When It Hurts

Having received two specific and directive words in the space of two weeks, we were reeling. God had called us. He’d been so kind, so clear, undeniably so. As we continued to process with the team around us and with our friends and family, it started to feel real, there was no escaping it and yet what unravelled became rather traumatic.

We began to count the cost, literally count it. We made lists; everything we had ever known, our hometown where the majority of our immediate family still live, our childhood friends, the home to so many of our ‘firsts’, the church we grew up in, the shops we knew, our favourite restaurants, oh, and our mother tongue.

We knew it was real, we knew it was going to get painful and we knew we just had to go and visit. Fortunately, this was all before the COVID-19 outbreak. We booked a long weekend in Paris at the end of February 2020, packed up the car, the kids and crossed the channel in a beautifully simple pre-Brexit fashion. We’d booked ourselves a little apartment just outside of the city and on the Saturday we headed into the centre, up and down the Eiffel Tower, in, out and under the Arc de Triomphe and walked around the 16th arrondissement (75016). We had ourselves a lovely meal; Italian pizzas, American burgers, Belgian beer, but Amy redeemed us with a large glass of Bordeaux.

We strolled back to the metro station, put the kids to bed and readied ourselves to meet everyone at Église Fireplace the following morning, or so we thought.

That night was one of the worst nights Amy has ever had.


To bring some sort of context, when we booked this trip (a few weeks before we left), I became quite ill. What seemed to start off as a cold, got progressively worse. By the time we came to leave for our trip to Paris I was feeling even worse. I remember saying in the car, if it wasn’t for our four excited children, I would’ve turned around to go home.

I ploughed through like most mothers do, but what followed in the early hours of Sunday morning was something we just weren’t prepared for. I woke up in the night with an extreme pain in my head; it felt like a ton of pressure and the room was spinning. I had run out of painkillers and the pain became unbearable. I would like to think of myself as having a good pain threshold, after going through four labours, three without any pain relief - I thought I had conquered it all. But this was too much, and I remember screaming for Joe to call an ambulance. For those of you who don’t know, trying to get an ambulance on a Sunday morning in Paris, without a French phone number, is near impossible – at least it was for us.

We made the difficult decision to head back to the UK a day early, missing our planned morning with Église Fireplace and lunch with the church leader Nathan, his wife Beki and their children. We shoved everything back in our cases, put the kids in the car and started the long and painful drive back to Dunkirk (Calais was full).

As we started to board the ferry, things got progressively worse and blood started pouring out of my ear. As soon as we parked, Joe ran to get medical help which thankfully was available onboard in the form of an A&E doctor and nurse who happened to be on our ferry – they bandaged my ear up and told us to get to the nearest hospital.

Two hours later, we arrived at Dover and drove to our local hospital where I was sent home with antibiotics, painkillers and an appointment at the end of the week. Things got worse at home and I ended up in an ambulance and spent the following week moving from one ward to another and one specialist to another as they tried to diagnose me.

It has taken about eight months of countless specialist referrals, consultant appointments, a CT scan and MRI, to come to the conclusion that the most plausible explanation is that I had a severe middle-ear infection which caused a perforation in my ear drum. The trauma and damage of which have caused a loss of smell and taste, mild deafness and tinnitus, none of which have yet resolved.

There have been many battles that we’ve fought in our lives and this continues to be one of them. That night in Paris was one full of physical pain, but also one where I was acutely aware that we have an enemy who is set on stealing, killing and destroying. The torment in my mind, the unbearable pain and the desire to end it all was so strong that night, looking back we see how the enemy was working, but we also know that God was with us, even when it didn’t feel like it, even when it felt as though our prayers had fallen on deaf ears, we knew, because we know that God was, is and always will be with us.

At the end of that traumatic week in February, I headed from my hopital bed to a dinner table with our church leadership team.  It was a table of love, laughter and lamb rogan josh, infused with questions and tough conversation as we processed our call to Paris.