One year ago we sold our home in Clark's Green, packed up everything we owned and headed north on I-81. Here are some of the things we learned in our first year in Québec...
God is in control!
We didn't even make it into Canada before learning this lesson. Many of you remember that we were denied entry into Canada twice in Ontario before we finally got in through Québec. This very trying couple of days was more than adequate to teach us that we are not in control but we don't have to worry, God is.
For the last year and a half we have worked hard to secure commitments of financial support to cover all of our budget. Though we did not accomplish that in the time frame we originally desired we decided to move anyway (we figured since we have to live somewhere while raising support it might as well be Montréal). Yet while we still have not reached 100% of our goal, God has provided everything we have needed and we have no doubts that he will continue to do the same. Over the years there have been times where we've had more and sometimes with less, but there has never been a time when we did not have what we needed to do what he asked of us.
French is hard.
Ok, it's not that hard, and there are lots of languages which are a lot harder, but it hasn't come automatically just by virtue of living here. It takes a lot of work and just when you feel like you're making some good progress you encounter a new situation that reminds you just how far you have to go. On the flip side, the four older kids who are in school have done amazingly well. Their entire school year is completely in French and we are so proud of them for jumping in with nothing and coming as far as they have!
Life is dark for most people.
We never thought gospel work would be easy. And there is spiritual darkness everywhere in the world, not just in Québec. But in just the last few months we have had one friend commit suicide, another consider it, a husband and father on the verge of walking away from his family, a single mom giving birth, a child battling transgender questions, and the list goes on. Whether it is lack of hope or misplaced hope, there is a deep set spiritual blindness that leaves many of our friends and neighbors groping around in the dark for anything to help them find their way.
The world is at our doorstep.
Maybe not the doorstep, but definitely within a short walk. Our neighbors include friends from Poland, Iran, Morocco, Chile, Colombia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Serbia, Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, China, the Philippines, Portugal, and Italy. If you were to consider those who are part of our church this number would easily double. While most of the people in our neighborhood, in Montréal, and across the province were born Québécois, the growing number of immigrants as well as second and third generation Québecois offer an amazing opportunity to see the nations impacted by the gospel!
Church planting will take time.
We have been excited by many opportunities to meet people, network with other gospel workers, and share what we're doing to train men to plant and lead gospel-centered churches in Québec. At the same time, we have seen several guys begin to walk with us only to realize that this is not exactly where God is leading them at this time. This will be an ongoing part of our experience and is truly helpful for them and for us, but it does force us to keep our eyes on the Lord of the harvest and trust him to provide the workers.
Canada is cold.
I have to sneak this in. It reminds me of the line in Band of Brothers where Guarnere says "My brother's in North Africa, he says it's hot there." and Malarkey replies with "Really? It's hot in Africa?". Yes, we knew Canada would be cold in the winter. In February our average temperature was -15C (5F), which turned out to be a tad chilly to have the kids outside playing all day. But we enjoyed it and made the most of it and look forward to next winter :).
We are the light of the world!
While not necessarily something we learned in the past 12 months, we certainly have been reminded of its importance over and over. In the midst of the challenges, the failures, and the successes we want to keep our minds set on this essential truth. Jesus is the light of the world, the only hope for those in darkness, and a welcome relief for those who are coming to know him. And he shines his light through us so that when people see our good works their response is to give honor and glory to God. There have been countless opportunities to shine that light over this past year and we can't wait to see eyes being opened and people confidently walking in the light of the gospel!!!
This video includes a sampling of pictures representing what this first year has brought us in Québec: some scenes and friends from around the province, the kids and their friends, the church, our city group in St. Henri and the one we just started with our neighbours in LaSalle. A special thanks to all those whose prayers and financial support have made this first year such a great success!