MISSION UPDATE & HOW COVID IS OPENING PEOPLE'S HEARTS TO THE GOSPEL
I hope that you are doing well? We know that everyone everywhere is being impacted in different ways by this ongoing pandemic, and we continue to lift you and your family up in prayer! Here at Parfums de Vie, it has been a very full and busy month for us! We have made huge progress with the many renovations at the ministry center including fixing the floor, installing the toilets and a kitchen sink and building more shelves for storage. Due to all the interruptions and mess with the various building repairs, throughout the month of January we've had ALL the Homework Club, Kids Club and Youth Group activities in our home! As you know, we already use our home very significantly for the ministry on a daily basis, so this past month we've had a lot of extra chaos and organization as we've sought to continue all of our ministry activities, despite the fact that our ministry center was out of action!
The good news is that this week the ministry center is back in action, and while we're still working on some of the renovations, the space is accessible again!
As well as the challenge of welcoming so many children and parents into our home this past month, the start of this year has also been very challenging, because Vincent and I are literally surrounded by people who are struggling, lonely and in despair, and all looking to Vincent, to me and to Parfums de Vie for strength, friendship, community and guidance.
Here in France, while schools remain open and we have the freedom to continue our work with the children and youth, many "non-essential" businesses, including all restaurants, cafes and bars, have been closed for many months, and since January 1st we also have a 6pm - 6am curfew (before that it was 8pm for several months). In a Mediterranean culture where people work late, shops and businesses stay open late and where we eat late, it's very difficult for people to have to get home (and stay home) so early in the day.
The French have a long-established café culture, where in every French town, village and neighborhood, there are small, simple, individually owned café-bars where people congregate on a daily basis: in the morning before work, at lunchtime or after work. In a culture where the church hasn't been at the center of the community for centuries, this café culture is at the heart of French daily life and brings a natural connecting point for people where they find a sense of community and a source of encouragement. For Vincent and me, throughout the years that we have lived here, participating regularly in this café culture has been a key way that we have developed and invested in friendships with many French neighbors and business owners. So the prolonged closure of these truly "essential" community gathering spaces, coupled with the 6pm curfew and the massive increase in people working remotely, means that the majority of the people we know are truly suffering from increased loneliness and isolation.
Several months ago, in response to this isolation and despair, and despite strict covid measures, Vincent and I decided to be more purposeful in reaching out and inviting people into our home for meals. We began inviting people whom we've known more casually, but had never before invited to our home....
I've probably shared with you previously the extent to which the majority of French people, those who don't know us well, initially bring a negative judgement to their interactions with Vincent and me, simply based on our faith. The French are so suspicious of Christianity, and they don't have a category for people with a lifestyle centered around serving others (especially the "outcast" Muslim community), and so many French people hold us at a safe distance, based on their misgivings about the church. Of course, over time and through our courage, gentleness and faithful commitment, we (or rather, the Holy Spirit!) regularly pierce through people's preconceived ideas and even lead them to a truer understanding of the Gospel!
But the particular reality of the stigma attached to Christianity here in France is real and something that we have learned to navigate within relationships. However, this past year, due to covid lockdowns and the struggles and uncertainty that people are facing, we began to see a significant shift in many interactions with people that we have known casually for years. We began to notice how much more people really wanted to talk whenever we ran into them about town - getting groceries or whatever. And not just small talk about the weather, but real and meaningful conversation about how much they were struggling, how lonely they were, right there on the street corner! The superficial barriers were gone and the openness for something deeper was tangible. It feels like the very reasons that caused some people to exclude, reject or judge us (their negative opinions about our faith) were now the very same reasons that were causing them to open up - the knowledge that we are people of faith, trustworthy, willing to listen and able provide a safe space and perhaps even some hopeful answers....
So Vincent and I started inviting some of these people that we've only known quite superficially into the intimacy of our home for meals, conversation and community. And due to the curfew and the risk of hefty fines if stopped by police when going home, on the weekends we have even invited them to stay overnight in the lovely rooms of our beautiful rental Villa (which has remained vacant due to the lack of travel right now).
It has been a joy for Vincent and me to continue to deepen these relationships and to see this new opening for bringing the blessing of the love, life and light of Christ to so many people around us! It has been humbling to see how these simple invitations of hospitality have provided a beautiful and restorative gift to people.
Just this past weekend, an unmarried couple in their early fifties whom we have known for years, and who had previously told us on many occasions they didn't believe in marriage, asked Vincent if he would be willing to do their wedding ceremony.....I will share more in a future email...
The truth is that the vast majority of the people we know were without a sense of purpose or meaningful community before Covid, but it has been this prolonged lockdown situation which has separated people from family, friends and normal social activities that has really brought people face to face with the pain of emptiness and their lack of hope.
I am sure that what we're encountering here is not unique, these are indeed unprecedented times that we are facing worldwide, but here we definitely see God at work for HIS purposes in the midst of the struggles and pain that people are facing.
Will you pray that He will continue to use us and Parfums de Vie to bring Hope, Healing and New Life to many more people here in Grasse?
Thank you so much for partnering in this important work of the Gospel with us!
with love and thankfulness,
Nicole & Vincent (for everyone at Parfums de Vie)
How to Give?
*****Please remember to specify if your gift is for: Parfums de Vie Cote d'Azur Project #70350 OR the DERIEUX family #40415'*****
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!
PO Box 438
Lewiston, ME 04243 - 0438
You can email the Communitas office for any enquiries about setting up donations.