Sunday, February 26, 2017

Angel Girouette - Eglise Saint Maurille - Vouziers, France
 Angel Weathervane

Unfortunately, we do not have any new photographs of great interest to share this week - no new investigators, no additional members and no new visits to LDS Church sites or buildings.  Thus we share photos we would normally not - rare angel weathervane atop the Church Saint Maurille in Vouziers, France and the little royal man below.  However, that does not mean that nothing of interest took place in our lives.

We continue to spend considerable time searching for lost members - those that no one in the Branch remembers ever having met or having seen at a Church activity.  At times such work is found to be a bit discouraging as it becomes clear that some of our lost sheep really do not like being found.  This week's non-highlight was having a brother shut the door in our face while murmuring that he wanted nothing more to do with a capitalist American Church.   Such words serve as a strong reminder that we must remain true and faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, if we expect that it continue to shine brightly within us.   As we loose light, darkness will absorb us and gradually we will become unable to find any light at all.   We pray that each of our family and friends have the wisdom to recognize and welcome the Light of Christ.

We also had two very rewarding firsts occur at our Sacrament Meeting this morning.  First, we had two investigators, Madame Quinet and Peter, attend the same Sacrament meeting.  We have introduced both of them in earlier blogs.  We have been teaching Madame Quinet for over two months now - she is the young Elders' amie but we have been able to teach with them on a very regular basis.  Madame Quinet struggles with many aspects of the Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ and is not really making great progress.  She has accepted the invitation to read the Book of Mormon but does so with a very critical eye.  We are likely more direct and aggressive with her than the Elders like but they continue to invite us to teach with them, so we continue to be direct and aggressive with Madame Quinet.  In getting in the elevator last night, after having a very difficult teaching experience, we simply said "we will see you tomorrow - at church".   She was taken by surprise and had little to say as the elevator doors closed.  The young Elders indicated that they did not think she would ever attend a Sacrament Meeting.  She was there this morning, but we sense that she came simply to fulfill a long overdue engagement she had made to attend a meeting.  No, her attendance does not really raise our expectations that she will progress miraculously - rather it might just be her keeping a promise before it all ends.  Such a kind women but such a closed mind!  Peter gives us hope and has become regular at attending our weekly and Sunday activities and meetings.  We hope he will come unto the Savior and be baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Second, we had a young Aaronic Priesthood holder assist in the administration of the Sacrament for the first time since we have been here.   Brother and Sister Dampt have three of their grandchildren (children of their son Yanick) from Bordeaux, France with them for a week while the children have a school vacation.   The older grandson is a Deacon and he passed the Sacrament.  We really could use a couple of Aaronic Priesthood aged young people in our Branch.  It was a refreshing experience!

In addition, we said goodbye to one of our active members today.  That was a sad and difficult experience.  Florine Biver (introduced in an earlier post) will leave Wednesday for the United States where she will be married in May and then live.  She has been a great help with our Sacrament Meeting music - selecting and leading the hymns.  She has also been responsible for our weekly Family Home Evenings and Fellowshipping activities.  As a returned missionary, she was a wonderful Sacrament speaker.  How will we ever be able to replace her?  Ce n'est pas evident! (It is not that easy!)  Interesting how gaining one new member seems to add a lot to our Branch but loosing one strong active member seems to take so much more away.  Florine will eventually live in Louisiana.  We will greatly miss her here in Charleville-Mezieres.
Exterior Wall - Eglise Saint Come et Saint Damien - Noirval, France
 Something Interesting

We have no idea as to the significance of the little royal person we found built into the exterior wall of the church Saint Come et Saint Damien in the very small village of Noirval, France.   Perhaps sharing him with you will motivate us to discover his meaning or perhaps you might help us with that discovery.  We have generally found that there is some real significance to church items like this.  We found him both different and interesting - thus, we share him with you.
Coq Girouette - Eglise de la Decollation de Saint Jean Baptiste - Belleville et Chatillon sur Bar, France
Coq of the Week

Don't you agree that this one is grand?   Shape, comb, tail, body - we appreciate it all!  The patina is nice too and not too much evidence that the birds visit often.  He is a proud one in stature but still humbly patient, constant and faithful.   We should each receive the bounties of life with such humility.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Peter - Investigator - Charleville-Mezieres
Friends of the Church

Abekunie Abedayo (Stephen) one of our Nigerian members made a new friend (Peter) recently and began bringing him to our activities and Church meetings.  Stephen is a willing missionary and has introduced several of his friends to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints - a couple have joined the Church as a consequence.  While Stephen lives a very difficult life himself and continues to face the real possibility of deportation, he is not hesitant to reach out to others and share the gospel which has become very important to him.  He knows the blessings of the gospel and desires that his fellow countrymen receive likewise.

Peter has only been in France for two months and faces the common challenges of a refugee.  He speaks English better than most of our Nigerian friends and is very polite and good natured.  He is a fashion/clothes designer by trade and is currently looking to acquire a sewing machine so he can become productive here in France.  One never knows whether his quest for asylum will be successful or not but we are hopeful that he will be successful in finding that which is most important in this life - the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We look forward to teaching him and getting to know him better.
Cathédrale Notre Dame - Reims, France
Cathédrale  Notre Dame de Reims

A couple of weeks ago we mentioned the Cathédrale de Notre Dame in Reims, France as being the place that French kings had been coronated rather frequently.   In response, we received a post asking if this were not the cathédrale that was known for having some beautiful stained glass windows.  This caused us to look back in our photographs to find the stained glass windows of the cathédrale at Reims, just to discover that we had none.  

While we have visited Reims on many occasions - baptisms, District Meetings, Doctor Visits - we had never really visited the cathédrale.  Yes, we had frequently seen it from a distance and on at least one occasion had gone up to it, but it appears we never took the time to venture in.

This past week, while at District Meeting in Reims, we finally visited the Cathédrale  Notre Dame and took a few pictures.  We were mostly interested in finding the rose stained glass windows and in the process found it to be one of the more ornate, beautiful and grand cathédrales of France.   There are wonderful reminders of its function as a place to coronate kings - they are numerous both inside and out.   This fact makes it an interesting place to visit.

One is lead to compare the coronation function of this cathédrale with the work that is done in the Temples of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  While only a select few wealthy aristocrates of royal families were ever crowned king of France, each faithful member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has the promise of becoming kings or queens through work done in the Temple.  While those few who received French kingdoms only ruled for a few years, those who are faithful to their Temple covenants will  rule for eternity.  While the coronation of a French king had much to do with publicly announcing who was master and who was subject, the covenants of the Temple provide personal instruction regarding righteous subjection to our Heavenly King. 

Make no mistake, the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Reims is a beautiful building in many ways.  However, there is no comparison to the simple beauty of a Latter-Day Saint Temple nor to the importance of the work done in the Temples.  The members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints anxiously await the opportunity to attend the Paris Temple and enter into covenants that make it possible for them to be crowned kings and queens in the Eternal Kingdom.   Having one LDS Temple in Paris is much more significant than all the cathédrales of France. 

In part, the beauty of the Reims Cathédrale is reflected in it's stained glass windows.   We have included photos of the main rose windows as an example.   We understand they might be a little difficult to appreciate in these photos - one must really seen them in person to full appreciate them.
Stained Glass - South Transept - Cathédrale Notre Dame - Reims, France
Stained Glass - "Dormition & Assumption de Marie" - Cathédrale Notre Dame - Reims, France
 Unfortunately many of the windows in the Reims Cathédrale, as well as most other cathédrales have so much to do with the Virgin Mary and Catholic Saints.  The windows which present the story of the creation and the life of Jesus Christ are always more interesting to us...... and somehow more beautiful.
Stained Glass - "Qualities of Virgin Marie" - Cathédrale Notre Dame - Reims, France
Stained Glass - North Transept - "La Création" - Cathédrale Notre Dame - Reims, France
 Coq of the Week

This week's coq was found high above the church in Wasigny - a small village in the French Ardennes.   We find that it is impossible to visit the iinterior of most smaller churches in France as they are seldom if ever open.   On the other hand, the coq is always there welcoming visitors.   Who else will do the job........priests are hard to come by these days.......good thing the coqs are more constant.

Many churches are in great disrepair these days.....much more so than fifty years ago.  We enjoy documenting the village churches and their coqs and we do so with the thought that a visitor fifty years from now might not find many to visit.  When the churchs are gone so will be the coqs.  We take pictures while we can and enjoy it while we do.  This coq seems to be contemplating his future.
Coq Girouette - Church - Wasigny, France

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sister Schnaus, Emanuella, Morayo, Mayan & Sister Bennett - St. Quentin,  France
 Friends of the Church

This past Thursday we made a two hour trip to St. Quentin, France for the purposes of inspecting the two young missionary apartments there.  There are two teams of missionaries in St. Quentin - one Elders (Larsen and Gunn) and one Sisters (Bennett and Schnaus).

After inspecting the two apartments - Sister very good but Elders less so -  the Sisters requested that we take them by car to teach an investigator who lives in a village just over 30 kilometers from St. Quentin.  They also invited us to teach their investigator with them.  It was a wonderful experience!

Their investigator, Morayo, is a mother of two young girls ages 5 (Emanuella) and 2 (Mayan).  Particularly interesting to us is the fact that Morayo is a Nigerian refugee who has been in France for only four months.  Interesting because we too have Nigerian members and investigators in the Charleville-Mezieres Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints who are also refugees. Morayo and her two children are pictured above with the Sister Missionaries.

Morayo has a baptismal date of the 18th of February and she seems to have a very good grasp and testimony of the Gospel.  She absorbs and understands everything she is taught.  She has a wonderful smile and is extremely kind.  This in light of the very difficult life she has chosen by coming to France with hope of a better life for herself and her children.  She has left a husband behind and we are unsure of his status.  We suppose one would have to live their lives to understand how they can make such difficult decisions.   We know that there is much political unrest and uncertainty in Nigeria and that many Nigerians do not feel safe in their own country.

We are grateful that we were able to meet Morayo and her girls.  We are also grateful for the examples of the Nigerian members in our own Branch.  They have great courage and determination as they look for a better life.  It is extremely rewarding to see some of them come unto the Savior by accepting to be baptized into his restored Church.

Coq Girouette - Basilique de Saint Quentin - St Quentin, France
Coq of the Week

Our coq of the Week also comes from St. Quentin France where we found him atop the Basilique Saint Quentin.  Like many others we have discovered, this coq is also unique in many ways.  One thing that stuck us about him is that he appears to be more prosperous than most of our coqs.  When we look at him in an enlarged photo, he appears to be guilted in gold.  While the photo above may not show it, when observed through a 20X magnification he has that luster and richness of real gold.  Perhaps he sports a higher quality coat in order to protect him from the harsher elements of his environment or perhaps a Basilique coq simply deserves a more royal treatment.  Lucky have been assigned to labor at the Basilique.

Though he might receive some special treatment, he is not spoiled.  He is as diligent and constant as any coq we have found.   Nothing of his prosperity has gone to his head; he is as faithful, reliable and watchful as any coq we know of.   A good example for we who enjoy great prosperity in our lives.  May we, with our prosperity; remain true, faithful and ever devoted to the great cause of Jesus Christ and his restored Gospel.   That we, like the coq, may be elevated on high.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Brent & Lisa Bethers Family + Uncle Chris
 Lincoln Bethers Baptism

We missed another baptism!  Cooper Bethers,  pictured above  (center) with his family, was baptized while we were missionaries in Lyon France.  Now, his younger brother Lincoln was baptized on Saturday, February 4th while were are serving here in the Paris France Mission.  We would have very much liked to have shared this important day with Lincoln, but it appears he enjoyed the special event without us.  He looks very happy in each of the photos we received!

One of the difficult aspects of full-time missionary service in a foreign land is missing the important events in the lives of our five grandchildren.  We love each of our grandchildren very much and miss being with them while so many important things are happening in their lives.  They seem to grow up and develop many wonderful qualities and talents all the faster when ones is not there to witness it all.  We are proud of each one of them and enjoy the photos and video clips their parents send us from time to time.
Lincoln Bethers Baptism - Temple, Texas
 We are proud of you Lincoln and pray that you will always be as happy as you look in the photo below.   We know you, and each of us, are happiest when we make good choices.  Keep up the good work.
Lincoln Bethers - Happy to be Baptized - Temple, Texas
 Coq of the Week

Moving right along - to the coq of the week.  Yes, we do not have much other  of particular interest that happened to us this past week that we documented in photos.  But perhaps we might share something we found interesting that was not captured by a photograph.

For the past few weeks we have been making a concerted effort to locate our lost/very less-active members.  We have had some interesting experiences and are now nearly complete with the initial effort.   Next, we turn to helping them receive the blessings that come from commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and his restored church - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Anyway, this past Wednesday we found ourselves in the small village of Rimogne, France looking for a Sister Svetlana Jakh that no one recalls seeing for years and years.  We went to the address we had for her with the intention of knocking on the door, only to discover that the name on the door was not even close to being that of Sister Jakh.   We decided not to knock, we have had a number of other bad addresses, and began to walk away.  After taking a half dozen steps, we repeated the name we had seen on the door - Denis Jacques.  Upon saying the name Denis Jacques, we realized that the name Jacques sounded just like the name Jakh we were looking for.  So we turned around and went back to the door and knocked.  After a couple of knocks, a sleepy headed man with his fists rubbing his eyes came to the door.  We told him who we were looking for - Svetlana Jakh - and he answered that she had not lived there for years and that they had been divorced for 8 years already.  We emphasized that we were speaking of Svetlana Jakh and he affirmed that he was also.  We showed him the spelling of Jakh and asked if that was Svetlana's maiden name.  He said he had never seen such a name before.  He was not able to give us Svetlana's new address or telephone number.

We are confident that Svetlana Jakh is really Svetlana Jacques but how did the bad spelling become a part of Church records.  We believe an American somewhere along the line was verbally given her name for the purpose of recording her baptism - perhaps in a Mission Office - and that not knowing the french language very well recorded Jacques according to how it was heard in English - Jakh.  Jakh does seem to go better with Svetlana, doesn't it?   Why the record was never corrected is a mystery.  Now what to do??

Back to our coq of the week.  We like this guy because he is different and unique from others we have found but also because he appears, to us, to be in a hurry.  Not sure why we see him that way except that we find his overall posture, including head and tail fathers, to indicate he was on the run.  Many chickens are you know - - - just not usually our coq girouettes.  We enjoyed him and hope you will too.  Even thought he looks to be in a rush, we are confident that he will still be around should we have occasion to revisit the village of Villers devant Mouson, France.
Coq Weathervane - Church - Villers devant Mouson, France