Monday, February 27, 2012

A Week of Miracles

Hi Everyone!

Best news of the day, today I am wearing my spring coat for the first time since I got to France.  I decided it's time for spring and it feels warmer!  So excellent. 

This week has been a really good week.  Last Monday was not the best I'll be honest.  It had just been lots and lots of rejection and it was frustrating.  Then I came home from doing emails and there was a letter in our mailbox from the mission home (we have zone conference in Paris this Thursday).  Opened up the letter from President Poznansky and the first paragraph said, "2011 baptisms: 211 2012 baptisms goal: 604" (the exact number is probably a little bit off.)  It went on to say how the mission can accomplish that number this year and what everyone needs to do to make that happen.  So basically, I realized I need to suck it up and keep going and expect miracles.

Tuesday we contacted, did pass-backs, met with a member family, prayed to find people, etc. etc. and still really not too much success.  Wednesday, we looked at our schedule and we had absolutely nothing planned (except dinner at the Destribrois.  I LOVE THEM.)  Anyways, we wrote at the bottom of our to do list: "have fun" and then we went out for the day.  It ended up being a day of miracles really.  First we went contacting.  Rejected so fast it's ridiculous. Finally we stopped and decided we had to try something different because obviously this was not working.  So, we tried a different approach using the BOM more immediately, role-played fast and then tried it.  So cool, because the next person we contacted it worked on!  She gave us her number (she lives in Cherbourg so we gave her number to the elders there) but she said she'd meet with the missionaries again.  It was cool.

Then we went to go porting for like the 4th time this street called Rue de Branville.  Soeur Cope and I went there so many times and have literally knocked every door on this ridiculously long street (perfect for porting) and have written down every door people still haven't answered.  There is a member who lives on that street, so Soeur Ingraham and I passed by this members home first, shared a spiritual thought, talked to her for a while and prayed with her that we could find people who are ready to be taught the gospel.  After the prayer, she gave us two less-active names she wants us to stop by.  That was great. 

Then we went porting on her street.  There doors are ones we have knocked like three times and they have never answered, so if they didn't answer this time we are now just crossing them out.  Anyways, we knocked on one of them and a woman answered.  We did a door approach on the Plan of Salvation and long story short she said we could come back and teach her about the Plan of Salvation.  We left her with the brochure and asked her to read it before we came back.  The next day we came back.  This lady comes from a family of nine (that's huge, it seems like especially in France!) and she said family is the very most important thing to her.  She had read the brochure and said it had made sense to her.  We taught her the Plan of Salvation lesson and after asked if she thought it was possible. She said, "I think it's possible, but I don't know if it is."  Perfect.  So we gave her a Book of Mormon, told her how she can know and asked her to read the intro and the Restoration brochure before we come back next week.  So we will see what happens!

Then we had a lesson with a woman who is from Nigeria.  We found her in the area book and Soeur Cope and I contacted her in January.  Every time we go over there the kids are running around everywhere, the baby is crying, she forgets about our lesson, etc. etc. So, this was possibly going to be a last attempt lesson.  Well, we went there, she let us in and the apartment was clean and she was ready to be taught.  The baby fell asleep and the kids were mostly in their room doing homework.  We were able to answer a lot of her questions, that was a lesson taht both Soeur Ingraham and I felt like we were being helped a lot by the spirit to know what to say, it was really a miracle.  The spirit was really there helping us all learn together.  She has started reading the Book of Mormon again and said she'll keep going.

On Saturday we had a lesson with that woman from Guadelupe, the one I said we showed her the REstoration film last time and it seemed like it hadn't even phased her?  We went back there Saturday, thinking it would probably be the last because she outright said she doesn't wanted to get baptized, etc.  We took Soeur LeCavalier, she actually was a missionary in Caen.  I love teaching with her because she's always super bold, but keeps things simple and sincere.  Anyways, Soeur LeCavalier ended up bearing the most powerful testimony of God's restored church on the earth through Joseph Smith, and how we each come to know this is God's church by reading the Book ofo Mormon and receiving an answer from the Holy Ghost.  The spirit was so strong, it was cool.  In the end, Victoria still said she has her own way of worshipping, doesn't want to get baptized.  We left her with 2 Nephi 33 the judge if these are the words of Christ chapter.  So, I think that was our last lesson with her for now.  But, we left still on really good terms (she is seriously so great, I love visiting her) and it was just really cool. 

Then, yesterday we went contacting a little bit on our street.  We stopped this couple and I started in the little, "Bonjour nous sommes missionaires..." The guy said, "oh we're english speakers.  You can speak in English."  Excellent.  The couple is from India and they are both brilliant scientists who moved over to Caen now to work at the University because come to find out Caen has the biggest science lab in Europe (I don't know what kind of science lab?) Anyways, we ended up talking to them on the street for over an hour!  They grew up with a hindu background, it was super interesting learning about that.  We asked them in their science if they feel like it's possible to have a personal relationship with God.  the wife said that when she is faced with a really difficult challenge and she knows she can't accomplish somthing alone, she asks God for help.  We ended up giving a first lesson to them and it was such a cool contact because the woman was asking all these really specific questions about the history of the Book of Mormon and what it is about, etc.  You can tell they are both just brilliant people.  Anyways, we asked if we could meet with them again and they said yes!  (The husband said he loved hearing about what we had to say but next time wants to talk about other things.  We said great, we are really interested in hearing about what they do as scientsits.  which i sincerely am.  The wife seemed really interested though and we are hoping to give them a Book of Mormon in english.)   

Anyways, this week has been a lot of work and a lot of miracles.  I'm so grateful to be here, it is definitely the most difficult challenge I've ever been faced with but I really feel like it's preparing me for things I'm supposed to do later in life too, even though i don't know what that is right now.  Sometimes going through the week it seems long, it seems like you're faced with so much rejection, you feel like it's almost impossible.  But then, like at the end of this week you look back and you just see the hand of the Lord in all aspects of the work and you know that we're not working alone.  It's amazing!

Love you all and hope you have a great week!

-Soeur Chard

Monday, February 20, 2012

It Sort of Feels Like Spring

Dear Family,

I won't have time to write everyone back personally today... but I will just write a longer family one today because a lot has happened and I am learning a lot.

The new transfer has been so great so far.  My companion, Soeur Ingraham just came down here from Brussels (she knows sister keesling really well, she was the YW president!  Tell her hi from Soeur Ingraham!)  Soeur Ingraham is so great so far.

The morning we went on the train to Paris I was on the verge of tears.  Not in a bad way, just in a way of I have no idea what's going to happen the next transfer, and who my companion would be, if I would be able to lead us around, I'm the only one (sisters of elders) who knows the ward at all, etc. etc. and there's so much work to be done in Caen... to be honest we really don't have anyone promising to teach at all right now and that's how it has been the entire first two transfers.

Soeur Ingraham is also fairly young in the mission... she's in her sixth transfer.  She was actually one of the sisters that my friends (I think it was Cassi and Rachel and Brindy and Lizzy) met on the way to the temple when she was at the MTC and the week after I got my mission call.  Soeur Ingraham said, "oh yeah!  I just remember they were really giggly and loud."  Yep, that's them!  I love it.

Anyways, she came into Caen and we have the same vision of what we want to see happen, we like to set goals the same say, we like to work the same way, and we like to focus on the same type of things.  i honestly couldn't have hand-picked out a more perfect companion as far as a missionary who just comes in and wants to work hard and see things happen.

Well, like I said we have really been struggling to find people to teach.  We have had one progressing ami for a couple months, she is about 70 and is from Guadelupe.  She daughter is a member and so this woman was a referral.  We were able to build trust with her and now she really likes the missionaries.  Soeur Cope and I have been teaching her for a few months and the thing holding her back is just the need for a restoration of the church because she doesn't understand why you would need to be baptized in any church at all because in the end God is over all we just all do it in our own different way.  So, anyway Soeur Ingraham and I decided to focus on prophets and the apostasy and the need for a restoration and then to show the restoration film.  We did it, showed the movie and I felt the spirit so strongly.  AT the end of the movie, we asked her how she felt.  It seemed like it hadn't impacted her at all.  And same response, "yeah, sure Joseph Smith was a prophet.  But in the end, God is over all."  I don't usually get emotional in lessons, but for some reason I just got really emotional in that lesson.  I started trying to bear my testimony of the BOM and I just couldn't talk. ... that didn't affect her either.  We're all sitting there in a silence for a while and I'm holding a BOM in my hand and I can't talk because I'm crying and she just says, "Allez-y" say what you want to say.  Anyways, we had to wrap up the RDV because we had a meeting to go to but it probably would have ended with us dropping her because she doesn't have any desire to change right now.  After the RDV I just got emotional, probably because we had just done contacting and porting before the RDV and people had been especially rude.  It's not that I'm discouraged, I think it's more just sad about people's responses.  The other ami we have been teaching is no longer progressing either.  Last week we had a RDV and Soeur Cope and I bore our testimonies about the Atonement and her response was just, "well, the real question is, did Jesus Christ have siblings and were they mortal or gods? and was he married?"  It just didn't impact her at all.  It's just interesting because before my mission I never really had the experience of really bearing my testimony to someone and just having the other person not be impacted by it at all as far as we can tell.  And it gets to a point where there is nothing else you can do.  That's how it is with Victoria too, it's like we have tried everything, and the most important thing is that people have the desire to learn and the desire to have the gospel in their lives.

Anyways, if a mission didn't teach me anything else (which it has already taught me a lot of things) it has taught me how blessed we all are to have the gospel in our lives and to never ever take it for granted.  About a month ago Soeur Cope and I were porting a neighborhood and this one man answered the door, we did our thing, and started bearing our testimonies about Jesus Christ.  He walked out of his door and grabbed my shoulders and said, "you can't know that there is a God."  We told him that actually we do know it.  He said, "How do you know it? Faith?" well... yes. FAith. He just told us it's impossible to know that and then closed the door.  Experiences like that though don't discourage me, but it just makes me so incredibly grateful for the knowledge that I do have that what we are at trying to teach to people is true. 

I have loved reading the Book of Mormon on my mission because I've never really focused so much on the missionaries in the Book of Mormon as I have lately.  I think it's in Alma 26?  And it's the sons of Mosiah and it talks about their mission experiences and how "their hearts are depressed and they want to turn back but they don't and they go back and preach."  There are so many great examples in the BOM of missionaries who just never give up and they just diligently keep doing what they are supposed to be doing.

Another thing I have really learned on my mission so far is that every missionary is called to serve in a specific mission and at a specific time with a certain companion for different reasons.  For some it's to baptize 30 people for someone else they might go on a mission to bless the life of their companion, for someone else it might be challenging learning experiences on a mission that will help them learn how to be a better leader in the future.  And I think with that perspective in mind, whether you have a lot of people to teach or no one to teach you know that your time is not being wasted as long as you're trying your best to serve. 

I was studying in Preach My Gospel in chapter six this morning and I turned to the subject "patience" so I decided to start reading that.  I like all those scriptures and I like that so many of the prayers offered were just asking Heavenly Father for a blessing of comfort and asking for the strength to keep going in the difficult times as well as in the good times.  I know I have found that to be true.  If you pray for a feeling of comfort, Heavenly Father is ALWAYS quick to respond.  The challenge might not go away immediately but it gives you the motivation and the desire to keep moving forward and I'm really grateful for that.  There's also another line in that section that says, "have faith that God will grant you the promised blessings."   or something like that.  I have been trying to figure out what those promised blessings are for a while.  And Soeur Ingraham made a really good and probably obvious point this morning.  It's blessings promised in our patriarchal blessing, blessings in our setting apart as a missionary, and also promises he promises us in the scriptures.  I think that helps us keep moving forward as well.

Mom asked why they moved the zone leaders up here?  I really don't know.  But they are two great elders.  They don't have anyone really to teach right now either, so we are all doing a lot of quality finding time. :)  But the ward is still so good, I'm so impressed by them every single time I associate with them.  And we're trying a lot of new things this transfer to try to work more with the ward.  The great thing is we're basically at square one right now, so it can only get better!  We have lots of opportunities to try new things and see what works!

Have a great week everyone!  I love you so much!

Soeur Chard

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I'm still in Caen

Hi family!

So, we got the transfer email, I honestly don't think I have been that nervous since the morning I went into the MTC!  I was so nervous the night before but excited too, because I won't be being trained anymore!  So, the elders in Caen and Soeur Cope and I all came to the church that morning.  We were all slightly freaking out about it.  Because it's the last transfer of Soeur Cope and the elders knew someone was getting transferred because Elder Garcia has been trained here too (he was in my MTC district.)

So, we opened the email.  Soeur Cope: "Okay, now let's all try to be mature adults here, okay."  Secretly, she was probably freaking out the most. . . .all the rest of us were kind of just sitting there completely calm.  It was great.

The result is:  I am the only one staying in Caen!  Soeur Cope is going up to Brussels, Elder Barney is going up to Liege (Belgium), Elder Garcia is going up by Lille (up north by the border of Belgium).  They're sending in the Zone Leaders up to Caen, I'm staying and Soeur Ingraham (I hear she's nice and she's a runner- that is all I know) is coming up to be companions with me.  Ah!  Scary!  And I realized that even if I have a question to ask, I can't even call Soeur Cope or Elder Barney because our phones can't call Belgium.  So, yep should be interesting.  I think it should all be good hopefully!  i'm really excited though, I think it will be fun and the two elders coming up are so good. 

We went home and did weekly planning.  Ah, it's just so crazy how your entire life can change in one email!  Soeur Cope spent about two hours going through different bus routes with me so I can get more oriented.  That is the single thing I am by far the most nervous about.  My lack of sense of direction.  Oh man oh man.  I think for the most part it will be okay though. :)  I guess we will find out!

It  has been a good week though!  Freezing, but good.  It was -10 celsius, I think that's like 14 degrees.  But with humidity.  Apparently the climate has been "Russian weather" the last week, we've been getting the winds from Russia.  Interesting.  You know  it's cold when I had to pull out the boots made in Canada this week!  Those things are golden.  I was really tempted to pull out the parka this week, but still a little too intense looking for the occasion.  Even though it may feel like Siberia to me.

I love you all and am thinking about you all!  Keep doing good things!


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

First Week of February

Hi family!

Well, all is going well in Normandie.  Soeur Cope and I had been counting down the days till January would be over since like December 17th, because in our minds after January= spring.  No doubt about it.  Well, that was very wrong.  February first hit, and suddenly the temperatures dropped drastically.  And it started snowing!  Ward members told us it's cold until April!  Ah!  Oh well, I'm just happy I didn't know that fact in January, because honestly now that we conquered January it doesn't seem like winter will be as long, regardless of the weather. 

Yesterday it snowed and it was so funny to see how Caen reacted.  Everything.  Shut down.  Trams, buses, no snow plows.  So, we walked to church, thank goodness for boots.  But, it was so funny because it's like the whole city shut down and in Utah we get way more snow then that and everything continues as usual!  We ate with a family in the ward yesterday and I had my first escargot... not in a restaurant. (it's the same family that fed us oysters and a full quail aka quail heart, etc.  She said next time she is making frog legs.  Interesting.)  

We also had exchanges last week.  I went down to Evry for the day (like 40 minutes outside of Paris) and I honestly thought I was serving a mission in a different country (very multi-cultural, I hear it's called "mini Africa" by some missionaries.  I LOVED IT so much.  It's pretty ghetto and was so great.  We went porting in these apartment buildings and it was a completely different experience from porting in Caen.  We actually were able to talk to most people for a few minutes at the door, got three pass-backs, gave a Book of Mormon and got two numbers.  That is like a transfer worth of success in Caen.  It  was so much fun.  I was with Soeur Rowley who goes home in two transfers (she was actually Soeur Cope's MTC companion) and she was so great to work with.  That night we went to the ward and taught the law of tithing lesson to a nine-year-old boy who I think actually got baptized in Saturday.  Then we tried to go visit their ward missionary, got lost and it was too late so we went home.  Soeur Rowley apologized for getting lost.  I told her that I basically have an endless supply of patience for people getting lost because my poor future companion, we will get lost all the time. 

Um, things have been going well here.  Honestly, our district in Normandy is having a hard time as far as finding people to teach right now, the elders in Caen and the elders in Cherbourg have had really hard last couple of weeks.  Soeur Cope and I have been doing a lot of porting and finding lately too.  But, we're happy.  I think that's so important, learning how to be happy when things are going well or when things are more challenging.  It is so cool to see how far we have come as a companionship since week one of transfer one until week six of transfer two.  We are both so happy, we're like best friends and we have been working hard but we have fun together too.  One thing I've really learned this transfer is that "fixing something" is usually not an event, it's a process. It's requires patience and you have to work at it.  I've seen that with recent converts we have been working with and I've seen it in other ways too.  It's little by little that you are able to watch relationships improve or people change, it just takes time and effort and constantly trying to improve.  It's been really cool, I love it. 

The transfer email comes out this Saturday and Soeur Cope and I are both so nervous/excited/scared about it.  I would be really suprised if I get transferred out of Caen because Soeur Cope has been here four already and I've only been here two.  But, no one knows!  We should for sure though be getting new companions, because the 12 week program is done after this week!

I hope you all have a great week!
Soeur Chard