Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sister Clark & Sister Claire Bourt - Paris, France Temple
Monthly Branche Temple Trip

Once the Paris Temple had been dedicated, our Branch Council decided that they would like to have a monthly excursion to the Paris Temple.  For several months now the Branch has been successfully going to the Temple each month.  Some of our members are able to go for three to four days each time but for us that has seemed a bit much.  Instead we go just for one day and that works very well for one of our members, Sister Claire Bourt, who also finds it difficult to go for more than a day at a time.  The three of us generally go together in our car.

We start out about 5:30 AM in hopes of arriving in time for the first session which begins at 10:00 AM.  So far we have not been able to make the first session due to various reasons.  This past Tuesday we spent five and half hours going.  While the traffic around Paris is generally horrible, this week we ran into manifestations on the auto routes.  It seems that a group of vendors who traditionally have Christmas booths or stalls on the Champs Elysees in Paris were upset with the city's decision to discontinue this practice.   Thus, they parked many large semi trucks across the main auto routes around Paris.  We we lucky enough to experience their dissatisfaction by passing considerable time getting through the mess created.  On the bright side.....we traveled back home in a mere three hours.

Still, we enjoyed our few hours at the Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints which is located in the Paris suburb of Le Chesnay.  We found pleasure in doing Initiatory work and an Endowment session.  What a wonderful place and what a privilege to do work for our own family members in this beautiful House of the Lord!  We are grateful to be able to visit the temple each month and receive the blessings of peace, hope and security it brings.   One does not need to spend days at the Temple to feel the Spirit of the Lord - - - just being there a short time does the trick.

Coq Girouette - Eglise Notre-Dame de l'Assomption - Porcheresse, Belgium
 Coq of the Week

This week's coq was found during a trip into the Ardennes Forest and Mountains running down a referral that had requested a Book of Mormon in English.   The referral was not found but we were able to leave two Books of Mormon in the very quaint village of Our, Belgium.  We hope that they will be read and lead someone to want to know more.

Anyway, our coq was located atop the steeple of the Church Notre Dame de l'Assomption in Porcheresse, Belgium.  He is a golden coq which otherwise displays the same characteristics as all his brothers and cousins.  Each one of them reminds us of our need to remain every vigilante and faithful.

Stained Glass Nativity of Christ's Birth

The humble shepherds visit to the baby Jesus is depicted in our nativity for this week.  A little more modern and expressionist than many of the nativity scenes we have found, yet still conveys the importance of the Savior's birth.  We are grateful for such reminders as we try to feel the true Spirit of the Christmas Season.  What a great and wonderful blessing that our Savior Jesus Christ was willing to take upon himself a temporal body so as to fulfill the will of His Father and provide each of us the opportunity to live again in their presence.  We pray you fell the Spirit of Christ during this season and throughout the year.
Stained Glass Nativity - Eglise Saint-Remy - Charbogne, France

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Faithful Members

We introduced Soeur Kate Schuiling a few months ago but we wanted to take the opportunity to give an update on an important event in her life.  She has her boat!  For most of the time we have known Sister Schuiling she has been working towards the goal of living on a boat of her very own.  She sold her home ten months ago and searched for the right boat and opportunity for several months.  She found her dream home is disrepair in the Pays Bas/Netherlands and entered into a contract to have it rebuilt to suit her needs and desires.  While there were several delays along the way, the work progressed.

Now she is living the dream!  Below is a picture of Sister Schuiling on her boat which is harbored in the Namur, Belgium area in a town named Jambes.  She is very proud of her home and says she has everything she needs - though we note that she keeps a garage nearby with many of her things stored in it.   While she is happy, we sense she is still adjusting to the life style.  She pointed out that she keeps a pair of mens shoes on the deck just where one would board the boat - she explained that she wants any uninvited person to get the impression that a man is on board.  I suppose it will take a little time for her to feel totally secure living on her boat.  I suggest that she put a mans bicycle next to the woman bike that is parked next to the shoes.  She named the boat Adventure.

It is a little disconcerting to be homeless but, we do not suppose to buy a boat to live on when we return home in a few months. 
Sister Kate Shuiling - Adventure - Jambes, Belgium
Sister Schuiling invited us to come see her new home and to be present for its consecration.  That was a privilege for us but we were also rewarded for our effort in another way.

As a young missionary, we had heard of a legend.  Fifty years ago every Franco-Belge missionary knew of Brother Marcel Kahn, a Jewish convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints who helped produce a more accurate and current translation of the Book of Mormon into French.  While most of us knew of Brother Kahn not that many of us had ever met him.  Well, it turns out that Sister Schuiling has known Brother Kahn for a few years and she had invited him to consecrate her boat as her home.  Brother Marcel Kahn is pictured below with his second wife.
Marcel Kahn and Wife - Jambes, Belgium
It was a pleasure to meet Brother Kahn after all these years.  We are not sure what we expected but Brother Kahn was rather reserved and conservative.  Of course he is now eighty-one years old and has a much different life.  His wife is a very nice person and intelligent - both she and Brother Kahn speak English rather well.

We had the misfortune of mis-speaking at one point; thinking that Mrs. Kahn was a member of the Church.  She made it clear that she was not and that she had no intention of every becoming one.  She explained that she enjoyed the advantages of pursuing intellectual and philosophical thoughts without inhibition.  Inferring that being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints would not allow her to do so.  However; the thing she said that gave us the greatest cause for reflection was that she found herself more tolerant than members of the Church.  Tolerance of others is a good thing certainly.......something we should also be as members of the Lord's Church.

Then in Sacrament Meeting this morning, we again had cause to think of tolerance and how we were doing in that regard.  Sister Karine Dapremont was emotional and crying during a good part of our meeting.  After, we approached her asking if we could be of help.  She said she did not think so and explained her problem.  It seems she was rejected by a woman in her village with whom she had hoped to become friends.  The rejection was seemingly based on intolerance of Sister Dapremont's religious beliefs.  Karine explained how much it hurt to be rejected and left out of activities with this person and others in her village.  It seems this is not the first experience Karine has had with rejection because of her religion.  This helps us understand our need to be more tolerant and accepting of others.  We wondered if in Utah, non-members might be feeling those same sentiments as Sister Dapremont.  We are more determined to make a real effort to be tolerant to all.
Marcel Kahn, Mrs Kahn, Soeur Schuiling, Sister Clark
Coq of the Week

Another week, another coq.  Hope you are not tired and bored with coqs - we continue to find them interesting and inspiring.  This guy is found in Regniowez, France above the Eglise de la Sainte-Trinite.   Some might say he does not know whether he is coming or going - his tail does look a little like a second head and mouth.  We assure you that he does know the direction in which he is headed. A good reminder that we too must keep firmly in mind where we are headed.  Knowing where we are headed enables us to make a good effort to get there.  May we arrive at our Eternal Destiny as we keep our eye on our objective.  Perhaps we will find a few coqs there when we arrive.
Coq Girouette - Eglise de la Sainte-Trinte - Regniowez, France

The Spirit of Christ

Too soon or not......Christmas is coming!!  We pray that we all profoundly feel the Spirit of Christ during this upcoming Christmas Season.
Nativity - Stained Glass - Cathedral Notre Dame - Laon, France
We will post the Christmas Nativities we have found in various churches here in France/Belgium during the next few weeks.  The nativity scene is always inspiring and uplifting for us and we hope they might be for you also.  We are extremely grateful for the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ and his birth is a wonderful reminder of his life, teachings and sacrifice.  We are ever grateful for Him and feel blessed to be serving Him as full-time missionaries.

The Nativity presented here, in two parts, was found in the Cathedral in Laon, France.  Laon is a medieval city/village located between Charleville-Mezieres and Lille, France - about an hour Northeast of Paris.  The cathedral is renowned and interesting - many other important cathedrals in France were modeled after it - including Reims and Paris.

Above we have the baby Jesus in the stable with Mary and Joseph but no shepherds - the donkey and cow ever present.  It was a humble birth.  Below is Jesus grown a bit and welcoming the three wisemen.  The scriptures teach that Christ was no longer a newborn when the wisemen arrived.  There exist a translated document (name of the book slips my mind) of an ancient record dating back to Adam that explains the story of the wisemen.  That record explains that Christ taught the wisemen when they visited him.  I like the nativity depicted below as it seems that the Christ Child might be doing just that.

We hope that, during the next several weeks, our Nativities will add to your Christmas Spirit.
Nativity - Stained Glass - Cathedral Notre Dame - Laon, France

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Branch Halloween Tradition

One year ago we decided to include a promenade in the forest as part of our Fall Halloween Party.  It has now become a branch tradition.  Granted, we have yet to have a large group or even the majority of our active members join us in this tradition, but it really has been a nice outing both of the years we have done it.  You have to remember that half of our active members are not capable of climbing hills and making their way through the trees of the forest. 

This year just five of us made the was a none member and the husband of our very faithful Sister Karine Dapremont.  Raphael Dapremont had broken his wrist earlier this week at work but was more than happy to be our guide.  We needed a guide as we were looking for mushrooms to pick and eat later.  Raphael was quite fast to warn us away from the harmful ones and good  to encourage us as we found those that are edible.  We did find a few good ones, but what an adventure discovering the great variety of vegetation growing in the Ardennes forest.
Raphael Dapremont, Laurent Biver, Isabelle Biver (back) and Karine Dapremont
Below is an example of what we enjoyed discovering while walking in the woods.  Many varieties of mushrooms and fungi growing in what is a very green and moist forest floor.  I suppose the forests floors here are a bit like those one would find in the Pacific Northwest of the United States; however, here we have mostly oak trees where in the Pacific Northwest there tends to be more pines.  It is interesting to note that many of the good mushrooms we found growing in the areas of pines and not so much the oaks.  It was a very enjoyable outing, though the temperatures were cool.
???Mushroom or Fungi - Ardennes Forest near Neufmanil, France
After completing our promenade, we returned to our meeting hall to enjoy food and fun.  We had a concours de soupe which was very welcomed after our visit to the forest.  Sister Clark's cream of mushroom soup took first place.  We can never figure out whether the members really like American dishes or whether they just like to be kind to us.  We shared a nice meal and had games afterwards.
Charleville-Mezieres Branche Fall Halloween Party
While we had just eighteen total in attendance, we were very pleased that seven of them were friends of the Church.  Robert Biver, father of our member Lauren Biver came as did the husband and two children of member Karine Dapremont.   Beauty Imhangby, our only remaining Nigerian member, brought four friends (including a baby) to the party.  Our social activities, such as the Fall Halloween Party, usually enable us to enjoy the company of one or more of our less-active members - so it was with this event.   Small but rewarding!
Charleville-Mezieres Branche Fall Halloween Party
 Happy Halloween!!!

Below is my addition to Halloween.   One foggy morning last week we found this nice spider on her web and could not pass up the photo opportunity.  It is not often that we have found just the right amount of moisture on the web so that it shows up well in a photo.  HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!
Spider and Web - Charleville-Mezieres, France
 Coq of the Week

This week we have a nice coq we found atop the Church Saint-George in Day, France.  He is not one of your fancier coqs but rather simple and plain.  In todays world we find simple and plain rather unusual.  In that sense, he really is unique and we like him because he is.  

While not the most prosperous coq on the walk, he does the same job as his fancier and more prosperous cousins.  His lack of the fancy and wealth causes him no concern and he is focuses only on doing the job he was put there to do.  Oh, that we could learn to do the same - remain steadfast, constant, reliable and faithful by avoiding the distractions of the world.  May each of us find our way back home to our Eternal Father as we faithfully avoid the distractions of this world.  It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by his restored church - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints - that we find the hope to do so.

Coq Girouette - Eglise Saint-George - Day, France

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Visitors to our Branch

A little more than two weeks ago Brother and Sister Dampt had their daughter Murielle Frank and her twin, nearly-eight year old, daughters Zoe and Mya come from Utah to visit them for three weeks.  It has been a pleasure to get to know them.  Sister Clark enjoyed doing bricolage/crafts with the girls at their grandparents home and here in our apartment.  Can't pass up a chance to speak English now that the young Elders have left Charleville-Mezieres.
May, Murielle and Zoe Frank - Charleville-Mezieres, France
Of course we also took advantage of Murielle and had her speak in Sacrament meeting a couple of weeks ago.  Her talk helped us understand the importance of the messages we receive in General Conference from our Church authorities.

While Murielle and the girls have enjoyed their time in France, it has also been a little difficult for them.  Murielle's mother,Sister Dampt, is very fragile and broke one rib last Sunday afternoon when simply picking up a very small great-grandchild and then on Tuesday afternoon she broke another when trying to get herself up out of a chair.  Sister Dampt is in great pain and has found it impossible to to much in the way of hosting guests.  Murielle and girls will leave this Wednesday morning with the problems of their mother/grandmother weighing on their mind.

Coq of the Week

The Lille France Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints had it semi-annual conference yesterday and today in Lille.  We took advantage of our trip to the conference by leaving a little early Saturday so as to visit Laon, France on the way.  Laon is a medieval city sitting upon a hill that rises well above the surrounding forest and fields.  On our way we discovered our coq of the week in Montage, France atop the church Saint Jean-Baptiste.  Needless to say, he was very unique - he was missing his head!

Who knows how he lost his head - that can happen to any of us.  Remarkably, though he has lost his head, he still goes faithfully on with life and his assigned duties.  Sure, he is a bit handicapped in ways but he continues to be diligent, constant and faithful.  One might say he is persevering very well.   A good example for us!.......may we carry on and get over those times when we loose our heads.
Coq Girouette - Eglise Saint Jean-Baptiste - Montaigu, France
On the flip side of coq girouettes is the new guy on the job we found in Cerfontaine, France high up the steeple of the Church Saint-Pierre.  While he might be new on the job, he (as one can easily see) has a good sense of direction.  He appears well suited to the job and will surely prove to follow closely in the footsteps of his older brothers and cousins.  Years from now, passers-by will certainly stop to take note of how he has seasoned and weathered well.  May we likewise season and weather well as we remain faithful to our Savior Jesus Christ.  Then, like the coq, may we receive our reward in Heaven.
Coq Girouette - Eglise Saint-Pierre - Carfontaine, France

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Temple Sealing of Friends from Lyon

While in Lyon from 2013-15 we had the opportunity to make new friends with the members, fellow missionaries and friends of the Church we met during our service as missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. We have cherished those friendships and hope to always.

One family that we became rather attached to was the Crocq family.  Our bishop asked us to take them under our wing and see what help we could be to them.  We visited them weekly and did what we could for this couple and their three young boys.  While we were of some help we were able to do little to solve the real problem and the couple ended up in divorce not long after our departure.  The positive result from our effort is the friendships we made in the process.  We love them all; brother, sister and their children.

While at the Paris Temple Open House a few months ago we encountered Sister Capucine Crocq and her new husband (Patrick Vieillard) who are now members of the Toulouse, France Ward.  That was a sweet experience for us.

A few weeks ago Sister Capucine texted and asked if we would attend the sealing of herself to Patrick in the Paris Temple on October 11, 2017.  We were excited to accept her invitation and were further blessed with the possibility of delaying our Branch's monthly temple excursion one week so that it would coincide with the sealing.
Capucine & Patrick Vieillard - Temple Sealing - Paris France Temple
It was a privilege for us to participate in the Vieillard's sealing and be reminded of the importance of our own sealing in the Oakland, California Temple many years ago.  What a blessing it is to have the Priesthood of God restored to the earth that Saving Ordinances can be performed and bound in Heaven as well as here upon earth!  The restored Gospel as found only in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints provides us the opportunity to return to live with Heavenly Father as family units for Eternity!  That truly is something!!

After the sealing we understood even more the importance of being there.  Not just the reminder of important ordinances and opportunities but to be a support to and witness of an important event in the life of a Sister we love.  The picture below is the entire company of those attending the sealing - Patrick's brother and sister and ourselves.  It was important that we be there and we are grateful we were!  There are times when we must just ask ourselves; if not us, who?
Vieillard Sealing - October 11, 2017 - Paris France Temple
Visitors Always Welcome

It is always a great pleasure to have visitors in our small Charleville-Mezieres Branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  When we have a visitor or two we see our ranks swell and clearly feel the spiritual strength they add.  A few weeks ago Adeline Bouillon, a daughter of Paulette and Michel Dampt (Branch members) was again welcomed as a visitor and on the same Sunday we were pleased to have Melina Warden with us.  

Adeline we have introduced before - she is the Relief Society President in her Ward in Chambery, France.  Melina, a BYU student, was passing through Charleville-Mezieres on her way to Syria where she planned to study Arabic.  We are grateful that members of the Church, who find themselves away from home and in our city, chose to attend Sabbath Day meetings for they strengthen us greatly.
Adeline Bouillon and Melina Warden - Visitors - Charleville-Mezieres Branch

Coq of the Week

There are an extremely large variety of coqs to be found throughout this part of France.  Yet, at the same time there are one or two that seem to be replicated with some frequency.  We find ourselves much less interested in those that are more commonly found.  Sometime we have to force ourselves to take their photograph - and then we do it just to document the find.  Isn't it wonderful to know people who are different from us?  They make life more interesting, exciting and rewarding.

We are thrilled when we run across the very unusual.  After saying that, the coqs we have for this week are somewhere in between the common and the thrilling.   Yet these two are also unique and have a personality of their own.  The first is unusual mostly in the tail and was found atop the Eglise de la Sainte-Trinite in Regniowez, Belgium.
Coq Girouette - Eglise de la Sainte-Trinite - Regniowez, Belgium
The second, while in a style of some of the more common coqs - meaning seemingly molded - is still unique in his own way.  A little interest par tout; the tail high and more detailed, the body with defined wings and the head.  We leave you to define his physical personality.  He stands atop the steeple of the Eglise Saint-Thibault in Neuville-Day, France.

While physical appearances and personalities of our coqs vary greatly, their significance does not.  We appreciate what has become a symbol of patience, constance, dependability and faithfulness.  We hope to retain the coq as a reminder of how we should live our lives - long after our departure from France.  We hope the coq will serve to help us find the motivation we need to closely follow the Savior.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Charleville-Mezieres Says Good-bye

Tragedy struck Charleville-Mezieres!   Yes, our young missionaries were withdrawn from our small Branch that had become rather unresponsive to the missionary effort.  As our Mission President Sorensen explained, he has a responsibility to use his resources wisely as he fulfills his responsibility to build the Kingdom.

Missionary resources are truly more scarce in France these days - the number of young missionaries sent to France continues to decline and Senior Couples are few and far between.  We were not the only small branch to lose the young missionaries, but it still hurts.  We are down to five Senior Couples in the entire France Paris Mission now - two are in the Mission office.
Elders Hunter & Crane - leaving Charleville-Mezieres, France
Elders Hunter and Crane caught the 7:10AM train for Paris on Wednesday the 27th of September, 2017.  We certainly miss them as we find ourselves a little more isolated from things and people American and as we no longer have benefit of their good work.  It was always comforting to know there were two kind and service oriented young me we could turn to should we ever need help.  Also comforting and most helpful with the administration of the Branch as they took care of the Sacrament each Sunday, visited and taught members and spoke in meeting often.  We love the young missionaries, especially those we have come to know so well.  We miss them!

Elders Hunter & Crane - leaving Charleville-Mezieres, France
We find it interesting that in September of 1969; while serving as Zone Leader in Charleroi, Belgium, we helped load missionaries and their belongings into a VW bus and transported them to open Charleville-Mezieres to missionary work for the first time.  Then, in September of 2017, we loaded missionaries and their luggage into our car to transport them to the railway station as we closed Charleville-Mezieres to full-time missionary proselyting for the foreseeable future.  

Our members are very concerned that the next step will be to close Charleville-Mezieres as a unit of the Church when Sister Clark and I leave in nine months.  We are not sure how founded their concerns are but the reality is that the possibility exists.  This has been a bit of a distraction for our few faithful members.  In any case we will be saddened to leave when we do.

Premiere Event of the City of Charleville-Mezieres

One of the more remarkable aspects of the small city of Charleville-Mezieres is found in the prolific schedule of events the city undertakes for it's citizens.  We have shared some in the past and others include the Beer Festival, Soup Festival, Saint Nicolas, Marche de Noel, Nuit Blanche, etc.  There is always an event taking place here in town, but the premiere event of all only takes place every other or every third year  -  that is the Festival Mondial des Marionettes.  Charleville-Mezieres is the self proclaimed (perhaps otherwise proclaimed also) world capital of Marionette Theater.  We have a giant marionette and theater, we have a marionnette institute/school, we have the only building especially constructed for marionnette performances and a museum full of marionettes.  Charleville-Mezieres is the world capital of marionette theater and to prove it we hold the Festival Mondial des Marionettes.

We have to is a big deal!!!  For a full week the city is full of foreigners - some here to perform their marionette shows and others to see them.  The streets and places in the central part of town become extremely crowded with street performers and on-lookers.  In addition there are many in-building performances - many for free but still requiring a ticket in order to control the crowd and other more spectacular events for which one must pay and entry fee.

Publicity - Festival Mondial des Theatres de Marionnettes

One is able to see just about anything marionette in the streets.  Some are interesting and some not so much so.  Performers come from all over Europe, South America, Asia and we even encountered a group from Vermont in the United States.  By the way, the show from the United States was not one of the better ones we saw - in fact, in our opinion it was in effect a protestation against many of the great problems people find in the world today - climate issues, war, crime, etc.   It was just out of place and not that well done nor fitting.
Argentine Performer - using a Human as Marionette
One of the acts we found rather entertaining was a gal from Argentina who uses a variety of marionette media.  Above she is using a man from the audience as her marionette and below she is using a large doll-like prop.  She was extremely funny, especially for Sister Clark......perhaps her use of some English and American music did the trick.
Argentine Performer - using Doll-like Prop as Marionette
There were several acts in the street where the marionettes were playing instruments and/or singing musical numbers.  Below is a picture of a man and women manipulating a marionette pianist and vocalist.  The detail of their stage and props were outstanding.
Street Performers - Pianist & Vocalist Marionettes
Many of the street performances were very appropriate for younger children and these seemed to draw large crowds.  It was fun to see large numbers of young kids seated on the ground interacting with the marionettes.  Below is a picture of a marionette cat as it plays with the kids.  It was uplifting to see the wholesome nature of some of the performances and to see how much the children enjoyed them.  Many large numbers of children on school field trips came to performances throughout the week.
Marionette Cat interacting with Children
There were several performances on the spooky or dark side.  Most of these we found less entertaining.  Below is Eduard rising from his grave.  A little morbid at times but still drawing large crowds.
Eduard the Marionette Rising from his Grave
We caught an interesting Spanish (the puppeteer) man performing near the Charleville Theater.  Interesting what they can get these marionettes to do - even the Elvis moves.  This marionette (below) was an Entertainer who sang and danced on his make-shift stage.
Spanish Performer - The Entertainer
Below is a picture of a man and wife show (only the man for the instant) interacting with the young children.  The kids wanted to get a little more hands on sometimes than the puppeteers would have preferred; however, they handled those occasions skillfully.  One has to think that on a day in and day out basis some of these performances depend heavily on the interest of children.  We enjoyed these performances as well as any we saw.
Man and Wife Marionette Act Entertaining Children
Near the post office we found a marionette that intrigued us.  We first saw this cat between acts and at rest.  It was the great number of strings and joints to be manipulated that first caught our attention.  We went back later to watch a performance - pictured below.   This cat was extremely life-like in its movements and behaviors.  While we found it all interesting, we had difficulty sticking with an act to its end - once we had ten minutes to appreciate the skill of the performer we found it rather repetitive and moved on in search of another.
Marionette Cat - Very Life-like
Below is one of the first performances we saw......a marionette playing base.  The marionnettiste was extremely skilled in manipulating the marionette to the tune of classical music.  Enjoyable!

All of the street performers depended on the generosity of the crowd - hats were passed into which many coins were tossed.  The performances were generally worth paying for.
Marionette Playing Base
Below is one we never figured out because it was a night performance we never saw.  Still, an intriguing part of the festival - certainly must have been interesting?  We watched as it took several days to put this head up - heavy still structure underneath which then had to be skinned and painted.
Festival Mondial des Theatres de Marionnettes???
And yes, the vendors of everything marionette were out in force and a part of the festivities.  For the most part, the vendors reminded us of a troop of gypsies.  There were some very interesting things for sale all the same.  Yes, we broke down and got some simple marionettes for the grandchildren.
Vendors were Included in the Festival Mondial des Theatres de Marionnettes
Maubeuge, France Revisited

A few weeks ago, as a diversion on a trip to Stake Meetings in Lille, we took the opportunity to visit another of the cities in which Elder Clark worked as a young missionary.  This time it was Maubeuge, France where we spent time in the Spring and Summer of 1969.

Maubeuge was nearly completely burnt to the ground in 1944 as the Germany armies of World War II retreated back into Germany.  Evidence of a re-built city is found in the picture below where the architecture is much more modern but less interesting than most French cities.  Maubeuge is another small French city that seemingly has fallen on hard times and appears somewhat neglected and less than prosperous.

While the Branch was very small back in 1969, there was one, which is more than one can say today.  The Branch was closed years ago and there are no missionaries working in Maubeuge today. 
Maubeuge, France - Commercial Area
We have been rather disappointed by what we have found in returning to some cities we knew 50 years it was with Maubeuge.  And then to find that one really did not know the city when one was living there is also an interesting experience.
Street Where Missionaries Lived in 1969 - Maubeuge, France
In 1969 the principal church in Maubeuge was still in ruins from WWII bombardments and, as it was one of the few specifics we remembered about Maubeuge, we were anxious to see what had been done to rebuild it.  For ugly!!  It appears they tore down the ancient structure and put up a monstrosity in its place - very disappointed with what we found - pictured below.
Rebuilt Church Saint Pierre Saint Paul in Maubeuge, France 
We don't recall the Chapelle des Soeurs Noires from our time in Maubeuge, but here it is pictured below.  We share this only to make the point that there is not much to see in Maubeuge these days - this was one of the few tourist sites promoted by the Office of Tourism.
Chapelle des Soeurs Noires - Maubeuge, France
We were able to see things in Maubeuge that we had no memory of, even though they were very close to the apartment in which we lived.  We had no recollection that Maubeuge had been fortified, but here you go - fortifications just a few blocks from where we lived.  Some of this area has been turned into a zoo.
Fortifications near Porte de Mons - Maubeuge, France
Nor did we have any memory of a river running through the center of Maubeuge - again just a couple of blocks from where we lived.  These things must not have been important to young missionaries or otherwise one would have retained some recollection........No?
La Sambre River - Maubeuge, France
Coq of the Week

One thing has become clear during the past two months - the coq is more reliable and diligent than are we.   While we took a break from blogging, the coq never vacations - he is constant, ever dependable and faithful.  The coqs we encounter are very inspiring and great reminders of how we must become in our efforts to complete this mortal life successfully.  We hope to stand as firm and persevering as our coqs.

We share two coqs that we found not only inspiring but also very interesting.   The first we have shown before but who was adorned with birds - the coq we presented as "some coqs are for the birds".    He really is one of the more majestic coqs we have found.  He sits atop the Eglise Saint Nicholas in Rethel, France.
Coq Girouette - Eglise Saint Nicholas - Rethel, France
Our second coq hails from Coulommes, France and is perched above the Elise Saint Pierre.  This one has the feeling of being combative and proud - we like his uniqueness.   Regardless of his temperament, he does the job faithfully and reliably.  So it is for each of us.
Coq Girouette - Eglise Saint Pierre - Coulommes, France

Sunday, July 16, 2017

La Famille Ihout - Visiting from Paris - Charleville-Mezieres, France
 Faithful Members

This morning on our way to church we were thinking that our usual small congregation would be even smaller.  The Biver family - three of our dozen active members - is on vacation and would not be attending and our Nigerian Sister Beauty had started work and would on occasion miss meetings.

However; we were blessed to welcome the Ihout family from the Paris area who were visiting Charleville-Meziers for the weekend.  The Ihouts were in Charleville to work on a family property that needed some care.  This morning when they woke up they had no specific plans for the day but, the young daughter asked if they should not be going to Church.  Thus they came.

The Ihouts had been here before but not for a couple of years.  The Dampts and others knew the Ihouts and warmly welcomed them.  We were grateful that they were comfortable in our Branch and that they would participate freely in the Sunday School discussion and offer prayers.  It was a blessing to have them with us - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints truly is a big family.

The Stork Family - Haudrecy, France
 Stork Update

This past week we again visited our Cigogne Family which lives nearby.  We had the feeling, after last weeks experience seeing the more aggressive young stork fly, that perhaps all the young storks might be flying by now.
Then There Were Three - Storks - Haudrecy, France
It took a while, but after some period of observation - with only the four young storks on the nest - things began to happen.  An adult stork circled and flew in low and landed in a field some distance from the nest.  After a couple of minutes, one could hear the beak clacking of the adult.  All this time the young storks attentively looked in the direction of the adult (whom we could not see).  After some fidgeting around, the more aggressive stork jumped and flew from the nest.  Then there were three.
Then There Were Two - Storks - Haudrecy, France
 After just a couple of minutes, the second young stork jumped and flew from the nest.  Then there were two.
Then There Was One - Storks - Haudrecy, France
Just a minute or two later the third of the young storks jumped and flew from the nest.  Then there was one.

And One Remaind All Alone - Storks - Haudrecy, France
The last of the young storks seemed more timid and a bit smaller than the other three.  It was obvious that she (we like to see this stork as the little sister) was very hesitant and fearful as she remained alone in the nest for a long time.  She stayed though the adult and siblings did their beak clacking thing from time to time to encourage her.

We began to discuss how she would not survive if she could not get up the courage to fly from the nest.  The adult stork was no longer bringing food to the nest.  It was obviously a difficult decision for her to make but eventually she too jumped and flew from the nest.  And then, there were none.

Then There Were None - Storks - Haudrecy, France
 With the nest empty all the young had flown from their nest and they began the processes of learning to feed themselves.  The adult stork lead them about as they searched for food in the field nearby.  We did not stay to watch them return to the nest but hope to yet experience that.

Today in Sacrament Meeting our theme was Kindness and as there was a few minutes left at the end of the meeting, we took the opportunity to introduce the Cigogne Family to our members.

We told them about a family we had met three months ago.  They are French, they live in Haudrecy, there are four young (about the same size and appearance) living with their parents. We visit this family regularly each week.  We have witnessed the great kindness they have for each other and they have greatly impressed us.  We asked; "are you acquainted with the Cigogne Family?"

One could see that nearly every member was very interested and anxious to know more about the family we had come to know - one that they did not.  It was not until we explained that this family lived in a nest and were learning to fly that they realized of what we were speaking.

We shared the kindness of this family that we had observed over the weeks.  First, a week ago when the first young stork flew, all of the young storks instantly congratulated their sibling upon his (surely it was a male who flew first) return to the nest - they put their heads together, raised their beaks in the air and clacked simultaneously.  We found that interesting and touching.

Second, this week before the four young storks flew, the bit smaller and more timid stork remained low in the nest while the other three actively preened in preparation for flight.  We began to notice that the three more active storks began to preen the smaller one - each taking a turn to do a bit of the work.  Storks preen before flying and it seemed that the three siblings were helping and encouraging the smaller sibling to fly.  They must have known that it would be hard for her to take the leap of faith and leave the nest.  They showed understanding and kindness towards their more timid sibling.  We like to believe that there was a great clacking of beaks as the last of the young storks landed and joined her family in the field.

The instinctive kindness of the storks is a great example to us!  We pray that we may be  more instinctive and ready to act with immediate kindness to those we encounter.  Kindness without qualification.  We believe that we came to this earth with such an instinct and that we learn, over time, to act otherwise.  We pray that the Spirit of Christ might enable us to take advantage of every opportunity for kindness.  We have much work to do to overcome our self-centeredness but hope to make progress.  May we each make Christlike kindness one of our virtues.  

Empty Nest - All Have Flown - Haudrecy, France
 Coq of the Week

Voila, this weeks coq.  Native to Manhuelles, France and dwelling atop the Eglise de l'Assomption de-la-Vierge.  What can we say - another coq, surely different with its own character.  Constant, reliable and faithful.
Coq Girouette - Eglise de l'Assomption de-la-Vierge - Manhuelles, France