welcomed by one of the 7 sisters (in the “order” sense of the word) that live at the Center and run it. Their full-time vocation is to pray continually and welcome visitors to the Center. I was shown around and then shown my room. I said good-bye to Angela and settled in for my 4-5 days with the Lord.

My room was named “Horeb” and was situated in the building named “Elim.” It was immaculate! It was small but very thoughtfully appointed – bed, sink, table, night-stand, good lighting, good storage, great view, etc. I really couldn’t have asked for a better situation. I never saw any other rooms but I was very impressed by mine.

Horeb is mentioned several times in scripture; notably as the sight of Moses’ burning bush (Exodus 3:1-3) and Elijah’s encounter with the Lord (I Kings 19:4-18). Elijah’s experience spoke to me while I was there. Here’s a little comparison between his “Horeb experience” and mine:

Elijah David

Starts out exhausted after a concentrated time of heavy-duty ministry


Starts out exhausted after several years of spread-out ministry


Sleeps…wakened by an angel to eat divinely provided foot…repeat 2x


Sleeps…wakened by alarm clocks to eat food prepared by the sisters at the center…repeat 3x/day


Re-finding his strength, goes on 40 day hike to the mountains


Re-finding his strength, goes on 1 1/2 hour hike in the mountains


Experiences wind, earthquake, fire…but no God


Sees where men have experienced wind, earthquake and fire…but no God in fierce fighting in WWI at the “Lingekopf” near the Center.


Experiences calm…and dialogs with God


Experiences calm, where once was war, and dialogs with God

As I mentioned, my time at Hohrodberg, though valuable and peaceful, wasn’t idyllic. Idyllic is something I’d love to experience, but I know that idyllic doesn’t refine me.

At Hohrodberg, one is expected to enter into the community rhythm while staying there. I took a wonderful 3-day retreat many years ago at Sacred Heart in Colorado., and the integration was a bit more “à la carte” there, if you will. I think I preferred that. At Hohrodberg, office is 3-times-a-day, just before meals. The meals are all taken communally, course-by-course, with the breakfast and evening meals being eating in silence. Everyone participates, in turn, in the wash-up after the meals.

Probably what was hardest for me were the meals. I found it annoying to “eat in rhythm” with the serving of the courses. I also struggled with eating in silence with people on my right and left that I didn’t know. I don’t mind silence at all, but I prefer it in conjunction with solitude/physical separation. A crowded room of silence actually feels a bit oppressive to me. The food wasn’t outstanding either, so I didn’t really look forward to meal times.

I had all the rest of the time to myself and it was more than sufficient. But…the “imposed rhythm” marked me enough that I might think twice before going back…or perhaps I’d go back for a shorter time, in a better all-around state. I was more or less in “critical care” when I went, and really wanted to take a break from any particular rhythm…good or bad. I imagine that going there “healthy” for 2-3 days would probably flow much better for me.

I took my English Bible (normally I read from my French Bible, but I really needed to completely relax and reading in French still represents more effort than in English) and two books: Facing Your Giants by Max Lucado and The Pleasures of Loving God by Mike Bickle.

I didn’t take my guitar or a camera. I’m glad I chose not to. The guitar would have been a distraction and the amazing beauty would have endlessly whispered (or screamed), “Capture me! Capture me!” As it is, I captured what I could with camera on my phone and added an album for Hohrodberg on our gallery. Having a “phone cam” however, allowed me to take very quick snapshots without getting sucked into the time-consuming activity of creating photographic works of art (in my dreams!)

The rest, the reading, the prayer, the walking, the offices, the enveloping beauty…all of this combined to communicate a handful of simple messages that have been amplified and confirmed since returning home:

  • Song of Solomon 2:14 is Jesus’ gracious, loving and merciful call to me right now. In my hike, at several points the path I took led me through the “clefts of the rocks.” The call of my Beloved is clear to me…I’ve only to respond.
  • While not intended to penetrate my life as anchors of shame, my weaknesses were underlined to me…in much the same way that God spoke to Elijah on mount Horeb to correct his errant thinking and I limp with them as Israel, né Jacob, did after Jabbok (Genesis 32:22-31).
  • I’ve loved serving God more than I’ve loved God Himself. I’ve been thrilled with the gift of being called into Kingdom service in things that personally I enjoy doing. However, even “enjoyable Kingdom work” does not bring a level of satisfaction and pleasure that greatly surpasses other earthly pleasures, nor does it renew and refresh over the long haul. It drains, perhaps slowly…but surely, and doesn’t provide a “protective pleasure” that makes worldly pleasures “pale in comparison.” Only loving God does that. This is subtle mind you… One can’t focus on loving God directly and somehow leave Kingdom service behind. The two are inextricably bound. It’s an issue rather of motivation and priority…but it is an important issue.
  • The hour is such that my need to make a distinction between the #1 priority of the “One Thing” (Psalm 27:4) and #2-#n priorities can no longer suffer neglect…neglect must now be reserved for my “urgent matters” that pop-up to take me away from my One Thing. Included in the “not #1 priorities” would be clear direction for all activities. That’s for the Lord to reveal when He wants…my pursuit is Him.

Freedom Walk

(This post is an excerpt of my daughter Rachel’s Facebook post about her participation in the Freedom Walk in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania a couple of weeks ago)

Around 300 years ago, a religious group of people suffered severe persecution in Switzerland. A certain Lord Ribeaupierre invited those people to come and live in Alsace, France and farm the land. Among his conditions were that the people take a ‘vow of silence’ and refrain from any kind of witnessing or proselytizing. They agreed, moved, and withdrew as religious communities from the outside world. Later, many emigrated to the United States.

This story is about the Anabaptists, who are still around and known as Mennonites, Amish, and Brethren. And strange as it may sound, this is the reason I went to Pennsylvania last week.

Sins committed in the past can be confessed, repented of, and forgiven in the present. God leads individuals and groups today to stand humbly in the place of their ancestors and deal with these sins. This work of reconciliation breaks off generational curse of sin and spiritual strongholds that affect and imprison places today.

A team of people from my church in France flew to Pennsylvania to ask forgiveness for having imposed the ‘vow of silence’ and to intercede (pray for) Lancaster by joining a group of various believers to complete a prayer walk around the perimeter of Lancaster county.

I was invited to join by the leaders of the prayer walk (who are good friends), and to help with translating for the French team!

And it was awesome.

Revival is coming to Lancaster.
Revival is coming to the Amish.

We saw some of the beginning signs of this in the 5 Amish families who prayer walked with us! A few years ago, they were given a supernatural healing ministry and were consequently excommunicated from the Amish church. Now they are a community and call their work Light of Hope Ministries. They see themselves as bridging the gap between the Amish and the rest of the Christian community. I LOVED (lovedlovedloved) being with them, spending time with the children, mixing with another culture, and being challenged by their passionate spirituality and vision.
Read more about them here: http://charismamag.com/articles/index.php?id=17482

Because of the French team and their need for translation, I feel like God has also used this week to give me a second chance – (that I really didn’t deserve – to appreciate the French and the French language. For the last few years, I’ve generally resented speaking French and feeling doomed to substandard communication. Despite what people say, I know just how far from fluency I am! Not only that, but my confidence had gone way down after being away at BFA for two years…

So, knowing that He could, I asked God to help me translate beyond my abilities this week. There were MORE than enough opportunities to serve, and of every variety – French to English/English to French, simultaneous/phrase-by-phrase, informal/formal, one-on-one/group situations… and yes, many times it was easier than I anticipated. God was helping me! I learned several things: first, that I may actually be gifted in translating. Second, I learned better to dismiss the fear of being judged for my mistakes. The fact that the people in the French team all know and love me helped. I had to think about others first, and realize when they weren’t understanding… forcing me to be very NOT self-centered. Not always easy.

I’ve been on a total of eight plane trips this summer, and – what are the odds – been given a window seat every time. I know heaven isn’t really a straight up shoot from earth (more of a parallel realm), and yet, there’s something about that “God’s eye view” that takes my mind outside the box… and I smile at the big screaming deal we think we are.

Do you ever wonder what it would look like to fly over the US on July 4th in the evening? I do.

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Home Improvement… DIY… Bricolage…

In France they call it “bricolage”. In the UK, it’s DIY (Do It Yourself) and in the States, it’s often “Home Improvement” (though I struggled a bit in finding the exact word we use in “American”). In my language, I call it a “trial!”

The advent of my first blog entry coincides nicely with the end of a frustrating day working on the house. I’m struck by the comparison of fiddling with computers and fiddling with houses. Both can be beset with huge, time-wasting problems that work hard to rob you of your joy. But for some reason, I find myself in the minority of those who would rather have my time wasted and consumed by my computer than my house.

There are probably many a danger signal in that for me, of course…fodder for another day’s meditation…

On my computer, I’ve just created this blog, and it took a fair bit of effort to get it to look and work the way I wanted it. There are still things I’d like to do and problems I’ll encounter, but the blog is largely “done”. Now, I simply need to “move in” and enjoy it.

On my house, we’re trying to take our 1900’s era Alsatian house that was lived in by a widow for the last umpteen years and transform it into something that a family of 5 can actually live in and enjoy. We’re doing it on no budget at all and, at least in my case, little skill and even less experience. At least my wife has an eye for these things!

It’s good for me to get the experience but it’s not pleasant. I’ve enjoyed the new things I’ve learned while getting this blog functioning. I can only hope that I’ll eventually enjoy my new-found home-improvement skills and enjoy a nicer home when all is said and done.

In the meantime, I’ll cozy up to my keyboard and enjoy my new virtual surroundings.