Yes, we couldn't think of another plausible excuse to stay in Paris so we came home. How many times can you "miss the plane"? Well actually, we nearly did a second time. Lines move at a snail's pace in the Charles De Gaulle airport -- but the people at the desks were always fun!
Okay, so before we get to the Executive Summary / What I Learned on My Trip to Europe stuff (future blog), there are a couple of things I wanted to get down for you while still sort of fresh in my mind.
I'm really not trying to justify the extended stay with some sort of "it was God's will" thing. We missed our plane due mostly to a poor decision on my part. Le oops. But a great theme emerged for me during our Sunday of sightseeing and hanging out in "The City of Light". We started out at the Rodin museum, which it turns out is filled with sculpture not Japanese monsters. Huh. Anyway, there's a famous piece there called "The Gates of Hell", a chaotic, somewhat disturbing rendition of Dante's "Inferno".
Then it was off to the underground quarries and catacombs. As a fight against rampant disease, the overcrowded cemeteries of Paris were emptied of many of their, er, inhabitants as their bones were stacked neatly in the abandoned tunnel systems of past quarries. The remains of 6 million people, in fact. Their bones and skulls are neatly stacked, even forming beautiful, if macabre, patterns. They line the underground passages and we walked the corridors past them all. Makes you wonder. Pick any skull. Was it from a man or woman? Did they live long, or die young? What was their life like? Did they know the Savior? Where are they now? You certainly can't tell anything by just looking. (I confess, I did reach out and touch one.)
After a snack at a cafe where the waiter said he used my debit card to buy Gucci shoes (I think he was kidding), we climbed the steps to the first level of the Eiffel Tower. Looking out over the dense and far-reaching city, I wondered about its living inhabitants -- more than twice the number represented by the bones we'd just seen. All these men and women, will they live long or die young? What are their lives like? Do they know the Savior? Will I see any of them in Eternity? I certainly can't tell anything by just looking. (I confess, I wonder if I'll be able to reach out and touch any.)
The other story on my mind is a conversation on the plane from Paris to Detroit. After over 6 hours of absolutely no conversation (my preferred method of flying), the senior woman next to me suddenly turns to me and asks if I was in Paris for business or pleasure. When I tried to explain what I do I encountered a new language barrier. Okay, I admit that my opening lines included the somewhat jargon-laden term "plant churches". I'm still working out ways to say what we do in 20 words or less tailored for various audiences in order to aid understanding. I'm not there yet. [The following is a recreation of the conversation. Trust me, I sounded even more confused than this illustrates.]
"How do you plant a church?"
"We go somewhere and live out our lives and beliefs in front of others, building loving relationships with them. As we share Christ with them and some come to believe as we do, then we have a church."
"I've never heard of anything like that before," she said, sounding as if she's stepped in something. "I thought only Mormons proselytized."
The conversation was a tad longer, but you get the idea. After this, we switched to talking about books and she mentioned a book she read recently in which someone proposes that all of humanity comes from one man who lived in Africa and his decendents migrated to various regions of the world, having developed metallurgy and domesticated animals. (Silly me, I thought that was the Bible.) Hmmm, who's proselytizing now?
Okay, so I felt a bit insulted, but I shouldn't have. There was no malice in her comment, just genuine confusion. But when I get past that, I'm saddened by what she's really saying. She's saying that in her roughly 80 years of living in the U.S., no Christians have ever lived out their lives and beliefs in front of her, building a loving relationship with her and sharing the love and good news of Christ along the way.
Yikes. Instead of missing planes, we've been missing the boat.