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Contexts

I’ve been thinking about this last weekend a good bit. Nothing special happened, the three of us went to breakfast, did a little shopping, watched the Olympics, I ran some errands while the girls napped, then we ate dinner and watched more Olympics. It was a normal Saturday. It’s been on my mind because I’ve been trying to figure out, when we move to France, what normal will look like, if it exists at all. Of course, France isn’t some south Pacific island – we have some friends headed there – but it is on another continent and they do speak another language, so it does make me  wonder what it will be like once we actually get there. I’ve heard that one of the most intimidating things for missionaries to deal with when they arrive on the field isn’t so much the mission work, but rather, the day to day activities that we take for granted over here.

So I’ve been running a little comparison in my head, between a South Carolina Saturday and a French Saturday. I’m going to award each country a point, and then tally them up to see if I really need to worry. (Of course, SC by itself wouldn’t stand much of a chance, so I am going to give them the benefit of being a part of the greater union, despite some of the residents bumper sticker wishes for this to not be the case.)

I’ll start with breakfast. We ate breakfast at the Cracker Barrel, which is a place we like to eat at because, at the Cracker Barrel, they don’t give you a hard time for being a needy breakfast eater and needy breakfast eating is Donnette’s wheelhouse. It is a nice place to spend a Saturday morning. However, on every corner in France you can get a freshly made chocolate croissant and an amazing cup of coffee. Because there’s a bakery on every street in France you can walk to get your breakfast, meaning that the guilt of over indulging on a breakfast confection is significantly lessened. Point France.

After breakfast, we went to Target to get a few things for the week. France does not have a Target. France does, however, have the Carrefore, a sort of Target/ Walmart alternative. The Carrefore we visited wasn’t all that impressive when we first walked in, and I wasn’t sold on it at all…until we got to the meat and produce department, and I saw the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Foie Gras, whole lobes of it, in the grocery store, for the price of a decent steak here. Next to the duck liver there was seafood, beautiful seafood, and next to it were mushrooms, and melons I’d never seen before, and cured meats and…and… Donnette tells me they sold practical household items too, but after the foie everything is a bit of a blank. Another point for away team.

On the other hand, America does have two things going for it in the shopping department. One, due to the current exchange rate, food in France is more expensive. Thankfully it’s not Japanese expensive, where a chicken can cost you upwards of $40.00, but still, it costs more to live in France. Secondly, you have to consider the hours most places are open. Even in our little SC suburb, most places stay open till 10 or later. In France, everything, and I do mean everything, closes promptly at 7:00 pm. This wouldn’t be such a big deal, except that most stores don’t open until ten and then they close down a full two hours for lunch. Basically, if you’re going to go shopping in France, you need to be strategic about it. For both cost and convenience, America gets a point.

Being six months pregnant, Donnette elected to take a nap along with Avonlea, and so I used this time to run a few errands by myself. The places I went are unimportant, but it’s the process of running errands that really got me thinking this week. People often ask me what we’ll be doing while we’re in France. It’s a good question, especially since it’s usually coming from people we’ve asked to support us, but I’m always a little stuck on the answer. Being a missionary to a first-world country means that visible evidence of the work  is a little harder to come by. This is opposed to being in a country like Honduras, where we spent the week building a house for a family. When people asked what we did, I said we built a house, and then I showed them a picture of the house. It’s fairly straight forward. Ministering in France is different. They have houses, and cars and air conditioning and most everything else that we do, (including foie gras everywhere…but I digress). They don’t want for anything, except Jesus, meaning that they don’t have the one thing they actually do need. The French need Jesus, they need the gospel, and so the question these people are really asking is, how are you taking Jesus to the French people? Part of the answer is, “Well, I’m going to run errands.”

We’re going to France to plant a church. But in order to have a church you need Christians, and Christians are a preciously small commodity in France. Our first morning in France we spoke with an older, single missionary woman who asked me what I hoped to do in France. I said I wanted to be a pastor in France, which is the truth, and to which she replied, “France doesn’t need pastors. France needs evangelists.” This was, perhaps, a little blunt, and maybe even theologically misguided (Paul told Timothy to both preach the Word and do the work of an evangelist, so clearly the two are connected.) but I think she had a good point. Our work in France, especially at first but probably always, is going to be evangelism. And, the best evangelism comes out of the context of relationship, and relationships are made by meeting people and talking to them, and so I continue to come back to errands. One of my buddies summed up what we’ll be doing in France really well the other day. He commented that basically, we’ll just be ourselves, living our lives. And that’s it, mostly. We’ll be living our lives, with the intentionality of trying to meet people as often as possible to form relationships with them in order to have the context in which we can then speak the gospel into. What am I going to be doing in France? Among other things, I’m going to be running errands.

I don’t know how you score that. In America, an errand can just be an errand, though I probably need to be as intentional about meeting people here as I do once we’re in France, so I’m just going to call this a wash and move on.

I was going to take some time comparing French and American Olympics and the positives and negatives of being a patriotic American in a foreign country, but this post has gone on for long enough, so I’ll let the medal count speak for itself. Currently, America leads the way in the overall medal count with 77, one more than China and is only three down in the gold medal count. France is 6th in the overall standings, with a mere 8 gold medals. Point USA. (In order to make this one a fair fight, once we’re there I think I’ll just root for UF, meaning that France would be ahead in the overall medal count, but down in the gold. As always, go Gators!)

So maybe I don’t have all that much to worry about, after four rounds the scores are pretty much tied. Of course, France has limitless unknown potential, but then America counters by having everyone I love. Ultimately, it comes back to calling, and there, it seems, France is going to win out.

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