Can you believe it's already been a year since Vincent's mother, Simone, went to her eternal home, on April 29th 2020? A few weeks ago we were able to take a small group of our Parfums de Vie teens to spend the week with Vincent's Dad, Jacques. He needed some help on his property to chop down some trees that had become too tall and potentially dangerous should they fall. He also needed some company as he faced the first anniversary of Simone's passing. It was a very special time of discipleship and blessing, both with Vincent's dad and with our teens. For the first time, Vincent's Dad participated in our Bible study every evening after dinner. He didn't just listen, he engaged, sharing his point of view with the kids. Simone was always very vocal about her faith and Jacques always claimed not to be interested, not to believe, I think partly to try and keep her off his case! So, it was very lovely and encouraging to hear his heart and to see his openness to the scriptures and his willingness to participate in this important time with the kids. Please continue to pray for Jacques, he is still really missing Simone and struggling to adjust...
For the teens, it was also a very special time. Vincent's Dad lives in the heart of the Provençale countryside, surrounded by vineyards, lavender fields and olive groves and far removed from the cramped urban environment of our kids' homes, so as well as the hard work of chopping down trees and splitting timber (and homework of course) we also had time for riding bikes, cooking, baking, building fires and spending many long hours outdoors. So although our April Camp was officially cancelled (for the second year in a row!) because of Covid restrictions, we got to do an "unofficial" camp with Jacques!
This special time away from home in a different context is so important in the healing and transformation of our kids whose family backgrounds are extremely complicated, and where neglect and abuse are far more present than we'd care to admit. Our week at Jacques' home was during Ramadan, the Muslim month of prayer and fasting. Ramadan is always a very difficult time for all of the children and teens of Parfums de Vie, who are under great pressure from their families to observe the tradition of the strict fast from all food and liquid from sunrise until sunset. Muslim children are taught that Ramadan is compulsory for gaining points for Heaven and salvation, and they are encouraged (obliged) to participate from a very young age. Children as young as 8 years old share with us their fears that they will go to Hell if they eat or drink during the fast. (Even accidentally swallowing water when brushing your teeth or taking a shower is considered breaking the fast!) Every year at Parfums de Vie we have to sensitively help kids and teens navigate this complicated season with their families. Many of the kids and teens of Parfums de Vie believe that Jesus has already paid the price for them, they know that they cannot "earn" salvation, but this truth is incompatible with the values and priorities of their families. Many kids and teens also feel that they "need" to eat and drink to get through their long school days, participate in sports, exams and their normal life activities. It's important that they have a safe place to express their questions and concerns, and it requires a lot of wisdom, courage and faith to help kids through this. This year, one of the teens told her mother that she was a Christian, not a Muslim, and would therefore not be observing the fast.....as you can imagine, this news wasn't welcomed by the family, who have continued to put immense pressure on her. This pressure, which is expressed in a harsh manner, only causes kids to feel more distance with the traditions of their parents and to draw closer to the love and grace that they experience in Christ through Parfums de Vie.
We know that God is faithful and at work through all of it, but it's definitely one of the most challenging seasons for our ministry. It's painful to witness the hardships that the kids must endure with their families and we are always thankful and relieved when Ramadan comes to an end.
We truly appreciate your prayers, love and support.
with love & thankfulness,
Nicole, Vincent, Etienne and all of us at Parfums de Vie