Hi Family and Friends!
We got to the mission home and it is in the most gorgeous part of Paris. It is in this beautiful French neighborhood. We got there and Pres and Sister Poznanski are the sweetest French couple ever. Pres. Poznanski interviewed us first thing. He told me to the effect of, "you know, there's a lot of people who will probably not be very nice to you but you are here to find the elect. There are some who are ready, don't be discouraged, just keep working." I also got a really nice email from Marie Sylvie and dad she is the sweetest woman ever. Actually, she left a message on our cell phone today saying she wants to fix a rendez-vous to see us in Caen. (oh that's my area!)
Anyways, it's funny because I feel like Marie Sylvie is a prominent figure in the church in France. At the mission home I was talking to Soeur Poznanski about Marie Sylvie for some reason and Soeur Poznanski said, "oh! Pres. Poznanski just told her conversion story in zone conference last time! You're dad is that missionary??" and then I talked to some other elders and somehow Marie Sylvie came up and they were like, "your dad was that missionary??" and then my first dinner appointment was at the Destribras, a French family in the ward and she is good friends with Marie Sylvie. Anyways. Cool.
So the first night the APs (dad did you serve with an Elder Hall by the way? one of the APs dad's served in Paris and is your same age.) They took us to Consecration Hill. It overlooks all of Paris and it's beautiful because it's at night when the city is all lit up and there is just one solid "rod" of light (all the traffic I think) going through all of Paris as far back as you can see. They related the scene to Lehi's tree of life dream. Then they talked to us about the difference between being honorable missionaries and consecrated missionaries. They invited us to consecrate the next 1.5 years to the Lord there. It was really cool.
Next day we went to the Paris ward house to meet our trainers and find out our areas. I saw Bobby Elder Cannon! Mom, you'll have to tell Chris Cannon that every missionary I talk to who knows Bobby can't stop talking about what a hard worker he is. I talked to one missionary who was companions with Elder Cannon and he said, "yeah, I thought I was working hard before and then I became companions with Elder Cannon. He's the hardest working missionary in the mission." Apparently he's a "contacting machine." haha anyways, I feel so blessed because: A. I got an awesome trainer. B. I got assigned to one of the best areas of the mission with a really strong ward and where a lot of miracles have been happening. C. We have the nicest apartment ever. Way nicer than anything I lived in in Provo for sure! :)
My trainer is AWESOME. We get along really, really well. The Assistants to Pres. told Soeur Johnson and I that our trainers were going to be awesome the first night we got to the mission home and that they are some of the best in the mission. They said, "one is an absolute workhorse and the other one is the nicest sister I have ever met." I think I got the nicest one they have ever met. Her name is Soeur Cope and she has been out for 14 months. She's from Provo. If I said she reminded me of someone I know I would say she reminds me a lot of Maggie STrike. She's really, really nice and the thing I love the most about her is that she is always, always so positive and just makes things fun.
Well, I feel weird because I thought the first few days I would just come back to my apartment and cry and hate it and wonder what I’m doing here and feel so discouraged and like I can't do anything... and it hasn't been like that at all. I love it. I really do. I feel like Heavenly Father is helping make it as easy of a transition as possible for me... thank you for all of your prayers! I honestly feel like I can feel them in my life right now.
I have to tell you about a miracle that happened on Saturday. Soeur Cope took me out to go porting for the first time (door to door). Before we left we went to the store and bought those prinzen cookies that were my favorite in Germany as "celebration" cookies or as "pity party" cookies. As we were walking to catch the bus we were talking about how in the missionary miracle stories you hear when they're knocking doors is always the last door they knock in is the one who will let them inside. And that it's always the greenie who is the one to say, "just one more door, come on we can find someone." and we were wondering why it always has to be the last door that they knock on that is the magic door or whatever.
So we start walking down the street. A cute family passes us by. They pass and then I say, "that's a cute family. Should we talk to them?" So, we end up chasing them down. Talked to them, I thought they were going to let us come over, then they didn't. But come to find out that was a practice contact. :)
Soeur Cope wanted to go to a neighborhood that was actually kind of far away from our apartment. So we took the tram, took the bus out to the area. As we were on the bus, Soeur Cope looks out the window and says, "dang it. What was I thinking! They all have gates so we can't get to the front door!" So she pushes the button on the bus to get off immediately. So we get off the bus and are walking to catch a bus to a different area. I looked over to my right and the first house I see happens to have no gate blocking us from the door so I suggested we try knocking that door. So we went up to the front door. It was dark at this point. We knocked the door and a woman looks through the door window and sees that we're strangers, smiles, and opens the door. Soeur Cope gives a whole little spill about who we are and what we're doing and asks if we can come back to share a Christmas message with her family. And she said yes! So we set up a rendez-vous and are going back on Wednesday! Her name is Patricia and she was normal and nice and has a cute family (we just met one of her daughters who is 11 briefly.)
She closes the door and we walk out of the driveway and Soeur Cope starts freaking out. She said that is one of the best things that has happened to her in her entire mission (she has been out 14 months!) She said she has always just taught weird people and has been praying she can find a family to teach. Anyways, it was funny because it's the first and only door so far I have ported and she said we can teach her! So we started studying for the lesson we're going to teach on Wednesday this morning, we are so excited about it. Pray for us! It was funny because we called the other Elder Equipe in our city and told them we found a family. Elder Barney said, "Ah! Call the Cherbourg Elders and tell them you found a family to teach!) haha, i guess that is the difference between a French mission and a South American mission. Every family you find to teach here is a big deal! But I think there's lot of families that are ready, we just need to find them.
Another cool thing, My first night I was telling Soeur Cope about Marie Sylvie for some reason and suddenly she was like, "oh that's the story Pres. Poznanski shared in zone conference!" She then went on to tell me that when President had shared the Mezerai story he had read a letter Marie Sylvie had written him and she had said at one point that Elder Chard's daughter was coming to the Paris mission soon.) at that point Soeur Cope had the impression that she was going to be companions with that sister... and now we're companions!
Another awesome thing, I was at ward choir practice on Sunday and met one of the ward members. I told her my name and she asked me if I was related to someone who had gotten in a plane accident many years ago. I told her that was my grandpa! She told me that she was good friends with Grandma Connie and Grandpa Gary when they lived in the Versailles ward and that they had spent the evening with Grandma and Grandpa Gary the night before the accident. Soeur Liebard is her name and I know I have heard grandma talk about her before! Soeur Liebard said to tell grandma hi! Her husband is the bishop of my ward!
As far as the French goes, I am absolutely so incredibly grateful for the help of Heavenly Father because I know that I am not learning the language alone. I'm able to remember concepts so much better and vocabulary so much better than I ever normally would be able to. A lot of the French people in the ward have said that my French is really good for a new missionary. I have such a long way to go but I think it's a miracle I'm able to speak as much as I can right now. I am not going to lie, a lot of the time I smile when they smile, straight face when they have a straight face and laugh when they laugh. Comprehension... depends who I'm talking too. Dad, I now know what a Norman accent is... haha I have a hard time understanding people who have the super thick accents!
We have a progressing investigator who the sisters have been teaching for a few months now. Her name is Vivian and I met her for the first time a couple of days ago. She is the sweetest woman ever. She has some social anxiety and so the sisters haven't been able to get her to come to church. However, she reads BOM, she's so prepared and so perfect in so many ways. Anyways, that was my first lesson with an investigator. And.... I never thought I would do this. But I tried to commit her to baptism on my first lesson with her! And then I went on this big thing about how important baptism is, why it's such a necessary step etc. Bottom line, she needs to come to church first. I really think she will get baptized though.
Today for P Day we had Thanksgiving! We had an awesome thanksgiving dinner (we have senior missionaries in our area. I'm telling you, we have the best of all worlds!) pumpkin pie, turkey, etc. Then we had a turkey bowl. WE played touch football with the Elders serving in Le Havre (shout out to dad!) and Cherbourg and Caen. It was really fun.
What I'm learning: I feel like we could be using our time so much more effectively in so many ways. You can be missionaries who are technically outside of the apartment all of the hours you're supposed to be, you can come back at the end of the night and be tired. But, that doesn't mean that you have been effective that day. We could be contacting so much more, and I just need to be better about it. I'm scared, I'm nervous and I just don't know how to do it. But that is something I'm making a goal to overcome. Because it's so important to open your mouth about the gospel at all times and in all places we are.
Also, it's really cool. I was brushing my teeth the other day and just had a huge rush of ideas come into my mind. We teach an English class and the first one, I was thinking, "this could be so much more effective." So, I thought. Why don't we teach them English the same way I learned French? So, we're taking one of the MTC learning French books and converting the same format to learning English. I also thought, why don't we have Vivian (the investigator we're trying to get to church) ask her to prepare 15 to 20 minute French lessons for Soeur Cope and I every time we come and visit. Right now in her life she feels like no one needs her, like she doesn't have a lot of people who need her. Well, I need her to teach me French desperately so it could help her feel needed and help us at the same time! We also are teaching a less active woman right now who just has a lot going on and I thought of some things we could teach her.
It's just amazing because there are so many thoughts and ideas rushing into my mind and so many ways to be effective missionaries and I know that the inspiration is not just my own ideas. It is so amazing! Anyways though, tonight we had to go visiting teaching with this woman in the ward and it took a lot of time and I just felt like it was a complete waste of time because we didn't really do anything, we were just there. There's just a lot of things that make me frustrated (a lot with myself) that I want to change to use our time more effectively in our proselyting. and I'm excited for the challenge and I’m so excited to change and to become better and I just love it here! And I'm so excited for Christmastime! They have these hanging lights over the streets in Caen for Christmas and it is so festive and beautiful. It truly is a beautiful area.
One last funny thing, Soeur Cope took me the other day to get a "religieuse". It's like a really good French eclair. Religieuse basically means a nun in french and that's what a lot of people think we are! So it's tradition for the Soeurs in Caen to get. It was fun. I love Soeur Cope.
Oh, last thing. We're also teaching a recent convert. She was baptized by Elizabeth Smart! Isn't that cool? She's a single mom and works all the time, I think 2 jobs and so can never come to church. She has one day off on January 1st and is just counting down the days because that means she can come to church. It's so crazy to me how much I’ve taken for granted the gospel, the ability to go to church every Sunday, etc. When there are people who desperately want to be able to go and can't. We're praying she can find another job.
Okay, this is a super long email. Sorry! There's still so much more I could say... but I will stop there.
Oh last funny story: we went and visited this old woman a few days ago. She's like 94. Walk inside, horrible smell of dog pee. The dog's name is Tommy and he has huge bald patches. So gross! I tried talking to her and she kept not understanding me. At first I thought it was my accent, or just my bad French but I think it's just she can't hear well at all. It was a funny experience.
Thank you for all your prayers!