France 2018: August 1 The Big Day Begins with a “Bang”

As usual, I awoke before Dori. I found a place to sit in the foyer of our apartment and enjoyed a leisurely quiet time of reading the Bible and praying. Since the weather was so fine, I wanted to get outside, so I decided to go for a walk around the castle grounds.

We were living within the original fortifications.  Going past the round dovecote, which had been turned into a two-storey wedding suite, I walked out through the old side gate, turned left, and ascended the steep grass-covered embankment outside the wall. Since my boyhood in Puerto Rico and then Pensacola, I have been fascinated by old forts, but I’d never explored anything this old.

From the top of the embankment, one could see over into the inner courtyard of the castle grounds, which I thought was not a good plan, but I admitted that the sharp, deep ravine created by this hill would have made scaling the walls extremely difficult. After going about halfway around the castle wall, thoroughly enjoying myself the entire time, I returned to our rooms. By this time, the sun was higher and I was perspiring from even this mild exertion.

Dori was awake when I entered. Soon, we headed over to the chateau pavilion, where we’d eaten the night before. This time, we found a brunch buffet. We had arrived earlier than most people again. Finding a table, we began to fill our plates with both the cold and hot dishes prepared by the chef, who was present in his tall white hat and long white apron. The croissants in the Paris hotel had been good, but the ones we took now turned out to be extraordinarily delicious.

As we had the night before, we sat by ourselves for a while. That was okay with me, since the food was so good and I wanted to get back to our rooms and prepare for the wedding ceremony. Still, I felt a bit isolated. At the table next to us were seated the parents of the bride. Wanting to make contact with them before the ceremony, I asked whether I could take an empty seat.

That gave me an opportunity to give one of my books to the mother of the bride, who teaches English at a university in China. I had chosen my latest publication: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: A Handbook to Marriage, which I had used as the basis for the pre-marital counseling I’d done with the young couple. I was hoping that Yangyou’s mother would not only find biblical teaching about marriage useful but also be moved by the clear presentation of the gospel that I had incorporated into several chapters of the text.

At that point, the groom’s father and mother joined us, other seats having been vacated by earlier diners. As soon as he sat down, he told me how much he had enjoyed my autobiography, a copy of which Yangyou and David had given him. This book is in Chinese, with no English translation yet. I am told that the Chinese version is very elegantly written. His commendation of it gave me “face” in the eyes of Yangyou’s parents, and hopefully will induce her mother to read the book on marriage.

In time, Yangyou’s parents went back to their rooms to get dressed for the wedding. David’s father and mother lingered however. I knew that they were strong believers, that he was an elder in their church, and that he frequently performed weddings in Chinese churches, but I had no idea what else he had done for the Lord’s kingdom. I was aware that he had plenty of money, for he had rented this entire castle and chateau for the wedding party for three days.

I began asking him about his professional career and Christian ministry. It turns out that he is the owner of the China branch cell phone maker Nokia. His business has succeeded to the point that they are very rich, as he casually informed me.

He voice grew much more animated when he began to relate how God had used him and his attractive wife to start a network of unregistered churches in China. Because of his wealth, he was able to fund some infrastructure projects for the local government, in return for a “blank check” to establish an unofficial church and to run it however he pleased. I marveled at both their zeal and dedication to God and the scope of their multi-faceted ministry. It wasn’t long before he asked me to come to their city and teach their leaders for a couple of weeks.

Everyone else had left the dining room by the time we realized we must leave and get ready for the wedding. Still, I wanted to make the most of this unique opportunity to pray with them, so we four bowed our heads and spent several minutes calling upon God to bless the ceremony, draw Yangyou’s parents to himself, speak to both believers and unbelievers during the next two days, and bring glory to his name. This impromptu prayer meeting, though brief, strengthened my faith in what God would do in and through us that day and the next. I left with a sense that we were part of an event that, though meticulously planned by Yangyou and David, had also been ordained and orchestrated by God before the foundation of the world.

I was sure that it had been a great beginning to what would be a great day