In the month of August here at BLF in France we get 3 weeks off. At the shop we had a barbecue with a visiting team from the states on Friday, August 31st our last day of work. I however missed out on the barbecue to travel to Alsace, a region in France near Germany. My friend, David drove up from Paris Thursday night to stay the night at my place and we left at 6am in the morning. Our reason for going was to film a wedding ceremony for a friend of a friend of ours, Ruben. David was able to borrow two professional video cameras from the place where he works giving us three cameras with Ruben's camera. It was a 6 hour drive from Maubeuge France. We took a nice break in Luxembourg to visit its beautiful capital.
We arrived early in the afternoon after traveling through the gorgeous pine covered Vosges mountain range which is really close to the Cascade range near Seattle. The houses and buildings in Alsace are much more like German houses than the houses here in the north of France. That evening we set all of the cameras in place at the church and stayed for tarte flambée (Flammekueche in Alsatian) for dinner. Tarte flambée is like a thin crust pizza with a light white sauce, bacon, cheese and onions. Mmm I could eat it all day, but we were too busy setting up to get our fill so when we got back to Ruben's parents house where we were staying, I had a snack.
The next day, Saturday, the wedding. After breakfast we went to a store called E.LECLERC (pronounced Leh clair when I see it I think electric) to get a shirt for David and a sleeping bag for me (which comes in handy later). Then after lunch we headed to the church. My job was to stand behind the main camera, pan to focus on musicians and change the cassette. Not hard but important. It went well, more than two hours of standing on a table behind the camera for a lovely wedding for two people that love each other and Jesus. After the ceremony I packed up the equipment and David went around the crowd doing video interviews with family and friends. Then more tarte flambée! They also had large pretzels like you might find at your local American sports stadium.
Then we were off the the 'dinner'. In France there is a general order to wedding ceremonies. First the couple and close family and friends will go to the town hall to sign official papers and become 'married' because here the state does not recognize a pastor to marry a couple. Then there is the ceremony similar in many ways to the States. Last is the dinner, which is a long event which can start around 6pm and goes until 2am or later. There is food and there can be dancing and time for sharing. Guests are either invited to the ceremony or to the ceremony and the 'dinner'. David and I didn't know the bride and groom but because we look good behind a video camera we were invited to the dinner. The food was great. Not too many courses. I think just the normal appetizer, main course, and dessert. That evening there were slide show presentations, skits, singing, dancing, and live music from family members. From working during the wedding and not sitting I got tired that night so we left at 2am when the party was still alive.
The next day we got up in time to eat and go to church with Ruben's parents at the same church. David and I found that we were the only ones to show up to church from those at the dinner everyone else must have been pooped or it could be a cultural thing. Sunday afternoon we had lunch and took a well deserved nap. In the morning we headed back to the north directly to a two week outreach mission in Douai, a city Forty-five minutes west of my place. Believe it or not we had McDonald's on the way which keeps my average to one time a year for fast food. David dropped me off at André et Esther Schwab's place in Rouvroy twenty minutes from Douai. André is the pastor heading up the two week outreach. He also started a bar, Équitable (meaning fair trade), downtown Douai, alcohol and tobacco free that serves fair trade products.
I wasn't totally sure what I was getting into. I found out there were old fashioned games and we were playing music, circus acts (juggling, unicycles, face painting, balloon animals) along the street of the bar Équitable. As well as a car wash at a nearby parking lot. All donations from the street activities and the car wash went to two organizations. One, SALAM, formed after the Red Cross center moved out takes care of refugees in the north of France. The other, SEL, gives food and vocational training for kids who are taken advantage of in Africa We stayed at the Schwab's house, most stayed the whole two weeks, some left early and others came late but we tended to stay above thirty mouths to feed. There was a group from a town called Bitch in the east of France several Germans amongst those from the north of France. It was a great time of fellowship with old friends and new ones.
I volunteered for the car was which I enjoyed. We had all the supplies but no signs so I made six signs two make our work known. The first day I think it was 5 cars. Then 6 and the on the hottest day 30°C (86°F) we only had 3 cars. Then the next day there were 9! It was great providing a service for others and the money donated didn't go to ourselves for a trip or nice hats but to those who really needed it.
With thirty youth and adults at André's place we had the rooms full and some guys in tents. I started out in a tent but my allergies acted up. I moved into the house on the third floor. Then I had a fever and hard of breathing. I went to the doctor and got some prescriptions. Sunday I was feeling better for church. During the free time I went and played soccer with our group. One person from our group even had the chance to share the good news of Jesus with some local youth and invited them to play soccer with us. That's when it happened. CRACK !!! The X-ray showed that my ankle wasn't broken but sprained. I could no longer was cars :( . The next few days I stayed at the house and hopped about on crutches. I would read, occasionally help cut veggies at the house and I made certificates for those that scored the highest during the week for the games along the street.
There were articles in two papers about our project "Tendons leur la main" (roughly translated Reaching out to lend a hand"). One was the regional paper and the other was the paper for the city of Douai. The final day after two weeks of games, music and cleaner cars we had a big show with live music, skits, more unicycles and juggling for the people from Douai to enjoy. We served drinks and snacks to those who came and there was a gospel message at towards the end. Saturday we all went to the beach and everyone else in the region had the same idea so the freeway was packed. It was fun but I don't recommend crutches with sandy beaches. Sunday we had a good church service, then lunch. A friend was able to drop me off in Maubeuge as I didn't have my car and I couldn't drive anyway.
Coming back home was weird and too quiet after two weeks of being around people and lots of activities. I am very thankful to have an elevator in my building to go to my apartment on the 4th floor. Even doing the simplest of things are difficult with one foot. I am also thankful for the help from others the other day my neighbor saw me struggling to take the garbage down to its receptacle and she took all my bags for me and my friends from the shop did some shopping for me. God is good and he still provides for all of my needs. Thank you all for your prayers as I recover.
Sunday the 23rd two weeks after the crack I had friends come over after church. One of them brought the meal. We had a great time eating fondue. To accommodate four adults and three kids we moved the table into the living room. It was fun to have people over after a whole week that was way to calm. Now I am back to work after three weeks off. Its nice to be back at the print shop but annoying that I can't do much.
I will post some pictures soon. I hope you enjoyed reading about my vacation as I did living it.