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.

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