Over the last week, I've had very little sleep. I've been the bergère (shepherd) for the DEFI Bible students. This means that I am responsible for the various needs of the students, I make sure people are where they need to be, I pray at meals, I have daily things prepared, and I plan a special event for the group. My theme has been gifts of the magi, so I've had a seeking the star game going, I been making gifts for each student, and I wrote a riddle-driven city-wide scavenger hunt. In short, I need a nap.
Instead, when we went down to town from the mountains, there was a sharp scraping noise as our van and another hit. Christian, the German DEFI student driving, slowed and stopped. My plan was definitely in danger and so were we, our large white van idling at the mouth of the roadway while the other vehicle blundered further along to hop a curb and settle on the nearby park's pathway. I saw the driver running towards us, red dreadlocks and jacket flapping frantically like a crazed bird. His eyes were bleary red and tears and snot streamed down his face as he screamed fast French. Money, he demanded. Christian's quiet, calm response was barely audible from where I sat in the back.
The narrow congested road made placing blame impossible, the cultural and language differences made things murkier still, and the other driver was unhelpfully high on weed and emotion. Even the location was an issue as other cars were made to maneuver around us. All things considered, it was not ideal.
However, we stayed calm, moved the van to a safer spot, and coordinated with the other Bible college students. Someone connected with the main office, and I called my boss opening the conversation with "What do you do in France if you're in an accident?"
He showed up shortly after to help with the paperwork and sort out the situation.
Almost an hour and a half of shivered, stressed negotiation to sort out the mess, we concluded with prayer for peace. I let my plan go. Instead, I led the group to a cafe where we drank warm cups of chocolat chaud super (hot chocolate with whipped cream) and played card games. Afterward, we ambled around the Christmas market with cups of vin chaud and roasted chestnuts. There was no searching, no more racing round, just a relaxing time for enjoying one another and the cold Christmas atmosphere, and in some ways, this was a better plan than the one I made originally. We all needed a bit of a break.
Sometimes things don't work out the way we plan. We can organize all we want, but the accident was a good reminder to hold things loosely and follow peace. Even when the world screams, we have the choice to stay calm and sort things out slowly in the right way. For me, this was an especially important reminder because I've decided to cut my time at the Bible college a bit short. As much as I enjoy the students here, we are all Christians, the majority of the information I already know, and almost everyone speaks English. I want to spend more time in a ministry context and specifically grappling with the language, and cutting my time here at the Bible college a little short, I can do that.
This season, I'm practicing listening to the Lord, being open to change, and working on staying calm whatever happens. It's been good to notice that when things get stressful, I can choose how to respond. I just listen to the real shepherd as I'm led. Sometimes I am led by still waters or a wandering walk in the woods, and other times things are not quite as comfortable. Either way, my shepherd is keeping me safe.