Sunday, October 30, 2016


Beautiful sites, amazing food, but as Elder Geddes said,  "The best part of the mission is the connection with wonderful people!"  You just don't get these kinds of experiences as tourists.

Lake Annecy

Autumn in France

Flowered house



Fabienne et Julien

Au revoir les Sweeny et Bonjour Soeur Kemp et les Rigby

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Making Connections

We have always said that the best part of travelling is when you make a connection with the people.  The same is true of a mission.  We really want to get to know the people we are working with first before we settle down to our assignments.

Yesterday we went to lunch at the home of "Les Jo-Jo's" (Joseph and Joelle).  He is a member of the Lyon Stake high council and is over self-reliance.  Going to someone's home for lunch might not sound like such a remarkable event, but in France the words "home" and "lunch" can be very different than they are in the U.S.  First of all, their home was originally a stone farm-house and barn that are almost as old as our country.  And the almost 4 hour-long lunch (prepared on the wood-burning stove) consisted of a squash potage (all ingredients from their garden), smoked ham and salmon, beef bourguinon and polenta, cheeses and assorted desserts.  Oh the sacrifices one makes as a missionary!

During the course of the meal we discovered that Joelle had been a student at BYU-Hawaii during the same time that we we there.  She pulled out several scrap books and a 1976 BYU-Hawaii yearbook and . . . we found pictures of us!  We probably had met each other 40 years ago in Hawaii.  And now we were sitting together in France.

This Saturday we will be presenting with Joseph at a special self-reliance workshop that is part of our stake conference weekend.  We are so happy that instead of working with some stake high councilman we will be working with a friend.

Les Jo-Jo's

Chez Jo-Jo

We came home with a squash and a pumpkin from the garden.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Two of the Best Talks . . . and Crêpes!

Sœur Geddes and I had the assignment this past Sunday to speak in our Écully Ward sacrament meeting.  We were given the topic of living a Christ centered life of service.  We loved the topic.  But preparing to speak in a non-native tongue makes you work very hard and then really rely on the Spirit.  (I think there is some principle here?!)  I can honestly say that Sœur Geddes delivered one of the most magnificant messages ever.  The Spirit filled the chapel and her French was impeccable.  Sarah George (a local French girl and former T.A. to Sœur Geddes at BYUI) was seated next to me. During the talk she whispered "I can't believe how good her French is."  I was the next and concluding speaker.

As it turned out, this past Sunday just happened to coincide with our mission transfer week and two of the young missionaries in the Écully Ward are leaving.  So in addition to the assigned speakers, these two had been invited to bear their testimonies.  So when it finally got to my turn, the meeting time was over!  Our bishop stood and apologetically asked if I would mind saving my talk for two weeks.  I think he was inspired to let the meeting end on such a high plane.  But in all humility I can honestly say that it was also one of my best talks ever...and I didn't make one gramatical or pronunciation error!


Last night we did a Family Home Evening lesson for the stake Young Single Adults over at the Institute building, about a 10-minute walk from our apartment.  To entice them to come we had put up posters advertising a "Soirée Crêpes" after.  I think food is the universal language!  A lot of YSA's and missionaries showed up.  And while I might make mistakes with French, there were no problems with the crêpes!

Sœur Geddes in the chapel with our Self Reliance manager and the
nephew of an old friend who teaches French at BYU.

Chef Geddes at the Institute

Satisfied customers.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Best Bœuf Bourguignon

We travelled to the little Mont-de-Marsan branch last week; about 25 members. Between the meeting block and afternoon fireside, they provided the most wonderful lunch ever.  Brother Jean-Pierre had prepared the best bœuf bourguignon we had ever tasted. He was happy to give us his recipe but he reminded us that the most important ingredient was "l'amour".

Jean-Pierre and his famous bœuf bourguignon

The sweet email message we got (with the recipe) from
Jean-Pierre after our trip to the Mont-de-Marsan branch.

"Greeting to you two.  I am happy that our Heavenly Father
allowed us to meet and to have shared a few moments where the
family was together to edify each other.  May the grace and
blessings of heaven accompany you each instant of your
life is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen."

Busy and Happy

We just finished a very busy and productive four days.  Elder and Sister Rueckert from the area office in Frankfurt came and spent the four days travelling with us to a two-day young adult activity in Nice and then to a self-reliance fireside in Valence.  It was kind of funny seeing four adults with luggage on a 6 hour (each way) drive in our little Yaris.  We were like sardines!  But we really got to know each other pretty well.   And by the time we dropped them off at the airport we felt like we were saying "goodbye" to our good friends.

It is nice that we can find little times to see a few things along the way in this beautiful country.   On our way to Nice we stopped in Avignon to see the Palais des Papes (the palace where several of the Catholic Popes were headquartered) and the bridge made famous in the song "Sur le Pont d'Avignon".  We also stopped for a delicious lunch in Les Baux de Province and visited the nearby "Carrières de Lumières" sound and light presentation based on the artwork of Marc Chagall.

Our two days with the young adults in Nice was really amazing.  The youth here are so powerful.  They have to be.  We had workshops, a self-reliance fireside, a dance, meals, a testimony meeting and at the end a face-to-face teleconference with the presiding bishop and his wife, bishop and sister Caussé.  Being native French, he is really loved here.  One of the highlights for us was to join with the young adult choir and sing to the Caussés a beautiful hymn "Un Par Un" (One by One) with lyrics by Elder Bednar. 

Very early Sunday morning the four of us left for Valence.  Along the way, we stopped for sacrament meeting in the Vitrolles Ward.  Our self-reliance manager has a daughter and two cute little grandchildren in that ward.  Agnes, his daughter, was so kind to have provided a lunch for us so we could just stop for a little picnic along our way to Valence.  The people here really love and take care of the missionaries.

Finally back in Valence, we had a quick bishop's council meeting to make last minute assignments for our fireside.  Then Sœur Geddes and I made our first solo attempt at conducting a "Mon Parcours" fireside.  There were definately some rough edges but we learned a great deal.  I think we will be much better at this the next time.  It's a little intimidating to stand in front of a group of people you don't know at all and try to speak in a language that you don't know that much better.  But you just have a little faith and jump in.  I think that's probably the secret to lots of things!

Elder and Sister Rueckert enjoying crepes with us in old Lyon.

The Palais des Papes in Avignon

"Sur le Pont d'Avignon"

Les Baux de Provence

Les Carrières de Lumières.

The city of Nice on the Côte d'Azur

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Dédé's Baptism

Last week we had a very sweet experience.  We went to the Institute for an opening of the semester meeting.  As we entered, the darling Sister missionaries asked us if we would bear our testimony of the temple.  We thought they meant during the institute meeting, but they meant for us to speak to a young man at the door.  After the meeting we saw them in the foyer speaking to a lady named Dédé.  We assumed that she was the one they wanted us to talk to.  During the discussion she started to back off because she said she had already been baptised once as a catholic many years earlier. She didnt' see the need to be baptized again.  We joined in the discussion and explained baptism by immersion and it being a prerequisite to entering the temple where families can be sealed together for eternity.  We then started talking about children and grandchildren and how our family is the most precious thing to us in the world and how the church is organized for the glorification of the family. She warmed up and could relate since she is a grandmother and her family is very important to her.  She liked the idea of being able to have a new oportunity to show her committment to Jesus Christ and to become a candidate for all the blessings that Heavenly Father has in store for her and her family.  Elder Geddes told her that her questions were great and encouraged her to keep asking questions and seeking the truth.

Three days later we got word from the sister missionaries that Dédé had decided to get baptized! We got to go to her baptism and experience the light in her eyes and the joy in her face.  The spirit was strong, and we loved having been a part of her new beginning. The sister missionaries told us later that it was not at all what they had planned, but that it was, miraculously enough, exactly what the Lord wanted and what Dédé needed.   We will always cherish this day and the sacredness of the ordinance we were honored to take part in. We only knew Dédé for a few days, but the love we felt for her was amazing.   We love this gospel and know it is the Lord's plan for bringing about the greatest possible happiness  for his children.

On Assignment in Bordeaux

We are on a four day assignment to Bordeaux this week.  Bordeaux is over on the west side of France and our home base in Lyon is on the east. So we drove across most of the country yesterday.  To break up the trip, we made a couple of stops along the way, first in Clermont-Ferrand and then in Perrigueux. 

We love going in the churches and cathedrals.  In Clermont there are two wonderful churches.  The main cathedral, Notre-Dame de l'Assomption is rather unique in that it is the only large gothic structure made out of dark, almost black volcanic stone.  The other one we visited was the older, romanesque basilica of Notre-Dame du Port.

In contrast to Clermont, the Perigueux cathedral, Saint-Front, is very Byzantine in style.  The eastern-cross floor plan covered with multiple domes gives it a feel somewhat similar to San Marco in Venice but without all the mosaics.

Today we met with members of the Bordeaux Stake self-reliance committee.  Our meeting was in the "Auberge du Marais", a wonderful little French restaurant out in the country side.  This was one time that I didn't mind having a four hour long meeting!  And tomorrow we will go to our Sunday meetings with about 25 members in the Mont-de-Marsan branch.  The branch is planning to have lunch together after the block of meetings and then we will have a self-reliance fireside with them in the afternoon.

On Monday we will have all day to make our way back to Lyon, but this time we will take a different route home through Toulouse, Nîmes and Orange.

Have I mentioned that we are really loving this mission?!

Notre-Dame de l'Assomption in Clermont-Ferrand

Notre-Dame du Port in Clermont-Ferrand

Saint-Front in Perigueux. 

Us with our self reliance manager, Momo Djemai