Day 7: What an incredible day! The whole trip has been great, but today was just good in a different way. Let me be transparent for a moment. Throughout this trip, we have had several moments of weakness when we have asked ourselves, "What are we doing here?" We have had tears, frustration, doubt, and discouragement, and God has calmed our hearts and reset our focus each time. He did the same today.
This morning, we had coffee scheduled with a pastor in the city of Toulouse, which is about an hour and a half away from Limoux. The exhaustion from this past week had caught up with us both. To be honest, neither one of us were feeling it today. We had to wake up pretty early in order to get to Toulouse on time. I knew we were getting low on gas, but I figured we'd just stop somewhere along the way and fill up there before getting on the Autoroute. Google maps had other plans. We were sent way out into the countryside. It was a beautiful drive, but we were getting really low on gas. We passed through several small towns, but no gas stations in sight. Eventually, the gps dumped us onto the Autoroute. We drove just a few miles, and, thank goodness, saw a gas station on one of the exits. We pulled off drove down to a large roundabout, went around it a couple of times (don't ask), and finally flung ourselves into the gas station. I rushed over to a pump and let out a sigh of relief. We had made it. I got out of the car, put in my debit card (which only had a little money left anyway), and pulled the card back out. Denied. "What? I know there's money on there." Swiped again. Denied. "No, no, NO!" Swiped again. Denied. "That's fine. I'm not sure what's wrong, I'll just pay with cash." I looked over to the lady pumping gas on the other side. "Parlez anglais?" She shook her head, "Non Monsieur." She could tell that I was aggravated, so she walked around to help. She tried to explain, but I just couldn't understand anything she was saying. I got back in the car, slammed the door, sped out of the gas station, took a ride on the roundabout, and jumped back on the Autoroute. "Great! This is just wonderful! We're stuck by ourselves, in the middle of a country we don't know, we can't speak French, and are about to run out of gas! What are we doing here??!! Have I lost my mind? We'll probably run out of gas before we ever find another gas station." Niki spoke softly, "Honey...there's a gas station at the next exit."
When I pulled up to the pump this time, I just turned the engine off and looked at Niki. "There are places all over the world that need missionaries. There are places in Africa and South America where people are coming to Christ daily. People have told me back home that there are places in the U.S. that need missionaries. Why here? Why France? Why not any of those other places?" Niki has been married to me long enough to know that, when it comes to these kinds of things, if she just stays quiet long enough, I'll answer my own questions. I sat in silence for a moment, and suddenly it was as if a whisper passed through my mind saying, "Because you haven't been sent to those places." I immediately repeated it aloud, "Because we haven't been sent to those places." Half of that statement had barely even passed through my lips when I heard Niki saying the same words. "Because we haven't been sent to those places." I took a deep breath and nodded.
That was it for me. I didn't need to look any further, ask any more questions, or wait any longer. I knew that I knew. God has called us as missionaries to France.
The rest of the drive to Toulouse was different. The cloud over my head had passed, the confusion and doubt was gone. We had a great discussion with the pastor in Toulouse. His associate pastor was there as well serving as a translator. That church is really growing, and it was refreshing to see and hear how God is working there. We received a third warning today, this time by the associate pastor, "Please, do not move over here and try to start a church where no one else is working." I'm beginning to see a pattern here. I plan to speak with Jason Clark when we get back to the States.
The rest of our discussion was both pleasant and informational. The pastor set me onto a website and some statistics that made me realize a little more why God had called us to France. Allow me to share a couple of these. According to studies done by a French Baptist association of churches, there is only 1 evangelical church for every 30,000 people in France. Only a small number of these classify as what they call "Mature" churches. Their use of this term is in reference to churches who have at least 30 in membership, meet at least 3 times each month, have some form of recognized leadership, and have their own building. By these standards, the churches I have mentioned in Toulouse and Carcassonne would both classify as "Mature" churches. There is a lot of work to do in France, and, while I know that there's only so much our family can do, I am understanding more and more why God has called us here.
The rest of the day was just icing on the cake. We had a picnic lunch with a Chateau in the background, walked through a beautiful little village with a whopping population of 50, and maybe even got an idea on an area where God might want us to work. The last thing will need to be prayed on before sharing publicly, but it was a great day. We had our final dinner with our English host and hostesses, and then walked over to Matthew's house for a time of fellowship with the people of the Limoux church plant. Jason Clark joined in on Skype. We had a wonderful time of singing praises and discussing life and God. Our hearts were full as we walked back to the house tonight. Time to turn in again for some sleep. Tomorrow we wake up at 5am and head back to Toulouse to drop off our rental car and begin our flight home.
I don't know all of the details yet, but I do know this...We're moving to France.