We were asked how our vision came to be, and on thinking about it, we felt a little like so many of the characters from the stories in the Bible…..just going along minding our own business, when God somehow intervenes, and calls one out from where one is, to join Him on a journey. Like many before us, we do not always know where we are going, but all we can do is observe the signs we see, and follow where we feel they lead us. We believe that God has called us out from our familiar surroundings in a particular direction, and the details become more apparent as we step out in faith.
The calling out from the place where we were, coincided with an awareness that we needed to invest in property rather than pension for the future. Andrew and I both looked for an apartment to buy - he in France and I in Cornwall. I found an apartment in Cornwall and offered on it.
I found an apartment planned to be built in the Alps overlooking Lake Geneva. Neither of us had ever been there; neither did we know the area. I went to the French Properties Exhibition in London and was advised to look at the development at Thollon rather than Morzine as we were walkers and view enthusiasts rather than skiers.
Lawyers and English property transactions being what they are, my apartment in Portreath was not progressing, but Andrew and the Thollon apartment were. God didn’t want us in Cornwall. He wanted us in the Haute Savoie!
At Spring Harvest 2002, I went to a seminar on meditation/contemplation, and while there, God gave me a vision and a message…
The picture was of a dark silhouette of hill and rock with a lake and a little brown boat with a red/brown sail on the lake with lowering grey clouds and water. The figure of Jesus was silhouetted sitting on the highest rock on the right of the picture in contemplation of the far shore. The town on the far shore becomes lit with a golden light, as does the boat. Then the boat goes dark and a figure is standing on the far shore calling to me/us. The voice says, “Sail your boat to my shore and I will lead you.”
Imagine my chuckle when I turned over the piece of card I had written the message on - the only thing I had to write on! And it had a picture of a boat on it - the Royal Yacht Britannia - my entrance ticket when I had taken Sarah on a trip to it in Edinburgh a few weeks earlier!!
At one of the Northumbria Community Worship sessions there was an opportunity to go for prayer and I felt I should go. I mentioned my vision to the chap who was going to pray with me, and he received a word that he passed on that we were being called to ‘get into our coracle and go forth with God.’ Later in the same worship time, Roy Searle said to the crowd generally that he felt strongly that there were people being calle out to ‘step into their coracles’. He said a special prayer for those who were being called to journey with God to bring the torch of the gospel to others.
I too had an awakening during that Spring Harvest when I realized that in my job situation as well as in everything else, I had to “seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness”, and all the rest would follow. I was able to release my hold on material security in a way that I had not thought possible and learnt to be prepared to trust God for everything. I decided to go where God led, even if that meant a cut in salary, living away from home, cost whatever it did, I knew I must follow His plan. I saw a job advertised for an accountant for Spring Harvest Holidays, was interviewed and offered the job. It would have been low paid, and I would have had to commute to Uckfield. I was on the point of accepting it when I felt that it was not God’s will. I sent them an email to say so, and simultaneously they sent an email to me to say that they knew it was not right either and they were going to employ someone in France to do the job. The two emails crossed each other - each shutting the door on that option, unbeknownst to each other, but planned by God.
I was immediately offered another job by a previous client who offered me an increase in salary, a car and an office within 40 minutes drive of home. This gave me the chance to resign from the firm where I was so unhappy and my job had become untenable. God’s provision, just like for Abraham with the provision of the ram at the point of sacrifice. This position only lasted for 8 months, but it was sufficient time to give me invaluable experience that would serve me in my current position. The Parent Company went into Receivership, but I had no anxiety about finances, as God was in control, and had already paved the way to my new job as Finance Officer of the United Reformed Church Eastern Synod.
We had no income for three months, and were committed to buying the apartment at Thollon-Les-Mémises, but God’s timing was perfect. I was told I had been given the job at the URC the night before I went in to work to hear of the Collapse of the Company.
Six months later when we moved into the apartment, I was in the gift shop, and stopped dead in my tracks - there in front of me was a picture (in colour this time) of my vision. A postcard showed the exact picture I had seen, and the place where Jesus had sat in my vision, in reality has a large wooden cross planted there! It is the Pic de Mémises which we see from our apartment windows and balcony all the time. I now know that the lights I saw on the far shore are the lights of Lausanne. Of course boats go across the lake all day every day, and the Savoie is a twin-masted sailing boat with red/brown sails that goes out on dinner cruises in season. It seemed to be God’s very detailed confirmation that the apartment is part of His plan. After I had more words of knowledge come to me, I knew that we should call the apartment ‘Poustinia’ and treat it as such. It is a place to withdraw to, to reflect, to take stock, to meet with God in His creation, and to seek His face when on the mountain; where the views are so stunning you can’t help dropping to your knees in reality, as well as in your soul. We open the use of this place to anyone we know who would like to share in its benefits. (It later proved to be the means by which we could re-arrange our finances for us to begin our permanent move to France)
God now started to make us aware that our links with the Northumbria Community were becoming stronger and we sought to join a Community Group - the Cambridge one. At the same time, I was feeling a pull to retire to France and felt we needed to buy some land.
I didn’t feel particularly drawn to this idea, but went with Andrew’s flow. We looked in the Auvergne and offered on a property, which legally we could have forced, but we didn’t know the law well enough, and the owner refused to sell to us because we were not prepared to give him ‘cash in hand.’ We didn’t know that legally he couldn’t do this, but God kept us ignorant because He didn’t want us in the Auvergne. He wanted us in Normandie!
In the meantime we went to Spring Harvest again (2003). I seemed to be getting messages from God that the apartment was a stepping stone to something else. I was also feeling strongly that we were being called to set up some kind of retreat centre like Hetton Hall and using the Northumbria Community plan for the day. At Spring Harvest God confirmed three times the vision from the Finan readings (March 14th pg. 634 Celtic Daily Prayer) and that He wanted us to live in community vulnerable and available for His purposes. The first confirmation came through a complete stranger who was sitting next to us and said he had read a vision concerning Europe and proceeded to describe the March 14 vision. I gasped and said that particular reading had jumped at me only days previously. He too, belonged to the Northumbria Community and read Celtic Daily Prayer regularly. I spoke to the leader of a seminar later that day who was part of the French Mission network, and he told me of his and his wife’s vision of mission to France that would form a liaison between the UK and France to reach out to the whole of Europe. When I told him of the Finan reading, he was very excited about it. A man standing behind me at the time, overheard our conversation and said that he had also seen a picture of something similar in a vision he had had, and so had a couple of people in his youth group during a time of prophecy in their worship! They hadn’t even heard of the Northumbria Community! Amazing!
It was beginning to feel as though we were riding a roller-coaster in Disneyworld, and I didn’t need any more convincing that Andrew was right in his ‘pull to France’. I knew too, that all these boats and coracles had some connection, and perhaps it was a P&O Ferry!
So I started looking in Normandie and found Suvigny. This time we knew we were looking for land with accommodation that could be converted into communal living, private and visitors’ accommodation. Suvigny suits this purpose, as well as being part of the Celtic Arc, and very near important ancient sites and tourist destinations like Mt St Michel.
Another reading which seemed to be important was Meditation Day 31 as it seemed to encapsulate something of what we were involved in. (Celtic Daily Prayer Pg 73) We too would be uprooted in every way and have to cling to God in faith. So I bought the book. My spine started tingling as I read the opening pages. Edith Schaefer was describing exactly what we see from our apartment bedroom window, except that we see Lausanne from the Evian side, and she saw Evian from the Lausanne side. Edith then proceeds to describe the mountains and other places with which we are familiar in the area. L’Abri today is in Huemoz near Ollon just across the valley from our apartment! I knew we were going to call the retreat centre at Suvigny “L’Abri”.
We visited L’Abri and chatted with the younger generation of the family. Edith is now 93! They put us in touch with someone who had worked for 25 years with them. She lives in Thollon-Les-Mémises where our apartment is! I met her and it was a most helpful meeting.
Having placed me in my current position, God has given me several people who are helpful with regard to the buildings, architecture, retreats, and community/youth work. My own background in agriculture and horticulture, DIY and landscaping experience, together with my financial and business management skills are an excellent combination together with Jane’s design, planning, creative, philosophical and visionary nature to complete our team approach. With Sarah, we can all make music, and she is not afraid of getting dirty either!!
We just have a tremendous sense that in everything that we are, and everything that we own, all things are a gift from God which we hold very lightly, and with the sense that they are on loan to be used in God’s service and for His purposes.