MERCY ALL THE WAY
We left Bastrop on July 29th for France, where I was to officiate at a wedding for two Chinese Christians in Burgundy on August 1st.
Before departing, I asked prayer for God to give adequate strength for me, because I have been exhausted for quite a while now. In particular, my voice had been reduced to a whisper and speaking more than a few sentences gave me a headache. How could I lead a rehearsal or conduct a wedding, much less preach?
And how could I be anything but a burden to Dori, who had planned a day of sightseeing in Paris before the wedding, two days of touring in Burgundy afterwards, and another day in Paris before our departure?
I won’t say that I dreaded the entire trip, but I did have a profound respect for the challenges involved and a palpable fear of the difficulties of getting around in a foreign country where I don’t speak the language.
True, Dori and I had prepared a bit before going by reading tour guides and brushing up a little bit on the French we had studied in high school and college long ago. I do read the Bible in French almost every day and had recently started the French edition of the two-volume biography of Hudson Taylor, but neither of these will tell you how to hail a cab or navigate the Metro.
We weren’t familiar with the coinage, couldn’t understand much of anything, and were not able to put together a complete sentence.
God would have to take care of us.
And he did. This is part of the story.
The Low Point
I’ll begin with the emotional nadir of the entire journey, just to get it out of the way.
Thursday, August 2
An ominous start
It was the day after a glorious wedding. The morning began well enough: a friend of the groom’s father drove us from the chateau at Vallery to nearby Sens to pick up our rental car. He immigrated to France eighteen years ago, and now leads a small company that helps people arrange travel and put on events. He and all his staff are believers – more on them later.
After Brother Wen, who speaks fluent French, helped us complete the necessary paperwork, we were on our way back to the castle, following his car all the way. So far, so good.
We had to check out by noon, so I planned to drive our car up close to our room to pick up our bags. Yun, Brother Wen’s assistant, who had offered to help with our luggage, agreed to join me in the car. Some of you know that I tend to talk too much. This day was no exception. I was telling Yun about God’s recent dealings in my life, so that I didn’t quite register her expression of doubt that I’d be able to turn around in the courtyard at the entrance to the villa where people were eating brunch, and then drive back to the parking place after picking up our bags.
“I can do it,” I affirmed in true male self-confidence.
Well, I got stuck right in front of the barbecue ovens. The space was too small to allow me to turn around. Then the engine died and I couldn’t re-start it. Yun prudently made her escape while I tried and tried, ashamed of my folly and acutely aware that I was blocking the way for guests to enter or leave the brunch area, stalled right in front of the truck that would soon after to leave with the chef’s staff and their equipment.
No matter what I tried, that blasted little Renault wouldn’t start. Finally, I got out and asked for help. One of the chef’s men, who turned out to be a private driver, got into the car, started it without difficulty, and then backed it all the way down the driveway to the parking place. As I watched him in profound relief, I repented of talking too much and of not respecting Yun’s doubts.