We hope you are all well and staying warm and cozy this winter. Since we are behind on our letters we will give you some idea of what we experienced the past month.
December was very busy at the temple. Many people came to the programs put on by the visitors’ center each night for 10 days.
There was a different program each night. Nearly 50 nonmembers attended and were introduced to our Church. On the temple grounds, a large crèche or nativity was set up.
On Dec. 15, we went on a walking tour to visit four patisseries or boulangeries in Paris with Pres. and Sister Lazeras and the other senior missionaries. The Lazeras’ love to explore Paris and share their knowledge with us. We had a lot of fun and walked 7.4 miles or 16,692 steps. Hopefully we walked off those amazing deserts. We also saw many interesting sites along the way.
On Dec. 16, the Versailles Ward had a Christmas party and dinner. Richard and I helped serve the food with the other senior missionaries. It was a delicious meal and Santa (Pere Noel or Father Christmas) even dropped by to see the children.
The temple opened on Dec. 19, after the two-week closure. We were surprised how many attended during the holidays.
We were very excited that our daughter, Rebecca, and her 6 year-old daughter, Savannah, were able to arrive Christmas Eve for a week’s visit with us. They were able to see many of the sites in Paris and also attend Christmas dinner with us on Christmas Day with the temple presidency, some of their families and the senior missionaries. It was cold when they were here, but we had a great time with them. It was hard to see them leave on New Year’s Day to return home. We wish Richi could have come with them. Being an engineer, he would have been intrigued with the Paris Temple.
January started off with rain and wind. They don’t have much snow here. We are at about the same latitude as Seattle. For the first time since the temple was dedicated, the temple was not very busy the first few weeks in January. In France, you are wished Happy New Year all January (bonne annee) and many people serve a cake or “galette des rois” (cake of the kings) that has a tiny porcelain charm buried inside. It is a puff pastry stuffed with creamy almond paste. The one who finds the charm in their piece wears a crown for the day as the king. The crown is included with the galette. It is a 700-year-old French tradition. It celebrates the arrival of the three kings (wisemen) to the manger where Christ was born.
On Jan. 5, Karen was in the marriage waiting room and our young African friend, Brother Bulliuem came. He gave me a big hug and said he had thought about Richard and me a lot since last summer and said we were an example to him. He would love to serve a mission with his future wife. He then told me the story of his first time going to the temple. He joined the Church a few years ago and was very happy. He is an amazing light to everyone around him and served faithfully as a home teacher. One day a friend asked him why he had not gone to the temple yet. He had not really thought about it. The next week his bishop called him into his office and said he felt he should prepare to receive his endowments. Brother Bulliuem wanted to do this, but he lived in Nice, France, and did not have the funds to go to the Bern, Switzerland, temple. Two weeks later, another friend asked him if he would be willing to sell his bicycle to him so he did for $50. A few days later a woman he home taught asked if he could work in her yard to clean it up. She paid him the exact amount needed with the $50 to buy a train ticket to Bern. He was so impressed with how the Lord paved the way for him to go to the temple that it was a lesson to him and others. Brother Bulliuem radiates the gospel and cannot contain his joy and happiness in receiving his temple blessings. Many ancestors are now receiving their blessings because of him.
During the week of Jan. 16-20, there were seven members who came to the temple, some for the first time to receive their endowments. Karen was privileged to help them with many ordinances that week including some baptismal sessions. As these people (who are in their 60s and 70s) were baptized for many ancestors, one man said they had forgotten to do his grandmother. Her name was prepared and the next day he shed many tears as he baptized his wife for her. He received his endowments on Tuesday and was baptized on Wednesday. A little over a year ago he had not even heard of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!
It is such a small world in the Church. We make connections with members and find they have common friends or associates with us. One young woman, Sister Snyder, served in the St. George temple visitors’ center with Brent and LeeAnn Cleverly, our former stake president. Another knew our friends Kent and Kae Servoss, who served a mission in the Netherlands.
For one of our recent family home evenings, Bill and Renee Woods, the directors of the Paris Temple Visitors’ Center, talked about their missionary efforts so far. Their presentation illustrated the amazing work they’ve done so far. They have traveled to the stakes and wards in our temple district and have encouraged members to bring investigators to the temple grounds so they can feel the Spirit. There has been a lot of success, and missionaries all over France have had more success because of the temple and the positive press it was given during the construction and open house. Some people are drawn just to the grounds. A young Muslim girl said it was like a magnet that pulled her in as she was walking by. She is now on her second lesson with the missionaries.
We also had a family home evening with Christian and Marie Francoise Euvrard. He has written a comprehensive history of the Church in France. Richard knew both of them when he served here as a young missionary. It has taken since 1850 when missionaries first came to France to see much growth in France, but the work here is hastening. In fact, instead of all branches and districts, like when Richard was here previously, there are stakes and wards throughout the country. The work is gaining speed and much is being accomplished. With the first temple here, there is a light shining forth reaching throughout Europe.
We feel very privileged to serve here and enjoy our experiences. We see the Lord’s hand in the temple and missionary work. We love you and are grateful for each of you.