In this short report I hope to share with you some of the encouragements I had during the Nantes mission trip. Truth be told, I was a bit apprehensive before going and not sure exactly what to expect. But it turned out to be a real blessing of which I am grateful.
A team of seventeen, fourteen men and three women travelled (in the wee small hours) from Dublin to Nantes arriving to help in building work at the new church/manse. My first impression of the church building was that it was very sympathetically designed to tie in with the existing house and it was deceptively spacious inside. The meeting hall is large with two rooms at the rear for meetings or Sabbath school, a kitchen and two toilets.
The first encouragement came on the first morning with the news that Andrew Lytle had just received planning permission to go ahead with creating a disabled access ramp and front terrace. As a church we had been praying for this and it was amazing that God had answered this prayer in time for the team landing. God’s timing is perfect. Had this permission not come through there was a danger that it would go to public consultation which may have delayed the opening of the church by three months. God is good.
Another blessing we enjoyed was very comfortable accommodation. Seven of us were able to stay in student homes run by Keith and Carmen McFaul who head up and English speaking church. The other ten were able to be onsite as Andrew, Heather and Mathieu opened up their home.
The team pulled together well, in unity, with plenty of banter and in an easy working relationship. It was lovely to see how each member found their own niche and worked hard for each other. It reminded me of the verse in 1 Peter 4.10,” As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace”.
The first job was to build a fence to protect the tree in the front garden. Stanley and Raymond Wilson concentrated on fixing mosquito blinds to all the windows and also building a new electric gate. These jobs were tricky because the instructions came in French and it was fiddly work which required great precision and attention to detail. The beautiful kitchen was fitted by David Currie and Daniel Kennedy who were ably assisted by Mathieu Lyttle and Matthew Herron. Mervyn Kelso was our digger man and he had to dig out tracks to lay pipes and build the ramp. Leslie Wilson, Ann Cobine and I worked hard at the painting. The soft grey colour brightened up the building and made it seem even larger. The wooden beam came up well when it was varnished.
John McCollum and Robert McCahon were the main plasterers and concrete layers, which is an art in itself when working at 35 Degrees. Robert Robb, Sammy Bleakly, Joel Armstrong, Gordon Hamilton and Ivan Williamson had the joy of mixing concrete by hand as no lorry deliveries could be arranged. The men also levelled the garden and created car parking and attached a fire escape ladder to the roof. In addition, there was plenty of cleaning, cooking and shopping which was headed up by Heather Lyttle and Rosemary Lyons. Andrew Lyttle and the architect were great at planning the work as well as sourcing and purchasing the various materials.
Every morning and evening a time of worship was held and led by the many of the team members. These were special times and I remember fondly the lessons we can learn from a good collie dog as explained by Robert McCahon and Robert Robb’s talk about a recent fishing trip.
On Sabbath day at church in the Salle, Andrew Lyttle reminded us of how the church was God’s church and how nothing prevents Him from building it. It was also really lovely to watch the children listen intently as Andrew talked about his bike which he had saved long and hard for and how much he treasured it and how much more we are treasured by God who was willing to sacrifice His son for us. It was nice to talk to Sonia and her daughter Ana-Rita who had recently been baptised.
Another encouragement was the dedication and hard work of people in the Nantes Congregation. Most nights we enjoyed a delicious dinner provided by Hubert and Roberte Potiron, Joel and Josiane Mace, Mike and Priscilla Heft, Bevis and Celine Johnson and their three children. It was no mean feat providing a dinner for twenty plus people so we appreciated all their efforts. Christine Ourcel very kindly kept us stocked up with bottles of Coca-cola and a huge jar of Nutella. She also sent each of us home with a box of biscuits and a bag of sweets. Every day a lovely lady called Andree, who lived close by, came over and helped with cleaning and meal-times. It was wonderful to see such faithfulness and service. Whilst chatting to Chandrapaul, a student from India who attends worship, he remarked that Andrew and Heather have made Nantes church such an attractive place to be and very welcoming. There is indeed a warmth and supportive atmosphere within the church family. I am thankful now that if I read these names on a prayer list I can put a face to the name and it makes all the more real.
Other highlights included a trip to a France versus Fiji rugby match for five of the team. The atmosphere was first class, with a win for France, topped off with fireworks. On the last afternoon twelve of us headed into Nantes city centre by bus for a couple of hours. It was really interesting
to see a huge robot elephant, which gives rides to tourists. The castle, the cathedral and the beautiful park were impressive. The remaining five team members worked exceptionally hard and when we arrived back there had been a delivery of stones which had been levelled out on the
driveway. That night we all went out for a meal to a local restaurant which was a very nice end to our ten days.
Finally, can I encourage you as a believer to agree to do work within the church, even if it is outside your comfort zone. I have been reminded once again that it is only through serving God and others that real happiness and joy is found. Looking forward I am excited to see how this church building will be used to further the Gospel and pray that God will fill it with His people.
Ruth Herron, Ballenon RPC