Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Fete de Bayonne and Talkin to People

People are fascinated by the weather here. All you have to say to get someone to start talking to you is, "Il fait chaud" and holy cow the floodgates open. My favorite is when people tell us the temperature, because they use Celsius and we of course have no idea what that translates to, so we fake looks of shock and disbelief--"No, c'est pas vrai! 40 degrees?!" All the while we're thinking, "Look lady, you don't have to tell me how hot it is--I've soaked through all my layers of clothes, my hair is matted and sweaty to my forehead, and I have a watch-tan line like nobody's business. Are you not seeing this?!" It's so humid that when we run in the mornings, it's misty outside and you can't see very far off. It's so humid that we sleep with all our window open and the fan going constantly so we don't suffocate in the night! We're drinking tons of water.

And also we're evacuating the city. This week is the Fete de Bayonne, which means that tomorrow, one million five hundred people will descend upon this frying hot city, drink beer, jump off bridges, dance, eat Basque food, and otherwise party for the whole week. ONE MILLION FIVE HUNDRED. That makes it the fourth biggest fete in all the world, just after the one in Munich and Pamplona. So we're heading to Pau, to eat nems and stay with the sisters there and contact like fiends.
And on the subject of contacting, the goal for the mission is that every companionship talk to ("contact") 50 people everyday. Most days we meet this goal. Somedays we far exceed it. Somedays we drastically don't. I think this last week we had one day when we talked to 2 people. Eek, not good. Those are the days when I feel really lame. But guess what: we were watching the missionary training videos this week, and in them, the standard that was presented for missions worldwide was to talk to 10 people everyday (so we felt 5 times awesomer), and then after that, Soeur Swenson asked me how many people I contacted everyday my first transfer, and so I went back to my first planner, thinking I'd be disappointed by how many days this transfer we haven't hit our goal of 50 per/day. Guess what our numbers were like that first transfer: 10, 14, 7, 22, 12... In short, HOLY COW I'M ACTUALLY BECOMING A BETTER MISSIONARY!  I wonder how often in our lives we're actually leaps and bounds ahead of where we just were, but we don't realize it, because we're constantly reaching beyond ourselves. The reach is so important--it's what pulls us upward. But oh how sweet and comforting it is to look back from time to time and see progress happening in yourself--to see that you aren't the man or woman you once were. I'm grateful for every little moment when I see these tiny changes in myself and in my nature and in my capacity to do more than I've done before.
So in the spirit of reaching, Soeur Swenson and I, since we'll be in Pau with nary a person to visit (as it's not our area), we've set the goal to contact 1500 people this week. This is impossible. But I guess that is just the ground needed for a miracle to happen!

And on the subject of miracles, I'm seeing a funny pattern in our days: we set up really awesome plans, the plans fall through, and then even better things present themselves. For instance, one night Soeur Swenson suggested that we pray to try to find someone specific, so we prayed we could find someone who felt lost and wanted to know how to figure out which Church was true. Five minutes later, we stopped a couple who was walking through a park. The guy cut us off mid sentence, and in good old Mid-west States American English said to the woman, "Oh, these are the Mormon missionaries. They are the nicest, happiest people you will ever meet. And they're everywhere! So if ever you need anything--if you're lost or hurt and need someone to take you to the hospital, just look for a couple of these missionaries, and they'll save you! Or they'll at least call an ambulance for you." What a reputation! Thank you, whatever missionaries you were who gave this man such a glowing experience with Mormon missionaries! We started talking to them about our beliefs, asked them if they'd like to learn more, and the woman says, "I am so lost. I have been looking so long for the truth, and I don't know where to find it. I've tried every Church." Coincidence that we'd felt inspired to pray for this? I think not. So we taught her about how there IS a true Church on the earth and how she can know this by beginning to pray to Heavenly Father. Right there on the bridge by the park, we taught her about prayer and about finding truth. We set up an appointment for the following evening to see her again, in the same place.
The following evening, we showed up to the same place, all set to teach her a little more about the truths God has restored again to the earth, and what do you know, they never showed up. This happens from time to time. Right as we're leaving, another couple who we taught a couple of lessons to but haven't been able to get in touch with again walked by. They live really far out of town, and were just in for the evening to go to dinner or something. Coincidence that in those thirty seconds before we were leaving the park, they'd walk by the very place we were? I think not. So we chatted with them, made them laugh a little, and set up another time to come by.
A similar thing happened two days ago: we were supposed to meet someone else in the park, and he didn't show up either, but instead, we ran into a man we'd talked to the day before, who'd had all kinds of questions about what happens after this life. He had more questions again for us (despite his insistence that he didn't want to learn any more about our Church...heh heh I can see right through that, Mister). So we told him about the resurrection, about how he would be resurrected with a perfect body someday. And then right after that, we met another man named Daniel who from his bag pulled a Bible with dogeared pages and all kinds of leaves and pictures stuck in the pages. He loves that book, he said. And so we told him about the Book of Mormon and we're going to meet up with him this afternoon to give him a copy so he can love that book like he loves the Bible.
In other words, what I'm seeing is that we make our plans, and then those plans fall through, but it's because there are different, perhaps more important plans that Heavenly Father has for us. It's not just that when He closes a door, somewhere He opens a window. It's more like when He closes a door, it's because He's going to knock down a wall and give us a garden and an orchard and a greenhouse instead. So we don't worry when our plans go through. It means there are better plans in the works.

A couple of funny stories for the week:
This week there was a family from the Netherlands visiting church. Their daughters spoke English but not French. So they asked if I'd translate for them. Ahem. Funniest thing ever. Mostly I just made up stuff that was basically on the same subject as what the speaker was talking about. This is because I don't speak French. Hahahaha
Also, last night we stopped a family on a bridge (bridge contacting is my favorite). I said, "On est missionnaire de l'Eglise de Jesus-Christ..." to which the father said, good-naturedly, "Oh, I'm terribly sorry, but we don't speak French!" To which I said, "Oh, I speak English!" To which He said, "Damn! I thought that would work!!" Haha, we all laughed about it for a while. They still rejected us. Ha.
The pictures:

The first one's of all the signs for the Fete. The top one says things like: don't jump off bridges, don't jump off buildings, don't climb the lightpoles and jump off. Such is the fete.
The second one is of me and Soeur Swenson down in the city. We got gelato right after and were even happier, if such a thing can be imagined.
The third is of me in my leopard/rhinoceros grandma skirt, which I realized yesterday also has giraffes and elephants on it!!!!!!!!                                             
And the fourth one is of zone conference, of all the missionaries waiting at the busstop. We are strong. We are many. I love these moments.

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