Part 2: Summertime Update (Blesstival, Visiting Teams, Music in the City)


Hi Folks,

Welcome to part two of our Appel summer update! In yesterday’s update, we largely focused on family and local updates, and prayer needs. If you missed it, and would like to read, click here. This update will bring you news of all the things God has been up to through our ministry life in and around Caen with the Bless Network. Thanks for reading!

Women’s Retreat Day

At the end of May, we had a women’s retreat day at Bethanie. It was a lovely time of worship, prayer and teaching. A young woman who has been coming along to serve at SOS Chai (Bless’ refugee ministry) since November, became a Christian during one of the prayer times! We are so excited that she is a part of our church in Caen! She is already bringing other people along to our gatherings! Amazing!


Down at L’Orangerie de Beauregard, the campsite near Tour that is a part of our greater Bless Network, we hosted a four day festival, lovingly called ‘Blesstival’. This is a gathering of everyone in our network across Europe for worship, teaching, and fellowship. Tom and I were responsible for leading the worship (Bi-lingually!) for the festival, we helped host a 24-hour prayer room on the site and facilitated many of the events. Our kids were very involved in the program as well by dancing, drumming, and doing the words on the computer. Joanna also was able to paint as part of one of the worship sessions, (painting in pictures above)! In all, it was a fruitful time where relationships were strengthened, people received prayer and healing, we were envisioned for the future, and celebrated what God is already doing through our community in Bless. Plus, the bonus of a pool. ;)

Nashville Team

It was a huge blessing to welcome a team from our home church in Nashville, The Gate Community Church. This team came and led what they call a Freedom Immersion day in which they taught and modeled ways of actively standing in prayer for the freedom we have in Christ. This teaching was well received among the group of French believers who came, many of whom are new in their journey of faith. The Nashville team also helped us with SOS Chai and supported Joanna and I in our work with the twinning association. Most of all, the team was a source of refreshment for us and our church.

Blankets for SOS Chai


While the team from Nashville was here, we had a quick visit from some other friends in the UK who are part of our UK church - Christ Church Chorleywood - and who help to lead an organization dedicated to helping refugees. A team of three stopped by for one of our community group BBQs and brought a huge van load of quality blankets for us to distribute to the refugees! We have given out almost all of them in the past weeks and the lads are very grateful!

Music in Caen

After praying for years that God would open up opportunities for us to share about His love through the arts and music, we had the chance to play two ‘soirées musicales’ (nights of live music) in Caen in the space of a week! This was through the relationship that has been growing with the Caen-Nashville twinning association. Our friends Ryan and Karen Hall were in town with the Nashville team and along with our friends and teammates Dan and Kate Soar, we played one open air show in front of Keys & Co. and then a show in a bar in the center of town a week later. It was an amazing privilege to sings songs about freedom and God’s love over our city. We had a lot of fun with this and it seems that it might be the beginning of something for us here in Caen.

Upcoming Visits and Trips

We have already had a few short term teams come through this summer from Canada, Nashville and the UK, but next week we welcome a large group (above 40!) of Californians to Bethanie for a week of worship, service and teaching, along with a BBQ at our house, which is becoming a bit of a tradition ;) The next week we travel as a family to GEM’s Annual Conference in Frankfurt, Germany. There we will celebrate 70 years of God at work through GEM in Europe and have a chance to worship and fellowship with other missionaries in our organization. When we return, we (Tom and Joanna) will be going on a week of retreat and the kids will be at our home in the care of some very great friends who are fellow GEM missionaries. This sums up our big events for the summer, but we are hoping to have a family “Stay-cation” and explore Normandy as a family in August before school begins again in September.

Prayer Points

Caen Nashville Twinning

The nights of music in June were a success and we would like to develop further the musical connections with Nashville and Caen through the relationships we have made. Please pray for continued favor and God-inspired strategy for this partnership.

House of Songs Rental Location

In our update in May, we talked about a rental location for a prayer room in Caen. We have submitted the application but the owner is on the fence about renting or selling and we have seen no movement on this for two months now. Please pray for breakthrough on this location or for another location to open up in Caen.

New Believers and New Connections

Praise Jesus we are seeing new believers join our community! We are also meeting more people interested in coming along to our house group and church meetings. Please pray for these relationships to flourish and strengthen in the coming months.


One thing that is a constant prayer of ours is for more workers for the harvest. We have so much opportunity to serve here but only a few of us able to take part. We are grateful and excited to be welcoming two new interns to work with us this fall, but Dan and Kate Soar, who have hosted at Bethanie the past year, are moving on and returning to the UK. Their departure in September leaves a massive hole on our team. Please pray for the right people to come and join our team in God’s timing and for patience and wisdom for us while we wait for them.

Travel Safety and Stamina

We are excited to have this full summer in our home for the first time, without a lot of travel, but we still have some! Please pray for safety, health and protection as we travel to Germany and as we are away from the kids for a week in August. PLUS rest for the whole family as we all recover from a difficult winter season.

Sword Beach, Ouistreham France

Sword Beach, Ouistreham France

You’ve made it to the end of this two part update. Something we reflected on in our time with our friends from Nashville is the difficulty of expressing difficulty in our update emails. What I mean is that while we feel so very well supported and able to be transparent with you, sometimes our hope or trust that God is winning the battles can make it seem like we are walking on sunshine, that everything is going amazingly well here. The reality is that there is rarely a week that goes by when we aren’t struggling. We are seeing God at work and we are so thankful to be joining in this work. But, we are also wounded. This is why Joanna and I are getting away next month - we need some time for God to work deeply in the places we are injured. We write this, not to be a downer at the end of our update, but because we’re understanding more deeply our need for life together with you. Thank you for praying with us and please do let us know how we can pray with you too.

Every Blessing,

Tom and Joanna, Reuben, Eli, Silas, and Elodie

Summertime Update: Part 1 (D-Day, Art Show, New Friendships)


Hello Friends and Family,

Summer is here! I can’t believe that we are already into July! Time flies when it is the busy season! Starting at the end of May, we entered into a full season at Bless. We have groups coming and going, Blesstival, church gatherings, concerts plus all kinds of family, end-of-the-school-year activities that we are involved with in our community. God is certainly up to something amazing!

We decided to break this update into two parts, this one with more personal family updates and the second about God’s work over the past month or so with us here in Normandy.


D-Day 75th Anniversary

Many of you WW2 buffs may recall that this year marked the 75th anniversary of D-Day landings. Our little village was the site of an instrumental Allied military maneuver that happened the night before the D-Day landings. It involved some brave men flying and landing three gliders and taking the Pont du Bénouville, which is now known as “Pegasus Bridge”, making our little village the first to be liberated in all of France from Nazi occupation.

Needless to say for the celebrations, our little village was heaving with tourists, bag pipers, and visitors dressed in full military uniform. The kids spent weeks preparing banners that hung on the bridge. Then on June 6th, all the school children and parents who could accompany the classes (including Joanna) walked in a parade from the school to the center of the bridge where there was a ceremony, fly-overs of war-time military planes and bands marching and bagpipers piping ‘Amazing Grace’. It was a deeply moving event to be a part of and we are keenly aware of the spiritual significance as well. We are praying for the liberation of the people of France, that they would find their freedom in the love and amazing grace of Jesus.

Art Show

At the end of May, Joanna’s painting association were a part of an art exposition in the village. Joanna was able to display her art for the first time in public which was a big step for her. The art association has been a great place for Joanna to meet people in our community and learn more about the French culture through art. We visited the opening as a family and then our house church went all together to see the expo that weekend. This is the living out of some of the vision God has given us for France, reaching people through the arts!

Hosting in our Home

Summertime is great time to have people over for a BBQ and we are definitely doing this in France! In the past month, we have hosted 8 events with cumulative numbers over 100 people. We love to be able to open our home to friends and neighbors! As a result, we are seeing more people engage with our church and we are making friends in our community. Please pray for continued favor, as we have a few more BBQs planned this summer with new families!

Language and Visas

We are so excited to tell you that Tom has achieved B2 level French language ability! This is the language level required by GEM before fully transitioning from the language and cultural acquisition phase on our mission. We are tremendously proud of Tom for going from zero french to a B2 level, YAY! We will always be learners when it comes to language and culture in France, but it is wonderful to have achieved this goal! Also, we have managed to renew our visas for another year! Thanks for your prayers.

Prayer Points

Wellness for our Family

We are seeing progress in Eli’s walking praise the Lord, but I think all the kids (and us) are tired at the end of the school year. Eli was sick for a week and a half right after school let out. We think his body is needing some good rest and recovery. Please pray for all of us to be well this summer and find time to recuperate after a busy and difficult year.

French Language

We speak English in the home, and when the kids are home for the summer, that means that there is a lot more English in our lives. Please pray that we can continue to grow in our French language even over the summer months. Elodie is set to start school in the autumn, where she will be in a full immersion French environment. We are doing what we can to prepare her!

Social System in France

In March, we submitted an application to enter the social system in France. They lost our application for a while and it has not come through yet. This is important for us as there may be a large sum that needs to be payed once it is processed and we are waiting to see what that sum is! Please pray that the application is processed quickly and that the sum is not exorbitant.


At the end of July we are driving to Frankfurt, Germany for GEM’s Annual Conference, which is the gathering of all of GEM’s missionaries across Europe for us to be together to worship, add to vision, and be equipped. In early August, we (Tom and Joanna) are having a week away for retreat, especially to help us process this last year. We have some amazing friends who are coming to stay with our kids in our home so we can do this. Please pray for safety as we travel and for the week we have apart to be fruitful, safe and healthy for our family.


If you’ve read to this point, thank you and congratulations! We appreciate all your support and prayers for our family. Watch your inboxes for a ministry update tomorrow!


The Appels

Pancakes, Festivals and First Steps!


Dear Friends,

We returned to France a month ago and we find ourselves already ramping up for an abundant season here in Caen! To be honest though...

Jet lag hit us like a pie in the face. Only it was not funny or delicious.

For the first week or so after we landed back in Nashville none of us slept well. Elodie in particular took to waking up and playing in the hall during the night. Relatedly, we learned that it is difficult explaining time zones to a two year old. In French, jet lag is called 'décalage horaire' which sounds an awful lot like 'décollage horaire' which could be literally rendered: “the ungluing of time”. Yes…it feels like that.

We had an amazing time in the States and we have lots to tell you about/ask you to pray with us about here in France. So, what follows should be something like a scrapbook/update/prayer request!

Hold on to your hats folks, here we go!

America, the Beautiful

A beautiful thing indeed to be with so many of you lovely people. We had the chance to see lots of family and friends and this was sooooo good! Thank you to all of you who squeezed us in for breakfasts, late night teas, and conversations before and after church. We also took the time to have some American experiences - including some bonfires with s’mores, pancakes and a baseball game.

We loved our time at our home church, The Gate Community Church in Nashville, thanks so much for your warm welcome and care. It was great to make new friends too. Something rather humbling and moving happened more than once at the Gate. People who we didn’t yet know came up to meet us and let us know they have been praying for us - amazing!

We were encouraged as we shared stories of all that God is working here in France and saw our joy and excitement reflected in your eyes. We’ve said again and again that this work is not something we can do alone and we were reminded afresh of how much support we have. Thank you.

Eli is walking!

You can’t trust everything you see on facebook these days, but yes, it is true - Eli has started walking without assistance! This is huge answered prayer. While there is still a long road ahead to complete healing, we are thrilled with his progress. Along with Reuben and Silas, Eli is back at school pretty much full days with a couple of physical therapy sessions each week. (At school, at least for now, Eli is still in a wheelchair) Thank you for continuing to pray with us for healing.

We’ve been parents for 7 years

In some professions it would be about time for a sabbatical… We celebrated the twins 7th birthday in style the weekend after arriving back home in France with 14 french kids and many of their parents. Along with cake, presents and “Happy Birthday” in two languages, we also played a game involving cheese balls that our French neighbors found amusing. The party was great and we are so thankful that we are becoming better friends with many of our neighbors. Please pray for these wonderful people with us.



At the end of this month we’re heading down to the L’Orangerie de Beauregard, à campsite owned by our friends the Rockes for ‘Blesstival’ the annual gathering of the Bless Network. This is à time to share and celebrate all that God is working across France and more widely in Europe, to pray for each other and to seek vision for the year to come. We are thrilled to be directing the worship for this event and perhaps even more thrilled that our good friends and long time sojourners, the Irwins, will be joining us to help with the sung worship. Please pray for deep moments with God and good times of community.

Prayer Room in Caen

For some time now we’ve been praying about a venue in Caen in which to gather as church. While the long term vision is a big warehouse on the Presqu’ile where we can serve refugees and host church gatherings, we have been feeling more and more like we need a space to gather and a prayer/worship rooms seems right. To that end we have been prayer walking the city and have found a property for rent that would suit us well. We are in the application stage now so please do pray for favor from the owner and a smooth administrative process.


Additional ;) Upcoming Prayer Needs:

  • Art Exposition this weekend! - Joanna is going to be a part of an art exposition in our village. It is a great way to get further connected in our community and share some of Jo’s artwork!

  • House Church Gathering at our home in Bénouville this Sunday

  • Nashville Team to Visit!! - A team from The Gate Church in Nashville is coming in June for a week to pray and minister to our church community and in the city of Caen. More on this to come!

  • Fête de la Musique - on June 21st we have an amazing opportunity to play a little concert at Keys & Co as a part of the national festival of music. This is our first opportunity to minister through music, publicly in the city!

  • Family Rest - We are still feeling rather exhausted from our trip to the USA and jumping right back in to things here in France. Please pray that we can find times to rest even moving into this busy time!


Grateful for You!

Thank you friends for everything! Your prayers and support carry us through and encourage us along the way.

Appels to USA & Nashville to France


Bonjour tout le monde,

We hope that you all are feeling the spring in the air and the hope of a new season coming! Eli is learning to walk again and we are starting to take steps back into active ministry in Normandy. God is weaving together an amazing work here in Caen and we are so excited to be a part of it! But first we want to talk about our…


Upcoming Trip to America!

We leave for the United States this Wednesday (eeek!) for a three-week visit. It will be almost two years to the day since we moved to France to make it our home. We will be in the States from April 3-23, first in Nashville for two weeks to see friends and Tom’s family, then in Arkansas for a week to see Joanna’s family.

Silas, prepping for church lunch in our home

Silas, prepping for church lunch in our home

When we are in the USA, we would love to see as many of you as possible! If you are in the area, we have several opportunities for you to attend and find out more about what God is doing in France, plus we get to see you in person and give you a good ol’ fashioned American HUG! Please take a look at the events below and let us know (by responding to this email) if you can attend or if we can find another time to connect during our trip!

Appels in USA - Events

Sunday April 7 - Appels at the Gate Sunday morning (10:30am)

Friday April 12th - Coffee and Dessert reception at the Gate at 7pm
(Childcare provided)

Sunday April 14 - Appels at the Gate Sunday morning (10:30am)

Sunday April 14 - Open House at the Hayners’ Home
8205 Morningview Ct., Brentwood, TN 37027)
3-6 pm with an informal presentation at 4pm

Sunday April 21 - Appels at Pee Dee Baptist Church, Clinton AR (11:00am)

These times would also be a great opportunity for us to meet new people who are interested in what God is doing in France. Please feel free to connect us!

Jumelage de Caen et Nashville


A significant door of opportunity has opened up for us in Caen due to the fact that Caen is jumelée (twinned) with Nashville. (


The twinning of cities, “jumelage” in French, is an important relationship in Europe as it encourages cultural exchange and economic advantages for both cities. This practice started in 836 between two cities (Le Mans, France and Paderborn, Germany), but has grown in importance following the end of WWII. Most cities in France are twinned with at least one city or village in another country.

In Caen, there is an office of jumelage at city hall and there is funding available for twinning activities. We had no idea that Caen was twinned with our home city in the US until we arrived here and saw the signs that proudly declare this connection along most roads leading into the city.

Tom and Sebastian from the Caen Nashville Twinning Committee

Tom and Sebastian from the Caen Nashville Twinning Committee

After some time trying to connect with folks on this jumelage committee, Tom was invited to lunch with Sebastian, who directs the Caen/Nashville twining for the city of Caen. Over a typical French business lunch (2 hour/three course meal) it became clear that Sebastian and the committee are so excited to have Nashvillians who love France, living in Caen! They have invited Tom to join the committee and to consider taking on the role of Secretary of Music for the twinning committee. These are early days but there are some exciting possibilities for bringing teams from Nashville including musicians to visit Caen and share some of our culture. Tom was able to be very open with Sebastian about being a Christian pastor and that many of our friends are Christian musicians. He responded: "Bien Sûr - vous êtes de Nashville!" (of course you are from Nashville!)

All this to say, it seems like there is a very real possibility of putting on a concert of worship or Christian music with the approval and funding of the French state - all because they see Christianity as part of Nashville culture - amazing!! God is opening doors to the city of Caen!

Messenger Fellowship

‘One Voice’ Summit

I (Tom) have just returned from a wonderful time at the Messenger Fellowship Summit in Nashville. It was great to connect with friends and family in the Nashville area (only briefly this time, but the whole family is coming soon!). The Messenger Summit was a time for Tom to be with other pastors and leaders from around the world who are connected with Messenger Fellowship, the network of churches and leaders with whom Tom is ordained.

It was encouraging not only to swap stories of what God is doing in different settings and hear some excellent teaching, but also to be part of a growing French contingent who are part of Messenger Fellowship. Tom was able to do some French-English translating, leading worship in French and hosting of French pastors visiting the conference! Tom also spoke at the conference and was able to introduce Gerard Kelly (Bless Network in Caen, our supervisor!) to our networks in Messenger Fellowship. It was a very encouraging time for Tom to build relationships and see old friends and family in the USA.

Prayer Points:

  • Our Trip to USA - safe travels, good flights, good attitudes, and protection! Pray for our times connecting with family and friends that we have not seen in a long time! Pray for good opportunities to share about what God is doing in France with our current partners and new ones too!

  • Healing for Eli - Eli is in physical therapy and is slowly getting back on his feet. We will be traveling with a wheel chair and hoping to continue making progress towards walking while we are away in the states

  • Caen Church - we are seeing some momentum around music events and our church meetings and imagining the ways these might fit together in the city. The Bless team is praying about renting a space in Caen to have as a prayer and worship space. Please join us in prayer for the right location and the funds to rent it!

Nous sommes reconnaissants…

We always like to end with thanks because when we get to the end of writing these updates, we are always so grateful for what God has done and is doing. We are aware of your big part in this work here, that your prayer and support makes it possible! Thank you for partnering with us!

Praying God’s amazing love, peace and blessing upon you,

The Appels

Tom, Joanna, Reuben, Eli, Silas, and Elodie


New Season Ahead and Trip to USA


Dear Friends,

Greetings from sunny Normandie! Yes, this part of the world is known for an abundance of wet and gray, but we’ve been enjoying some extraordinary early Spring weather which has called the earth to bloom. While we are feeling hopeful and encouraged at the beginning of this new season, there is no sugar-coating the fact that we are still coming out of a long and very difficult winter.

Update on Eli

After four weeks in the hospital in traction and eight weeks in a cast, Eli is cast-free but still using a wheelchair to get around while awaiting the green light to put his feet on the ground and learn to walk again. He is in pretty good spirits, but from time to time he gets frustrated that he can’t move like his brothers. He misses his friends at school too. We are praying he can return to school sometime this month, but it depends on his progress with standing up. We are so thankful for the encouragement and care we’ve received during Eli’s extended time of healing. Thank you for continuing to pray for our family as we are sensing the need for some healing for all of us as we come out of this experience.

Trip to the USA!

That’s right - in April we are taking our first family trip back to the states since we moved to France two years ago! We will be spending a couple weeks in Nashville seeing Tom’s family, and catching up with friends. We are excited to visit our home church The Gate Community Church in Franklin and will be participating in the services on Sunday April 7 and 14. We will also be sharing some of the stories of God at work here in France at special event host by the Gate on Friday evening, April 12th. In addition, our friends the Hayners are kindly hosting an open house gathering on Sunday afternoon April 14th from 3-6; we will share some stories from France around 4pm. We are so excited to see our friends in Nashville! If you are in the area, please do come and see us at one of these events and do let us know you are coming. Also please be in touch if those times don’t work for you and we can try to find a different way to connect. After Nashville, we will be spending a week in Arkansas with Joanna’s family then we return to France after Easter. A small itinerary for our trip is listed here.

Sunday April 7 - Appels at the Gate Sunday morning (10:30am)

Friday April 12th - Coffee and Dessert reception at the Gate at 7pm
(Childcare provided)

Sunday April 14 - Appels at the Gate Sunday morning (10:30am)

Sunday April 14 - Open House at the Hayners (Brentwood, TN)
3-6 pm with an informal presentation at 4pm

Church Planting with the Bless Network

God is certainly on the move here in France! Our team is praying about the best ways to disciple the four new believers and other young leaders in our group - amazing! There is a lot of trial and error in our efforts at church, and what is emerging looks unconventional:

  • We are small gatherings spread across a relatively large area.

  • We are a fairly chaotic house church in our home that worships with a bunch of kids in multiple languages.

  • We are early morning prayers at a cafe before they open as this is about the only time the busy staff team has.

  • We are a food truck that serves hot meals to refugees twice a week - the meals are often cooked by an amazing team of not yet believing French women.

Prayer Points

Church Planting in Caen - Please pray for clarity about where to put our energy and for wisdom to follow God’s leading.

The Seven Stories School - This next week, we will be helping lead at the Seven Stories School for the Bless Network. Please pray for the ministry times and for the family at home. Joanna recently helped build a website that speaks about this aspect of our the work at Bless - check it out!

Nanny – We are coming into a busy season of ministry and we are praying and looking for someone to come and help us with the kids this summer. Please pray that we find the right person to accompany our family.

Messenger Fellowship Conference – Tom is taking his first trip to the USA at the end of March to participate in the Messenger Fellowship’s annual conference in Nashville. Please pray for safety on his travels and for Joanna and the kids at home while he is away.

Visa Application - It is that time of year again - we’ll be applying for à renewal of our visa this month, please pray for a smooth process.

Thank you for praying for us, supporting us and sticking with us during this trying season for our family. We are hopeful for the next season that there is healing, rest and restoration. We are praying for our neighborhood and the greater community in Caen, that God’s light would shine and that new life would come!

We are grateful for each of you and we are sending our love from France!


The Appels

Thank You And Merry Christmas!


Hello Friends,

Happy Christmas Eve! We hope that your stockings are hung, your cookies and/or mince pies prepared, and that you are near friends and family this Christmas. Tomorrow we celebrate the birth of Jesus; God loves us so much that He would draw near and dwell with us. Tomorrow we also end this year’s Advent season, our intentional time of waiting, of longing, of resting in the hope of our God who keeps His promises. Advent has been poignant for us this year as we’ve spent the month waiting for our son Eli to be ready to come home from a hospital bed. It has been a difficult month for our family, but in the waiting we have known miraculous provision and peace. Now that waiting is over - our son is home! It is still a tough road ahead, but we are so incredibly thankful to have Eli home for Christmas.

Eli Update

Eli fell from high in a tree on November 21 and broke his femur badly up near his hip. He was in traction, laying flat on his back with his leg held up by weights at a 90 degree angle for 28 days. Early on in the hospital, he contracted an infection and near the end of his stay he had the flu. Thanks to Jesus and to our mighty prayer warriors all over the world, he miraculously recovered in time to get his cast on December 18, and came home the next day by ambulance. PRAISE THE LORD!

He has to be on his back for the next 6-8 weeks in the cast (which we have made into a zebra leg!), we can’t transport him in the car and he can’t walk or sit up. We have a wheel chair, but we aren’t sure if he will be able to use it because of the positioning of his cast. Over the past few days, we have developed a routine of bringing him down to the sofa in the morning where he spends the day, and then carrying him upstairs to sleep in his bed at night. We did move him outside on his bed for a few minutes yesterday just so he could get some fresh air. He is strong and has had an incredible attitude for a 6-year-old boy going through all of this! Please pray for his complete recovery, his bone to be miraculously healed and straight, and for his spirit to be encouraged over these next few months.


I really don’t think there are words to express how very blessed we were by you during this very difficult time for our family. We have had such amazing support from our local and worldwide community, it is astounding. People traveled from all over France, England, and the USA to offer us support at home with the kids, help keeping up with chores, and relief for Tom and I from our constant time in the hospital. We had multiple care packages arrive every day for a month(!) full of things that really helped Eli escape the four walls of his hospital room and travel the world. We received cards, notes, pictures, maps, from so many people. One of the nurses in the hospital said she had never seen a room so colorful and well decorated with cards and pictures! Your prayers have been appreciated and tangibly felt. We shouldn’t be doing as well as we are right now after this past month. Two nights before Eli was scheduled to get his cast and head home he was running a 104 degree fever and the doctors said, “he has the flu he is going to need to stay longer”. So many of you were praying and Eli’s fever broke the next morning and he was able to come home on schedule. If you ever doubted that your prayers are effective, DON’T! The proof is in Eli being home right now, and that he is not more badly hurt. So we want to express to you our deep gratitude from the bottom of our hearts. THANK YOU. TRULY.

God is on the move

Despite this difficult season, God is doing amazing things here in Caen. Even though Eli broke his leg the day before Thanksgiving, we decided to continue with our plan of hosting Thanksgiving dinner at our home on the following Sunday. It was truly amazing how our Bless community came together and made this Thanksgiving a wonderful celebration. We hosted 30 people at our home, from France, England, Scotland, Latvia, Italy, and Romania, many of whom are not yet Christians or new Christians. Tom and Eli were at the hospital, and Joanna was the only American there (the others were Reuben, Silas and Elodie) who could actually remember a Thanksgiving in the USA! There was a real feeling of love, warmth, community, and family. Our relationships grew deeper and stronger, and a few people have started to come along to church as a result! We couldn’t have asked for a better event given the circumstances. Praise Jesus!

One of our core beliefs about our work here is that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. We don’t have to have it all together to bear witness to the transformative power of God’s love. In fact, as we’ve seen this month, in vulnerability we can connect more deeply with our neighbors and God’s love is so clearly evident. As we celebrate our God who made Himself small to be with us, please know our gratitude for you. Thank you for being with us even from a distance.

Sending you love, joy, peace, hope, and blessing!

Merry Christmas!

Love the Appels


Care for Eli

Hello Friends,

On Wednesday, Eli fell from high in a tree and broke his leg. We are so grateful for all the prayers and outpouring of love from all over the world that has come for our brave son and little family. Thank you for every prayer and offer of help - it is very kind of you!


Cards and Care Packages

We have had several kind offers to send something to help Eli’s stay in hospital and two-month in cast recovery process and I thought I would send out a few ideas on the blog and then I can direct people here.

Things to Send

Eli loves maps and learning about the world. If you would like to send a post card from where you live or information about a state you live in, a map, or book that has something to do with you location - he would love that.

He likes goldfish crackers (which are only available in the states!) mint chocolate, raspberries and blueberries, milk duds, and because he is missing thanksgiving, we will be making pumpkin pie when he gets out, so if you wanted to send a can of pumpkin, I can make him a thanksgiving pie! I bet he would like reeces peanut butter cups because he likes peanut butter.

He also loves the greatest showman, the color green, and zebras. Also, he is going to be missing some of the Christmas season by being stuck in bed in this one room. You could send some fun christmassy things to put up on the wall or decorate his room somehow. That’s all I can think of now!

Our Address:

The Appels or Eleazar Appel
7ter Rue du Bac du Port
14970 Bénouville


I know it has only been two days and we still have a long road ahead. There isn’t much change as he can’t really move. He is managing to sleep and eat so that is really good. Either Tom or I are with him at the hospital at all times. He still has a lot of pain with any movement or nudge of his bed. We have had some amazing provision from our community here in Caen and friends in France and England offering to come and help us. We are very grateful and are still trying to figure out what all that looks like.

Prayer points:

  • Pray for quick healing of Eli’s bone so we can be sure to be home by Christmas!

  • Pray for strength for Tom and I while we navigate this thing!

  • Pray for our French to come quickly and for us to be able to understand what is happening and effectively advocate for Eli.

  • Pray fro Reuben, Silas, and Elodie for peace and understanding as they also feel the effects of Eli being away from home, and Tom and I not being in the same place.

  • Pray for thanksgiving! - We have decided to keep our thanksgiving celebration at our house this Sunday. We have chosen to lean into community, vulnerability, and celebrating God’s faithfulness with our new friends. Our church is helping tremendously to pull it off and we are just going to be those people who invite you over and then make you do things to help- hahaha.

Thank you again for being with us, holding Eli and our family up in prayer. We are grateful for you!

Much love,

Tom and Joanna

Together, with you! (Video and IMPORTANT Thanksgiving Prayer Needs!)


Happy Thanksgiving!

We are thinking of you all stateside, stuffing your turkeys and traveling many miles to be with family and loved ones. We love this time of year because it really is a wonderful season to look and see what God has done, and be SO thankful!

We recently put together this little video which we would love for you to see (maybe over a little pumpkin pie or while you are waiting in a Black Friday queue…). We are so grateful to be on this adventure together with you!

Since making this video, another french person has joined our church and started following Jesus! That is three people this autumn! Our God is amazing!

Thanksgiving Prayer Points:

One of the amazing opportunities we have as Americans in France is to invite people into our cultural celebrations. It offers us a chance to be better known by our community and also strengthen new relationships in a uniquely American way that can transcend normal cultural barriers. We have two things coming up this week that we would appreciate prayer for as they are amazing open doors to our new community!

Joanna in Silas’ Class

On Thursday (Thanksgiving Day) I am going to be giving a small presentation on Thanksgiving to Silas’ class! This is a really cool opportunity to share culturally but also make a positive impact on the kids and families in our community. Please pray for the french to flow, for the right words to say when presenting the Thanksgiving story, and to shine the light of Jesus brightly as I do it! We will also be making pumpkin cookies and doing a thanksgiving craft!


Thanksgiving Meal

On Sunday, November 25th, we will be hosting a massive Thanksgiving feast with possibly 35-40 people coming for dinner! This will be the first time for our extended church family to come to our home and some are bringing non-christian friends and family members! We have invited some new friends of ours from the village as well and we are very eager to build our friendship with them! Again, this is a massive opportunity to impact our community and build relationships with non-christians. Please pray that God would clear the way for these people to come and that they would encounter the love of God when they are with us! Pray for the logistics of cooking and hosting such a large number in our home!


Partnership - Updates and Needs

Giving Tuesday, November 27th

We again want to express how grateful we are for you, our partners. Without your financial and prayer support we would not be here joining in the work God is doing in France. AND we would like to stay! There has been some drop in our monthly support due to life circumstances for some of our partners, and so we are looking for people to join our monthly support team or to commit to giving an annual donation. Giving Tuesday is a great opportunity to think about organizations to support this holiday season and we would love for you to consider investing in the work we are doing here in France! If you would like to partner with us financially, please visit our giving page here: PARTNER WITH THE APPELS

Update to Giving Portal through GEM USA

GEM USA has recently changed its online giving processing portal to Paperless Transactions. If you are currently partnering with us and giving through GEM USA, we wanted to give you a heads-up that we will be asking you to enter your details into this new processor in the next couple weeks. ;)


I love the word for thankfulness in French, it is “reconnaissant” which means literally, to “re-know”. It is such a good reminder to look back at what our faithful God has done, and to know his goodness again and be filled with gratitude. We pray that the Lord would bless you richly and we are sending our love to you from France.

Avec reconnaissance,

The Appels

Tom, Joanna, Reuben, Eli, Silas, and Elodie

Dieu est Bon~God is Good


Hello Dear Friends!

Can you believe it is mid-october already?!? Time is flying swiftly by as we settle into new rhythms, new schools and community! We’ve just been shooting a video update to send back to you (coming in November) and this process has reminded us of all that God is accomplishing here in France. To prepare to make this video, we looked back at a video update we sent out about a year ago. As we watched Tom and Joanna from last year talk about our big goals and dreams, it suddenly dawned on us that all of these goals have been completed, most of them being fully realized in the past couple of months! Thank you for praying with us; we are so encouraged by what God is doing!

What’s Been Going On:

New Schools

The boys have made a great start at our local school. At the end of each school day we ask them how their day has been. Silas nearly always responds: “It was great!”. Joanna was invited to come and read “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” in English to his class the other day. Being the “la famille américaine” has opened doors for us to meet people and have conversations with parents. It is great to have open doors and invitation at the boy’s school. Elodie is adjusting to her brother’s being gone, but she is enjoying the extra time with us to herself!

S.O.S Chai Donations Arrived!

We are also continuing to work with the large community of homeless refugees in Caen. A huge thank you to the Gate Church for gathering clothes, sleeping bags, and bikes for us to give to these lads. Our shipping container (which was supposed to take 8-12 weeks in transit) arrived in 4 weeks and we’ve been able to distribute a majority of the clothes and warm things very quickly. The boys we work with are so grateful to have something warm as the weather is beginning to turn. Thank you!

Church in Our Home

We are coming up on our second month of hosting church at our home. We are leading a family oriented service with La Famille Grison (in the picture above), and we meet here once a month at the moment. Our first meeting in September was a big encouragement. We had an amazing all age time of worship and prayer, followed by a prayer walk (in the pouring rain!) to Pegasus Bridge – the very first place liberated in France the night before D-Day. Then we shared a big meal of BBQ chicken around our table. Génial!

We are also hosting a weekly home group Bible study. We are loving the opportunity to invite people in to our home especially because it is one of the easiest places for us to be family on mission. Our kids are gifted worshippers and love being church all together.

Making Connections in the Community

We’ve also had a lot of opportunity to engage with our neighbors. We’ve joined several associations (clubs) which are great fun for the kids but also a fantastic chance for Tom and Joanna to meet and talk with French neighbors. Eli is doing a Karate class, Reuben is doing gym (which we call ‘ninja warroir club’), Silas is in a tennis class and Joanna is doing a new art class (see the sketch above done during a study of drawing hands!) We’ve even had our first French neighbor come for a visit with her kids. This might not sound like a big deal – but it is in France where relationships tend to develop at a slower pace. It feels like God has pushed down the accelerator for us our first couple of months in Bénouville.

What’s coming up:


Visiting the UK

This weekend is the beginning of a two-week school holiday here in France. We are heading to the UK on the ferry this Saturday for a visit to our church and friends. This will be the first time Tom and the kids have left continental Europe since moving to France!

We’ll be at Christ Church Chorleywood for all three services this coming Sunday October 21st. If you live nearby we would love to see you! There will also be a bring and share lunch at Christ Church following the 10:30 service.

With all the moving and settling and good things that are happening, we haven’t been able to plan our time in the UK as well as we would like. If you would like to connect while we are there, we would love to see you. Please email us and we can set up a time.

GEM Field Retreat

The second week of the school break we will be driving to Camp Des Cimes in the Alps, east of Grenoble, for the Annual GEM France Field Retreat. This is a great time for us to connect with other missionaries working all over France and especially good for our kiddos, to be with friends who are going through similar things adapting to life as an missionary kid. Please pray for safe travels as it is a long drive and pray for good times of rest for our family while we are there.

Thanksgiving Outreach

We are also planning a big Thanksgiving feast at our house next month where we are inviting the whole church and some new friends. This is a great opportunity to connect with people and introduce them to the community. Please be praying with us for our not yet believing neighbors who may come.

Prayer Points:

Pegasus Bridge

Pegasus Bridge

  • In the midst of all these good things, we are, perhaps predictably, feeling a bit tired. Please pray for energy and wisdom in our scheduling.

  • Please pray for us as we continue to settle into our house. Even though we have had many visitors, we still have many boxes to unpack.

  • Please pray that God would grow His church here in Caen.

  • We are also praying for open doors with the local Catholic church, we feel a particular burden to find a way to pray in the church that is very near our home, where there is not a regular congregation.


Thank you so much for being with us over here in France. What a joy to be here at the beginning of new church, new life, and new relationship. Thank you for walking with us along the way.

God Bless,

The Appels

Our first date night in Caen!

Our first date night in Caen!

Appel(s) Arrive...


Hello Friends,

When Tom and I were engaged in college, I spent my junior year in Angers, France while he was back in Nashville. We used to have a phone call every night at midnight. This was before the time of internet ease and international texting, mind you. I used to wait in the lobby of my french dormitory by the pay phone and Tom would call using a calling card. I remember waiting with anticipation in the dark hallway for him to call, and then the phone would ring! The payphone receiver would read "APPEL ARRIVE..." (call arriving) and I always thought it was fitting, seeing as how it was a "Mr. Appel" who was calling me. And now, the significance is not lost on me, that the fullness of this call to France that we have been pursuing with so many for years is now becoming reality. We are getting established in our new community and starting the ministry that we set out to do! It really feels like the Appels have arrived!

New Home!

So yes, we have moved into our rental home (finally!) and we LOVE it! Things have been a bit crazy for sure as we have been unpacking and finding, purchasing, and assembling furniture, but things are slowly and surely coming together! We had an excellent first night celebration with a family from our church, who brought us dinner and champagne (and plastic cups!). We even had our first visitor, the amazing Doug Irwin, who came up from Paris for a day to help us move heavy objects and assemble flat-packed puzzles. We celebrated Silas' 5th birthday and are looking forward to Elodie's 2nd birthday this Sunday. We have met our neighbors on the street (and their big dogs!). We were able to make some good ol' American chocolate chip cookies and introduce ourselves. The house is lovely and is a great space for our family, and for visitors (start planning your trips!). We feel so blessed by this space and we are delighting in making it a home and a place of peace and worship.


Our New Address

7ter Rue du Bac du Port

Church Planting

Our first 6 months in Normandie have been full of activity in the midst of transition. We love seeing all that God is doing here already, and the huge need for the good news of Jesus's love. There are hundreds of homeless refugees in our city who have mostly come from Sudan. All over Caen we encounter people searching for God and others who are living on the verge of despair. We were excited to engage with the local Catholic church just a stones throw from our home, only to find it is another beautiful empty building - there is no congregation, there are no prayers. 

With all this opportunity it is hard to know exactly what the year ahead will look like; what needs will rise to surface as we seek to join in what God is doing. To begin we will be hosting house church meetings at our home once a month, while we continue meeting for church at Keys and Co. It is such a blessing to be part of the amazing Bless team and we believe God will grow this team in the coming year. We are also helping to steer the sung worship for this missional network. SOS Chai does fantastic work with the refugees, serving meals and offering weekly places of friendship and community where these boys can encounter the love of God. Yet, even in our first week in Caen we have been struck by how many more refugees we encounter who we don't know. Please join us in this work by praying with us. 


Monday, September 3rd, school starts! I must admit that all of us couldn't be more excited! The boys have been on summer break since March and even they are feeling that it is time to go to school! Reuben and Eli will be starting CP, which is equivalent to First Grade or Year 1 and Silas will be in the Grande Séction of maternelle, which is like Kindergarten. They go four days a week, 8:45am to 4:30pm, so the days are long for these guys and totally in French! Please pray for them as we navigate new schools, new schedules and meeting new people in our village.

Donations for SOS Chai

In the midst of our summer craziness, we managed to organize sending our belongings from the US on a trip across the ocean in a small shipping container. It turned out that we were only going to fill about a third of it with our stuff, so we contacted the Gate Community Church in Nashville to see if they would like to collect donations of items for the refugees that we work with here in Caen through SOS Chai. They responded with an amazing 11 boxes worth of clothing and supplies, plus 9 bikes that we can give to the guys! We had an amazing team who collected, itemized, packed and delivered these items to the loading site. I have to mention, Kim who stored our belongings for free in her basement for the past year and a half, Tom's parents, who managed the packing of the container, and Aaron and Kelsey from the Gate, who helped organize and load everything up! We want to say thank you to everyone who donated and was a part of this process! What a huge blessing you are!


Annual Conference

Earlier this month we traveled to Slovenia for Greater Europe Mission's Annual Conference, where all GEM missionaries across Europe within our organization came together for equipping, collaboration, and community. This was our second annual conference as a family and it was nice to feel like we are getting to know more missionaries and families. The kids had a great program for them as well learning how to grow up, rooted in Jesus.


As we wrap up this update and this season of crazy transition and limbo for our family, we are so aware of all our partners who continue to faithfully support us financially and through prayer. We would not be here without you, we appreciate your ongoing love and support through what has been such a bumpy road to get us to this point. THANK YOU! We are praying for you and are sending you love and bisous!


The Appels

We are all dressed up in a few of these pics because went to our first French wedding! Joanna was invited to lead a song of worship in French during the service - such a privilage! 

We are all dressed up in a few of these pics because went to our first French wedding! Joanna was invited to lead a song of worship in French during the service - such a privilage!