Us Seniors

Elder et Soeur Arn & Jody

Monday, June 30


Monday we went to the archives and met the employees. The archives are closed to the public on Monday, so it is usually a quiet day. It is the day they have parties, birthdays, people leaving, people joining the staff, etc. The archives in Mons is a beautiful new building.
 It is nothing like any of the archives we have been in thus far. We have a large office to work in with nice chairs, tables, lots of light and windows. It appears that it will be warm in the winter. Everything is on one floor – no stairs or scary elevators. The bathrooms are immaculate– the one in Bordeaux was a boy/girl bathroom and was so disgusting that JoAnn refused to use it. Consequently, she got a urinary tract infection because she didn’t drink any water so that she wouldn't have to use the restrooms in the daytime and could hold on until evening.

This archives has a nice lunch room with a refrigerator and microwave. The people all seem very nice. It is funny because Toon and Elly said that they were afraid of us. Nothing more frightening than two old white-haired Americans. We think they are afraid that we will be walking around with a Bible in our hands and trying to convert them at every opportunity.

John (don’t know his last name yet), who is over the Family History preservation missionaries in that part of the country, came down to meet us. We all went out to eat at a really nice Greek restaurant in the mall (which is walking distance from the archives). Afterward we had Australian ice cream that was delicious. I asked them if it was a lot different from Belgium ice cream and they said it was just the same.

John told us that he goes to India sometimes and once he met a very poor man there who was trying to provide for his extended family on 50 Euros a year. John asked him what he saw in his future and he said just the same. John got to thinking about how discouraging this must have been to not be able to feed his family and that nothing would ever change. So John bought a camel for this young man. The young man turned the camel into a good business for him and his family and eventually was able to buy more camels. His family are now able to go to school, and his brother has also been able to buy a camel to help his family. The young man told John that when John had first asked him about his future, he saw a vision of receiving a camel from John, but didn't say anything at the time. It is amazing what a giving man John is and how such a small act changed the life of this young man and his whole family.

We went home early from the archives so that we could meet with the Elders who used to live in our apartment and have them show us where to shop, bank, etc.
Our apartment is the one on the top. The building has an elevator which is very nice, but as you can see we have to climb some steep stairs to get into the building first.

Elder Warncke is from Switzerland and Elder Peterson is from Clinton, Utah. They seem like terrific missionaries. Elder Warncke has a problem with his knees and joints of his fingers and will be going to Brussels this week to a specialist to see what they can do for him.

After that we had dinner and then the Ward Mission Leader came over – Brother Pyet. He is a black man from Belgium. He has a wife and two children. Again, he seems very nice.

Tuesday at the Archives we learned our job and met with the top archivist. At first he didn’t seem so sure about us, but after he showed us what he wanted and listened to our input and then checked on our work later in the day, he was very impressed. We found several critical errors in what they had done and he was very grateful.

The work is very similar to that in Bordeaux only working with newer documents that are in much better condition.

After work we went with Toon to see the Branch President in the hospital. He is President Kronen. He almost died about two weeks ago from a botched gall bladder surgery. He is a very upbeat man. After all that he went through – including one surgery with no anesthesia while doctors and orderlies held him down – he was in such great spirits when we saw him – giving thanks that the Savior had helped him through the pain. He said it was just like a hand touched him where the pain was and it lessened to such an extent that he finally could sleep. His wife came in while we were there. She also said how she had felt such peace throughout everything, even though it seemed for sure that her husband was not going to make it. She even had to make arrangements with their children concerning wills, burials, etc. Throughout she was calm and peaceful – she said it was not like her at all but that it was a blessing from the Lord. She felt that whatever happened was in the Lord’s hand. She had had a wonderful life with her husband and they had been sealed in the temple so she knew they would be together for eternities.
The Kronens are from Canada and were due to move back to Canada on the 14th. That will have to be delayed now. The Branch is so small, we wonder how they will manage without them. Sister Kronen is in the French Primary presidency and translates for most of the meetings. They are an outstanding couple.

Elder Petersen, Elder Warncke, President and Sister Kronen, the Millers
Wednesday Toon gave us the day off and we ventured out to find our way around Mons. We were able to find everything we needed. We found a gas station, car wash, Lidl (small inexpensive market), a Home Depot kind of place for things to repair the apartment, a Quick drive in (similar to McDonald’s though not nearly as good – so you can imagine how much we loved it), a place called Lunch Garden (a cafeteria style restaurant), another little larger market, the mall (which has a large grocery store similar to a Super Wal-Mart), and we only got lost once on our way home.

There is a small local grocery store about 2 blocks from our apartment and a kebab restaurant. There are also mostly apartments, offices, a few small businesses, a bank, a laundromat, a gym and a mattress store.
This is our street. 
We live in the apartment building on the right with the red brick.
Thursday and Friday were about the same at the archives. The work is more strenuous than we are used to. After having spent nearly six months working in our apartment sitting at a computer for 12 hours a day, it is a shock to our aged bodies to do the lifting, reaching from a very high shelf and totting documents. Coupled with the extra work of cleaning the apartment and adjusting to everything new, we are feeling old. However, we know that this will just make us stronger and soon we will be able to handle everything with ease. JoAnn is supposed to find a physical therapist here for her shoulder, but she thinks that this work will do the same thing as her shoulder seems to be loosening up somewhat already. Another added blessing.

The Fourth of July was Friday and we almost forgot about it completely. We were playing some church hymns at work when the Star Spangled Banner came on when the archivist was there and he mentioned it. They have a large military base here (S.H.A.P.E.) where they do a big celebration with fireworks, but we didn’t have access to the base so we just enjoyed (?) a hamburger and fries at Quick to celebrate.

Saturday is our Preparation Day (P-Day) – a day off from work when we can do our shopping, cleaning, errands, etc. It was a good day. We spent a little time touring the area and found some wonderful countryside. We even found a McDonald’s with an Internet connection. We have access to the Internet at the archives but it is on Toon’s computer so we can’t take too much time using it.

Sunday we drove a sister and her baby to church. Eleanor Morgun is from Hawaii and married to Vladimir, a Russian man whom she met at BYU Hawaii.

They have a 14-month-old little boy, Sasha. Vladimir had to go to Georgia (Russia) to serve in the Russian army for a month, so Eleanor needed a ride to church while he is gone. It was good that we could take her, because he was just leaving as we picked her up and she was crying. Being with people helped ease the sad feelings she was having.

They asked JoAnn to lead the music in Sacrament meeting. It is nice to be able to contribute in this new branch. We are sure there are going to be many, many opportunities here as the branch is so small and the needs are great. Relief Society is so small that they meet in a small classroom – no piano, no extras that you usually see in a Relief Society room. The Relief Society President is French and gave the lesson today. The teacher for the Priesthood was not there today so we combined with them for the lesson. We all moved to the chapel for that lesson.

There was a new couple that moved into the ward today. They have been married for a couple of years and are expecting a baby. He just graduated from college and found a job here. She teaches English and Dutch. She helped with the translation today in Sunday School. They came at the right time. The Branch President’s wife has been doing the translation for Sacrament meeting and will be leaving. Now we have a replacement for her. Perfect timing – such a blessing.

Sunday, June 29


We went to church this morning in our new branch. Toon came by and we followed him to where we picked up a woman and her six children. They are only here for a few weeks visiting her sister whose husband is in the army. We took half of them in our car and Toon took the other half in his. The Mons Branch meets in a very nice rather large chapel in a lovely area just outside of Mons.
It is an unusual branch in that half of the members speak French and half speak English. The way they get around this is they have headsets that you pick up as you go into the chapel. They have someone (the Branch President’s wife or maybe one of the missionaries) translate. So when the speakers are speaking in English the headsets hear French and vice verse. The good thing about this is we knew right away who spoke English and who spoke French by when they put their headsets on. They gave the sacrament prayers in both languages each time, one right after the other. Only the prayers were not translated. We also picked up a hymn book in our language of choice. It is interesting to hear the hymns sung in two languages at the same time.

They have two Primaries - a French Primary and an English Primary. The rest of the meetings are translated.

Arnold was asked to introduce us and tell about our background and our mission, so the members could become acquainted with us.

Since it is such a small branch, people double up on what they do each Sunday. The counselor conducting the meeting led the singing. The other counselor gave the Sunday School lesson and the combined Relief Society/Priesthood lesson and even translated for himself in the last meeting. He would give a part in English and then repeat it in French. It was a little confusing that way, especially with the comments from the class. But the spirit was strong and the people were very nice. We are sure we are going to really enjoy it here.

We then came home and took a nap – we were exhausted with all the traveling. Since it was Sunday, we didn’t feel like we could do much unpacking. The Elders left the apartment clean by their standards, but they are, after all, just teenage boys with a full day’s work each day and little time for things like that. They left it “missionary” clean, but we still have to make it “Mom” clean. Anyway, we need to go to the store tomorrow to get some cleaning supplies so that we can do a little cleaning before we put things away.

Toon and Elly Renard invited us over for dinner. Toon came by and picked us up as we still are at a loss as to how to find anything. They live in the archive building in a very lovely apartment. It is large, new and has a nice garden/patio area.
 Toon is pronounced "tone" and is short for Antonius. He is the microfilm operator at the archives during the day (working for the Church) and in the evenings and on weekends he is a security person (working for the Archives). The apartment comes with the job. Elly also works part time for the Archives. She is from the Netherlands and speaks Flemish and English. He is from Belgium and speaks French, English, Flemish, and German. He is 39 years old and served a Mission in Belgium. He is also the Branch Financial Clerk. They are a really great couple. They made sure our apartment had everything we needed – new mattresses on the bed, new sheets, pillows, etc., and that we had enough to eat. They brought a crate full of groceries for us to get us by until we can get to the store. What a lifesaver!

They have three very funny dogs. One is huge and a little bit scary looking (his name is Ozzie).
Toon said he once did his job as guard dog well when there was an intruder at the Archives. When Elly inquired what the intruder was doing, he pushed Elly back into the apartment. Ozzie then took a chunk out of the intruder's back side and sent him running away.
Toon with the three dogs
Then there is a middle-sized dog named Charlie, who is a real comedian, and a small black dog named Billy. It is funny because the littlest dog is the top dog, head of the pack. He doesn't seem to realize that he is the little guy. He calls all the shots and the others fall in line. Toon said that he even will grab the big dog’s neck and throw him to the ground.

They were all barking and very excited because we were strangers. They had to muzzle the large dog at first but after awhile the dogs all decided we were okay and then they proceeded to lounge all over us for most of the time we were there.
Elly with dogs after haircuts (theirs, not hers)
We now are taking some down time and will begin work at the Archives in the morning.

Friday, June 27


We got up very early to get a good start on our trip. The hotel didn’t have an elevator so we had to come down the stairs rolling our suitcase. In the process we made quite a commotion and were scolded by the hotel concierge. We had breakfast and began our journey.

The drive was perfect. We had beautiful weather and saw some of the best scenery of any of our trips. The car worked perfectly, and we found gas stations with clean restrooms (another mini miracle).

We had planned to stay in Strasbourg, but by the time we got to Mulhouse there was a terrible accident on the freeway – nothing was moving at all. We were just by the off-ramp to Mulhouse, so we took the off ramp and proceeded to try to find a hotel room for the night. First we needed to cancel our reservation in Strasbourg before 6:00. It was 5:30 and our cell phone won't make long distance calls. We easily found a McDonald’s with an Internet but we couldn’t connect.

We decided we would just have to pay for the other hotel because we couldn’t give them notice. We found a hotel that had no vacancies, but they sent us to a place with several other hotels. They had the same chain there that we were to stay in in Strasbourg so they cancelled our reservation for us. There were no vacancies at this hotel, so we went next door and found another hotel which was much nicer and larger. It had no air conditioning but it was much cooler here so it was okay. Another plus was that they had a restaurant so we didn’t have to get lost looking for a place to eat.

After dinner we went to our room to try to send some emails. JoAnn took a shower while Arnold tried to get the computer to connect to the Internet. JoAnn was just coming out of the bathroom after her shower when the electricity went out. It was a blessing that the lights had not gone out while she was in the shower. Since the electricity was off, we just went to bed and got a good night’s sleep.
In the morning the electricity was back on and the computer was working. We sent a few emails and decided to try to find the Mulhouse chapel.

Arnold finished his mission in Mulhouse in 1963 when they didn’t have a chapel and only had a small branch meeting in a small rented “Salle” (a meeting room in a hotel). Now there is a ward with a beautiful chapel and grounds like a small park. There was a car in the parking lot but no one answered when we rang the bell on the side door.

We then took off for Strasbourg passing through Colmar, the birthplace of Albert Schweitzer and Bartholdi who was the artist who designed the Statue of Liberty.

Colmar was in the Mulhouse district
when Arnold was the District Leader there
House across the street from the Bartholdi statue
We were so late getting out of Colmar on our way to Weitersviller, and we had cancelled our hotel in Strasbourg the night before, so we were worried about a place to stay Friday night. We drove into Strasbourg finding a huge metropolis had grown up from what Arnold remembered of 45 years ago. We said a little prayer and just then saw a sign showing the way to a small village called Illkirch south of Strasbourg. Arnold said “the spirit says we should go there.” So we got back on the road and took the off ramp at Illkirch. The first thing we saw were signs to a hotel called “Domino.” We followed the signs and found ourselves in a quiet residential neighborhood. Thinking we had misread the signs we continued to the end of that street and looked to our left and “Voila” we found the most charming small bed-and-breakfast type hotel operated by a family.
The room was clean and comfortable and the best part… the price was right. We stayed there, had a good night’s sleep, got up and ate a nice breakfast, then hit the road once again for Weitersviller, the place where Arnold’s 2nd great grandfather and his forbearers, going back five more generations to 1603, were born.

All the way from Mulhouse to Weitersviller we passed through what Arnold remembered as nothing but vineyards of days gone by. But now those same fields are filled with a patchwork of corn and wheat as far as the eye can see.

 Alsace must be France’s bread basket as Bordeaux must be its wine cellar. A short drive from Strasbourg going west we passed through several small villages finally arriving at Saverne. Saverne was once an ancient Roman garrison established in the Vosges Mountain range where there were established three taverns to serve the Roman soldiers. The place was called anciently “Tres Tabernes.” The leveling process of languages took affect eventually, changing the name of the place to Saverne. Some of Arnold’s ancestors were born there.

We then took a winding mountainous road through dense forests up through Bouxviller, another place of ancestral heritage, finally arriving at our ancestor’s home town of Weitersviller, a charming Alsatian village on a hill surrounded by forests and farmland.
 We found a group of locals having a barbecue on the street near a small restaurant. Several of them wore Tee shirts identifying them as firemen. We approached them and said in French “We’ve come from America in search of long lost cousins.” Seeing our FamilySearch missionary badges identified our last name as Miller so Arnold explained that his 2nd great grandfather’s name was Müller but that he changed it to Miller when he emigrated to America in 1831. They were most friendly, and all of them remembered a Müller family that used to live there but they moved two years ago. Arnold then explained that there were many other family names from that village. When he mentioned the name Gimbel, several of them pointed out that there was a Gimbel still living up the street around the bend but that he lived alone and he was recovering from surgery on his leg. So it was decided not to bother him since he would have difficulty coming to the door.

Next door to where they were having their barbecue was a charming little restaurant so we decided to go in and order lunch.

Expecting a small lunch we were treated to a three-course meal

of the most delicious leek soup,

followed by some cold cuts of local making,
followed by a main course of roast pork, green beans, salad and potato pancakes and ending with two scoops of ice cream with some whipped cream on top and a heart-shaped chocolate covered cookie. The whole meal was only 8 Euros each, which included a soft drink.
This was the view from the restaurant windows.


The red doors are the doors to the firehouse

We then decided to try the local cemeteries, but again were disappointed to find that the most recent graves dated to the 20th century. It appears as though older graves are recycled to newer burial sites. We assumed that if we found a family name it might be a relative buried in the site of an ancestor.

These are the older grave sites that have no names or indication of anyone caring for them.

We then went through Neuviller, another place of ancestral heritage.