We left London en route to Carcasonne for a weeks holiday with friends in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. This gathering of God’s people from different parts of the world including South Africa, USA, Ireland, England, Holland and France was born in the hearts of two friends from Azille, Gert and Katia. Much work had gone in to finalising the arrangements for our time together at the Chateau de Jouarres and we are indebted to them for doing such a fine job. It was a very relaxed, restful holiday with informal fellowship together especially around meal times.
We felt that for some of the people it was a new experience of enjoying life together as Christians outside of all the formalities of structured church.
The Oil Of Gladness
On the first evening around the meal table many of the conversations centred around Jesus and his life. It was great to hear the delight of friends engaging with one another and the overflowing joy and gladness mixed with the laughter of God’s people. In the midst of many conversations I thought about the words of Paul to the Christians in Rome. “When you sit down to a meal, your primary concern should not be to feed your own face but to share the life of Jesus.” [TMSG] That atmosphere prevailed throughout our time together!
What Makes The Difference?
What is it that motivates people to travel hundreds of miles to spend a week together? Why is it that meeting again with people that you haven’t seen for some time seems like you saw them just yesterday? Each person, unique, different and yet one in heart with so many. In reality this is what Church life is all about. How refreshing to experience, first hand the informality of life together without anyone dominating or trying to control situations.
Conversations packed with encouragement and honesty as people gave of themselves to one another, serving, caring, loving, and accepting each other in spite of any differences there might be. These were some of the ingredients mixed together during our holiday.
On the Wednesday Gert and Katia had invited some of their French speaking friends to a barbecue. Of course, Phil Wassung and Guy Dennison made a ‘braai’ (South African word for barbecue) of it and masterfully prepared the fire and cooked the meat. And there was a lot of it.
Wayne Jacobsen spoke about his experiences working in his Dad’s vineyard and told the beautiful story of John 15. Among those sharing the evening together were two wine farmers who seemed to delight in the conversation. Jemima translated English in to French and at times French in to English just like a seasoned professional. What a gift. A wonderful evening!
Our Thursday Outing
The plans were set for the coach to pick us up at 9:00 am on Thursday morning. Our first visit would be to ‘Chateaux-Lastours’, followed by lunch in ‘La Liviniere’, then in the afternoon ‘Chapelle Centeille’ and ‘Minerve’. That evening we dined at the Domaine ‘Le Pech d’Andre’ and our visit there included wine tasting.
The Chateaux Lastours are four Cathar castles in the Lastours commune. Cabaret, Surdespine and la Tour Régine stand in line, while Quertinheux is built on a separate pinnacle close by. As with all tours there was an air of anticipation as we travelled to our first stop. The walk took us up to an altitude of about 300 metres. After the walk up and back under a hot sun the air conditioning on the bus was a welcome respite from the heat. On to lunch at a restaurant owned by a friend of Gert and Katia. We sat outside at La Liviniere which you can see in the photo below. Without going into too much detail there were some interesting conversations going on around us.
We had been promised a surprise by Gert during our tour and we were in for a real treat. We arrived at Chapelle Centeille after lunch. The acoustics in the building are amazing. This was proved when Gert sang an old song for us accompanied by Mona on the guitar.
About the song “Lo boièr”
It is one of the oldest songs/hymns, referring to the Cathar persecution. There are different interpretations, but one of the most acceptable is :
“A herdsman came back home and finds his wife exhausted, dying. She had probably been assaulted by the Albigensian crusaders. We know that because she is not buried next to a church building (where normal catholics were buried in the middle ages). The melody is very melancholic and expresses the suffering of the Cathars.”
Our day concluded with a wine tasting followed with French cuisine and much banter and chat in the open air!
God’s Purposes are always much bigger than our own
We have tried to give you an overview of our seven days together. Quite frankly, not an easy task. However, as always when God’s people gather there is an unseen work taking place within the conversations and the interaction between family members. There is always something much ‘bigger’ than us taking place. God’s grace is always at work in our lives. He seems to encourage and ‘grow us up’ in ways that make one stand amazed.
I guess that there were mixed feelings when we left for home. The sense that this had been a purposeful time. Our holiday together had come to an end but the friendships will remain and the conversations continue and most important God’s purposes will continue to be fulfilled!