Having survived three years of being divorced, I returned to itinerate in the States, to introduce myself to pastors and churches as a missionary, asking for their donations. Most missionaries spend two years raising support before leaving for the field. I had raced to the field, unsupplied, thereby learning difficult but character-forming lessons. But now I was ready to face the challenge, to stand up and say who I am, what I am doing, and what I want.
My daughter and new son-in-law, Jordan, owned an old Lincoln which they loaned to me. The radiator leaked water, the motor leaked oil, the gas tank gulped gallons, only the driver’s door worked, and the electric windows remained down if allowed to go there. But I treasured that little old lady Lincoln.
Dan called the night before I started on my round-the-country “Getting to Know You” tour. “The Lord has been dealing with me to loan you my car for your trip.”
“You mean the Mitsubishi?”
La Garde de la Croix puts on its party hat June 15th every year and doesn’t take it off till the end of summer. I cannot help but be swept along. One summer, a famous TV personality, a game show host, chose our village for his vacation. All the merchants fluttered about, attributing “best friend” status to him and his entourage. In the midst of all that, he seemed to be a genuinely nice guy.
Val saw him sitting alone in the Place de Mairie on Bastille Day and went over to talk to him. She leaned on the table with one hand and on the back of his chair with the other. Talk went through town like wildfire that she really was his best friend, I mean, look at the way she talked to him. But that’s Val. She doesn’t know any strangers. He said he would dine at her restaurant before his vacation ended.
Two women came from the States, separately—to visit me during the months after my terrifying expulsion from the one man’s ministry—with many intentions crammed into their agendas. The one that hit me was the fact they both felt strongly called to sit me down and tell me to let go of Dan.
One said, “You’re so tied up in Dan you can’t move forward.”
“I am not!” I hotly denied.
“Suit yourself,” she shrugged. “But you’re cutting off your nose to spite your face. You need to let go.”
The other said, “Maggie, your lack of finances is a result of holding onto Dan.”
I said, “You’re the second one in two weeks to tell me I am holding on to Dan. I don’t get it. How can I be? He’s buried in the hills of Tennessee, and I’m buried in the hills of France.”
Dan called once a month the first year I returned to France. They allowed him to use the office phone and tolerated an international call, which he paid for. Living in Greg and Alice’s house—called a Trinity because there were three floors, and each floor had one room—I established myself in the bedroom constituting the top floor. The telephone reverberated through the house, ringing on the bottom floor and reaching the top floor with insistence. Dan called in the middle of the night, being six hours earlier and not wanting to use prime time rates. By the time I woke up and hustled down those stairs, I didn’t care who was calling; I didn’t want to hear from them. But Dan evoked something in me that I couldn’t release.
He called on our anniversary, October 24th. It would have been our 34th, but fortunately I wasn’t there. It wasn’t an event I wished to celebrate. It’s not that I rejoiced at being divorced; I didn’t. I just felt the thirty-three years had been a sham and all the other celebrations a deceit.
Summer had brought that debilitating explosion of me being kicked out of that ministry, but that fall things moved like a roaring river running downstream, not just trickling along. Normally fresh starts take a little kick to get them going. This start acted like it had been prepared from the beginning. In fact, an evangelist who came to minister for Marie Louise told me the Holy Spirit was saying that my ministry was just now starting.
Marcel asked me to form a Catholic/Protestant Prayer Group with him on Monday nights. He thought we would hold the meetings in the chapel he had built in the attic of his house. I heard the question he asked with amazement spread across my face. The Lord had spoken to me in the morning and told me Marcel and I would have prayer meetings in his chapel, and we would teach Bible studies together.
The people in my Bible studies were starting to refer to me as their pastor, and the head of the Bible school where I taught told me to start a church, and that he would pay the rent. Someone found a hotel for us, and we rented the restaurant. Since it was off-season, we could have it till summer. The already combined Bible studies made up the membership of “The Glorious Church.” We met Sunday and Tuesday nights for services and prayed on Thursday. We called Tuesday nights our Ministry to the Lord, and Ivan led us in some of the greatest praise and worship I ever participated in.
Without warning, upon arriving for church services one Sunday, the hotel owner informed us he had decided to close his hotel for the winter as he was losing money. Overnight we lost our church home and had one week to find another nest. Then the best happened. The owners of the restaurant where we held the “Gospel Night” opened their establishment to us. Their meeting room, with the little stage and tiered seating, made a perfect little church. They gave it to us for free, which was a good thing because the head of the Bible School stopped paying the rent to the hotel after the second Sunday.
The next day, I entered the bakery, politely waited my turn, and asked the girl at the counter if I could talk with Marcel. He came bustling out of the back, shook my hand, and in front of quizzical customers I explained I was a Protestant Missionary and would like to talk to him about working together. You could have heard a pin drop. He asked me to come back later when he wasn’t busy, like after dinner.
That evening I headed for Marcel’s bakery, trembling in great trepidation. Closed for the evening, the houses lined the streets like cliffs, carrying me down a deserted canyon. My thoughts churned. Yes, I had prayed to work with the Catholics, but not to embrace them! All the hair-raising stories I had ever heard about them came flooding into my head: levitation, bloodletting, chains, whips. . . . Maybe I should turn back, maybe they really were the enemy. As I walked alone down those shuttered corridors, I had the distinct impression of heading for the gallows. But I knew I had heard from God, so I pressed forward.
Sitting on the tarmac waiting for take-off, on July 1st as the Lord had said, I ticked off a whole list of unfinished items. Oh well. I settled back in my seat glad to be on my way. Unfinished tasks vanish if left unattended. Mine vanished. If I finished every task undertaken in my life, an encyclopedia would not be big enough to write about them.
I landed in Brussels after having no sleep during the overnight flight. The more I fought for sleep, the more it evaded me. Then in the airport the signs made no sense, and the bus into the city eluded me. I wondered if I would spend my days wandering from panel to panel trying to figure out a way into town. My bags weighed seventy-five pounds each, plus two bulging carry-ons, after all this was moving day. Even with a cart, the sweat poured down my back as I wheeled around the terminal.
Finally, the light dawned, and I rode the bus with self-determination. Then a taxi, not too accommodating to my budget, whisked me to the car dealership where I encountered my purchase, my new car. Here, wrapped in this moment of love at first sight, life changed for the better.
The details of moving to France cascaded around me like so many moving boxes stacked to the sky. They buried me: insurance, purchasing a car, renting my place in Texas, storing my things, shipping some things, the list seemed endless. One day, immobilized by fear, I sat in my overstuffed chair and called out, “God, HELP!”
Just then the phone rang. A man introduced himself as Ken’s brother, Everett. He said, “I hear you’re interested in renting your place.” Stupefied, I said yes. I hadn’t advertised or told hardly anyone, with only five weeks till my parting date I wasn’t coping well.
He said, “We’ll be right over.” He and his wife arrived ten minutes later, came in my front door, sat down on the couch surveying the L-shaped living room/dining room, they looked at each other, nodded and said, “We’ll take it.”
I returned to the States with my heart decidedly fixed on getting a divorce. I called Dan and told him, and he said to do whatever I wanted. When I talked it over with my Thursday nights group of ladies, they were relieved. However, the directors of the sexual addiction division were a couple who had married after he came out of homosexuality. They thought I should stick it out. So, they asked me to give up leading the group. In the end they apologized, but for the remainder of my time in Texas my support group was taken away.
Dan didn’t sound particularly interested in the details of the divorce until I mentioned it seemed a shame to divide the duplexes.
“You’re right. And when you go to France, the Lord will take care of you.”
“Wait a minute!” I interrupted. “I’m thinking of taking the duplexes as alimony. I am entitled to alimony, and you have no means of paying me that.”
Writing has been in my blood, so to speak, but when I surren-dered my life to Jesus Christ and He told me to write, all my trepidations rolled away and I began in earnest! After all, if God Almighty says it was His idea that I be a writer, who am I to stand in His way? My hope is that you not only like what I write, but that your life is moved by it, and that your party to Jesus and with Jesus turns your life into days of Heaven on Earth.