les Davey de France

Alan and Pat live and work in Bordeaux. Alan is a pastor and Pat was a nurse. Now we work with UFM worldwide. Read on! (If you'd like to know what took us to Bordeaux, then start with the archives from September 2004)

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Restoring the internet

This morning Bouygues Telecom and Orange (formerly France Telecom) combine their forces to restore internet to the house,  along with telephone and television.

We have quite enjoyed our period of purdah, though buying and printing Gwilym's tickets to return from the UK was stressful and it would have been good to be able to phone him. We need to be online again, though. For one thing we want to sell the car. For another we need the telephone.

The Bouygues engineer who came on Tuesday confirmed my thesis that there was no signal arriving at the house. The exchange is just 250 metres away. At the exchange the dsl card is a Bouygues card. Bouygues say the problem is in Orange's network. (i.e. In the 250 metres of wire...?)

So from 8am to 11 we have to be here to give access to the house if they need it.

Rendezvous online at 11 hours at the latest!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Meanwhile, here is some music

Still waiting for the Bouygues-man to get our internet working.

Meanwhile here is some music. We have just started rehearsing this with the Pessac Jazz Band.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Internet out of order.

It broke down on Monday.

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Meanwhile here's a picture of Bordeaux.

Puritan Portraits - by J.I.Packer - A Puritan easy-reader !

I enjoyed this book. I really enjoyed this book !

In some ways it must have been a publisher's dream - about half of the book is made up of reprints of introductions that Jim Packer wrote for reprints of Puritan classics.

At the same time it must be a publisher's nightmare. After all it's a(nother) book about the Puritans. OK, the die-hards will buy it because of the word 'Puritan' in the title, but who else will ?

Well I hope you will ! No, really ! Here's why :

1) Jim Packer's enthusiasm for these guys is wonderfully enjoyable and infectious. His delight in these men really comes across the page.

2) You'll learn stuff. I first heard about the Puritans shortly after my conversion cough-cough-cough years ago when somebody showed me Perkins' chart of salvation. That's a long time ago and I have kept being reminded of them ever since, but I still learned things from the book.

3) Jim Packer's introductions are pretty famous in themselves, no ? and in these he takes the opportunity to summarise for us the esssentials of Puritan theology, thought and practice.

4) You'll be inspired to be committed, to be brave and to think things through. And you'll have read some cracking stories on the way.

These portraits really are worth reading. And then they'll make you want to read the classics they introduce. And why not !

Find it here.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Sluggish after a good weekend

Today my brain is running slow and everything else is even slower after a good weekend.

It started, I suppose, on Friday evening. Friday saw me take a funeral in Blaye, then scuttle back to return the car and get home to see Flavien, who had meanwhile flown from Marseille to Mérignac and been collected from the airport by Myriam. (Thanks Myriam !)

The funeral went OK, though it was glacial in the cemetery and it's very hard to pray when you're shivering, your teeth are chattering and the wind is whipping the pages of your notes back and fore. Anyway, mission accomplished.

Back home we got set for the Home Group. We were few, perhaps due to the several evening activities happening at the same time - FAC Games evening took at least two or three people away and another group was meeting, too. Still, the study was good.

Saturday Morning was Flavien's conference - an overview of Biblical Theology, basically - so we hopped on the bus and tram to Cenon. We were a decent number and the morning went well, though again the church was proving hard to heat. We could really do with a timer to put the heating on and off !

Then Saturday evening was the Chinese group, and Flavien spoke on the healing of the man at the gate Beautiful to an appreciative bunch. .

Sunday morning I was preaching in Blaye so I got the car, colected everyone and then left Pat, Catrin and Flavien at the church - hopefully now somewhat warmer after the heating had been on since Saturday morning - and hit the road. The service in Blaye went well and I was back in time to collect everyone, get them home and return the car.

Sunday evening English service at our home - Ananias and Sapphira - followed by a buffet with folk bringing food typical of their country. Afterwards I went to get the car one last time so I could take Flavien to the airport early this morning.

As I trotted through a deserted Pessac centre on Sunday morning at 9am for my brief chat with the JWs before driving off I thought, "Nobody has the right to be as happy as this, surely ?"

Later when preaching on Philippians 2:12 - 13 : Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed — not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence — continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. I was struck again by the following verse : Do all things without grumbling or questioning

Grumbling about the situation where we serve God is surely foolish and wrong. Of course things are not brilliant, but we're called to strengthen what remains, not to pour water on the embers.

Anyway, after lots of early starts and late finishes I find myself on strike today. I lack pretty well everything you need to get up and go. Fair enough. Fair enough.

Friday, January 18, 2013

It makes you think - Review of "Will you be my Facebook friend", by Tim Chester

A complimentary review copy was provided to me by Cross Focused Reviews (A Service of Cross Focused Media, LLC). I was not required to write a positive review.

It makes you think doesn't it. Facebook has become a massive phenomenon in such a short time. Families use it to keep in touch. Friends use it to catch up on each other's news. Adolescents use it to invite thousands to parties at their parents' house. Churches use it spread the news of Jesus Christ. And all that in just a few short years.

Although he sees some useful aspects to the Facebook revolution, Tim Chester thinks it's a problem. His first chapter is entitled "What's the problem?"

He then goes on to identify several of the problems linked with Facebook in chapters entitled "Recreating my world", "Escaping my limitations", "The Facebook of God" and "Twelve guidelines for social networking"

His thoughts are very helpful. His guidelines are good, wise and useful. It's a good book. But I do wish the first chapter had not been entitled "What's the problem?" I think that weakens what could have been an even more useful book.

Helpful guidelines. Useful for pastors, dads, youth leaders. 
Quick and easy to read. And not expensive.

Take it and read it. It'll make you think.

Ice Day

or Ice Morning anyway.

Last night I woke up in the aptly-named wee hours and used, as is my habit, my mobile phone to light to way to the toilet. I noticed that I had had a text message at 11:30pm. I read it. It said that the Prefect of the Gironde had prohibited buses from running before 10am. 'No school for Catrin', I thought, as I wended my weary way back to my downy couch.

Thus it was no surprise this morning when I heard her coming back from the bus stop where a kindly gentleman had told her that her 7am wait was futile, there were no buses. It's drizzling out there, and I don't think it is all that cold. I'll be able to get to Blaye, I'm sure.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Preparing for the funeral and for the weekend - or not quite

On Wednesday afternoon I discovered that I was needed to conduct a funeral in Blaye on Friday at 2:30.

Ah ! But I am picking up Flavien from the airport at 4.

"I'll pick up Flavien !", said a helpful soul.

OK, but I'll need to reserve a car. I'll confirm tonight.

After getting home through the wet, wet streets I looked on the website.
The little Mairie 206+ is available. Booked. Confirmed. Telephoned. We're away.

The funeral is for a man I have never met who was catholic but married to a protestant lady who for many years was the treasurer of the church in Blaye. She died in 1986 and since then he has moved around a bit.
He came back to Blaye to live with his son, then in a retirement home as his health deteriorated.

The funeral will be my first contact with the family. The son went to Sunday School and so on.
You never know. We'll keep up contact and who knows if one day he'll come to the service in Blaye.
The funeral will be in the funeral home, then burial in the cemetery just down the road.

Oh well...

The afternoon I spent meeting up with different students.

With one I'm reading "The enemy within" by Kris Lundgaard. We read a chapter, talked and prayed together in one of the student cafeterias..

With another it was our first discussion. He's a super lad who's very keen and very clever, and a young Christian. It will be good to help him along.

And LOTS of phone calls.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

After the rain...

Well it rained and rained and rained. Everything everywhere was soaked. I was soaked. Absolutely soaked.
We had a church council on Wednesday afternoon followed by a voice workshop with a lady in the congregation who works in the vocal arts to try and get people to speak up when they read and preach.
Then home through the wet, wet streets.

Rain !

People from South Wales are acquainted with rain. I remember one time in Cardiff when it fell so fast that the roads were covered to a depth of an inch simply because of the quantity that fell - the drains were all working fine.

That may be why in Welsh it doesn't just rain. You can't say, "it's raining". You have to say "It's throwing rain," because it's always chucking it down. I suppose only Rudolph the Red knows rain, dear, better than us. Maybe Rudolph the Red was Welsh ?

But I have never seen a place so waterlogged as Pessac this morning. Our garden is absolutely sodden. The park is absolutely sodden. The paths are punctuated by pools that you have to get around somehow.  My cap, coat, trousers and shoes are absolutely sodden.

It's not falling fast, but it's falling persistently, with occasional claps of thunder. The forecast was for very cold weather. Just goes to show.

There's a lot of crazy people in the world.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Auditorium de Bordeaux

Honestly, it's just incredible. Bordeaux has a fine italianiate opera house. Admittedly it's finer from the outisde than from the inside, but it's OK. It has more cinemas and theatres than you can shake a stick at, but it has no concert hall. Also, for some reason, the cathedral doesn't seem to be used for orchestral concerts.

This has led to the (to me) unbelievable prospect of performing the Saint Matthew Passion in the Palais des Sports - a Sports Hall ! - and the Berlioz Requiem recently in the Patinoire - the Ice Rink ! It was 50 quid for the cheapest seat to hear the St Matthew Passion in the sports hall.

I'd rather whistle it !   Acoustics ?

Anyway the town hall has seen the need and a new auditorium is being built. There were hitches in the last minute safety-related jobs, but it is now due to open on 24th January.

There's various concerts planned, and some of the tickets are reasonably priced (like 8€) but the first one we could go to is in March. I will discuss with the family. I doubt everyone will want to go, but some probably will.

The Museum of Decorative Arts

So yesterday was my day off and we had a nice, slow, easy morning followed by a trip to the Museum of Decorative Arts and a tea shop.

The Museum of Decorative Arts is housed in a very fine house just next to the Town Hall in Bordeaux. The house used to belong to the Lalande family and was completed in 1779. It is a very fine house with a large courtyard in front and (originally) a garden behind. It is found at 39 rue Bouffard, Bordeaux, and it is worth putting that address into Google Maps and zooming in till you see the house and courtyard clearly. It's a fine building.

So the house was completed in 1779. Its builder died in 1784 and, as some of you have been predicting, his heir, the next owner, was guillotined in 1794 at Place Gambetta, just round the corner from his fine home. The contents of the house were confiscated and sold at auction.

When Napoleon came to power the family owned the house but rented it to the government because of the sad memories it held for them. Afterwards the house changed hands several times until the town of Bordeaux bought it in 1878 and it housed various services until becoming the museum of decortaive arts in 1955.

The house' various rooms are furnished finely and on large shelves are displayed various wonderful porcelain, pottery and glass objects. Some of the Venetian glass from the 1500s was simply incredible, as were the 18th century porcelains.

One particularly interesting thing was the rafraichisseur, or rince-verres - a Bordeaux custom - which is a large pottery or porcelain bowl with notches cut around the rim. Apparently the bowl was filled with water and crushed ice and, during a meal, once you finished your wine you would pop your glass into the rafraichisseur, give it a quick rinse and then haul it back out ready for the waiter to bring you the next glassful. Had I realised that I would not even find a photo of one by searching with Google I would have begged the folk in the museum to let me photograph one.

The museum has a sub-text. After a short while you realise that all the porcelain, fine furniture, glassware, musical instruments, everything dates from the 18th century. One of the staff confirmed that with the revolution the top was taken off French society which must have meant that lots of jobs were lost in the manufacture of fine things.

We intended going to a tea shop afterwards, but the one I had in mind has changed hands and become a café. So we went in a found the staff very friendly. Pat had a hot chocolate and I had a hot milk flavoured with caramel. Jolly nice too on a grey and chilly afternoon.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Smaller bills and faster internet

So another project recently has been to reduce the mobile phone bills.

Thanks to Free (oh, I feel so GUILTY !) the pattern of mobile phone contracts has changed in France over the last year. Until recently you had two options :

1) Pay as you go: Phones cost lots, you pay as much as you use, free to stop at any time.

2) Contracts: Phones cost little, but you pay LOADS each month, and tied up for one or two years.

Since Free a new option has come in. You pay a smaller amount - 15 to 20 € a month - for a comprehensive phone service, but this does NOT include a mobile phone. If you need to buy a phone you buy one outright or by paying monthly, but this is a different additional cost. Also there is no engagement.

So we've been switching people around.

Gwilym has been on Free for some time, paying 15€ a month, using my old iPhone. When it finally yielded up the spirit we bought a Sony handset.

Catrin was on Virgin Mobile. We have moved her to Free, paying 2€ a month. Her option doesn't include mobile internet. She says if she had that she'd be on it all the time. She's been using a Wildfire for some time now.

Pat was on a contract with NRJMobile. She has moved to Bouygues B&You, using a second-hand Wildfire that she's very happy with following the death of her Motorola Defy.

The last person to be sorted out was me. I wanted to go onto B&You, too, but I hesitated... The answer came from a Bouygue telesales person who pointed out that if we changed our internet provider to Bouygues (sorry Free !) we could go to fibre-optique and I could go onto a lower price phone setup giving a better service and cheaper bills.

So the technician is coming to set it up on 22 January.

Hi ! I'm back !

Well the blog has been rather quiet this week. Let me explain why.

Firstly Sunday went well. There were new faces in the morning service. Catrin played well - for the first time, I think, as sole accompanist. There was useful feedback from the message. It was a good time. However ministry is never simple and there were also the kinds of reactions that are hard to work through.

So when Monday came I was more than usually tired and more than usually discouraged. I didn't write my resignation letter, but I made plans and rehearsed various conversations ! 

This week was the FAC Student Ministry week of prayer, but I also had various meetings arranged with different folk. This means I have been away from my study and my PC more than usual.

One chap is meeting up with me to work through John 3 using Peter Jeffrey's little book, "From Religion to Christ". This book doesn't exist in French, but my friend reads a little English so we get by.

Another is a student and we meet up to read and pray together. He's a good lad and future elder material.

Another is one of our teenagers who is giving his testimony on Sunday, so we met up to talk that through and to pray about that.

Another is a fellow missionary who is currently doing his studies in French so we're meeting up to walk the city a little and to pray about his future. This week we were in the Chartrons area. 

Hence the photos.

Over the week my spirits have changed - I have recovered my ... determination. A busy week, but I have a better kind of tiredness now than I did on Monday !

Friday, January 11, 2013

A helpful book on the new technologies of communication.

That was the day when my smartphone almost learnt to fly. I was on the phone - the "landline" - in the middle of a l-o-n-g conversation. Meanwhile emails popped up on my computer screen demanding a quick yes/no reply. And then my smartphone started ringing... I rejected the call. It rang again .. four times...

However did we get here ? And after all I am not a brain surgeon, a fire-fighter or a soldier - except in the most figurative sense of those terms. I'm a humble pastor working in a small church in a very large town in France, ignored by the world, submerged in the general noise of 21st century life. Ah, excuse me, there's a text message...

Friends "don't want" a smartphone or even a mobile phone. Email at home is enough. Why be always available? I understand and sympathise with their point of view.

But at the same time I'm a missionary, sent overseas. I think of the heroic waves of people sent to Africa to serve for six months then die of fever before their first letter arrived home. No, this is better. You have to manage them well, but our means of communication are a blessing.

Because communication is what Christian ministry is all about. The word. Spoken, written, typed, emailed, txtd :D, it's all about communicating the eternal word in the ephemeral means of communication of the age in which we find ourselves.

I was afraid of not liking David Clark's book. I spent happy years in the computing industry before entering Christian ministry and some Christian books on computing are deeply embarrassing. But not this one. He knows what he's talking about. He writes with grace and rare common sense. He sees the need to embrace communication technologies, but also to master them rather than to have them master you.

Don't throw your smartphone through the window. Keep calm, have a nice cup of tea or coffee and read this book. Learn to use your PC, phone and smartphone with discernment. Master them before they master you.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Well the lad has gone

to the UK to work in the EMW Bookshop in Bridgend for four weeks on work experience. He'll have a great time. He's staying with a super family and being looked after en route. All will be well. And I am heartbroken.

Friday, January 04, 2013

La vie associative

A few times this week I have been caught up in this wonderful feature of French life, la vie associative.

There's various kinds of associations that exist in France.

One is l'association de fait. This is where people meet up and do things together without putting in place the legal framework that one is supposed to have. Some churches are associations de fait, notably brethren assemblies and some immigrant churches.

Another is l'association 1901, l'association culturelle. This is a group of people who agree to do something together and who elect a chairman and a secretary (and a treasurer if money is involved). The name of the association, its officers and its address for correspondance is then registered at the Préfecture, the French Government offices in Bordeaux.

An association 1901 could exist for : playing Scrabble, playing rugby, teaching music, an orchestra, a music group, a walking club, distributing Bibles, famine relief, supporting the Occitan language, helping immigrants find work, whatever...I became a founder member of an association 1901 recently when  we created Tubabones - the Bordeaux association for trombonists and tuba players, though I have yet to attend a meeting !

Monday morning started bright and early with a Skype meeting with two friends in the South-East of France to discuss the future of an association that forms the legal framework for a ministry for training pastors in "difficult" countries.

Later in the week I met up with a lady who has started several associations to start little projects for raising chickens in the bush in Burkina Faso. She has also started a different association to put vulnerable women into employment, etc. There are lots of associations like this that link French people with francophone countries in Africa.

Then today I met with another man doing similar things but to house the homeless in France, and we met at an associative restaurant. This restaurant exists to give people on small incomes a good meal, which means that for four euros you get a main course, a dessert, a glass of wine and a cup of coffee. Today the main course was Duck Shepherd Pie (parmentier de canard) and the dessert was a galette à la frangipane. I chatted with various volunteers who work at the restaurant about the Christians in Kabylia etc.

FAC, the student work here, is an Association 1901 as is our local pastors fraternal, CNEF33, and the committee that runs the local Christian Bookshop, La Maison de la Bible..

Another Association 1901 is "Une Bible par Foyer" which is the legal framework for the yellow Bible caddies that you see in markets all over France.

In the church we are in the process of setting up an association 1901 as the framework for youthwork, for outings, for weekends, camps and all that is not "services of worship".

Churches are normally Associations 1905, associations cultuelles. The way money flows from one kind of association to another is strictly defined by law and different types of associations have different rights, privileges and responabilities.

From Bitter to Sweet, by John Currid

The book of Ruth is a lovely moment in the Old Testament. We love the book because it is short - you can easily read it in me sitting. We love it because it's very dramatic - who can forget Orpah's farewell and Ruth's defiant clinging to Naomi ? Who can forget the night-time scene at the threshing floor or the happy ending as Obed is dandled on Naomi's knees. We love it because it's a very human story, of economic disaster, of migrant workers, of loss, of love, of resolutions and happy endings.

But does it mean anything for me ? And what about sandals, corners of mantles, uncovered feet and kinsman-redeemers ? What's that all about ?

John Currid's little commentary is a great book. He obviously has a huge affection for the characters, he's keen to vindicate them wherever he can. He explains customs and traditions to help the reader understand. He situates the story within Biblical history. He doesn't see Boaz as a type of Christ, but he sees the great purpose of the book as showing how God kept his promise to send the redeemer, and how therefore we can and must hope, speak, believe and live as the heirs of the promise. He illustrates lavishly, with lots of references to the Covenanters and the Puritans. And he helps preachers. Lots.

What more could anyone ask ?

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

New Year's Day

New Year's Day found us walking over Bordeaux's swanky new Elevator Bridge. It's not open to traffic yet, but they opened it for a New Year's Day walk. 38000 people crossed to see the new views of the city.