“God likes to use people who are prepared to climb through windows into toilets, to build his kingdom.”
Picture the scene:
It’s New Year’s Eve in the French ski resort of Meribel. Lots of drunken revellers are gathered in the centre of resort around the Christmas tree. There’s a long queue of people trying to get into the creatively-named Le Pub, – an English bar in the heart of Meribel, serving the many English holiday-makers and workers that come here each season. And then I had a brainwave – rather than queuing to get in, I would lift Lara in through the small window at the side of building. Brilliant, until we realised it was the window of the Gent’s toilets. Never mind, onwards and upwards. With embarrassed smiles, we clambered through the window, walked out the Gents, and joined the drunken New Year’s Eve party in Le Pub. It was the early hours of 1992. Lara and I were friends in our 4th year at St Andrews University. Little did we know that 26 years later, we’d be married, be Christian, and be leading church services in the small stone chapel. God, however, knew all along. He’s definitely got a sense of humour.
So here we are, September 2018, and we’re planning for our third ski season in Meribel running English-speaking church services, and also our first season running Altitude Mission. We are trying to be obedient to God, but to be honest, it’s scary. We’ve rented a 24-bed chalet in the centre of Meribel, and we want this to be the heart of Altitude Mission. We want it to be a place of community, of fellowship, of reaching out to people with God’s love. We want to build up friendships, to knock down walls, to heal broken hearts and limbs, and to shatter illusions of what people think about God, about Christians, and about Church. Church is not boring when it’s focussed on worshipping the living God who loves you so much he sent his Son to die for you. Church is not boring when it’s rolling up its sleeves and getting stuck into the bars and clubs – helping people home on a cold night (every year at least one young seasonnaire somewhere in the Alps, gets lost and falls into a snow-drift on the way home from a night out. If that happens there’s a high chance of hypothermia and even death.) Christians are not boring when they aren’t judging you for what you’re doing wrong but loving you because God loves you. We want to be a light on the hill – a safe haven where people know they can be looked after, restored and loved. We want to change Meribel from the inside out, so that God’s glory will shine all around.
God has put us in Meribel and has put Meribel on our hearts. At New Wine, a couple of weeks ago, God gave me the vision of the small stone and wood chapel, bursting forth with the light of God, literally lifting the roof off, and throwing the doors open. He wants us in that chapel, singing our hearts out in worship.
We want the chapel full of Christians with a heart for God, for service, for living life in all its fullness. We want Christians to come and stay at our Altitude chalet and do mission with us in Meribel.
So what’s so scary?
Because we are being counter-cultural, with no guarantee that the costs will be covered. We’re inviting people to stay for free, when all around us hotels and chalets are charging for each night’s accommodation. We’re asking people to come and serve, not to come and be served. We’re focussing on Jesus and the glory of God’s creation, not on ourselves, and what can we get out of this holiday. It’s scary because we’ve got costs of €130,000 to pay for the chalet and we’re trusting God that he will provide. As Julio Abraham (one of our chaplains) says, “Where there’s vision, there’s provision”. We believe these words of Jesus are speaking into what we’re doing:
13 “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.
14-16 “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.
(Matthew 5 v13-16, The Message)
So will you come and join us on a mission from God? Come for a week, come for two, or longer. Bring an open heart to serve God wherever he calls you. We want to see a need and meet it. No big preaching, no judgement, just God’s love, oh, and skiing too!