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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Mormon Exploring in Paris

by jpaul (emeritus contributor)

Modern Mormon Men has been an early supporter of Mormon Explorer. We are grateful for their continued support and are proud to announce that a year since launching we have nearly 1600 users in 82 countries. Members have shared amazing stories with us of travels to Norway, Peru, Singapore and more. I've personally had a chance to use Mormon Explorer for local trips to Dallas and San Antonio as well as a couple amazing experiences in Paris and Mexico. I'd like to share some of the lessons learned during my Paris adventure, and invite you to share your stories with us. Message us on Facebook to be highlighted on our homepage.

Ever since we launched Mormon Explorer in mid-2012, my wife and I had wanted to try it out. We love to travel and meet new people, so we figured Mormon Explorer would be the perfect way to do both, while saving money (another passion of ours). We couldn't be more pleased with our experience traveling to Paris and staying with Georgette Lalaus and her amazing family.

We arrived at the Paris airport in a complete downpour late Sunday evening. I don't have an international cell phone, so meeting up became a bit trickier than I had expected. When we finally found each other, all of us soaked from running around in the rain, I clearly remember Georgette’s huge smile on her face. She repeated several times the phrase, “I am so Happy!”. Her joy for life was contagious and I knew right then that we were going to have an amazing few days with her in Paris.

Her husband, Phillipe, drove us back to their apartment on the south-west side of town. Their apartment was a beautiful little haven from the crazy day of travel we had just been through. We were surprised to hear that they had moved their two boys out of their bedroom so that we could sleep in their room. Both Georgette and Phillipe had to wake up early to get to work, but that didn't keep them from staying up late to help us plan our next day’s activities, nor did it keep them from waking up early to make sure there was delicious quiche for us when we woke up…Did I already mention they were an amazing family?

Rather than mention the tourist sites we saw, I want to focus instead on the unique experiences that were only possible through our use of Mormon Explorer. Here are some of the highlights. The second day in Paris, Georgette was able to leave work a little early to give us a personal tour of the city. She introduced us to a parisian cafe where I tasted the best french onion soup I have had to date. We relaxed in the cafe and got to know Georgette better. Her conversations were deeper than most you would have over lunch. She delved into our life story by asking questions like, “when did you get your testimony?”, “what does the church mean for you?” While she's been a member most her life, she could have easily been mistaken for a new member by her eagerness to talk about the gospel.

She took us to the downtown Paris LDS chapel where we met some of the young adults who were involved in institute were we met and became friends with several Americans on internships in Paris. She finished the evening by taking us to her friend’s house who is currently investigating the church. He let us in his home for several hours to discuss the gospel. As to be expected, the conversation also veered into topics such as food and art. His wife was an artist, so we were shown a number of her original pieces he had hanging on his walls. This was more memorable than some of the art galleries we visited thanks to the stories he was able to share behind each of paintings. We would have never expected to spend an evening in Paris doing missionary work, but that is exactly what we did thanks to Georgette.

We spent several more days with the Lalaus family, getting to know them and their city as best we could. We were always shown amazing kindness and felt indebted to them when it finally came time to go. We found a toy for their son the night before we left, which we hope he enjoyed. They expected nothing in return, but we wish we'd given them even more to show our appreciation. When Georgette reads this post, I hope this is one way of saying “thank you”. But even more importantly I hope that someday the Lalaus family will make it to our home in Texas and we can repay their kindness.

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