In the last blog, I told you how Lara and I clambered through the window of Le Pub in Meribel to get into a New Year’s Eve party in 1992, and how now, 26 years later we’re opening up the church in Meribel.
So how did we get from drunken revellers, to running a church? A very brief potted history:
Lara and I met at St Andrews University in the Dark Ages (1991 to be precise). I took my time, but we married in 1997, started having children, moved from London to Windsor, and then onto the Isle of Wight. We were lucky enough to buy a ski apartment in Meribel in 2000, and from there we started Meribel Ski Chalets – running catered ski holidays every season since then.
Back on the Isle of Wight, God was on Lara’s case – she met various Christians who each played their part. A lovely lady Annie would look after our kids for free one afternoon a week and give Lara a much-needed break. This act of service was such a good witness. She also gave Lara a book called Faith Like Potatoes, written by the South African farmer/preacher Angus Buchan – a great read if you haven’t come across it. By the end of the book, Lara was on her knees, praying the prayer of commitment. She started going to St James Church in Ryde and left me with the kids on a Sunday morning. One by one the kids started joining her leaving me in peace – or so I thought. However I could see the change in Lara, and I wanted to know why. I thought if I’m going to look into Christianity, I’d better read the Bible. Having grown up as a Jew – been Barmitzvah’d at 13, and enjoyed all the festivals we celebrated as a family – my eyes were opened when I started reading the Old Testament. Here were stories I knew well but had no idea they were part of the Christian faith. By the time I got to the New Testament, and met Jesus, I realised I was in the same boat as the disciples – I was a Jewish man encountering Jesus. Did I believe he was who he claimed to be?
I’m afraid, true to form, I took my time to decide. It wasn’t a lightning bolt moment. Our very patient minister, James Leggett, would come to our house every Tuesday evening, and sit on the sofa, whilst we (Lara and I and the kids) fired our questions of faith at him – it was a real Grill a Vicar session each week. The kids came up with the best questions, like, “If Noah’s flood covered all the land, his Ark must have been higher than Everest, so why didn’t they need oxygen masks?” James was so patient, and eventually, I made the commitment to follow Jesus in 2011.
Which brings us back to Meribel. One day I was walking down the road in Meribel, asking God what he wanted us to do there, and I looked up and say the door to the little stone chapel was open. That door is never open – apart from for a service on Christmas Day and Easter Day – so I thought I’d better look in. I met the key-holder inside – who happened to be the brother of the lady that sells us all our bread. He bakes the bread all night, and she runs the shop. So I now knew there was a key to the chapel, and the baker implied that we could use it, but it wasn’t his decision. Back at home, two people independently suggested that I get in touch with CORA – Christian Outreach in the Alps. They have been running an English-speaking church in Verbier for several years. When I met up with Andrew Baines, CORA’s director, he told me they’d been praying about finding a second resort to work in, and so was thrilled by our approach.
It didn’t take us long to realise that we needed to start running an English-speaking church throughout the winter season in Meribel. CORA provided the chaplains, who come out for two week stints, leading the church service, and being a pastoral presence in resort. We opened our doors on Sunday January 3rd 2016, and have run a service there every Sunday of the winter season, since then.
And each Sunday we’d have no idea who would turn up, or how many people, and each Sunday we’d see God marvellously at work – but more of that in the next blog.