Monday, June 24, 2013

a lil town called...

New transfer...(drumroll)...and I'm staying in Bayonne! Which let's be real, I love it. I love it because it means I am building real relationships with people out here, and it means I'm starting to get my feet under me, and it means that a little piece of my heart will always be in this place, because it's becoming a little bit of a home for me. And I love having homes around the world. Makes you feel like there are a lot of pieces to your heart. 

And...(drumroll)...I'm training! I'm in Toulouse right now, on my way to Lyon to get a brand-spankin-new missionary, fresh from the Provo MTC. Last transfer, when I got put with Soeur Witt and it was the "we don't speak French and we don't know what we're doing transfer," Spencer said to me, "Oh-ho-ho, you're in TROUBLE!" (It was either that or "Oh-ho-ho you're TOAST!" Same sentiment.) Yeah, so this transfer, I'm really in trouble hahaha. I still don't speak French, I still don't know what I'm doing, except now I get to teach someone else how to speak French and know what they're doing. :) Good thing there's that thing called "prayer" and I can get direction and support and help from heaven.

In other news:

We made some really ugly food this week. Including a cherry pie that was more or less just gelatinous pink stuff on the inside. The members were like, "Well...our son liked it okay..." hahaha

For our train ride to Toulouse, the British/French couple took us to the train station and guess what they brought: McVities...with chocolate! France has McVities (the digestives (cookies) we ate all the time in London), but not dipped in chocolate like they have in London. Anyways they found out how much I love them, and brought us some for the train ride today. Oh how I love that couple. :)

Also, it rains a lot here.
What I learned from this last transfer: not to make people feel like they're getting in the way. How to love people into being awesome. How to contact in a way that's true to myself. How to love people like they're friends and not like they're strangers.

LOVE each and every one of YOU. I've gotten some beautiful letters and some beautiful postcards and some beautiful emails, and oh how you have no idea the hot-air-balloon-of-hope those little things do to lift this lil heart of mine. So thank you thank you thank you, my wonderful wonderful friends.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Music Monday in Bayonne, France

This week we got a music CD. A CD with music on it. We call it our music CD. Let's talk about the power of good music for a second. It's all "approved music" for missionaries which means Mormon Tabernacle Choir, BYU choir, BYU Vocal Point and some classical music. We have been listening to it nonstop. Guess what's on it: Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Billy Joel's Lullabye (choral version) and Danny Boy. Each of those is a tender mercy to my heart. Each of those songs means a lot to me and to who I am. And to have that influence in our apartment all morning and all night? To be inspired and edified by such beautiful music? Ah. Joy.

The last verse of Danny Boy, which I had never heard before says this, and I think it's the most beautiful words I may have ever heard:

And if you died and crossed that stream before me

I pray that angels met you on the shore.
And you'll look down and gently you'll implore us

to live so we may see your smiling face once more.
I've been singing it and thinking about it all week.
Other highlights include realizing our entire ceiling was covered in a thin but growing spider webs. I tell you people, my life is Lord of the Rings. See pictures below.

We've been eating lots of grilled cheese sandwiches in a pan we never wash. So they're tastier.
We had a good big long conversation with a lady today about how she can have her family again after this life. It wasn't until we were parting ways an hour later that she realized we weren't Catholic. Ha/oops. I guess she assumed we were nuns? I couldn't figure out why she ws so open to talking to us for so long. The best/worst part of the conversation too was when she asked if Soeur Witt was my daughter. Hahaha/do I seriously look that old?! Then she explained she thought Sr. Witt was 15 years old...which would make me 30. Come on lady, do I look like I'm 30? And then it hit me: oh wow I am in fact almost 30. Best/worst.
And now for the good stuff:
Some mornings I wake up really panicky inside. It's like a sadness in my heart, a despondency. So a few night ago, I decided to read some beautiful scriptures right before bed (I recommend Alma 24: "he loveth our souls..."), and to have them by my bedside when I woke up. I read first thing in the morning, and all day I had love and joy and hope, instead of fear and death and all of their friends.
And one of the people we've been teaching got baptized last week. I wanted to write a little bit about that. First of all, he is one of the kindest, most open-hearted and sincere people I have met. He loves animals. A LOT. Like, a two-hour conversation about birds, a lot. We met him about four weeks ago on the bus. For some reason, I gave him one of our pass-along cards with the name of the Church on it and our phone number, and didn't think again about it. In fact, I ended up spending the whole hour bus ride talking to another girl on the bus about the Gospel. We had a really good conversation and I thought, "This is the reason we took this bus today." We never heard from that girl again.

But then a few days later, we got a phone call--it was the guy from the bus. He said he'd like to meet with us, and he'd like to come to Church. So we made the arrangements, met with him, taught him, and two weeks later, he was baptized. And let me tell you, us with our limited French? It had nothing to do with us. That was one of the sweetest parts of the whole experience. He'd been searching for answers and direction for a few years, and little by little God had been teaching him. He found a book on the bus a while ago, about praying to angels to get help. So he started praying to angels. He also had a pendant that he used, you know, you ask it questions and depending on how it swings, there's your answer? He told us later, "At the time, I didn't know about Heavenly Father, or how to pray, or anything. So God talked to me in a way I could understand. And that led me here." The long and short of it is, God is working with his children. The more I see of this, the more I think that we don't do anything, really, as missionaries. It's Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ's work, this salvation of souls, and it's not for us to try to convince people of anything, but just to love people and tell people the things we know about. We don't know what's going on in other people's hearts, or how God is working to bring miracles about, or what good we can do by reaching out to each other. The funny and lovely thing about that day we met him on the bus is that the whole time I was on that bus ride talking to the girl about the Gospel, I was thinking that perhaps we'd get to teach her. Really, though, I was there for a totally different reason. You never know what good you're sending into the world by choosing to go outside of yourself and talk to people and smile and love.
*The other picture is all the missionaries in our area--the southwest of France--singing around a piano in the Bordeaux Gare, waiting for our trains to come. These are the things we do as missionaries. Sing and smile.

Monday, June 10, 2013

This time, on the District...

Stories from the week...

So every now and then we'll try to talk to someone on the street and they'll respond, "I don't speak English." And we say, "Yeah, I was speaking in FRENCH!" Hahaha, oh to be able to speak French like a French person and not like an Amerrrican. Someday perhaps. The worst though is when they try to speak English to us, because without fail, I can never understand a word they are saying. Gives me empathy for all the people who so kindly let us practice our French with them everyday.

I'm also convinced one of our purposes as missionaries here is to serve the people of France by decreasing the number of annual lung cancer deaths. Every time we talk to someone who is smoking (and a lot a lot of people are), they'll kindly not smoke long enough to have the conversation with us, and typically by the time the conversation's over, the cigarette has burnt out too. Success. One cigarette-wasting conversation at a time, we are going to eradicate lung cancer in the Pays Basque.

And my favorite stranger moment this week was on Saturday, when it was pouring rain (we're talking more rain that air in the air. Found out the hard way that my umbrella has holes in it) and we decided at 7 pm to go talk to people in the centreville (the little city center of the village). We talked to five very boisterous boys (one of which was in a full-body chicken costume), an old, tall Jewish man who showed us his star of David tattoo on his shoulder, and to a kid in his twenties who was so friendly and happy to stop and talk, until we asked is he'd like to learn more about Jesus Christ, and he leapt backwards (not kidding) and said, "AH! Pas ca!" ("AH! Not that!") and walked away really quickly. This made us laugh really hard. Oh how I wish we could speak French well enough to have conversations with people that actually help them instead of scaring them.

And speaking of language, the French continue to love theirs. We were reading with a family this week, and the 8 year old girl pronounced the end of a word too much and the mother made her go back and reread it, explaining to her that if she pronounced that part too strongly, "it's not pretty." I mean, I heard that this would happen--that the general rule of pronunciation is whatever sounds the prettiness, but to actually see it in action? Priceless.

One night we were walking home and came upon an old lady with white white hair in a French bob, pinned back with a periwinkle bobby pin. She was carrying four HUGE grocery bags, and was sorta walking, mostly just standing looking around. We offered to help her, and so we each took some bags and WOW they were heavy! I don't know how she was planning to carry them on her own; Slowly I guess. Well in truth it was "slowly" even with our help! She'd stop every 2 steps (really) to ask a question about the United States, or to ask with a really confused look on her face why we ere helping her and how much she could pay us. And well I guess she didn't want to walk and talk at the same time, so there we were, two missionaries and a little old hunched over lady carrying these enormous bags down the middle of a road flanked by restaurants. Everyone was watching us, I'm sure really confused as to what was going on. It was a delight. Her name is Annie.
The photos:

Birthday Strawberry Tart
Soeur Witt and I in Lourdes for preparation day
a view of Lourdes from the chateau fort

Monday, June 3, 2013

Les Jolies Francaises

We're speakin a lot of French and making friends and eatin good things and reading the scriptures a lot...

This week we went to Bordeaux twice, celebrated two birthdays, had a crazy long busride with kids runnin up and down the aisles, a long conversation about vultures, and a mission leader saying really funny things over the loudspeaker.
A bientôt!