AIM – France
Friends tell me I have the dubious distinction of possessing more than one green thumb. I love to cultivate things and am intrigued with the process of growth. Allow me to use two examples from the garden to describe the process by which we came to be in France as AIMers.
Growth beneath the surface – White Roots
I have a huge calla lily growing in a pot and recently the largest leaves yellowed and died. Out of concern that my 10.00€ purchase was lost, I lifted the root ball only to see scores of fresh, white, healthy roots. Growth was happening below the surface although that growth wasn’t immediately visible on the surface.
Similarly, we’d been sensitive to missions for a long time. Indeed, that’s how my wife and I met in the mid-1990s. By 2006 I was on staff at the church where we’d come into Pentecost and I got to interact with visiting missionaries regularly. In 2008 I met John & Anne Nowacki, veteran missionaries to France, who invited me to teach in their Bible School for three weeks the following summer. With my pastor’s blessing, I accepted their invitation and went to France in 2009, returning again in 2010 and 2012.
Life was good. I had a stable position in the city I’d grown up in and I got to go to France for a couple of weeks on a somewhat regular basis. Who wouldn’t like that?
In 2012, our church went through a rough pastoral transition and, being part of the leadership team, I was exposed to various facets of the dilemma. Like my calla lily, the largest leaves were dying and I was tempted to run for it would’ve been easier than staying. Little did I know, however, that white roots were growing beneath the surface. I decided to stay, convinced that, to do otherwise, aside from a clear call of God, would be to run straight out of His will.
Within weeks of that decision, and while teaching in France, God made his call to clear. We were to come back and be more involved in the work.
I’m convinced that God needed to see my resolve in one situation before he would release the call to another. Over the following two years between His call (late 2012) and our arrival (January 2015), those roots continued to grow as our family applied for and was accepted to the AIM program. We would be furlough replacements for Paul & Darla Brochu.
Allow me to go a bit deeper into those two years of preparation by drawing on a second gardening metaphor: Layering.
Life Transplanted – New Roots
The process of propagating plants via cuttings or layering amazes me. You take a more or less mature portion of a plant or tree, remove bark down to the cambium layer and surround the exposed area with an appropriate rooting medium. That wound will develop scar tissue from which, thanks to photosynthesis, roots will develop. You then transplant the cutting or cut the layer from the mother plant and in either case, you have a new autonomous plant, able to survive on its own. That image gives us a good illustration of those two years of preparation.
Stripping away the bark
Here are five areas where the process of stripping something away caused us to produce new roots and to grow.
Stability: For seventeen years we lived in the same neighborhood, shopped at the same two grocery stores and never changed phone numbers. Stability brought the comfort of predictability, but as that was stripped away, we grew more rooted in our dependence on Him.
House & Home: Long before we sold our home, in order to limit storage requirements while away, we stripped away seventeen years’ worth of accumulation (involving a two-ton bin), and a new root grew. God provided a furnished house and home in France through the kindness of an unsaved landlord and our missionaries.
School: We’d always homeschooled, but we moved to the Abeka Academy curriculum in 2013. DVD based and boasting great social proof, starting early meant it would be familiar territory when everything else for our kids had changed. French school would’ve helped them linguistically but we stripped that possibility away and saw another root form: an even closer bond between them as siblings.
Friends: In 2014 we travelled frequently, raising support both within and outside of the Atlantic District. Exciting at first, we did eventually hear: “Can we just be home with friends for a Sunday?” Social media aside, that support group has been largely stripped away, but a white root; their faith is rooted in the Lord and not simply their peer group.
Ready-made church: We came from a large vibrant church where it was easy to arrive and simply ‘consume’. That has been stripped away and in this home-missions setting, the kids are our music team, Liz leads worship, helps with Sunday School and does finances. I pastor and drive people to church as well as look after the grounds. Setting down those roots has undeniably caused us to grow, as individuals and as a ministry family.
Our family is like a layered plant. We were accustomed to being a side sprout in a much larger plant but some things have been stripped away, we grew new roots and were transplanted to the nation of France. While that process may sounds easy and inspiring, even glamorous, remember that roots only grow from scar tissue. The process did involve stretching and stretching is not always easy, but we focus on the resulting growth.
The extent to which my calla lily will continue to grow and multiply remains to be seen, but isn’t that the process of growth? Constant evolution. Constant change. And if it is truly growth then that change or evolution is toward something bigger and better. Seeing personal development in our lives and in the lives of our children, as a result of our AIM experience, and seeing ushering lives into the Kingdom of God, certainly constitute “bigger and better”.
Though still intimidated by the unknown from time to time, we are in the hands of a trustworthy God who, like a skilled gardener, is growing us and growing the work in France. We are privileged to be part of the work here and covet your prayers.