Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Thanksgiving in France

Sœur Geddes just can't help herself when it comes to celebrating holidays like Thanksgiving.  At home that usually means spending days of decorating and cooking in preparation for a big family gathering.  Since we are so far from family again this November, my idea of a nice Thanksgiving celebration was for us to go out to some little local bouchon or brasserie for a relaxing dinner and evening together.  Wrong! 

Our celebration this year was to invite all of the local young adults in our stake plus the missionaries based here in Lyon for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.  This would be a heroic feat to accomplish even at home.  But here in France, where our little apartment kitchen has a total preparation space of 2 by 4 feet, and where the only whole turkeys you can find are still running and gobbling, it would take nothing short of a miracle.  But when Sœur Geddes sets her mind to something, miracles happen!

So last night we had 36 young, hungry people show up for an American Thanksgiving in France.  Dinner consisted of turkey (we found enough without needing a hatchet), dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, dozens of homemade rolls, jello with berries and crème fraîche, green beans, pumpkin pies, pecan pies, and chocolate cake with cherry glaze.  The missionaries, most of whom are Americans, loved having a little feeling of home.  For the locals, many of the things on the table were very foreign, especially the jello, turkey dressing, and pumpkin pie.  But no one went home hungry. 

For our Christmas celebration we're going out to dinner!

Sœur Geddes setting the serving table at the church.

A crock-pot full of turkey, vegies, home-made rolls, and French butter.

Stuffing, sweet-potatoes, mashed potatoes, and turkey leg quarters.

Cake, drinks, pies, whipped cream, and jello.

Getting ready for the feeding frenzy.

Sœur Geddes with some of the missionaries and a young French girl 
(dressed in black) who was just baptised the day before.

Two of the Chinese-speaking elders in our mission.

Anne and Alexendra.  They even tried the jello.

Sister Merrill and sister Huntsman.

I think she liked the pecan pie!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

A Fun Family Visit

It seems that time accelerates as the starting point of our mission slips further into the past and the ending date looms on the horizon.  And with so much going on in recent weeks, it has been easy to neglect our blog entries.  So before too much more time slides by, we need to make record of a fun family visit that occurred during the month of October.  My sisters Roxie and Margaret along with Margaret's daughter Kjersti and her two girls, Elyse and Faith all hopped on a plane in California and flew to Paris for a few days and then caught a train to see us here in Lyon.  Even though they were only with us for a couple of days, we managed to pack in plenty of visual and gastronomic highlights.  With all the things we planned to see, we were afraid that we would walk their legs off.  But what troopers!  I guess it helps that no matter where you are in a city like Lyon, there is a great patisserie just ahead. It's a great motivation to keep on going, but it kind of defeats the benefits of all that walking.  

Margaret, Kjersti, Faith, Elyse, and Roxie on the bank of the Saône in Lyon.

What are brothers for anyway?!

Faith and Elyse in their new berets.

At a Roman aqua duct that is almost as old as us.

It was nice to take them to our Écully ward on Sunday. . .

. . . and to an authentic French brasserie.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017


In France, you can hardly fling a crêpe without hitting a magnificent church, basilica, or cathedral.  Every town, from the smallest hamlets to the grandes villes, has a spired edifice at its heart.  The most majestic of these, the immense gothic cathedrals, are in a style that was first developed here in France in the Basilica of St. Denis just north of Paris.  This unique gothic style quickly spread throughout France, then the rest of Europe, and eventually even found its way to far-away Utah in the design of the neo-gothic Salt Lake City Temple.

When you enter one of these majestic churches, you can't help but marvel at the capacity of man when motivated and inspired by God. How did they do that?!  And in contrast, you also feel a little deflated when you see the vandalism on one like St. Jean here in Lyon that was severely damaged when the secular wave of the revolution swept over France.  But even through the scars, the spirit of the original structure survives.

What was the source of inspiration for these incredible churches?  We got a beautiful glimpse of it last week on a trip to Corsica with all of the senior missionaries from the Lyon mission.  As wonderful as the creations of man are - the cathedrals, the churches, the 2000-year-old aquaducts and theatres -  they pale in comparison to Corsica's "Calanche de Piana", the volcanic "Reserve of Scandola", or a simple sunset on the Mediterranean.  Even the inside of an oyster shell is a masterpiece.  It should be no surprise then, when places like a stand of old-growth Sequoias in Muir Woods, or a gallery of calcium crystals in the cave of Baum-les-Messieurs, or an emerald cove in Corsica's cliffs are all called "cathedrals".  It can be so inspiring and humbling to see how puny we really are!  And then we ask ourselves," How did HE do it?" And the words to the hymn "How Great Thou Art" resound in our hearts.

As we breathe in the splendour and beauty of His creations like the magnificent island of Corsica, we feel closer to Deity and are brought to our knees in gratitude to know because of  the restored gospel, how great our value is in the sight of the Lord (D&C 18:10).  We are again humbled to realise that this earth was created for us in order for Him to accomplish His work and His glory (Moses 1:39) .

Our trip to Corsica was soul-healing, heart lifting, and just magnified our love and admiration for the Lord and our gratitude to be able to serve in this beautiful part of the world with our wonderful fellow senior missionaries.

Entrance to "The Cathedral" in Corsica's "Réserve de Scandola".

The color and clarity of the water and the abundance of marine life around Corsica are spectacular.

Spray from the boat going along the coastline.

Rugged rocks . . .

. . . and crystal-clear water.

More of the spectacular coast.

Napoleon Bonaparte was born in Ajaccio on the island of Corsica.

The local sea-gulls apparently aren't that impressed by Napoleon!

Church with the group (smaller than a branch) in Ajaccio.

What could be more Mediterranean that bougainvillea and an amphora?

A selfie at dinner . . . in a soup spoon.

And a selfie on the beach.

Sunset from the balcony of our hotel room on Corsica.

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