Une Petite Tribut to Scott

(by Eric)
Across the top of this blog is a little photo collage with a bunch of skinny pictures.  I really need to update it.  I mean, Sarah isn't even on there.  Ben has hair now.  John is probably tired of that picture.  Etc.  The pictures are each of our team members.  We are all here in France learning language.  We are called to go to Burundi. 

But what is not pictured across the top is the countless others who are part of this vision.  And they are indeed countless.  People praying for us.  People giving funds.  People sharing expertise.  People opening their churches and homes to us.  People visiting us.  People trying desperately to sell our 2003 Honda C-RV (which is really a great car, by the way) while we are gone.

Truly countless others.  But every once in a while, someone's contribution to this work is so essential that all of you out there in blog-land deserve an introduction.

For the two years that our team was in Kenya, we were with Samaritan's Purse, and their Post Residency Program.  This program has been headed up since its inception by a PICU nurse named Scott Reichenbach.  He and his faithful assistant Mary Elizabeth coordinated all of the many details to place us and many others at a hospital for two years where we could learn how to be medical missionaries.

He is a behind-the-scenes champion.  He's the kind of guy that, when you search for a picture of him on google images, what you mostly find are pictures of his post-residents all over the world caring for the sick and the poor in the name of Jesus.  They are there because of the faithfulness of Scott in his role.

He has helped build our team and our vision in numerous ways.  All along the road, our team has been a bit of an anomaly, mostly due to our size.  When we first approached Scott in 2007 about taking on a big team of doctors, he immediately replied with his typical plasticity:  "Well, we've never done that before, but why not?  We just need to find a hospital that can take you."  And he did.

Also of special mention is that Scott is also a father of a young family.  As such, our families have always appreciated how well he understood and empathized with our situation on the field.

We learned a couple weeks ago that Scott has resigned his position as director of the Post-Residency Program and will be going back into clinical medicine there in North Carolina.  We are sad to see him go, and thankful for all that he has done to build an excellent program that has blessed us greatly, and we pray has blessed many others through us.  Please pray for Samaritan's Purse as they seek someone to fill his shoes.

Scott, thanks for all you have done.


One Month Here

(by Heather)

Somewhere in missionary training, we heard that it is common to experience a “honeymoon” phase of adjustment after moving to a new country.  Newness and excitement of discovery can be found around every corner… new friends to meet, new foods to try, new places to explore.  Even as a not-very-adventurous person, I’m right there in the honeymoon phase.   

We McCropders find much joy in many aspects of our new lives here at language school in France.  I could write on and on about these things, but I have beaucoup French vocabulary to study yet tonight, so I’ll just briefly mention three of the highlights of our first month in France.

Of course, togetherness with the team is a definite highlight.  The whole McCropder team together at last has made for great times here already.  We also really appreciate the greater language school community.  Our school teaches approximately 35 adults from several countries, and most of these students are headed towards French-speaking countries in Africa.  The camaraderie is a blessing. 

Another highlight:  The French classes themselves.  I absolutely love my class, my teachers, and even the French grammar lessons.  (Yes, I confess that it’s true that I do secretly love verb conjugations… and that my former career as a Spanish teacher has been a huge head-start with learning and enjoying French vocabulary and grammar.)  All of us, including team members who are not as enthusiastic about prepositional phrases and the like, are soaking up French and understanding a whole lot more each week.

And all of that while living in this beautiful place.  This afternoon while out for a run, I turned toward home and caught sight of a dazzling rainbow stretching over the Alps.  In this picture, our apartments/school are a few blocks ahead on the left.  Any of you who have attempted to photograph a rainbow with a cell phone camera will commiserate with the fact that no such photo can capture such beauty.
In the same way, my brief report here has not adequately described the goodness of God in answering many prayers for our team’s transitions to language school.  We feel tremendously blessed as we continue to settle in here, thankful for this phase of the journey towards Burundi.


Weekend in Albertville

 (By Alyssa)

Last weekend was a special weekend in France - all museums, government offices, etc. were free and open to the public as protected "heritage days". This provided an excellent opportunity for us to explore more of the surrounding community here in Albertville - and to practice French! In our language acquisition course, it was emphasized over and over again to get involved in the community and speak French (as much as possible) from day one - above and beyond what is required for language school. We're participating in events at a local church, buying produce and cheese from vendors at the open market twice a week, and - our favorite - practicing French at the bakery! We've also sought out language partners - people in the community unaffiliated with the school who have volunteered to help us with French - great opportunity to develop friendships and understand the culture more, too. The weekend's events provided lots of French listening opportunities - maybe would have been more informative about local history if we had a little more French under our belts, though! But any opportunity to hear French spoken - and to pick out a few words - is helpful.

Medieval town of Conflans - on a nearby hill, just a short walk away. Some of our team toured La Maison Rouge; others toured the town castle - both historic sites, and both included an hour long tour in French.

 An old ambulance :) 

 View of Albertville from Conflans

We also visited the Olympic museum and heard a presentation from an Olympic historian. The 1992 winter Olympics were hosted here in Albertville, and actually the first winter Olympics in 1924 were hosted in the nearby city of Chamonix, France. 
 Display at Olympic museum 

Ice cream break in Conflans (didn't quite fit the medieval theme, but the shop owner amusingly listened to our attempts at French and then gave us directions to the castle - he asked his friends the words for "gauche" and "droit" in English, but thankfully we understood the French version because the "right" and "left" weren't quite right. :) We're thankful to be living in a rural part of France where we're forced to speak French and can't assume people will speak English.)  

 Castle built in the 1500s (above and below pictures) 

And one last activity of the weekend - Sarah, Jason, and I hiking nearby and practicing French along the way with new friends from the school who speak a lot more French than we do. And of course enjoying the beautiful creation in the process (Mount Blanc pictured behind us). 

"I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth." Psalm 121:1 


Being in Class with John Cropsey

(by Eric)

Classes are in full swing.  Our team is dispersed through three of the five classes here (no one in the most advanced classes), and I have been slotted in a class of eight, with Alyssa and John.  And I am thankful for this, and I will tell you why.

In our language training course in Colorado, they would say: "No one will ever speak French the way that you will speak French."  This was certainly true of John in Kenya with Swahili, having coined the popular exclamation "Hapana Sana!", which literally means "Very No!"  It doesn't exist in the language, but the Kenyans loved it.

What about French?  Well, if there is a difficult pronunciation, John will not stop until he gets it, though he may have his head in his hands after his fifth attempt.  And he will often stretch his currently limited vocab in order to make a joke for the moment.  And from what I've seen, his methods work.  It's the brazenness of an effective language learner.


Our teacher was telling us the difference between "etudiant" ("student" in masculine form) and "etudiante" ("student" in feminine form).  She uses me as an example.  If I were to say "Je suis etudiante", then people would look very strangely at me.  We all have a small laugh, and the point is made.  But then John comes in with his best accent blazing:  "Eric, tu es transvestit!"

And on it goes, with the whole class laughing every day, and no one more so than Alyssa and I, who are experiencing exactly what we thought we would be experiencing, going to class with John.

What is the effect of this on me?  It is primarily that the classroom has become a place where I am free to make my mistakes over and over again, in front of my colleagues and my instructor.  My pride (which I wrote about earlier) is not so loud here, because John's many antics and linguistic misadventures have changed the tone of the room.

This is significant to me.  We are a community of friends who believe that God has called us together.  People ask us how we created this community, and it's a bit of an awkward question, because it rather happened to us.  But if there was any idea that distinguished us, it was the willingness to take seriously the friendships that God has put in our lives.

And this is so often the way of it in life.  It is the everyday effect of such friendships that make all the difference in shaping and molding us into we are.  Here God pulls out his seemingly favorite tools and sanctifies.  Amazingly, he uses broken people with divided but free wills to get done exactly what he wants to get done.  There is no greater craftsmanship, and it is to his glory indeed.

I can see it here.  The effect of John's everyday presence in the classroom is what I need, and I see it as a gracious answer to my prayers and the prayers of you all in response to prior writings.  However, I doubt that it is happening just here.  Look at the everyday relationships of your life through this lens and trust enough to wonder how God might be using these relationships to work his will, to glorify his name.  And remember then that you have been put in their lives, as well.

"But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be."  - 1 Corinthians 12: 18

(Addendum:  The morning this posted, we had an assignment to write a mini-biography of a famous person for the class to guess.  I wrote 'en francais' something like: "I am English.  I wrote lots of mystery novels.  My favorite character was Hercule Poirot.  The UK made me a knight for my books."

It went off really awkwardly, and not even the teacher could understand what I was trying to say, and no one in the group knew that I was talking about Agatha Christie, even the British student.  So I was apologizing.  

John went next: "I was very tall with a black hat.  I was president during the war between the north and the south.  I maybe had Marfan's syndrome, but I was killed before the syndrome got me."  He then started trying to explain to our teacher the word "arachnodactyly".

I felt quite a bit better.)


Are we Overweight?

By Jason

The US Department of Transportation has decreed that no vehicle should weight more than 80,000 lbs on the roads.  Some exceptions apply, but what that means for us is that our shipping container (which is currently in Michigan, and is almost ready to be sent to Burundi) had to be under 40,000 lbs, so that the truck, which weighs 40,000 lbs, could take it to the ship when the time comes.

So how in the world do we figure out how much 40,000 lbs is?  Well, as we packed things into the container, we weighed them - either in bulk, by driving a trailer filled with our stuff over one of the CAT weigh stations you might see at truck stops, or by stepping on a bathroom scale as we carried each item into the container.  There is obviously a lot of wiggle room in these weights, and so it was with much intrepidation that we had our container weighed the week before we flew to France.  Based on what we had added up, I was estimating we were between 36,000 and 42,000 lbs of gross weight (including the 8,400 lbs of the container itself).  If we were over, it would mean unpacking part of the container and filling it in with a frame of wood to keep things stable and tight since we had packed it to the brim already (3 days before our departure for France, to boot).

Container packed with 1/2" to spare
So a truck driver came one morning to pick up the container, which he had trouble getting on the bed of his trailer.  The winch that was supposed to pull the container onto the bed was somehow not strong enough to do so (hmm...not a good sign for being overweight).  The driver patiently tried a number of ways to get the container on the trailer, and eventually he was able to get it half way on, teetering on the edge of the trailer, but there was too much friction to get it further.  So we enlisted the help of the farmer who owns the farm where we are storing the container.  He came in with his front loader and pushed the container on from the back end, which ended up pushing the whole semi-truck forward (hmm...maybe the container weighs 60,000 lbs).  The driver applied the trailer and the truck brakes in order to allow the container to be pushed on the trailer by the front loader and pulled by the winch.

Front-loader pushing the container onto the bed of the semi.
After all that sweat and angst, we weighed in at a mere 36,200 lbs.  So it's official, the McCropders are not overweight :)  Thank God!


School Report: All Kids Doing Well

We are immensely grateful to be able to report that the first few days of French school have gone very well!  God has answered prayers.  Today all of the McCropder children entered their classrooms happily - hooray!

A few details about our French schools in Albertville:

- Classes run 4 days per week:  Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.
- All of our schools have class from 8:30 to 11:30am and from 1:30 to 4:30pm.  Everyone goes home for a 2-hour lunch break each day.  We like the schedule. 

- Micah, Maggie, and Abi do not divulge many details about their school activities, perhaps mostly because they don't understand whatever is going on around them in French.  We think that they do some playing, make some art projects, and probably observe other educational activities in French.  We know that when they return to school after lunch, they have nap time (which unfortunately results in Micah staying awake until 10pm). 

- Elementary school kids seem to pick up vocabulary and pronunciation quite quickly.  Anna has already corrected my pronunciation and giggled at my non-French attempts at the French "r" sound.

 - Elise came home from school today and reported that she "falled in love."  This is actually the second time in two weeks here that she has fallen in love!

I would like to attach pictures, but the internet is too slow here recently.  We hope the internet trouble will be resolved soon. 

Thank you so much for continuing to pray for these children.


Off to School Tomorrow

(by Heather)

Tomorrow is the first day of school for the McCropder kids who will be students in the local French schools.  What an adventure this will be for Elise, Micah, Maggie, Abigail, and Anna.  Among several emotions, the kids are feeling a mixture of fear and utter excitement.

Today we toured the schools and confirmed our registrations.  Preschool begins at age 3 here in France, so Micah, Maggie, and Abi (all 3-years-old) start school for the first time.  The preschool is just a few blocks away from our apartments.  I anticipate that even after we walk the kids to school for several months, we will continue to be in awe of the picturesque views.
Upon arrival, we were startled to be greeted by a giant papier mâché rabbit welcoming us to school.
After checking in, we took a largely self-guided tour of the building, since the teachers at the schools speak little English.  The classrooms look magnifiques.
Maggie and Abi were more fascinated by the bathrooms.
As was Elise.
Tomorrow we meet the teachers and begin with a shortened school day.

Anna's school is in a brand new elementary school building.  She will have one hour each day of French for English-Speakers class, and then she spends the rest of the day in a regular French-speaking classroom (in the building to the right in the picture below).  
Anna is feeling nervous about not speaking much French, so she has practiced "je ne comprends pas" so that she can at least communicate her lack of understanding.  Yesterday she wanted to learn to say, "Do you want to be my friend?"  Hopefully those two phrases and a smile will get her through until she picks up more French.  As her (possibly biased) mother, I do believe that with her friendly and eager-to-learn personality, she'll be quite happy at school very soon. Inside her classroom, she loves the desk chairs.  It's the little things. 

Please pray with us that Anna, Abi, Maggie, Micah, and Elise will all feel safe, unafraid, and welcomed in their schools.  Also please pray that they will make new friends and learn to communicate in French.  We are thankful that we can be certain that God will be with them in their new schools.