Dear Family and Friends,
Greetings from sometimes-sunny Normandie. It is startlingly beautiful here. Apple trees are in blossom and everything is so green, quite a contrast from life on the outskirts of Paris. We are currently living at Béthanie the missions base of Bless network/retreat and training center that also has an amazing prayer room and is home to Gerard and Chrissie Kelly, our gracious hosts. Béthanie used to be a cider farm and still has some prodigious apple trees. The nearest town is Livarot, which is famous for a somewhat pungent and rather tasty cheese. It is about a 40 min drive to Caen from here. The Bless team here at Béthanie and in Caen have welcomed us warmly, which is just as well since finding a house to rent near Caen is proving quite the task. More on that in a moment.
We arrived in Normandy the Thursday before Easter. Good Friday morning, Joanna and I left Béthanie well before sunrise to wait in line at the prefecture in Caen to submit our dossier for our visa renewal. This was not something we were looking forward to as we’d heard horror stories from friends about long delays and hours of waiting in line only to be told to come back for an appointment in 3 months. Amazingly we were able to get in on that day and get our visa dossier submitted! Thank you for praying with us about this!
Easter Sunday we had the privilege of leading worship as a family at Bless Church Caen, which meets in a wonderful coffee shop called Keys and Co. All of our sons helped us lead worship either by playing drums, dancing and singing or helping with the words on the screen and Elodie was happy to be held and get to know several of our new church friends.
Finding a Home
Back to house hunting – we’ve had a few disappointments here in Normandy as we’ve tried to find a house to rent. The major challenge is that we are foreigners. We’ve had a couple of landlords reject our applications because we are foreign. Another challenge is that there are not a lot of houses for rent that are big enough to fit our family. Please pray with us as we continue to look for the right spot. We have one application in process and one other house to see this week. We know that God has gone before us and know exactly where we will be, please pray for our patience as we continue to search and wait!
Ministry with the Bless Network
As we've been out with the team at Béthanie, our role with Bless has become clearer and we'd like to let you know a little more! We’ve come to Caen to join in the work that God is doing through the Bless Network and others, with the prayer that we might see individuals, neighborhoods, and the city transformed by God’s love. The work that Bless Network is engaged in at the moment in Caen happens in roughly three ways:
Keys and Co.
The vision for this coffee shop was developed in the prayer room. Mylene, Thierry, and their daughter Stephanie launched Keys and Co 2 years ago after pushing through some major obstacles. They want this café to be a place of peace and space where people encounter God. They also run the place with excellence and have been recognized as one of the top cafés in the region.
Refugee Connections and Hot Meals with SOS Chai
Now on its second retro-fitted ambulance, SOS Chai began as a team of people from Bless taking tea and kindness to the massive number of refugees in the camp known as “The Jungle” near Calais. Now the team goes twice a week to bless groups of refugees who live on the streets or in abandoned warehouses in the Presqu’il neighborhood of Caen. They bring a hot meal and set up tables with games like Jenga and often have groups of more than 100 young refugees.
Bless Church in Caen
Currently this church plant meets twice a month at Keys and Co. on Sunday evenings. It is already clear that there is a desire in Caen for a community, as even at this early stage we’ve had people coming to visit who have never been to any sort of Christian church before. Also we are already bursting at the seams at Keys and Co. The church is praying about purchasing one of the warehouses on the Presqu’il to serve as a church building, center for serving refugees, and a music and arts venue.
We feel so blessed and privileged to be involved in all of this amazing work! At the moment, we are easing into things as we find our feet and focus on continued learning. We are tired but are feeling God's grace as we are able to rest during this chaotic time. Thank you so much for your prayer support during this transition time. Please continue to pray that we find a home before the busy summer begins!
Sending all our love from Livarot,
Tom, Joanna, Reuben, Eli, Silas and Elodie
PS - The internet is a bit hit and miss out here so it has been more difficult to stay connected. Thanks for your patience with us!