La Maison de Retraite

(From Alyssa)

In the spirit of sharing aspects of our life here in France, one of the interesting, intimidating, and necessary aspects of language learning has been getting to know French people outside of the classroom. We've all approached that in different ways through the year. Most of us have French language partners who we meet with weekly to work on specific language exercises or just to practice conversational skills with a patient friend willing to correct the many pronunciation and grammatical errors. We've gotten involved in church and John has even been a member of the parent school board at the kids' school. And almost every Wednesday at 3pm you will find me at the nearby nursing home (La Maison de Retraite).

Several McCropders have joined me at various points through the year as I've chatted with residents, played memory games, and celebrated monthly birthdays. Heather came weekly in the fall and was a huge encouragement as she's always been a level ahead in French. I remember one of the first times I was on my own without her talking with a resident. I could say very little at that point, but I could ask "What is this?" So we spent close to an hour labeling "head & shoulders, knees and toes", etc. - language learning is great for teaching humility!

As my French has progressed I've been able to converse more with residents and have heard some interesting stories. Our classroom assignments to ask a French person about childhood memories or favorite vacations have also been helpful. The most interesting stories have come from an 82 year old retired priest who was a missionary in the Congo (quite close to the Burundian border) for 22 years. He began an orphanage and hospital and taught philosophy and theology at a seminary there. He was forced to leave Congo due to health problems but it's clear in talking to him that he left his heart behind there. He speaks with love and compassion of the orphans, the parishioners, & the seminary students, and he continues to be quite involved in fundraising and keeping up with the work there. He's very well read and has copied many articles for me on the region and even on Burundi specifically - also good French practice! I enjoyed an interesting last conversation with him yesterday on secularism and declining faith in France compared to the thriving, growing churches (Catholic and protestant) in Bukavu, DRC. It's encouraging to be able to discuss such things in French now! So I'm thankful for God's provision of these unique opportunities for language learning and for getting involved in our local community here in Albertville.


Our French Church

With the eve of our departure from France less than two weeks away, I start thinking about the various parts of our life here that we have never taken the time to share with everyone.  Alas, we won't get to all of them, but it's worth letting you know a bit about our church here.

Background:  France, like much of Western Europe is often described as "post-Christian" or certainly "not as Christian as they used to be".  Operation World describes the French population (of more than 60 million people) as less than 1% "evangelical".  Unless you utterly discount the faith of all French catholics, it's a bit difficult to interpret that number, so I'll give you a few basic observations.

There are several old Catholic churches in our town of 18,000.  Because of low attendance, they do not all hold weekly services.  Instead, a priest will circulate between them, one each week, to hold a service for the few practicing Catholics.  My brother-in-law, who grew up outside Paris, has told me that the most common way the French have described their faith in demographic surveys is as "non-believing Catholics", which is, of course, not exactly beating around the bush.  France has a strong history of ardent secularism, which sets it apart from the US quite dramatically.

OK, in the midst of all this, on a small store front about a 10-minute walk from where we live, is the Evangelical Protestant Church.  You go through a gate, and across a little courtyard, you find the tiny church building, between the actual row-buildings of the street.  Every week, about 70 people worship together, of which about 1/3 are language students and their families.  We have all been involved in different ways.  I have often played on their worship team, and even found myself leading French singing a few times.  Many of us have helped out in the sunday schools, and John and Jason found themselves praying in French and giving communion one (slightly awkward) Sunday.

From what I gather, this is an impressively large evangelical church community for a French town of our size.  And they have welcomed us.  Despite their small size, they are eager to reach out to their community around them.  The Music Fest which Heather just mentioned had a slot where a group from the church boldly played worship songs, after strict instructions from city hall not to do anything approaching evangelism.  And they extend their mission to us, eager to serve as part of our training to go out into the rest of the Francophone world.

No one in this church is there because "that's just what you do."  They have all made a purposeful choice to go seriously against the grain of their society, and then to turn around and love and reach out to the same society that thinks they are a bit nuts from trusting in Jesus.  

They are small in number.  They are often overlooked, and yet they are faithful.  There is much to learn from them, and we are thankful to have been able to join with them this past year.


Last Day of Class

The last day of class for the adults yesterday was met with a variety of responses from the McCropder crew:  “Happy and sad at the same time” or “So ready to be done” or “I didn't really think about it” or “(sniff sniff cry) I will really miss this class.”  It is so good that God gives different perspectives, experiences, and interests to different team members.  And thankfully we can all look back and realize that, while we do not yet speak fluent French, we have all learned to communicate in French a whole lot better than we could a year ago.  We aim to keep that perspective, regardless of the results of the exams we will take next week.

Several of the classes held a party to commemorate the year.

The end of classes happened to coincide with the annual national Fête de la musique.  The town was bustling all evening with bands and dancing.   Several McCropder kids jumped in for the dancing.   

After the fête, a basketball game in the school parking lot rounded out the evening.  Meanwhile Sarah was saying goodbyes here, and this morning she flew to New York for a teachers’ conference.   

Please pray for us in the next few weeks:
- June 23 – July 5:  Sarah’s teachers’ conference in New York
- June 24 – 28:  Final exams for the other McCropder adults
- July 2:  Commencement ceremony at the language school
- July 5:  Last day of school for the children
- 2nd week of July:  The remaining McCropders leave France
- 1st week of August:  McCropders reunite in Burundi


Case of the Week: L'Evanouissement at the Maternelle

from Eric

Last Monday, it was business as usual.  At 11:20, our classes got out in time for me to dart over to l'école maternelle (public preschool) to pick up Maggie, Elise and Micah.  It's about a 5 minute walk without the kids, and the time for opening the doors for lunch is a bit variable, so despite having hurried over, I was waiting with everyone else for the doors to open.  We had been told that morning that a local ER doctor was coming to talk to all the doctors this afternoon about medical vocabulary in French.  We were instructed to bring our questions for him, so I was pondering that.

The back of the maternelle school for our kids

All of a sudden, there was a bit of commotion up near the doors, and the crowd shuffled a bit like someone was falling down.  Somewhere inside me, some well-honed reflexes were quickly dusted off, and I darted toward the front.  A man was holding the arms of a woman in her 30's who had evidently passed out.  

She looked like she was breathing OK, so I reached for her wrist to check her pulse.  The other man shouted at me to clear off and give her some room.  Je suis médecin!  (I'm a doctor!) I called back, and he instantly beckoned me to do whatever I needed to do.

Je suis médecin was the first and last properly formed French sentence to come out of my mouth for the next several minutes.  In caring for a patient who has passed out (had an evanouissement), there are not really a lot of questions one needs to ask.  However, she had a friend nearby and I wanted to know if this happened often to her, and if she had been in good health lately.  Despite being capable of asking those things, I found the words spilling out in a jumbled mass, and it took a good bit of repetition to get that simple information.

Her pulse was regular and she wasn't seizing, and a short while later, when I rubbed her sternum a bit, her eyes opened right up, and she began to talk in a more-or-less normal fashion.  I learned that she had these episodes souvent (often), but that, though the doctors had done some analyses, nothing yet had been found.

"The other guy" had called the firemen (who interestingly play the role of EMS here), and they showed up impressively quickly to put her on the stretcher and take her to the hospital.  The head-teacher eagerly accepted my offer to stay until she was taken away, and I told the fireman those things that I would have wanted to know from a reliable witness on the scene, if I was the doctor who was going to receive this lady at the ER.

And so I learned a valuable language lesson:

Urgent medical care calls for all of your brain power at once.  At this stage, so does conversational French.  Given that I don't have two brains, one of these two is going to win out.  So, later that day, when we had our medical French talk, I was searching for a cadre of stock phrases that I can memorize and will therefore flow out as easily as Je suis médecin in the midst of an emergency.

The talk turned out great, as we all probed him with our thoughts, and he encouraged us with how much the technical medical vocab of French is similar to the technical vocab in English.  We listened eagerly and had a chance to practice interview questions on each other.  Rachel asked about birth control, Carlan asked about spinal injury, and Jason talked about passing gas (in the setting of bowel obstruction, of course.)  All in all, I'm thankful that my one French patient didn't seem to be in any great danger, and the day was certainly one to whet the appetite for what is to come.


What does an elementary teacher do on a team of doctors?

by: Sarah

For starters I learn heaps of medical vocabulary.  I laugh a lot when I try to regurgitate medical terminology.  I listen to stories that are just not part of normal conversation unless, of course, there are 6 doctors in the room.  These experiences remind me of the interesting moment when a young student bumps into their teacher at Wal-mart and realizes their teacher has a life outside of the classroom.  I feel privileged to have an insiders scoop on the doctor's life outside of the hospital.  If you aren't jealous, you should be!

Aside from life with the doctors I have the sweet honor of spending time with these guys.

A week ago, I gathered the 22 children at our language school who are preparing to leave Albertville, France in the coming month and we talked about how to leave one home well and enter a new home well.  Amongst the 22 kids were 5 McCropders (Anna, Abi, Elise, Micah, Maggie) and a handful of parents to whom I am grateful for their assistance.

“Leaving right is a key to entering right.” 
Pollock and VanReken

Missionary children or third-culture kids will experience uprooting and resettling quite a bit in their young lives as their families leave their home culture, study language, move to a new culture, visit their home culture, and return to the new culture.  There is a constant stream of hellos and goodbyes.  My heart rejoices in the richness of the vast array of relationships and grieves in the loss of those relationships.  Knowing that children experience this roller coaster of hellos and goodbyes I decided to review and use some tools we have to aide us in this process.  As usual, I set out to teach and I received abundantly.  

We did a choral reading of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 in which we acted out a time for all things.  I actually thought the kids would jump on the acting part of the choral reading, but they listened and watched.  Anna Fader was a pro at using her theater skills!  

A time to embrace

We smelled good smells and bad smells as an introduction to discussing what we are looking forward to about moving and how we are sad about moving.  I chose stinky cheese (because this is France) and muscle rub for the yucky smells and peppermint and caramel flavoring for the good smells.  In true kid fashion, a few boys said they liked the yucky smells.
We also read Alexander, Who's not (Do you hear me? I mean it!) Going to Move by Judith Viorst.
Lastly, we built RAFT's, figuratively, though I did consider having an actual raft building contest just for fun. RAFT is an acronym used to give practical steps for leaving and entering well.

Right Relationships - Say sorry and seek forgiveness in relationships you have acted wrongly
Affirmation - Say thanks to important people
Farewell - Say goodbye to people, places, pets, etc.. 
Think Ahead - Plan for your new home

I will allow the pictures to tell the rest of the story.  But as you think of the McCropders in the coming weeks, please pray for healthy goodbyes and hellos as well as blessed transitions.  



by Rachel

Part of the reason we've been so silent on the blog lately is because we all just returned from an awesome week (or two in the case of the Cropseys) in southern Spain.  Every three years the entire World Harvest family gets together for a mission-wide retreat.  The team leaders go a week early for some extra meetings and seminars.  Despite being only a few weeks away from our end of the year exams, we all knew it was important not to miss the retreat, especially since the next one is not until 2016.  

So we all got on a minibus and headed off to the Lyon airport:

It was really more of a conference than a retreat...both the adults and children stayed busy the entire time.  It was sort of, in the words of Eric, like a family reunion where you didn't really know all the family but you know you're all related somehow.  This results in a lot of awkward moments of, should I hug this person?  Shake their hand?  Nice to meet you?  Mention you've already met but it was 3 years ago and you haven't communicated since and does that move you from hand shake to hug?  "Faire the bise"? (the French greeting of touching cheeks and kissing)  But in all seriousness, it was a fantastic chance to connect with so many likeminded people from Europe, Africa, and parts of Asia.  The World Harvest folks are united not by denomination but by their dedication to living out the Gospel in their daily lives, demonstrating brokenness, weakness, and the power of God's grace and forgiveness.  

The keynote speakers/meetings were fantastic.  What do you preach to a group of missionaries, many of whom are pastors and church planters themselves?  How do you make new Christ's commission to take up your cross daily and follow Him, to a group who have already sacrificed much?  I saw with my own eyes people hoping in the fact that God is redeeming the world right now, people acknowledging the cost of sacrifice but finding true joy in their trials.  People struggling with depression and panic, people dealing with a diagnosis of cancer at a young age, people facing the awful reality of the loss of their 19 year old son in a tragic accident.  And singing in the darkness anyways.  It was truly inspiring, and reaffirmed my excitement to be a part of such a group of folks.

It was not all meetings and breakout sessions...we did get a free day with the chance to explore a bit of southern Spain.  Eric took the chance to see Seville, a beautiful city about 2 hrs away by bus.  Most of the families spent the day at a Sea World type park in Portugal (no pics of that, sorry).
 And our beautiful resort was located right on the Atlantic Ocean.  Too cold for swimming, but we did enjoy the sand anyway.  Much more time was spent at the pool...where again, the adults deemed the water too cold for swimming but the kids (and brave Aunt Alyssa) went in anyway.  We felt really cared for, and though we were busy, it still felt relaxing in many ways--being fed wonderful buffet meals, rooms overlooking the ocean, free counseling sessions and other "care" packages.

The only real bump in the road was our flight home.  Here we are at the Sevilla airport.  Notice all the kids eating dinner by the window (traveling with 8 kids, by the way, equals a crazy time!).  Notice something missing (the plane).  Our flight was delayed, and that combined with a long wait for luggage and a long walk to our waiting bus meant we arrived back in Albertville just before 2am.  Oh well.

Team Burundi being prayed for the last afternoon of the conference:

We are grateful for this fantastic mission to be a part of.  We are grateful for the prayers of our fellow missionaries.  And we are grateful to our supporters, who made it possible for us to go.  Three more years until the next one!


My Son Shows His Kenyan Heritage

(from Eric)

It is a simple statement of fact that my son Benjamin Kenneth Kipruto (foremost in the picture below) is an "African-American", having been born in Kenya, and thus having acquired citizenship at birth in two countries (though we have yet to get him a Kenyan passport).  He is white, but so it is with a considerable number of Africans whose families have been in Africa for generations.

In a few weeks, we will return to Tenwek.  Ben was 6 months old when he left, so he of course has no memories of Kenya.  But the other day, something happened that typified his Kenyan personality.

Maggie has been enjoying the The Jesus Storybook Bible, which, both because it's a book of Bible stories as well as just a great book, causes us great delight.  Last Sunday, she was sitting on the floor showing Ben some pictures from the story, and explaining them to Ben, who was listening well.

She got to this page. It's Jesus welcoming the little children.  She explained to him:  "Ben, this is Jesus."  Ben, whose vocabulary is growing day by day, replied:  "No.  Daddy."

I could tell you that this was the first time that he has done this.

That would be lying.

And this is, as you know if you've been reading this blog for awhile, a very intrinsically Kenyan thing to do, and you can click here or here to read a story or two, but in reality, most of those stories are undocumented.  The upshot is that (from my experience), if you're Kenyan, like my son, you are extremely likely to think that I look like Jesus.  Or, as a missionary colleague once said, "Maybe Jesus after he had fasted for 40 days in the desert!"