Homelessly Heading towards Life in France
Folks have been wondering where my family and I are in our journey of moving from Oakland, to France, specifically to the town of Poissy where I'll be pastor of that parish of the French Reformed Church. We have moved out of our home in Oakland and this next Sunday, July 12th will be my last one as pastor of the Oakland church I serve: Fruitvale Presbyterian.
We are at summer camp this week with a group of youth from our church. We return for a week of work in Oakland, then have a month off before moving to France on August 17th. That time will be filled with house sitting in the Dimond District, hanging out with friends, graduation day at our preschool and then 2 action-packed hang-out weeks with the grandparents. While at camp this week, a prize was given to the camper that came from the farthest distance to camp. Our eldest won, as she said that she soon will live in France. When asked where she lives, she replied "I don't really have a house." Not quite homeless, but definitely a sojourner. Of course she can't understand that. Maybe that's part of the whole journey of living and growing cross-culturally? Recognizing that we don't necessarily have a home, but rather several homes in between which we move. I find that California is by far home, and Oakland seems to be it for me, and at the same time that are many other places that are home for me in California: Fair Oaks, Westminster Woods, Cloverdale; and also in France: St. Germain-en-Laye, Strasbourg and Montelimar. Poissy will become our new home. But what does that mean for our children: 7 and 4 years old, who have only known Oakland as home?
I awake most days thinking of them, praying for them in the changes and transitions that await us: those of which we're aware and those of which we have no idea. How will they be transformed by the experience? I have some cultural cues and suspicions, having done that jounrney myself, yet what does it mean or a 4 year old to learn another language? What will it mean for those two to begin school in 8 weeks in a local public French school in a different language, culture and with all new people? It seems overwhelming. It sure was for me when I did that at the Universite de Grenoble in college. Yet maybe overwhelming is what is actually unavoidable in our world today? We're overwhelmed each day with the amount of knowledge and information we have to sift through and the decisions and choices we have to make in daily life. Maybe embracing the emotional overwhelmed-ness of living cross-cutlurally moves us along the path of maturation in a post-modern, globalized and flattened world? I wonder if we are either providing our children with the best possible educating and growth opportunity in childhood through this experience, or directing them towards a great challenge. I suspect it's both and more of an opportunity in the long-run than a nearly-impossible-to-overcome challenge. I guess only time will tell as well as our commitment to walk with and to carry our children through this time of transition that will last not just for a few weeks but for quite possibly a few months.