Tuesday, March 27, 2012
We got the transfer email on Saturday morning. Soeur Ingraham and I were in the car with the Mezerai's on our way to Le Havre so we had the elders call us to tell us the news. Elder Russell: "Fasten your seatbelt Soeur Chard, we have some big changes. Just get ready for it." I'm going to Versailles!! Another one of dad's areas! I'm really excited, I looked at our district and it's all the office elders and then Soeur Turney and I in Versailles. I think we work in the Paris visitor's center once a week as well which should be fun! Soeur Ingraham is going to Evry, about an hour outside of Paris. The craziest part is, they are replacing the Sisters in Caen with Elders, no more sisters are going to be in this city for now. One of the elders is getting transferred out as well. So, it's the same scenario as last transfer, only one missionary is staying up here. But this time there will be four elders. It's happened before where they take sisters out of Caen for a little while. One reason we think may be because I think there's only three sisters coming into the mission and four leaving this transfer so maybe there weren't enough sisters, but mostly I think it's just what needed to happen.
This week has been such a great week overall. The highlight was definitely going to Le Havre with Marie-Sylvie and Lionel Mezerai. They were so nice and drove an hour to pick us up, an hour back to their house, Francois had come up for the weekend from Rouen and was there with us for lunch, and then we went to the really cool place I can't remember what it's called right now. We went there for a minute on our way home from the Mezerai wedding I remember, the cliffs right outside of Le Havre. Anyways, it was such an amazing day. Marie-Sylvie showed me a home video that dad sent giving a tour of our house in Minnesota and I was in it as a three-year-old attempting to speak French to Marie-Sylvie on the movie. It was so funny. After lunch we asked if we could share a quick spiritual thought. I shared the experience of the night before I left on my mission at the setting-apart with the stake president. I talked about how the whole week proceeding I was so nervous and then at the setting apart they had every family member say something and everyone started talking about family and then would start crying and then it got to me and I looked around the room and wondered why I would choose to leave the people I loved the most for a year and a half. And the feeling of complete love overwhelmed me, love for every member of my family, love for people in France I hadn't met yet and love for my Savior Jesus Christ. And I explained that that was the reason that I decided to come on a mission. Then I read 1 John 4 about how love casteth out fear and they preach because they love Jesus Christ. And that's exactly how I feel.
On the car ride home Marie-Sylvie pulled out her triple combination and let me read the testimony that dad had written in the front cover. It was so touching. Then she asked me to tell her my favorite scripture (I did D&C 84:88) and sign my name next to it. She showed me a list at the front of her Book of Mormon where missionaries who have really influenced her life write their favorite scriptures and sign their name next to it. Then she went on to tell a little more of her conversion story to Soeur Ingraham and me. We asked her how to help one of our investigators to progress. She asked what the investigator thought about Joseph Smith. Ultimately she bore her testimony of the Book of Mormon. She said, "either it's true or it's not true. You have to know for yourself and the only way to know is to read it, to ask and it's either true or it's not." It was so powerful. It was probably the coolest experience on my mission to see Marie-Sylvie and her family and how much dad's missionary service has meant for their entire posterity. She showed me a picture of Francois and herself the day before he went into the MTC. While on his mission, Francois sent her a picture of a stripling warrior hugging his mom in the exact same position that he had been hugging his mom in the picture. Marie-Sylvie then told me how much the verse about the stripling warriors being taught by their mothers touched her. I am so incredibly touched by the faith and the commitment that she has that she has raised such strong children in the gospel. And seriously, how much they consider dad to be an integral part of that process. It was such an incredible day and so touching because I feel like I get it now, I get what dad and mom did as missionaries, I get how it's hard, how you feel like what's even the point of doing this sometimes, and I get what a miracle it is to find people like marie-sylvie and how it's people like her who make it all worth it. I will always feel such a love for that family and I am so grateful for the opportunity I have had to serve in this city!
Soeur Ingraham, has been great. We both had the same vision and we both had the same work ethic. WE have learned a lot together through experience. Anyways, it's been a really big blessing to serve together. I feel like I go through the same motions with all my companions so far, starts off awesome, get's hard in the middle, then you have some dramatic event that helps you work through so you both come out better people by the end of the transfer. That's how it has been for us!
Yesterday saying bye at church was so hard because I really feel like this ward has become my family in France. I love them so much. It was so touching to see all these people just wish us well and thank us for the time we were in Caen. I feel so overwhelmed and blessed to know all these people.
Anyways, I leave on Wednesday morning for Versailles! I'll look up the address fast and send it in another email. I love you all and hope you have a great week!
Thursday, March 22, 2012
This week has been, well, it's been hard. We had five lessons set up with five new investigators and four of them got cancelled or they just didn't show up, etc. On Saturday we went to have another lesson with this man we ported into last week and he opened the door in his towel, he was in the middle of showering. He told us to come in while he finished. We walk in and his two kids were there and we realize there's no woman at home. So, he comes out of the shower and we tell him we'll have to reschedule because we don't have a woman with us and we have a rule we can't teach single men. He immediately starts attacking us and says things like, "well, if you don't have enough faith in yourself to teach me then it's not worth coming back." he was going off for a long time anyways. We left that apartment. As we were walking out, obviously feeling discouraged because that was the third of four new investigators who had dropped us in the same week. We walk towards the tram and Soeur Ingraham immediately contacts the first person we see. She ended up having a really good discussion about the plan of salvation and the girl said it's something she really wants to know if God exists and if there's anything after life because she just had a close friend pass away. We got her number and address, we'll see what happens. Soeur Ingraham is always so good at doing that. When we get dropped or just are having a hard day, she immediately starts contacting. So this time after the contact I said, "how do you do that every time just start contacting after we have a bad experience?" Then she told me that one exchange she was on her companion gave the advice that whenever you are feeling discouraged or down or anything, just start testifying of one of the things we teach as missionaries and you will feel better. As we were walking down the street just not talking and she said, "well, at least we have amis now who can drop us. That's better than what it started off as." That is an eternal optimist right there I tell you.
We are still just pushing along. This transfer has been really difficult, but it has been really good. I couldn't ask for anything better because I can honestly say that we have been trying our hardest and we are far from perfect but we've been learning a lot. This transfer we have both been humbled a lot. We hit so many points in the transfer where all of these exciting things are building up and then they all drop so suddenly. It's been really humbling and we both realize that basically we can't do anything, it all has to be the spirit and we've learned it's not about us at all.
This transfer though we have had so many hilarious, crazy, funny experiences and also really spiritual experiences that have made us both grow a lot I think. It was cool because last week we gave everyone in the relief society a challenge to have a "moment missionnaire" and to really pray for the courage and opportunity to share the gospel with someone. Yesterday we asked if anyone had had an experience. One of the women raised her hand and had had three in the same week. She ended up giving someone a Book of Mormon, inviting them to church and inviting them to meet with the missionaires. The friend took the Book of Mormon and said she wasn't ready for the missionaries but it was so cool to see someone who had really taken the challenge to have a missionary experience.
Well, your question about why the church has a difficult time progressing: I think a lot of it has to do with the culture. The culture here is that God has been taken out of almost everything as a culture. In the U.S. God is on the money, it's in the pledge of allegiance, it's in the national anthem. It's overall in the culture and so naturally as a culture people are more inclined to believe in God. Here, it's not like that at all and as a result it's really surprising to me and sad how many people just absolutely don't believe in God and don't see any need or interest whatsoever in God. That's why I think the members here are so amazing because to be a strong member of the church here you really need to be converted. This ward goes to the temple, they drop anything to teach with the missionaries and they're at church on Sunday. There are good members here, there's difficult outside influences, and that's one reason I really admire the strong members of the church here because they are solid.
Porting experience: knocked on a man's door, he answered. "Bonjour nous sommes missionnaires." Him: "Stop right there." us: "Have you talked to missionaries before?" Him: "No. But I'm communist." us: "um, okay.... meaning..." him: "Communist. STALIN! LENIN! Goodnight!" door closes. wild. you meet wild people I tell you. Every day is just crazy.
Have a great week! I love you!
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Well, I always love reading your emails and your letters, thank you so much!
Honestly, this week has been really hard. And, there is nothing I would rather do than hop on a plane and come back to Holladay right now. (but obviously i am not going to do that!) I know that means that it's probably some of the most important experiences of my mission.
The hardest day was on Wednesday. We had one progressing ami who was actually keeping commitments and we were really excited about who we found porting at the beginning of the transfer. We had invited Soeur Destribrois to come and teach with us on Wednesday and had planned a third lesson about what we thought would hopefully go really well. Then, we were eating lunch, about to leave to go teach the lesson and we got a text from our ami saying she actually couldn't meet today because she had to work. Then she sent a follow-up text saying that she thinks she's done taking the lessons altogether and we could come and pick up "your books" at her dad's house that night. So. That was sad. It was raining and cold outside, we asked someone for directions of how to get to the bus stop and immediately before we can even say anything we get a "ça m'intéresse pas" and I'm like "People! WE are not even trying to contact you right now just be nice!!" and then we finally got on the right bus, got off the bus, it's raining and it's cold and we were lost and I was just sitting there with this huge map opened up trying to figure out where the heck we were and I was half crying half laughing at the situation. It was a hard day.
The rest of the week was fine, the Alves Family invited us over for lunch at their house on Saturday. They told us we were going to be eating dog. I totally believed them because I have already eaten quite a few weird things so far. We got to their house and they showed us a picture of a puppy and told us that's what we would be eating and they actually had to buy the dog at some Chinese store in Paris because it's kind of illegal. Anyways, I believed them all the way until the first bite. Ended up being beef. It was funny. We had camera ready and everything!
I was reading in 1 Cor. 13 today and I really like verse 2. It talks about how you can have everything: faith, hope, you can even be "speaking with the tongue of angels" but, if you don't have charity, you can't do anything. I definitely believe that is true. It's tough. Last week after Wednesday I was just feeling like, please don't make me go porting or contacting one more day and I was feeling homesick. But, I know Heavenly Father is trying to teach me something important right now. Elder Russell said something last week that made me laugh. He said, "yeah, you know I heard two theories before I went on my mission. The first is that they call the best missionaries to this mission. You know, because we are just so good. The second is that they send the people to this mission who need to be humbled the most. And I'm pretty sure that it's the second." I would definitely agree. It is the most humbling experience to really go out day after day after day and to really not have seen any investigators really start changing their lives or progressing. It just makes me realize more and more every day that no matter how good you become at teaching, at connecting to people, at French or anything, the most important thing is just realizing that you really can't do anything on your own. The only way that you can possibly do anything is to literally be an instrument in God's hands and to be and do and say what He wants you to say. And honestly, I don't think I have figured it out yet. But I'm trying!
I hope you all have a great week!
Monday, March 5, 2012
This week was great because of zone conference in Paris. For sure that is my favorite part of being a missionary when we get to go back and be with lots of other missionaries and have training. I was talking to one of the assistants during lunch and I mentioned that I hadn't seen the Eiffel Tower yet since I had been on my mission. He said, "I'll hook you up." And at the end of the conference the elders in my city took us to the Eiffel Tower before we caught our train because the assistant gave them special permission. It was so nice and it was so fun to see! Elder Russell (one of the elders in my city) said when we got to the Eiffel Tower, "You know, it's moments like these when you wish you were serving a mission in Montana." That is one of the fun parts of serving in France when there are moments like that! There are lots of other great things about serving here too.
As far as this week, well, I can honestly say that Soeur Ingraham and I are doing everything we know how to do. We are trying to be obedient, we contact all the time, we porte a lot, we pass by members homes share a spiritual thought, pray with them and then work in their neighborhood, we try passing by less-actives, we try passing by old investigators in the areabook, old "amis en puissance" people missionaries met but never had lessons with. And, it's been hard. We have been having such a hard time finding people to teach! One of the most frustrating parts this week is that we have been having good contacts with people, they agree with us and they seem interested. Then they find out that we're Mormons and they're immediately turned off. I guess because of the temple in Paris and Mitt Romney there's been lots of negative media about the church on French TV and so a lot of people have this weird connotation with LDS. It's hard. So, we are realizing more and more how vital it is to work with the ward members. It makes such a huge difference when a member can introduce their friends to the gospel, because their friends can see that Mormons are normal. The trick is, how do you get the members to give referrals. Because, for example I know whenever missionaries ask me for referrals, I automatically say that I don't know anyone who's ready for the missionaries to teach.
Saturday we passed by the Le Cavalier family. Soeur Le Cavalier was one who taught with us last week and bore the really powerful testimony about the Book of Mormon. After the lesson we thanked her and she said, "well, you can bring me brownies or something if you want. :)" I LOVE this family. She drops anything to teach with us. So, we were going to her house to give her brownies and then to work in her area. We started talking to her and her husband and they asked how the work was going. We were honest, we said it's hard. We asked them how we can gain more trust with the members so we can start working more with the members to find people to teach. We talked to them for a while about it and I happened to have the ward list with me. I pulled it out and the Le Cavalier's took the next two hours going through the list with us and telling us which less-actives we might have success with. Then, (we hadn't even asked them for referrals this time) Frere Le Cavalier invited us to go to his neighbors house right then and meet them. He walked us next door, we met the neighbors and ultimately were able to set up a rendez-vous with them next week.
Then at church the next day in fast and testimony meeting Soeur Le Cavalier got up and bore her testimony about how she has taught with the missionaries and knows that if every ward member will have the courage to open their mouths and talk to their friends about the gospel that the words they need to say will be given them. She talked about how it increases her testimony every time she shares the gospel with someone and then she talked about how she introduced the missionaries to her neighbors the night before. She encouraged all the ward members to really make an effort to talk to their friends this week.
After church, one of the ward members was talking to us (she taught a couple with us a few weeks ago we found porting.) so we were talking to her about that. We asked her if there was anything we could do for her. She mentioned she's been starting to try to do family history and she potentially needs help with that. Funny thing is another ward member was asking us how to use family search just the Sunday before. So I asked if maybe it would be helpful if we planned a family history night to teach the ward how to use the site. Soeur Bourroux was excited about it and said she happened to be going over to the couple who's in charge of the family history for the ward for lunch right after church and she would talk to them about it.
Then Sunday night we got a text from the bishopric inviting us to ward council on Tuesday to talk about how we can advance the missionary work in this ward right now. So... we'll see what happens!
One thing I was reading in personal study this morning was about charity. The phrase "charity never faileth." It took on a whole new meaning for me this morning because I was thinking about how charity really does never fail. It's having charity, even for the people who are rude on the street, the people who slam doors in your faces, for the ward, for your companion, for the bishop. It's being able to develop charity (definitely a continuous process) that enables you to be happy and find optimism even when things are difficult. I realized this morning that it is charity that helps me have the desire to keep on trying even when you don't see immediate results. So the phrase "charity never faileth" I think that means charity never fails to help us all find happiness even when the situation you are in may be difficult.
And that is the spiritual thought for the week! :)
love you all!
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