Us Seniors

Elder et Soeur Arn & Jody

Tuesday, April 24


We are still not in an apartment of our own, so we do not have Internet access very often. Until we get settled, we will email when we can and just include our journal entries.

We are a little disappointed that we haven’t been able to start to work at the Archives yet. They wanted us to get our apartment all set up first, but that is proving to be harder than we thought. They also needed some time to set up our work space. We have a very good prospect we are going to look at next Wednesday that is within walking distance of our work place. It will be so nice once we are all settled in and begin to work.

April 14, 2007

We were met at the airport in Toulouse by President and Sister Merrell. They are from Virginia and have been on their mission for about a year and a half. They drove us to their home in Pibrac.

This is in the French countryside. Their house is very charming. It is quite large with a large yard full of trees and flowers. We had a room with two bunk beds and a small bath adjacent. They put up a lot of missionaries at various times.

Our meals all had delicious French bread, lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Sister Merrell is a very good cook – she doesn’t use recipes and everything is made with the freshest ingredients. We had delicious strawberry shortcake one evening for dessert and their son ate three helpings. Sister Merrell is very Emily Post and has her children observe all the correct etiquette. Every meal had a lovely cloth table cloth and napkins. All the sauces, jams, etc. were put in their own pretty bowls. Then after the meal the contents were returned to the jars to be put in the fridge.

Ceramic Hearts made by Sister Merrell
When we left for Bordeaux, she presented us with heart-shaped bowls that she had made before coming to France. On the bottom was the name of the mission, etc. She had made about 400 of them and gave one to every missionary and those who stayed at the mission home.

They have 5 grown sons and 2 granddaughters in America. With them on the mission are their son Joshua (16) and two adopted twin Romanian daughters, Sarah and Anna (14 or 15). The girls both play the violin. Joshua plays the piano. President Merrell is an accomplished pianist also.
Because of the problems with jet lag (We had no idea it was so powerful), the Merrells did all they could to keep us awake. If we would have taken a nap as we felt we needed, then we probably would have been wide awake in the middle of the night. So, they forced us to get into a normal routine that we would have in France. They took us to an old fortress, Carcassonne.
Elder Miller and Sister Miller at Carcassone

President Merrell and Sister Miller at Carcassone
On the way through the French countryside, we saw huge fields of yellow flowers that they used to feed cattle. It was absolutely breathtaking.

Joshua, Elder Miller, Soeur Miller, Soeur Merrell
We went to church with them on Sunday. The ward was small but the spirit was large. It was a little challenging listening to 3 hours of church in French when we were experiencing jet lag and wanted to sleep.

After church, we had a nice dinner and then had family home evening with the family. Joshua prepared a nice lesson on prayer and the girls prepared a fun game. Arnold, JoAnn and Joshua were on one team and President and Sister Merrell were on the other team. The Merrells were winning by a lot when we chose a card that gave us all their points, so we won (much to Joshua’s delight) and the Merrells lost (much to President Merrell’s dismay).

The next morning (Monday) Jean-Pierre Massela (the Director for Family History records preservation in France and other parts of Europe) came to pick us up in our car (an Opel station wagon) and drove us to Bordeaux.

Our Opel Station Wagon
We were going to stay in a studio apartment until we found a permanent apartment, but a family (Alexis and Catherine Defranchi) in Bordeaux offered to let us stay with them.

Defranchi Apartment with flowers in windows

We had lunch with them and had Family Home Evening with them that night. The 9-year-old daughter gave a cute lesson on coming to earth to get a body (something she had gotten from Primary).

The next morning, we met Jean-Pierre and walked, took 2 trams and a bus to the Archives where we will be working, to meet the officials and our camera operator. We prayed that they would be accepting of our help and offer to microfilm their records. The Lord answered our prayers because the “Archivist” (director of the Archives) was very pleased that we were there and kept saying so, thanking us on several occasions. The camera operator works for the church. His name is Jackie Lemoine. We thought we would be put right to work, but they told us if we needed to take time to get settled and to look for an apartment.  They do not expect us to do much for the first couple of weeks. Our supervisor Jean-Pierre was in total accord with that and told us to take all the time we needed to find a good place to live.

We had lunch with Jean-Pierre and Jackie (Tex-Mex would you believe). The Tex Mex was very French. They served French bread instead of tortilla chips and served green Greek style olives and peanuts. We had fajitas with a sort of guacamole sauce. It was good, but not too authentic.

After another bus and tram ride, we visited Jackie’s apartment and then walked back to where we were staying. We were nervous that we would get lost, so Jackie walked back with us. The city is very old and the streets are difficult to decipher. We are sure we will get better at it.

Defranchi Family

Alexis, Catherine, Amelia, Sylvia and Marina in front
Father is Alexis Defranchi. He is French. He sings in the chorus of the Bordeaux Opera. We got to attend the dress rehearsal of Fidelio. He is extremely talented and if he wanted to could be a renowned soloist, making millions of dollars, but he felt that he could not be a husband, father and church member if he were to travel all around all of the time, so he has chosen to sing in the chorus, which is a steady job with benefits and allows him to stay at home with his family and be active in the Church. He is the 1st counselor in the Bishopric of the Eysines (pronounced ayzeen) Ward.

Mother is Catherine Defranchi. She is American from Washington, D.C. (Virginia). She is a convert and served a mission to France. She met Alexis on her mission and when she returned later they fell in love and were married in the Swiss Temple. They lived in America for awhile and have now been in France for 9 years. Catherine used to be a “champion” flautist. She also was into gymnastics, winning many trophies. She is the Young Women’s President in their ward.

They have 4 daughters: Lydia is attending BYU. She is interested in ballroom dancing and is trying to get on the ballroom dancing team at BYU. She has a boyfriend (not serious the dad says) who is on the team. She also has a boyfriend (not serious) who after she went to BYU got called on a mission to Provo.

Amelia is 15. She is very pretty and mature for her age. She plays the cello and is planning on making that a career. At Stake Conference, she conducted the youth choir.

Sylvia is about 13. She is into ice skating. She used to play the flute but gave it up.

Marina is 9. She is learning to play the flute and the piano. She goes to school across the street from their apartment.
Marina's school - teacher lives upstairs, teaches downstairs
They live in an apartment that was converted from an old “école des garcons” (boy’s school). They have windows across the front with shutters (that they use) with flower boxes in all the windows. The first day we arrived, Sister Defranchi was leaning out one of the windows, motioning to us, and saying “Madame, Madame!” It all seemed so French. We didn’t know then that she was American.

The street in front of their house is very narrow and the sidewalks are cobblestone. There is a parking lot across the street with a small children’s playground behind that.

Crowded parking lot across the street from Defranchis
Cars are facing the school
The morning after we arrived, we were awakened by the daughter telling me that we were getting our car towed. It was parked in a lot that on Tuesdays is converted into an open market. There was a sign warning us, but we didn’t read it. Jean-Pierre Massela drove us down from Toulouse and didn’t notice the sign either. Anyway, in less than a day after we received our car, we got a parking ticket, even though we had not driven the car yet.

The streets here are very narrow and parking is almost always parallel parking. Someone told us the French were terrible drivers, but they are amazing drivers. They can maneuver those narrow streets and park literally anywhere.

They are all lined up, practically touching, and still another car somehow gets parked there. I am such a terrible parker, I am worried that I will have many dents in my car. (JoAnn’s comments)

Gently pushing another car in order to park is legal
Parking is at a premium, so they get as many in as they can.

Parking on the sidewalk is acceptable and sometimes preferable
We have walked everywhere for nearly the first week. In France, there are no laws about curbing your dogs, and as so many people are out walking their dogs, you have to be very careful where you walk. There are two small markets just a few blocks from the apartment.

The tram is just a block further. You can buy a tram ticket and use it on any of the trams or buses for 1 hour. We took two trams and a bus to the Archives the first day. It costs about $2 a ticket. You can buy an all day ticket if you want to go sightseeing and you can get on and off and change trams or buses as many times as you want. There doesn’t seem to be anyone checking for the tickets, but everyone is very honest. They say that once in awhile someone checks and it would cost about $50 if you were caught.

There is a “mall” ( about a 30-minute walk from the apartment. We have walked there nearly every day. They have several clothing stores, cafes, specialty shops, etc. JoAnn was able to get her shoes repaired there.

This is another Auchan mall that we drove to often
They have one large store – Le Auchan. It is a little like a large Wal-Mart. One floor has all kinds of things from electronics to sheets and towels, etc. The bottom floor is a large grocery store. They have wonderful fresh produce, tons of types of cheese, pastries, and bread. They have a few things that are familiar to us, but many things we have never seen before. It will be an adventure tasting everything before we go home.

The shopping carts are different. You need to put a coin (1 Euro – about $1.40) in a slot to release the shopping cart and then when you return it, you get your money back. In most markets they do not have plastic or paper bags, you have to bring your own. They have fairly large heavy, environmentally safe, plastic bags that you can buy. Sister Merrell gave us a few bags and a Euro coin to get us started.

April 22, 2007

Last night we attended the evening session of conference of the Bordeaux Stake in France. Elder Ronald Kerr (of the seventy), Elder Rasband (one of the seven presidents of the Seventies), Sister Rasband, President Merrell and Sister Merrell all spoke. We met in the Talence building. It is smaller than most of our wards, but is larger than most wards in France as it was a stake center. Sister DeFranchi drove us, along with Sister Rasband. Sister Rasband spent the time trying to write a few sentences in French that she could use in her talk.

The Rasbands are from Utah. They served as mission president and wife in New York City.

Elder Kerr is from Scotland with a strong Scottish accent.

President and Sister Merrell spoke in French, but the other three spoke with an interpreter, so JoAnn was able to understand what they said. Elder Kerr spoke about when he was a young man (about 24) he was called to be the Stake President. He had to conduct his first stake conference. He planned it very well, down to the last detail. When he was getting ready for the Saturday night meeting, he noticed his wife was not ready. She said that she was not going. They had 4 very small children and the conference was a long way away. She said that taking their small children that far, they would be so tired that the next day they would not be able to be good in conference. Elder Kerr told her that she had to go, that it was her “duty.” She said she was not going.  Just as the meeting was about to begin, Sister Kerr and the four children appeared at the back of the church. Sister Kerr sent their oldest son up to Elder Kerr with a note – “Out of love, not out of duty.” What a powerful message on so many levels.

Most of the talks were about temples and family history. JoAnn couldn’t understand much of what Sister Merrell said, but she could tell that one of Sister Merrell's ancestors joined the church and when crossing the plains buried a child and wrote on a piece of wood – Jack – age 5.

This morning, we went to a missionary meeting at the Talence building. This was the first time JoAnn had to drive anywhere by herself and was rather anxious. We prayed that we would be able to find our way. We got to the morning meeting with no incident. The meeting consisted of a few talks and then Elder Rasband opened it up for questions from the missionaries. (There are about 40 missionaries in that Zone.) The main theme was to love our investigators and see them the way the Lord sees them, as children of God, and treat them that way.

It was moving when Elder Rasband gave his testimony at the end and the interpreter had a hard time controlling his emotions while translating the testimony.

Sister Rasband spoke at each session and each time tried to add a little French. You could tell the French was not very good, but I think the fact that she tried was appreciated.

Just before the morning meeting began, a cat came into the meeting and went right up onto the stand. Arnold said, “It is looking for the church mice.” President Merrell had to chase it down, pick it up and take it outside.

The next part of conference was several miles from the building that we had our first meeting in. JoAnn was very nervous to try to drive over there. We started out from the church as a caravan, with several cars following in a row. This seemed like it would work, so we followed one of the cars. However, as the distance was fairly far, we kept losing sight of the cars in front. We would get left at a red light, or other cars would get between us in the round points. Finally, we lost sight of them completely. JoAnn was so nervous as she didn’t even know where we were supposed to be going. Miraculously, we drove right to the building where the conference was to be held. It was some kind of conference center that the church must have rented for the day. There were several bus-loads of people being unloaded. Many of the members had to rent buses to travel 3 hours or more to come to conference.

The conference was very nice. Amelia Defranchi (age 15) conducted a rather large choir of youth for the conference. They learned the song in their own wards and then arrived early to practice together. President Merrell’s two daughters and son also sang in the choir. Joshua Merrell also was one of the speakers.

Afterwards, we hurried outside so that we could find the Defranchis and follow them home. We were surprised that no one wanted to leave the center. They just stayed and stayed. I guess when you get a chance to get together with the Saints so seldom, it was too wonderful to leave.

So many things about this day made us appreciate the blessings that we enjoy, both in the Church here in France and at home.

April 23, 2007

Today, the Defranchis took Elder and Sister Rasband on a sightseeing tour of Bordeaux. Elder Rasband is one of the seven presidents of the Seventy and is the visiting authority who presided over Stake Conference this past weekend. They came back to the apartment and we all had a lovely lunch -- salad, baguette, ham rolled with soft cheese in the center, salmon sliced very thin with soft cheese in the center and white asparagus (very popular here). For desert we had a delicious raspberry cake. Hard to describe, but it was very beautiful with a raspberry cream mousse in between layers of cake and topped with a raspberry sauce. During the lunch, as at the conference, Elder Rasband expressed his keen interest in the youth of the church. He asked Amelia, the Defranchi’s 15-year-old daughter, how it was growing up as a teenager in France as a member of the church. She gave some very insightful and honest answers that clearly demonstrate her strong testimony of the gospel and good upbringing in a faithful LDS family. Elder Rasband recounted once again, as he did the day before in conference, how the youth gathered for a cultural presentation in conjunction with the dedication of the Sacramento California Temple literally cheered when the prophet entered the stadium. One could imagine his discomfort as he was to conduct the meeting but with 8,000 youth cheering and whistling and shouting as the prophet entered the stadium. He was about to raise his hands to have them stop but then looked over at President Hinckley who had tears streaming down his cheeks, so Elder Rasband restrained himself. Brother Defranchi then reminded us all of the similarity to when the Savior entered Jerusalem just before his crucifixion and a large crowd cheered and shouted Hosanna and strew palm fronds in his path. Elder Rasband continued that soon the cheering died down and they sang together, “We Thank Thee Oh God, For A Prophet.” Elder Rasband said the youth of the church need a hero and… they have chosen President Hinckley as their hero.

Amelia on cello, Catherine on Flute, Alexis on piano
After lunch, the Defranchis treated us all to a mini-concert. Amelia played the cello while Catherine played the flute and Alexis played the piano. Outside we heard applause. Marina’s school class were passing by and heard the music and expressed their appreciation. It was so unexpected to hear clapping coming from the street that we all laughed.
Catherine and Alexis
Then Catherine and Alexis played a flute duet. Then Amelia played a cello solo. Finally, Alexis treated us to a tenor aria “Nessun Dorma” from Turandot that was breathtaking. Arnold thought, “Pavarotti step aside, you have met your superior.” Sister Defranchi told how, at the opera, so many tenor soloists get nervous when Brother Defranchi sings next to them, because they know he is so much better than they are. Elder Rasband was so impressed when he learned that Alexis could earn literally millions as a soloist but has chosen to be a member of the chorus.  The demands of such a career would take his precious time away from his family and the church, so he has decided to place them first. What an great example he is of a good LDS parent.

At the end of the cultural event we all sang “Souviens-Toi” from the French hymn book about the little child coming to earth. It was all so amazing.

Here is Arnold’s translation of this hymn:

Souviens-Toi (Do you recall)

Do you recall, little one: your heavenly parents?
You were yet in their arms not so long ago.
Now today you are here at this wondrous time.
Your small face yet it glows reflecting heaven.
Speak to me little one of that blessed place
Since for you it is a light thing to forget the veil.

Do you recall, little one the cities and the woods.
Can we down here begin to imagine?
And evening skies are they pink or grey.
Please tell me little one of the colors of the prairies.
Does the sun, look forward to when there’s snow or rain?
And of the songs of the birds in that forgotten world.

Do you recall, little one at the dawn of time
We were friends together there playing in the breeze.
Then one day in happiness
To God’s life plan we said yes
One evening there, so my child, we promised to be sure
That by love and by faith we’d reunite once more.

This hymn is appropriately set to music from Antonin Dvorjak’s New World Symphony.

The story behind this hymn is that when the committee was formed to translate the LDS hymns into French that one of the sisters that was serving on the committee received these words one night in a dream and awoke to write them down. She said that the words literally flowed as she penned them. She told how she and her husband were unable to have children so had applied for adoption. About two years after she penned these words they received word that a little boy was available for them to adopt. He was two years old. When they got him she checked his birth date and discovered that it coincided exactly with the time she received this hymn.

Elder and Sister Rasband were so grateful. They were very humble and made everyone feel so special and fascinating. We then all had pictures taken with the Rasbands, unfortunately ours did not turn out, but we have one of the Defranchis and the Rasbands. It was very touching,

Alexis, Catherine, Amelia, Sister Rasband, Brother Rasband
Elder Rasband gave a prayer just before they left and he became emotional at the end. It was a moving experience for all of us. As they were going out the door, Amelia (15) asked him to tell the prophet how much she loved and appreciated him. It was so very touching.

It was an amazing experience just spending an afternoon, kicking back with one of the seven presidents of the Seventy, one of the Lord’s elect. They are very wonderful, gracious and down-to-earth members of the Church who just happen to have an important calling.

Sister and Elder Rasband
April 24, 2007

Still no word on an apartment. The one we looked at the other day is very nice, but seems far from where we are going to work. The one that was just across the street from the Archives, the lady said she would not rent to us because it was against the law to rent to an Association (the Church), but I think it was because we are American and religious. Evidently they do not like anything religious here because of past history.

They had an election yesterday (Sunday). They voted at the school across the street from us. The top two are going on for a run off. Evidently, the one woman who came in second so far is very liberal, anti-family. She lives (unmarried) with the Secretary of the Socialist Party. The other candidate, by contrast, is conservative and has good family values. The Defranchis are hoping that the conservative one wins. They will have the final election in two weeks.

We had a Zone Conference today. It was at the Talence building. We were able to find our way there fairly easily.

Elder Johnson of the First Quorum of Seventy and his wife were there, as well as President and Sister Merrell. We came about 12:45, thinking that the meeting started at 1:00 but it was already in session. I believe the younger Elders had been there all day, but we only needed to be there the last half as we have another assignment other than proselyting. The Assistants to the President, Elders Laird and McDonald, were conducting the meeting.

Some of the notes we took:

“When the members invite missionaries into their home and teach from Preach My Gospel then the harvest will begin.” Elder Marvin J. Ballard

Preach My Gospel “Composed in Heaven. Compiled on earth.” Boyd K. Packer.

If you take the credit – you lose the spirit.

If you don’t feel uncomfortable – you won’t change.

Sometimes we concentrate on the notion that He came to comfort the distressed, but overlook the side of His coming to distress the comfortable.

Theme: increased faith in Jesus Christ. Goal: 432 baptisms for the whole mission

“Character is the ability to carry out a worthy decision after the emotion of making the decision has passed.” Hyrum Smith (not the prophet’s brother)

D&C 75:1-5 PMG, Page 152 – quote of Elder Oaks

President Faust told a story of a mother telling her small child who had been learning to play the piano that they were going to go to a concert of the famous pianist Paderovsky. They were very excited about going. They got to the theater and got seated. After a few minutes of speaking with others, the lights went down and the mother then noticed that the seat her young child had been in was empty. She was frantically looking for him when on stage the spotlight fell on the grand piano in the center of the stage. There was her child sitting at the piano. He began to play “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” The famous pianist then came onto the stage and instead of having a stage hand come to remove the child, he came up behind him and put his arms out around either side of the child and told him to “Keep playing.” He then proceeded to accompany the child with beautiful music, filling in the accompaniment to the melody and all the extra notes that added such beauty to the piece. When we are doing our best, God will magnify our efforts and fill in so that together we will do magnificent things.

President Packer told story of a little girl whose brother had made a trap to catch birds. She worried with her mother that he would hurt the birds or even be able to catch them. The mother said, “He has built a trap for catching birds and it is possible that he will catch some.” The little girl said, “But Heavenly Father won’t let him catch any.” The mother said, “We will have to see.” Later the girl came very confidently to her mother, saying, “He will not catch any birds.” The mother asked how she could be so sure. The little girl said that she had prayed to Heavenly Father to keep her brother from catching any birds. The mother asked her how she could be sure that Heavenly Father would do that. The little girl said, “Because I went outside and kicked the trap to pieces.”

We rely on God, but we must also do our part.

A goal without a plan is but a dream.

After the conference (it went until after 5:00pm), we helped drive some of the Elders to “la gare” (train station). We had no idea where it was, so we followed the Assistants in their car (or rather large van like truck) and then followed them back to the Church. Bordeaux is a big city and it is very difficult to find your way around here. The streets are crowded and narrow and many of them are one way streets. It was fun to watch the Mission President’s assistants weave that big mission van in and out of traffic in narrow cobblestone streets.  Every time their car came to a stop, they would call some pedestrians from the sidewalk over to talk with them about the gospel. Almost everyone was cordial and seemed interested, some, of course, more than others. We were amazed that they could maneuver such a large vehicle through such tight spaces and yet still find time and space to proselyte.

We got back to the church and then thought we knew our way back to the Defranchis, but we got lost. It is most frustrating, because there is nowhere to pull over to check a map and when you are unfamiliar with the streets, it seems impossible to navigate them. So we said a silent prayer and we just kept going and eventually ended up at “Meriadek,” the shopping mall we have been walking to every day. From there we tried to follow our walking route back. Unfortunately, the way we walked was often where the car could not go or the streets were one way in the wrong way. However, with a little effort and the Lord’s help, we found our way back. We will be so glad when we have our own apartment and can begin to learn how to find our way around from there.


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