Three significant and impactful events happened this fifth week (of nine) of French language school. They that brought back into focus the “why” I am here in France. While at times this week I actually thought I could pick out portions of conversations, this continues to be a grueling, grammar-intensive marathon and I am tired. I don’t know about you, but keeping a long-term objective fresh and strong can sometimes be a challenge. It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture in the daily grind. And, I received a number of much needed shots-in-the-arm this past week, large and small. They were God-touches: tangible reminders that He is actively directing my path if I will only surrender and trust Him. He reconfirmed the importance to continue to prepare, day by day, for my role as Bongolo Hospital’s “Partner Development” guy. In spite of tiredness, I am so grateful to be here! I could not do this work God has called me to without both your ongoing and needed financial support (a growing number of you!) and your prayers (all of you). Let me tell you about three of the big ones.
First, I attended a BNI meeting early Tuesday morning before school. BNI is Business Networking International, a global organization that exists for the sole purpose of helping each other to grow our businesses, in my case, Agape Africa Fund. I have been a member and leader in BNI of Western Pennsylvania for the past four years in prior business ventures and BNI has played an important part in their success. It turns out that there is a BNI chapter here within easy walking distance of my school. In fact, early in my trip, I had walked into the beautiful hotel they meet acting, I hoped, like I belonged even though I was dressed down some (I needed to use the bathroom if you must know…). God has such a sense of humor that it ended up being where BNI meets!
Anyway, the meeting was great. It was absolutely wonderful to “work” for two hours. I had stayed up late the night before practicing – in French - my one-minute introduction that is standard to BNI agendas around the world. I had decided the day before to attend the next day; this meant I didn’t give myself the opportunity to have my teacher proof read my presentation, so I had to rely on what I had learned and a handy translation software. I must have made sense, because three people made a point of asking for tete-a-tete (one-on-one, but literally head-to-head) coffee meetings this week and next. Two speak fluent English, one speaks about as much English as I do French. In fact, one of the fluent English speakers is British and he grew up in the small northern England town of Bury, where I went to high school for a year when I was a high school English student! Who knows what God will do with them, but it sure felt great to be in a “business” environment.
The second was that I decided to put my home up as an Airbnb host site. Earlier in the year, God had impressed a question on my heart: “What would I do with my house if my call were to live full time in Africa at Bongolo?” Even though my call is to continue to live in Pittsburgh and travel, I began to pray around the idea and did not discern any clear path; there are significant pros and cons to selling or renting or doing nothing. But, that question weighed heavily on me. Finally, about a month before I left, I sensed a release from God to go ahead and rent my home as a “short term furnished home” for, most likely, a business traveler. Prior to leaving for France, I had fought against Airbnb as too complicated at the time, and, for me, it was too much to bite off with everything else going on. Instead, I contracted with a leasing company and literally “moved out” so that if a miracle happened and someone leased it as a short, furnished rental, the home would be ready. My great friend and Christian brother, Bill Pricener, sacrificed several vacation days to help make this possible, as did two of his co-workers who came and pitched in. All of my personal possessions, papers and clothing are currently in my attic
However, nothing has happened on the rental front, and God, through my treasured Nancy, impressed on my heart that “now” was the time to experiment with Airbnb. I signed up after school the next day and the positive response has been overwhelming! Several bookings for as early as today through the middle of December have already been made. Most significantly (and I can hardly believe it!), my home has been rented for 7 consecutive weeks in January and February for enough to cover my mortgage and utilities with some left over. This is exactly the scenario I had dreamed about! Because of this significant impact in offsetting my expenses, God and I are now discussing three opportunities. The first is a journey to Bongolo; the second is to continue my French language studies; or perhaps, living in one of my rentals where I’ve been leaning toward asking my current tenant to leave (this would allow me to live for significantly less as well as provide an ideal opportunity to do some deferred maintenance, as well). All three are worthy ideas; please pray with me for discernment!
Finally, I spent all day Saturday with a two wonderful doctors, Drew and Kim, and their two-and-a-half year old son, Nolan. They are currently in a one-year language school program in Albertville, France. Late this summer, they head to Bongolo Hospital to serve with our medical and surgical teams. They will provide much needed “gap filling” and will make a huge impact in Gabon. Amazingly, they have never been there, but their faith in God is so great that they expressed their preferences, then allowed God (and Samaritan’s Purse, their sending organization), to choose for them. During out time together, we shared our stories. I gave them my book, showed them photos and videos, especially of the team there, and hopefully encouraged them regarding how much their individual gifts and medical specialties are needed. I am blown away at their surrender and trust! We had a great day together. They are generous and caring, and little Nathan and I bonded pretty much immediately. In fact, he called me “Uncle” all day long!
Every once in a while, we need to be reminded of why God has us doing the things we do. I really needed these reminders of the “why” I am here, alone, in France instead of being home with my loved ones and friends. God reminded me that not only am I not alone here, but that He has me exactly where I am supposed to be at this point. Like the very imperfect King David, I pray I am doing enough of the right things, quickly repent of my sins, and prayerfully stay in God’s perfect will for my life. I pray this for you, as well. Thank you, again, for your prayers and financial support!