Sunday, July 16, 2017

Wonderful Memories with great people

As we have said before, one of the very best things about our mission is the connections and friendships we are able to make with very dear people.  Last Sunday we went to church in St. Etienne, the home ward to our friends, Les Jo's-Jos, Joseph and Joelle Galleti.  He is the stake high councilman over self reliance.  He and his wife live in a two-hundred year farm house out in the country near their city.  They have worked hard to up-date the inside of the house, and it is magnificent.  The outside probably looks very much like it did 200 years ago with surrounding gardens and fruit trees.  Brother and Sister Galleti have been a great support to us in our Self-Reliance work.  They come to firesides to help out any way they can and hold video conferences with us, the Stake President, and the ward Self-Reliance specialists in each ward.  We discovered that Joelle attended school at BYU-Hawaii at the same time that we were there.  Our pictures are in her year book.  Small world in the church.

The distance between wards and the circumference of the stake are astounding. These devoted members think nothing of spending 1/2 hour to 1 1/2 hours to get to church and back. They will often have a pot-luck lunch (which they call sale or sucre--salty or sweet) right after the church block and before our self-reliance devotional.  We just love these good saints!

It's also been a joyful experience to get to know so many wonderful senior missionaries.  Elder and Sister Klematz have been serving as MLS missionaries to the Saint Etienne ward .  They were with us at the Galetti's home since it was their last Sunday in that ward.  They too had to drive all the way from Lyon, about 45 minutes to get to church.  They have just been reassigned to Bezier in Southern France where they will once again work "their magic"  helping and loving the members.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

So Much History

This week our fellow senior missionaries, Elder and Sister Klemasz from Adelaide, Australia, were transferred to a new assignment in the city of Béziers in the south of France. To get all their things moved, they needed "The Duke", a large mission van. To help them with their move, we drove their car down to Béziers, spent the night, and then drove the empty van back to Lyon. 

Driving in France is such a tour through history.  In the city of Béziers, we made a quick stop at the medieval Saint-Nazaire Cathedral perched on a cliff overlooking the Orb river.  We marveled at how beautiful and well preserved this cathedral is, with elements from the 11th century romanesque era onward.  It is so old when compared to any of the structures we are used to seeing in Idaho.  Then, when we turned around to look over the river valley below, we saw a bridge built by the Romans more than 1000 years earlier than the cathedral.  And the parade of civilizations that left their visible mark on this country certainly didn't begin with the Romans.  In France there is just so much history.

A bridge along the Roman Via Domitia below the Saint-Nazaire cathedral in Béziers.

Cathedrals like Saint-Naziare were often built over hundreds of years. This cloister is more gothic than the earlier Romanesque cathedral structure.  On the interior, many of the embellishments are a later baroque style.   

The road back from Béziers goes along the Mediterranean coast and the fishing village of Sète.

In Sète we happened upon an interesting gondola jousting tournament.

Each "knight" took aim as the boats passed...

Just glad they weren't wearing heavy armor!

On the way home we stopped for the night on the Mediterranean coast at the medieval city of Aigues Mortes.  In 1243, Louis IX and his Chevaliers sailed from here on the seventh crusade.  

A statue of Saint Louis stands in the square near the church.

The church in Aigues Mortes where Louis received the crusaders cross from Cardinal Légats in 1243.

The ramparts, gates, and towers surrounding the city are still completely intact.

Our dear friends and fellow missionaries, Elder and Sister Klemasz, now live in Béziers.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Transfer Week

This was "transfer week".  Every six weeks, all missions throughout the world go through this shakeup and renewal event.  It is such a mission milestone that the traditional calendar of months and years is thrown out, and missionaries measure their tenure in terms of transfers.  The incoming group is also assigned a number that indicates the transfer in which they arrived.  When asked how long they have been serving, a missionary might say "I'm a 119" or "I'm in my 8th transfer", but they never say "I came out last November" or "I've be here for six months".  We happen to be 116's and we are now in our 9th transfer. (Translation: We arrived last August and have been here for eleven months.)

On Monday we had the final dinner and testimony meeting with the departing 111's.  These 29 elders and sisters were the largest and most incredible group anyone here can remember or imagine.  They are legendary.  And then on Wednesday we had the orientation and assignment meeting of 23 new "blues".  (In France the color blue, not green, is used to describe a novice.)  To a coach of a professional athletic team or to a corporate CEO, the idea of transfer week would seem like a death wish.  You can't even imagine any sound-minded coach saying, "I have a great idea: Let's trade all of our seasoned all-stars for a bunch of unknown rookies!"  But a mission isn't anything like the professional world, and what is nonsense in the one is pure inspiration in the other.

We have now been here long enough to see what happens to the blue's.  Ones that just months ago we were trying to hold up and encourage to keep on going are now coming back as trainers with fire in their eyes, ready to meet their new junior-companion blues.  Ones whose "BONJEER" screamed "I'm an American" now flow with melodic confidence.

We've heard the quip, "The Church must be true, because if it wasn't, the young missionaries would have destroyed it a long time ago."  Whoever said that never met the France, Lyon missionaries!

President and Sœur Brown saying goodbye to 29 of their children.

Just finishing dinner and beginning the final testimony meeting for the "magnifique 111" group at President and Sœur Brown's home.

We took a group of our departing Lyon elders and their companions to dinner a few days before transfers.  Missionaries can't go out to eat too many times.

Elders Bouaka and Elder Menzel, both assistants to the President.  It seems like an impossible task to replace missionaries like these two.

Sœur Staniforth and Sœur Lowder: Two more of the amazing 111 group.

This is what the jet-lagged blues look like at first.  Doesn't give you much
confidence, but just wait!