Sunday, June 25, 2017

Storks - Ready to Fly - Haudrecy, France
Stork Update

For one reason or another we had not been able to visit our stork nest this past P-day and had begun to fear that our young storks may have already taken flight.  Finally, on Saturday morning early, we made our delayed visit.

As you can see from the photo above, it is getting more difficult each day to distinguish between the adults and the baby storks.  There are however differences; a) the young storks continue to have a darker (black) beak while the adult has an orange beak and b) there is considerably more pronounced feathering on the neck/chest of the adults.

It really is amazing to us how quickly the stork babies mature......the are huge in just a few weeks.  It is also interesting to observe the storks over an extended period (an hour or so).  It is extremely obvious that some of the young are more aggressive and adventuresome than others.  The young are also very adept at mimicking the adults.  The more adventuresome and aggressive seem to do so the most profoundly.

For example, one always has notice that the adult stork is going to fly from the nest soon.   It changes from simply standing looking bored to actively preening.   The preening continues for a good time but once the preening stops, you can be certain that flight is near, and just before taking off there is a glance or two over the edge of the nest.  The young do the same preening following the standing and walking around the nest period.

Saturday the young closely followed it's parent (not sure if male or female)......walking, standing and preening........and then.......yes, almost flight.  Below is a photo of the most aggressive and active of the young storks practicing flight.  He/she never left the nest but did some exciting hovering above the nest.  They leap up, flap and hover.   The adult flew to a man-made platform just several feet below the nest and waited.  The young stork immediately began his flight practice but never actually left the nest.  We fully expect that at least one of the young flew during this past weekend.  We are interested to see what we find when we return this coming week.
Storks - Practicing - Haudrecy, France
 Friends of the Church

During the months we have been here, many of the friends of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Charleville-Mezieres have been Nigerian refugees/immigrants in France.  The Nigerians are either Muslin or very Christian.  Many have extremely strong beliefs in Jesus Christ and they want to live his teachings.

Juilette, pictured below is one of our Nigerian friends.  She was brought to Church by Beauty Imhangby who has been a member for eighteen months or so.  Juliette is a young mother of a baby boy.  Sorry the photo we took does not do her justice.  She has a very pleasing personality and enjoyed letting us take care of her baby.

We always have hopes that our friends will be able to accept the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ but, even when they are Christian, it is often very difficult.  Since they are such devoted Christians, it is often a struggle to help them understand the need for authority.  Perhaps a little like born again Christians who feel accepting Jesus Christ is the essential.  From their viewpoint Christianity is the same regardless of where it is found.  Communications is also a barrier in teaching for while they consider themselves to speak English they really do not.   Neither French nor English is a strong language for them - they seem to get by with pigeon english.
Juilette - Amie of Beauty - Charleville-Mezieres, France
 Coq of the Week

Perhaps we are too occupied with storks to find new coqs.......though we love them.   Below is a photo of one we took some time ago and we hope that it has not been shared before.  This one was found atop the Church Saint Hubert in Viller-la-Loue, Belgium.  He has a lot going on on his chest and has a rather nice tail - we would have loved to have gotten him on a sunny day when the detail would have shown better in a photo.

We find many qualities in the coq, perhaps the reason he is one of the older symbols of France.  We aspire to follow his example in our devotion and faithfulness to our Savior Jesus Christ.  Steadfast and constant should we ever find ourselves in the Gospel.
Coq Girouette - Eglise Saint Hubert - Viller-la-Loue, Belgium

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Baby Storks - Getting Big - Haudrecy, France
Stork Update

The baby storks are not so small these days!   Wow, they grow quickly!  The storks pictured here are the same ones we have been following for a month or two - they are all the babies.  

When we arrived one of the adults was at the nest and the four babies were calm and fully in the nest with just there heads showing.  One of the four young, seeming to be more energetic than the other three, would come up out of the nest and rather mimic the adult - preening, walking around, etc.  After a little while the mother flew off and that is when things began to happen.

We had fully expected that the babies would stay down in a less obvious state as a means of safety, but no.  Before long all four young were up out of the nest and preening and walking around.  In seeing the size of these young storks it became obvious that few flying predators would bother with such large birds.   When along side an adult, it is clear that the young are a little smaller but not really that much.  It is amazing to us how quickly they have matured.  The only real difference we are seeing now is that the adults have an orange beak and the young continue to have the black or darker beak.  And yes, the adults are flying and the young are not as yet.

However; it seems that it will not be long before the young take their first flights.  Below you can see them testing their wings.   They will take off before long.  We hope to be there to see them fly.
Baby Storks - Preparation for Flight - Haudrecy, France
Branch Party/Fete

It was decided that we needed to celebrate the end of Institute for the year and the beginning of beautiful weather.  Thus, a party was planned and held on Wednesday night - substitute for our regular fellowshipping/FHE.   Every one pitched in; brought food, talents and games to play.  While we are not much for parties, we have to admit it was fun.

One of the things they, particularly the Nigerians, wanted to do was dance.   So Brother and Sister Biver, who participate regularly in a Folk Dance Group, were there to accommodate with instruction and practice.  Everyone had a good time dancing - as evident in the photo below.  We also had some very fun group games played.

We also used the party as a missionary tool and were pleased to have two friends of the Church there with us.  They were a little reluctant to join in the dancing and games at first, but in the end we believe they had more fun than the rest of us.
Branche Fete - Learning Folk Dance - Charleville-Mezieres Branch
Sharing of talents was also part of our celebration.   We were very fortunate that the Sister Missionaries, assigned to work in Reims, would come and join in.   Sister Erasmus is a good pianist and shared that talent with us.  She is pictured below with Brother Laurent Biver as she accompanies his bagpipe number on the piano.  Brother Biver is an excellent musician - extremely talented - and plays numerous instruments and has an excellent voice with perfect pitch.  Sister Reeves (Reims Sister) played a couple of numbers on the flute - we love flute music and she is excellent.

The talent portion of the celebration was a highlight for us!
Branche Fete - Entertainment - Charleville-Mezieres, France
Coq of the Week

Perhaps we will try to find this week's coq again some day - this picture is not great for a coq that is rather interesting.  Heavy overcast days do not make for great photos for our camera.

Anyway, this guy is atop the Church Saint Victor located in Vandy, France.    We are extremely confident that he will be waiting should we return on a brighter day to retake his photo.  As are all his brothers and cousins, he is a model of constance, reliability and diligence but with a bit of a flare.  Not sure if he looks a little wind-swept, ruffled by something or what, but he has a little character.  We pray to become more like him in our devotion to living Gospel principles and following the Savior.   May we all be so.
Coq Girouette - Eglise Saint Victor - Vandy, France

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Frère Christian Carpentier - Lille Stake High Council - Charleville-Mezieres, France
Stake Visitors

The small Branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints at Charleville-Mezieres is a good three hours plus from our Stake Center in Lille, France.  As a consequence, our Stake visitors are few and far between.  However; Brother Christian Carpentier, our Stake High Council representative visits us nearly month.

Brother Carpentier became a member of the Church some nearly fifty years ago in Lyon, France.  As a consequence he knows all of the longer-term members that we were blessed to know when we served in Lyon.   Always amazing how small the world and Church is.   He is a very faithful member of the Church and always has a strong testimony to share with us when he comes.  He has had many experiences that reinforce his testimony and commitment to the Gospel.  We are ever grateful for his visits. 

From a selfish point of view, we appreciate his coming because it helps us with speakers in Sacrament Meeting.  It always seems a blessing to have him in the lineup of regular speakers.  Plus, he has an energy about him that lifts our members and provides encouragement.  Never before have we appreciated a High Councilor as much as we do Brother Carpentier.
Branch Meal - Tradition with Visitors - Charleville-Mezieres, France

There are a few traditions that exist in the Charleville-Mezieres Branch.  One such is to have a pot luck type meal after our Sacrament Meeting when we have Stake Visitors.  Everyone pitches in and brings something very delicious and we always have more than we can ever eat.  The young Elders especially appreciate this fact as they are frequently the recipients of many left-overs.

Above is a picture of the Branch meal today in honor of Brother Christian Carpentier's visit.  This tradition provides the means of making sure our visitors feel welcomed and appreciated and it also provides the very useful function of fellowshipping.   We had two investigators with us today and a Sister visiting from Paris, in addition to Brother Carpentier.

Our members very much enjoy this tradition and never murmur at the need to prepare something to contribute.  A very positive event for all!  We take our time, a la mode de France, and linger way to long.  Yep, we are still the ones (one) most anxious to leave first.  It is a pleasure to see the members mingle - they live so far apart that spending leisurely time together is a luxury.

Soeur Nadia Kemiche - Visitor from Paris Ward - Charleville-Mezieres, France
Member Visitors

It is not often enough that we enjoy the visits of members from other units in France or Belgium.  However; on occasion it does occur.  If they would give us a little more notice, all of them would have an opportunity to speak in Sacrament Meeting - darn it, most of the time we don't know much in advance.

Today we enjoyed the visit of Sister Nadia Kemiche from the Paris Ward.  Sister Kemiche has visited several times in years gone by but has not be in the Charleville-Mezieres Branch for several years now.  She has been a member for many years and was born in Charleville-Mezieres.  Her visits here are occasioned by visits to her parents who continue to live in our town.  Our older members know her well and were very grateful to see her again.

While she did not have the opportunity to speak in Sacrament Meeting, she was a very active participant in our Sunday School lesson and one could feel the strong testimony she has of the Gospel.  The simple act of her visit helped strengthen us all.  It is a wonderful blessing to have faithful members such as her visit our Branch.
Coq Girouette - Eglise Saint Martin - Givry-sur-Aisne, France
Coq of the Week

We are starting to feel like the coq as we prepare our weekly blog - constant and persistent in our sharing the coq with you.  At times we feel like not making the effort to find another coq in our photo archives - but no one must persevere.   Hopefully the example provided by the coq will rub off in more important aspects of our life.  There really is something to say about the coq and our ability to rely on him.  The coq never ever gives up!  He does what he agreed to do and you can go to the bank on him!  We are working to become more like the coq and pray you might be inspired to to likewise.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Rue des Arches - Charleville-Mezieres, France
La Meuse - Charleville-Mezieres, France
Charleville-Mezieres Revisited

Earlier this year when preparing the annual history for the Charleville-Mezieres Branche of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints we became interested in knowing the origins of missionary work in this part of France.  The existing Branche History provided scant details of the first baptisms, including that of Sister Paulette Dampt (2nd member) in July 1970 and that of Brother Michel Dampt (3rd member) in September 1970.  There was one older Sister, approximately eighty years old, presumably baptized in late 1969 as the first member in Charleville-Mezieres.  

These dates of first members joining the Church gave us cause to wonder when the first missionaries might have arrived in Charleville-Mezieres.  We began to consider if perhaps we had been involved to some degree.  During the Fall and Winter of 1969 Elder Clark was serving with Elder David Christensen as Zone Leaders in Charleroi, Belgium.  During that period of time we took Elders to  open two new cities.  Could one of these two cities have been Charleville-Mezieres?

After checking with local Church historians regarding the origins of missionary work in this area and having received no helpful information, we turned to the Church History Department in Salt Lake City and requested publications of the Franco-Belge Mission for the period of 1965 to 1975.  After waiting approximately three weeks, the requested files were made available to us in electronic form.

The first search of these files was not very productive - they were rather disorganized or random and some of the expected publications were missing.  However, we had the good fortune of being too ill to leave the apartment for a couple of days and were blessed with the time to make a second more thorough search.  While baptisms were usually published on a regular basis, the details were not always specific - meaning there were sometimes by city and sometimes by Mission Zone.  It appeared that the important dates to us fell into times where baptisms were reported by Zone and thus there was no mention of Charleville-Mezieres anywhere in the reporting of baptisms.

Being a bit frustrated but motivated to learn about missionary work in Charleville-Mezieres, we began to read the less obvious parts of the Mission publication.  Doing so, we feel upon a series of writing of missionaries wherein they were sharing there experiences opening new cities to the work.

Sure enough, among the others was one regarding the opening of the city of Charleville-Mezieres.  You can read the entirety of that writing below.  In short, Elders Massey and Armstrong were brought to Charleville-Mezieres on the 18th of October 1969.  Other information indicated that this newly opened town was a part of the Charleroi Zone.

It was indeed Elder Christensen and myself who had transported Elders Massey and Armstrong to Charleville-Mezieres in October of 1969.  Knowing this, helped clarify some of the remembrances we have of this experience - the hills, river and forests and the time required to travel from Charleroi to Charleville-Mezieres.  

How interesting it is to now be serving in a city that we had some part in opening as a young missionary.  
Excerpt - Missionnaire - Franco-Belge Mission

At the same time that we were at home sick and working through the records of the Franco-Belge Mission sent by the Church History Department, we received an email from a former Franco-Belge missionary who was planning a vacation trip to France and wanted to get in contact with Michel and Paulette Dampt. 

It turns our that this former missionary, Elder Weibell, arrived in the Franco-Belge mission for the first time in March of 1969, not long before Elder Clark returned home to the United States in December 1969.  While Elder Weibell was not one of the first two missionaries in Charleville-Mezieres, he did follow soon after and was involved in some way with the first three baptisms that occurred in Charleville-Mezieres.  He was one of the missionaries who taught and saw Sister Dampt to baptism and taught Brother Dampt but was transferred before he was baptized.
Paulette Dampt, Michel Dampt and Mark Weibell
Brother Weibell made his trip to France this past week.  He came with his wife, one of his daughters and one of his granddaughters.  They were able to spend some time with the Dampts who welcomed them in their home overnight.  Pictured above is the Dampts with "their Elder" and below is the entire Weibell group with the Dampts.

Sister Dampt, in particular, was extremely pleased and over-joyed to see and speak with Elder Weibell again.  Brother Weibell and the Dampts all participated in making our Fast and Testimony Meeting today just a bit more special by bearing their testimonies.

It was very nice to have visitors in our small Branch.  We did our best to convince the Weibells to come back to France as Senior Missionaries.
Mark Weibell and Family with the Dampts
When Sister Dampt first welcomed Elder Weibell into her home in 1970 she had been waiting for Catholic missionaries whom the priest had promised to send.  Sister Dampt had become frustrated teaching catechism to a group of children in her neighborhood and had gone to the priest asking for help.  The priest promised to send her two missionaries - at that time the Catholic Church has a type of missionary to help in such cases.  After waiting some three or so weeks for the promised missionaries, the Elders knocked on her door and she welcomed them right in, expecting that they were sent by the priest.  After teaching a couple of lessons, the Elders introduced living prophets and asked Sister Dampt if she believed in apostles and prophets.  She responded of course, she knew Peter was the apostle upon which the Church was built and that the Pope was the prophet today.  By the time she discovered that these were LDS missionaries and not Catholic, she already had received a witness that what they taught was true. 

Today she bore witness to the above as a blessing form Heavenly Father - she indicated that she would have never let the Elders in her home if she had known they were "Mormon" missionaries and not sent by the priest.  Miracles happen as the elect are gathered throughout the earth!

Our Storks are Growing - Haudrecy, France
Stork Update

What can we say?   The baby storks are growing very fast!  This week they were more visible in the nest and we discovered that the two nest we have been watching each contain four babies and not three.  We still hope to see them more completely - especially as they begin to fly.  We will keep you updated.

Coq of the Week

Here is our coq of the week.  Hope we have not shown him before - we need to inventory our coqs.  This guy was found atop the Church Saint Maurice in the village of Bar-les-Buzancy, France.  This one is just real solid and complete.   Always vigilant, faithful and diligent - may we be likewise.
Coq Girouette - Eglise Saint Maurice - Bar-les-Buzancy, France