A homeless man in Rennes, from Ouest-France

The three of us (Hubert, Laurie and Dan) walked half way up the stairs. In our backpack were some turkey and cheese sandwiches, a thermos of warm soup, some plastic bowls, spoons and some fruit. The stairs led up the side of a church where handfuls of blankets lay in disarray, Omar and Abdel lay amongst them, struggling to talk almost as much as we struggled to understand them. A third friend came up on the left and sat down on a chair poised on the stoop. We asked if they'd like some warm soup. "And some coffee?" Omar added. Sorry, we don't have coffee, but we have some soup and sandwiches we'd like to share. We stepped forward and Hubert rustled in his backpack.

Abdel started mumbling unwanted commentary and his seated friend shouted at him in crude terms. Two of them accepted the soup, which was still piping hot. They refused the spoons, preferring to sip directly from the bowls. We poured ourselves some bowls too and asked how long they'd been in Rennes. Abdel got up and refused the food, mumbling back at the others. Omar started yelling, "You're jealous of me! You're jealous!" Apparently he'd been interviewed by someone from the local paper, and was quite proud of the write-up and photo that appeared. He said he was a star, and his friend was jealous. This same exchange was shouted a number of times. Their angry shouts were never directed toward us, in fact they seemed genuinely thankful and courteous. Omar started unraveling his story, which started with serving in the Army in Algeria. Abdel stumbled down the stairs to buy another bottle of whiskey. Omar carried on about how he used to steal medicine from pharmacies and give them to his neighbors, about having one of his toes amputated at a local clinic, all the while sipping from a bottle of white wine. We listened. We tried to understand. They accepted the sandwiches, setting them aside for another time. They kept all the fruit, though they couldn't eat the apples because of problems with their teeth. I wondered what they eat all the other nights we don't come, where Abdel gets the money to buy whiskey, and how they retain any warmth sitting on that cold cement stoop. I was standing with my toes over the edge of the gulf that separates our lives. All I could do was pray. It's easy to be overwhelmed by the needs around us. I'm not against random acts of kindness, but I'd prefer intentional acts of kindness. At least Omar had a warm bowl of soup last night, and someone willing to listen to his story. Beyond that, let's just pray the the Lord's compassionate, all understanding and wise hand reaches out to bless him as only He can.

Postage stamp of Anne de Bretagne

I've had a few occasions to give friends a 'tour' of Rennes.  What makes a place interesting for me isn't just the history, but the stories of the people behind them.  When I give a tour of Rennes I talk about the Knight du Guesclin , Mayor Leperdit who opposed the brutal Jean-Baptiste Carrier during the Revolution, but the central character in Brittany and Rennes story is Anne de Bretagne.  Here is her story:

Brittany finally yielded to France in 1532, after 600+ years of fighting for their independance.  The pivotal character in this story is an 11 year old girl named Anne.  Described as small and thin, charming and rosy cheeked.  One of Anne's legs was shorter than the other, causing a limp. To fix the problem, she wore a higher heel on that leg.  In her time, Anne was the richest woman in Europe.

Her dad was named Francis II, the last Duke of Brittany.  Unfortunately for Anne, Francis lost a war with France and was forced to sign a treaty (Treaty of Verger) saying his daughters couldn’t marry without the consent of the King of France.  About a year later Francis dies after falling from his horse during a leisurely ride.  So Anne becomes the Duchesse of Brittany, at the age of 11.

René Descartes

 

Raymond and I were without a tool. We had been sent out with a portable dvd player, with the intent of approaching students, offering to show them an 8 minute film, and discussing it afterward. But our dvd player was out of battery. What do we do now, we asked? 

I proposed that we come up with a simple survey and ask a few questions, the questions that are most on my mind when I talk with French students anyway: Do you believe in God? What is your religious/spiritual background? And what do you think it means to be a Christian? 

We approached a group of four students and explained that we were part of a Christian student group and would like to hear their thoughts on God and faith. They were open, so we sat down on the grass with them. One promptly offered us a cigarette (: I was able to ask them all three questions, and we had a really good conversation for over an hour! When asked if they believe in God their response was typical, "I don't believe in God, I'm Cartesian." This is referring to the French mathematician and philosopher, Descartes, inventor of the classic Cartesian system.

Martin Luther King Jr.

 

I received an email from a good friend and supporter who expressed concerns over using Martin Luther King as the subject of an exposition here in France. He cited his personal character, that Martin Luther King allegedly wasn't faithful to his wife. He felt that Campus Crusade should be careful because Martin Luther King was mainly a political figure and not a Christian example. Others have brought up issues with King's theology. This is a response to those questions. 

Campus Crusade published a letter responding to concerns about Martin Luther King's moral behavior and theology. It's in French, but I'll quote part that I think summarizes the stance they're taking: "We're not making a eulogy to Martin Luther King, but presenting his actions against the injustice and discrimination which confronted black Americans during the 50's and 60's." The churches who partnered with us in Rennes were aware of their theological differences and his immoral behavior, but they supported the project because it focused on his non-violent stance for civil rights. It might be helpful to give some context...

New backyard paver tiles

I spent my spring break playing in the sand, but not at the beach. We had two enormous bags of sand delivered (70 cubic feet) to put under a new patio. Unfortunately, the truck couldn't get very close to our yard, so the sand was transported one wheelbarrow at a time the remaining 75 yards. I think my arms are an inch and a half longer! The project included removing the old tiles, removing the bamboo from our hedge (which spreads obnoxiously!), hand tilling the soil for bamboo roots, leveling and tamping, laying sand, then tiles. We plan to plant some kind of greenery between the tiles, which should look really nice! 

Stormtrooper cake

First, May baked from scratch a buttermilk layer cake, a Joy of Cooking recipe. I used a simple pattern that I drew for a stormtrooper, trimming the sides of the cake to form the top part of the helmet. With the trimmings, I built up the bottom part of the mask and the nose. It was frosted with cream cheese frosting. The black on the cake is licorice, and silver sprinkles were used for the teardrop, speakers and mouth.