A NEW LEARNING
My Bible reading has informed me that there is a correlation between good theology and hospitality. Biblical records and Middle Eastern culture considered it to be a cultural norm to take care of the strangers and foreigners living in the community. Christine and I experienced it.
In the Provencal town of Lourmarin, Christine and I lived for two weeks. We quickly adjusted to the wonderful habit of buying fresh croissants and a baguette for our petite dejeuners in the mornings. On our second day (Tuesday) in town we walked around town and then stopped at the Reformed Lutheran Church and read its sign board. We took many pictures. Irises lined the boulevards. By the weekend we had become acquainted with a number of shop owners and felt very comfortable in town but we were still strangers, tourists. As Sunday morning dawned, a very rainy day, we nonetheless decided to go to the Reformed Lutheran Church. We arrived and were greeted en Francais by the pastor (a retired cleric). Perhaps twenty parishioners took their places in front of us in this large sanctuary. While it is a blend of Calvinism and Lutheranism it leans strongly toward Calvinism. Ten Commandments in two large tablets were on the front church wall. We did our best to sing the hymns and listen to the oration. At the service’s conclusion two visiting Belgian couples spoke with us, as did one local gentleman named François Wencelius. François asked for our phone number.
François called later and invited us to dinner with his wife several evenings later. On that evening Francois picked us up at our gite (apartment) and took us to his Provencal hobby farm home. We learned that he was a retired agricultural specialist for France and had been posted throughout his career in various parts of the world. He also worked for the World Bank and lived in Maryland for 17 years as well as working for the US government. Upon retirement they moved to his father’s family property in Lourmarin.
His wife Nicole began studying art and painting while living in the United States. She is now an accomplished artist, painter and sculptor. We spent a wonderful evening of eating and conversation with them and another couple, Wilfred and Beatrice who had recently moved to the area. (Some of Nicole's sculptors are seen here.)
We were very grateful for this demonstration of hospitality extended to complete strangers. Francois explained that it was the least he could do for people who had come so far to be in their town and church. I interpreted the kindness as a practical gesture of his theology. Isn't it great to see the interplay?