Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Lorraine

This past weekend we had two days with the Nancy ward in the beautiful Lorraine region of north-eastern France.  The Lorraine is in the Vosges mountains and around the Moselle river.  Michèlle, the Nancy Stake self-reliance specialist, is very dedicated and organized, and she had everything well prepared for our weekend.  As a result, this was one of the best self-reliance devotionals we have experienced so far since coming on our mission.  

One event from our Saturday meeting was especially moving.  After our training meeting, we divided the leaders into four groups to go make personal invitations to the Sunday devotional to 11 less active and inactive families. Sister Geddes and I went with the bishop to try to find three of them who lived in the same general area, but who had been difficult to locate. We put the coordinates in our GPS, but when we arrived at that address, we were in a park that was surrounded by a forest of apartment buildings.  We tried to telephone them but there was no response.  We weren't sure exactly where to go from there as we had no additional information on where they lived.  As the three of us were standing at the corner of one of the apartment buildings wondering what to do next, suddenly one of the people we were looking for came walking by on his way home from work!  He invited us in to visit with him and his wife.  They were very touched and grateful that someone would take the time to come and visit them.   And as a bonus, he also knew the exact location of the other two apartments we had been searching for.  In the end, we were able to visit and invite all three of the families.  We know that this was not just a happy coincidence!

Then, what made this experience even more meaningful was that on Sunday morning at 9:15, all three of the families we invited were sitting in the chapel for the beginning of Sacrament Meeting. And this was the first morning after the time change from daylight savings, so it was actually one hour earlier than normal.  In addition to coming to all of the Sunday meetings, all of them stayed for the ward luncheon and for the self-reliance devotional that afternoon.  And several of them even chose to join self-reliance groups.  

The Saturday and Sunday self-reliance program in the Nancy ward was a great example to us of how Heavenly Father helps and blesses us when we are trying our best to do the things we should do.

A nice group in the Nancy ward.

Stanislaus square in Nancy

The Trinity and the four Evangelists on the pediment of the Nancy Cathedral.

On our way back to Lyon from Nancy, we passed through Burgundy.  The tombs of the powerful Dukes of Bourgogne are here in Dijon.  These Dukes rivaled the kings of France in power, and surpassed the kings with their ornate tombs.

The Dijon Cathedral has more gargoyles than we have ever seen in one place!

This region of France has many "maison à colombages" or structures with
an exposed skeleton of wooden beams.

The sculptor François Rude was from Dijon.  This is a cast of his sculpture 
"La Marseillaise" that was done for the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.  On the
enormous Arc, the heroic scale of this sculpture doesn't really hit you.  But 
when placed in this context, it is almost overwhelming.  

Six old-testament prophets on the "Well of Moses" by Claus Sluter in Dijon.  
This is another tomb monument for one of the Burgundian Dukes and it 
predates Michelangelo's "Moses" by a century.

A lamenting angel between the prophets Daniel and Isaiah.

No caption needed!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Three for the Price of One!

When we first started our mission application process, we didn't realize how many different kinds of senior missionary opportunities there are, and how different these assignments can be from what the young missionaries do.  We had never even heard of  "self-reliance missionaries" which is our primary calling.  We go throughout both the Lyon and the Paris missions training stake and ward self-reliance committees and leaders, conducting ward firesides, forming and helping to sustain self-reliance groups, facilitating group meetings, and generally supporting the growing self-reliance initiative here in French speaking Europe. 

Other senior mission calls include things like Office missionaries, Single Young Adults, Mission Medical, Temples, Member and Leader Support (MLS is the most common senior assignment), Family History, Historical Sites, and a host of other specific assignments that can be seen on the weekly online bulletin. (Google: "Senior Missionary Bulletin" on LDS.org.  That was a little advertisement for you potential senior missionaries as you are desperately needed!)  And because senior missionaries are in such high demand, we have come to realize that in addition to our main calling as self-reliance missionaries, we are actually doing parts of two other assignments as well. 

Before we arrived here in Lyon, there was another couple who worked with the local J.A.S. (Jeunes Adults Seules - Young Single Adults), but unfortunately when this couple finished their mission, there was no one to replace them.  So every Monday evening that we are not on the road with a self-reliance assignement, we prepare a meal and have family home evening with them.  We also get to be substitute teachers for their Institute classes from time to time, and have other activities with them as well.  Of course, we always try to incorporate the self-reliance lessons with what we do with the young adults.  So in a sense, we are also the Single Young Adult missionaries here in Lyon.

In addition, when we arrived here and were assigned to the Écully Ward, we found out that our bishop really uses the missionaries in his ward.  We have callings in the ward, attend all of the ward council meetings, and are responsible for the senior single adults in the ward.   Twice per month we have a Wednesday family home evening lesson with the seniors and it always turns into a party before the night is over.  We love to talk and sing and eat together.  And once again, we always try to bring the self-reliance principles into our lessons with them.  We also often get invited to go teach with the young missionaries.  And we get to have P-day activities with the young missionaries as well. So in another sense, we are also serving an MLS mission.

We are really loving all of our assignments here in France, and are so blessed to have so many different kinds of interesting and challenging opportunities.  We feel like we are getting three missions for the price of one!

Our senior FHE group in Écully.  Our group is growing in more ways than one!

Our Lyon Stake relief society service project made 2,500 hygiene kits for refugees.

Last Monday the missionaries in Lyon had a p-day activity touring many of the traboules (hidden passageways) in the Croix Rousse area of Lyon. The Croix Rousse was famous for the silk industry, and the traboules allowed the workers to move between streets and through buildings.

President and Sister Brown came on the p-day tour with our group.  It was
his birthday, so we bought him a beret.  He looks pretty good in it!

Sarah is an expert on the traboules and she led our tour.  We were so shocked
when we first went to church at the beginning of our mission and found out that 
Écully is Sarah's home ward.  She was Sœur Geddes' teaching assistant at 
BYU Idaho.

Looking up a spiral staircase in one of the traboules.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Great Weekend in Alsace

Last weekend we had Saturday training, Sunday church meetings, a big luncheon and a self-reliance devotional with the two little branches of Épinal and Saint-Dié.  Momo Djemai, our self-reliance director and Michele Droit, the Nancy Stake self-reliance specialist were both there with us.  Having these two dedicated people there contributed so much to the weekend.  Momo brings incredible energy and enthusiasm wherever he goes.  One thing that made this weekend especially effective was that during the Saturday training meeting with the local missionaries and branch council members, we made of list of individuals that were especially in need of the things provided by the self-reliance initiative (jobs, better employment, more education, money-management skills, etc.).  We then all went out to extend personal invitations for them to attend the Sunday devotional.  There were a good number of people at the devotional, especially for such small branches of the church.

Épinal and Saint-Dié are in the Vosges mountains in the beautiful Alsace region of France.  There has been a long history of border dispute between France and Germany concerning this area between the Vosges mountains and the Rhine river.  Consequently, in the architecture, the food, and even the language there is an interesting blend of cultural influences. 

On Monday we made our way back to Lyon via Riquewihr, Colmar, and Ronchamp.  Riquewihr is a tiny medieval village surrounded by ramparts.  Colmar, in addition to the stunning architecture and "Petite Venise" (little Venice) area of canals has the Museum Unterlinden.  The museum, in a former monastery, has the Isenheim Altarpiece, one of the most important works in medieval painting.  And in contrast, Ronchamp has a renowned 20th century church by Le Corbusier. 

When you drive through the Alsace you can understand why this region was historically fought over.

Momo training branch leaders on Saturday.

Momo with the two branch presidents during the Sunday devotional. 

A quiet Saturday evening dinner with Momo in a nice little French restaurant.

A beautiful drive through the Vosges.  Kind of reminded us of Idaho...except for the cobblestones!

One of the rampart gates into the village of Riquewihr.  

In the spring the storks build their nests in Riquewihr.  Smart storks!

The former monastery, now museum Unterlinden (under the linden trees) in Colmar.

Part of the Isenheim Altar in the Musée Unterlinden.  March is a wonderful
time of year to be here.  The spring weather is very nice, and look at the
crowds of people that are(n't) here!

The triumphant resurrection from the Isenheim altar.

The trials of Saint Anthony from the Isenheim altar.  I've had days like that!

Lunch in Colmar.

A German "lunch": Pork knuckle smothered in Munster cheese.  What's the difference between Chinese food and German food?  With Chinese you are hungry again in 3 or 4 hours.  With German you are hungry again in 3 or 4 days!

The Le Corbusier church in Ronchamp.

Le Corbusier church interior.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

If you do it unto the least of these my brethren...

It seems that everyday we are presented with some unexpected way to help or serve someone, some times someone in our circle of influence, but  often complete strangers. Yesterday the stake president's wife needed someone to drive out to the new chapel to let her in since her husband was out of  town.  Last week, we taught institute class on the  divine role of men and women. On our way home a beautiful, young woman stood out in the dark in the middle of the road, sobbing her head off, holding her hand out for us to stop, and crying for help.  We stopped and asked what we could do to help her. She said she had gone to visit her her friend but couldn't find a place to park. She found her friend's house with the big white door, but when she came out, she couldn't find her car.  She had been searching for half an hour, but couldn't find her  gray Twingo (pronounced Tweengo) that she had actually borrowed from another friend.  We invited her to get in our car and drove around for quite a while. I guess we looked fairly safe!  We finally found her car really far away from where we had first seen her.  She was so grateful and happy for our help.

Sometimes we get lost and need to ask someone for help.  Missionaries, church leaders loving family members, good friends, and ultimately the Savior can come to help us find our way to back to safety.

Today as we were walking, we saw a very elderly man carrying a two huge bags that were clearly too heavy for him and about knocked him over. Elder Geddes offered to help him get to where he needed to go.  When we got there, we shook hands, got a huge smile, and a sweet, "Thank you!  Have a wonderful day!" in a city where people never speak  to one another on the streets or even make eye contact.

We Seek After These Things....

Prayer of Saint Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon; 
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.


Prière de St. Francis d’Assisi

« Seigneur, fais de moi un instrument de ta paix,
Là où est la haine, que je mette l’amour.
Là où est l’offense, que je mette le pardon.
Là où est la discorde, que je mette l’union.
Là où est l’erreur, que je mette la vérité.
Là où est le doute, que je mette la foi.
Là où est le désespoir, que je mette l espérance..
Là où sont les ténèbres, que je mette la lumière.
Là où est la tristesse, que je mette la joie.
O Seigneur, que je ne cherche pas tant à
être consolé qu’à consoler,
à être compris qu’à comprendre,
à être aimé qu’à aimer.
Car c’est en se donnant qu’on reçoit,
c’est en s’oubliant qu’on se retrouve,
c’est en pardonnant qu’on est pardonné,
c’est en mourant qu’on ressuscite à l’éternelle vie. »

There is much that is beautiful and praiseworthy here in France.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Loved Teaching. . .Hated Grading!

Ask any retired teacher if they miss their job and you almost always hear the same thing:  "What I really miss the most is being around the students".  But ask them if there is anything they don't miss, somewhere in the long list you will probably hear "grading".  This is certainly the feeling for both of us after 40+ years of university teaching.  We loved teaching, but hated giving grades.  After a semester of working with a student, especially one who is trying very hard but not succeeding very well, it can be agonizingly difficult to sum it all up with one letter.  And this is especially complicated when you realize that one student's "C" is often a better grade than another student's "A"!

We both wondered if retirement would leave a big hole where the students used to be.  But coming right out of our final summer break as professors and starting our fall "semester" as missionaries, we didn't lose a beat as far as being with the "students" is concerned.  And the best part of all: We don't have to give grades!!!

Yesterday, we started our morning with quiche and waffles for 13 young missionaries in our apartment.  And after breakfast, the "class" on how to read a gothic cathedral began.  After "class", there was a field trip to old Lyon to see Saint-Jean gothic cathedral.  At the end, we all went for a bowl of Pho at a local Vietnamese restaurant.  And later in the evening, we had family home evening with the Lyon Stake single young adults.

A great day being with our "students": and NO GRADING!  But they would have all gotten "A's" if there had been grades.

Sœur Geddes made some great quiche and waffles with Nutella...look at those smiles!  Looks kind of funny with all the elders seated with the sœurs standing, but the sisters ate first and then the guys just cleaned up at the end.

The field trip to Saint Jean Cathedral

Class notes: The Plan of Salvation in one of the rose windows!

Family Home Evening at with the young adults.

Nothing like a hot bowl of Pho on a brisk spring day!

A bowl of Pho.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Staying Busy...and Having Fun.

Our recent weeks have found us a little too busy to keep up with our blog.  We have our weekly family home evenings with the Lyon Stake young adults.  That always includes us preparing and bringing a meal along with the lesson.  We were substitute teachers for the Institute class this week.  Chris was asked to speak at a special "Saint Cène de Berger" meeting ("Sacrament meeting of the Shepherd") that our ward has once every other month.  Less active members receive special invitations and someone goes out to bring them to church that day.  Sœur Geddes is busy preparing for that talk.  Our bishop asked us to increase our Wednesday "family home evening" meetings with the ward older singles to twice a month.  We often do these in the homes of those who have a difficult time getting out.  This is complicated by the fact that the ward boundaries here are very large, and the members often live two or more hours drive from the church. We have many video conferences with ward and stake self-reliance committees throughout French-speaking Euorpe. Last night we had one with the committee in Nancy in preparation for our visit there later this month.  We go with the young missionaries to teach "amis"(investigators).  They especially like to invite us when the amis live in a place that is difficult to get to on public transportation; After all, we have a car.  A week ago Saturday we spent the day giving short presentations on the self-reliance initiative at an open house of a new church building here in Lyon.  There were many curious visitors who came throughout the day.  This past weekend we traveled to Lausanne, Switzerland to facilitate a fireside in the Renens Ward.  And we spent the weekend before that doing the same for the Nîmes Ward in the south of France.

But when you live and travel in Europe, you see some pretty amazing places. Historical landmarks almost "litter" the landscape.  We have said to each other that you can't fling a crêpe without hitting a cathedral or a château!  So we do make stops along our way to see and appreciate some of the natural and man-made wonders of this beautiful place.

A couple of self-reliance missionaries at the open house of the new Saint-Gervais building in Lyon.

Visitors at the open house.

Sœur Geddes getting a "Nani-fix" in the apartment of an ami.

Family Home Evening in the home of an elderly single sister.

A fireside in the Nîmes Ward.

The Roman Arena in Nîmes.  They still have bullfights here.

La Maison Carrée, a beautifully preserved Roman temple in Nîmes. 

A fireside in the Renens, Switzerland Ward.

A little harbor town on Lac Leman not far from Lausanne.

The Château of Chillon on Lac Leman.

Driving in Switzerland is like driving through a rack of post cards!