Paris! City of revolution, romance, Renoir and the beautiful River Seine! Considered by many to be the cultural heart of Western Europe, Paris' twenty districts and surrounding suburbs are invaded every year by twenty nine million tourists. Haddon and I invaded on July 9. Our hosts, Benoit and Jany Chassatte and their boys David, Lucas and Pierre, live on Rue Chateau des Rentiers in District 13, south of the Seine. It's wonderful to be reunited with past JICF friends. Hanging in their home are art and artefacts from their life lived in Djibouti, Guyana, Vanuatu and Indonesia. Entering their apartment we are greeted with Aaron's blessing, "May the Lord bless you and keep you.."
First impressions of Paris are that this historic, scenic city has centuries of accumulated class. It's a city built with an intellectual ambience. Our arrival coincided with a July 'heat wave' (not the baking heat of Australia but warm nevertheless). To our surprise there is no air conditioning on trains or in houses. On the Paris metro windows are left open which can make for 'sticky' travel and an authentic underground aroma, especially during summer. Leaving the train also poses a problem for tourists arriving from the airport with luggage, and for the disabled and elderly I imagine, since there are no lifts or ramps to exit the stations. One must ascend and descend steep stairs. Once outside, the concrete and cobbled sidewalks are lined with beautiful architecture, pain (bread) and patisserie shops and, not uncommonly, homeless men. Groups of mainly North African men stand on street corners selling souvenirs. Economic refugees from France's former North African colonies and others escaping the Arab Spring are flooding France and changing the nation's cultural composition. Positively, many arrivees from Togo, Ivory Coast and Congo are believers and are breathing new life into struggling churches. 1.7 million out of a population of 60 million French people are Protestant Christians. Five million are Muslim. Many French people are Roman Catholic - often only by denomination and then only nominally. Travelling by train from Nationale to Trocadero we passed by Napoleon's tomb (nobody is sure how much of him is there - or if he is there at all) and viewed the impressive 324 metre high Eiffel Tower, built by Gustav Eiffel for the 1889 International Exhibition of Paris. Preparations for the July 14 Bastille Day celebrations meant we had a longer trek from the train station to the tower. From there we walked a leisurely four kilometres beside the Seine to the 850 year old Notre Dame cathedral, after which we sampled peach ice-cream before training it home.
Lesson Learned: Keep your windows open to let God breathe his surprising blessing into your life. It might seem strange on the Paris underground, but on the Christian pilgrimage it's essential. That's what Daniel did. When pressure was at its greatest and the threat of death decreed, Daniel 'went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to God, just as he had done before.' (Daniel 6:10) Daniel's face and his faith were set on seeking the God of Israel, even in exile. Whether in Babylon or in the land of Bastille, God is ready to bless us with the blessing that "makes one rich and he adds no sorrow with it." (Proverbs 10:22)