We have been gone for about 4 weeks now and our church experience has been interesting and fun! The first Sunday was Fast Sunday, which is a day members of the congregation fast for 2 meals to strength their faith and testimonies of Jesus Christ. The members of the Nîmes Ward (congregation) were waiting for our arrival and we were warmly welcomed. Most of the 50 active members knew who we were before we even met them. It was nice to feel so loved immediately. We did know a number of people because we had stayed in this area a few times previously. AJ, Austin and Tristan went together to Priesthood and Young Mens. Tristan turns 12 in December and the Bishop is making an exception for Tristan to attend Young Mens a few months early because Primary is only 4 children, Joseph (8), Emma (5), Jack (5) and Sophie (3). Plus, there is a boy, Diego, who just turned 12 who Tristan hit it off with immediately.
That first Sunday, Relief Society consisted of 8 women, plus myself, Julia and Alexis. French people are very different from Americans. They do not worry about expressing their opinions and not many get offended easily. So, it is not uncommon to be in church, in a relief society lesson and 2 or 3 discussions going on at one time. It is very overwhelming for me because I can not always follow the discussion because someone is trying to make their point above the sound of someone else’s point. In the end, everyone is still cordial and life goes on to the next “discussion/argument”! I can see why a lot of Americans think the French are rude. The French have a very abrupt way of expressing themselves, yet they are not trying to be rude. It just comes off that way and I know it is not personal. Most Americans are too worried about not offending someone that they do not express their true feelings. It has definitely captivated my attention and keeps me on my toes because I have been called on twice to insert my feelings during a discussion.
When I met up with Aaron he said a “heated debate” occurred during the men’s Priesthood meeting. Every Sunday we have about an hours worth of “debate” discussion between Aaron and I. We compare notes and either laugh or roll our eyes!
Sacrament service came around and I wanted to conquer my fear of standing before the congregation and speaking French, so I took the plunge and stood to bear my testimony as well as I could in french. I wanted to show my kids that their Mom can do hard things too. I gave a very simple testimony of Jesus Christ because my Gospel/Scripture/Church vocabulary is limited. I think Aaron about fell out of his chair when I stood up to share my thoughts. People in the congregation where so kind as I attempted to speak their language. In fact one woman, Claudette, who sits on the front row, was “mouthing” the right verbs to me on a few occasions when she could tell I was looking for the right conjugation. It was awesome! I did it!
Of course, our family loves to mingle and visit with others after the 3 hours of services are over. The children start complaining after about 45 minutes and everyone starts to leave. It is so unifying and we just love it! We love the mission field! It is great seeing the missionaries each week and feeding them! Whoot! Whoot!
The second Sunday attending the Nîmes Ward, I was asked to give the closing prayer during Sacrament Service. I was able to prepare in my mind a few simple phrases, but it was nerve racking. I did it! Also, the Stake Sunday School President was attending our Ward “scouting” out Aaron. A few comments were made to Aaron and we prayed that a calling at that level was not in our future. The Stake in our area is huge!
The third Sunday, Alexis was asked to play the piano for Sacrament Services because no one was there who could. She did a great job, especially when a little girl went up to the piano, while Alexis was playing, and started playing. Nathan D. had to go up and pull the little girl away. Alexis is a great piano player so she wasn’t thrown off by it. It made us all chuckle!
The fourth Sunday, I was asked to teach Relief Society! I could not believe it! I told Myriam I was happy to do it, but still very hesitant as I know my french is not ready for a 30 minute lesson! I was nervous and it came and went and I am so happy that it is over! There were only 5 ladies, plus Alexis and myself, this sunday. I asked for all their help and they gladly gave it to me. We had wonderful comments and personal experiences shared and there were no “discussions/arguments”. Thank the good Lord above for that! I did it!
About 2 minutes before Sacrament was to begin a member of the Bishopric came and asked if I could lead the music because the chorister was not there. I was happy to do it, even after the unfamiliar closing song was sung! Two of the songs I could not figure out what they were before the pianist started playing. As soon as she started playing the introduction I was either relieved because I knew it or nervous because I did not know the song. That happened with one song. I do not think it is even in the American Hymnal. Plus, I have to follow the music because I do not know the words in french so I could not look up at the congregation very much because I had to read the words. I guess I could have just stood there and waved my arm, but that would have been awkward!
Aaron had been asked to give a talk too and he did a great job! Also, right before Sacrament started Aaron said he had spoken to the Bishop and that he was to receive a calling. Prayers were answered as it was NOT a stake calling!!!! He was called to serve as the Ward Mission Leader. He will do a great job working with the less active members and those the missionaries are working with. Our family is excited for him because we know it means so much to him to serve the people of France again! Bishop Ribera gave him a very kind and thoughtful setting apart. There were 15 people in the Bishop’s office showing their support! It was incredible and a wonderful Spirit was present! The Gospel of Jesus Christ is real and we feel so grateful we can be apart of sharing it with those in this Nîmes area!
AJ, Austin and Tristan left right after church yesterday to attend a Stake Young Men’s Camping activity. It is near Toulouse, which is a 3 hour car drive from Nîmes, 3.5 hours from Sanilhac. Aaron drove our boys plus 3 other boys, Diego, Samuel, and Alexi to the activity, dropped them off and drove home! No one else had a big enough car to fit all 6 boys so Aaron offered to drive. He has to go pick them up on Wednesday morning when the activity is over, drive home and drop the other 3 boys off at the church to be picked up by their families. Aaron said there were about 18 boys total at this Stake Young Mens Activity. It reminds me of my youth experience when some of my Stake friends lived an hour/hour and a half away. We haven’t received any phone calls so I guess so far my boys are ok!