One of the things I love about the ELF is that it is so all-encompassing in its scope – so concerned for the whole of life – in a way that is only right if we have an understanding of God as our Creator and therefore Lord of All. This is of course the result of (for one thing) the influence of Francis Schaeffer and L’Abri. This is why there are so many different networks here (ranging from Apologetics, Bible Teachers (our one) & Disciplers to Politics, Scientists and those in the Arts). We are interested in everything here because everything is interesting, because everything in all the world derives from, and should be offered to, God.
So last night an integral part of the programme was the first ever ELF Culture night. My initial reaction was to groan at the thought of every nationality providing some sort of national/cultural “entertainment” complete with stereotypical lederhosen, Russian dolls and Camembert. Fortunately, it was nothing of the sort. On offer were 5 different acts, repeated in succession 3 times, so that we could go to 3 different ones – Jazz & Poetry, two singers, sculptors etc etc.
Bill Edgar, a jazz pianist and professor at Westminster in Philadelphia, said something fascinating before the session, which some have perhaps heard put like this before, but I’d not:
We don’t want to be ‘soul-only Christians’, no more than we want to be ‘body-only Christians’. We are integrated creatures of God and so he is interested in every aspect of our lives. For:
- What is a soul without a body? A ghost.
- What is a body without a soul? A corpse.
But together, body and soul (a great jazz standard!) we are called to live and bring glory to God our Creator and Redeemer.
Nice. We then took the children to the Jazz & Poetry session which we all loved. But the most extraordinary thing about it was one of the performers – a Frenchman by the name of Olivier.
Our ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ moment
Rachel recognised his surname from the evening’s programme – and the fact that he is based in Marseilles. For the south French coast is where her grandmother was from – they were that very rare thing, a French Protestant family (although their roots were originally Italian). One of my minor obsessions has recently been that cliche thing, working out our family tree. So we looked Olivier up on my computer – and found one. So i had the joy of going up to him with these great words: “Excuse me, we’ve not met. But I’m Mark – and I know that this is a really weird question, but was your grandfather called Claude?”
And he was – which means that Olivier is Rachel’s second cousin – sharing the same great grandfather. How cool is that?! A French Christian cousin! The children were thrilled, as were we. And so, I hope is he…! And what is also extraordinary is that he is involved in the arts – as is Rachel’s mother (Olivier’s father’s 1st cousin). So there are both biological and spiritual genes in common.
I don’t know what it is about coming to Hungary that has this effect. But last year’s ELF saw me meeting an old University friend, whom I’d not seen for ages, in the baggage reclaim at Budapest airport – we’ve since met up a few times. And then there’s another one. On Friday, literally minutes before leaving home for the airport to come here, I got a phone call from another old Uni friend, John (whom I’d not seen for 15 years). He travels for work all around Europe and was ringing because he’s passing thru London soon. I couldn’t meet obviously, because of being here at the ELF. But then John said that his wife, Hilda, is Hungarian and that they actually live in Budapest despite his travels. What’s more, they have a country cottage only 20km from Eger AND they have children exactly the same ages as ours. So on Sunday, we all met up for lunch and had a great catch up. Hopefully, we’ll see more of each other in the future
All in all – this is proving both to be a place of great intellectual and spiritual stimulation – as well as the means to making extraordinary contacts and reconnecting with olod friends – both within and beyond the network.