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.
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|
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|