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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Givens

Reflections of a Jet Lagged Man

It’s 2:00 a.m. and I’m wide awake. We just got back to the USA from France the previous day, and since the time difference is 7 hours, it’s 9:00 a.m. in my head, well after the time I would normally get up. I lie there reflecting for some time, trying to go back to sleep. When I finally realize sleep is beyond my grasp at around 3:00, I take out my phone and watch the first episode of Tokyo Vice, a show I’ve heard much about and have the ability to watch thanks to my brother’s HBO Max subscription.

Around 4:30, Elijah and Micaiah wake up. Rachel is still sleeping though. I often envy her ability to sleep through nearly anything in almost any location… I get up, make coffee, and get ready for a day that I know will be exhausting, simply because of the jet lag and another flight from Chicago to Minneapolis to get home. Still, I’m glad to be back after two wonderful but full weeks of experiencing life in what will soon be my new home: Calais, France.

Our trip was an amazing experience. There were times of happiness and joy spent enjoying the company of Simon, a British Baptist minister who is to act as our supervisor during our ministry, with whom we had the pleasure of sharing a rather spacious apartment (though it was perhaps not quite spacious enough for him to have solitude from our boys, who when together play, run, and jump with the force of a thousand hurricanes). Simon has a very British sense of self-deprecating, dry, sarcastic humor, something I particularly enjoy because I have a similar sense of humor. He also has many years of experience fighting for justice among the exiles in Calais, and there is much we can learn from him.

We also got to know the Maria Skobtsova House as well. It is a place of welcome and relief for those particularly vulnerable exiles, mostly young mothers and single women. We had several meals there, all prepared and served by the women of the house. The food was exceptional, with rice and curry and soup and several other dishes I don’t know the names of. To hear the women laughing in the kitchen as they prepare a sugar wax is warming to my heart after I have seen similar women living in camps in the relentless Calais rain and cold. To know that they can find joy in the small things like waxing one of Rachel’s arms and legs is beautiful. They promised to wax her other arm and leg when we return. I’m not sure if she’s looking forward to it or not.

There were many other beautiful and heartbreaking experiences we had while we were there for two weeks, but one thing that Rachel and I—and Elijah especially—enjoyed was getting to know the young American woman from Detroit who is serving as a volunteer at the house, Heba. Heba is 19 years old and had just arrived a week prior to our trip. She speaks no French, but is fluent in Arabic and English, both of which are extremely useful at the house. Rachel and I got to know her and hear some of her story during our time there. She recently converted to Christianity, and had just come from a visit to the Holy Land, where she got to see many churches and sites from the Bible stories. Heba was truly a blessing to us while we were there, and we sincerely hope she is there when we return. She is an amazing person with a kind heart and a desire to serve others.

Which brings me to my final point. We will be sending out a formal newsletter soon, with more specific details about our time in Calais and next steps for us, but I will say here that our plan is to return in early August to begin our ministry in full. This was deemed a good idea by the board of the Maria Skobtsova House, and will almost certainly happen. Until then, pray for us as we process and prepare. There are many things to do between now and then, not all of which are fun. Micaiah really wants to go back and has been asking every morning if this is the day that we return to France. Elijah loved our time there, but most of all he loved getting to know Heba. I’m pretty sure he’s got a crush on her.

Also pray for our jet lag to end soon. Every day is a little better.

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