France, 2018: August 1 God Shows Up – Again

I had hoped to get a nap before the wedding, but we had lingered so long over brunch that by the time I returned to our rooms I only had time to rest a bit before taking a shower and get dressed. Once again, I would have to trust God to supply adequate strength for the rest of the day.

We had arrived in France during an unusual heat wave. The sun was high and very hot now, so I wore only a shirt under my academic robe, planning to put on my coat after the ceremony. Still, I was already perspiring and thirsty before reaching the church. Ii wondered how I would ever make it through the wedding.

Then I noticed about two dozen guests who had come from elsewhere lounging in the shade of very old trees next to the path. I walked over to the refreshment table and grabbed a small bottle of water. It wouldn’t be enough, I knew, but I couldn’t easily carry more. At that point, God sent and “angel” in the form of one of Yangyou’s aunts. Coming up to me, she offered to accompany me to the church. Well before we entered the building, I had drunk all my water and was beginning to worry that I would be too parched to speak.

She noticed my empty bottle, however, and immediately offered to go back to the refreshment table and procure another one for me. I protested, but she insisted. A few minutes later, she showed up with a two-liter bottle of cool water. I thought it was too much, and said so, but received it with gratitude anway. To anticipate a bit: both before the service and then afterwards, I was so thirsty that I consumed the entire bottle. My heart filled with gratitude to her and to God for providing what I needed in order to serve him.

At the rehearsal, the wedding director assured me again that I would have the use of a microphone. You will remember that only a couple of days before, I had told Dori that God would have to work “something like a miracle” to  enable me to speak for about an hour. I knew that a microphone would be necessary, for my voice wouldn’t be strong enough to utter more than a few sentences, and even then the sound would be very weak.

Going to the front of the worship room, I approached the musicians, who were practicing. They had rigged up all sorts of sound equipment and sounded very good. I spotted a microphone on top of a big black speaker and asked whether that would be the one for me.

“I’m so sorry!” the leader replied. “That mike won’t connect to our amplifier. There’s something wrong with the computer and we don’t know how to fix it!”

You can imagine my fright, even terror, when I heard these words. To have any voice at all would require God’s intervention, but to speak loudly enough to be heard on the back row would call for “something like a miracle.”

Immediately, I told the American couple, who had arrived early, to pray hard for me. When Dori came, I apprised her of the crisis and urged her to cry out to God. A few others were informed also.

By now, the wedding party had gathered outside the door, so I went to greet them. The men and women were standing in two different places. First, I approached the  groom and his attendants and prayed with them, then I did the same with Yangyou and her bridesmaids. I thanked God in my heart for this special opportunity to bring the ceremony to him in prayer and praise, remembering that half of the women were not believers.

Most of the guests had taken their seats when, according to the program, I made my entrance. At the request of the bride and groom, and speaking alternately in English and Chinese, I asked them to turn off their cell phones and not to stand up to take pictures during the ceremony. If people complied, it would be the first time in my experience. Usually, Chinese take pictures all through the ceremony, often stepping out into the aisle to get a better shot. The announcement said that pictures from the professional photographers would be available later.

I was rather surprised that I had enough strength to make myself heard. It was a good start.

The processional began on time. I love these parades of feminine beauty and masculine dignity! I was proud of the young people, too, as they all took their appointed places in front of the altar rail. As I looked down at Sabrina, the maid of honor, who was especially pretty this day, I thought back to the years we spent with her in Virginia, thanking God for her faithfulness to him even in the midst of trials.

Finally, the bride entered on her father’s arm and was handed over to the groom, who seemed taller and more handsome than ever before. Yangyou shone with a radiant beauty I have seldom seen in a bride. As they two stood before me, I remembered the hours we had spent in pre-marital counseling, and how they had approached each session with excellent questions, having read my book carefully and discussed it with each other. The entire process had filled me with joy, and now we were coming to the climax of months of planning, prayer, and preparation.

Now came the moment when I would begin the ceremony with the traditional words, alternating Chinese and English. I, too, had prayed much about my role and had practiced reading the service and my sermon many times to ensure that I wouldn’t falter. But would I have enough vocal energy to make myself heard? Very conscious that God would have to uphold me and strengthen me, I launched out into the deep waters, not a little fearful that I would sink!

Dori told me later that my first few sentences could barely be heard in the back rows where she was sitting, but that I gradually found my voice, which soon resounded throughout the building. In fact, I sounded better than I usually do, even with a microphone, and was conscious of having a clear, strong, and melodious voice. Throughout the service, which lasted an hour, my voice filled the entire church. I could sense God’s presence and power.

To be sure, these old churches were constructed before the days of electronic amplification. The acoustics were awesome and took my words to the back pews without my having to strain my voice at all.

As I read the liturgy and delivered my sermon, I thrilled at the fluency and clarity of my delivery. Even my Chinese seemed better than ever. In fact, I was pretty pleased with myself. Years of training in Chinese and experience with public speaking, including conducting weddings, seemed to culminate in what I considered to be the climax of my ministry to Chinese people.

At the end, when my work was done, I thanked God for working “something like a miracle” in answer to our prayers.