Sunday, March 26, 2017

Gift - Nigerian Refugee - Investigator - Charleville-Mezieres, France
Friends of the Church

Gift is an early 20s amie de l'Eglise who has been learning of the Restored Gospel for many months.  She often attends week-day activities and occasionally Sunday meetings.  It has been difficult helping her understand the need to be baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  She was baptized years ago into another Christian church and wants to believe that it does not matter which church she attends as long as it is Christian.  The young Elders are currently working hard to help her understand the need for Priesthood authority.  She is now praying to understand what she should do.

Gift is a Nigerian Refugee who has obtained legal status here in France.  She finds life so much better here than in Nigeria.  Unfortunately it is the worldly things that she has found of greatest interest.  In actuality, life is not easy here, but still is so much better than what she knew in Africa.

Dennis is a new friend of the Church.  His first attendance at Church meetings was today at Ward Conference.  He is a friend of Stephen Lawrence (a member) and of Isaac Peter (another investigator).  Stephen has introduced most of our Nigerian members and friends to the Church and Peter is taking lessons and making progress in his understanding of the Restored Gospel.  Dennis speaks better French and English than most of our Nigerians.  We hope to get to know Dennis better in the days ahead.

It is always a pleasure to welcome new investigators to the Church and today we were blessed with a total of four investigators at our Branch Conference.
Dennis - Nigerian Refugee - Investigator - Charleville-Mezieres, France
Branch Conference - 2017

This weekend was our first Branch Conference since arriving here in Charleville-Mezieres.  A member of the Lille Stake Presidency, Jean-Olivier Smatti and our High Council Representative, Christian Carpentier arrived Saturday afternoon for our Saturday activities.  Not a great picture, but President Smatti (1st Counselor) is in the picture below standing at the far left.  Yesterday afternoon we went out to visit less-active and newly baptized members.  It was very productive as Brother Rene Bourt, who is rather ill, was able to receive a Priesthood blessing.  Sister Immaculate (Rwandan) who is struggling with many life issues was also visited.  We believe that each received a ray of hope as their spirits were raised and the light of the Gospel shined upon them.

Saturday evening we spent a very inspirational hour together as we focused on the Paris Temple and the blessing it is in our lives.   The French have waited over 150 years to have a Temple upon French soil.  The construction of the Temple began in 2010 and is now about ready for visitors.  We had a slide presentation of the construction process and talked of the blessings a Temple in France is.  The Church in France will now be complete when the Temple opens in May of this year.  The Lord will have a house here in France where he can dwell and the French no longer have to go outside their own country to perform the Saving Ordinances of the Gospel.  A beautiful building and a wonderful and welcomed blessing!!
Meal - Branch Conference - Charleville-Mezieres, France
Sunday we continued our focus on Temple worship and were encouraged to prepare all our members to go to the Open House but more importantly to prepare to perform work for themselves and their relatives in the Paris Temple.  We have a number of members who could have their first opportunities to make Temple Covenants in the months ahead.   We look forward to attending the Temple in Paris with our faithful members.

We had twenty seven in attendance at Sacrament Meeting - including Stake visitors (5), investigators (4) and missionaries (4).  This was a large meeting for us.  We shared a nice meal after as we always do when we have Stake visitors of any kind.  After all.....they travel over three hours to visit us.

Meal - Branch Conference - Charleville-Mezieres, France
Spring in Charleville-Mezieres

We have remarked on many occasions that the city of Charleville-Mezieres does many nice things for their citizens.  Place Ducale, which is located just three blocks from our apartment, is the center of all these activities.  Spring at Place Ducal has brought another pleasant surprise - a beautiful Spring garden.  The city has build a number of large flower beds in the center of Place Ducale and planted them with beautiful Daffodils, Hyacinths, Pansies and Tulips.  When we walk through the place in the morning we enjoy the beautiful yellows and purples and scents of the Hyacinths.  It is a beautiful spot just now.  The photos below give you only an idea of what we enjoy each morning.
Spring - Place Ducale - Charleville-Mezieres, France
Of course; Spring has not been limited to Place Ducale as there are shrubs, trees and flowers in the early stages of bloom throughout the city.  The French are also wonderful vegetable gardeners and there is much preparation underway in many yards.  We enjoy looking at the well organized and cared for vegetable gardens when they are in full production.  The soil is rather good, moisture is plentiful and the climate agreeable for gardening.

This time of year leaves us longing for home and the opportunity to spend pleasant hours in the yard gardening and looking at beautiful blooms.  For now we will enjoy what we have here.
Spring - Place Ducale - Charleville-Mezieres, France
Coq of the Week

Two coqs to share this week.  The first a golden one found atop the Eglise de Notre Dame in Luxembourg City, Luxembourg.  This coq is a little calmer than most and has a very pronounced eye.  He was gleaming in the bright sun of a nice Spring day as we visited the city of Luxembourg, located about an hour from Charleville-Mezieres.  The young Elders received permission to spend their P-Day there and asked us to join them.  I don't believe their needing transportation to get there had anything to do with asking us to join them, but one never knows.

We have two young Elders who are trying to enjoy churches, stained windows and coqs as much as we do. We have to think that, thought they are trying hard, they have not yet reached that level of interest.
Coq Girouette - Eglise de Notre Dame, Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
The second coq (below) was found in Bouvellemont, France above the Church Saint Vincent de Paul.  We appreciate the unique flare he has - nice tail!  While we do find some coqs that are very similar to others, this one was rather unique and I would suppose a little rambunctious about life.  

We very much enjoy finding the unique and different.  Just at the moment we think we have approached the end of uniqueness, we enter a village to discover that they are still out there. 

Coq Girouette - Eglise Saint Vincent de Paul - Bouvellemont, France

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Coq Girouette - Eglise Saint Quentin - Gomont, France
Coq of the Week

Since we missed posting last week, we have thought to give you a double dose and more of our coq pirouettes or rooster weathervanes.   When we can we try to take our photos on the sunny side of our coqs, but that is sometime impossible and sometimes we have no sunny side.  Such is the case of the coq we found atop the church Saint Quentin in Gomont, France - a small village in the Ardennes.  Never the less, we appreciate this coq's beak and tail - a little different than many we find.  He certainly seems cheerful and eager to crow, though he is not enjoying great weather.  Everything well defined with nice tail feathers included.

Our coq from Herpy sur l'Arlesienne - another small village in the Ardennes of France - is a nice contrast with his more angular features.  He too has a defined beak and tongue but not such a fine tail and certainly not as cheerful as the one above.

The third coq, found on the Church Saint Ferreol in the small village of Saint Ferguex, France, is a proud one.  Nice comb, pretty tail feathers and defined breast qualify him for the work.  Proud but vigilant!

While different in many ways, these coqs are united in purpose.   So we find our young missionaries and senior couples who serve in the Paris France Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints - each unique in appearance, talents, abilities and challenges but united in purpose.   That purpose being that of "Inviting others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the Restored Gospel by faith in Jesus Christ and his atonement, by repentance, by baptism, by the reception of the gift of the Holy Ghost and by persevering to the end".   May we each remain, as the coqs, vigilant to our purpose!

Coq Girouette - Eglise Sainte Claire - Herpy sur l'Arl├ęsienne, France

Interesting to Us this Week

Yesterday, we left home at 9:30AM for Stake Conference sessions in Lille, France.  After picking up members on the way, we arrived in Lille at 1:30PM and returned to our apartment in Charleville- Mezieres after 1:00AM this morning.  A rather long but rewarding day.

While waiting for one session to begin an elderly, very neat and well dressed brother came at sat next to us on our bench.  He asked if we had baptized Sister Nicol Janda at Arras, France in 1969.  After we acknowledged that we had, he began to praise Sister Janda.  He described her as very faithful and very energetic in the gospel and added that she and her husband Pierre were the foundation upon which the Church in Arras was built.    Of course, we were very touched because of the significance the Jandas are in our lives.  However, that is not the remarkable part of our encounter with this brother.

After this brother had left, we asked Brother Biver (Charleville-Mezieres Branch) who this brother was.  Brother Biver said that is Brother Nivard our Stake Patriarch.   As we thought what Brother Nivard had said and knowing he knew the Jandas, we had the urge to continue a conversation with him.   Thus we approached him with curiosity and asked him how he had come to know the Church.  Now for the remarkable part of our experience with Brother Nivard.

When he was 19 years old and a student in Arras, France, one day he found a book on the buffet in his parents home.  He picked up the book and as he held it in his hands looking at it, he had the distinct impression that he had seen the book before.  Though today he would say that certainly was not the case.  However; with the feeling of familiarity with the book (Book of Mormon), he opened it and read the First Vision of the Prophet Joseph Smith.  He immediately knew that Joseph's experience was the truth.  He was baptized fifteen days later becoming only the third active member of the Arras Branch in August of 1969.  Brother and Sister Janda being the other two.  

We asked if he remembered the missionaries who taught him the Gospel.  He recalled both, one with more certainly than the other.  The name he remembers best is that of Elder Roger Merrill.  Elder Merrill was not our companion at the time the Jandas were found but was as we finished teaching Sister Janda.  

I realized what a wonderful experience Elder Rodger Merrill must have had in Arras.  Teaching the Jandas and then Brother Nivard. Our personal experience in Arras was more wonderful than can be described and that was only a portion of what Elder Merrill had.  How marvelous and miraculous the experiences of Elder Merrill - knowing and helping three stalwarts of the Church in France come unto the Savior!!!  What great blessings the Lord pours out upon us as we are found in His service!!!!

Brother Nivard indicated that he has not had contact with Elder Merrill since 1969.  To our knowledge, Elder Merrill and Elder Clark came out together and returned home near the same time in December of 1969. We now have a great desire to find Elder Merrill and share with him what we know about his work in Arras. We are confident that he would be over joyed to know that the Jandas were faithful leaders and now Temple Missionaries and that Brother Nivard was the first Stake President in the Lille/Arras area and that he is now a Stake Patriarch.  So far we have been unable to find Roger Merrill via internet.  Not the A. Rodger Merrill who served a Texas Mission and is prevalent on the internet.
Coq Girouette - Eglise Saint Ferreol - Saint Ferguex, France
We are grateful for the little but impactful blessings we constantly receive as missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  They testify of the inspiration of our callings to serve in the Paris France Mission at this time.   May we all appreciate the little things in life.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Coq Girouette - Eglise Saint Quentin - Aiglemont, France
 Coqs of the Week

Take your pick of these two coqs for coq of the week.  The one above was found in Aiglemont, France atop the steeple of the Church Saint Quentin and the one below was above the Church Saints Pierre et Paul in Bouillon, Belgium.   One photo taken on a bright sunny day and the other on a more dismal dreary day.  Bright and sunny is much nicer than dismal and dreary - don't you find?  Good reminder for us to be bright and sunny in our approach to life.  Everything seems somehow much better that way.  When we are bright and sunny others see us in a better light - just as we perceive one of these two coqs to be more interesting and substantial so others will see us.
Coq Girouette - Eglise Saints Pierre et Paul - Bouillon, Belgium
1766 Pediment - Residence Door - Chagny, France 

There just has to be a more commonly known word for what the dictionary calls pediment.  In French a pediment is known as a fronton.  Neither word is what we would hope for.  Anyway, these dated stones were found above the doorways of a couple of old homes in the village of Chagny, France.  While we have passed through Chagny very frequently we never noticed these pediments serving as the top plate of the entry door framework of homes.  

For Christmas the Dampt family gave us a nice book (many wonderful photographs) of the history of the Ardennes - "Le Grand Livre des Ardennes".  We have been trying to read it as part of our daily french studies.  It was this book that made us aware of the pediments in Chagny; an old farming village southwest of Charleville-Mezieres.  This book provides a wonderful understanding of the history of the area in which we serve and, in addition, has given us things of interest to look for as we travel about visiting members, inspecting apartments and attending Stake and District meetings.

Of course, in this area 1766 is not really that long ago.   There is evidence of the Romans occupying this part of France that date back to just after the birth of Jesus Christ.
1808 Pediment - Residence Door - Chagny, France
Coqs and Pediments = Not Much New

We share coqs and pediments so our family and friends know we are still alive.   Not much new to share that is of great interest.  Except........

Today was Fast and Testimony Sunday and we were able to enjoy the testimonies of our wonderful members and investigators.  All expressed the blessings that come to their lives through the restored Gospel and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.   We were especially touched by the testimony of two of our Nigerian refugees - one just an investigator of a week or so.  The member, Stephen, testified of how the Gospel and Church has helped him during a very difficult time in his life.  Peter, our investigator, expressed a similar sentiment.  Both know that they have a Heavenly Father who loves them and a Savior, Jesus Christ, who suffered for them.  We understand how difficult life is for our refugees and it is inspiring to hear them testify of their blessings. These testimonies strengthened ours.   May we each be ever mindful of the wonderful blessings The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints brings to our lives.