Sunday, July 16, 2017

Wonderful Memories with great people

As we have said before, one of the very best things about our mission is the connections and friendships we are able to make with very dear people.  Last Sunday we went to church in St. Etienne, the home ward to our friends, Les Jo's-Jos, Joseph and Joelle Galleti.  He is the stake high councilman over self reliance.  He and his wife live in a two-hundred year farm house out in the country near their city.  They have worked hard to up-date the inside of the house, and it is magnificent.  The outside probably looks very much like it did 200 years ago with surrounding gardens and fruit trees.  Brother and Sister Galleti have been a great support to us in our Self-Reliance work.  They come to firesides to help out any way they can and hold video conferences with us, the Stake President, and the ward Self-Reliance specialists in each ward.  We discovered that Joelle attended school at BYU-Hawaii at the same time that we were there.  Our pictures are in her year book.  Small world in the church.

The distance between wards and the circumference of the stake are astounding. These devoted members think nothing of spending 1/2 hour to 1 1/2 hours to get to church and back. They will often have a pot-luck lunch (which they call sale or sucre--salty or sweet) right after the church block and before our self-reliance devotional.  We just love these good saints!

It's also been a joyful experience to get to know so many wonderful senior missionaries.  Elder and Sister Klematz have been serving as MLS missionaries to the Saint Etienne ward .  They were with us at the Galetti's home since it was their last Sunday in that ward.  They too had to drive all the way from Lyon, about 45 minutes to get to church.  They have just been reassigned to Bezier in Southern France where they will once again work "their magic"  helping and loving the members.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

So Much History

This week our fellow senior missionaries, Elder and Sister Klemasz from Adelaide, Australia, were transferred to a new assignment in the city of Béziers in the south of France. To get all their things moved, they needed "The Duke", a large mission van. To help them with their move, we drove their car down to Béziers, spent the night, and then drove the empty van back to Lyon. 

Driving in France is such a tour through history.  In the city of Béziers, we made a quick stop at the medieval Saint-Nazaire Cathedral perched on a cliff overlooking the Orb river.  We marveled at how beautiful and well preserved this cathedral is, with elements from the 11th century romanesque era onward.  It is so old when compared to any of the structures we are used to seeing in Idaho.  Then, when we turned around to look over the river valley below, we saw a bridge built by the Romans more than 1000 years earlier than the cathedral.  And the parade of civilizations that left their visible mark on this country certainly didn't begin with the Romans.  In France there is just so much history.

A bridge along the Roman Via Domitia below the Saint-Nazaire cathedral in Béziers.

Cathedrals like Saint-Naziare were often built over hundreds of years. This cloister is more gothic than the earlier Romanesque cathedral structure.  On the interior, many of the embellishments are a later baroque style.   

The road back from Béziers goes along the Mediterranean coast and the fishing village of Sète.

In Sète we happened upon an interesting gondola jousting tournament.

Each "knight" took aim as the boats passed...

Just glad they weren't wearing heavy armor!

On the way home we stopped for the night on the Mediterranean coast at the medieval city of Aigues Mortes.  In 1243, Louis IX and his Chevaliers sailed from here on the seventh crusade.  

A statue of Saint Louis stands in the square near the church.

The church in Aigues Mortes where Louis received the crusaders cross from Cardinal Légats in 1243.

The ramparts, gates, and towers surrounding the city are still completely intact.

Our dear friends and fellow missionaries, Elder and Sister Klemasz, now live in Béziers.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Transfer Week

This was "transfer week".  Every six weeks, all missions throughout the world go through this shakeup and renewal event.  It is such a mission milestone that the traditional calendar of months and years is thrown out, and missionaries measure their tenure in terms of transfers.  The incoming group is also assigned a number that indicates the transfer in which they arrived.  When asked how long they have been serving, a missionary might say "I'm a 119" or "I'm in my 8th transfer", but they never say "I came out last November" or "I've be here for six months".  We happen to be 116's and we are now in our 9th transfer. (Translation: We arrived last August and have been here for eleven months.)

On Monday we had the final dinner and testimony meeting with the departing 111's.  These 29 elders and sisters were the largest and most incredible group anyone here can remember or imagine.  They are legendary.  And then on Wednesday we had the orientation and assignment meeting of 23 new "blues".  (In France the color blue, not green, is used to describe a novice.)  To a coach of a professional athletic team or to a corporate CEO, the idea of transfer week would seem like a death wish.  You can't even imagine any sound-minded coach saying, "I have a great idea: Let's trade all of our seasoned all-stars for a bunch of unknown rookies!"  But a mission isn't anything like the professional world, and what is nonsense in the one is pure inspiration in the other.

We have now been here long enough to see what happens to the blue's.  Ones that just months ago we were trying to hold up and encourage to keep on going are now coming back as trainers with fire in their eyes, ready to meet their new junior-companion blues.  Ones whose "BONJEER" screamed "I'm an American" now flow with melodic confidence.

We've heard the quip, "The Church must be true, because if it wasn't, the young missionaries would have destroyed it a long time ago."  Whoever said that never met the France, Lyon missionaries!

President and Sœur Brown saying goodbye to 29 of their children.

Just finishing dinner and beginning the final testimony meeting for the "magnifique 111" group at President and Sœur Brown's home.

We took a group of our departing Lyon elders and their companions to dinner a few days before transfers.  Missionaries can't go out to eat too many times.

Elders Bouaka and Elder Menzel, both assistants to the President.  It seems like an impossible task to replace missionaries like these two.

Sœur Staniforth and Sœur Lowder: Two more of the amazing 111 group.

This is what the jet-lagged blues look like at first.  Doesn't give you much
confidence, but just wait!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Provence in Lavender Season

It seems that in the Mediterranean world, the farther south you travel the more deliciously intense everything becomes.  So when our assignment this weekend took us to Aix-en-Provence, we knew we were in for an overdose "à la provençale".  

The route to Aix from our home base in Lyon skirts the Vaucluse department and the natural park of the Luberon.  In years past we have driven around many of the villages that cling to the cliffs of these rural mountains, but our visits here were always in early spring.  This year we are here in summer when lavender is blooming and cigales are performing.  Cigales are little insects that sing all day long like crickets on steroids.  In his fable  "La Cigale et la Fourmi" ("The Cricket and the Ant"), La Fontaine tells of the ant who worked all day all summer long preparing for winter while the cigale just sang.  When winter came, the unprepared cigale asks the ant what he should do now: the ant suggests that perhaps he should try dancing. 

During our self-reliance fireside in the Aix-en-Provence ward, we mentioned how much we enjoyed being there in the summer and how we even liked the cigales.  One ward member reminded us however that the cigale is not a very good example of self-reliance.  On this cue, French literature professor Sœur Geddes launched into a recitation of "La Cigale et la Fourmi" to a rather astonished group.  This is the first time that one of our self-reliance devotionals received a round of applause from the participants!

A cigale singing in a tree.

The village of Gordes in the Luberon

A Luberon wind-mill.

A field of lavender with our dear friends and fellow missionaries, the Egans.
They came and helped us with our assignment in Aix-en-Provence.

Rousillon, another of the many small villages of the Luberon.

Cliffs of ochre around Rousillon

The still active Cistercian monastery of Senanque in a field of lavender near Gordes.

Sœur Geddes loves lavender!


It would be impossible to describe the colors, sounds, smells, taste and feel of a provençale marché
like the Saturday market in Aix-en-Provence.  These pictures might give a little bit of an idea.
Provence during lavender season is "magnifique"!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

We Just Can't Help Ourselves

Last Sunday, a cute sister missionary from Tahiti asked us if we would tell her and her companion the story of how we met and got together.  A few months ago we had shared our story with a group of young missionaries, and even though most of them have since been transferred elsewhere, at least parts of our story was still circulating amongst the missionaries who are now here in Lyon.  Of course, we said yes to the request.  Since she was from Tahiti and because much of our connection took place in Hawaii, we thought we would have a little island food when the two sisters came to our little apartment.  I say "little" because you can plug in the vacuum cleaner anywhere you want and do the entire apartment without having to move the plug.  In typical missionary fashion, this initial little get together blossomed into a group of sixteen missionaries invited over for a luau.  We joked that if President Brown would come, he could count it as a zone conference!

One thing we learned in Hawaii about having people over to eat is that the WORST possible thing you can do is to run out of food.  And missionaries, like Polynesians, can really eat.  So we went to work preparing mountains of food: kalua pork, huli huli chicken, lomi salmon, green salad, rice, melons and tropical fruits, banana bread, and haupia (a typical Hawaiian dessert made with coconut milk).  We also had French bread and cheeses: not very Hawaiian but almost mandatory at any meal in France, even a luau.  We couldn't find any of the delightful purple-pasty poi that we grew to love over time, but we did have P.O.G. to drink.  They don't sell P.O.G. here in France like they do in Hawaii, but you can find Passion fruit juice, Orange juice, and Guava juice and then just blend them yourself. 

We didn't have to worry about running out of food.  In fact, we had so much left over that the following evening we invited all the senior couples in the mission over for round two of our Lyon luau.  Maybe we went a little overboard, but when it comes to missionaries and food, we just can't help ourselves!

Our international group of Lyon missionaries.  One from Tahiti, from Spain, the Netherlands, Togo, France, Switzerland, Germany, and the rest from the US.

The same group "at work".

We had lots of fun sharing stories and mission experiences after our luau.

Making a plate!

The clean-up crew of senior missionaries the next evening.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

A Stake "Anniversary" Conference in Belgium

We knew that we would have our 45th wedding anniversary while on our mission.  As June 3rd approached, we wondered what special thing we might do to celebrate this milestone occasion.  Should we go on a little "mission vacation" for the day to somewhere close to Lyon like the Swiss Alps or some little place on the French Mediterranean?  Even a day seeing some of the museums and other yet unvisited sites in Lyon would be nice, especially with the scores of wonderful buchons and restaurants that our city has to offer.  As it turned out, the decision was made for us by a phone call from the president of the Brussels, Belgium Stake.  On June 3rd and 4th they were having their stake conference.  He wondered if we would could come and take 40 minutes in the Saturday "our anniversary" session, and then 5 minutes each in the Sunday session.  This wasn't exactly the celebration we had anticipated!

So we went to work on our assignment.  Speaking in a stake conference is a challenge in any circumstance, especially for 40 minutes.  Doing it in French for a congregation of native speakers is a bit overwhelming.  But thanks to the topic of self-reliance with which we are now comfortable, thanks to one member of our missionary companionship who is a great French teacher, and because of many answered prayers, our stake "anniversary" conference in Belgium turned out great and was even really fun.  This was certainly a very memorable celebration for us.

Making our presentation on self-reliance in the Brussels, Belgium Stake Conference.  

The Saturday session of stake-conference was held in the Charleroi chapel.
Our son David served in Charleroi as a missionary 15 years ago.

The Rasolo family in Charleroi were good friends to our son when he was here.


In our mission area that includes both the Lyon and Paris missions, Brussels, Belgium is about the furthest distance away from our home in Lyon.  We hoped that we would have the opportunity to visit here at some point, so we were very happy to have received this invitation, especially since our son served here and loved it so much.  So in addition to speaking in both Charleroi and Brussels, we took the opportunity to visit a few historic churches and other sites in the area both going to and returning from this assignment.

The newly renovated Saint Barthélemy church in Liège, Belgium. 

The baptismal font in Saint Barthélemy rests on the backs of 12 oxen.

The Atomium: A landmark built for the 1958 world's fair in Brussels.

The Grand Place in Brussels is one of the most impressive city centers anywhere.

Just outside of Brussels are the battle fields of Waterloo where Napoleon met his fate.

Just north of Brussels is the city of Antwerp, the home of the Baroque artist
Peter Paul Reubens.  Reubens did this painting for his own tomb which is
in the beautiful Sint-Jacobskerk.

A fountain in the city center of Liège.

A statue of brothers Jan and Heubert Van Eyck by Saint Bavo cathedral in Ghent, Belgium.

The Van Eyck's, who are credited with the invention of oil paint, created the beautiful altarpiece "The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb" in Saint Bavo's cathedral.  The actual altarpiece is huge and magnificent.  But since photos of the original are not allowed, I took this shot of a small replica. *Notice Chris' hands holding the side panels open from the behind the replica.

No trip to Belgium would be complete with at least one visit to a waffle shop!

The road back to Lyon from Ghent goes through the pilgrimage village
of Laon.  

The 12th century Laon cathedral includes the oxen who help to build it.

The road home also passed by the city of Reims with its impressive and
enormous gothic cathedral.

The smiling angels on the facade are unique to Reims cathedral.

Some of Reims cathedrals windows that were destroyed in wars were 
replaced by 20th century artist Marc Chagall.