Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Ardennes Forest - Charleville-Mezieres Branche
 Promenade dans la Foret

Saturday the 29th of October we enjoyed a walk in the Ardennes Forest as a Branch.  We did this as part of our celebration of Halloween.  It was a wonderful Autumn afternoon to enjoy the beauties of nature and each others company.  The forest was very peaceful and full of little surprises, though we were hoping for a much larger one - a wild boar or sanglier.

Because of the higher humidity here is this part of the world, the forests are a little different than what we are used to in the Rocky Mountains of the United States.  They tend to be a bit greener with a large variety of plants growing on the forest floor.  Below are a couple of pictures of what we discovered.   The french members on the hike tended to call them all mushrooms; however, I am certain they each have their specific scientific names.  Anyway, you can see a little of what we enjoyed.

Mushroom?? - Ardennes Forest
Mushroom/Fungus/ on Tree - Ardennes Forest
Growth on Ardennes Forest Floor

Karine & Deborah Dapremont - Charleville-Mezieres Branche
Faithful Branche Members

Karine Dapremont has been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for approximately one year now.   Sister Dapremont is married and has five children - she is pictured above with her 15 year old daughter Deborah.  While Sister Dapremont is the only member of her family, her youngest (4 years) child Cynthia often attends meetings with here.  On Saturday the 29th of October we enjoyed the blessing of getting to know another of her children; her 15 year old daughter Deborah came with her and Cynthia to our Halloween Soiree.

Karine is very faithful and has a strong testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  She bears testimony of how the Gospel changes lives as she shares how it has helped her overcome depression and receive a "new life".   She currently serves as the only Counselor in the Branche Relief Society Presidency and is anxiously engaged in serving the members of the Branch.  She has become a strength to our Branche in a very short period of time.  The Dapremont family live in a smaller village about 20 minutes from Charleville-Mezieres.

This is our Star Rooster/Coq
 Coq of the Week

We love the coqs of Northern France!  One of the things we enjoy most about them is that none of them disturb our sleep.  We thought we would share our "Star Coq" and our "Coq with the Golden Crow" this week.  We have yet to find the same coq atop two different churches.....just like the barnyard.  They seem to be creatures of habit; not wandering far from home.
This Coq has a Golden Crow

Bluish & Grayish Buildings are Brother Gilquin's
Brother Lionel Gilquin's Home

Last week we introduced Brother Lionel Gilquin of the Charleville-Mezieres Branche of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  Since someone asked to see his home, which is a great work in progress, we thought to share a picture or two.

Brother Gilquin received the Aaronic Priesthood last week and today he blessed the Sacrament for the first time and gave his tithes and offerings for the first time.  It is a great blessing to have an additional Priesthood holder in our Branche.  We are grateful for Brother Gilquin and are pleased to help him progress himself and his home.
Living Room (to be) - Lionel's Home
Covered Patio (to be) - Lionel's Home

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Revin, France - Meuse River
 Meuse River Valley

The Meuse River along with the Ardennes Mountains and Forest are predominant features of this part of France and Belgium.  Within them are found many little gems of beauty - the villages.  We frequently cross the Meuse River as we travel through the Ardennes visiting our faithful members.  We recently fell upon the above view of Riven, France as we were returning home one late Autumn afternoon.  Since we found the view both inspiring and typical, we decided to share it with you.

Church Roosters Have Personality Too!
Church Roosters - Are Any Two Alike?
Church Coqs are Interesting.
Church Coqs Are Every Watchful.
And, Some Coqs are Simply For The Birds!
Girouette Coqs For Sister Kennard

As Raeburn Kennard felt Suzanne might appreciate my Girouette Coqs - Rooster Windvanes - I just had to share a few more.  Yes, the Girouette Coq, found atop most churches here in France and Southern Belgium, has become my photographic passion; at least for the time being.

Wallonie or the French speaking southern half of Belgium has a coq as its symbol/mascot.  Some of the above girouette cods reside in Wallonie.  While the Wallonie coq is a bit different in that it has a raised foot poised to strike or defend itself, it seems that all who speak french like the coq no matter what its posture.  I will try to share a Wallonie coq sometime in the future.

Brother Lionel Gilquin - Charleville Branch
Members of the Charleville Branch

Brother Gilquin joined the Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-Day Saintes in June of this year.  He received the Aaronic Priesthood today and was ordained to the office of Priest.  Like us all, brother Gilquin understands the challenges of living the Gospel in it's fullest and has a desire to serve the Lord.

Lionel lives in a small village about thirty minutes from Charleville where he owns a home or two that he is in the process of remodeling.  Lionel has legal custody of a cousin and formal custody of another man whom he met at his former Presbyterian church.  Both men in his custody are older and handicapped in many ways.  As one might understand, he has great compassion for others and is a great example of charity.

Brother Gilquin knew the Church for twenty some years before joining.   It was his interest in Food Storage that first brought his interest in the Church.  He has a large room dedicated to the foods he cans and dries himself and he has two large freezers for his frozen reserves.  He has made an environment for growing mushrooms out of another large freezer and is currently sustaining a growth lifecycle of grubs/insects for the production of fish.  Needless to say, Lionel has interesting ideas on how he can become completely self sufficient.  By his standards, many of us in the Church have Gospel principles that we do not fully put into practice.  He has caused me to rethink how I live the principles taught by the Gospel.

We enjoy helping Brother Gilquin with his home remodel project - a project that seemingly has no end and by my estimation will not see completion before Lionel goes they way of all flesh.  He has chosen to combine two homes he owns - these are very old homes in considerable distress - they are scary!  Anyway, we help but do not even think to see it finished when we leave France in twenty months.  Some doors were recently installed to keep some of the oncoming Winter cold out, one or two bedrooms are nearly complete and a nice kitchen is underway; however, this is just the tip of the three story iceberg.  Work is slow and difficult because everything is so old and needs to be redone and there is construction debris, furniture and who knows what everywhere.  Nevertheless, he will have a nice home once he gets a lot further along.  The electrical work looks great - brother Gilquin is an electrician!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Girouette Coq

Weathervanes, or perhaps more correctly named windvanes, appear very frequently in France; particularly atop church steeples.  In this part of France the coq or rooster is by far the prevalent character depicted on girouettes high above the streets.

Rooster Weather Vane
Symbolism of the Coq or Rooster

It is not easy to find two coqs alike, yet they most likely share a common symbolism.   Then again perhaps not..... for the French do not seem to agree on symbolism either.

Some refer to Mathew 26:34 in the New Testament; suggesting that, learning from Peter and the coq crowing, we remain vigilant in our witness of Jesus Christ.
Vigilance in Witnessing Jesus Christ
Reminder to Pray
Why a Girouette Coq?

Some put forth the idea that the coq awakens the world each morning with a call to remind us of the need to begin the new day with a prayer.

Others say that it is the chant of the coq that awakens us each new day to the fact that light has victory over darkness.

Still others contend that the coq symbolizes one who braves lightning to watch over the four cardinal directions - meaning the entire world.  For usually one finds bold indicators of North, South, East and West just underneath the coq. 
Light's Victory over Darkness
Symbol of France

Meanwhile, it is well know that the rooster has long been a major symbol of France itself.  It seems the Romans mixed up a couple of words and Gaul (predecessor of France) was close enough to rooster that Gaul and Rooster became interchangeable.

Who knows where the truth lies?  As for me, I think someone somewhere along the line liked the rooster enough that they made a coq windvane and put it on their church and with time others came to like it too and so they put one on their church.   After awhile every church in France came to have a coq.   Because they are so high up and difficult to reach, no one wants to make the effort to take their's down.  So now we have Girouette Coqs all over the place.
Watching Over the World

 Faithful Branch Members

Sister Isabelle Biver
Brother Laurent Biver
The largest family in the Carleville-Mezieres Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the Biver family.  It is pronounced nearly as we pronounce beaver in the United States.  This faithful family consistes of mother, father, a 30 year old son Emeric, a 26 year old daughter Florine and a 22 year old daughter Clara.  The Bivers have been members for more than 20 years.

Sister Biver now serves as the President of the Relief Society.  She enjoys photography and thus is considered the Branch photographer.  She has photos of nearly everything that happens in the Branch.  She enjoys time with her family, has an unusual sense of humor and is not that talkative.  

Brother Biver currently serves as the Branch Clerk.  He has served in many callings, including that of Branch President.  He works as a surgery nurse at a local private hospital.  He enjoys teaching with the missionaries and is excellent at fellowshipping all members.  He enjoys spending time with nature and is very proud of the Ardennes where there is ample opportunity to enjoy the beauties of nature.

While all three of their children have been living at home, they are beginning to brace themselves for life as empty nesters.  Their son Emeric recently left home for work in Bordeaux, France.  Their oldest daughter Florine is engaged to an American and hopes to have her US visa soon.  Clara the youngest is currently preparing for a mission.  Losing these three adult children will have a great impact on our little Branch and we too are trying to prepare ourselves for the Bivers becoming empty nesters!

The Bivers live in a typical older row type home in a small village about 20 minutes from Charleville-Mezieres.  They are very helpful in transporting other member of the Branch to meetings.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Paris East Zone (-6) - Charleville-Mezieres
Special Missionary Day

On Saturday, October 8, 2016 we had a special Missionary Day in Charleville-Mezieres where the Paris East Zone (our Zone) came together to help us find people to teach and bring unto Christ.  We had a total of 26 Sister and Elders in our small town - two Sisters were not able to make it as they remained in their own city for a baptism.

The day was rather successful as a number of new investigators were found.  Our own Elders began teaching a couple the very same night.  We are hopeful that the prayers, fasting and hard work of these fine missionaries brings forth fruit.  The Lille Stake Presidency had requested that the entire Stake fast for us on this day.  Many of the missionaries had miracles to share at the end of the day.

Not so important, but interesting is the fact that Sister Clark and I discovered connections with some of the missionaries who came.  Elder Bize is from Lyon where we were in the same Ward with his older brother.  Elder Chang is a good friend of Liam Eccles; a young man in our Home Ward in Highland, Utah.  Elder Larsen is the grandson of our Stake Patriarche in Highland, Utah.  We have known Patriarche Packard for years as he served as the first President of the San Diego Temple when we lived in Irvine, California.  Small World!!

Emmanuel - Nigerian Investigator
Nigerian Refugees in France

When we submitted our Missionary Recommendation papers we requested a calling to serve with refugees in Easter Europe.  We came to Charleville-Mezieres, France to find many refugees here.  We have been most successful teaching the Gospel to refugees from Nigeria.  We currently have two Nigerian members in our Branch and have had a couple who found it necessary to move elsewhere.  We also have three or four investigators who are taking the missionary lessons.

Emmanuel is one of our Nigerian investigators.  He has a baptismal date for the first week in December.  He and the others have a very difficult life here in France - yet, they want to be here as the alternatives at home in Nigeria are not so good.  They struggle to get asylum status from the French government  and often face the discouragement of being denied.  Their life is hard!

Sister Schuiling's Home (part with blue accents) - Mazee, Belgium

Members of the Church

Sister Schuiling is a very faithful member of the Church who currently serves as our only French Sunday School teacher.  She is currently single and has had and continues to have a very interesting life.

Sister Schuiling's home, pictured above, is rather typical of French homes.  They are very simple in many respects; however, we find a different spirit - calm and peaceful - in the homes of our members. Sister Schuiling has completely redone her home since purchasing it a year or two ago and it is simple in many aspects but also beautiful.  It very much reflects her independent and determined personality.

Sister Schuiling recently sold her home (above) and is planning on living on a boat on the Meuse River in the general area of Charleville.  She wants to be move supportive of the Branch and thus the primary reason for changing homes.  She currently drives one hour each direction to attend Sunday Meeting and week-day activities.

Sister Schuiling - doesn't like her picture taken

Sister Schuiling is of Netherland decent and currently lives in Belgium.  She has lived in various places around the world including Italy, Tahiti, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.  She was a Temple Worker for eight years at the Amsterdam Temple.  She often shares the many ways she sees the hand of the Lord in her life.

She has worked as a lawyer and for the Red Cross.  She is a qualified nature guide and is learning to navigate - a necessity for living on a peniche (barge-like boat that is common in the rivers and canals in France and other parts of Europe).  She spent several months in Greece working with refugees.  We very much enjoy her personality and sense of humor.  We are grateful to know Sister Schuiling and to be able to serve her as Home Teachers and friends.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Adekunie Abedayo (Stephen Lawrence) - Charleville Branch
Members of the Charleville-Mezieres Branch

We generally have from ten to 15 members who attend Sunday Meetings at the Charleville-Meziers Branch chapel.  Most of our members are French speaking; however we do have two active Nigerian members who speak English better than they speak French.  It is a bit difficult to communicate with our Nigerian members in English because they are most fluent in one of the hundreds of native Nigerian dialects.  Nevertheless, we provide Sunday School and Institute classes in English and interpret Sacrament Meetings for them.

Adekunie Abedayo or Stephen, as he likes to be called, was baptized about a year ago and holds the Aaronic Priesthood.  He is generally the one who passes our Sacrament each Sunday.  He is fighting to become a legal resident of France as he is seeking asylum here.  Stephen is the calmest of our highly active and boisterous Nigerian members and investigators.

Beauty Imhagbe - Charleville Branch
Beauty Imhagbe is also Nigerian and has been a member for approximately one year.  She is a legal resident of France but is finding it frustrating to find work here.  She is very happy on the outside but has many concerns about life and wants to work to make hers better.  She often brings two of her Nigerian girl friends with her to weekly Family Home Evening, Integration Activities, French Classes, Institute and Sunday Meetings.

Beauty enjoys cooking and sharing her Nigerian dishes with us.  Nigerians eat very differently than do Americans and French and we often find it a challenge to indulge in what she brings to share with us.  Nigerian food is rather spicy hot and contains ingredients Americans are not accustomed to eating.  

Rene & Claire Bourt
 Claire Bourt has been a member of the Church for over 20 years.  She worked as a Court Recorder here in France but is now retired and spends her time taking care of her husband and serving in the Church.  She is currently our Priesthood/Relief Society instructor - yes, we hold Priesthood and Relief Society meeting together.  She is also the Secretary in the Relief Society presidency.  She cleans our building every week.

Rene Bourt was baptized two weeks ago but has been a friend of the Church for twenty years.  He now wonders why he put off being baptized for so long.  Claire says she thinks he was afraid of tithing.  He is very glad he is now a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and we often find he quite emotional during hymns and talks.  Rene is currently recovering from a broken leg and is living in a Assisted Living Home as he is beginning to suffer from dementia.

Michel & Paulette Dampt w/ daughter Adeline & Agate
Michel Damp was the Branch President for many years prior to the full-time missionaries returning to  Charleville-Meziers about two years ago.  The Branch would have likely closed and become a part of the Reims Ward if a Senior Couple would not have been assigned to work in Charleville-Meziers.  The Senior Couple first assigned here were the only missionaries for a few months before young Elders were assigned to labor here.

Michel is loved and very much respected by all the members in the Branch.  He has been completely blind for many years.  He loves to sing and has the hymns memorized as he does the scriptures and words of living prophets.  When you are around the Dampts and share spiritual messages, they quote scripture verbatim after just one or two words from your mouth.  Sometimes when we visit the Dampts, Sister Clark will play their piano while I do odds tasks or work in the garden, and the Dampts sing the hymns of the Church.  Brother Dampt currently serves as the only Counselor in the Branch Presidency.  He is a great counselor and we give him every opportunity to give us advice which we greatly value.

Paulette currently serves as the only person in the Branch Primary.  We only have one young child who attends Sunday meetings and she is a non-member.  One could say Sister Dampt is feisty but is as kind as can be.  She is totally devoted to caring for Brother Dampt and often says she is a bit brisk with him because she has no patience.  She willingly gives us chores to do - which is great because that makes us feel needed and helpful to them.  He is always up and going even though she has some serious health problems.  

We are concerned that the Dampst are able to continue to attend Church meetings because they live a half hour away from Charleville-Mezieres and Sister Dampt drives them to Church and back - though I suspect that she should not be doing so.  She can not drive at night and as Winter approaches we will not want her driving on snowy country roads.  If it happens that she can not drive, we will make the trip to bring them to Church each Sunday and we believe other members will also help with the driving when needed.

Adeline, the Dampts daughter pictured above with them at their home with her little girl Agate, is not a member of our Branch.  She lives in Chambery, France which is in the Lyon France Mission.  She visited for two months this Summer while her husband, who is in the French Special Forces, was serving away from home.  She actively looks after her parents as best she can and is busy serving as the Relief Society President in her Ward.

Meuse Argonne American Cemetery - near Verdun, France
War Passed Through These Parts of France Too Often

Northern France and Belgium suffered greatly during the two World Wars, which in large part took place in the areas we now serve as missionaries.   While the people of France suffered greatly, these grounds were also stained with the blood of the American soldiers who fought and died here.

There are remembrances of the World Wars scattered through out the Ardenne, Alsace and Lorraine regions that make up this part of France.  It is humbling to visit the major monuments erected in memory of those who died for the freedoms we each enjoy - whether we be American, French or Belge.   We find visiting the American Cemeteries the most moving of experiences.

Meuse Argonne American Cemetery - near Verdun, France
Meuse Argonne American Cemetery

The largest of the American Cemeteries in Europe is located near Verdun, France and is called the Meuse Argonne American Cemetery.  Meuse for the river Meuse and Argonne for the Argonne forest.  There are nearly 30,000 American dead buried here; including 21 sets of brothers and 9 Medal of Honor Recipients.  General John J. Pershing commanded the American First Army which defeated the German Army in a great battle which took place between the Meuse River and the Argonne forest in the Lorraine Department of France.  The battle commenced in late September 1918 and ended November 11 of the same year with the Armistice which became effective at 11AM on that morning.

The white crosses seemed to have no end!  We were very humbled while in this beautiful sacred and reverent place.  130.5 acres as the resting place and memorial to the Americans who fought and died here.

We are grateful for the opportunity that our assignment to inspect young missionary apartments gives us to visit such places.  We only wish we had more time to rest a bit in these hallowed places and soak up the spirit that seems to be there.  We are ever grateful that the Lord has blessed American with the absence of these World Wars in our country.  Being here in France often produces reminders of the great blessings we do enjoy every day of our lives.  We are grateful to be Americans and ever more grateful to be serving as representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ.