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!