Year Abroad: February Thanksgiving

 

The Sacré-Cœur, Paris

Today marks 6 months since the start of my Year Abroad, and God has been so faithful, as ever, while I’ve been out here. So I wanted to take this post to journal some of the things I’ve learnt and am most grateful for, and how the year is going so far. I hope it encourages you!

I am grateful to God for:

1. His Peace in a Hostile Environment

God is able to turn even the most hostile, frightening environments into peaceful outcomes…

I moved to Paris in late August 2017 and lived in a shared flat conversion until December. There were 3 other girls in my flat, aged 26-28, who were already close friends who’d known each other for years, and they were all native French-speakers. Only one spoke English.

At first, everything seemed great—the girls seemed nice and one of them really took to me and, without me asking, took it upon herself to show me the ropes of settling into Paris.

Sadly, about two months into my year abroad, and a week before my 21st birthday, the same girl switched out of nowhere and we had a heated argument which, on her part, nearly became violent.

That switch caught me absolutely off-guard and my response was to pace my room and pray because I sensed there was something spiritual underneath it all. Random eruptions like that don’t originate in the physical, there’s usually something else going on.

I also confided in my pastor, who prayed for me with deep empathy because it was a situation he had faced as a young man, and he knew the fear that comes with living with someone unfamiliar whose anger towards you is unexplained and extreme. My pastor’s prayer for me was for peace in a hostile environment. And I thank God that He heard the prayer and gave me peace.

God showed me that the best solution for the situation was a posture of love and to give the girl as much space as possible—not easy in a small flat-share.

Long story short: honestly, prayer works. As I prayed over the next few weeks and months, God gave me the  courage to not live in fear despite the heaviness and tension in the house following the conflict. Knowing something must’ve been underlying helped me maintain a posture of love, because the truth is we are all struggling with something.

Result? Two weeks before I left, the girl came to me out of the blue and apologised. She then confirmed the feeling I’d had about something deeper going on: she admitted she was suffering with mental health problems. She had been taking medication the whole time I was there, but she’d told me they were to help her sleep. Now it all made sense.

I was so glad we got to make the peace, and even gladder that God had helped me maintain a posture of love, because that, more than anything, was what this girl needed. When she confided in me and apologised, I gave her a hug and told her ‘it’s absolutely okay’.

Praise God that He turns even the most hostile situations around.

2. His Protection in an Alien Environment

Out here in France it’s a case of literally learning which side of the road the cars drive on. Basic things like that. And it’s knowing that, really, if anything happened to you, there’s no-one close by (sometimes there’s no-one even in the same country) who knows you, who could help you. This reality takes your trust in God to a whole new extreme. I thank God for His protection.

3. His Provision in a New Season

He’s been so faithful, providing me with work, a home, and a church throughout this year. During this second half of the YA, home and work (different to the first half) have proven to be places of rest. I am so thankful.

4. His Presence in a Lonely Environment

It’s not hard to spot loneliness in Paris. It’s a big city, and everyone’s busy, and big cities full of busy people often have a lot of lonely people. I’ve seen loneliness in the lives of some of the people I’ve lived with out here. Depression and suicide are real issues. So is divorce. I’ve lived in two homes, and each has been affected by either depression or divorce. I wonder, sometimes, if all of this has anything to do with the country’s famous secularism.

I thank God that He’s given me a church family out here, and that His presence can still be felt all over Paris, if you’re in tune with it. Granted, as a Christian, His presence is always with us. But two weekends ago I literally went presence-chasing (lol!), and spent time in four churches (pictures in this post)—my home church and three famous Parisian churches (the Sacré-cœur, Notre Dame and the Sainte Chapelle). I prayed and listened to worship music in all four of them. And it was such a time of refreshing: God reminded me that He’s with me everywhere that I go. I’ve felt that this year more than ever.

To wrap up…

I’m a living testimony that faith in God brings hope. It brings inner joy when there’s heaviness around (Nehemiah 8:10). Peace when there’s hostility around (Philippians 4:6-7). Protection when there’s unfamiliarity all around (Psalm 28:7 and 18:2). My life is a series of testimonies of this. No-one can convince me otherwise, and my Year Abroad has only confirmed it.

Thank you Jesus for your peace, protection, provision and presence.

Imani x

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Notre Dame

The Sainte Chapelle

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