Les Gilets Jaunes: The current protests in France

 
Source: Wikipedia commons

Source: Wikipedia commons

Greetings to so many of you who follow our family here in Paris and care deeply about our life and work here. We are continually grateful for your prayers that God would use us to reach a city/nation with such deep needs for the true message of salvation only offered through the free grace of Jesus Christ.

As we have received some messages with questions about the current protests in Paris and throughout France, we wanted to address your concerns for our family’s safety and the state of things here.

First and, perhaps, most importantly, we are very happy to report that we are quite safe through all of this. In fact, our only experience of these protests has been through the news. An important thing to consider with incidents like this is that the greater metropolitan area of Paris is larger than the state of Connecticut, so it is quite possible for there to be floods or protests or attacks within the realm of this city and for us to be unaware outside of the news.

With that said, this is a major world hub with many people from many backgrounds, and that is exactly the kind of recipe which brings tensions and human messiness. As such, while we are prudents to avoid unsafe situations, it is possible that we will someday be affected by living in this place. If you are ever concerned for us, you can check our FCM Facebook page. If a major event is affecting us, you can rest assured that we will be asking for your prayers through posts on that page.

Even though we are personally unaffected by the current protests, we are certainly paying attention to them, because they are offering a powerful cultural window by which many underlying realities of life in France are being brought to the light. To sum this up, this is a culture where significant portions of people are experiencing struggles, anger, sadness, and a feeling of futility to do anything about it. You have probably seen the protestors wearing the gilets jaunes (yellow vests). They wear these, because in France you are required to keep these vests in your vehicles as a safety measure for if your car breaks down. You have these vests to remain highly visible to an oncoming traffic. These protests were first against rising gas prices/taxes here in France, so they were a suitable symbol for the movement. (After conversion, our last trip to the pump cost around $6.60/gallon).

Interestingly, soon after the protests started the worldwide oil prices dropped, but these protests have continued. Why? We do not have enough knowledge, wisdom, or space to address that here, but we do want to turn you to some good sources for French news from English-language sites. Check out the following three articles and take note of their sources, because they are good places to turn for information about things happening in France.

·         The Local – OPINION: Why France’s ‘yellow vest’ protesters are so angry

·         France 24 (English portion of their site) – French riots harm businesses, retailers particularly hard hit as holiday shopping season starts

·         The Guardian – Who are the gilets jaunes and what do they want?

The best response to all of this is prayer, notably for the safety of both the protestors and law enforcement. Much more importantly, pray for a nation who is so darkened to their need for God, and that maybe this kind of unrest can become a point of light. We would hope that the questions and concerns that come out of any situation like this would help the people here to open their hearts to the truth that God loves them, and they need Him very much. Pray that these events would help us start Gospel-centric conversations with people and that as you pray for peace among this society that these people would find ever-lasting peace in the hope of Jesus.

Again, thank you to all of you who are our prayer warriors, supporters, and friends who care deeply about our family. Continually look to our social media posts and newsletters for information on our lives here, but you should also always feel free to send us questions or thoughts when you have them.

Peace and grace to you all,

Glen

 

Story: Our partnership with Team Expansion

 

As we announced in our recent newsletter, we have responded to an amazing Kingdom opportunity by forming a partnership with Team Expansion, an organization based out of Louisville, KY which has missionaries in many corners of the world. Our relationship with Team Expansion truly starts with knowing multiple missionaries who have served with them; both in long-term service and with short-term internships. Because of these connections, we have always respected what we knew about their focus and work organizationally.  

We also were excited last year when Brandon and Maleah Weiss, who serve on the board for FCM, announced that they were taking positions with Team Expansion. They will soon join the support staff at the Team Expansion headquarters (learn more about their family here). Their love for supporting missionaries is why we love having them on our board, and why we know that they will be a blessing to Team Expansion. While this connection seemed tertiary at one point, it now feels like it was an early reveal into God’s plans for this partnership.

The more direct path to this partnership began at the International Conference on Missions in November 2016 (five weeks before we came to France). For the workshops, I was drawn to some offerings on multiplying disciples. As it turned out, these workshops were an overview of a whole training called Jonathan Training. Team Expansion is often involved with this training by using it as one facet of training their workers, by hosting it, and by having their workers ultimately serve as trainers. During the conference workshops, I knew that I was interested in some of what they were discussing, but I also knew that we were leaving far too soon for me to even think about taking the training before our departure. So I set the whole thing aside in my mind for a while.

After being in France for a few months, I began to become more and more convinced that I needed to take the Jonathan Training as an aid to our goals for serving in France. I began praying about it and discussing it with Jessica and our board. Last Fall I sought for a good opportunity and found that Team Expansion was hosting a Jonathan Training at Johnson University in Tennessee in February 2018. After working out all the details, I woke up one day in December and decided to prioritize finalizing this opportunity by buying airline tickets and registering for the training. I was ready to go! As an important note, Doug Lucas, President of Team Expansion, was one of the three trainers for this offering.

Later that same day things got crazy. I got an email from another board member (Mark Pike). He was giving me a heads up that he had bumped into Doug Lucas at a special lunch that very day and that I should be hearing from Doug soon. Within an hour, I got an email from Doug stating his desire to set up a call with me, because Team Expansion had been seeking an opportunity to establish a team in Paris. In my response to Doug I told him about having registered for the training that very same morning (the one he was offering!), and I think we both knew that we were on the cusp of discovering that God had plans for us.

Doug and I had a fantastic and encouraging phone call a few days later, and things began to take shape from there. My time at the Jonathan Training was amazing, and there were more opportunities to discuss with Doug and others about how a partnership between us would operate.

Then for a week in April, a representative from Team Expansion, along with our board member Mark Pike, came to Paris so that we could hash out the final necessary details in order to sign an accord making this partnership official. Now we are working to prepare for future team members (long-term and short-term). We will be building up a Team Expansion team of which we are the leaders and have the responsibility of driving the vision forward. It is so exciting to both have this opportunity to impact Paris more and to have this great organization helping us with their incredible experience and resources.

It truly feels like God had this plan in the works for a while, and we have all just caught up in understanding what he was placing before us. As such, we trust in and rely on Him for blessing this partnership and allowing us all to accomplish much more than we could ever dream. We hope to be a team united together, because we are united in Him, so that the world will hear.

Blessings,

Glen

 

Why are churches doing ALICE training?

 

Over the past few years I have been hearing about churches doing ALICE training events for their congregation. For those who do not know, this is a training designed to save lives in the instance of an active shooter situation. ALICE stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate, and by all accounts the training is quite good.

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I do want to explore the question of why this training is needed. Please do not misunderstand me as I am not questioning the value of the training. If churches feel it is needed, it’s surely better to be safe than sorry. My question is, ultimately, why do churches, and schools, and businesses feel that their congregants, students, faculty, and employees need to be trained for an active shooter situation?

The answer would seem to be simple in nature:

  • These are important situations to consider, gravely important
  • People do not always naturally know how to react
  • You want everyone on the same page
  • Practice reflects priorities, and this training is an opportunity to practice and envision different scenarios.

Okay! See, that was easy. Why do you do the training? For those basic reasons, so it makes sense that churches are scheduling this. I do have a burning question, though. When is the last time your church scheduled a training on how to share the Gospel? What do we think about those times in life when we have an opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with someone?

  • Are they important situations to consider? Eternally important?
  • Does everyone in your church already naturally know how to react?
  • Do you want everyone on the same page?
  • Is it a high enough priority to practice and envision different scenarios for the sake of preparedness?

Now let’s be honest. The chances of an active shooter coming into your church are well below 1%. The chances that the believers in your church have an opportunity to share the Gospel during their life should be 100%. If the ALICE training is worth it at its percentage, then clearly the other is as well. So, get your leaders together, come up with a training, and get it on the calendars soon.

Who knows? Maybe instead of the need for alerting, locking down, informing, countering, and evacuating, you will actually stop an active shooter years beforehand by letting Jesus change his heart.

 

Want to make disciples? Three keys from 1 Peter 4:7

 

From February 17-22, I (Glen) had the pleasure of being on the beautiful campus of Johnson University in Tennessee. The purpose of this excursion was a week of Jonathan Training, conducted by Team Expansion. Jonathan training focuses on effectively making disciples and planting churches, and it was a very special, exciting week that I believe will truly help us to serve better here in France.

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While there is so much from the training that is worth sharing, I was reminded of some important principles while reading through 1 Peter. Verse 4:7, in particular, says, “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.” The three main ideas of this verse are so important for approaching the task of making disciples.

URGENCYThe end of all things is at hand. It is an easy idea to recognize even when it is difficult to be driven by it. Every single person needs Jesus and everyday people are dying without accepting the free gift of his salvation. This should leave us restless, constantly yearning to act with the best balance of speed and effectiveness we can find in our efforts to make disciples. So many of our difficulties with obeying the Great Commission would actually be solved merely through a conviction of the urgency of the situation at hand.

PRAYER – Obviously the mission before us, bringing the good news of Jesus to the world, can feel quite intimidating, especially when we keenly feel this warranted sense of urgency. This is where this verse offers us some hope. Our first reaction should not be to rely on our own abilities but to turn to God for help. It should be processed like this:

     -The end of all things is at hand…

     -Oh no! What do we do?!

     -PRAY!

We are not meant to accomplish any of this alone, and we should start by asking for help, wisdom, and courage. Turn to the Lord in prayer.

REFLECTION – This verse also acknowledges an unfortunate reality for us at many points in our life. There are times of dryness when it is difficult to find the motivation to commit ourselves to prayer, let alone the task of making disciples. This demands serious reflection and self-awareness on our part. We should survey ourselves to discover what is disrupting our self-control and sober-mindedness. What is keeping us from going to God? Is it that phone in our hand? Is it worries about finances? Perhaps we are allowing less-than-holy influences upon our mind. Maybe we just need to retreat for a couple of days of renewal. Whatever may be the problem, seek earnestly to capture a mindfulness, a self-control, which would allow you to react in prayer to the urgent mission field before you.

At the very core of the Jonathan Training is a simple, powerful focus on being a disciple worth reproducing. When we focus on this, this verse from 1 Peter will come alive to us. Then when we pray effectively, with a clear and sober mind fueled by a sense of urgency, God-sized things are sure to follow. Trust and cling to His faithfulness. It is already God’s plan to reach the world, hopefully this verse will motivate you to jump on board and take part.

 

Surviving and Thriving: Our First Year in France

 

Well, we did it! As of today, December 28, we have lived in France for an entire year. The emotions, experiences, and life lessons of 2017 are difficult to summarize and convey. In many ways we are the same, in some ways we are different, but for many things we have simply discovered ourselves individually and as a family. The overall, most important conclusion from this year is simple: We love France, the French, and our calling to serve here.

When our plane landed 365 days ago, we were understandably exhausted and overwhelmed by this large, iconic, crowded metropolitan region in and around Paris. Even so, we were determined to conquer the city on our third day here. December 31 is Elizabeth’s birthday, and she had only one request…to see the Eiffel Tower. So three days after landing we set out into the unknown, not yet having smartphones, any experience in the city, or a guide. Somehow, we survived that day, having seen the Eiffel Tower, and we slept VERY well that night.

As we look back now it seems so strange. This is a city that we love to walk and now maneuver with relatively little help from maps or phones, and we truly love living here. It’s our home. When we go to museums here and see the paintings, I am always fascinated by how the paint is not just a flat layer of combined colors (like our painting in elementary school). It is layered on in thick waves which rise from the canvas and capture our imaginations with color, light, and shadow. Imagine if you could miniaturize yourself and jump onto the canvas, climb up and slide down these colored textures, and take in every nuance. Imagine the discoveries you could make between the brushstrokes of genius. This is what it feels like to spend a day walking around Paris. This city is a work of art, full of life and character.

This does not mean that it is all good, because there is darkness in the art. This past year has taken the spiritual statistics residing in our heads upon arrival and has given them faces and names and stories which burn into our hearts. One cannot overstate how dismissive this culture is of what Christ freely offers them. I know that the statistic tells me there is only one church for every 30,000 people, but it feels even more daunting when you are in the midst of it. They need Jesus so desperately. The beauty, the art, the culture, the baguettes…none of that can give them hope, life, or salvation.

So, yes, there is darkness, but God is faithful, and he has blessed us immeasurably this year. Upon arrival, Maddie would yell and scream at extreme levels when we left her in the language school nursery. Now she misses all of her friends there. Hannah used to have nightmares about staying for lunch at school every Friday (the only day we asked her to do it). Now she complains that she can’t stay every day. In the spring Elizabeth struggled with her French and her teacher actually told us in June, after being here six months, that she had not learned anything (not true, by the way). She just got her grades for this fall, and she got the same high grade in French as she did in English.

God has opened up so many doors for us to be connected and serve here in and around Paris. This past Thanksgiving we actually struggled in a sense, because we felt like we needed to host 3 or 4 meals for all the connections we had made here, but that just wasn’t possible.

There are so many wonderful, meaningful memories. On the first day our good friends brought us groceries. Jessica had an amazing weekend at a ladies retreat. We spent four days with Christian friends in the south of France, which was a life-giving getaway. Grandparents visited, encouraged us, and got some amazing views from the Eiffel Tower. We witnessed the birth of a new church in September, where we still worship and serve. God is good!

All of this looking back has a singular effect on Jessica and I. When we consider the events of year one, we are incredibly excited for year two! Thank you for riding this rollercoaster with us and encouraging us every step of the way.

May God bless your next year as well!

 

Five MORE Principles for Learning a Language (Part 2 of 2)

 

This is the official second part of our list of principles for effectively learning a second language. If you missed part one, just click for it HERE. As was noted in the first part, we are hardly experts and still have a long way to go on our journey to fluency in French, but our experiences so far have taught us a lot. I hope that some of these insights will encourage you to tackle a second language that interests you.

6. Nothing Can Replace Full Immersion

Obviously living in France gives us incredible opportunities to use what we learn in the classroom every single day, but being in a full immersion situation is more than that. It is kind of a useful trap. Here is the reality before you when learning another language: it is uncomfortable. Basically, you feel like a child again, and not in a really special, nostalgic way like when you find an old candy bar brand in the Cracker Barrel General Store. As a result, sometimes you want to flee the discomfort. Now granted, at times you do need a break, but other times you have to face it. This is much easier if you cannot avoid it. So a full immersion situation is a wonderful measure of accountability.

Perhaps this is not possible for you. Maybe you want to learn French (for example), but you cannot move to this amazing country to do it. Try finding someone who is French or knows French and set meeting times with them which are full immersion. Assign an evening a week where you speak, read, or watch movies in the other language. It may not be the same, but some measure of unavoidable interaction with the language to complement your studies will help.

7. Online Resources

There are MANY online resources for learning languages, and this list is not designed to be comprehensive. It is merely a reflection of the things we have tried and found useful.

·        Rosetta Stone: This is probably the best software that we have used. It is incredibly easy to use, practical, and is a full immersion resource. I would recommend the subscription service (rather than the software you can keep forever, because it offers more mobile flexibility. The downfall to the mobile subscription is that you can only have it for a limited time (6, 12, or 24 months). The flexibility, though, will make it much easier to access and use, and (if we are to be honest) if you do not use the software within 24 months, you are never going to use it.

·        Duolingo: Duolingo is free! This is a strong perk, but it is nowhere nearly as holistically capable as Rosetta Stone. Even so, it is fun to use, can work on any device, and certainly offers some value. It is not a full-immersion resource, because much of the teaching is based off of being able to translate from another language. I seriously doubt anyone has learned a language with much usability from Duolingo, but it is a fantastic side resource to complement your other studies. We particularly like the daily goals and ability to compete against friends as measure of motivation.

·        FluentU: This is an interesting site which offers a great opportunity to improve your oral comprehension of a language. Through an inexpensive subscription ($10-$15/month) you can access a treasure trove of videos in another language. These could be cooking tutorials, commercials, segments of kids’ shows, or movie clips. You can choose whether or not to have the transcript up while the clip plays, but it just gives you the opportunity to listen in and try to pick up what is being said in a myriad of circumstances. You can even pause the video and click on a word to learn more about what it means. They also offer an upgraded version which offers further teaching resources, but we did not find these to be useful.

·        Italki: On this site, you can search for online-based speaking partners or tutors for many languages. Everyone always says, “Make sure you have a speaking partner,” but it is not like they grow on trees, so having a resource to find a good one is great. The prices per hour are very reasonable, and you can really customize your search for someone to help you out. Whether you are worried about experience, schedule availability, or whether or not a person is a native speaker, you will find someone great to help you.

These are the main few resources that we have tried and enjoyed. There are many more out there, so feel free to go exploring. Do not overlook simple, free resources as well like YouTube videos, foreign news websites, or even music apps like Spotify to help round out your learning experience.

8. Stake Your Life on It

The road to fluency is long, tiring, and bumpy. Motivation and perseverance are absolute keys to success. For our future, we absolutely must reach that goal of fluency. As a result, we are highly motivated to push past discomfort, times of low motivation, and difficult, nuanced concepts in order to obtain a level of mastery. Without this motivation, it would be much harder for us to stay focused and driven.

9. REST!!!

Before we came to the field, there were a few missionaries who had warned us about how tiring language school would be. I cannot express how right they were. In many ways, the demands of our family schedule in America was more daunting than what we have experienced the past six months. This has not prevented our time in France from being incredibly exhausting. Thankfully, we really felt ourselves turn a corner after the fourth month, but the fatigue in the beginning is real.

Be prepared to rest. Take time to rest. You need the rest. Go rest.

10. Finally, For Those Considering the Mission Field: Do Language Before Starting Ministry

Before coming to France, we spent a solid five years questioning seasoned missionaries whenever we got a good chance. We have even continued that practice here. One of the consistent bits of advice we received was to focus solely on language acquisition before even thinking about doing ministry. I am so glad that we listened. Let’s be honest, if you are going to another country as a missionary, it is because you love the ministry. This is certainly the case for us. The idea of putting a full-time effort into evangelism, discipleship, worship services, small groups, children’s activities, and so many other things truly excite us. In the end, though, we have chosen to love the ministry enough to make it wait.

This decision comes from a needed self-awareness. If there is a time and effort battle in your life between doing tangible ministry and grinding through learning the next verb conjugation, you will almost always choose ministry. The problem is that ministry with half-fluency is not what the people of these other cultures need. Respect them enough to equip yourself to truly reach their heart. This could mean different things for different people. For us coming to France, it means that 2017 is totally devoted to learning French. The impacted lives of 2018 will make the sacrifice worth it.


To wrap up this post, we want to encourage you to always follow your dreams. One of the keys to our coming to France, to totally devotes ourselves to learning French and pursuing our calling is that we were willing to ask for help. You can definitely learn another language, and we hope these ten principles we have learned will help you out. We also hope that if you take the leap to learn it, you will find people to depend on to help you achieve your goals.

-Glen

 

Five Principles for Learning a Language (Part 1 of 2)

 

For the last five months, we have been fully-focused on the task of learning French. I would like to think that it is going well so far. So that you can gauge our progress, at the beginning of 2017 I could not count past 13, pronounce the letters to the French alphabet, or properly describe that I was from America. Jessica had studied French in high school, but the passage of time had left her not far ahead of me. With that in mind, this past Sunday I held an impromptu conversation with a fellow church member for about 25 minutes without switching to English, and Jessica has just started speaking with a language partner for an hour a week. While we have a long way to go, these tasks are becoming easier for us, and we are quite thrilled with the progress.

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Even so, we are FAR from being experts on language acquisition, but our current experience and our conversations with others at the language school has led to us having some principles and/or ideas which can help you learn your second language.

1. The best method for learning a language is…

Nope, sorry, there is none. You must look in the mirror and figure it out. Is it a big class, a little class, a private tutor, language partners, a harsh teacher, an encouraging teacher, role playing, visual aids, videos, oral or verbal repetition, being out with “the people,” reading books, online tools, or sleeping on a grammar book at night? I do not know. It depends on you. This is important, though. If you try one thing and it just is not working, this does not mean you cannot learn a language. It probably just means that there is a better way for you.

So, no, there is no best method. I am convinced of this.

2. Start when you are young

This is probably obvious, but let me do a little debunking of this notion. Clearly the younger we are the more our brains are fashioned to absorb mass amounts of info needed for learning a language. It is more than this, though. Language shapes and molds who we are, and it is harder to change as you age. When learning a language later in life it is more difficult to remold yourself.

With all that said, many people think of children as these special language-learning prodigies. Are their brains better equipped to learn a language? Yes, of course, but wisdom and personal discipline and proper life priorities also are very valuable for learning a language, so it balances out quite a bit. When you were younger you were also much-better equipped physically to work out and stay in shape, but maybe you are more disciplined now due to your maturity. It’s the same notion.

In the end, we have classmates in their sixties at our school, and they are doing well. You can learn a language at any age, if you truly want to do it.

3. Do it full-time

In looking at the first point above as there is not necessarily a perfect method, but this is a perfect principle. If you truly want to learn a language, there is no substitute for focusing on it full-time. In doing so, you will be surprised how much you can learn in even a few weeks, let alone months. Thankfully, there are a lot of options for this, especially in major cities in the U.S. So, if learning that language is your dream, have a conversation with your boss, do something crazy, and go live the dream.

You should keep this idea in mind as you consider that…

4. The beginning is the hardest

In the beginning, it is so much more than learning vocab and verb conjugation. You must learn the paradigm through which the people of another language approach speaking, thinking, writing, and listening. Before we came to France, I had spent hours upon hours on Rosetta Stone and Duolingo, but I still felt like I did not know French at all upon arrival. The reason is that language is so much more than what is on the flash cards. After about a month of learning in a classroom, I found that online tools were much more useful than before, because I had a better context for understanding what I was learning and memorizing and why.

So, with this in mind, let’s think about the previous point together on this. Can you devote a year to learning a language and getting to a reasonably high level on a full-time basis? Perhaps not, but can you maybe find a month or six weeks to get you started. That might be more possible, and it would make a world of difference in your language journey.

5. Use the Bible

Clearly spending time reading a language can be useful for learning grammar. It is a great, personal way to set your own pace and absorb language both actively and passively. Reading in another language is even more useful as a beginner if you already understand what you are reading about.

As such, the Bible has been useful for us in the past few months. First, we can access French Bibles for free through various Bible apps, so it is easy and cost-effective to read the Bible in another language. Second, we can focus in on books and/or passages that we are particularly familiar with when we read sections of scripture. If I know what a verse or story is supposed to say in English already, I can learn more clearly learn how the grammar works and pick up useful vocab while I am reading in French.

I hope that these five principles have encouraged any of you who have been thinking about learning another language. Next week I will post my final five principles, and I hope you will share with us your thoughts and ideas after that as well. We are still in the midst of our French language journey, and we can use the help too!

Until next time…Bonne Journée, Au Revoir !

-Glen