Trip 39 / Entry 43

A brief stop over in the Marseilles, St. Charles Train Station

Monday, October 20,2014

IMG_4100 cropI took the early bus from Carpentras which took me back through Aix and then to St. Charles, the train station for Marseilles. When I got off of the bus and started toward the Depot, I was prevented from entering by police and safety personnel who had sent everyone outside until the swept the station of a possible bomb. Nothing came of it so in the meantime, having nothing to do, I encountered the Jehovah’s Witnesses and again left them spinning. I used to be terrified of these encounters but now I look forward to it and look for the opportunity. It is a game of cat and mouse. I am the cat.

Sarah and I hanging out in France with the legends...—

Sarah and I hanging out in France with the legends…—

Grayling, Sandra Trees, Sarah Halberg and Amy Owen

They had to go to some trouble in order to meet me at the station but it was good to see the Trees’ finally back in France after so many years. Sarah Beth brought along Amy Owen who runs around introducing interns to various missionary teams. She had been my student a number of years ago so it was nice to see her outside of Facebook.

Grayling and Sandra are slightly unsettled having just arrived but they are conversant in French and should be up and running in a short time. Though we only talked for an hour or so, we shared a lot of similar thoughts regarding missionary strategies in France and Europe in general. Basically we both have the same idea that American and existing evangelism methods and church planting models will no longer be attractive in Europe. “High Predictability = Low Impact” and vice versa. In our view, church as usual will not work. With this in mind we threw out many ideas that we confirmed.

They time came for me to go and they headed off.

Trip 39 / Entry 42

Carpentras

Sunday, October 20, 2014

“You can’t go back to the ole’ swimming hole.” Harry Hedrick

I regret to say, not much going here worth a photograph. I’m fairly certain that my father did not come up with this and many of you heard it expressed in different ways but my first recollection of hearing this was when my dad said it to me as a young boy. His point was simple enough. Once you grow up the joys and excitement of the former places and experiences are significantly diminished with age, travel and so forth.  When it comes to my revisit to Carpentras this is the case and proves to be true. I came here about fourteen years ago with Jeanne. We walked the streets and sat under the trees watching the southern France, Provencial style unfold. After watching the BBC series, “A Year in Provence,” I was enthralled to be here. Everything was so enchanting, the enormous, leaf filled Eucalyptus trees threw their speckled shade on the sides of the old, weathered buildings making a sun dappled glitter of gold.

It is 8:15 Monday morning and I am on my way from my second excursion to Marseilles for the train to Sestri Levante, Italy where I will meet Emile, Francesco and Giacomo.

My dad was right.

I arrived here yesterday on a Sunday in the mid-afternoon. The stores were closed up and streets were empty except for the Muslim men sitting in the outdoor cafes drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. There was a market in town but I didn’t discover it until they were packing up their wares and heading home.  What I did see was again, North Africans and Muslims taking down their shops.

Carpentras is not what it was fifteen years ago. In my memory the village was what one should expect when visiting the south of France and quaint, charming Provence. Instead, even with the danger of appearing discriminatory, the city feels like something out of Algeria or Morocco. Fifteen years ago (perhaps I was never in this part of town) this cultural shift was hardly noticeable. Now, however, many stores are closed up. The streets are lined with empty shops except for the occasional Hallel meat market, barber or Kabob shop which appear to be numerous. In fact there is an absence of decent places to eat and I finally found an Italian restaurant after walking for almost an hour.

Say what you will but

Since it’s days of Imperialism, France has little choice but to take North Africans as immigrants but the truth is this. Wherever they live will change the atmosphere. The streets will be covered with trash as no one picks up a thing. Large groups of less than industrious, Muslim men will fill the streets and cafes doing little else but loudly talking. To me this ghettoization is a tragic reality and a pariah of Arabic immigration in Europe.

Sweden and Denmark finally admit to this with the influx of crime associated with ethnic groups coming from the Muslim world. Statistics prove what people have suspected all along. The numbers to support the claim that Islam is largely the washing of the outside of the bowl while the inside is covered with corruption.

“You can’t go back to the ole’ swimming hole.” Harry Hedrick

Trip 39 / Entry 41

IMG_4096 cropNot a good day for the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Aix en Provence.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

IMG_4095 cropSince my bus for Carpentras didn’t leave until noon I had some time to kill. Coming down the street to find a place to sit I saw the familiar Jehovah’s Witness literature stand and four well-dressed young people standing around waiting on passers-by. Unfortunately for them, I happened to have been a (intentional and going entirely out of my way) “passer-by.”  The question was clear, “WHAT DOES THE BIBLE REALLY TEACH?’ so I thought I would tell them. Having one person proficient in English and another moderately capable in the language it was not a good day when I explained that the Bible from Genesis to Revelation can be explained through faith in two words, “vicarious atonement.” I knew that these words were bigger than they were used to so I enjoyed explaining the concept to them beginning with fig leaves and going right through to the blood of the Lamb in Revelation. My, my, my! You think they had been struck by lightning. They are so used to people who know absolutely nothing about the scriptures that this encounter set them completely back upon their heels. So, here they got the red thread of redemption from Genesis to Revelation with a challenge regarding where they placed their confidence. “No doubt, you all were once Catholics. In those days your salvation was dependent upon the auspices of the Church, The Vatican, the Pope, Mary, the priests, the sacraments and so forth. These were your mediators. You were raised to be hopeful that this might work. Now, however, you have done yourself no better having only substituted Rome for Brooklyn. All religions follow the same pattern, Catholics, Islam, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and so forth. They control their subjects by procuring salvation for them as long as they follow the prescribed requirements and rules.” They didn’t like it but they got the point. It did not take them long to pick up their display and move across the street.

 

Trip 39 / Entry 40

AIX / Everything that Marseilles wasn’t

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Friday and Saturday, October 20 and 21, 2014

I had no idea of what to expect

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IMG_4060 cropI will not make the ridiculous statement (I have not visited all of the cities of France) that Aix is the most beautiful and livable city in all of France but it’s wide thoroughfares, progressiveness, shopping, restaurants, climate, cleanliness and amenities would surely make it a contender. My awe may simply come from being in Marseilles, an hour away where one feels as though they are in North Africa. Marseilles is decidedly influenced by Islam and the African approach to live which means nothing is picked up from the streets. IMG_4043 cropMoreover, to be in a city where graffiti is almost non-existent when Marseilles is covered three times over may have caused me to be overly appreciative of Aix en Provence.

IMG_4075 cropIf I was called to Marseilles, I think I would consider commuting simply for the sake of my mental stability. In my view, chaos is not an attractive cultural asset.

When I am a temporary guest, I have a little, general rule that three days is my limit when staying with  other people fro more than three days so, with this in mind, I decided to go somewhere for a couple of days prior to heading back to Italy. There was a bit of a lull so I decided to go to Cezanne’s city of Aix in Provence. Many of the French Impressionists made the cities and villages of this region their home. Arles and is another town frequented by the likes of Monet, Manet, Degas, Van Gogh and later, Matisse. I wanted to see what the lure was and expected Aix en Provence to be a quaint little village.

IMG_4014 cropInstead, I arrived to a first class, beautiful and bustling city. This left me staggered because I thought I would get off the bus on a shady Eucalyptus and café lined street while instead, I stepped from the bus into a terminal with spots for twenty mega buses. Further, my hotel which was advertised as ten minutes from the city center turned out to be twenty-five minutes from the bus terminal. After asking the English speaker at the News stand, I took his suggestion and got a taxi. After Paris I was apprehensive but discovered that 6 euro eighty would get me there.

IMG_4051 cropI unpacked, took a shower and made my way to the old city where I did discover about five square blocks of quaintness surrounding the City Hotel and Sacre Couer. Here we have the restaurants and coffee bars of note. Not only do we have these, On Saturday morning during market, we have every local and tourist in Provence. The streets and piazzas were packed with gawkers and shoppers. If I were a citizen of Aix, I  would be where they all seem to be this morning. The sparkling, county fair winning vegetables are stacked to the canopies of the umbrellas that cover the stalls. Poultry, breads, honey, cheeses, meats, herbs, spices, fresh sea food of every description and flowers also fill the shelves and table tops. Hundreds of people are shouting and pointing while money is being traded hand over fist. Further down the streets, five blocks in all directions are more open air markets selling everything from purses, shoes clothing to handcrafts and art.

IMG_4021 cropPeering around the crowds, I took what photographs I could, went back to my hotel, rested and tried once more in the evening. Since there was little improvement in the picture taking opportunity, I sat down in an open air bar, bought a drink and did some people watching. In a few minutes the table next to me was occupied by a Chinese girl and her mother. Turns out she wasn’t a girl at all but a woman, married and older than I thought. She was an art teacher and because I had been drawing she asked about me in English. Around her neck I saw a small Protestant cross. This gave me impetus to inquire. Indeed she was a Christian from Hong Kong so we fellowshipped  for about half an hour while her mother who only spoke Chinese appeared dumbfounded. When she learned my real purpose in Europe caused her to overflow with favor. Irene wished me God’s blessing on my ministry as she left.

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Later I went out to a Moroccan restaurant recommended by the hostess at the hotel. I had a Tanjine of lamb, vegetables and couscous. Unlike, the dinner at Kos Kos in Oslo there was plenty of taste and definition and for half the price. Le Riad  lived up to Julie, the hotel receptionists’ praise. I left full and satisfied.

 

Trip 39 / Entry 39

Marseilles

Wednesday to Friday, October 15-18, 2014

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IMG_4004 cropI don’t really know what to say about Marseilles and my three day experience there. I went there for only one reason and that was to visit Linda Hache, Grayling and Sandra Trees and the four person Bethany internship team. I was cancelled out on two of the three as Linda returned to Canada for eye surgery and the Trees were stuck somewhere still trying to arrange a suitable car so I would connect with four girls, Sarah Beth, Christine. Chrissy and Clare.

I arrived in the afternoon met Sarah and Christine at the station and went by tram and bus to their place, a large apartment at the end of a bit of a climb. My room was on the ground floor in a ministry center / compound that provides facilities for several mission ministries.

After getting acquainted the girls took me on a beautiful evening down to the coast. Since Marseilles is the most Arabic (north African) city in France the evidence of Islam is quite apparent. We would be passed by many women pushing a pram with a new born followed by four or five or more young children. Many men congregate in the open air coffee shops sipping coffee or tea and discussing whatever it is, quite loudly. The silhouetted palm trees on a salmon orange backdrop of soft sunset and shrill north African music with small Bendir (drum) keeping time makes one feel that he or she is not in Europe at all.

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The one thing I will say about Marseilles is that they have some pretty terrific graffiti.

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Trip 39 / Entry 38

Elise, a rose in the desert

Paris, France

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

IMG_3950 cropNow this is crazy! This is a spiritual wasteland. No one seems to have a spiritual thought. As I am checking out, the receptionist (Elise) says, “I like your English (meaning my accent). Where,”she continued, as I put on my deepest draw “are you from – Texas?” I said, “South Carolina.” She replied, “Oh, I want to go there so much. There are Jews there, yes?” “Are you Jewish?” I asked her. “No, Lebanese, but I am Christian, a REAL one. I am not just a baptized one. Do you understand?” Did I ever understand. Yeah!

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Trip 39 / Entry 37

Anca

Paris, France

Monday, October 13, 2014

IMG_3908 cropYears ago I had a Romanian student at Bethany College of Missions. She was smart and articulate. At the beginning of this trip while in Romania Sarah Buchosky (a mutual friend) asked if I was going to see Anca while in Paris to which I said, “I would love to,” so we set it up.

Anca is now married and mother of a cute little girl. She is also a Ph.D. candidate in Law and will complete her degree and articling very soon. Since I didn’t know the city at all or the metro system she came all of the way for a forty-five minute coffee.  She doesn’t look a bit different than she did twelve years ago and I would have immediately recognized her if I had bumped into her on the street. Though she wasn’t able to stay long as she had her husband’s relatives in town we did visit enough to get a fresh picture of our lives.