Hello family, friends, and brothers and sisters in Christ,
As I was telling you yesterday, I am excited about what God is doing here in Saint-Raphael. It is a privilege to serve here and I am grateful for the opportunity. I am thankful for my French parents, Gaston and Mauricette. They have been a true blessing from the Lord. Their son is living in the same apartment building where they are and where I am currently staying. He has just been through a divorce and is having quite a difficult time. I am trying to do what I can to help point him to Christ during this difficult time in His life. Gaston and Mauricette had their granddaughter here in Saint-Raphael this past week. She was here for several days and I got an opportunity to spend time with her. She is an atheist and very closed to the Gospel, which is very sad. She was not very willing to get into any type of spiritual discussion whatsoever. Gaston and Mauricette are very concerned about their kids, as they have turned away from the Gospel. Their grandkids have never really had a chance to know much about it, except what Gaston and Mauricette have told them. These spiritual battles are in every family, of course, but here in France it is rare for even people in the older generations to have a personal relationship with Christ. Most people in the older generations here at least believe that God exists but it has now gotten to where most everyone in the younger generations doesn’t even believe God exists. Most people in France are now atheists.
Last Saturday morning the local painting group had an exhibit that Mauricette and I attended, as some of her friends are in the painting group. I really enjoyed the exhibit, as it was very easy to see that many of the artists had a good deal of talent. I got to meet several people whom Mauricette knows. One of the painters in particular is a friend of Mauricette’s and I really enjoyed meeting her. I am hoping we can get together sometime and get to know each other better, which hopefully will lead to a spiritual discussion. The mayor of Boulouris, the neighborhood in Saint-Raphael where Gaston and Mauricette live, was there and remembered me from last year. If you got my emails last year, he is the one who had me introduce myself to the UMP political party, now known as the Republicans, and then allowed people to ask me questions, which took up almost the entire meeting time. Guillaume, one of the department’s representatives, was there and remembered me from last year, and I was finally able to meet Mme Dumont, another department representative, who had been away last year. I really enjoyed talking to her. Seeing them again was good, as they can introduce me to other people, as well as open up doors for future ministry opportunities. I have not yet met the mayor of Saint-Raphael, but I will tonight, as the political party is having a birthday party for him. Many of the people that I met at the Republican meeting last year will be there and I will get the opportunity to see the Boulouris mayor, as well as Guillaume and Madame Dumont. Please pray that doors will open for ministry opportunities.
Sunday was a special day. As some of you may remember from last year, I met Mauricette at one of the Scrabble meetings and found out that Gaston was a guard for Charles de Gaulle while he was President of France. Since I had done my master’s thesis on him, we had a common bond and our rapport started from that point. Gaston served in the gendarmerie, a branch of the French military that often works with the police force. He is now treasurer of a local retired group of gendarmes. On Sunday there was a special luncheon for the retired gendarmes and their families. It was truly a joy and privilege to meet these people who had served their country. One man, who was 95 years old, was part of the Free French Forces under General LeClerc during WWII, the special army that freed Paris. He couldn’t talk much anymore, but it was so very nice to meet him. One older gentleman, who talked to me for a while, was very sad, as he had just lost his wife of almost 60 years less than two weeks ago. He evidently needed someone to talk to, as he poured out to me his life story of how he met his wife and their long life together. I did my best to listen to him and to provide help during his grieving process, but I think he just wanted to talk and have someone listen. This same gentleman is well-known for his funny comic strips. He does both the drawings and makes up the words. He made me a comic strip about the game of boules, a very popular game in France. I was so pleased to see that even in his grief, he could laugh. Many of these gentlemen were alive during WWII. So many of them were pleased to meet an American, as they have so much respect for us, our country, and what we did during WWII. It was truly an honor to talk to these gentlemen.
The luncheon itself was about three hours long. There was a boules competition before and after the luncheon and there was dancing in between courses and after dessert. It is truly a remarkable group of people who get along well and have a special bond. I decided not to play in the boules competition. I am familiar with the rules and have played before, but the rules are a little different in the south of France, and when everyone has the same color of ball, it confuses me and I cannot keep track of whose ball is whose, so I enjoyed watching. One of the gentlemen who was part of the winning team gave me his trophy and medal to take back to the U.S., as boules isn’t really played here. I was very touched by his kindness and generosity. Everyone was very welcoming and would like to see me again, so I am hoping that I will get a chance to see some of these people again, talk to them one-on-one, get an idea of their spiritual condition, and tell them about Jesus.
Please keep praying for opportunities to form relationships and spread the Gospel. I am having the opportunity to meet a lot of people, which is a real blessing. I will write again.