Ludmilla is a high profile lawyer specialized in family law. When we first met her many years ago through mutual friends her life seemed pretty perfect, enviable really : fabulously successful career, two beautiful daughters, a luxurious home, exotic family vacations and close extended family. From my vantage point, Ludmilla had it made.
But two years ago the bottom devastatingly fell out of Ludmilla's world when she shockingly discovered that her husband of more than 20 years had had not one, but numerous affairs over many years. As you can imagine, their marriage disintegrated overnight. Thanks to her career, Ludmilla was fortunate to be in a comfortable financial position, and wasted no time in getting out of her toxic marriage. She was so desperate to get away from her cheating husband that she even left behind the beautiful home that she had lovingly created for her family - her husband wanted to keep it, and not wanting to fight, they quickly agreed on a settlement and she bought an apartment near us, near town. She now shares custody of her two teenage daughters and last year she crossed the threshold of her fifties as a single Mom.
It has been devastating, but also humbling and beautiful to see the transformation in Ludmilla despite this truly heartbreaking experience. Having always maintained a certain polite distance, the walls crumbled as she couldn't hold back her tears whenever we got together and she began sharing her story. Then about six months ago, she asked me for a Bible to read with her daughters, who were struggling with anger and lack of forgiveness towards their father. Ludmilla had never read scripture before, and didn't know where to begin, but she wondered if it would be helpful for her and for her daughters! I gave her a copy of The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd Jones in French as I thought that she and her girls would enjoy it together, and explained that it gives a fabulous overview of God's commitment to bringing salvation and healing to the world, and that Jesus has a lot to say about forgiveness and relationships!
Part of Ludmilla's journey of healing has been making a commitment to serving the children of Parfums de Vie. After admiring the work of Parfums de Vie over the years and showing an interest from afar (we have many French friends in this category) Ludmilla decided to make some more changes in her life, and since September she has faithfully committed to helping one or two hours every week to serve the kids at our Parfums de Vie Homework Club.
When difficult things happen in our lives we sometimes feel so emptied, with nothing left to give. Just keeping going and trying to continue with our responsibilities can feel overwhelming. The thought of doing more can seem impossible and maybe even sometimes, we feel so hurt that we can't even bear to be with other people. These are all parts of the stages of grief, but we don't want to get stuck there. I am truly encouraged to see Ludmilla learning to move through her devastating experiences and to discover the truth in Jesus' teaching - that serving others brings so much joy, it nourishes our soul, bringing a greater sense of purpose and even healing. Ludmilla tells me every week how much she looks forward to coming to Parfums de Vie, how she prepares for her time, sometimes even bringing cool treats and gifts for the kids, and that every week, making sure she finds space in her crazy schedule, has become a non-negotiable in her life!
Over the past five months, it has been beautiful to watch Ludmilla get involved at Parfums de Vie, and especially to see a unique bond grow between her and 10 year old Fatma. Fatma, from a deprived Muslim family, is now in 5th grade, she is extremely intelligent, hard-working and has a LOT of potential. Fatma, like most of the kids at Parfums de Vie, doesn't encounter many women like Ludmilla, who is so different from the women in her family - who are veiled, uneducated and stay at home.
Recently Ludmilla invited Fatma to visit her at her office, because she wanted to inspire Fatma! It was a delight to accompany Fatma, and to glimpse more of the impact that this unlikely friendship is having on BOTH of them. Ludmilla is drawn to Fatma's hunger to learn and feels compelled to help, encourage and contribute to her life. It's exciting to see this special connection blossom. Even Fatma's parents are truly thankful and amazed for this incredible opportunity that has unexpectedly fallen into their daughter's life! Fatma's Mom Kamar went out of her way to come and meet and thank Ludmilla, despite her shyness and struggles with the French language.
We don't know what the future holds for Fatma, but we all regularly encourage her that if she continues to work hard at school, she has the potential to accomplish amazing things! So, what happens when a prestigious French lawyer and a disadvantaged Muslim kid become friends? I can see already, without a shadow of doubt, that BOTH of their lives are being impacted and transformed!
I have a feeling in my heart that this is just the beginning of something special, and I am so encouraged that Parfums de Vie provides a safe place for healing for people from all walks of life. Will you pray with us for Ludmilla and Fatma?
with love and profound gratitude,
Nicole & Vincent
***We continue to raise support for our General Ministry Fund which covers the operative costs of running our Education & Literacy Center, Kids Clubs, Youth Groups and Camps. We have camps planned for February, July and October 2023. We are also still raising support to cover Tuition and Living Expenses for our four College Students, hopefully five starting in September 2023. If you would like to support the ministry through regular or one-time giving, all the information is below. Please don't hesitate to contact me for more information! Thank you so much!***
*****Please remember to specify if your gift is for: Parfums de Vie Côte d'Azur Project #70350 OR the DERIEUX family #40415*****
If you would SPECIFICALLY like to help our College Students - please designate the gift to Parfums de Vie with a note specifying "University Scholarship Fund"
Phone: 888-242-5930You can make donations over the phone if you prefer. Lynette in the office is amazing and super helpful. Stock donations are also possible, ask Lynette for more details!
Post: PLEASE NOTE NEW ADDRESS
PO Box 60543
City of Industry, CA 91716-0543
You can email the Communitas office for any enquiries about setting up donations.
Dear Pastor Mike,
Here is my prayer to God for you and me this Christmas...
Lord Jesus Christ, true God from true God, You came to us, a baby born in a humble manger so the world you made would be saved! Thank you! A child is born to us and a Son is given to us, may we be born again through you and always remain your faithful children. Immanuel, Oh blessed Savior, God with us, now and forever. Draw us deep into Your heart of love as we celebrate your birth, oh King of Kings. May Your light shine in our lives so the world will see You and know You are truly God, Savior and Lord. May the world respond with whole hearted worship and devotion and trust in You and what you have done to purchase and give us this extravagant gift - forgiveness of sins and a right relationship with you, now and forever. This wonderful and priceless gift, eternal life that can not be earned and we will never deserve it. We can only receive it by faith in you! We love you and we trust you! As we surrender our hearts to you, Lord, please help us so our lives bring you great glory! We serve you and desire that you will be glorified in and through us, We serve you with eagerness because we are your children and you are our Father, Lord of Lords and King of Kings!
In Jesus' precious Name! AMEN!
Please know your partnership and gifts of support make it possible for me to take the light of Christ into places of spiritual darkness where people need eternal hope. Thank you!!
Blessings and Merry Christmas!
Your missionary, Julia!
December 24, 2022
My story, and the 3 women named Mary....
There was a time in my life when I was alone, depressed, without peace and always afraid. I won't tell you the details but you can be certain I was looking for love in all the wrong places. I worked as a Sales person for group rooms and banquets at a large hotel when one day I was typing a sales contract for a company called Bethlehem Steel on my typewriter .... and, yes, this was many years ago with a no-spell check office typewriter. A dear woman I respected who worked in housekeeping came into my office to empty the waste basket. Her name was Mary. She always wore a big beautiful wooden cross around her neck. That was Mary #1. I still thank God for her! I wasn't certain how to spell Bethlehem. (Yes, I agree that is pitiful.) So I asked dear Mary how to spell Bethlehem. She simply went out to her cart outside the door and brought from it a Bible. You know, the Gideon Bible we find in hotel rooms. She handed that Bible to me and said - "It's in there!" "Where?", I asked. "Oh, I'm sure you'll find it," she said with a sweet and hopeful smile, and then she left me. I placed the Bible on my lap, and under the desk so no one would see. I began turning the pages, here and there, and was struck by the beautiful, loving, powerful and supernatural words from God's love letter, the Bible. I felt a strange and wonderful peace on the inside that I had never felt before.
Then there was the second Mary in my life. My dear friend Mary also worked at this hotel. Mary began inviting me to go to church with her. In my spirit there was a tug of war going on. On one hand, I would most likely have a hangover on Sunday morning! But, mostly I had the fear of being judged and shamed and left feeling even more alone. On the other hand I yearned to know the Author of the words of the Bible that gave me such comfort and peace. Deep words that spoke of a mystery and meaning I graved to understand and have. One day when I was in a deep pit of despair I called my friend Mary, who had been inviting me to church, and told her that the next time she went I wanted to go with her. She said, " Great, I'm going tonight and I'll pick you up in an hour!" Oh, faithful Mary! I had no time to back peddle. Thank God! I went to church that evening and felt tender love and compassion. I was not judged and condemned. I was hugged and listened to with sincere smiles. From that point I continued to go to church often. I heard many meaningful sermon messages that worked to begin to heal my heart and helped me to understand God's love, and I received the love of caring people. Before this I had only vaguely knew anything about Jesus, who was called the Son of God. Jesus, the one who we sort of celebrated His birthday on Christmas. Jesus, who died on a cross... but I never understood why or that it had anything to do with me. One day in April 1986, while driving I heard and understood the full gospel message of God's amazing grace on my car radio. At that moment I responded to the invitation to make it personal! I told God I believed He sent His Son, Jesus, to pay for MY SIN. Jesus came to earth, died on a cross, and was raised to life to save us from sin, give us new life, and bring us into a right relationship with God. At that moment in a twinkling of an eye, I was born again, a child of God. And now the Holy Spirit of God lives in me to help me understand, follow and to have the joy of knowing God.
Now, when there are things that seem to crush my spirit and make me sad, it is not the same because now I have the kind of hope that only God can give. I am no longer fearful because I trust that an all knowing and trustworthy God has a plan and a good purpose for my life.
Do you have a story like that? I would love to hear it. Please email me back and share.
Wait! No, I'm not done yet! I can't forget to tell you about the 3rd Mary, in my life! I met her for the first time when reading the book of Luke in the Bible. Yes, I'm talking about Mary, the mother of Jesus! Mary is often center stage during this time of the year when we celebrate Christmas, but is otherwise often set aside in many churches to be careful to always remember that Jesus is the one we trust for eternal life and the only mediator between sinful man and a Holy God. All are very important and true! But lets not forget some very important things which Mary modeled for us. Here are the verses in the Bible about Mary that touched my heart, personally. I hope they have had the same impact on your life. When the Angel Gabriel explained to Mary that God was calling her to be the mother of God's son, to carry Him into the world, how did she respond? It would not have meant a life of ease and comfort, peaches and cream with a cherry on top, no fears or hard times. It meant hard times for Mary and Joseph, her betrothed. Even so, Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” To say that Mary trusted God would be a profound understatement! Then in the song Mary sang, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,..."
Let me leave all of us with these questions on Christmas Eve:
Update and Prayer Requests: December 2022
Valerie and Nicasio Martinez - Translating God's Word with and for the people who speak Quiatoni Zapotec
Tara and Mike have graciously let us use their Christmas card (photo by Tara) to wish you a (belated) Merry Christmas! We hope you had a special time celebrating with loved ones. We had a delightful time opening gifts with Mike, Tara and Royan via a video call, with Rusty right here with us! Tara and Mike were hunkering down through the winter storm that hit just about the time Rusty was to fly here. He managed to get a flight for the day before his scheduled flight and got here 32 hours later. We are thankful for friends who helped him get here!
I went with some colleagues to Juchitán, Maria’s* hometown for two events: to celebrate the 50 year anniversary of the Isthmus Zapotec New Testament being completed and for a memorial service for one of the women who had worked on the translation. (She had passed away in 2021 and wanted her ashes buried in Juchitán.) The services were very nice—it was a bit strange to realize that when I first went to Mexico, it had only been six years since the Isthmus Zapotec New Testament was finished!
But the best part for me was after the services when I saw many of María’s family. I had to ask many times who was greeting me since I hadn’t seen most of them for more than 30 years. I was a little startled to see women holding their grandchildren who had been teens the last time I saw them! I had a delightful time talking with them, especially those who I had known best. They all made me feel so loved!
In January 2023, the Zapotec church service will have its 15th anniversary! This is even more amazing since our church is only 32 years old. At the end of the year, Nicasio asks everyone who attends the Zapotec service to share blessings God has given them over the past year. Some things mentioned: Nicasio told about the two presentations he was asked to make this year (UNESCO and the conference we went to in Mexico City) and for the two years that we had his parents with us. Beto told about finishing college and how thankful he is for Candy’s and their daughters’ support during his five years of college. Candy mentioned about God giving her strength during her mom’s illness and death and for all she learned at the conference in Mexico City. Two people thanked Nicasio for continuing to teach the youth group. Various people mentioned how good it’s been to study Acts, to see how Paul always preached about Jesus, how the Spirit led him to where he should preach, and how God’s Word changes us.
The lady who attends the Zapotec service via zoom because she lives in Mexico City is here visiting her children. She said, “I’m learning so much through the Zapotec service and I’m thankful for being able to attend through zoom.” We were pleased by how almost everyone mentioned that they appreciate the translation in Zapotec so they can really understand and learn from God’s Word. It's humbling to be used by God to give them what they now know they need.
Nicasio and Beto have been invited by one of the pastors in Quiatoni to have a Zapotec church service in his church. (You might remember that even though most people speak Zapotec as their first language, church services are usually done in Spanish since it’s considered “better.”) Nicasio, Beto and the pastor are still working out what this will look like but Nicasio wants the pastor or someone else to be learning how to lead the service and to do an interactive Bible study. That the church won’t be dependent on Nicasio and Beto and the Zapotec service can continue without them. Please pray as they figure out the details for the service.
This same pastor invited Nicasio to take our Zapotec music group to his church’s New Year’s Eve service to do some special music! The music group has grown and there are a few family members that want to go along so 16 in all will be going. We’ll take our truck and our car and Beto will take his car. We’d appreciate your prayers for safety on the road and for us to be a blessing to the people there.
Thank you for your part in giving the people God’s Word in their own language! YOU are a blessing to us and to those who speak Quiatoni Zapotec.
love, Valerie and Nicasio
* María was an Isthmus Zapotec woman; she and I started learning Quiatoni Zapotec together.
Friends & Family,
We want to first wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Also to share that we are sending a link to our latest newsletter, Through the Eyes of Ezra and Kezia.
It's been a good and busy year in ministry, but through their eyes, this is just life. Serving God and learning about sharing His love. And for that we are blessed.
Thank you for all of your support and prayers for God's people in Honduras, and we look forward to sharing with you more in 2023!
The Saurers Family
For His Glory; In His Love,
Ryan & Kelly
Vincent and I wish you much love and joy for the New Year! May God give us the capacity to SEE all of the ways that HE is at work in us, through us and around us, despite the many struggles we face...
I wanted to give you a little update from our year-end Christmas Camp! A group of our College students and older High School students joined us in the mountains for an intentional time of discipleship and teaching. A perfect mix of outdoor adventure, joy, reflection, scripture, serious conversation and life together. If you haven't seen it yet, the TV series about Jesus' life "The Chosen" was my personal highlight of our camp! Everyone thoroughly enjoyed watching season 1 and it provided all of us with inspiration and a fresh view of the many new testament stories that we know so well. I highly recommend it!
Mahdi, who studies Chemical Engineering at La Sapienza in Rome, one of Italy's most prestigious universities, turned 19 and we celebrated his birthday together at camp. Unlike the majority of the kids we work with, Mahdi did not grow up in Grasse, his family lives in Toulon, a town on the coast about 2 hours away. He and Laith became friends in the dorms in High School, and Laith started bringing Mahdi home to Grasse for the weekends, because it was too far and too expensive for Mahdi to visit his family regularly on the weekends, so when he didn't come home to our house, he was stuck alone in the dorms at school for the weekend. So four years ago, Mahdi began regularly spending time with our family and Parfums de Vie.
Mahdi comes from a traditional Muslim family and has two older sisters. As a child and younger teen he was sent to a very strict Koranic school in Morocco, North Africa every summer, where he was forced to memorize the Koran and was beaten for any mistakes. By the time Mahdi and Laith met in High School, the years of religious oppression and abuse had caused Mahdi to lose all faith and interest in pursuing God. However his ideas were turned upside down by his friendship with Laith, who openly expressed his love of God, and yet was free from the religiosity of Islam. Mahdi was intrigued by Laith's faith which appeared to bring freedom rather than oppression! He began asking questions, reading scripture for himself and expressing a hunger for more, he has been pursuing Christ ever since!
Mahdi's parents are now divorced but still live under the same roof (for economic reasons) in their tiny apartment in a tower block on a housing project in Toulon. Ever since Mahdi left home in 10th grade to begin his scholarship at the CIV, whenever he goes home to visit, there is never any family time together - no family meals, no games nights or family movie night. Food is scarce, the atmosphere is tense and everyone is isolated, there is no communion, no sense of belonging or community or purpose, each person in their own corners on their phones.
Mahdi told me this week that being with our family and with Parfums de Vie has changed his life because he has tasted and seen a different way of doing life, a different way of being family and that this is what he wants for his life: to eventually create a home of his own where there is purpose, belonging, faith and healing. He told me that having something to look forward to for the Christmas holidays this year made all the difference for him during his term at university - compared to last year when he didn't come home and spent the holidays alone in his room, studying for his exams. I could barely hold back my tears when this smart, articulate, amazing young man told me that this year was the first time EVER that he had looked forward to a vacation - because of Parfums de Vie! And it was the first time ever that he had celebrated Christmas!
Mahdi's story, one way or another, is the story of all of the children and teens we work with. A story of dysfunction, neglect, abuse and poverty, mixed up in the religiosity of Islam. Mahdi's words remind me of the importance of this work and the eternal impact. Kids and young people need to experience something different from their home lives so that they can begin to imagine something new. Mahdi knows that family life characterized by health, grace and faith is possible, because of his experiences over the years in our home. The simplicity of including him in our lives and welcoming him to Parfums de Vie began his journey of following Jesus. Now he has hopes and dreams that are filled with purpose, vision and faith. Will you pray for Mahdi as he prepares for his exams and returns to Rome on January 12th?
Please also pray for Vincent and me - School is back today and we re-open our ministry center this afternoon and all the daily activities recommence! After our camp and the hard work of having all our College students home for the holidays (everyone is here for one or two more weeks) we honestly begin the New Year tired! Pray for us as we learn to find rest, solitude and renewal in the midst of the daily demands of Parfums de Vie and those we are called to serve.
with love and profound gratitude,
Nicole & Vincent
I don't often ask for a specific prayer request for our son Etienne, but I wonder if you would commit with me and Vincent to praying for him? We have a sense that he is going through a very important transformation during this season. Since August we have been in a lot of deeper, important conversations with him and he has also been working with a professional therapist. It's nothing alarming, but we are conscious of the fact that he has spent his entire life immersed in Parfums de Vie and all that this life God has called us to entails. And it seems that he's ready (turning 15 in January) to go deeper into exploring who he is and what this means as he grows older.
As you know, his life has been far from ordinary, and the beauty of his life is that he understands more about serving, sharing and sacrifice than many ever experience. He has told us that he definitely wants to follow Jesus with his life, and we see that he is so open to learning to know and listen to God. But of course, he's 15 and we also see that he is wrestling with how to handle the temptations and peer pressure he faces at school. He's trying to figure out what kind of young man he wants to become - and he's talking about it. We are thankful that this chord of communion between us remains open.
We know that our decision to welcome other children into our family has been hard for him. He has shared his room since he was 5 years old, and overnight two older children (and then more, but more temporarily) moved into his physical and emotional space - taking the love, attention and time of his parents. Etienne loves Narjes and Laith (and all the other kids in his life) and he doesn't express any resentment or ill feeling towards them, or towards our decision to adopt them into our family, in fact he is truly thankful to have siblings, and when he talks about some of the hard times, especially in his relationship with Laith, he has a wisdom far beyond his years and a capacity to see the pain that Laith is carrying, having been abandoned, neglected and abused. However despite all the positives, we also recognize that this decision, which has been a massive blessing for Narjes and Laith, has not come without a cost to Etienne, and we see that it needs to be processed, expressed, understood, worked out.
So while we have of course done our best to be attentive, wise and loving parents to Etienne throughout his life, helping him to adjust and understand our unconventional lifestyle and choices, we also know that we haven't always got it all right. Vincent and I are praying for wisdom as we parent and disciple Etienne in this teenage season as we all deepen our understanding of who we are, what our family looks like, what God is calling us to and how we manage all of that. How we continue to welcome others and also take care of each other. Etienne truly has a beautiful and gentle heart and we are praying that as we continue to shepherd and guide him in this new season towards maturity and deeper understanding, that all of the unique experiences he has had through our ministry and our family will truly shape him as a young man of vision, compassion and faith.
Will you pray for all of us? God has our family on a unique path and we trust Him as we all continue to grow, heal and become more like Him. May He continue to use all of us for His purposes. By the way, I read this to Etienne before sending it to ask for his permission to share his story and ask for your prayers. He said yes, of course!
Nicole & Vincent