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This year's fraternal weekend in Paris was followed by a few days of campaigning in central Brittany, so consequently our numbers were higher than in recent years.
At our maximum we were 22 staying in the Télémaque Hotel, including Sis Andrée Hayward who was making her first return visit to France since she and Bro Dennis had come back to England after living for many years in Nîmes. Dennis sadly fell asleep towards the end of last year, so this was Andrée's first major outing since then, which she accomplished in spite of having broken her hip recently.
For the Saturday meeting we were joined at the Quaker Centre by Bro Paul and Sis Bea Jones and their family (Calais), the Hobbs family (Llandudno), Bro Philip Johnson-Smith and Sis Charlotte Hébert (Paris), the latter having been collected by Mike and Diana Elbro. As Charlotte would be unable to join us on the Sunday because of family commitments our Bible Studies given by Philip and myself led into a Breaking of Bread. We were able to make use of the new Hymn Book to which Sis Jennifer Pitts has devoted considerable time over recent months, and for which a very successful recording session was held in March in the Hall Green ecclesial Hall.
On the Sunday all except Charlotte came again, and we enjoyed the additional company of Sis Marthe Dassonville and Bro Ravish Venkaya who came with his wife Nirochinie. Sadly Sis Monique Godard was unable to join us because of pressing family matters, and Sis Suzanne Faihy had not been able to make the journey up from Bordeaux this year. We remembered our absent sisters in our prayers. For the memorial service Bro Andrew Robson exhorted - it was Andrew's first return visit to Paris since living there a few years ago as part of his language studies. Andrew has now become involved in the recent CBM work in Madagascar and is due to visit Mauritius later this year, God willing. As usual both meetings were followed by refreshments, which on the Sunday included a birthday cake celebrating Sis Sarah Jones' 18th birthday.
On the Monday the majority of us travelled to the area of Brittany where Bro Andrew and Sis Margaret Norcross have a home in which they live approx 6 months each year. They are quite close to several other bre and sis who have holiday homes in the area, which was the reason why the French Committee had proposed a campaign for this area - the first campaign in France for 4 years. Our group was augmented by the company and help of some of those with homes in the area and also for part of the week by Bro Stuart and Sis Brenda Handley and Bro David Radford from the Mayenne ecclesia. For much of the time we exceeded 30 in number. Some were staying with Andrew and Margaret at Melrand, while most of the rest of us were in a hotel in Pontivy approx 12 miles away. In spite of the complicated logistics the arrangements for the week proceeded very smoothly. Most of the catering was done at the Norcrosses who coped admirably with the large numbers. One evening we should have been eating at a local restaurant, but that arrangement had to be aborted at the last minute, and with hardly a bat of an eyelid Andrew informed us all that Margaret could cope with us all 30 of us again! I think many years experience of catering for the annual Sale camp helped them to take everything in their stride.
Our plan was to spend Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday billing in the Melrand and Pontivy areas. We had brought 2 handbills with us, one of which advertised the 3 talks we had planned for the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings, and the other invited application for the booklet "Qu'adviendra-t-il de notre terre" (= What is going to happen to our world) using the Post Box which bro Paul Jones has recently opened for us. We had intended to advertise the talks in the local press, but had been unable to do so as the newspapers wouldn't accept our ads. The French are quite suspicious of small religious organisations which they fear might be "sectes", and our current lack of a French information web- site proved to be a distinct disadvantage (note - this is now being addressed). Over the course of the 3 days we distributed approx 14.000 of each of the 2 leaflets, which covered the local area quite extensively. Sadly only one visitor attended one meeting, so the other 2 became impromptu Bible Classes. On the Friday morning we assembled in the Norcrosses lounge once again, this time for a Breaking of Bread which served to cement the wonderful experience of fellowship we had shared throughout our few days together. Our unaccompanied hymn singing at every available opportunity certainly gave us immense pleasure, and whilst we were disappointed at the initial level of response to our preaching we knew that we had been privileged to be part of the Lord's work.
Without any doubt we had been individually enriched by the time we had spent together. For that benefit we thank God and commit the nurturing of the seed sown for His continuing blessing. Our homeward journeys for some started on the Friday and for others on the Saturday. The weather throughout the whole week had been stunning - the first drops of rain fell on Friday evening!
|"Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation." (Mark 16:15)|