I know it’s been a LONG time since the last entry but the blog’s not dead…just on the back-burner with a busy season of life.
Included in this busy season was my participation, along with my daughter Rachel, in the 2nd week of a two-week prayer walk, undertaken by the intercessors of our church (and others) between Saint-Louis, France (in Alsace, just north of the city of Basel, Switzerland), through Switzerland to Geneva, and on out into France…all the way to Lyon, France. The part that Rachel and I walked was from Lausanne, Switzerland to Lyon, France. Here’s my report…sorry for its length! ;c)
You can read about the general purpose of the walk at our church’s web site here. Also a more detailed document of some of the historical reasons for this specific prayer-walk can be found at our church’s web site here. A Google Maps view of the route can be found here.
We drove down from Alsace early on the morning of Friday, July 20th to Lausanne where we met up with others from Switzerland and elsewhere in France to hopefully begin walking around 9am.
Lausanne was where the walkers who did the first week of the prayer walk had ended 2 days prior, and apparently it had been difficult to enter into Lausanne and stay together as a group. We had a bit of the same difficulty in walking out of Lausanne towards Geneva.
At this point, it’s important to understand a bit of the daily logistics of such a walk. To accomplish a walk from Basel to Lyon in two weeks, one needs to cover about 40-50 kilometers a day. If each person had to walk that, it would only be athletes that could participate on such a walk…and we’re far from that! On this walk we had people from their teens to their 70’s participating on this walk, and only a handful were in tip-top shape.
So how is this accomplished? We walk in “relay-style.” In our case we had between 11 and 13 people walking and we had 3 cars traveling with the walkers. We would send out a couple of walkers and a car would travel on about 2 kilometers and stop and send out a few more walkers. In the meantime the other cars would leap-frog the car and walkers and send out other walkers and wait for the walkers that had been sent out behind them to complete their two kilometers. So we had at any one point in time, 2 to 3 sections of 2 kilometers each being walked and prayed for simultaneously. The distance on a map can seem great but this relay-style walking makes it fly by.
As I said, we had a bit of difficulty walking out of Lausanne. There is a sort of “rhythm” that is necessary to walk in together as a team. Without it, this relay style of walking can get confusing. People alternate between driving and walking. Both drivers and walkers need to have some idea of the route if they come to a crossroads. Not every walker can drive. One has to be aware of who is walking where so as to have a driver for every car, etc., etc. Some people are naturally more aware and alert about logistical details. In our international team, not everyone was a native French speaker so language could definitely become an issue.
As we started out, I was definitely confused as to where each car was and was with an older, somewhat fearful French lady who was driving her niece’s car and I was waiting until I could wear my knee brace (left in a different car) before I started to walk. We managed to get out of Lausanne and on a fairly direct route to Geneva, but not without some stress about getting lost, etc.
While waiting for some walkers at one point in Lausanne, I noticed a small flock of sheep in a small field in the middle of an urban neighborhood. They were peacefully eating while nearby traffic and commuter trains zoomed by. As I reflected on the world-renowned wrist-watch industry of Switzerland, I felt God was saying that the Swiss have a gift for the “rhythm of life” that is able to tightly integrate the beauty of creation with the necessities of human life and that He wanted that rhythm to be learned by other nations too. When I did walk later that day, I was beating on my small doumbek drum and walking by myself. God reminded me again about rhythm and about a teaching that I’d recently heard about the redemptive gifts of a territory (Plumbline Ministries…download/listen to teachings here). It was at this point that I realized that in some respects we had started out our walk “out of step” with the land of Switzerland and its “rhythm.” We were ostensibly walking to honor Switzerland, but we were dishonoring it at a fundamental level. Later, one of our team members was filling up their car with gas at a Swiss service station and joked with the cashier in asking if gas was free for foreigners. The cashier said that foreigners in Switzerland were a pest and they should get out! In the first week, the team had heard about how France had historically not kept her promises to Switzerland. We had, indeed, struck a nerve.
We were a team of 2 Americans, 1 German, a bunch of French and 2 people from Switzerland (one of whom was actually a Flemish Belgian and the other born in Colombia and adopted by a couple in Switzerland). So, we were not a very “Swiss” team and our manner of walking had not taken into account a Swiss rhythm of life. We had come in a bit too “French”, I think. Consequently we were walking out of step with the gifting of the land of Switzerland and felt the dissonance and confusion in our team. When we purposed to really honor Switzerland and not try to “push” too hard, a rhythm was found in the relay walking.
The 2nd day we walked into Geneva and were privileged to have some former members of our church, who have since moved away, walk with us. It was a father and a son, and the father works with a ministry that is frequently in Switzerland. In addition to frequently being in Geneva, he was also helpful in helping us better understand the issue of money and the Swiss. While many are aware of the abuses of money in private Swiss bank accounts, this brother pointed out to us that the idea that the Swiss have a big problem with money is really false. He said that the Swiss are among the most generous in the world. Regularly, between a French meeting and a Swiss meeting, his ministry can expect to see an offering that is twice the size in Switzerland than in France. Of course all good gifts and talents can be twisted by the enemy for his devices, but as we walked into this very rich city of Geneva, we were able to bless the gift that Switzerland has of generosity and call forth the riches of this nation to be used for God’s glory. We also desire that the gifting for managing money that Switzerland has be taught to other nations as well.
Due to the difficulty of driving in a large city and our desire to visit and pray in several places in Geneva, we parked the cars at a parking garage and set out on foot. This proved to be physically a problem for me and my knee. If I’d have stopped walking at the point where we entered Geneva then I might have been able to go on the next day. As it was, the extra walking and being on my feet in Geneva pushed my knee too far. The rest of the walk I was a designated driver. More on that later.
In Geneva are several of the major historical points of the Protestant Reformation. We visited the College of John Calvin and prayed there. We felt that there was a touchstone of the Reformation where faith and education came together. Unfortunately that rich spiritual well has been largely stopped up. We prayed there for the releasing of those roots of faith in the training up of the young generations. After that we walked to the “Wall of the Reformers” in one of the city parks. This is an impressive monument to some of the major figures in the Reformation. I say some, because we noticed that there was a distinction of “rank” in where/how certain figures were represented. Notably, you have John Calvin, William Farel, Theodore de Beze, and John Knox in the center and very much larger than life! In my “reformation ignorance”, I’d never heard of Theodore de Beze and I knew that John Knox’s greatest impact was in Scotland, not Switzerland. Of interest was that Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli, were not represented on the wall, but with a simple large block of stone off to the left and right.
What we saw in this was the divisions that were rife in the Reformation and the prevailing sentiment that “our brand” of Christianity was better than “yours.” This oneupmanship of the Reformation led to many cruel persecutions within the Body of Christ, notably with respect to the Anabaptist movement.
While praying at this monument, one of the young ladies in our group asked the question about the role of women in the Reformation. This was an opportunity to repent for the suppression of women in Protestant Reformation (and indeed in the Body of Christ as a whole) and to again pray for a new reformation in the Body of Christ in which “there is neither male nor female.”
After this we walked back to where we’d come into the city and sent new walkers on. Thinking I’d have it easier, I chose to go back to the cars in the parking garage. Well, that garage was a good distance away. All that walking in Geneva really took its toll on my knee. It was visibly swollen that night and as far as walking went, that was it for me for the rest of the week.
This was unfortunate from the standpoint of having a weak and sometimes painful knee, but God has a way of using things in ways we can’t foresee. The leader of our walk had received from the Lord several times that this walk would be done “in weakness.” That is to say that we would notice the need to rely on the Lord because our own capacities would be lacking. Well, he told me that he felt more spiritually weak than he had in a long time. Three of us had knee problems throughout. I felt weak physically after some of the longer car rides at the beginning and ending of certain days.
All this really drove me to keep pounding on the door of heaven and that’s a good place to be. God likes that sort of persistence and recognized need for Him. Additionally, my time as “designated driver” allowed me time to talk to one of our walkers, a German guy whom none of us knew before the walk. I think this was valuable for him, but also for me. He was (is) in the middle of a huge life transition and much about the walk was a challenge to him. His background is not charismatic and much of how the walk was carried out most definitely was with the freedom of expression of the Holy Spirit! He can understand French pretty well, but all-French-all-the-time was certainly a challenge for him. He could do English much better. As I said, he didn’t know anyone on the walk. He’s simply a German guy with a heart for France and a sense that God was asking him to do this walk.
All of this meant that he had a lot of questions and a lot to get off his chest. So, with a wide mixture of English, German and French, we had many a good discussion. I, for one, am thrilled to see more German-French connections out there!
At the end of 2 days, we walked out of Switzerland into France. We had one day that was in fairly rural, and very beautiful country as it is near the French Alps.
Our 4th day was interesting for two reasons. Firstly, we had to leave our first lodging where we’d spent 3 nights because we were walking too far away from it. The last two nights would be spent in Lyon. So, instead of simply taking 3 cars, we had to take 4 cars and all our overnight baggage as well. We had to walk of course too on this day. This was difficult because we didn’t have that many drivers and we had to make sure that we kept moving both walkers and cars in this leap-frog, relay fashion. Logistically, fairly difficult. Additionally, we transitioned from walking in the middle of nature to beginning to walk in the outskirts of Lyon…civilization. I saw the whole day a real day of transition. Kind of like a moving day where one has to really work hard to get the last things packed and moving all the things from one place to another is never easy. God often has us in such transitions as He positions us to work for His Kingdom where He wants us.
After the 4th day we were tired from “moving” and coming to a “sleeping-on-a-church-floor-with-no-showers-either” situation. The break of the 5th day was different, however. The 4th day had been sort of a breakthrough and the 5th day (5, the number of grace) would see the Lord graciously making a way where the way seemed difficult or impossible.
First off, we had to drive another hour in the morning to start walking. I dreaded this for the sake of my knee as the longer car rides were painful. This morning, however, we had some music cranked up to very loud levels in the car (Toby Mac’s Portable Sounds and X-treme Disciples with prayers by Lou Engle and Stacey Campbell.) When we arrived, we were ready and my knee was not in pain!
Then when we got to Lyon, our walking/driving connection became difficult because of one-way roads and multi-lane expressways. At one point, I was leading the caravan of 3 cars and had pulled off on an expressway before diving into downtown Lyon. We needed to make it to a certain downtown parking garage underground from a huge central pedestrian plaza. We determined by cell-phone with the walkers that they would need to go from where they were all the way on foot (longer than a normal walking stretch in our prayer walk) and we would need to find our way to this place downtown as there was no practical way to continue the walking relay with the cars. None of us really knew the way and our maps had gaps in them. I was leading the 3 cars. I let the other drivers know that we were simply heading for “Lyon centre” on the signs and once down there, we’d be looking for signs for the plaza. Other than that, we’d all have to be alert to stay together but if separated, we’d all simply try and find our way there.
The last car of the three was driven by someone who is some what “nervous/fearful” and it didn’t have much pickup either. The traffic was crazy and I only saw openings that could support about 2 cars that could really “get up and go”. So, I picked a gap and the first two cars “got up and went!” I prayed hard for the ladies in the last car but lamented that they would be on their own. Lo and behold, however, after 5 minutes of following “Lyon centre” signs, there they were! They had prayed and God made a supernatural gap for them! In our car was a recently graduated geography major. So, as soon as we were in “Lyon centre” I simply handed her my one-page photocopied map and she guided us (all three cars!) directly to where we needed to go! The walkers made it soon thereafter with lots of strength. Even in leaving Lyon to go back to the church in the suburbs, all three cars stayed together!
That night at the church, a gathering of intercessors in Lyon had been planned and it was “our service.” I’d not really known about this ahead of time, and the worship leading fell on my shoulders. I didn’t have a guitar with me so I asked about borrowing one but it was too late to get an acoustic/electric borrowed. At the church there happened to be an electric guitar (I’ve never really played electric guitar), but no strap and I didn’t have any music with me either (I’m usually glued to my lead sheets!). So, I sat down with the electric guitar and went through their overheads to see what songs I knew that they knew also. God provided a good set and I proceeded to make sure I remembered the chords for the songs. There was drumset at the church and some keyboards and a djembe. No one played keys so we had an electric guitar, drums, djembe and another girl singing…actually all ladies except me on the makeshift worship team!
Back to our German friend, and his traditional background… This meeting would be with a bunch of crazy intercessors and for music would be electric guitar and drums. He is a classically trained organ player and told me that in general, he found that modern worship music gave him the sense of “artificial joy.” This evening would probably be a challenge for him!
What was a great joy was to see him at the end of the evening, swaying, singing and waving a banner with gusto! He was able to put aside some pre-conceived notions of “form” and “structure” and simply worship God honestly in the form/structure that presented itself. What a blessing to see!
(I think I’m ready to go out and buy an electric guitar too…that was fun!)
The next day, we went and prayed with a Lyon intercessor at a Roman amphitheater in Lyon where in 177 AD the first martyrs in France were killed. In this same amphitheater (which seated 20,000) was the site of annual governmental meetings of the Gaul nations. So this was a place of shedding of innocent blood and of human power wielded. Indeed it shows some of the foundations of the city that need to be dealt with. This was the last thing we did for the walk before heading home.
The Lord was good and faithful throughout the walk. While walking, one lady saw some tiny ducklings swimming in a lake. They were small and insignificant but the wake that they created was huge behind them. We feel the same…