Men’s Retreat, First American Visitors, & Hope in the East

Men from EIC Paris family of churches at Houlgate, France


YouTube Video with Insights from Men’s Retreat

0:14 1 Thing That Really Stuck Out to You That Was Unexpected?

0:36 What Have You Been Missing Emotionally/Spiritually Because of COVID?

0:57 Why You Should Step Out of Your Monoculture To Attend a Retreat Like This

1:10 Who Is Coming To Paris & You Should Too…

– John Hugh

We hope you are well.  Spring is trying to arrive here in Paris.  The days have become a clear respite from the gray and damp winter of northern France.  That, along with our pace, affected us.  A few of us got sick, then I got Covid for the first time in two years.  Thankfully, all of us are now well.  The boys recently got out of school or “winter vacances”.  The French call it the ski holiday.  We had planned to visit old friends in the Savoie region, from when I was a student time there.  But instead, we decided to do a staycation in Paris to get caught up and catch our breath.  

It was needed, as it’s been a busy season.  We had our first guests from back home in Mississippi!  Two partners made the trip, both to see us and take part in our church’s annual men’s retreat in Normandy.  This retreat has been a longstanding ministry at our church and all were glad to return, especially after last year’s cancellation because of Covid.  In fact, we made the trip 2 years ago where I was able to teach at it.  That was the week the world changed – Spring Break 2020.  A lot has happened since then, yet God has grown us all throughout.

We had a great time there.  One of the partners was a missions pastor at a Mississippi church called PineLake who has become a dear friend and supporter.  He led and taught at the retreat.  The theme for our time was Resilience and Reawakening In the two years since Covid descended, we’ve all had to be resilient in multiple ways – physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually.  However, we can only be resilient in our own strength for so long, no matter how strong we believe ourselves to be.  At a point, we have be awakened to let God carry our load, lift our burdens, and trust in His providential care to direct our steps.

A big part of the retreat is the opportunity to go and see the nearby D-Day beaches, the American Cemetery, and the cliff walks where you can still go inside the German battery guns.  Whenever you can, I believe everyone needs to see this.  It’s always a reminder of things we always need to be reminded of.  It’s very easy to say, “Never Forget.”  It can often be more difficult to ask, “Have We Forgotten?”

Seeing those beaches and the cliffs they climbed is more than a reminder.  It, too, is a reawakening of courage and sacrifice.  The present war in Ukraine is another awakening as well.  Whether in France or the USA, this has been a time of reawakening to those who make the greatest sacrifices for freedom.

On that note, pray for us and all in Europe.  Things are closer here.  We are beginning to consider and pray about opportunities to minister in this time, especially to refugees arriving from the conflict in the East.  Even now, we have members in our churches from Eastern European countries planning to go and help refugees with transportation and essential needs.  This will be the case for a long time to come.  We will share more on this regularly, yet it is a prescient prayer need. The retreat let us reflect not only on all this, but also on our own tendency to rely on ourselves so often.  With friends and partners arriving, sharing this time with us, and being embraced by our church family, we saw again how these relationships are so important, even from a distance.

Seeing American friends and partners in person in France was affirming for the work we’re doing here and for the love we have for all back in the United States.  We hope others will come too, both to see Paris and our new ministry in our adopted home.  In fact, we have a church team coming next week.  They’ll be doing some work on our home church and prayer walks in potential areas where we will plant. We have another partner family that will be arriving the weekend after!  We feel privileged to have people wanting to connect in person, make the time and effort to see us, and bring the gift of encouragement that always sustains.  Finally on this front, we have others already inquiring about a summer trip in June.  They will be welcomed.

As always, we need and covet your prayers.Our family is well.  The boys continue to surprise us not only in their adventurous spirits, but their enjoyment of all things living here.   We have news about our family life that Linda will share soon (stay tuned for blog post).  Linda is finally feeling settled in France at the 6 month mark, so anticipate more consistent blog posts from us. We are growing our circle of ministry activities, both at church and in connecting with others here in Paris.  We remain very committed to learning French language (stay tuned for blog post).  Both Linda and I both spend at least 15 hours a week with course work.  It’s interesting to discover a new language, exciting when you’re able to communicate it, and humbling to see there’s so much room for progress.

With spring coming, hope always beckons.  Often it can be hope for the school year to end, hope for summer plans, or hope simply for more days in the sun.  After two years of Covid, and now a war in Eastern Europe, hope could feel diminished.  Instead, here and elsewhere, there is a renewed sense of courage and sacrifice for things greater than the here and now, over and above ourselves.  This is vital.

Yet even that is only a foretaste.  Easter is coming too.  Did you ever think about why we call it Easter?  In France, it’s called Pâques, which is the French word for Passover. I’ve often thought about Easter’s connection to East.  The sun rises in the East.  In Lord of the Rings, Gandalf says to Aragorn, “Look to my coming, at first light, on the fifth day.  At dawn, look to the East.”   Jesus rose at sunrise.

No matter how dark the night, the sun always rises.

No matter how dark the situation, Christ can enter into it.

No matter how dark the life, Christ brings forgiveness and healing.

The sun will rise in the East, again.  To that we have hope.  In Christ, we will rise again too.  This is our ultimate hope.  Dwell on it as we move to Easter.

Thanks for reading!


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