Us Seniors

Elder et Soeur Arn & Jody

Thursday, April 19

Our arrival in France

Friday 13 April 2007
Miraculously we made it. I say miraculously because, but for divine intervention, we would not have arrived on time or perhaps not at all. As we were waiting to board our connecting flight in Atlanta, they announced that we would be delayed due to a mechanical problem that was discovered during preflight checkout and the Captain would not allow the plane to be boarded until it was fixed. Arriving in Paris one hour late with a short layover scheduled for our flight to Toulouse did not help our situation as we had to get through immigration then security and then find our connecting flight to Toulouse. Immigration was very congested due to the heavy number of flights arriving the same time as we did. We then had to get through security and a crowded terminal and walk over 2,000 meters to arrive at our flight to Toulouse just as they were boarding the last passengers. Then due to the heavy traffic of planes leaving the overloaded Charles DeGaule international airport, we were airborne another half hour behind schedule. Wondering if our baggage had made it, we flew the uneventful last leg of our flight to Toulouse.

This has been so typical of our mission since we submitted our papers that we have adopted the axiom, “Stop worrying, have faith, everything will work out.” It always has and we believe it will continue this way.

Arriving at Toulouse Blagnac airport Saturday 11:15 am French time a half hour late, we were met by President J. Craig Merrell, our mission president and his wife. They helped retrieve all our unscathed baggage. We then drove from the airport to the village of Pibrac where the mission home is located. It is a beautiful home where they had a comfortable room for us to stay in for the weekend. France is 9 hours ahead of Nevada time so President Merrell, knowing that jet lag would take us time to adjust, did not allow us to take the tempting nap presented to us by the beds in our room. If we had gone to sleep after 16 hours of travel we probably would have awakened at 2:00 am unable to sleep more, thus prolonging our adjustment to local time. So after a snack of sandwiches made from the most delicious French bread we got in his car with his wife and 14 year old son Joshua and played tourist for our “P-day” (preparation day) Saturday and took a drive into the French countryside. We passed through beautiful fields of yellow flowers that they told us are for feeding their cattle, the famous large white French Charleroi breed.

We arrived at the 12th century Medieval double-walled city of Carcassonne. Carcassonne was established by the Cathars who broke away from the Catholic Church because they did not believe in the Pope and had to defend themselves from the Army of the church. After a long siege, a bloody massacre ensued and they were finally defeated. This city has been well preserved and we had a wonderful time visiting its ancient streets. There in Carcassonne we conversed with a man who was descended from the Cathars. In talking with President Merrell’s American son Joshua, he asked if Joshua spoke any English, a testament of how well Joshua speaks French as the man assumed he was French.

Saturday night we were serenaded to sleep by Le Choeur des Grenouilles (the frog choir) as the pond in back of the mission home is full of frogs who croaked from sun down to sun up only to be replaced by the singing of birds in the morning.

We spent Sunday going to church at the Toulouse Ward where they had a Fast and Testimony meeting because of General Conference two weeks ago and the previous Sunday was Pâques (French for Easter). It was a wonderful meeting and the spirit was there in abundance. At around 4:00 pm we had a delicious dinner and then Family Home Evening at which President Merrell’s son Joshua gave a great lesson on Prayer, and his two adopted Romanian daughters, Sara and Ana, played their violins beautifully.  We played a game devised by the girls that involved a scripture chase, guess that hymn, acting out church history stories in charade style, and drawing pictures of church places that each team had to guess. For our closing hymn we sang a hymn that is not in the English Hymn book... yet.

President Merrell explained that a church committee had been formed to meet in Paris to select and translate the hymns for the current French hymn book. He told of a couple who were on the committee who were unable to have children and were applying for an adoption at the time. The good wife of this couple woke up one morning having received the words of a new hymn which she quickly penned as they literally flowed. This is hymn 179 in the French Hymn book. Here is my 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 emulating heaven.
Speak to me little one of that blessed place
Since for you yet the veil is easy to let go.

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 there.
Does the sun, look forward to when there’s snow or rain?
And the songs of the birds in this 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 said yes
One evening there, so my child, we promised to be true
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

I have been told that there is a better English translation than this but the sentiment is what I wanted to try to capture here.

Two years after she penned these words this couple learned that an adoption had been approved for a little boy. Upon checking the time of his birth they learned that it coincided exactly with that of her receiving the personal revelation of this beautiful hymn. It is often sung here in the Wards and branches of France. As President Merrell recounted this story to us he became emotional as one could imagine with his special adopted daughters Ana and Sara.

(Side note - little did we know that while we were on our mission our son Chris and his wife MaryAnn would adopt our precious Madeline, giving even more meaning and emotion to this song.)


Blogger Immy said...

Hello, My name is Anna Garvey, used to be Anna Doyle, I was one of Catherine's companions when she served in France way back in the day!She might remember me I'm Irish and served in Talence for a while. Great to hear how happy she is with Alexis and of their lovely family. God bless you both on your mission, please say hello for me..

12:20 PM  

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