Long before we ever had any inkling about God’s plan for us in France, there was already a connection between the city of Châtellerault and my home province of New Brunswick. It caught me by surprise back in June 2009 and I thought I’d share it with you today.
Twinning – Bouctouche, NB
“Twinning” (“Jumelage” in French) is primarily a social agreement between cities, towns, regions, villages, etc., for the purpose of promoting cultural and sometimes economic ties. It is extremely common in Europe but, in my experience, less so in North America.
Back in 1984, however, a relationship was born between the city of Châtellerault (France) and the municipalities of Bouctouche and St. Antoine (New Brunswick, Canada). The formal language defining this relationship refers to a pacte d’amitié (a pact of friendship).
Back in 2010, when Bouctouche was celebrating it’s 225th anniversary, Mr. Jean-Claude GAILLARD, a Châtellerault municipal counselor with responsibilities for international relations, was appointed to represent the French city at festivities in the Kent County towns.
La Ferme Acadienne… near Châtellerault
The link between Châtellerault and the Acadians of Kent County is not just a new thing though. After the expulsion, many of them returned to France and settled in the area surrounding Châtellerault, where they were granted land to cultivate. It wasn’t the best land, and was quite wet, but early settlers dug ditches which allowed for drainage and gradually eeked out a living for themselves. Some 58 houses were originally built and a couple of them remain today to form what is called “La Ferme Acadienne” (watch a short presentation of it here or read a bit about it here).
So yes… the Acadian flag flies proudly, just outside of Châtellerault.
Bouctouche and St. Antoine were very familiar to me since my grandparents lived there in the early 1990’s and my parents moved there in the early 2000’s and we were out for a stroll in Bouctouche back in 2009, when I made the discovery.
Sitting on a small park at the end of the main bridge coming into downtown sits not much more than a parking area with a lovely closed-in gazebo (see photo) along with a rose-lined stairway leading down to water access; on the roof of the gazebo, the sign announcing that this, is “Place Châtellerault”. Today, it’s a spot for locals to come and shoot the breeze, discussing a bit of this and that, but the park also sits roughly where once stood the Irving Department Store.
For those familiar with the virtual Irving Empire in New Brunswick… there was once a little department store of typical 1970’s fare; one big open space with long lines of metal shelving just tall enough that a 7-10 year-old could barely see over them. What do I remember most? …the assembled seashell and tiny lobster-trap souvenirs, typical of most seaside communities of the day. Horribly tacky by 2014 standards, but “the coolest thing ever” for a young boy in the 70’s!
Why do I share this bit about the twinning of these three municipalities?
The Lord is subtle and does all things well.
Remember that although I’d been to Châtellerault as early as 2004 (in the context of graduate studies), it was in July of 2009 that I would go back there, for the first time, to teach in the Bible School. I discovered this just one month earlier, in June of 2009.
We were so far from France, yet here was a bit of Châtellerault staring me right in the face. It was familiar. It was a warm reminder which brought back memories of my time there in the previous years… to some extent, it was like getting a hug from an old friend.
Châtellerault is only twinned with 7 communities around the world (no others in North America) and one of them was right in my backyard, so to speak: here in little old New Brunswick, there was a connection to this city in France that I would one day inhabit and carry a burden for, although I didn’t know it in 2009.
It’s one of those things which, at the time didn’t mean a great deal, but, as I look back, is just one more link in the long chain of events that have brought us to this point.
Thank you for keeping aware of what the Lord is doing.
Let this knowledge feed your prayers!