We returned from that summer brimming with purpose and goals. Nancy and I found a map of France small enough for our hands to cover perfectly over the nation. We prayed every day with our hands on France. It seemed a light hovered over the city of Tours, and we figured John and I would one day settle there. In the meantime, we focused on France and all it would take for us to move there. We sold our house, we broadcast our intentions to astonished family and friends, and prepared to move after finishing Bible school.
At the end of our first year attending Rhema, the school required that we choose a major for the second year. Our friends had been telling John he should be a pastor, so I decided to start calling him “Pastor,” as in “Pastor, dinner’s ready.” Or “Pastor, don’t forget to walk the dog.”
One day, he met me after class just beaming, “I guess I really do have a call. The teacher in my last class said that we are whatever we are called at home. You call me “Pastor,” so I must be a pastor.”
The night before we had to sign up, as I stepped out of a car, I heard the Lord say, “You are My evangelist.” So I signed up for Evangelism. We were going to France as a pastor and as an evangelist. But it took another year to move to France after Rhema because Jo had her last year of high school to finish, and JJ had another year at the University, now at O.R.U. While waiting for them, we spent six weeks in France in the early fall and again in early spring. We’d been praying out the details of our move, and as we focused on each item, the Lord gave us the answers. For instance, we would need a car.
One Sunday night during Praise and Worship at Church, I leaned over to whisper to John, “I think the Lord just told me to buy a BMW.”
He leaned back and said, “Pray again.”
But that’s all I received, so I called the BMW agency to find out about buying BMW’s from the plant in Germany. To my surprise and delight they were having a special sale. If we paid cash for the car in the States, we could keep it in Europe for one year, insurance paid, and at the end of the year they would ship it to the States, alter it to meet American standards, and deliver it to our door. What’s more, we could then sell it for more than we bought it for. John agreed this was a deal he could not turn down.
So in September we were back in France, via Frankfurt, Germany where we picked up our brand new BMW. At the end of that trip we parked the car in a friend’s garage, where his grandchildren used the car as a jumping off place for a rope swing, and scratched it badly. But our insurance covered the repaint job. We returned in the spring, and in Nice someone smashed a window, apparently after our outrageously wonderful sound system, but it was too securely attached. The insurance paid for all those repairs. We hardly knew we’d been inconvenienced.
Mid-spring the car was shipped to us in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Lord told me to sell it immediately. But we didn’t. John looked pretty good behind the wheel of that car, and I was very happy with the comfort and the luxury. I did check in with BMW and found we could make $10,000 if we sold it now. However, we planned to move to France on July 1, so why not keep it till we left?
The only trouble was that God knows the future, we don’t. When we decided to sell the car, the prices for brand new ones was $12,000 lower than the quote I had been given. Apparently, someone had ordered too many cars from Germany, and there was a glut in the market. We ended up selling it for exactly what we paid for it, which is not a bad tale, but the Lord wanted us to have more, and we turned Him down.
During these two trips, we made contact with as many people as possible in the field of Christian media. As I look back, I realize we actually did connect with everyone even remotely involved. In our winter/spring trip there I was in my fur coat, and we were driving a very smart BMW; we must have looked like American money had landed. Everyone accepted us.
Because they all gave us referrals, we called a number and, therefore, met with a man who participated in a national committee that was trying to bring Christianity to France through the media of television. The group who managed the Billy Graham Crusade in 1986 formed this committee, and upon hearing of our interest, invited us to join them.
The members had seen first-hand how effective TV could be when they placed Billy Graham on a titillating talk show, his singular French TV appearance. He was given two minutes to present the Good News of Jesus Christ. Normally receiving an average of 4,000 calls responding to any given guest, the audience inundated the phone lines because after Billy Graham filled the two minutes, the station couldn’t keep up, and they stopped counting the number of phone calls at 75,000. The committee members gleefully thought they had found the answer. I agreed. After all, I still had that vision of the media center in my heart. Christian television had changed my country, and I believed it would change theirs. We thought the committee’s invitation to become a part of them to be a divine appointment from God, so we joined.
We started our initial spy trip in 1986 on July 1st, and in 1988 we moved on July 1st. The first thing we did was to get a rental car at the airport and drive directly to our first meeting with the committee. Then we drove to Montauban, where the church of the bold young man was waiting for us. They had organized a dinner with all the leadership of the church out on a gentleman farmer’s property. Over forty chairs arranged around long tables had been set outside beside the ancient farmhouse, the night balmy and rich with the aroma of maturing fields. I don’t remember ever being in such a picturesque setting.
At dinner the bold young man said, “John, tomorrow you’ll be preaching in Villefranche.”
I could feel John break into a sweat from across the table. “Wait a minute,” he said, “my French isn’t that good.”
The young man reeled back, “You speak French very well.”
“Maybe so, but I can’t preach in French.” John countered.
The young man excused himself for a moment, and John hissed at me across the table, “Why don’t you preach?”
I shrugged my shoulders and widened my eyes. “He didn’t ask me.”
“Well, I didn’t come here to preach.” John pouted.
Panicked, I hissed back, “What did you come here to do? You studied to be a pastor, didn’t you? That’s what pastors do. They preach!”
“Well, I’m not preaching.” He settled back in his chair. I didn’t have time to figure out what we were going to do because the young man returned to his chair.
“It’s all set, then,” he said to John. “Natalie can go with you and translate.”
Resolution wiped the terror out of John’s eyes. “I’m not preaching tomorrow. I still have jet lag. I can’t do it. Sorry. Why don’t you ask Marty?”
A cloud passed over the eyes of the young man, “The pastor doesn’t want a woman to preach from his pulpit.”
My excitement wavered a bit. But then I remembered I was here at the Lord’s invitation, not the French, so He would work things out for me. After dinner they asked for us to give our testimonies. My son, horrified and therefore confused, couldn’t remember his testimony. The group sat in stunned silence as both John and Jo shook their heads no, they would not give their testimonies. I stood and spoke for the family, and the young man translated for me. My excitement soared again as I warmed to the audience and received their warmth back to me.
On Monday, the young man sat us down and asked us to go to language school. We recognized the sheer wisdom speaking through his words and his confusion as to what to do with us. We were confused ourselves. A lawyer from Toulouse offered his summer home in Montauban for us to stay in for an initializing week, but where would we go after that? Language school offered us our next hesitating step, and we applied to a school in Tours, that being the city of language schools. Within a week, we relocated from Montauban to Tours, the place we had prayed over for so long!