Sunday, July 16, 2017

La Famille Ihout - Visiting from Paris - Charleville-Mezieres, France
 Faithful Members

This morning on our way to church we were thinking that our usual small congregation would be even smaller.  The Biver family - three of our dozen active members - is on vacation and would not be attending and our Nigerian Sister Beauty had started work and would on occasion miss meetings.

However; we were blessed to welcome the Ihout family from the Paris area who were visiting Charleville-Meziers for the weekend.  The Ihouts were in Charleville to work on a family property that needed some care.  This morning when they woke up they had no specific plans for the day but, the young daughter asked if they should not be going to Church.  Thus they came.

The Ihouts had been here before but not for a couple of years.  The Dampts and others knew the Ihouts and warmly welcomed them.  We were grateful that they were comfortable in our Branch and that they would participate freely in the Sunday School discussion and offer prayers.  It was a blessing to have them with us - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints truly is a big family.

The Stork Family - Haudrecy, France
 Stork Update

This past week we again visited our Cigogne Family which lives nearby.  We had the feeling, after last weeks experience seeing the more aggressive young stork fly, that perhaps all the young storks might be flying by now.
Then There Were Three - Storks - Haudrecy, France
It took a while, but after some period of observation - with only the four young storks on the nest - things began to happen.  An adult stork circled and flew in low and landed in a field some distance from the nest.  After a couple of minutes, one could hear the beak clacking of the adult.  All this time the young storks attentively looked in the direction of the adult (whom we could not see).  After some fidgeting around, the more aggressive stork jumped and flew from the nest.  Then there were three.
Then There Were Two - Storks - Haudrecy, France
 After just a couple of minutes, the second young stork jumped and flew from the nest.  Then there were two.
Then There Was One - Storks - Haudrecy, France
Just a minute or two later the third of the young storks jumped and flew from the nest.  Then there was one.

And One Remaind All Alone - Storks - Haudrecy, France
The last of the young storks seemed more timid and a bit smaller than the other three.  It was obvious that she (we like to see this stork as the little sister) was very hesitant and fearful as she remained alone in the nest for a long time.  She stayed though the adult and siblings did their beak clacking thing from time to time to encourage her.

We began to discuss how she would not survive if she could not get up the courage to fly from the nest.  The adult stork was no longer bringing food to the nest.  It was obviously a difficult decision for her to make but eventually she too jumped and flew from the nest.  And then, there were none.

Then There Were None - Storks - Haudrecy, France
 With the nest empty all the young had flown from their nest and they began the processes of learning to feed themselves.  The adult stork lead them about as they searched for food in the field nearby.  We did not stay to watch them return to the nest but hope to yet experience that.

Today in Sacrament Meeting our theme was Kindness and as there was a few minutes left at the end of the meeting, we took the opportunity to introduce the Cigogne Family to our members.

We told them about a family we had met three months ago.  They are French, they live in Haudrecy, there are four young (about the same size and appearance) living with their parents. We visit this family regularly each week.  We have witnessed the great kindness they have for each other and they have greatly impressed us.  We asked; "are you acquainted with the Cigogne Family?"

One could see that nearly every member was very interested and anxious to know more about the family we had come to know - one that they did not.  It was not until we explained that this family lived in a nest and were learning to fly that they realized of what we were speaking.

We shared the kindness of this family that we had observed over the weeks.  First, a week ago when the first young stork flew, all of the young storks instantly congratulated their sibling upon his (surely it was a male who flew first) return to the nest - they put their heads together, raised their beaks in the air and clacked simultaneously.  We found that interesting and touching.

Second, this week before the four young storks flew, the bit smaller and more timid stork remained low in the nest while the other three actively preened in preparation for flight.  We began to notice that the three more active storks began to preen the smaller one - each taking a turn to do a bit of the work.  Storks preen before flying and it seemed that the three siblings were helping and encouraging the smaller sibling to fly.  They must have known that it would be hard for her to take the leap of faith and leave the nest.  They showed understanding and kindness towards their more timid sibling.  We like to believe that there was a great clacking of beaks as the last of the young storks landed and joined her family in the field.

The instinctive kindness of the storks is a great example to us!  We pray that we may be  more instinctive and ready to act with immediate kindness to those we encounter.  Kindness without qualification.  We believe that we came to this earth with such an instinct and that we learn, over time, to act otherwise.  We pray that the Spirit of Christ might enable us to take advantage of every opportunity for kindness.  We have much work to do to overcome our self-centeredness but hope to make progress.  May we each make Christlike kindness one of our virtues.  

Empty Nest - All Have Flown - Haudrecy, France
 Coq of the Week

Voila, this weeks coq.  Native to Manhuelles, France and dwelling atop the Eglise de l'Assomption de-la-Vierge.  What can we say - another coq, surely different with its own character.  Constant, reliable and faithful.
Coq Girouette - Eglise de l'Assomption de-la-Vierge - Manhuelles, France

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Verviers, Belgium
Verviers, Belgium Revisited

This past P-Day we took the opportunity to re-visit one of Elder Clark's cities of assignment during his first mission - the Mission Franco-Belge.   The city of Verviers was Elder Clark's third assignment where he served during the Spring/Summer of 1968.  We have a number of recollections of the time spent in Verviers, many are of difficult times.  

Verviers was a city where the missionary labor was challenging and produced few results.  The Branch was small and struggling but seemingly progressing as a local member was made Branch President while we were there.  There was a wonderful older English Sister who frequently invited the Elders to Sunday lunch which normally included a curried chicken.  We grew to greatly enjoy the flavor of curry and we continue to appreciate a good curried meal.  We found few friends of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and struggled to find those whom we could teach.   We were surprised to learn that a lady we had taught on several occasions joined the Church two or three months after we had departed.

Today there is no organized unit of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints functioning in Verviers and Verviers is now included in the Liege Ward.  Naturally, there are no missionaries currently serving in Verviers.

We found Verviers, at least the downtown area, rather depressing as it appears rather neglected and rundown.  There were plenty of people on the streets but they too tended to be a bit downtrodden.  The state of downtown Verviers today is the way we remember it from the late sixties - not vibrant nor attractive.  The main industry in Verviers had been wool and textiles - it appears that it no longer exists.

Still...... we appreciate the opportunity we had to revisit this city.  There are experiences, some very personal, that took place in Verviers that we will never forget and that have made a real impact on our life.
Verviers, Belgium
Stork Update

We have been observing the storks in Haudrecy, France since April and finally we have witnessed the young in flight.  In the photo below, one can see how the baby storks have grown into what seems adulthood.  They seem nearly as large as their parents......we think that there has been only one adult occupying itself with the nest for some time now.
Storks - Young Storks on Nest - Haudrecy, France
During our visit this past week we were able to observe one of the young actually leave the nest and take flight.  It was extremely rewarding and interesting to have been able to have this experience.  We were not prepared for the event however as our experience had been that the storks went through considerable preening before taking flight.  Perhaps the preening took place before we arrived.  There was a bit of wing stretching and testing by a couple of the young but not much else to suggest that flight was near.  Suddenly and without much warning one of the young storks jumped from the nest and off he went.  Below is a picture of him in flight.  He circled the nest several times; ascending and descending in altitude but never straying far from the nest.  He tried it all.....climbing, descending and gliding but seemingly with an eye that never left the nest.
Storks - Young Stork in Flight - Haudrecy, France
He appeared unready to test his ability to take flight from the ground as he carefully avoided descending below the height of the nest.  A short time after his return to the nest (pictured below), the adult stork returned with food and all the young immediately began eating.  Another confirmation that the young storks were likely not landing on the ground yet.  We expect the next thing these young storks must learn is to feed themselves.

We have no idea if more than the one young stork has taken flight or not.  We continue to be interesting in watching them progress and we plan to continue visiting the nest.  We will keep you updated.

Oh, we almost forgot to share the most fascinating thing of all concerning the flight of the young stork.  Upon his return to the nest, all four of the young storks raised their heads with beaks in the air and heads close together and began to clack their beaks.  The noise from the beak clacking was very audible and we rather think it was an equivalent of our clapping.  They seemed to be celebrating an important event.......what an impressive instinct!!  We were touched by their example..........too bad we humans don't have such an instinct.  How wonderful it would be if we instinctively celebrated each success and accomplishment that those around us achieve.
Storks - Young Landing on Nest - Haudrecy, France
Coq of the Week

During our trip to Verviers last week we found a couple of Belge coqs here and there.  We find they are very much like their French cousins........diligent, reliable and constant.  Below is our coq of the week found atop the Elise Saint Aubin in Gouvy, Belgium.  He has character......we find the eye a bit mean..... but who would not be when abused by the birds as he has been?
Coq Girouette - Eglise Saint Aubin - Gouvy, Belgium

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Stork - Mother Coxing - Haudrecy, France
Stork Update

We thought for sure that our baby storks would have been flying by now...... but, it appears not.  It has to happen very soon.  

As we observed the storks this past week, we notice that mother stork had stepped up her efforts to teach her babies to fly.  In the photo above, she is on a platform six or seven feet below her nest where she is trying to cox her babies our of the nest and into the air.  After resting and waiting for quite some time, she made an additional attempt.  

She flew to the ground below (photo below) and walked about, again trying to encourage her young to leave the nest.  After remaining on the ground for a period, always in plain view of her young, she flew about for short distances.  After of brief period of this activity she flew off some distance out of site.
Stork - Mother Pleading - Haudrecy, France
In spite of all her efforts, she did not get much more from her young than she did the week before.  Yet there was greater use of the wings by her young - just not flight.  Below are two of the young on the nest exercising their wings.  We suspect that the babies will take flight very soon.

One thing we are noticing, in close up photos of the young, is that their beaks and legs are beginning to turn more orangish like the adult.

It is interesting and educational to observe the storks and their ways of doing.
Storks - Baby Responding, Kind of - Haudrecy, France
A New Mission President

On July 1, 2017 the France Paris Mission received a new president as President and Sister Babin were released after serving three years.  While we are sad to see the Babins depart we are excited to restart under the direction of a new leader.

President and Sister Sorensen are very young and seemingly full of energy and enthusiasm for the work.  They held their first Zone Conference within 24 hours of arriving in France and that after spending some time contacting on the streets with young missionaries the same evening they arrived.

Pictured below, the Sorensens have wonderful smiles and love to share with all the missionaries.  It is clear that their leadership will bring new ideas and activities to our Mission.  We are grateful to have them here and we pray for their success.  By the way they have four young children with them.
President & Sister Sorensen - France Paris Mission - Paris, France
Our Zone (Paris Est) was the first to meet the Sorensens.  The picture below is of the Sorensens presiding over their second Zone Conference.  First Zone Conference was at 9:30 AM on Saturday, July 1st and the second was at Noon of the same day.  There were others scheduled to follow.  Our Zones consist of approximately 30 young missionaries - - the picture below does not depict that as we were sitting in a demi-circle. 

It is a wonderful blessing to have talented, faithful and devoted members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints who are willing and capable of leaving main-stream life to devote three years to serving the Lord and His missionaries as Mission Presidents.  We are grateful and blessed to have the Sorensens here in France with us.
President & Sister Sorensen - 1st Zone Conference - Paris, France
Coq of the Week

The last transfer found a threesome of Sister Missionaries in Nancy, France.  As a consequence, it was necessary to purchase and deliver several items to the Sisters in Nancy.  We spent much of a day last week traveling to Nancy and back in order to make it comfortable for the three Sisters to serve.

In returning home, we passed through the town of Pont-a-Mousson, France where we stopped to get an apple and a bottle of water.  Of course there was a church close by and we took advantage of the opportunity to visit it and the Abbaye located close by.

What great fortune to find a coq atop the Abbaye Church tower.  We really appreciate this coq --- what a great tail he has!  While few coqs are identical, it is always pleasing to find one that is truly unique and obviously different.  It is the tail that sets this guy apart from the rest.

As unique as he is physically, he is much like all the others in his devotion, diligence and reliability.  We appreciate his example and hope to become more like him.  Hope you enjoy him nearly as much as we do
Coq Girouette - Eglise Sainte Marie Majeure - Pont-a-Mousson, France