Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Monday, December 19, 2011
Can you believe it's six days until Christmas?? Crazy!
Well, to start off, I'll give you porting experience in Caen. I'm thinking porting on a Saturday night will become a typical Saturday night experience. Soeur Cope and I sometimes will be walking around sometimes on weekend nights and say, "remember when we used to go to parties and stuff on the weekends? That was weird." haha it's great.
Background: it's raining, it's cold, it's Saturday night. Soeur Cope and I were wearing matching scarfs, matching hats and we happen to have matching umbrellas.
We get to the neighborhood. In Caen it's hard to find places to porte because sisters aren't allowed to porte inside apartment buildings and we're not allowed to porte houses that have their gates shut. aka like 80% of houses in January. But this neighborhood had no fences, so it was basically a little paradise for missionaries.
Door #1. We knock. They answer.
Soeur Cope: "Bonjour, nous sommes missionaires pour notre eglise..."
Other person: "Non, Merci." Door shuts.
Door #2: We knock.
Other person from closed door inside: "Who is it?"
Soeur Cope: "It's the missionaries from the church of Jesus-Christ..."
Other person (door still closed): "Who?"
me: "It's us!"
Other person opens the door: "Hi, we're the missionaries." Door closes.
Door #3: We knock.
other person: you see them look through the door peekhole like 5 times. They finally answer. "Why are you here?"
us: "We're missionaries..."
other person: "Nope. Bye."
Door #4: (my personal favorite)
Person opens the door a tiny tiny crack, I see one eye, literally. and then she slams the door. I just started laughing. Seriously, porting lived up to every discouraging expectation I had ever heard. Except I didn't feel discouraged at the end of the porting experience weirdly. I think I was just so happy to try.
After three doors of trying the "We're missionaries" approach and not even being able to finish a sentence before the door closed scenario, I suggested we switch it up and try the family question tactic. (like mom's idea) but just saying, "hi, we're missionaries, can we ask you three questions about family?" well, that failed just as miserably as the other tactic. But here's the thing, I feel like porting opening lines could be refined drastically to increase interest in at least some people. As for right now, it did not work too well.
Walking home that night though I just thought about how grateful I am for the gospel in the lives of our family. It really is such a blessing and brings so much joy into so many people's lives. That's really what I think of when people say they're not interested in hearing more, I think of my family at home and am grateful that at least we're inviting others to find that joy the gospel can bring.
On Friday night we invited two of the young women in our ward who are awesome to come Christmas Caroling with us. We headed out. Soeur Cope and I were just praying in our hearts the whole time because virtually every house had their gate closed around the church. We ended up finding a few houses and it was really interesting what happened. First of all because Christmas Caroling is definitely not a French tradition. Definitely, definitely not. I have never had such a hard time getting people to listen to a Christmas song in my life!
One woman was standing outside of her house and so we asked if we could sing a Christmas song. She said no. We basically begged her to just let us sing one verse of Silent Night. Finally she said, "okay, it better be short." She seemed really put out about it. So the four of us sang the first verse of "Silent Night." After we finished singing, I looked up from my hymnbook, and the countenance of this woman had changed. Before she seemed so annoyed with us, and I looked up and she was smiling. She thanked us and told us it sounded really beautiful. We told her good night and were about the leave so we didn't take any more of her time, and she asked us who we were and what we were doing. She kept asking us questions and was suddenly so sweet and nice. She didn't want to see us again or hear more about the church in the end BUT I developed a new appreciation for the power of music. For the ability that music can have to touch hearts in a way that words can't.
We also had missionary exchanges this week. IT was the best best best best thing ever! I exchanged with Soeur Martin, she's from Southern France. She comes from a family of 8 kids, and they're all musicians. How cool is that. And they're french. She came up to Caen and Soeur Cope went down to Paris. Soeur Martin speaks some english and so it was so great because we probably did half the day in french, half in english. We went contacting up at the university in Caen and it was so cool to do so with a native french speaker. Then, for lunch we ate at the university cafeteria and contacted the students we were sitting next to. (they were actually english majors funny enough. So they were asking me some questions about english. Funny what they teach in foreign language classes sometimes. They asked me about yo-ho, like pirate yo-ho and what that means compared to yoo-hoo like what grandma does to get the attention of a waiter.) Anyways, we had an awesome day together and I really hope we get to be companions at some point, because she is so great. She's in her fourth transfer.
Well, I hope you all have a Merry Christmas this Sunday! I'm thinking of you all! Mom, thank you so much for the Christmas package! That is the sweetest, cutest package and gifts ever. I feel so spoiled, you take way too good care of me. thank you!
I love paralleling the Christmas Story in the Bible to the BOM Luke 2 with Helaman 14. The sign of the star was for everyone. It appeared in jerusalem and it appeared in South america. The message of the gospel is for everyone and Christ still lives for each one of us. D & C 84:88 is one of my favorite scriptures. "I will be on your right hand and on your left hand. I will be before your face and my angels shall be all about you." (i'm not quoting it exactly right). But I love thinking of Christmas as the celebration of Christ coming into the world, and realizing that he hasn't left the world behind. He's still with us every step of the way through whatever challenge we face. I know that message is true and I'm so grateful to be here to share that with other people.
I miss you all and love you!
Monday, December 12, 2011
This week has been awesome. I love it here and am just continually more and more impressed by this ward in Caen. They were a branch and just recently became a ward a few years ago. Never in my life have I been in a ward that is so missionary oriented, it amazes me every week.
This month they have really been stressing the letter the area presidency sent out for December - the big push to have every member of the ward and missionaries bringing an investigator or less-active to church. This ward is really focusing on December 17th being the week they want everyone to bring someone. So we went to church yesterday and for a full three hours they focused on that challenge for the ward.
Relief Society was combined with Priesthood and it was so cool to be there, it was really like a family council meeting. They had Frere Destribrois (the one dad met in le Harve... their family is awesome) give the lesson and he just shared his experience inviting someone to church. He then posed the question, "what makes it so hard to invite our friends to church" everyone threw out reasons and excuses we might have to not invite people to church, then they discussed how to overcome those fears. They had a few people get up and share their missionary experiences they had had over the last week and their testimonies of why it's so important to share the gospel with their friends. At the end Frere Destribrois asked for names of inactives that the ward would like to see at church on the 17th. Within 2 minutes there was a list of like 15 people/families on the board. The ward is contacting them all this week to invite them to church. The young women wrote letters to inactive members inviting them to come to church as well. Then in Sacrament Meeting they had the ward mission leader kind of conduct the meeting and they had members share their conversion stories/missionary experiences they have had. It's so cool because instead of just talking about doing missionary work, this ward does it actively. So lots of prayers that many visitors come to church this Sunday!
At the end of Sacrament Meeting one of the members (Soeur LeCavelier) came up to Soeur Cope and I and introduced us to a woman who wants to start hearing the lessons. Soeur LeCavalier was actually a missionary and baptized this woman's daughter many years ago. The mother of the daughter just called Soeur LeCavalier and said she wants to come to church and hear the lessons. We are excited!
Our other ami is Vivian. A couple weeks ago when we visited her she had lapsed back into depression and we were really discouraged by it. Since then though she has been doing really well. She still hasn't come to church. But it was so cool because last week we came into her apartment and she was listening to classical music. So I asked who her favorite composers are, etc. and then I told her I would play the piano for her if she wants at the church... and we invited her to come take a tour of the church with us and she said yes! We're hoping she will come to actual church on Christmas. Also, we read a talk with her "It's better to look up" and \i thought of the picture of Christ mom hung by our garage door. "Look and Live" so we made her a picture (i included it in the attachments) that she can hang next to her front door. She was really touched by it.
The elders had a baptism on Saturday. The guy is 18 and is actually from Afghanistan originally. He was so strong, and is absolutely so cool. He is now considering going to BYU next year too! He started investigating the church when he was 14. It was really cool to see his baptism.
We also had Christmas Conference in Paris last week. First of all, I love our mission President. He could not be more amazing as well as his family. They are the greatest people. They had every family of every missionary send letters so we all had something to open. There was lots of crying and sniffling from the missionaries as they read the letters. Thank you so much! The Poznanski's also gave us all stockings and great talks on the spirit of Christmas, and also on the importance of never giving up and refining ourselves each day as missionaries.
We were able to go and see Marie Sylvie last week as well and get hot chocolate. She is my absolute favorite person in France I have already decided. I walked out the door and she just gave me a huge hug. She gave Soeur Cope and I Christmas gifts and was just so incredibly happy to see us. Wow, dad her family is so strong and she is such a huge strength to Le Havre. She brought a photo album of the missionaries and had page after page of pictures of Dad. (I told her she has more mission pictures of you than I think you have of yourself.) She told us the story of her conversion. She just kept saying how grateful she will forever be for Dad. At the end of our visit she got tears and her eyes and just said that she wants me to understand how much the gospel has meant to her and to her entire family and what a huge blessing dad has been in her life and the missionaries. Elder Adams (in my MTC group and is a great missionary) is serving in le Havre right now and I talked to him on the phone last night because they are going over to her house for dinner this week and really want to try to start teaching her husband.
I'm trying to think if there's anything else. We are buying a mini Christmas tree (it's real) today to put up in our apartment. We did a little more contacting this week. That I do not like very much, I will be honest. It's awkward and uncomfortable a lot of the time, but I always feel better after we do it. And, typically people are nicer to me because they see me struggling with the language so they try to help me.
Oh and Nicole is our other investigator right now (has been for a long time) and it's cool because we both lived in Israel so she's bringing all of her pictures from the kibbutze next week to show us, I'm excited!
I hope everything is going well and you're getting ready for Christmas! Thank you for all of your prayers, I really do feel like I can feel them, I feel so happy and so grateful to be here.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Dear Friends and Fam,
Thank you so much for all of your emails! I can only write family on emails, so I cant write friends by email so mail is the best for that. I love mail, thank you!
Well, I feel like week 1 was kind of the break in week and now it's starting to get down to the real deal.
It's weird, so far missionary work has been different than I thought it would be. It has been a lot more just walking, waiting and sitting in people's houses than I was expecting. For example, we went to an American woman named Sherry's house last week for lunch. Her son is baptize but she is not. She loves to have the missionaries over for lunch and dinner to her house but really doesn't feel like she needs to get baptized into any church, as long as God knows her heart. So anyways, that ended up being our day. After studies, we took the train out to the country, she picked us up, took us to her house in the countryside and we ate and were there for a long time. I was dying inside because I was always under the impression that you eat fast, share a spiritual message and then get out and go to work. The elder companionship was with us too. So we ate, and then were just lingering longer and I dont feel like it's really my place as the brand new missionary to just say "okay, well we need to share our thought now. or okay, well we need to go now." because I'm the new one. So then, we figured out that we had missed our train and there wasn't another one until 5:30 that night. So we were stuck at Sherri's house all day. (we got there at about 12.) So. I was dying inside. So then finally we start sharing a thought with her and got on the topic of why she needs to get baptized, etc. etc. it ended up being a good discussion but she is still not convinced that she wants to be baptized, etc. but she still loves having the missionaries over. aka I think we're going back next week. It's frustrating though because we were stranded there until she drove us back into town and that was really our entire day. and that's just how it feels like sometimes. For example, we went to our missionary committee meeting with the ward mission leader and I would think it would be a half hour meeting and then you go out and go back to work but it's like two hours long. This ward is so so so awesome and we have had lots and lots of dinner appointments the past two weeks which | have loved but they are always so long. I know to a big extent it's part of the French culture. For example: our mission has a different rule than other missions.... dinner appointments should not last longer than 90 minutes verses the usual 60 in other missions. But, sometimes the end of the day comes and I just feel like I could have done so much more than we have.
We had a ward council meeting last week and that was one of the first times so far I just felt really, really discouraged. First of all, this ward is amazing. amazing amazing. Everyone is so motivated to do missionary work. They have a goal this month for every member to bring a friend to sacrament meeting every week this month. Frere Destribrois (it's lionel dad, i'll have to tell him he met you!) got up to bear his testimony and had a whole list of names of friends he had written down during the meeting he says he is planning on inviting. So this ward council was largely on the subject of how to do ward missionary work. I just got so discouraged because I was sitting there and I couldn't understand basically anything at all. So, I couldn't add anything to the meeting which made me feel completely useless because usually I would love to ask questions or add comments, etc. It's the same thing at dinner appointments. When I meet someone I always like to try to get to know them and ask lots of questions and understand all about their lives. I go to dinner appointments here and try to ask some questions but can't understand the majority of their responses so I don't know what to ask follow up questions. ahhh it' s so frustrating. A lot of the time I just feel like one of those missionaries who just sits there and doesn't really add anything or help anything. So at the ward council meeting I just started wondering why the heck I am here learning French when I could have gone to an English mission instead. It would have saved at this point three months of when I feel like I could actually be effective versus right now when I'm just there and feel like I can't connect with people hardly at all.
Then on Saturday Soeur Cope and I went to go visit Vivian, our one progressing investigator at this point. We took a member, Soeur LeCavelier. She is one of my favorite ward members, I love her. She was a missionary in the Lyon mission. So we went to Vivian's and had a lesson to teach her planned on faith. She struggles with depression and social anxiety and the missionaries have been seeing her since June. Soeur Cope and I taught her a lesson last week and it was awesome and she was doing great. Soeur Cope said her depression has been a lot better in the month of November and she was making lots of progress, they were hoping she would be baptized by the end of December. Well, we did two pass bys earlier this week and she didn't answer her door. She finally called later in the week and we set up a time for Saturday. We got there and she had lapsed back into depression. it was seriously like started at ground zero with her. Soeur le Cavalier asked her some questions at the beginning and Vivian just said, "yes, I like to learn about lots of different religions, I meet with lots of different people, etc." That made Soeur cope frustrated because it was like she didn't have any testimony that our church was different than the other ones, etc. So, then we teach this lesson on faith and shared the story in Luke 18 I think it is when Peter walks on water. My french was struggling way more than usual. And Soeur Cope was struggling with her French too. I start bearing my testimony about how hard it is to have faith when we're going through hard things at the moment and can't see the end yet. I told her how it's hard for me to be here because I can't understand a lot of the time and i can't say everything I want to say but we still have to have faith and just keep moving forward everything and I almost started crying while I was saying this to her- the first time I've almost cried since I've been here. Anyways, so the lesson did not go well. Our goal was to get her to come to church, she said no.
We came home. Soeur Cope and I talked about it and we both just felt really depressed. WE talked about the lesson and about how we both just felt so hopeless in that lesson and really discouraged and the spirit was not there. It's difficult, we don't know what to do with her. She has clinical depression but Soeur Cope says she hasn't been impressed with French doctors, they just have a cure all medicines but don't always address the root of the problem. So we don't know what to do with Vivian. So we finish that lesson and as we do so Soeur Cope asks me to call Patricia to set up a second rendez-vous.
Patricia was the one we found porting (the one and only door I have ported so far.) We had a first rendez-vous with her and taught her a message about how the gospel blesses families, the Book of Mormon and the importance of Christmas. Before the rendez-vous we were so nervous. Soeur cope says she has never been so nervous for a first rendez-vous ever in her whole mission. Because she feels like this is the family she's been waiting to teach her entire mission. We taught the lesson and it went really well. Definitely imperfect, but the spirit was there and it was so great and they are such nice people! We asked if we could come back to answer questions why we are here and where we are going. She said, "why not? sure!" I called to set up a lesson for this week. She answered and she said she couldn't meet with us again next week. So I asked her about the week after. I think there was definitely some language barrier but she said to call her after next week. I think though she was saying she doesn't want to meet with us again, but because I couldn't understand maybe she just said call back after next week. I don't know, I'm hoping she'll meet with us again. I hung up the phone and told Soeur cope and we both just sat there about to cry. It was a bad night.
We haven't done a lot of contacting and I feel like I could be doing so much more. But for example in line in the grocery store today I looked at the lady behind me and said, "j'aime vos chausseures." I like your shoes. And she just kind of acted like she didn't hear me and I didn't say anything else. I just think the French culture is so different from what I'm used to. People are a lot more reserved than what I'm used to I think. We're sitting on the buses and on the trains and people look at us and whisper to each other and the other day some guy knocked on the window of the train we were sitting in and flipped us off. Oh thanks!
I'm gaining such a big love and appreciation and respect for members of the church here because here the church is small and people think we're a cult. One of our investigators told us that someone at the store last week told her that we are terrorists and some horrible cult. No idea where people even get these ideas from but, the members here are so strong. And it's amazing. Also, of how much our family has been blessed with materially. There are a lot of members who have had us over for dinner etc, and I just realize more and more how abundantly blessed with so many things our family is and so many people in our neighborhood too.
So, things here are good. One thing I have been so grateful for is the experience to study abroad in Jerusalem. I have already used stories from that with Patricia's lesson and the spirit was strong and also with our investigator Nicole. She used to work on a kibbutze in Jerusalem and we were able to talk about Jerusalem there and the Savior's resurrection, etc. So amazing.
I think mostly right now I'm frustrated that I don't talk to more people on the street or on the trains, and that I feel like I can't contribute as much as I would like right now and there is just so much I wish I was doing that I'm not right now. But, it's good. I have such a great trainer. She's really patient, I love her, she's obedient, she's awesome and I feel so blessed for that.
Funny story, we went to Soeur Gidions house on Saturday. She's this little 90 year old woman we go read Ensign articles to every week. She can never understand or hear one of the two what I'm saying to her in French. She has this little dog named Tommy who just has these patches of skin and no fur, so gross. We walked into the apartment and Tommy had pooped on the kitchen ground. haha oh man. So then at the end of every message we sing her hymns. Combination of a lot of things but Soeur Cope and I just started busting up laughing while we were singing and we couldn't stop. WE couldn't get through the hymn for a good minute. Soeur Gidoine just kind of squints at us, and doesn't say anything. I think she can't see super well and can't hear super well so we don't know if she noticed when we're not singing and laughing too hard. Every hymn we sang for her we just started cracking up in the middle and wouldn't be able to continue for a long time. It was so funny. Tommy just walking around, I'm just kind of gently kicking him away whenever he comes near me.
WE get to go to Zone Conference on Wednesday and we get to go to lunch with Marie-Sylvie on Thursday! i'm really excited. Love you and have a good week and tell me any advice that you have!
Love you all and hope you're having a great week!