Friday, February 27, 2009

The good and the bad.

The good:
Last week-end we went to the Stake Conference in Lille. Saturday evening the meeting was at the church in Villenueve d'Ascq. There was a session going on in the chapel for the priesthood leadership and so some of us had to wait. While many of us were waiting to go into the chapel, three ladies came into the church. I saw them look over at me, whisper to each other and then walk straight towards me. They introduced themselves as Sister Oaks, Elder Oaks wife, Sister Soeub, Stake presidents wife, and Sister Vanequer, Area institute directors wife. Imagine, they wanted to talk to DH and me. Sister Oaks said that she had heard a lot about us and
wanted to talk to us. She was very gracious and very nice. She is also very, very pretty. We had a really nice conversation. I finally had to excuse myself so that I could get a good seat in the chapel. They, of course, didn't have to worry about seating.:)
The meeting was excellent. Elder Goertz, one of the 70 spoke first. He is from Germany. His main message was to depend on the Holy Ghost to teach you and to reveal the truth to you and not to have to depend on prophets and apostles to teach you what is right or wrong. He did not mean by this that you should not listen to them, but that you should know these things for yourself. Sister Oaks spoke and told us how she was Elder Oaks 2nd wife. After his first wife died, he married her. She was already 55 years old at the time. She talked of how she knows of the loneliness and difficulties of being single, but how she also learned to rely on the Lord and to feel His love and help by actually getting involved in the lives of others and helping them. Elder Oaks spoke about his calling as an apostle of the Lord. He said that his responsibility was to be a special witness of God. The name of Jesus Christ is His authority and His power to do the work. In other words, in His name is His power and His authority to do all of His works. Another interesting thing he said was that it is not what you are teaching that is the most important, but what the hearer gets through the power of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost will tailor the message to the needs of the hearer, if the hearer is prayerful and worthy of it.
Sunday morning we drove to the Grand Palais in Lille for the main conference. Once again I spoke with Sister Oaks and also very briefly with Elder Oaks. There were many things said, but one I remember is that he said that the first thing lost in the great apostacy was the nature of the Godhead and the first thing restored during the 1st vision was the nature of God, that God is 3 distinct beings, God the Father, His son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. The conference was very wonderful and we came out of there uplifted and full of desire to serve the Lord always.
The bad:
This week the Phairs, the missionary couple whom we know well and came over with from the U.S. who are now working in Brussels had a very bad experience. They were stopped at a stop light when suddenly 3 young men appeared. One of them was right in front of their car, blocking them. They waved for him to move, but he yelled and 2 others rushed to the car on the passenger side. They broke the window with some sharp object and wrenched the purse out of her hands. They said it all happened in just a matter of seconds. Both of the Phairs were covered with glass, but luckily they only got surface cuts. The really bad thing is that all of their documents that you have to have on you all the time were stolen; passports, carte de sejours, credit cards, license, money, everything. What a horrible thing. I really feel so bad for them. They are so blessed that they were not hurt. It could have been so much worse, but they are pretty badly shaken up. Elder Phair jokingly said that he wants to get his wife a 38 now, but when he mentioned that to the police they said, "Oh non, non that is against the law."
For about a month my right thumb has been hurting, so much so that when I would pick up my blanket or sheet to adjust it during the night, the pain would wake me up. Then last week my thumb started snapping and clicking. I was talking to my BFF and she said it's probably trigger finger. Well, I think she's right. I'm going to call her Dr. Daisy from now on. I did go to the dr. and he said it probably is that or it could be arthritis or both. Now I've had x-rays and am waiting for results. My thumb is immobilized and I am hoping it will get better without surgery. I do not want another surgery. I do not like being the surgery queen. We will see what happens.
Today we tried to send a fax again. It is almost impossible. Finally we did succeed, but only because this nice, young bank manager remembered us and did it for us as a favor. We also tried to debit our card and get euros. That is not so easy. No bank wants to exchange money or to let you use the card because we do not have accounts, but it is very difficult and not advisable to get an account because of tax issues both in the US and here. Also, if we were to get an account here, the fees would be astronomical, so the misson advises us not to. Most atm machines also will not work because you don't have an account with them. We finally found a bank whose machine would accept our card(Fortus Bank), but then we had problems again because the last command is to push enter. However none of the keys say enter in any language and their keyboards are different from ours. When we were about ready to give up, this wonderful old lady came to our rescue. She walked us through every step but then she also didn't know the last key. She marched right into the bank manager and had him come out to the machine and show us how to do it. Oh how grateful we were to her. It's so wonderful to have kind, helpful people around. Now we will know how and where to get money next time. Every business transaction is such a pain until one learns the system.
Well, all in all we had a wonderful week except for a few minor glitches. I guess that is to be expected. I was able to get in touch with a filmaker who takes great movies such as The Work and the Glory, Emma, The Best Two Years and many others, translates the dialog and then has it sent to be translated into French. He is willing to let us use these movies to show to the JA (young adults). We are going to start out with a week-end film festival at the end of March to introduce it and then I think we will have a movie night once a month. I am thinking that the JA will like it. I love movie nights. We also have a music festival scheduled for June. Many of the youth are excited for that. I will keep you posted.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Mayrie, Institute, Zone conference, etc

The Mayrie in Mouscron. I think the architecture is so interesting. This is the central building in the Centre de Ville. Getting things done here is Mouscron is a bit more difficult than in the U.S. For example, we needed to send a fax. Not so easily done. We asked neighbors and people we knew including the JA and the missionaries, also the missionaries in the main office. Noone knew. We finally found a bank that would do it and after all that, they didn't even charge us a penny. With everything so expensive, we were so pleasantly surprised. I guess there are internet cafes that do fax's, but where are those cafes? Nobody really knew that either. Well, now at least we know. It's also not that easy to use a bank. Because we have a US bank account most banks won't work with us unless we open an account with them. However to open an account with them, we have to be residents and we have to pay huge fees to join and then to use them. Hopefully we will be able to use our debit card and withdraw funds from Fortus bank. If not, we'll be writing to you. HA HA.

Many of the institute kids were missing last night because of vacation, but I still wanted to get a picture of who was there. We don't have inst. the next 2 weeks because it is winter break. At the schools here they have a break every 8 weeks. It's either a 2 week or a 1 week break, depending on when it is. In the spring it's 1 week for spring and then 1 week for Easter. I don't really know the rest of the schedule except that they attend school 149 days a year compared to our 186 days. However, their school day starts at 8:00 and ends at 5:00 or 6:00 depending on the school. That is a long school day.
Natacha on the left is the Inst. vice pres and Anne-Louise is the stake young adult rep. They are both really nice, friendly, and hard working young women.

Francois is about to leave on his mission to Cote d'Ivoire. (Ivory Coast) He is a fine young man and is excited to leave and to serve the Lord.

Brother Jean Claude Vanaquer is the institute director for our area. He also had London, but as of next week is transfering to Brussels. We luckily get to keep him here too. He is an awesome teacher. He speaks perfect English which he learned when he lived in Aust. He served his mission in Toulouse as a young man. We really enjoy working with him. He also works with the Area authorities.

Here is DH teaching a french class. Many of the students have said that if they had him from the beginning, they would be speaking french now instead of still studying years and years later. They just love him. He is a great teacher. He even cracks jokes during class. It's quite funny.

Last week we had zone conference. It is always an awesome experience to get together with all the missionaries in the zone and with the mission Pres. Pres. Woodland is an outstanding mission leader. Our theme this time was "In Whom Do I Have Faith". We must have faith in Jesus Christ, in His church and in His work. We are His servants. We must also have faith in the Holy Ghost and in the Atonement and of course we must have faith in ourselves. We must come to understand that this work is not about us, but about being the conduit to connect His children to Him. We will then have the expectation of miracles. We will see hearts opening and changing and we will see people become converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ and begin on their road to salvation.

We had two transfers yesterday. Our french Elder Perez has gone on to Dunkerque and Sister Stay is finished with her mission and is on the way to Salt Lake. We will miss these two wonderful missionaries. It's amazing how close we become to them. At our district meeting this past tuesday, I offered to sew the elder's pants. They have holes in seams and here and there. It just doesn't look good, so I guess I will bring out the needle and do some badly needed work. I tried to be so tactful and told them that I was a Mom and so I didn't care if they had holes or not and that I was surely used to it. I think they were happy to have me do it. Noone had their feelings hurt.
Wednesday we had to to to Saint Omer again to work on our legality. The 1 1/2 hour trip took and extra 45-55 minutes because of road construction. The trip was pleasant, but I think their system needs a bit of revision. All we had to do was sign a form and now we have to wait for it to come back to us, get a medical, and then go back to St. Omer for the 3rd time to turn it in. All of this could easily have been done by mail and save a lot of time and money. Oh well, when in France, so as the French.
This week-end Elder Dallin H. Oaks is coming for stake conference. It is the first time in 20 years that an apostle is going to be in this area. We are very anxious and excited for the conference. I know it will be great.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Bath time

Since this is my on-line journal and not only my missionary journal, I wanted to write about bath time today. One of my favorite on-line bloggy friends wrote that baths are one of her favorite things and that brought back some fun memories for me.

I well remember when my 2 oldest were little, we were visiting their Grandparents, my Mom and Dad, in San Francisco. We had arrived after a long 6 hour drive (in those days I thought 6 hours was long), had dinner, and were sitting at the table enjoying each other's company. The 2 littles were upstairs in my parents large, modified, victorian home taking a bath. We could hear lots of fun laughter and a bit of splashing. Little did we realize how much splashing there actually was! After a few minutes we looked at the ceiling and saw water dripping down the wall, not just a little bit of water, but more like a waterfall. We rushed upstairs and found a flooded bathroom with 2 very happy little people swimming and splashing in the tub. That was a moment to remember.

On another occasion when I was a young teen ager, I was taking a shower in that very same bathtub. Suddenly a large moth, full of lots of powder on it's wings, started attacking me. As you can tell by the word attack, I am not friends with moths. In fact I am unreasonably afraid of them. Well, I let out a blood curdling scream and wrapped myself up in the curtain. My darling Father had to rush upstairs to rescue me. LOL
When the kids were little, L being the oldest was always in charge. She called herself the Captain. I think A was the Lt. and M was "ye swabs". Later V joined the rank of ye swabs. Sometime in that period some of them were able to rise in rank to "landlubbers. They ran around playing Star Trek and used the little clippy barrettes as communicators. They would flip those little barrettes open and talk into them. It was so funny. Well at this time they also had bathroom meetings. If L had to use the bathroom, she did not want to take time away from the game, so they would meet in the bathroom. The boys had to go into the tub and hide behind the curtain while she did her business. It was okay for the girls to be with her and not in the tub. I'm sure many big decisions were made during those bathroom meetings.:)
One final story. Last year I was in the bathroom at Txmommy's house with brother and Lucy. Our job was to fill up the water balloons for a party. Brother would fill the balloon with water and hand it to me. I would tie the end and hand it to Lucy. Little Lucy would put the finished balloon into the tub. We were doing really well when one of the balloons accidentally slipped from the faucet and as brother handed it to me, it totally squirted out of the balloon and all over me. I will always remember the looks on the faces of those sweet little kids. Their eyes were very big and looking kind of scared. I guess they thought I would be mad. Instead, I burst out laughing and they joined me with their own laughter. After that we had several other balloons with the same problem. I was just soaked. The floor was soaked and the kids were kind of wet too. :) We laughed and laughed. Good thing we cleaned up before Txmommy came into the bathroom.:)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Brussels, Belgium

Last week we had to take a trip into Belgium to do our legality. We met up with quite a few other missionaries in our mission, but from the Netherlands. Together we went to an official office and had to do more paperwork to be legal here. It was a cold day, but our trip up was quite pleasant. We first had to go to France for interview with the Pres. and then drove up. It took us about 2 hrs. Following are some of the streets in Brussels. There are a lot of lovely old building, but also quite a few modern building mixed in amidst the old. The freeway driving is great and we didn't have much traffic, but the little streets are horrid. The drivers are fast and pushy. Many of the streets are narrow and you must be on guard all the time. There are many beautiful statues along the streets and in the parks. The facades of many of the old homes arejust exquisite. There are many tunnels, many beautiful arches, and lots of people everywhere. The first picture is of Helig University. Pictures 7 through 10 are of different embassies. They display their country's flag in front of each embassy

Friday, February 6, 2009

Flanders Fields- Lest We Forget

One of my favorite poems is In Flanders Fields written by Lt. Colonel John McCrae M.D. Today we drove to Brussels to do our legality and one of the canals we crossed was the Canal of Ypres and it was in that region that this battle took place. I'm sure my children will remember me reciting that poem to them many times during one Nat'l holiday or another. Who would have ever thought that I would one day live in Flanders and yet that is just where I am today. It's just amazing. I thought I would write the poem out for you today.

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row by row
That mark our place, and in the sky.
The larks, still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
in Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep through poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.

Although this poem was written in WWI it always makes me think of our wars today. I think of the brave men who fight for and defend our freedom. It is the best of the best who go. The most handsome, strong, brave, patriotic men give up their lives for us. How grateful I am to all of those brave men. When I think of them, I cannot help but have tears roll down my face for the loss of these great men, some of them just babies really, although they do the job of a grown man. How grateful I am for the freedom that we have to live the lives that we want to live, to worship as we want to. I just hope that I am worthy of those brave souls who gave their lives for all of us.

As we drive to Lille and Ville Nueve d'Ascq almost every day, I read the signs of places that I have read about in the history books or have seen in the "old movies". Names of places like Normandy, Bastone, Dunkerque, Calais, Waterloo and others. Normandy is further down in Southern France, but the others are near to us. I think of Waterloo where the Duke of Wellington and his forces defeated Napoleon and his forces and of the wonderful movie Waterloo Bridge, Bastogne where the great tank battle took place where the German Wehrmacht's backbone was broken, Dunkerque where Hitler failed to annihilate the British forces when they were driven to sea and could have been destroyed. That was called the miracle that saved Britain. Then there is Armentiere and the canal of Ypres which we crossed today. Calais was the last french city that the English had to give up when they were retreating from France. The Queen of England was so sad that she said that if you open my heart, you would find the word Calais burnt into it. (not an exact quote) Finally, I think of Flanders where the great battles of the trench warfare took place. It is hard for me to believe that I am actually living right here for now. We hope to be able to visit some of these places before we leave.

Three of the big cities here are Lille, Roubaix, and Tourcoing. DH remembers studying about these cities when he was in school in Southern France where he grew up. Those were the great northern textile centers of the country for many years. There are some textiles work going on still, but most have been replaced with electronics. He kind of chuckled to himself as he thought of living here in a place that he had studied so much about and knew so much about, never dreaming of ever being here.

Monday, February 2, 2009

First JA (young adults) activity

We had our first activity on Saturday evening. I was so worried that it would go well and that they would like the food we prepared for them. Well, my worries were for naught. They loved the food. They scarfed the food down and had seconds and thirds. They loved the activity. I am so glad and so relieved.:)
We started with a game. Each person wrote an "anecdote" short story about themselves. They also put a personal object on the table in the middle. Then the anecdotes were passed around and each person read someone else's story. They had to guess who wrote the story and then they had to guess which article belonged to whom. DH and I were not going to play, but they insisted. So I wrote the story of when M was a little boy and asked me, "Mom, were you alive in the days of the dinosaurs?" :) No, but sometimes I feel like it.:) DH wrote about how when he was little he got up into the loft of the barn, attached goose wings to his arms and tried to fly out of the loft. Luckily, he fell into the dung pile and was not hurt at all. They JA got a big kick out of both stories.
For dinner we made Beef Strogonoff and rice. Are you kids surprised? We had 3 different salads, and crepes and clementines for dessert. When my helpers set the table they wanted to know where the knives were. I said I didn't buy any because we were not going to need them. "Oh yes, here we need a knife to push the food onto the fork." Next time I will know that we always need knives. We did borrow some from the ward and they were able to eat.
After the dinner, they all watched "arspraaa" Hairspray, but they could have picked "eron mohn" Iron Man. and ate popcorn, which here is sweet. It's not kettle corn sweet, but sweet none the less. We didn't get home til 12:40 or so. Boy were we tired for church the next day.
While the JA were eating, I sat in the kitchen to have my dinner. No, no that was not acceptable to them. They made me come and sit with them and of course DH too. They said that we are to be part of their group and part of their activites, not just the cooks and the cleaning committee. Many, many of them came to me and told me how much they appreciated the activity and the delicious dinner. Some of them that we already know told us that they love us. We feel so great about that. By the way, lots of them helped clean up.
A funny side story. When I got there I put on a large white apron. One of the young men came to help us set up. When he saw me he giggled and smiled and said. "You are so "mignon" cute. I guess he thought that I only wear church clothes. :) The youth here are very nice and we are certainly enjoying spending time with them, although I am still struggling with my French. I can understand a whole lot more, but it is very difficult to say something.
We were so busy that I forgot to take pictures, but finally I remembered, so here are three. Irene is helping to set out the crepes. Here lots of people like to squeeze some lemon juice on the crepe and then put lots of sugar on that. Then roll it or fold it and eat. It is quite yummy. You should all try some like that. They also luke Nutela on crepes a lot.
We had 17 youth plus 3 young couples who have been called to help us in attendance. We think that is just great.
Our next activity is a trip to Paris on Valentine's Day for a dance.