Sunday, January 29, 2017

Villa Demoiselle - Pommery Champagne - Reims, France
Reims, France - Center of Champagne

This past week we had our District Meeting in Reims, France.  The city of Reims is large by comparison to Charleville-Mezieres but only has one companionship of missionaries assigned there - Sister Newell (father is the Spoken Word) and Sister Erasmus.  While in Reims for our District Meeting we took the opportunity to complete an inspection of the Sister's apartment. 

We discovered that just a block away from the Sister's apartment is one of the many champagne companies headquartered in Reims.  Reims is the seat of the Champagne Department of France and the center of champagne production.  Pommery Champagne likely has several brands, some of which many of us would recognize.  We did not take time for a tour of their facility but did take a couple of quick pictures - two included here.  We found the main buildings rather over-the-top but did enjoy the Villa Demoiselle.  I believe they market the Demoiselle or Moiselle brand of champagne, among others.  It seems obvious that making and selling champagne is a lucrative venture.   There are much grander facilities and brands than Pommery here in Reims.  Perhaps one day we will be able to share some photos of them.  

While champagne is extremely important in Reims, perhaps Reims greatest claim to fame is its cathedral.  It is not France's grandest but it is the cathedral where the coronation of the kings of France traditionally took place.  It is a good hour by direct train from Paris and would have been a significant voyage for the kings of France to have made in days gone past.  Why come to Reims when there are the great cathedrals and churches of Paris?  Perhaps it was to celebrate the coronation with easy access to the worlds best champagnes?!
Pommery Champagne - Headquarters - Reims, France
 Reims, France LDS Chapel

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has a nice chapel in Reims, France.  It is rather equal to most of the buildings we have in the United States.  There is a good sized Ward that meets here and the missionaries traditionally have good results in finding those ready to accept the Gospel.

While Reims is located a hour by car from Charleville-Mezieres, it is here that we come for our baptisms when it is not feasible to baptise in a lake located very near Charleville-Mezieres.  We also meet here at this chapel for every other of our weekly District Meetings.  While Reims is the closest of the Church units to Charleville-Meziers, it is not in our Stake.  Reims is part of the Paris East Stake and Charleville-Meziers is part of the Lille Stake.
LDS Chapel - Reims, France
Reims was part of the Franco-Belge mission when Elder Clark was here as a young missionary - 1967-9.  At that time there were no Stakes and very rarely a Ward.  As we recall, Reims was another of the rather small branches found in France at that time.  It is a great blessing for the members to be fortunate enough to enjoy a chapel - unfortunately there still are not that many here in France.
LDS Chapel - Reims, France
Coq of the Week

Everything Reims this week.  Yes, our coq of the week is from Reims.   He was located such that he could have been watching over the champagne production of Pommery.  We found him very close to the Sister's apartment while on our walk to the grocery store to purchase items for District Meeting lunch.  Perched atop the Eglise Saint Nicaise and larger (the coq) than most we have seen.   The church Saint Nicaise appears to be Greek Orthodox or something similar as it was not the traditional catholic church typically found here.  Made of flat iron, no open beak, definite eye and more detailed tail - another unique rooster.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Elder Burgoyne, Mussa, Elder Currie - Charleville-Mezieres Branche

Ami/Freind of the Church

About a week ago our young Elders began teaching a young man (Mussa) from Sudan and his friends.  Mussa is a refugee who has been here in France for about six months and is seeking asylum.  The Elders find him very open to the Gospel and are encouraged with his willingness to make an effort to understand the truth.  Mussa speaks pretty good English so Sister Clark has him in her Sunday School class.

Mussa committed to come to our Sunday meetings and so he did today for the first time.  He is a bit on the quiet side but is very respectful and courteous.  We are grateful that he came and we look forward to having in our French Class and Family Home Evening Activities on Wednesday evenings.  

The opportunities we are receiving to serve refugees is rather interesting.  While that was our desire for this Mission, it is not exactly as we had expected.  We feel blessed to have the opportunity to know these people and to serve them.  It makes our lives as missionaries all the more rewarding!
Mussa from Sudan - First attendance at Sacrament Meeting

 Coq of the Week

We found our Coq of the Week atop a village church in Marby, France on a cold but clear and sunny Winter day.  These coq don't seem to mind the cold but they really do perk up a bit when the sun shines.  For the most part they are like our faithful missionaries......diligent and obedient.  They are always at work and very obedient to the prevailing wind.

We appreciate the opportunity to encounter so many different coqs.  In this part of France and Belgium, the Ardennes, there are villages without end - or so it seems.  Many of these villages are just two or three miles apart. We are amazed that the Catholic Church could build so many significant buildings - even in the tiniest of villages.  Many of these small village churches don't appear to get much use and quite a few are in serious disrepair.  We get discouraged that just a very few can be entered and appreciated from the inside.

One has to imagine that at one time each of these small (some larger) churches had it's own priest and were well attended on a weekly basis.  Nowadays there a few priests and those that remain have to travel a circuit holding meetings from time to time in a number of different churches.  Hardly any of the small villages have a member of the clergy to watch over their people.    A rather sad reminder of what happens when the truth can not be found and faith dwindles.

Passing through the many villages and seeing their church coqs adds interest to our frequent trips to visit members who live throughout the Ardennes.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

First Snow in the Ardennes

This past week we had our first real snowfall of the year in the Ardennes.  While not much accumulated on the ground in Charleville, we had very heavy snowfall for brief periods of time this past Friday and Saturday.  The first real snow we have seen in France for many years - we had forgotten how it was in Northern France in the 60s after the two years in Lyon where we never got snow.

The weather was such that the Branch Conference we had scheduled for this past week-end in Charleville-Mezieres was cancelled by the Stake.  The cancellation rather amazed us as we are rather certain that one would not have done so in the United States.  We live in a different culture and mentality here in France.  After all was said and done, the weather was not so disagreeable this past week-end.  Nevertheless our conference was not held and we had to scramble to put our Sunday meetings back together.  We survived!
Rocroi, France - Fortified Médiéval City
A Missionary Referral

A missionary referral took us to the medival village of Rocroi, France this past Saturday.  We had noticed the road signs for Rocroi on several of our member visits but had never ventured there, though we wanted to.   So Wednesday the young Elders received a referral from a man who said he was interested in receiving a Book of Mormon and we were off to deliver the book on Saturday afternoon.  

While Rocroi is just 20 or some miles from Charleville and only a few hundred feet higher in elevation, we discovered much more snow than we had in Charleville.  Elder Burgoyne, from California, thought it was a Winter Wonderland - a few snowballs were thrown.

Rocroi is a rather small village that continues to be surrounded by fortifications.  It is denoted as an etoile (missing the accent marks)/starred village due to the star shape of it's fortifications.  It remains completely surrounded by the protective wall, has a definite center with a large plaza from which all the streets radiate out to the walls.  Due to it's smallness, everything inside the walls are very pronounced and distinct.  I had never seen such a village before.  Interesting enough to return in time of good weather.

The main purpose of the two snow scenes is simply to show you our first snowfall of the year.

Villers-Cernay, France - War Monument - Snowfall near Charleville-Mezieres
 Coq of the Week

Another interesting coq found atop the ancient Chapelle de Saulces-Monclin France.  Sauces-Monclin has another larger church with a not so interesting coq.  Two churches in such a small village was a surprise.

We might call this one "big mouth".  Upon first seeing him, we thought he had a regular size head and mouth with a spur on his chest but the more we think on it, the more we think he has a big mouth.  Such a big mouth made us contemplate the purposes a coq might serve.  We decided that calling the villagers to meetings is one of their purposes.  They are there to beckon all to mass ...... even before the bells begin their ringing.  The coq is there wether the bells ring or not.  Coqs are rather diligent fellows - few fail to fulfill their callings.  What a wonder!  Snow doesn't bother coqs in the least!
Coq Girouette - Chapelle - Saulces-Monclin, France
 Our Mission President

We spent some time in the presence of our Mission President and wife while at the Christmas Zone Conferences the week of Christmas.  We discovered that the sister of President Babin is the wife of the Presiding Bishop of the Church - Bishop Causse (accent on e).  The Babins will be released the end of June 2017 after three years of faithful service.  Not an easy job being a mission president!
Sister and President Babin - France Paris Mission

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Sacrament Meeting - 8 January, 2017 - Charleville-Mezieres Branche
 Small Branch of Charleville-Mezieres!

On Saturday, 7 December, 2017 we experienced an ice storm during the night and early morning of the following Sunday.  As a result, our small branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints became even smaller for a day.   We had just our young Elders - Currie and Burgonye and Sister Claire Bourt at Sunday meeting with us.  It reminded Elder Clark of his experience as a young missionary in Arras, France in 1969.  At that time we had one or no members attending Sunday meetings in the Arras Branch.  That little branch grew to be the largest local unit in the Lille Stake.  We have similar hope for the Charleville-Mezieres Branche.

Saturday evening and Sunday morning we began receiving calls and texts from various members saying the roads were too dangerous to attempt to come to church.  Even Soeur Bourt called Sunday morning to learn whether meetings would be held.  We told her that we would hold meetings even though it would be just missionaries in attendance.  We did not encourage her to come but suggested that it was a time to be very careful.  She said she would see how it was when it became time to leave for meetings but indicated she would likely not be there.  We were surprised to find her at the building soon after we arrived at 9AM.  She taught the Priesthood/Relief Society lesson and bore her testimony.  We were touched by her faithfulness in observing the Sabbath Day.

Soeur Bourt is the member who lives closest to our Meeting Hall, but still.  Most of our other active members live a half hour our more away in small villages and would have very narrow unserviced rural roads to travel.  Such roads are not adequately maintained in times like this to ensure safety.   One has to support the decisions they made - it was certainly a question of safety that kept them away.
Sister Clark, Sister Bourt, Elder Currie & Elder Burgoyne

Elders Go French

Our young Elders have been a bit miserable with the cold the last couple of weeks.  Elder Burgoyne comes from California and is certainly not used to cold weather.  One has to have a little pity for them!  Anyway, after DMB (Ward Missionary Council) at our apartment, we had a little discussion about the cold and how to stay warm.  Elder Clark explained that he liked the French beret for keeping his head warm.  The Elders were interested in that and asked to see Elder Clark's.  They thought the barets were great but Elder Clark was unwilling to give up his.  Now we have to see if there is somewhere in town where they can be purchased.  The Elders are pictured below wearing Elder Clark's berets.
Elder Currie & Elder Burgoyne go French!

Coq of the Week

This week's coq was found atop the church in the small village of Montcornet, France here near Charleville-Mezieres.  One of his unique features is his feet.  Not often do we find the coq with feet emphasized and toes included.  He may be on the younger side of the coqs we have seen as he does not appear too tarnished nor does he appear to have bullet holes as do many.  It also does not appear that the birds like him as well as they do many of the other coqs.  Perhaps it is the threat of the feet that keep the birds at bay!?  Anyway, we like coqs and find them interesting.
Coq Girouette - Eglise - Montcornet, France

Faithful Members

Just before Christmas this year, Brother Michel and Sister Paulette Dampt were blessed to have three of their children visit.  We have met four of their six children, of which three live here in France.  Three of their children are currently living in the United States.  One is the father of Elder Samuel Dampt who served with us in the Lyon France Mission.  Another is Myriam Carmen who currently lives in Oregon City, Oregon.

Myriam had not been able to visit her parents for nearly six years before coming just before Christmas this year.  It was a wonderful blessing for the Dampts to have three children with them, especially Myriam whom they had not seen for a long time.

Myriam is nearly as kind as her parents.  She agreed to speak in a Sacrament Meeting while she was here and we enjoyed her talk on how the Savior taught.  It was obvious to us that Sister Carmen has a strong testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that she very much appreciates her parents for raising her by Gospel standards.  

It was disappointing that Myriam could stay with her parents for only ten days and Brother Dampt continues to say that it just was not long enough.  It is a blessing to our Branch when faithful members of the Church come to strengthen us with their testimonies.  We will find a way to accommodate any of you that might have the idea of doing the same.
Myriam Carmen - Dampt's Daughter - Oregon City, Oregon

Sunday, January 1, 2017

LDS Chapel - Versailles, France
 LDS Chapel in Versailles, France

It is always interesting to visit the various chapels of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in France.  They vary in style and construction from building to building - much different than the standardized chapels found in the United States.  The chapel in Versailles, France is larger than most found in this part of the world and is placed in a nice neighborhood in Versailles.  The Versailles Ward is one of the largest in France.

As you can see in the pictures attached, this is basically a three story building that apparently provides plenty of space for the local Ward.  It is certain that this building will become even more important due to it's proximity to the Paris France Temple which will open in May 2017.  It is expected that many of the Temple Workers and temple patrons will attend Sunday meeting in this building.
LDS Chapel - Versailles, France
The Versailles Chapel is the most convenient church facility for the Paris Mission to hold their large Conferences.  Thus, our recent Christmas Zone Conferences were held here.  While this is a large building by French standards, as you can see in the picture below, the Chapel is still on the smaller side when compared to those in the United States.  
LDS Chapel - Versailles, France
 Elder Janda - Arras France Ward

While attending the Zone Christmas Conferences of the France Paris Mission in Versailles, we were able to met Elder Janda.  Elder Janda is from the Arras, France Ward and is awaiting his US visa so that he can serve a two-year mission in Gilbert, Arizona.

Elder Janda is the son of the second child of Nicole and Pierre Janda of Arras, France.  We were blessed to have be the instruments the Lord used to find and teach Elder Janda's grandparents.  Nicole Janda was baptized on Easter Day 1969 and Pierre followed her into the waters of baptism a couple of months later.  Nicole died of a heart attack about 10 years ago and Pierre is currently serving as a missionary in the London Temple with his new american wife Kaye.

It was the possibility of Eternal Families that first attracted the interest of Sister Janda to the missionary message.  At the time of her baptism, Sister Janda was the only active member in the Arras, France Branch.  She and Pierre were the foundation upon which the Arras Ward was built and much credit is attributed to them in building the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Northern France.

Elder Janda has an older brother who also served a two year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the United States.
Elder Janda - France Paris Mission - Paris, France
 Members of the Charleville-Mezieres Branch

Sister Fiona Santangelo is a mid-twenty year old member of the Charleville-Mezieres Branch.  She has a pleasing personality and enjoys spending time with the two other Young Single Adult sisters of our Branch.  While we don't see her too very often, she attended our recent Christmas Goutee de Noel and Sacrament Meeting on Christmas Day.  We are always glad to see her as well as friends she sometimes brings to meetings with her.

Fiona's mother and brother are also members of the Church and we are looking forward to meeting them one day.  The family lives in Nouzonville, France - a smaller town about 15 minutes from Charleville-Mezieres.  Fiona works here in town (Charleville-Mezieres).
Soeur Fiona Santangelo - Charleville-Mezieres Branch
Coq of the Week

This coq/rooster was found as we traveled with our daughter Elicia on our return home from the Lyon France Mission in June of 2015.  Rather than sitting atop a church, this rooster was found high above the Hotel de Ville in Lausanne, Switzerland.  Perhaps that is where Swiss coqs prefer to pass their time.  Nevertheless, he is interesting and unique but, perhaps not so religious.
Coq Girouette - Hotel de Ville - Lausanne, Switzerland