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!