Friday, April 28, 2017

What are the Odds?

Unlike young missionaries, when seniors apply for mission service, they are asked to fill out a long questionnaire about their experiences and abilities.  Seniors are also asked if they have any particular preferences in mission calls with the caveat that they should be prepared to accept any call that might be extended.  Since we indicated that we would prefer a French-speaking assignment, it is probably not a surprise that that is what we received.  However, with the many places in the world that have need for French-speaking missionaries (Canada, Europe, French Polynesia, and especially Africa where the demand is so high), the odds of receiving a call to Lyon, one of only two French-speaking missions in Europe, were on the small side.  Added to that is the fact that of all the missionaries called to the Lyon mission, we are the only ones who have responsibilities, and therefore the ability to travel, in the Paris mission area as well.

As it has turned out, our mission call came at the precise time of the open house and dedication of the first and only temple in France.  In fact, the mid-point of our 18 months here is only a few days from the dedication of the Paris temple.  The odds of those two stars aligning are beginning to mount.  Added to that, our self-reliance mission assignment has allowed us the flexibility to come and spend the middle three weeks of our mission as guides for the temple open house.  

About four years ago when we first heard the announcement about the building of a temple in France, we talked about how great it would be to someday in the future to visit that temple.  And now, for the past week and for the two weeks to come, we are here in France serving as guides for the Paris temple open house.   What a blessing we have been given, in spite of the odds.

Our Guide badge that we wear to take tours through the temple.

Visitors coming out of the temple tours.

The beautiful temple gardens.

Thorvaldsen's "Christus" in Carrara marble in the temple gardens.

Paris temple detail.

Sœur Geddes ran into Natalia, a friend from our home ward in Lyon.  What
are the odds of those two outfits?!

Thursday, April 20, 2017


Spring in France is beautiful: Everything is in blossom and coming back to life.  It is easy to understand why we celebrate Easter in the spring.  And our missionary activities have been finding renewed life as well. 

We had a wonderful self-reliance devotional in the little branch of Chalon-sur-Saône.  We now only have one more left to do in the Grenoble Ward before we have completed our goal of presenting devotionals in each ward and branch in the Lyon Stake.  The Chalon branch is very small, averaging around 20 to 25 each Sunday.  But they had planned and prepared well, and there we about 35 in attendance.  Of course, the promise of lunch afterward was a great enticement!

Everyone here in France is so excited about the Paris Temple.  We are grateful to have the opportunity to spend the next three weeks working at the temple open house.  We drove up from Lyon yesterday and checked into the little "gîte" (rural apartment) that we found and rented for the duration the open house.  Our gîte is in a beautiful pastoral setting, even though it is only a 10 minute drive from the city of Versailles and from the temple.  In fact, the farm compound surrounding our gîte was originally a gift given by King Louis XIV to his surgeon.  As the story goes, the surgeon cured Louis of his hemorrhoids, and Louis was understandably very grateful.  It no doubt made sitting on his throne a lot easier!

While here in Versailles, we will be working six mornings per week giving tours at the temple open house.  We are also arranging other self-reliance activities for the afternoons.  We are very excited that the Paris mission is having a two-day conference with President Babin and all the senior couples during our time here. They have invited us to meet with them during our afternoons, and make a presentation to them on the self-reliance initiative.  We feel so blessed to be here on a mission, especially at this historic time.

Blossoming trees at Berzé-le-Châtel

Us with Elder and Sister Egan at Berzé

Easter palm-fronds with light coming through the stained glass in the Cathedral Saint Jean, Lyon.

The welcoming committee from our gîte near Versailles.

Another member of the same committee.  (Hedgehog I think)

Our home for the next three weeks.

The back yard.  We love our apartment in Lyon, but after 8 months of
city living, it is so nice to be in a place like this.

Another view overlooking our gîte compound.  The edge of the city of Versailles is in the distance.

Sunday, April 9, 2017


The ward boundaries here in France are not anything like those in Rexburg.  At home, your next-door neighbor might be in a different ward, while those living across the street can be in a different stake.  But here, it is not uncommon for people in the same ward to live hours away from each other and from the church.  Many of our stake and even some ward leadership meetings have to be done by video conference.  Consequently, when the young missionaries have a rendezvous with someone they are teaching, it can be difficult if not impossible for them to meet, especially if the missionaries don't have a car.

For the past several months, different sets of elders have been teaching Joy, a young single mother from Nigeria who has two little daughters.  Joy lives way out in an "African mission" that is somewhat of a refugee hospice.  The elders would often call us to come help them teach.  We knew that their main motivation was that we have a car; But we loved going out with them anyway.  Since our main calling is with self-reliance, we did not think we would have many opportunities teaching "amis" (investigators or friends" as they are called here).  But as it turns out, we do get opportunities to teach with the young elders or sisters from time to time.

Last Friday Joy was baptized.  It was especially touching that she asked that Elder Geddes baptize her.  We did not think that we would have that sweet opportunity.  Her name, "Joy" says it all!

Joy's baptism.

Spring has arrived.

Since we don't have a garden in Lyon, we planted some window boxes.

We took the three assistants to the mission president out for dinner; elder Menzel (left) from Germany, Elder Underwood (middle), and Elder Wade (right) who goes home today and will be on a basketball scholarship to Gonzaga in the fall.  

After several months, I got my French driver's license.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Another Mission Miracle

We are finding that there are so many mission "coincidences" which really aren't coincidences at all, but tender little mission mercies/miracles that keep us feeling grateful and blessed. We have the opportunity to serve with amazing people who are also here as full-time senior missionaries desiring to give back to the Lord.  One of these couples is the Klemasz' from Australia.  They just traded places with another couple who took their place in a town called Chalon, and they came to work here in the Lyon mission office.  It's so fun to go on little excursions and small trips with these and the other senior missionaries with Elder Geddes as the wonderful tour planner and guide.  On this last trip to Baume-les-Messieurs, we discovered that the Klemasz' were great friends with our dear, dear friends, Lydia and Steve Chrisohoou.  Elder and Sister Kemasz knew the Chrisohoous when the Chrisohoous lived in Australia before they moved to New Zealand.  We knew the Chrisohoous when we lived right below them in Temple View apartments, the married student housing complex at the then, Church College of Hawaii.  Chris served in the R.S. Presidency with Lydia, and the two couples shared many a meal, ongoing pranks, and all-night rook games.  Steve and Lydia were able to spend some time at Chris' parents' cabin at Sundance, Utah, and Steve lived with Chris' parents for a time in Orem while he was going to school at BYU. We learned so much from these extraordinary friends about friendship, deep gospel worship, strong, devoted faith amidst pain and heart-ache, having fun, and, of course, Greek cuisine; oregano and lemon juice, Mate!  Every year for Father's day Sister Geddes prepares a Greek meal for Elder Geddes complete with stuffed grape-vine leaves and moussaka. And let's not forget "Puha and Pakeha"; dandelion leaves and white people for dinner--one of our standard jokes. Chrisohoous will always hold a special place in our hearts.

So will these other great couples and senior missionaries who serve with us.  Even though we are far away, we feel like we are serving in the heart of the church as we live alongside, serve alongside and play alongside these consecrated individuals.  

Steve and Lydia when we first knew them.

A little later...

On Steve's 70th birthday after 45 years of eternal marriage.

Us with Elder and Sister Klemasz at Baume-les-Messieurs, France.

Our entire Lyon senior group.