Sunday, November 27, 2016

Pigeonnier - Fortified Farm - Warcq, France
Ancient Fortified Farm

A couple of weeks ago we shared having visited an ancient fortified farm near Charleville while assisting a Nigerian refugee member of the Church.  We indicated that the above photo represented the remains of one of the four defense towers at the farm; however, this tower is actually the Pigeonnier for this farm.  A pigeonnier is a pigeon house, which are quite common in older chateaux and large farms in France.  In fact the Mission Home in Paris recently converted the old pigeonnier on that property to more usable space.  While we commonly consider pigeons to be pests, at one time pigeons were kept for their eggs and meat, for sport and for insect control.  Thanks to Raeburn Kennard for straightening us out on the purpose of this tower.

We revisited the fortified farm which is actually located in the village of Warcq, France, adjacent to Charleville Mezieres.  On the right side of the photo below one can see the remains of one of the actual fortified towers of this farm.  The tower was placed at the exact corner of the farm enclosure and we are told that similar towers existed at each of the other three corners of the farm enclosure.

Fortified Farm - Remains of Defense Tower on Right
Girouette Coq - Eglise Saint Brice - Tourteron, Fr

Coq of the Week

This weeks coq was found in Tourteron, France atop the steeple of the church Saint Brice.  We like to believe that he is watching and waiting for the Nativity of the Birth of Christ to be placed in the church.  Nativities should begin showing up in the churches this coming week - of course, without the  Christ Child.  He will not arrive until Christmas Eve - that is the tradition here in France - an empty creche until the birth date.
Nativity - Bell Tower Attic - Eglise Saint Remy - Haraucourt, Fr

Tis the Christmas Season

A few weeks ago we could not resist the open door to the bell tower of a small church in Haraucourt, France.  We will explore anywhere in a church that we are given the opportunity.  In climbing up the rickety stairs of the bell tower, we came to a storage room with not much in it except the very dusty pieces of an old nativity and some rusting chandeliers.   There is great doubt that this nativity will be put on public display this year - we suspect that the Eglise Saint Remy has a more modern and better kept nativity somewhere. 

We plan to dust off our nativity soon and pray that you do also.  While we have different ideas of the Savior and his birth, we do appreciate that each Catholic (and others) church does typically display a nice nativity this time of year.  For us, the nativity scene is a great reminder of the Spirit of Christ (mas).  We wish you a very special spiritual Christmas Season.  Yes, it has begun!
Nativity - Eglise Notre Dame - Metz, France
Stained Glass Nativity Scenes

Just thought we would share a couple of our stained glass nativity scenes to add to the Spirit of Christmas.  We love taking pictures of stained glass and, while in Lyon, we took way too many.  We have cut the picture taking back but always seek out the nativity scenes.  What a wondrous and important event for each of us.  

We are especially grateful for the Birth of the Savior and for the special opportunity Christmas affords us missionaries to witness that Christ is our Savior and Redeemer and invite all the world to come unto Him.
Nativity Stained Glass - Eglise Saint Pierre - Montcy Notre Dame, Fr
Nativity Stained Glass

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Girouette Coq - Villers-Semeuse, France
Coq of the Week

Monday on our way home from grocery shopping, we discovered the coq pictured above looking down upon us.  There are not many places to hide from the ever-vigilante coqs in this neck of the woods.  When I first saw him I thought he was a squirrel because of the fatter shape of the body and tail.  Again, it seems that no two are alike.
Elder Goutin - Lille, France
Small World of the Church

Yesterday (Saturday) Brother Biver and Elder Clark made a trip (7hours round trip) to the Stake Center in Lille, France to be instructed in our responsibilities as ambassadors for the Paris Temple.  Yes, we are very excited to soon have a Temple of our very own here in France.  The public open house is scheduled to begin April 22nd and run through May 13th, 2017.  We hope some of you might be able to attend this historic event.

The trip to Lille was not unique as all our Stake meetings are held there.  Almost every trip we make to Lille rewards us with the opportunity to encounter old friends and fellow missionaries from the France-Lyon Mission.  We have had the opportunity to spend a few minutes with Elders Goutin and Neville (pictured) as well as others including; Elder Gann and Elder Leterme (both of Arras, France).

Perhaps the most surprising encounter we have had thus far took place in Paris a couple of months ago - we feel badly that we forgot to share this earlier.  We were in the Paris subway at an extremely busy stop trying to find our way, when up walked Sister Obel.  We were so taken by surprise and being rather anxious to find our desired train that we did not think to get the camera out and get a picture.  We would not have recognized her had she not approached us.  She looked wonderful and was as full of energy and excitement as ever!  She happened to be in the subway on her way to a job interview.  Somehow that encounter made our day - we are so glad she remembered us and that she would make the effort to catch us.  It was a wonderful experience but just one of the many we have had with former Lyon missionaries.  We are very grateful for all the friends made while serving in Lyon, France.
Elder Neville - Arras, France
Sister Florine Biver - Charleville-Mezieres Branche
Faithful Members of the Church

Sister Florine is the second of three children and the oldest daughter of Brother and Sister Biver.  She is always happy and very enthusiastic, but the most noticeable thing about Florine is her near perfect English.  Important to Sister Clark and I who are still working on our not so perfect French.  Florine served a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Louisiana, USA.

Florine is 27 years old (birthday last week) and serves as the Music Coordinator and Activities Chairperson in our small Branche.  She is one of two young adults in our French speaking Institute Class - her younger sister is the other.  We also have two Nigerian members who attend English speaking Institute Class.  Florine is engaged to a member of the Church who lives in Louisiana and she is hopeful of receiving her US Visa before long as she is anxious to be married in the Temple.

Sister Florine has a wonderful testimony of the Gospel and is more than willing to teach friends of the Church with the missionaries in our Branche.  She is grateful for opportunities to spend a day in Charleville-Meziers shopping and visiting friends - - - she lives in a very small village, with her family, just over a half hour drive from Charleville, thus not too many young people her age there to associate with.  We don't know how we will replace Florine when she leaves for the US.  We are very grateful for her!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Girouette Coq - Chemery-sur-Bar, France
Girouette Coq of the Week

This rooster was found loitering atop an old Roman Church in the village of Chemeny-sur-Bar, France not far from Charleville-Mezieres.  We found him upon our return from a member service project.  While full of character, he seems to be a bit less boisterous than some of his neighboring brothers - he has his mouth shut, but then he has spurs - not always found on coqs in this neck of the woods.  The shut mouth combined with the spurs seems to indicate he is a coq of few words but inclined to action.  Maybe some of our politicians could learn from him.

Sanglier or Wild Boar - Ardennes, France
Sanglier Sighting near Le Chesney, France

While we saw two sanglier about three months ago on our way to the refugee camp in Dunkirk we were not able to get a photo as they disappeared into the wild before we could get out of the car. We have been very anxious to get a picture of a real wild boar or sanglier.  No great reason other than the challenge of doing so - the Wilsons, who were here in Charleville just before us, never saw a sanglier in the wild - so the challenge.

On our way home from visiting the Dampt family in Le Chesney, France this past Tuesday evening about 5:30 PM we encountered a real live wild sanglier.  After climbing the hill coming out of Le Chesney and leveling off we saw him running at full speed through the fields along side the road.  We were lucky because, though he was running at full speed, he was running parallel to the road.  Sanglier run in long bounding strides where all feet are off the ground.  We pulled over as he kept running.  I shouted to get his attention and sure enough he stopped and as Sister Clark called out;  "he is posing for a picture", I took several.  He was in focus but every time I clicked the shutter the camera lost focus and the pictures were too dark to see anything.  He did not pose long and took off running again - still parallel to the road.  We jumped in the car and pursued him for another kilometer or so.  Again, we jumped out of the car and took a photo or two, but again the focus failed and no good picture!  What a disaster!!!!  So the picture above is not one I took; I got it from the internet, but the sanglier is representative of the pictures I took.  I promise to share my very own photo of a sanglier when I take it.
Fortified Farm - near Charleville-Mezieres
Armistice Day -11 Novembre

This past Friday was a holiday in France - Armistice Day or perhaps more commonly called Onze Novembre (11th of November) by the french.  The signing of the Armistice or peace treaty that ended World War I was signed at a location less than thirty kilometers from Charleville-Meziers, at Sedan, France.  The offensive that culminated in the Armistice was lead by American Forces.

There are reminder everywhere, in this part of France and Belgium, of the great conflicts that took place here in Europe.  This part of the world has seemingly forever anticipated and seen armed conflict.  

This week, in a search for help with one of our Nigerian refugees, we were lead to a very compassionate and helpful women; Madame Sauvage.  I have to say she is one of the more interesting people I have met thus far in France.  She was very helpful in finding us attorneys and others willing to help refugees in trouble.  She is herself directly helping refugees and, at times, in a way that puts her at some risk.  We made sure to invite her to our Soiree Noel (Christmas Evening) at the Church.

Madame Sauvage lives on a very isolated farm near Charleville-Mezieres in a large home that was formerly a small chateau burnt by retreating German soldiers.  The main part of the farm consists of farm buildings which encircle a large inner courtyard.  This type of set up is rather typical for older farms here in France and Belgium.  The thing I found atypical was the fact that it was the remnants of a "fortified farm"; meaning it was built not only for farming but also for protection.  Before it's partial destruction; the farm buildings included four turret towers, one at each corner, which accommodated protection and the means of fighting off attackers.  While on ruins of the turret towers remain, the pigeonnier or pigeon house is still in relatively good condition - pictured below.  Farmers often anticipated conflict and tried to prepare for invasions.  This farm likely saw fighting during several wars.  Now that the conflicts are over, Madame Sauvage has a very peaceful and delightful place to live.
Pigeon House - Fortified Farm - near Charleville-Meziers
French Bunkers used in WW II

This bunker located in a field near Sedan, France is just another reminder of the major wars that took place here.  We took these picture upon a trip to visit a member who lives in the Sedan area.  Brother Gilquin was anxious to show this and a couple of smaller bunkers to us.

When we see all the monuments to those who gave their lives and the relics that remain from war, it is easy to understand why Armistice Day/Onze Novembre is such an important holiday in this part of the world.  Charleville-Mezieres was very quite on Friday, November 11 as the stores were closed and few people were found on the streets in downtown.
Gun Turret in French Bunker - near Sedan, France
This bunker near Sedan, France was intended as an extension of the Maginot Line which stopped just short of this area.  This particular bunker was located in a strategic location facing the Meuse River.  Unfortunately the Germans broke through the Maginot Line and approached this bunker from the rear - no gun emplacements faced in the direction of the German attack.  We know the story of how the Maginot Line failed its intended purpose - as a consequence so did this and many other bunkers like it.
French Bunker near Sedan, France
French WWI Cemetery near Verdun, France
L'Ossuaire de Douaumont

The Douaumont Ossuary near Verdun, France is one of the great monuments to those who gave their lives during WWI.  From August 1914 until the signing of the Armistice on November 11, 1918, the battlefield around Verdun, France saw not a single day without a bombardment.  By the end of the war the ground had become a chaotic desert, stripped of all vegetation, covered only by corpses torn to pieces and littered with human bones.  Only one third of the 360,00 french lives lost here were ever  identified.  Through small widows in the Ossuary one clearly sees the bones - arms, hips, sculls, legs, ribs - of the unidentified.  The cemetery is an amazing sight but even more amazing are the piles of bones contained in the Ossuary.  The destruction of war!!

Again, a good reminder of why Armistice Day/Onze November is so important to the people of France.  Thanks to our assignment to inspect young missionary apartments we are able to encounter such reminders of war and understand a little better the people we serve.
The Douaumont Ossuary - WWI - Argonne Forest near Verdun
Brother Herve Taillard - Charleville-Mezieres Branch
Members of the Charleville-Mezieres Branch

Brother Herve Taillard has been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for about four years now.  He is a friend of the Church and lives most of the commandments but we do not see him as often as we would like.

Herve is currently an unemployed electrician who lives within the limits of the City of Charleville-Mezieres.  We have the pleasure of seeing him on the streets from time to time, often snacking on a sack of bon-bons that he came to town to purchase.  Probably not the best thing as he is diabetic.  He also has other health problems and is currently walking with a crutch as he recently hurt one of his legs.

Brother Taillard enjoys attending our soirees where there is plenty of food, fun and good company.  He recently requested and interview and we had a nice long talk.  We are hopeful that Herve will frequent our Sunday meetings more consistently.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Girouette Coq of the Week
Girouette Coq of the Week

A couple of weeks ago we had to make an emergency apartment inspection in Metz, France and while there found the coq above on top of Le Temple Neuf.  He is bit unusual so we thought you might enjoy him too.  Of course, there is no usual coq - they each seem to be unique.

Sister Betty Guillaume - Charleville-Mezieres Branch
Faithful Members of the Church

Sister Betty Guillaume has been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for a year of so now.  She is single and lives with her very white cat named Whitie in an apartment in the outskirts of Charleville-Mezieres.  She speaks a little english, thus the name of her cat.  Sister Guillaume walks with a single crutch as she has a debilitating back problem.  She comes to church via bus when she is not able to get a ride from another member.  Sister Guillaume has a couple of sons but, unfortunately they very seldom visit her.  She is grateful for her Branch family.

As you might guess from the picture we took of her today, it is getting cold in Charleville-Mezieres and they tell us to expect a bit of snow this coming week.  It really seems to have turned cold rather rapidly!  We are not sure how Winter weather will affect the attendance at our Branch meetings but it will likely have some effect as none of the members live close to the church.  We will take pictures if it snows.

Le Vieux Moulin (The Old Mill) - Meuse River - Charleville
Village of L'Echelle, France - home to the Biver Family
Autumn is Here with the Feel of Winter in the Air

Le Vieux Moulin on the River Meuse in Charleville-Meziers is one of the more recognizable landmarks we have in town.  It now serves as Le Musee Rimbaud (The Rimbaud Museum).  Arthur Rimbaud, a French poet and writer, is considered to be the most well-know citizen (former now dead) of Charleville-Mezieres.  As a youth, Arthur's mother would lock him in the attic of the Moulin as punishment for his rambunctious behavior.  It is in the attic of Le Vieux Moulin that he is said to have gained his inspiration and passion for writing.

The Village of L'Echelle is about 25 minutes to the West of Charleville-Mezieres and is home to our largest member family - the Bivers.  L'Eschelle has a population of around 100 and has an old fortified church and small chateau.  A rather isolated place to live but the Bivers love there home where they have lived for some 25 years.

These two pictures are included in order to share a hint of what we see as Autumn approaches.  Overcast sky in the morning and evenings - sometimes all day - with often warmer afternoons.  The colors are not as vibrante as we see in some parts of the United States, but there is some color in the trees and shrubs.  Most nights seem to produce some measurable precipitation and on occasion we have Seattle type drizzly rain most of the day.  Still, the weather is not all that bad here and the humidity does not seem to bother us, perhaps because it is cooler than some of the more humid areas of the United States. 

Pictures also included because we think they display the beauty of the area in which we live.

Today it feels Winter and we are told to expect snow this coming week!  Seems a little early but forecasts call for the coldest Winter in the last 100 years.  Our timing is great but we are actually looking forward to a little snow.  We shall see how long that lasts.