Tracting in La Rochelle France

As I look through my pictures from my mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in France, each picture seems to have a story. I served from May 1991 to May 1993. I had so many amazing experiences. Sometimes you don’t realize that something significant is happening when you are right in the middle of it. This experience is something that I have often thought about over the past 28 years.

One day in October I was tracting (going door-to-door) as a missionary in La Rochelle, France with my companion. (Missionaries always go two-by-two.)  It was a typical day.  I had only been out in France for three months, so I was still trying to master the language.  I would practice French with my companion in between talking with people. We would often go back and forth from English to French, and often throw in a little “Franglais”, mixing French and English together.

Mission-Car-La-Rochelle-I-wish
I loved walking or riding my bike by this car every day in La Rochelle. It is so classic and in my eyes beautiful. I thought that it would make a nice car for the missionaries instead of my old bike. A missionary can dream, right?

We had prayed to decide where we should work, and shortly after beginning, we knocked on a door. A French woman with a surprised look on her face answered the door. I explained who we were and she nodded and said, “Yes, we know who you are.”  Having heard this before, and finding out that they actually had no idea who we were, I supposed that this person was the same, so I explained more about what we were doing. She again nodded and said, “Yes. We are very familiar with you and what you do.” So I asked, “How is that so?” She invited us in. A man I presumed who was her husband joined us as we shook hands and sat down.

They began to try to explain, stopping, and beating around the bush a bit on how they knew the missionaries. Finally, after they realized that we really had no idea who they were, they explained that they had both been members of the Church, and that he had formerly been the branch president.  I was speechless.  The Lord had led us to someone who we didn’t know existed.  We spent close to an hour there sharing scriptures and bearing testimony. I asked if we could come visit again and they agreed.  Here is my journal from our next visit:

6 Octobre 1991

We went to see the inactive couple living together. We had set up a rendez-vous (appointment) with Frère (brother) LaPort to discuss more and share a video. We met. He went and showered and cleaned up. I suppose he had been working in the garden. We talked to Soeur (sister) Carré and got to know her better. Then he came back out and we got to know him a bit. We talked to them both about their conversion, which they both loved to discuss. Then we watched a video we had planned to share.  “Le Livre de Mormon, Quel Bien Précieux” (How Rare a Possession). It was a video that I loved to share about the Book of Mormon, what it was, and what a treasure it was as another witness of the teachings and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We all felt the Spirit strongly. I was directed by the Spirit to tell them that the Lord loved them and wanted them to come back to church. I was so sad because I knew how bad they were in need of the gospel and the blessings of Jesus Christ’s Church again. But, for some reason I couldn’t find the right time to tell them what the Spirit had directed me to say.

She made crêpes. I was just filled with the Spirit trying not to show my emotions and cry. After eating crêpes with homemade jelly, we had a prayer, given by my companion. Then I knew I had to say what I had been prompted to say, as we were sitting around the kitchen table. I said, “I don’t know what happened in the past, but it was in the past.” I continued, “We love you. And the Lord loves you, and He wants you to come back to His Church. The Spirit has told me this tonight.” It touched them both. Frère LaPorte still said “No”. But Soeur Carré left the table crying. I know we did a lot of good tonight and they felt the Spirit again very strongly. We were invited to come back.

Earlier in the evening, Frère LaPorte had shown us a letter from the missionary who had baptized him. I memorized his information and later wrote down the person’s name and address. His name was Elder Glen Lund and he now lives in Bountiful. So I’m going to write him and see if he has any suggestions. Something really hurt Frère LaPorte’s and his pride has caused him to leave the Church. Clearly he was very strong in the church at one time. He was actually the branch president. He still has a testimony and believes in the Book of Mormon and in the teachings of the Church. Oh stress…  I hope that the Lord will show me how to help him or help to soften his heart. I’ve totally felt strongly that this guy is needed again in the Lord’s Church.

3 Novembre 1991

My companion made an excellent cake for the LaPortes. I went on an exchange with Edler Richa and we both took it there. Virginia opened the door, and said “Oh, the missionaries! Come in!” So we went inside. There was Sister Carré in the kitchen. She said, “Hello” and we gave her the cake. She yelled for Frère LaPorte.   He told us to come have a seat. We did. We talked a little. Elder Richa (who is a French missionary and our Zone Leader visiting) got to know them a bit.

I told Frère LaPorte I had written someone he knew, Dr. Lund, the missionary who had baptized him. He was surprised.  I gave him the letter Dr. Lund had written for Frère LaPorte. He looked over it, and then we talked a little bit about Dr. Lund. I could see Frère LaPorte had a special place in his heart for this former missionary who had taught him the gospel and baptized him. I then translated the letter which was written in English, so that everyone could hear what he had written to me for Frère Laporte. We felt the Spirit very strong when I told him Frère (brother) Lund wanted him to start reading The Book of Mormon again and to come to church again.

I then asked him what he thought of the video we watched last time.  He liked it and said it was great. I invited them again to come back to church. Soeur Carré again said how ready she was. She got frustated with him saying, “What is the deal with you? Is it this…?” He just said, “Oui”. He explained a little how someone had did him wrong. I felt prompted to share a scripture in Luke, 15:4-6.

4. What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?

5. And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.

I asked Frère LaPorte what that scripture meant to him. (Qu’est-ce que cela vous dire?) He said what it meant him. He knew what I was getting at. I told him the Shepard was God an that he was like the lost sheep, and how happy the Lord would be to have him among His fold again. I told them that when I had read this scripture, I thought of them and it kept weighing on me to share it with them.

They responded and said that it didn’t pertain to them because they weren’t lost. Soeur (sister) Carré said she wants to come back but can’t for some reason. (glares at Frère LaPorte.) He says it’s his choice not to be there. I told him, “Just the same, we really miss them.” She made if very clear she wants to come back badly but he will not let her. Elder Richa gave a great example of when Brigham Young became prophet, many fell away. He told them though, it’s not the church of Brigham Young. It’s the Church of Jesus Christ still. That was very pertinent to his life. It was great. Then I told them how each time I come there I feel the Spirit so strong. I know they the Lord is aware of them and that He wants them to come back. I know that they feel the Spirit too. I told them that this is the Holy Ghost confirming the truth. But Frère Laporte is so stubborn.

After trying to express how I felt last time and how I feel this time, I invited them to again come back, and to read the Book of Mormon. I should have asked to pray as well. But we did leave with a prayer by Elder Richa. She (Soeur Carré) said again as I told them that we miss them, that he was holding her back.  We got to the car. (Elder Richa as a zone leader had a car. Normally we were on bikes.)  They started to call us back. “Come here.” they said.  So we did. They said that they wanted us to eat the cake with them that we had brought. Unfortunately we didn’t have time. Elder Richa had to leave. I told them we would be back. They were very warm with us. I KNOW THE LORD WANTS THEM BACK! I told them this. It seems like they have been talking about it together. They know it’s us AND the Lord working with them. She wanted to know if it was the President of the Branch telling us to come by. I told them the Spirit guided us there and that we had no idea who’s door we had knocked on. It’s now late. I am praying very earnestly for these two.

“Have I done any good in the world today?”

P.S. I asked him, “What could I do to get him to go back to church?” He said, “Tie me up and drag me there.” I want to do it! Stubborn man him!

 

10 Novembre 1991

We visited Frère LaPorte this morning before church.  My companion wasn’t too happy about going there since it’s a ½ hour bike ride. I woke Frère Laporte up and said I was there to get him for church. I reminded him that he had said that I’d have to tie him up to get him there. So, I showed him some rope that I had brought.  I was smiling from ear to ear. He laughed and let us in. (We were cold). We talked for a minute. I know we were the last people he expected to see.  I left him l’étoile magazine (Ensign) with a specific article to read on forgiveness. He needs to read it then practice it! That’s all. Good night.

Missions are interesting. Back in 1991 while I was serving in France, after you were transferred to a new city, you often lost contact with people. I did not know what happened to Frère LaPorte and Soeur Carré.  We may have visted other times but I don’t have it recorded in my journal and I was transferred to another city right before Thanksgiving.  Back then there was no texting. There was no instant messages. There was no social media. You hoped and prayed that they would find their way.

One day in 1992 there was a district conference in Nantes (similar to a stake conference in an area where there is not a church stake created). Who should I bump into? Frère LaPorte and Soeur Carré. What a miracle! There they were! At a district conference with hundreds of people in another city, the Lord in His kindness let me run into them.  I was so happy to see them. I embraced them and said how happy it made me to see them. I’m not sure what their level of activity was, but it was a great sign to see them there.

amisdeleglise1
Soeur Carré, Frère LaPorte, and Elder Jason Bringhurst

I wish I had the rest of the story. Maybe this blog will reach someone who knows, but I don’t know what ever happened to them. While writing this blog, I tried to locate them. I was able to get in contact the current branch president in La Rochelle and unfortunately, I found out that are both now deceased. What I do know is that a little miracle happened when I ran into them at this district conference in Nantes. It was a little miracle that we found them while tracting in a La Rochelle among 75,000 other people. I don’t know if they ever returned to full activity in the Church. I do know that I felt some very special feelings from the Spirit which testified to me of God’s love for each of them. He is aware of each of us. That makes me happy. I can’t comprehend it all, but our creator, our Heavenly Father knows us, and you know what? He loves us. Often he sends others into our life to help us a long. Sometimes he sends us into other peoples’ lives to help them along.  I think that must make Him very happy when His children minister to each other. Gathering together on the sabbath to worship God with the saints helps to lift each other. Hearing our brothers and sisters in the gospel bear testimony of Jesus Christ strengthens the soul. It lifts our spirits. It often lightens our burdens. It is good to rest one day a week from the cares of the world. God has commanded that we keep the Sabbath day holy.  By attending church, we can partake of the sacrament and renew covenants and our commitment to follow our Savior’s example. We make lifelong friends. Going to church is important.  We are all trying to find our way back home to our Father in Heaven and return to His glorious celestial kingdom and each of us needs all the help we can get.

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