When we arrived in Alsace, it felt like home—it was verdant and lush. Alsace is the northeast region of France that borders Germany and Switzerland. It’s a valley nestled in between the Vosges (pronounced VOH-ZH) mountains of France and the Schwarzwald mountains (aka Black Forest) of Germany.
We stayed in Colmar—a quaint, small city with a small town feel—with plans to travel south to Didier and Isabelle’s house for a late lunch on Saturday followed by church that evening. We took the train from Colmar to Mulhouse, and then he picked us up and drove us to their house. Isabelle doesn’t know a lot of English, and my French was very rusty. Didier claims he doesn’t speak English well, but he really does. I tried my best at French with Isabelle, but Didier did a lot of translating. The President of their church stopped by for lunch. Jean-Charles is a chemist, and they wanted us to meet him. My Ph.D. is in chemistry, so I was excited for the opportunity. He is fluent in English, so we ended up speaking a lot of English, and Jean-Charles translated. They were all very nice, and we had a very good meal.
Church was awesome. It was like sitting in a Vineyard service at home, but it was all in French. We even knew at least one of the French worship songs, so we were excited. There’s just something about worshiping God in French… I didn’t orally understand a lot of the sermon, but Didier made slides to compliment his sermon. I can read French, so I did actually understand some—it was about spiritual mom’s and dad’s. Didier’s spiritual dad happened to be there that day, and he and Isabelle came over and prayed over us in French. He said, “There is great need where you are.” To this day, we don’t know if he meant France or the U.S., but we took his word to be prophetic. We were in Alsace specifically to test the Spirit’s direction.
After church ended, we realized we were going to miss the train back to Colmar. The next one wasn’t for several hours. Jean-Charles said it was unacceptable for us to wait in the Mulhouse train station that long. We weren’t worried, but he wouldn’t have it. His wife was with a friend that evening, so he made a phone call and came back and told us we were going home with him. I squeezed into the back of their European car between two car seats, and he took us to him home, whipped up the best meal we had our whole vacation, and drove us back to Colmar later that evening after his wife returned.
The hospitality the French showed us while in Alsace was astonishing after the invisibility we experienced on the Riviera. It blew our stereotypes and misconceptions of the French out of the water. We have since met many more French Christians, and have experienced their kindness again and again. When we left, we knew if God was calling us to France, he was calling us to Alsace and to that church.