Monday, January 30, 2012

I survived January 2012

Hi family!

Well, I will be honest with you.  I think January of 2012 goes down as the longest month of my entire life quite possibly.  But, it ends this week and Soeur (Coryn) Cope and I couldn't be happier!

This week has been difficult but it has been great too.  It was one of those weeks going through it there were points that I wanted to kind of die because as I'm sure you are all aware, a mission isn't all just fun and happy all the time.  It's hard a lot of the time. There's rude or just plain mean people, there's frustrating experiences and sometimes you just think, "ahh get me out of here!"  But, it always comes back to the fact that it's so worth it and I feel so incredibly grateful to be here.  I really liked that some of you mentioned what it means to have a testimony compared to being converted.  I think it's so true.  One of the big reasons of going on a mission is to fortify your testimony because otherwise it would be completely pointless to be walking around telling people about the gospel.  I can totally see how a mission in a lot of ways is like a big MTC experience to prepare you for the rest of your life for being a strong member of the church.

One of my favorite parts of the week is definitely coming to church in Caen because every active member in this ward considers the gospel so extremely important.  It's not possible to be an active member of the church in France and to not have a strong, enduring testimony I think.  As a result, the active members here are so strong and I love how much you can see their desire is to help other people feel the same joy of the gospel in their own lives.  Whenever we ask members to teach with us, they are so ready and willing to do so and it's such an amazing experience to watch French members of the church bear their testimony of Jesus Christ and the restored gospel with people that we teach.  It's awesome.

When Soeur Cope and I went to calculate our numbers for the week last night we realized that we had the most successful week as far as our goals and numbers actually go which was exciting.  We went to FHE at this family's house last night and after we were walking over to the bus and we were right on time and the bus was turned off, just waiting at the curb for us.  I said, "Wow, it's ridiculous how tired I am right now."  Soeur Cope: "I know. Same with me."  We are literally about to push the open button on the bus door and suddenly the bus engine turns on and immediately pulls away.  WE both just kind of stood there in shock for a couple seconds.  The next bus didn't come for another 40 minutes.  So we walked the 40 minutes home. haha we were laughing.

Something kind of cool is something that Dad brought up a while ago about how family history can be such a great missionary tool.  I hope they start teaching missionaries how to use it in the MTC because I really don't know how to use  That would actually be really helpful to learn in mission prep.  Anyways, we ported into a couple a couple weeks ago and taught them a lesson last week.  The woman said she had heard about our church because she knows we do a lot of work for genealogy and that was interesting to her.  One of our amis is obsessed with family history so we had a member come and show her how she can start using the site last week.  And on the bus last week we heard this guy speaking English to the driver so when he came back to sit down we asked him where he was from.  He's from Chicago and we asked why he was here.... he came to France to try to find the places where his ancestors lived in France.  So we quickly gave him the site card and the family search address.  At church they had the combined priesthood and relief society lesson on temple work and the importance of doing family history.  It's cool!

Another cool thing I've started reading is "Daughters in My Kingdom."  It's so inspired and so good.  Especially mom and Danielle should read it.  It will possibly make Danielle more excited about Relief Society when you learn more about how inspired it is.

Oh, another random thing.  Soeur Cope and I went to do Soldes (january sales) shopping today and I feel like it was a tender mercy because the two first stores we walked into they had a messenger bag on a huge sale so I now have a cute bag instead of sister missionary mall :) and the next store had the perfect bag for 6 euros that I needed for exchanges and tights on an awesome sale and I found a pocket dictionary.  Anyways, I felt like it was a little blessing because they were the two things I've been hoping to find but wasn't planning on every buying (I don't like shopping as a missionary very much... it just feels weird) but it was perfect.  But, dad could you check and make sure that all those transactions went through okay on my visa just to be sure?

I love you all and hope you have a great week!  I miss you!  Soeur Cope and I (Soeur Cope goes home in 8 weeks) were talking about how incredibly happy we will be when we see our families again, we'll just start crying and won't be able to talk I think.  I miss you all so much but am so happy that everything is going well!


Soeur Alyssa Chard   

Monday, January 23, 2012

Missions are the Best!!!!

Hello everyone!

This week= awesome in so many ways.  I loved it.

One of the biggest pieces of advice I would give missionaries is to find the joy of the gospel in their own lives first, from there you automatically become a much more effective missionary because people can see that what you are telling them about personally affects the happiness of your own life.

I told you last week that my companion and I had a breakdown.    And that's when I learned that first before we could ever even hope to have any type of success in helping others receive the gospel, we both needed to feel the joy of the gospel within our companionship.  So I shifted my efforts from totally focusing on people to find and instead shifted my efforts to how I could try to help my companion.  Since then, it has been amazing to see the results.  We're trying to redo how we teach and find for English class (we only have one person who comes right now), ward FHE was basically dead, no one was coming and we tried making a few changes and last week every seat was full for FHE... our numbers like quadrupled.  We taught a first lesson to a referral we received from a member a couple days ago and it was the first lesson we have taught together where we were so unified it was like we were on the complete same page the whole lesson and Soeur Cope was testifying of the joy the BOM brings to her life. 

I feel like one of the things I have been blessed with from Heavenly Father so far on my mission is just the overwhelming feeling of calm almost all the time.  I thought I would always feel worked up and stressed and anxious about everything but instead it has almost been just a constant desire to always improve but overall just so much happiness.  I don't think I have ever been so happy before.  There's a lot of missionaries out here who it seems have just lost the excitement for what we're doing out here and that's the saddest thing for me to see.  But, Soeur Cope and I are doing really well.  As far as actual missionary success goes right now, we just have one progressing investigator... and she's been investigating for a long time but she's making some good progress lately!  But I'm really excited, I feel like there is so much potential for Caen in so many ways.

Above all, because the ward here is putting in so much effort and so much faith into missionary work.  Yesterday the ward called 12 new ward missionaries. 12!!! Can you believe that?  The ward isn't huge, but it is so strong. We probably have about 40+ people show up at church every week and they just gave us 12 new ward missionaries.  They just presented the ward mission plan as well yesterday and I feel like the entire ward is just one big missionary force... and with that I know there can be miracles with the missionary work here.

This week I feel like was a breakthrough week with the language for me.  We did have interviews in Paris which were absolutely awesome.  President Poznansky is so inspired to be the mission president of this mission right now.  It’s the perfect time for a French mission president, right before the temple is being built and also because everyone in France seems to already know the Poznansky's and they already have a lot of respect and trust for him.  Pres. Poznansky told us at our training on Friday that we had 115 new amis for the last week missionwide... the highest stat. for the Paris mission that he knows of. 

He presented the 2012 mission plan to us... and I'm not going to lie they are very lofty goals but I honestly believe they are all possible goals... but for us it will mean basically tripling all our numbers.  For 2011 the goal was to "break down the walls" break down walls with ward members, with people we talk to on the street, etc.  For 2012 the goal is to "build the wall."  President read us from many of the Nehemiah chapters.  It's all about when the people are going to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem.  If you have a chance to read them this week do it!  There are so many good things in those chapters.  One of my favorite verses, I think in chapter 8 or maybe 6?  is when it says, "eat the fat of the land... the joy of the Lord is your strength."  We have to feel the joy of the gospel in our own lives and within our companionship and then we will be able to become more effective missionaries.

Interviews with the Poznansky's were great.  It's cool because we also interview with Soeur Poznansky... who also served a mission in the Paris mission.  I felt so blessed because I was able to express myself completely the way I wanted to all in French and I was able to understand everything both of them said back to me.  In the training I was also able to understand basically everything.  At church yesterday there are two people in the ward in particular I can never understand a thing they are saying.  One of them gave a talk in church and I could understand!  and the other one actually took the four of us missionaries into a room after church because she wanted to have a meeting with us.  She sat us down and then started going off about how we as missionaries need to speak better French, we are the deciding factors if the YW and YM go on missions, and we don't annunciate our words well enough in French.  She was just going off on us for like 5 minutes and then started picking on both our trainers and identifying specific things with the language they are not good at.  At first i was kind of offended that she was criticizing missionary French when we are all trying our best to teach in a second language.  Then my perspective changed and I realized it was the PERFECT opportunity to get a French teacher.  So I said, "We're all trying to learn French. You're right, there's a lot we have to work on and we need a lot of help.  Our mission president has given us an hour a day to study the language and I know we could all benefit a lot if you wanted to start giving us French lessons for an hour a week before FHE so we can be better teachers in French."  haha perfect.  We now have a French teacher!

My new favorite scripture of all time I found this morning in studies.  it's in D&C 88:67-68.  When we center our focus on Jesus Christ and are engaged in a good work, the light of Christ will envelope our whole bodies and we will SEE Christ.  I cross referenced it with D&C 67:10 which I love... I'll be honest I can't remember exactly what it says right now but about how we will see Christ as we humble ourselves and have faith.  I know that promise is true.  I feel so blessed and I see the hand of the Lord in my life every single day here and I am so grateful for that.  Danielle and Heather I really hope you have the opportunity to serve a mission because I would gladly give a year and a half just for the experiences I have had in the last four months.  It is amazing.  It's hard and sometimes I think about the future and it's kind of scary to think that I have no idea where I will be in a year from now and will be thrown into something new very soon.  But I know that we are never left alone and I know that like in D&C 84:88 that Christ is always with us and that His angels are sent to help us along every step of the way and I have truly felt that in my life.

I love you all and hope you all have a great week!  Read Nehemiah and decide how you can build the walls of Holladay!  haha jk. :) well... kind of jk.  That's a weird RM comment.

Love you!

-Soeur Chard 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Realities of a Mission

I  just had the most amazing chocolate tart from the bakery across the street from the church.... haha I'm going to turn into Bobby Cannon and talk about all the amazing patisseries we have here. :)

These last two weeks have been the hardest of my mission so far.  I have been so frustrated, just in a lot of ways it has been hard.  As you know from last week it seemed like almost all  of our amis or people we were teaching were having/are having a lot of problems, or dropped us. We've really just been in this slump lately.  The most difficult thing for me so far on a mission has been hearing stories and just seeing missionaries so discouraged and just wanting to be done with their missions and their excitement about missionary work just completely gone.  So that's been the hardest thing for me, just not letting myself get discouraged.

I feel like I learned one of the most important lessons of my life.  That the first priority is your companion.  Because how can you possibly teach a message of joy and happiness... the Gospel of Jesus Christ if you and your companion don't feel the joy of the gospel of Jesus Christ in your own lives... regardless if you are teaching a lot of people or if it's just the two of you walking around the streets of Caen day after day.  So I've been so obsessed with how we can be more effective but I've been focused I think on the wrong goal.  I’ve been focused on how to help these other people we need to find feel God's love when really my goal should be how can I help first of all Soeur Cope feel God's love.  Success is measured in so many different ways on a mission.  Some people see a lot of miracles with the people they teach, other people are learning things on their mission and will watch how their serving a mission will bless the lives of the future families they will be raising. 

Anyways, I don't know if any of that makes any sense.  But, since Saturday night things have been so much better.  Most importantly it's finding joy in the journey, we're happy and we're trying and we're working.

Have a great week and know that I love you!

Soeur Chard

Monday, January 9, 2012

A Quail's Heart

Hi family,

Well this week has been one of the longest weeks EVER.  I can't believe that last week was New Year's Day. That feels like forever ago.  I can't believe that two weeks ago was Christmas.  It seems like that was a year ago!  But all is good. 

Let's see this week:

One of our steady investigators dropped us, Vivian.  It's so weird because she gave us a really nice present for Christmas, she was going steady again and then she called us before our appointment at 7:30 AM and said she has no more desire to read the scriptures and she doesn't want to continue meeting. But at the end she said à bientot.  So... whatever that means!  She's the one who has depression too, so that's hard.  Anyways, so we are no longer teaching her.

And then we have gone to visit this in-active  who called the church and said she wanted to meet with the missionaries again.  Well, we after two RDV (appts.)  we called a ward member the other night to ask if they could bring her to church because she doesn't have a car.  She has done this a couple times where she wants to come back to church after a long time of inactivity and then she comes and asks ward members for money.  So, we're probably not going to be teaching her anymore.  That made me mad because she was telling us a lot of things that weren't true and we fell for all of it! ah. So, that was a good lesson to not be so trusting of EVERYONE.  Even though you want to assume the best of everyone you also have to be smart about what they are telling is true and what's not.  That was a hard lesson for me to learn because I've always wanted to assume that people are telling the truth.

On Thursday we got to go to Paris to get my legality!  Soeur Cope and I were both seriously so so so excited because they had all the elders and Soeur Johnson from my MTC group also go at the same time so I got to see all of them for the first time since the MTC after one transfer and see how all of them are doing.  Well, very long story, but Soeur Cope and I missed our train to Paris and it was not our fault.  Basically, let's just say that for the second time in my entire life I completely chewed out my district leader for missing our train.  So that was super draining, he really apologized yesterday and all is good but that was also a stressful day.  But it's okay because we ended up catching a later train, we got to Paris, and I got to see all the other missionaries!  It was the best thing ever!  It seemed like most of them are doing really, really well with their trainers and are just loving their missions.  I talked to Elder Allan for a while who is being trained by Elder Cannon, and tell Kris that Bobby is doing great again!  it sounds like they are working so hard, and I think Elder Allan said they have three baptismal dates set right now if I remember right?  Anyways, I don't know how it is for Elder Cannon.... but I think Elder Allan is loving it.

Soeur Johnson (my MTC companion) and Soeur Edgerley came up to Caen after because Soeur Edgerley had to renew legality here. 

Oh, i have to tell the family too I ate quail heart!  We went over to a family's house for New Year's Day and they just put a full quail in front of us.  Beak still on, feathers on the head, eyeballs, all organs still inside.  Just  straight up the entire quail. (this was the same family who served us oysters for Christmas) I ate the heart!  Elder Garcia ate the brain as well, and.... he was sick for the next two days so glad I didn't go down that road.  It's crazy though because you have to eat these crazy things and just kind of act like it's no big deal.  It was great though... actually not bad!

Probably the two highlights of the week: on Monday night we had a lesson with a less-active.  She ended up bringing one of her friends for us to teach a first lesson to as well.  So, we hadn't planned for it at all, and really that was going to be my first time teaching a first.  And, it was such a cool experience.  This week we taught the Joseph Smith story twice, and it was really the first two times my entire mission.  It was cool because even though we didn't plan for that lesson, we were able to teach by the spirit.  He committed to start to read the Book of Mormon and hopefully we get to teach him again!  We also started teaching this other lady yesterday who's daughter was baptized years ago, she's awesome.

The other best part: I started teaching one of the girls in our ward piano lessons!  I just taught her for like 10 minutes last night because we always go over to their house on Sunday nights for FHE.  It's weird though because in Europe the notes are do re mi fa so... so i have to learn that myself as I'm teaching her.  But it was so fun for me, I miss teaching a lot!  So i gave her stuff to memorize for this week and we're having short lessons every Sunday after Family Night. 

Well, I think that's about it!  This afternoon we are going to teach a woman who is from Nigeria aka in ENGLISH!  She's met with the missionaries before and has a hard time accepting the BOM.  We're going to read Mosiah 2 with her and talk about how she can apply the teachings of King Benjamin into the life of her own family to strengthen her home.  So I encourage the Chard family to do the same this week. :)

love you all!
-Soeur Chard

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year . ...Mission Style

This week has been so so good.  It started with Tuesday after District Meeting.  Before we left Soeur Cope tried calling one of our amis for literally probably the 12th time.  We hadn't seen her for the last two and a half weeks, she wouldn't respond to our calls or answer her door when we'd pass by... she didn't answer the phone again.  Soeur Cope and I started walking down the street to go contacting.  There was absolutely no one on the street. Then far away we saw a lady walking towards us and Soeur Cope said, "ha what if that happened to be Vivian." And then as we got closer it actually was Vivian.  She we stopped her, talked to her and invited her to come to the church (we were right by it) and I would play the piano for her. She's been scared to come to church and we've been trying to get her to come ever since I got to Caen.  She agreed without any hesitation and so we took her to church, gave her a tour of the buiding and then I played the piano for her for a little while.  Pull out Claire de Lune, such a classic haha and then just a lot and lot of hymns.  Then we talked to her about the Atonement and the Plan of Salvation and really that was one of the strongest times I think i have ever felt the spirit, it was cool.  Since then, we've been able to see Vivian a few more times and she's progressing again!  So that was a miracle.

Friday we had absolutely no rendez-vous scheduled aka finding and porting and weekly planning was all we had planned.  And it was one of the best days.  We left the apartment and for the first time we stopped like every single person on the street, we really talked to as many people as we possibly could and there was just something different in the way we were contacting, it was with more urgency.   We gave out a Book of Mormon and it was great.  Then porting, it was raining and we went out and a man invited us back to teach his family a lesson after vacances is over.  Weekly planning was also so good.   So transfer one is finished as of yesterday.  I learned so much and we're both really excited about our next transfer together.

We fixed a baptism goal for the ward for the year, missionaries decided 8, the ward had wanted the goal for 15. so, we are setting it for 12. 

Here's a funny contacting story that happened on Christmas Eve.  We were contacting around our apartment and talking to this one guy and saw another guy kind of lurking in the background. Whatever.  So we finished talking and continued walking down the street.  The guy lurking (ERic) came up to us and asked who we were, so we told him.
Eric: "I heard your accents over there. It's not ofter I get to talk to beautiful American girls. Actually, I want to marry an American.  Yes, I'm french, but I'm really American at heart."
Us: Just kind of stand there. Then we start talking to him about church. haha
Ends up he gives us two phone numbers to contact him, an email, his address and the church he attends. We walk away. Seriously like two minutes later we hear someone running behind us. Soeur Cope and I both kind of look at each other.  Suddenly Eric is standing in front of us and just stands there gasping for breath for like 20 seconds.  We just stand there without saying anything.
Eric: "You need to make babies in America.  Because Mexicans are trying to overtake the United States.  You must call me, we have to talk more about this."
Us: "Okay. Thanks. Bye."
And then we just walked away.  Then we looked down at the address he had given us, and he lives in our apartment building!!! Ahhhh, so we are just trying to avoid him for the rest of our lives.

Church was awesome on New Years.  I'm so grateful to be here, there are lots of ups and downs that is for sure. But, so far the ups have outweighed the downs by far and there's so much to learn and so many ways to grow and I have never felt the spirit so strongly so constantly as I have while I have been on a mission, it is such a blessing.  I love you all and hope you all have a great week and a Happy New Year!  It has been strangely warm here so we can just pretend like I'm in Hawaii all the time. :)

Soeur Chard