samedi 20 juin 2015

A community support wherever I go

This post is part of the  "Raising Multilingual Children: Blogging Carnival!" for June and the topic is: Building your Tribe!

I have lived my whole childhood and College years in the South of France, just in two towns, Céret and Perpignan. At that time, even if I was not too bad with English, I would have never said that I was bilingual.

 As I was planning to move to another part of France (and even considering serving as a european volunteer...), I received several answers to prayers I had earnestly sent a few months prior. One of those answer was my "meeting" with the Church I am now a member of: the Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints. After more prayers and some studies of the Scriptures, and even more talks with the members of the Perpignan ward (= parish), I was very happy to be baptized at the end of July 2005. 

A little over a month after this event, I was moving to Paris, in hope to become a Primary school teacher. I had extended family in the area, but no friends. For three days. Because on the fourth day of my new Parisian life, I met young people from the Church and felt welcomed, helped and loved. Especially by a blond banker who proposed to show me Paris in our free time. History says that he also proposed something else on the next Christmas day, but it's not exactly the subject. Or is it not? Yeah, you guessed right, that's my husband and the father of my three children with whom I had an immediate connection the first day we met.

Fast-forward to yesterday evening, when several men and women babysat fifthteen children (mines and from other families of the ward) while their parents were attending an evening session at the Friedrichsdorf Temple (for more infos about what is a "Temple session", it's here). As we are now living in Germany, 20 minutes away from the Temple grounds, our family speaks / hears everyday three languages: French, German and English (at least because my hubby is working with many nationalities in his office). When we arrived in September 2013, my son was monolingual and my daughter (18 months when we moved from France) was starting to speak short sentences in French. 

I wouldn't have imagine in my youth that I would have a family who will speak several languages at a young age. I would have also never guessed that I would join a Church and that my fellow ward members would be a great help for the children to learn a new language (or two...) and interact with people of various ethnic backgrounds.

I have been in three different wards since my conversion: Perpignan, Antony and Friedrichsdorf (not counting the chapels we went to during our vacations...), and in each of them I have met people that I would call "multicultural". In my first ward, among the "Frenchs", there were Spanish families who welcomes you with big heart and wide smiles. In Antony (south of Paris), we had all the continents represented. People were from Thailand, Guatemala, Peru, Mexico, USA, Haiti, Senegal, Cameroun, Madagascar, New Zealand, China, Italy, Belgium, Brazil, Portugal, Polynesia, etc. 

At each common meal / gathering we organized once a month, the dishes were usually showing the roots of their cook. I had first tried rougail or banane plantain there. One of my friends showed us how to cook a thai dish (that I will probably never cook ever again in my life... so much ingredients! and so delicious!) and I discovered with my Peruvian friend a restaurant serving dishes from her original area. My children had at Church and in our neighborhood, friends of "all colors" since their birth. They do see the "physical differences" between them and other people, something I am quite happy for because it's good to see what is unique to each person, but they are certainly not bothered or afraid by them. 

Nowadays, in our German ward, we see more "European people". Although, we live in a very international town (Oberursel in Taunus) and they still can meet and interact with children from a bit more farther away than just Italy or UK, like South Korea or China. At our arrival, my daughter attendeed the nursery in German (and also sometimes in English) which was her first big interactions with the language(s) she will live with for many years. My son, who deemed necessary to endorse a shy attitude when he went for the first time in his Primary class (when you know the boy, it's quite a feat!), learned step by step to become again his whole energetic and outspoken self. He didn't master the language, but that didn't mean he would not express himself, in French or in a broken German. His teachers made him feel welcomed in his classes and treated him like any other children ("you follow the rules like the others", for example). They taught him words and sentences, or how to pray in German and he's learning German hymns / songs... 

On my side, I have been integrated into the Relief Society, the international women organization, and after some weeks of translations by a friend, I have gained confidence in my skills at speaking my second foreign language (learnt at school but clearly not mastered!). Every Sunday, I juggle between my three languages, and I quite love that!

Our ward, wherever we live, is like extended family. We are not friends with everyone (more than 150 people in our actual ward), but we are friendly and helpful to one another. For us, yesterday evening, with being able to go with my husband at the same time into the House of the Lord, was a true gift of Love and Charity. The kids have been served a meal, they have baked muffins, played and laughed. The parents have enjoyed their time together, praying together, pondering about the Gospel and our personal life and felt the connection to the Divine. We have thanked God for the numerous blessings we had in our recent life, and especially for the multicultural environment we live in. 

All that because... my Church teaches to be like a family, united and helpful, to support each other in the time of needs. Wherever we come from, our cultural background or past life, we are all Children of God. We must learn from one another. As stated in our 13th Article of FaithIf there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things. We are all human beings, so we make all mistakes and on occasion, some can be judgmental regarding the "origines" of a man or woman. However, we have to overcome these attitudes and act like a true follower of Christ: with Compassion, Love and Understanding. These values and behaviors have helped my children and I to better accomodate during the big changes of our lifes.

It's a true blessing to have a "Tribe" like this one. And if in the future we would have to move again to another country, I know that I will find a new community there that will help me through my struggles and push away my fears. A new "family", I would learn to know, to serve and to have joy with. These wards were / are  / will be beautiful blessings, always.

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