Friday, January 29, 2010

I'll Bring the Salsa

I know I need to get Marseille pictures finished. They're coming soon. In the meantime, enjoy this anecdote from earlier this week:

About three times a month, I have the wonderful opportunity of helping to organize an English language Bible study here in Amiens. We've been meeting in the flat of one of my colleague’s from school: Jane, an amazing English woman who boldly invited me to church the first time she met me. We’ve had many, many wonderful conversations, and somewhere along the end of October we talked about the importance of being able to talk about God in one’s maternal language. Lightening struck my brain, and I asked if she would be interested in an English Bible study. The idea mushroomed fairly quickly, and our pastor excitedly endorsed the idea. The only problem we could see is that there are only three Anglophones between our church and our sister church in a nearby village, and the lady from our sister church was on bed-rest because of a difficult pregnancy. We weren’t sure if anyone would come, or what we would study.

In the end, we decided to do The Truth Project by Focus on the Family, and it has been such a nice study. I’ve done this study three or four times now, and I’m always challenged and humbled by the material.

But that’s getting off topic.

To make a very long story somewhat shorter, our first meeting started with just three of us. That was discouraging at first, but it quickly became obvious that God had brought the exact people He wanted. Fortunately God is much wiser than I and that ended up being the perfect beginning. What started out as two Anglophones talking in the hall at a French public school quickly turned into a group of about 8 regulars meeting several times a month for food, English conversation, lots of laughs, prayer, and a great excursion into the Word. We have three other English assistants from nearby towns joining us (a Canadian, a Jamaican, and a Brit), two French people who spent a fair amount of time in the States when they were younger and speak English very well, and another Frenchman, J.N., from our church who originally wanted to come to improve his English.

We were cautious at first when J.N. asked if he could join us. The idea had been, after all, to really be able to talk about God in our native language, not to give free English lessons. Jane and I talked about it a bit and, in the end, we were happy to have him but we agreed that we didn’t want to allow any others join us just to improve their English. He has been an amazing addition to our little group. He was the third person at our first meeting and has never missed one since. A few weeks ago, he floored me when he asked if The Truth Project was available in French because he really wanted to do the study with some of the others in our church. For those wondering, Focus Canada is producing it and it should be out by March…

Jane and I were talking about dear J.N. the other day; his English has noticeably improved, and he’s joined in the laughing and joking of the Anglophones. Last week, he took a group of us “youth” to a concert and told me (yes, I’m considered “youth” in France!) that he has decided to try to speak English to his 1.5 year old son. The thing is, I think it’ll actually be good for both of them; he’s at that level. He’s a brilliant man, and I’m shocked at how quickly his conversation skills have improved in only a few hours a month.

J.N. volunteered to bring dinner a few Saturdays ago (we usually eat together, but we try to do potluck style so as not to be too much of a burden for any one person). His wife joined us for the first time with their little guy, and we enjoyed an AMAZING French fondue from his native region in eastern France. The next day at church, I told him how much I had enjoyed the dish and having his wife and little boy join us, and he told me that it has been such a wonderful experience being able to come. He told me that I absolutely HAVE to come back next year because our little group has been such an encouragement to him and he doesn’t want to see it fall apart.

I hope it doesn’t. I hope they keep meeting and find something else to study in English when I do leave. I don’t know if I’m coming back yet, but even if I do, I’ll only be here for another year, so they’ll still have to figure something out later.

But there I go, getting off of my story.

Last Wednesday, I decided I wanted to make a South of the Border dish that my mom has made since I was a little kid. It’s basically a nice sauce served with chips and other goodies similar to a chili salad. I sent out an email to everyone in our group explaining that I would be bringing a Mexican dish and that I needed people to volunteer to bring the following things:
  • Lettuce
  • Diced tomatoes (half a tomato each)
  • Sour Cream and Guacamole
  • 1/2+ kilo Grated Cheese (Cheddar, Emental and/or Mimolette) 
  • 2-4 bags of corn chips (or "crisps" for ourEnglish friends!) 
  • Salsa
  • Drinks

A body can find all of the above things in most French grocery stores, but the quantities are just never what they are in the U.S. I reminded everyone that we would be around 9 people, so please bring enough for everyone. People quickly volunteered for everything. J.N. sent me the following message:

I'll bring salsa !!! (and other latine dances ;) )

I smiled and sent a goofy reply back to him:

I'm excited to see you dance on Wednesday! Personally, I love the Tango, but the Salsa is more appropriate!!!

I didn’t really think anything more about it except when we (Jane and I) joked about “J.N. bringing the Latin dances.”

J.N. is a doctor at a local hospital, and so he usually comes to Bible study a little bit late. We are usually all finished and just preparing for dessert when he arrives, so he usually eats quickly and then we start the film. It’s usually not a problem, and I didn't think it would be a problem last week either because we could just use the salsa to finish off the chips during the film. However, last Wednesday, he arrived later than usual; a full hour after we had started eating and long after the time we had usually started the DVD.

He came breezing in, apologizing for his tardiness, and excitedly announced that the salsa was finally there. He withdrew from his sack four CDs, all Latin dances. “And just for you,” he said, pointing to the Tango CD. I laughed. Jane excitedly said she loved to dance, so we put one of them in the CD player (no one danced). We enjoyed a little mood music for a few minutes while he quickly ate, and we sat down to watch the lesson.

It didn’t occur to me until we were into the film that we hadn’t brought the chips and salsa in for people to snack on during the film. “Oh well,” I thought. “We’ll just do that later.”

But after the study, there wasn’t any sign of a can of salsa. I concluded that J.N. had been running late and simply hadn’t had time to pick it up. As the French would say, c’est pas grave (“no big deal”). After the study, I gathered his CDs up and handed them to him. “No, no,” he said. “You can borrow.” I thanked him, wondering why he though I would want to borrow them.

It didn’t hit me until I looked at the CDs again. The title of one of them stood out in bold red print:

Mexican Salsa


Spiff said...

Great story! English is so imprecise after all. Glad to hear the Bible study is going well.

Olivia Arlene said...

Awesome story!!!

gail said...

Thanks for the story. I just finished reading a book about a 50-60something year old woman who 'nomads' around the world. It was refreshing to read your post and realize that there are groups of friends sharing values of eternal worth-also 'nomading' around the globe.

Serena Smith said...

Oh my! Love that story!!! Great to hear the Bible Study is going so well!! :)

The Birds said...

Thanks for the story, Pierre! Mr. R. Bird