I served as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) in the France Bordeaux mission from May 15, 1991, to May 5, 1993. As I have thought about some of my experiences on my mission, I have thought that it would be good to share a few select experiences on my blog. I will reference some of my journal entries from time to time.
Elder Jason Bringhurst (right) in front of Angers, France Church Building
I hope you will enjoy reading a few things about my mission to the France Bordeaux Mission. It was an exciting time to serve in France. Our mission had just been recently created and President Neil L. Andersen had promised us we’d see miracles if we worked hard and had faith.
One miracle that I experienced makes it possible to share some of my journals with you. At the end of my mission, I was leaving Pau in Southern France on a train to Bordeaux. A sister missionary was coming home at the same time from Pau. When we got to the Bordeaux train station, I got off with my bags and there were missionaries waiting for us. I sat down my bags and boarded to assist the sister missionary with her luggage. The train station (la gare) at Bordeaux is massive and there were hundreds of air force soldiers boarding the train as we were de-boarding. The missionaries that met us there had already started carrying luggage to the mission van and we followed them.
When we got to the van I looked around for a large duffel bag I had recently purchased for the flight home. It was stuffed with presents for my friends and family, some chocolates from a member who had asked me to deliver them to their daughter living in Salt Lake, a camera with pictures on the film of all the people I wanted to remember, cassette tapes of recordings all the members and investigators had made for me, and most importantly my missionary journals. I asked everyone there about it. Nobody seemed to know anything. I raced back to the platform which was now empty and watched the train leaving on a non-stop trip towards Paris. My heart sunk.
When we arrived at the mission home, I told President Oveson, (I served under both President Andersen and Oveson), what had happened. He quickly called the Paris Mission president. The Paris Mission President asked the Assistants to the President go to the train station to see if they could locate the bag on the train. I was helpless at this point. I went into the bathroom, locked the door, and got down on my knees and offered a fervent prayer that at least my missionary journals would be found.
It seemed like forever, but later that day I received news that the missionaries in Paris had found my empty bag. They had even stolen my worn mission shoes that I’d polished one last time as a missionary in preparation for my homecoming. Everything was gone except for my two mission journals. What a miracle. They were still there and the assistants to the president in the Paris mission had located them! They sent the journals home with an Elder from their mission who was returning to Salt Lake where I was able to be reunited with my journals.
Now 24 years later, the mission and everything seems like a dream. As I said, we entered the MTC May 15th, 1991 and came home May 5th, 1993. We spent two months in the Missionary Training Center (MTC) then traveled on to France July 16th.
My mission was a life-changing experience that I treasure greatly. I draw from those rich experiences even still today. It helped shape the person I have become.
Over the past 24 years since coming home, I’ve referred back to my journals. I’m so thankful I have them. A few years ago after the announcement of the France Paris Temple, the Church asked for voluntary submissions of digital copies of missionary journals who had served in France. I went through and typed up all of my journals and submitted them to the Church on a thumb drive. It will now be stored in the Church archives. It seems like the Lord’s hand was in it all along. My journal is of great worth to me, and maybe it will be to my posterity one day as well.
Please enjoy some choice experiences that would have been forgotten had I not found my journal again. I’ve translated everything into English since much of my journal was written in French or Franglais (half French and half English.)
I wish that this was our mission car. It was not. We passed by it every day on our bikes on the way to the church meeting house in La Rochelle, France.
Those of you who know me, will not be surprised if I told you that while in France recently, I was on a quest to find a fountain-drink Diet Coke. What may surprise you is that in 1992 I was on this same quest!
From my missionary journal. 8 July 1992 – Angoulême, France
So at 9:30 am we were ready to go! (During my mission, missionaries were supposed to be out of the apartment at 9:30 a.m.) We did some pass backs (following up on previous contacts we had made) and made one member visit to the LaFarge family. She was just leaving and we gave her the “Bulletin Angoumousin” and then cruised. (This was a monthly publication, similar to a ward newsletter. I somehow ended up being the one in charge of it.) We looked for another member but she had moved. But check this out! I see a fairly good-sized gas station, “ESSO” was the name. I said to my companion, “I want to see if this place has fountain drinks.” (Diet Coke!) Now I’ve searched up and down France for one. I didn’t expect to find one. But as I pulled up, I saw a poster with a big Coke, fountain-style drink, with ice in it. I looked closeley, and it said they had them in there! I looked inside and there I saw the smallest fountain-drink machine I’ve ever seen. But it was there at least! Oh la la! I ran to it with a tear in my eye, grabbed the largest cup, which was actually very small, a très petit cup, and asked the cashier as I looked around if there was ice. I got an odd look and a response of, “NOPE!” Well, fountain drinks clearly are not a thing here France. I sighed and filled it with Diet Coke. Not just Coke, but Diet Coke. I looked around and they had no lids either. I was probably the only person to ever buy a drink from the fountain machine. They all seemed very curious and confused as they watched me operate this machine that apparently had sat there untouched as long as anyone could remember. I walked up to the cashier beaming. I was so proud that I’d found this place! I’m guessing she had no idea how much to charge for the drink. Money was of no concern to me for I had a fountain-drink-style Diet Coke in hand, albeit the size of the free cups of water that you’d find at a water cooler. I tried to express how extremely happy I was and how I’d never seen one before in France, and I’d looked everywhere etc. etc. She didn’t care. I ignored her lack of interest. I had partaken in a revolution! I can see 7-11 stores everywhere soon! Mugs! Refills! Yes! Oui! Oh, I’m happy! Merveilleux! Incroyable! Well, I was quite a happy camper. It’s bound to be a good day!
The quest continues… From my missionary journal. 29 July 1992 – Angoulême, France
Yes, today would be a famous day. History was made! Angoulême was put on the map. Oh boy howdy! Yes, the rumors are true! McDonalds opened up today! Here!
Yes, I actually made it there twice today! Once just to experience a fountain drink with ice. My first real fountain drink with ice in a year. Then later, all the missionaries met at 5PM for dinner with all the members our age. Stephan, Delphine, Natalie Humblot, etc. There were missionary bikes everywhere! “Le Big Mac” was fantastic! It was fun that they all came and ate with us. It really was great. We should do more proselytizing there! We also visited the family Boyer today and then we did a few errands. My bike is broken in the shop and my loner bike broke down in Fleac (city close by). I had to ride it to the shop flat. I was not too happy. Well, goodnight. JB
Sœur Chadwick and I spotted this Coke truck on our P-day in La Rochelle. Our companions are each holding our cameras and taking a picture of the two of us, both Coke drinkers, who were so excited to see an old friend. J’aime le coca-cola!
As I am writing this, I’m still sipping on a Diet Coke. I’m glad that now when I go back to BYU I can enjoy an ice cold refreshing Diet Coke on campus.
28 August 1992 – Tours, France
Well, today was interesting. The morning was blah. Tons of rude people. I got very discouraged. This afternoon was so-so. We taught a guy and he didn’t pay attention. Frustrating. Coming back from the area we always cross two bridges. Today we stopped watching this dog jump from the Balzac island into the river fetching sticks. It was a hoot.
Well, I decided to go. My companion went around me (we were on bikes). I looked behind me to go and I see two ladies walking towards me holding arms. I thought the one on the right was wearing a red bandana on her face. She got closer and I saw it was blood. I jumped off my bike and ran to see if I could help. She said to take her other arm. I left Elder Rusch’s bike on the bridge which I had been borrowing that day because my bike had a flat tire. My companion had left to go back to the apartment. We walked towards the nearest building. The lady who was helping her lived there. The other girl who was injured had a huge bump on her temple with a hole the size of a nickel in it. It was all black and dark red. All around the hole and it was puffed up. It stuck out quite far. The girl was maybe 16 years old. She was actually very beautiful. I couldn’t imagine what had happened to her on the island. Had she fallen? Had someone hit her? I didn’t know. Well, we get to the building and we went to take the elevator but decided to go to the concierge office. (each building has a concierge in charge of the building like a manager.) There we let her sit down. Blood was pouring out. Her hair was all stuck to her face. Her whole face was bright red with blood streaming off her chin, and nose. Her shirt was blood-soaked so bad it looked black. Her jeans spotted all over. Her hands were trembling and had dirt stuck to them with drying blood. Blood was all over my clean white shirt now. I must have yelled 10 times for a towel or paper towel or something to help her before someone finally brought a first aid kit. I did what little I dared with my scarce medical training in Boy Scouts. I had cotton gauze pads and water. She had lost a lot of blood and was in shock. The ambulance was called and she was freaking out. She kept screaming and grabbing her neck. The other lady and I were trying to calm her down. She was screaming she was in pain and was very scared. I wasn’t sure if a priesthood blessing was appropriate so I said a silent prayer. We kept assuring her the ambulance was on the way. I was holding her hands while the lady called her house or something. She would scream and squeeze my hands. I wanted to help her so bad. I wanted to let her know that she had a Heavenly Father that loved her and that He would help her through this. I knew she was in bad shape. She wouldn’t make it much longer if she kept losing all the blood. She kept screaming how bad her neck hurt. Well, the ambulance finally got there and they immediately started yelling at her saying “Where did you get that?” They could tell what I hadn’t figured out. She admitted to them that she tried to put a bullet in her head. She had tried to kill herself. He then asked where the gun was. She lifted a black plastic bag she was carrying. He pulled out a gun. I couldn’t believe it. It hadn’t even crossed my mind. My heart sank. I felt sick. This beautiful young girl. Why? Well, I told them I should go. (I was getting nervous because I’m sure my companion was wondering what had happened to me since we had been separated for a long time). I gave them my card and told them to call me and let me know how she’s doing. So far no news. It’s now 10:30 p.m. I need to sleep. See ya. JB
When I walked into the apartment after having been gone for awhile, you can imagine how concerned my companion was and then, to see me in a blood-soaked shirt, he was very shocked and couldn’t believe he had had not noticed the girl.
I have often thought back on this experience. I tried to call the hospital and they would not give me any information since I was not a relative. This young girl thought life was so bad that she tried to commit suicide. Now that I am 47 years old, I have unfortunately known people who have committed suicide. One of my young men when I lived in Springville and was a young men’s advisor. One of my good friends from Springville. One of my neighbors in Highland. I know many others who have struggled with serious deep depression and have considered it. I think that it is something we do not understand, and when someone comes to that point, they are not in their right mind. Surely we cannot judge them.
There is a lot of help out there. If you are having depressed or suicidal thoughts, please talk to someone. If you know someone, talk to them, talk to their family. Do not let them fight this alone. Mental Health Information. USA National Suicide Prevention Lifeline