GD: Hello and welcome, Alan. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
AD: Wotcher Guy. I'm a Rhondda boy, Rhondda born and Rhondda bred. I grew up in the 60s and 70s. Studied Biology at Aberystwyth, where I became a Christian and first became aware of a call to Christian ministry. I am married to Pat and we have two children; Gwilym and Catrin.
GD: Your blog is called "Les Daveys de France". Please explain.
AD: We are the Daveys and we have been in France since Autumn 2005. There are other Daveys in France but we have had no complaints so far.
GD: So, why do you blog?
AD: Really the blog aims to reach the parts a prayer letter cannot reach - so it talks about the everyday little challenges and encouragements, and gives people an insight into what it means to us to come and serve in France.
AD: Being contacted by new people, some of whom sense a call to Christian work in France, too. That's by far the best thing. And when people have visited our church because of the blog I dance for joy.
AD: Woah! Loads! I think there's a danger of moaning, of ranting, of the blog being your outlet for all that. Again the potential for gossip is enormous. And time wasting. (Have you seen Facebook? It's like a hoover for time.) But I think the worst thing is the temptation to try to appear clever or funny. Pride and egoism and all that.
AD: I did the Evangelical Movement of Wales Theological Training Course (The Bryntirion Course). It was taught by the LTS men, but part time over four years. It suited me because it enabled me to continue being a deacon in the church I belonged to at the time.
GD: What is the most important lesson that you learned from your studies?
AD: That God is good and works out his great and glorious plan in the short lives of little people who love him.
AD: The best thing is to ask them. Pat's blog is called pat-in-france.blogspot.com, and Gwilym has france.blogspot.com. I think they're OK with it, and Pat soon tells me if I spend too much time on the computer.
Then when we went on honeymoon to Spain (my first time ever on the continent) we saw how needy the country really is. We also found that it is possible to learn a language and speak to people and be understood.
Over time these two threads (praying for God to send, and being personally aware of the need) grew to the point where I became convinced that God wanted us to go and work in France. We had lost all our parents. Nobody was any more free to go and serve overseas than we were. Our kids were still at the right age.
The elders of the church were supportive and not surprised, though one had thought we would head for Spain. The church took a little more time to think it through. We came in 2005 and left the church in the loving and capable hands of Martin Downes. (Thank you heavenly Father!)
GD: We Brits are notoriously bad at learning foreign tongues. Why should we bother when English is the nearest thing to a world language? Had you long forgotten your schoolboy French, so that you had to more or less learn the language from scratch? If so, do you now feel comfortable ministering in the language?
AD: I didn't do a language in school to O level. We had to choose between Latin and Physics. I was good at Latin but I needed Physics to be a doctor (don't ask!). We had to choose between Welsh and French. Welsh was taught quite well at my school, but French was a disaster - nevertheless I chose French then dropped it one year later. Nobody passed their O level French first time. Then just before coming here I did A level French in our Deeside Consortium sixth form college. I feel OK ministering in the language, though it's more like walking in wellies than in slippers...
GD: Say something in French.
AD: Quelque chose.
AD: Something. (Have I missed the point here?)
GD: Er, yes! Now, what is your biggest pulpit faux pas while ministering in French?
AD: Well I had a nice one this Sunday. I was preaching about Rahab and imagining what the people of Jericho might have said. My notes said "J'ai un bon verrou" (I have a good lock). My lips said " J'ai un bon verrue" (I have a good wart). I have since smacked them thoroughly and they promise to try harder in future.
GD: I hope you mean your notes rather than your congregation! How have your family coped with the move?
AD: Great. It has been really hard. REALLY HARD. But recently Gwilym said that he'd be sad if he had to go back to Britain now. And when things are hard you are more aware of God's help.
GD: Apart from language, what is the biggest cultural difference between the French and the Brits?
AD: Oh boy! I could write a book. [A short answer will do - GD] The biggest difference... I think it is almost a kind of epicurean/stoic thing. In France what matters is to have a personal project, to enjoy your food and your family and friends. In Britain it's more about your career and your home. That's very broad brush, but I think it's more or less the case. That and kissing the blokes at church, of course.
GD: Do you get the hiraeth (Welsh homesickness)? If so, what do you miss most about Wales?
AD: Yes. I miss the hymns, the roadsigns, the accents, the humour, the hills, the church, the North Wales churches, the ministers fellowship, the AECW, Banner of Truth Trust, my friends, Evangelical Times and Evangelicals Now, Christian bookshops, Chester Road West, BBC Radio 4, Borders bookshop.
AD: Bach: St Matthew Passion, Stravinsky: Dumbarton Oaks, Red Mountain Church: Streams of living water flow
AD: Geoff Thomas. First pastor. What can you say?
GD: Nothing, I am awestruck. Who has taught you most about preaching?
AD: Geoff Thomas. And Stuart Olyott. A heady mix ! If only I lived up to that...
AD: The unbelief and utter incomprehension of the masses in our countries. That feeds so many other things: our need for Christlikeness, our pressure to compromise, our need for revival, our call to evangelise, our need for clarity, the call for unity in truth, etc. etc.
AD: I have really enjoyed (re-)reading John Piper's Let the nations rejoice. Re-reading because I have read it before but in brackets because I read an old smaller edition. I am reading this with a student who hopes to devote his life to mission and it's been very helpful for me. It's a must read because it will help you put the evangelisation of the world at the center of your Christian life. I was enjoying Peter Leithart's A house for my name till we moved house and I haven't found it since.
AD: I enjoy Darby Gray because there's almost always something new to read. I enjoy Tim Challies because he gives a window on the Christian world in Canadia and the USA. I enjoy Barnsie Myerscough, the metrocalvinist, Jon Mackenzie and the Exiled Preacher because you get good-humoured theological reflection. I enjoy Downsie because he is so against heresy and he interviews the people that matter. And I enjoy Reformation 21 because they are all nuts. However, I am aware that most of these people are "Alan's mates"... what does that say, eh?