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Merry Christmas!

From the Schaller Family

Bonjour and Merry Christmas! Amidst all the chaos of 2020, we pray this letter blesses you.

We’ve had a beautiful year, even though it wasn’t what we expected. In the spring, we hadn’t yet moved out of our two-bedroom apartment of 7 years. Running to the new neighborhood 4-5 times a day for school and renovating the house sure was exhausting. Yet life was full of privileges we only saw in hindsight. One shining week was our staff conference. Though we only see most staff once a year, they now feel like family. Hearing their stories reminds us how near and present our God is. One of the babysitters for the week had recently become a believer and fled her Christian-persecuting country. The children had no idea what an incredible woman was taking care of them. We adults had no idea what a privilege it was just to gather.

France’s first lockdown was from March 18—May 11 (nearly 8 weeks.) Those weeks were strangely peaceful and frightening. As a family, we enjoyed hitting the pause button on life. Outside of us, we knew seven acquaintances who passed away, young and old. One was a colleague in Paris, a dad of great faith. Randomly our apartment flooded, which was comical and helped us purge before we moved. In November, we lost two of Tara’s family members to Covid. Trent’s uncle also passed away the same week from another condition. It is exceptionally difficult to grieve in a pandemic. Many funerals did not happen. But God was always near.

Things started to re-open on May 11 (schools, for example, which don’t break for summer until July.) Our region was the least affected, and people cautiously celebrated (outdoors, of course). Mauricette came up and squeezed our kids like never before. We then enjoyed 5 blissful months of minimal restrictions. “We beat Covid” was the general attitude over here. We considered going to America, but, well, 31 hours through New York at double the normal price plus two weeks quarantine and risking our family’s health? Nope. God gave us a truly enjoyable French summer. Yes, we missed family and prayed for you all while exploring our new neighborhood and some beaches. Our region is more beautiful than we had thought! New and old friends joyfully helped us scout out these gorgeous places. The kids had good fun. We were incredibly grateful that each of our girls was able to celebrate their birthday with friends during this low-risk time. We counted our blessings and savored every moment. And we counted blackberries. They were everywhere!

A second lockdown from October 26– December 15 was much less strict and less effective than the first. This time, schools stayed open. Also open were people; we enjoyed how chatty our neighbors became. Online, there were four young adults seeking God and contacted our team individually. In faith, two of our colleagues met with them virtually, and they launched a Bible Study. They are still studying the Word together regularly, and one of them, Robin, placed his faith in Christ! Some have started coming to church. Keep praying for Robin, Sofia, Vincent, and Nolwenn. It’s so cool what God has begun and continues to grow this year!

"We had a rainbow slinky, but it lost its slink."

Lydia

turned 7 and is plowing through the second grade. Reading is still her favorite hobby, but she also loves "going on adventures," swimming, biking, and picking tomatoes over Zoom with Grandpa. But most of the time, she’s reading. Currently Lydia is nearing the end of the Bible, which she started about 18 months ago. She mis-pronounces many Biblical names, but don’t we all? We are just thrilled and inspired that God’s given her such an appetite for his Word. We keep praying over these kids, and God keeps blessing. School is going very well, though this year had some unique hurdles, of course. We had moved in June, which makes getting to school so much easier. It’s a two minute walk. There’s no problem for the girls to come home for a two-hour lunch each day. We love that!


"Every day I'm going to water the barbecue because I want the barbecue to grow." Rachel talking about the rhubarb.

Rachel

turned 5 this year, and she’s always got something interesting to say. The girl can tell quite a story, but the fun part is guessing if it’s real or not! Rachel doesn’t shy away from a spiritual conversation. She asked one of Lydia’s friends, "Do you know God?" which started a neat dialogue in our dining room. She asks Mauricette often, "Is Papy Milo with God?" And she certainly asks us about anything on her mind. She’s decided never to move away from us. Rachel definitely loves the new house. We thank God for this space daily. She prefers the yard to our old balcony. Don’t we all? When there aren’t raspberries or cherries to pick, Rachel is a pro at making up games. It usually involves water, dirt, and her sisters. They are messy, happy, and blessed!


"I WANT to love it!" yells Tessa while watching her cupcakes bake

Tessa

turned 2 this year. She loves jumping, licking faces, and eating off the floor, so we call her the family pet. But seriously, she’s delightful. If anyone gets hurt, she’ll hustle to their side and offer a hug or an ice pack. In February, she finally started sleeping through the night. We are all so grateful to her and God! Next September, she’ll be 3, and she’ll be required to start school. She’s had much less French language exposure than normal, but not to worry: she already calls it "her school."


Trent: "I have a surprise for you." Lydia, unenthused: "Is it chores?"

Trent

and his team quickly shifted gears this spring as all of our ministries went virtual. Conferences that would have required physical labor turned into live-streamed events with multiple simultaneous feeds. Trent’s team is used to working across distances and time zones, so we pitched in to help our field ministries. We hosted conferences and prayer gatherings for multiple ministries outside of our organization as well. Students from 60 different cities joined one prayer night event. Thousands of people are visiting our sites every month to discover who God is and how they can connect with him and the church. What a blessing to see the body of Christ come together in these times!


"Momma, I am sorry for rubbing my cheese on the window." Rachel

Tara

enjoyed this year: savoring lockdown’s quality time with kids, connecting with God while picking fruit, hosting surprize zoom parties for her parents, going on a 3-day trip with a friend (we gazed over the Atlantic and waved at you), getting a cancer-free result after her father’s surgery, and testing "positive" for pregnancy! She just hit 13 weeks and is feeling a little better. She and Trent have been filling the roles of parents, teachers, church community, extended family, and friends for our kids during much of this year. Since Tara was ill for over a month, Trent and Lydia were doing it all. God is faithfully getting us through and even helping us savor the moments in all their chaotic glory.


Maybe you are like us, trying hard to count all the blessings around you. But God reminds us that honest lamentations are acceptable, too. We are getting more comfortable bringing to the Lord our envy, fears, entitlement, and even disappointment in him. How is your walk with Him today? We pray for you what we are learning ourselves (Proverbs 21:2) : how to let God search our hearts. Now is a great time to do it! And if you need a friend to chat with, we are here. We aren’t going anywhere for a while!

God is with you this CHRISTmas,
Love, Trent, Tara, Lydia, Rachel, Tessa and baby

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John 3:16

God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.