Wednesday, September 27, 2017

"Noah's Arc for our Day"

When we first came on our mission, we really had no idea what a call to serve in Self-Reliance meant.  Now that we have rounded the ¾ mark of our mission time spent here in France, Belgium and Switzerland, we can truly say that we are 100% converts to the initiative. We can also say with conviction that the concept of Self-Reliance is a principle of salvation. The initiative is inspired and must surely be the “Noah’s ark for our day.”  The Lord is in charge, and He knows what is needed for his people to prepare them for the Second Coming. Doctrine and Covenants 104:15 “ And is my purpose to provide for my saints for all things are mine.” 

The Self-Reliance Initiative through its many facets and courses teaches spiritual as well as temporal self-reliance.  To the Lord, all things are spiritual; they are at no time separate and are interdependent. President Uchtdorf explains that they are like two sides of a coin that cannot be pulled apart. At first I had a hard time with the term “spiritual self-reliance” because it seemed to imply that we could do it all ourselves without the Savior.  But now I understand that it means that we have our own strong and lasting relationship with the Lord without relying on other human beings for the foundation of our faith. Our faith is in Christ and we realize that we are totally dependent on His power and grace. Becoming self-reliant makes us more like Him, the supreme example of self-reliance who wants us to have the peace, hope and sense of progress that come from working on and achieving our self-reliance goals. This is in direct opposition to what the adversary wants for us; dependence, slavery and misery.

Elder Ballard’s conference address in last April’s 2017 General Conference entitled “Return and Receive” states that those who are most successful in this life and most prepared for the next  are those with a strong vision of where they are headed and tactical goals to keep them focused.  He reminds us that God, the Father has given us the perfect example of goal setting and planning.  His goal is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man [and woman], and His means to achieve it is the plan of salvation."

Self-Reliance courses have an impressive goal setting component with regular evaluations of where we are, where we are headed, how we are planning to get there, and then, the crucial element of “returning and reporting” is featured.

We have planted many seeds on our mission but don’t always get to see the fruits of our labors.  Last week we were blessed to see the fruits. Last March we had participated in a ward council meeting where members who could benefit from a Self-Reliance devotional were identified and invited. We went with the Bishop of the Nancy ward to find and invite three inactive families to church and our Self-Reliance fireside.  All three families came to church the next day, stayed for the ward luncheon, and participated in the fireside that we presented. Better still, one couple signed up for a self-reliance group and then completed the course.  We were privileged to return for the ceremony months later where participants received their certificates of completion.  We were very moved by the testimony of this same brother who said the course brought him and his wife closer together, got them coming to church again, and helped them learn to pay their tithing among other important goals.  We are grateful to have come full circle, sharing this thrilling moment with visible, unforgettably delicious fruit!   

Self-Reliance Certificate Awarding Ceremony

Jessy bearing his testimony about his Self-Reliance experience

Jessy's wife receiving her certificate

Jessy paying his tithing

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Le Bonheur c'est des amis! Happiness is wonderful friends!

Le Bonheur, c’est des amis!  Happiness is wonderful friends!

It has been such a joy to welcome wonderful friends to Lyon.  We have been blessed to have Jeff and Lori Anderson from Rexburg, then Candy Miller and Judy Steiner from Chester and Rexburg, and after that, Rob and MaryLou Hardisty from Hawaii.  It’s a strangely wonderful and wonderfully strange to experience the colliding of two universes like this.  You become so involved in your life and service here which is all-consuming, and then suddenly you get to be with special people from home and blasts from the past. We have loved every minute of this Geddes B&B life and feel extremely blessed to love and be loved by such amazing friends! And to be able to share the charm, beauty, cultural and historical richness of this beautiful country with them… Oh là là!

Lori and Jeff are figuring France out.

She's even got her own shop in France.

You have to try all the Magnum bar flavors!

Too many Magnum bars?

A new kind of crown for the Queens!
Magnificent sights.  And the Cathedral isnt' bad, either.

A view of Lyon from Fourviere

Diner at Le Petit Ogre

Ain't she sweet!

Hardistys having a religious experience in St. Martin Ainay without pastries!

Rob's favorite part; Chateau de Germolles

Roman Aquaduct --Gier

When there is a demonstration and the roads are blocked to cars, pas de soucis!

Place Belcour at night

Friday, September 1, 2017

Sowing and Harvesting

Sixteen years ago, while on his mission in the France, Marseilles mission, our son-in-law, Nate, served for some time on Corsica.  His mission president gave him a particular assignment to look for a certain member who had fallen out of activity and moved to Ajaccio on the island of Corsica.  Nate and his companion finally located the brother who was not at all interested.  Throughout his time on Corsica, Nate and his companion continued making attempts to bring this brother back but with no success.  He was sorry to have to report back to his mission president that they were totally unsuccessful.

Fast forward sixteen years.  Our daughter Elisa and her husband Nate came for a visit.  We took them into the office to introduce them to the office missionaries.  All the departing missionaries in the last rotation had just left for home except for Elder Battazzato who was in the office waiting for his later flight home to Sicily.  When Nate learned that Elder Battazzato had just finished his mission on Corsica, he was excited to talk with him.  In the course of their conversation, Nate asked specifically about this brother whom he had labored to reactivate without success.  Elder Battazzato's face lit up as he told Nate that this man was a stalwart member of the branch and is currently serving in the branch presidency.

There are so many times that missionaries feel like their efforts have had little or no success.  We just have to remember we are often harvesting crops that were planted by others and won't get to see the fruits of many of the seeds we are now sowing.

With Elder Battazzato who is on his way home to Sicily.

Our good friends from home, Jeff and Lori Andersen, came for a visit.

We took the Andersens on a day trip to Annecy.  Sister Geddes and Lori were apparently trying to color-coordinate while they were here!

The château of Menthon overlooking Lake Annecy.

Château Menthon dining hall and fireplace.

A bedroom in Château Menthon. (Self-portrait and photo-bomb by Jeff in the mirror!)

The music room.

Part of the château's extensive library.

A beautiful courtyard.

The château kitchen with a rail-car connecting directly to the dining room, 30 feet away.

The château guard looks like he has been standing there for a long time.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Le Bonheur...C'est la Famille

This last eight days we have been blessed to have our wonderful kids, Nate and Elisa visit us.  They found one of those incredibly cheap round-trip tickets from Idaho Falls to Paris and took advantage.  We just cannot even express how great it was to be with them!  It was almost as good as going home, except that we got to add Southern France into the mix.  We are so grateful to Dave and Melissa and sweet Grandma Allen for taking care of their kids so they could come.  It was especially meaningful to Nate to come back to where he served as a young missionary some sixteen years ago. On the last day, we were in the Mission offices when Elder Battazatto from Sicily (and one of our favorite Elders) who had been serving on Corsica was there preparing to go home.  He and Nate had a great talk about serving in Corsica and even discovered that one of the people Nate had worked hard to find was there and doing really well.  This was a divine appointment for sure.
We went to the castle at Mornas where they dress in medieval garb and recreate life during the Middle Ages.  The little grand kids would have loved to play at a place like that right out of Robin Hood.  Then we went to Aigue Mortes (that means dead waters) in the Camargue, one of the most charming cities in France.  It is a beautiful old city completely surrounded by ramparts that you can climb and circle around the city.  We also visited the nearby ocean and would have stayed longer had it not been for the wind and sand storm.  We found some amazing restaurants and stayed at Les Arcades, a beautiful hotel inside the ramparts, fashioned out of medieval arches and stone walls.  It had great continental breakfasts with hot tartines, 5 kinds of jam, eggs, fresh, warm pain au chocolat and orange flower coffee cake and of course, hot chocolate and fresh squeezed orange and grapefruit juice.
We day-tripped from Aigues Mortes to Sommières, another beautiful city (they are everywhere in this country) with colorful flags, flowers galore, and a Roman bridge.  Nearby was the Chateau de Villeveille owned privately by a monsieur de Beauregard, a living remnant of the French nobility.  He gave us a private, guided tour that was amazing!  It was truly one of the most fascinating and educational things we have done as missionary-tourists/tourist-missionaries?  M. Beauregard was sincerely pleased to have Americans that spoke and understood French come to his castle. Apparently, it doesn’t happen very often. He  honored the occasion by showing us a piece of the last dress Marie Antoinette wore before she died and proudly showed us the portraits of his ancestors gracing the walls and explained how it came about that he ended up the care taker of the castle among his six living siblings who inherited the castle with him.   Renovations are painstaking and very expensive, but he loved doing it and felt a keen responsibility to his family to continue loving and caring for the place. We got in a traffic jam on the way home because of a fire on the side of the road and took over an hour for a fifteen minute “trajet.” Because our car is a hybrid and automatically kills the engine when you are stopped but continues to power the AC and phone charging, etc. our car was dead as a door nail the next morning.  A very kind gentleman from Holland in a large camper saved us by helping us with his jumper cables.  We maintain that people are generally really good and kind-hearted. 
The next day we headed to a place Lisy had never seen before; Nimes with is Roman arena and Maison Carré.   How these ancient places remain intact is unfathomable.  From here it was on to Aix-en-Provence, Nate’s favorite ville that he served in and easily one of ours too.  The Saturday market is probably the best we have experienced while here in France.  The sounds, colors and aromas are unlike anything else.  They just scream southern France.  And happily, Nate’s favorite missionary eating place was still there—Capri Pizza- ummmm!
Back in Lyon we saw some great architecture and wall murals and ate at Master Taco.  A visit to Lyon is never complete without Master Taco which has absolutely nothing to do with the Mexican Tacos we know at home.  It’s not hard to see (or taste) why it is the missionarys all-time favorite places to eat apart from chez Geddes. It’s more like a kabab with a bready wrap and killer sauces.  And then there is the obligatory tasting of every variety of Magnum bars known to mankind!  We did ourselves proud.
It was terribly hard to say good-bye to our kids this morning when we dropped them off at the gare.  We kept telling each other to stop crying, but it was no use.  We are just so grateful they were able to come, even if it did make us horribly “trunky.”  But when the French vacation time of August where EVERYBODY goes on vacation is over, we will roll up our sleeves and get back to Self-Reliance and other important missionary work that we love.  Ok.  So maybe we’d better roll up those sleeves today and prepare our Sunday School lesson for our French class in the ward this Sunday and get Primary ready since we are doing the whole third hour for the children, just the two of us. 

It’s just so overwhelmingly true that it is all about family, and there is nothing that brings greater happiness than getting to be with those “êtres chers”---precious loved ones. On vous aime!
Nate and Elisa in a vinyard of Provence.
Mom and daughter 
With legendary Lyon chef Paul Bocuse.  After everything we ate here, it felt like we got to know him personally.
The Maison-Carrée, a well preserved Roman temple in Nîmes.
The Roman arena in Nîmes
Nate and Elisa with the Papal palace in Avignon in the background.
Sister Barachant, a sweet sister in our Écully Ward invited us over for a wonderful Sunday meal.
The colorful marché in Aix-en-Provence.
We had to make a couple of trips to Master Taco in Lyon.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Faith • Hope • Charity

I have long been fascinated by the Christian virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity.  I have looked a them closely off and on in my life and have loved learning about their power, their beauty and how they are integrally related and interdependent.  I have studied all three of them, lectured about them, and prayed for the gift of all of them, most particularly for the greatest of them all, charity (I Corinthians 13:13) This personal search has led me to believe that the other two virtues are necessary to lead us to the greatest of all, and that you can almost never separate the three.  Just as with two chemicals that when combined create something completely new, two of these virtues when practiced create a newness and a synergy that consistently leads to the third.

So imagine my delight when on our Senior Conference trip we saw the Camargue Cross that symbolizes all three of the virtues interlaced into a breath-taking whole.  President Babin of the Paris mission explained that these virtues are and should be the focus and objective of all missionaries.  I mentioned to one of our other senior sister missionaries who also expressed her love of these virtues and the Camargue cross that I felt that faith, hope, and charity were the main themes of the Book of Mormon.  She wisely added that she thought that they were the theme of the whole gospel, and that when she found that she was lacking in charity, it was because she had fallen short of faith or hope.  I couldn't agree more!  I have found this same truth evidenced on my mission and in my own efforts to come closer to the Savior.

Not only have I loved observing these three virtues in the wonderful member of the church here in France, but my life has also been greatly enriched by the examples of faith, hope, and charity in the amazing senior missionaries that we have been privileged to serve with.

The Camargue cross:
A cross representing faith, the anchor of hope, and a heart symbolizing charity.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The First Christians

The first community of Christians to come to Gaulle settled here in the city of Lugdunum, now Lyon.  It was a very difficult beginning.  In the year 177, under the reign of Marcus Aurelius, many of these early Christians were rounded up, tortured, and martyred because of their faith.   But the Roman attempts to stamp out Christianity were a total failure.  The Fourvière hill overlooking Lyon, once the Roman forum, is now dominated by a beautiful cathedral.  (The name "Fourvière" is derived from "forum -vieux" or "old forum".)   The hill still has many decaying remnants of ancient Rome including walls, two theatres, and a dungeon that tradition regards as the place where many of these early Christian martyrs were imprisoned.  But the dominant feature on the hill today is the Fourvière Cathedral, an edifice to the triumph of Christianity.  And the dungeon, the "Antiquaille", is now a beautiful memorial to the first 48 Christians who gave their lives for their beliefs here in France. 

Now fast forward almost 2000 years.  We get to come to this same place as missionaries for Jesus Christ.  And even though there is a degree of sacrifice in serving a mission today, it isn't anything like the offering made by those early Christians.  We live in relative peace and comfort.  We have great friends in our fellow missionaries and in the wonderful people of France.   We are privileged to be immersed in this place with so much rich culture and history.  The list of blessings goes on and on.  So if we ever start feeling in any way sorry for ourselves, or at any time start thinking that a mission is difficult, all we have to do is reflect for a minute about those who paved our way almost 2000 years ago, smile, and offer a little prayer of thanks. 

Fourvière Cathedral, dominating the landscape of Lyon.

One of the Roman theaters overlooking the city.

Inside "l'Antiquaille", the dungeon honoring the early Christian martyrs of Lyon.

Mosaics in "l'Antiquaille" depict Blandina and the first 48 martyrs.

Our senior couples from the Lyon Mission had a weekend conference in the South: Arles, Nîmes, Terrascon, Les Baux, Fontaine de Vaucluse, Orange, Avignon.  Here we are in front of the Roman Pont-du-Gard.

These olive trees, near the Pont-du-Gard are over 1000 years old.

We went to the sound and light presentation at "Les Carrières de Lumières" near Les Baux de Provence.  The show presented was based on the artworks of Bosch, Brueghel, and Archimboldo with accompanying music.  The theme of the presentation began with the creation of the world, evolved into life on this earth and then ended with a return to heaven.  Seems like we have heard of this three-step process somewhere before?!

Le Pont d'Avignon.  No, we didn't dance!

Orange, France.  Kind of appropriate to have our senior missionaries in front of a Roman Arc de Triomphe!