Monday, September 30, 2013

Come listen, there's a prophet.

At 8:50 one night this week, me and Sister Hutchins were on exchanges and we contacted someone coming out of the metro. He said he believes in God, so we started talking and told him all about prophets and so on. We prayed with him then and there. And then he said, "Just this morning, I prayed that God would send me someone to show me the path I should take in my life. Then I meet you!" NOT A COINCIDENCE, MISTER. :)

People, General Conference is this weekend. The prophet and apostles are going to talk to us and teach about the Savior. I am so excited, because every time, I hear really specific counsel that speaks right to my heart and right to my needs, and I'm gonna do what I can before then to prepare to receive such great light.

Go here to watch it online: LDS General Conference!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Ne Craignez Pas. Nothing Will Be Lost.

I forget from week to week what I've shared, so apologies if this is repetitive. Sometimes I think I'll come back from my mission and finally have the chance to read back through what I've learned, and all I'll find is the same email written again and again and again. And that would be okay--I think some things take lifetimes to learn. And what better proof that something is true than to come upon it week after week, every time in a different form, a different experience, a different story.

This week me and Soeur Vidal (my new companion!) spent some time with the assistants to the President. They asked us to help them out with a training about how members of the Church can work with missionaries, for the stake priesthood training. Very humbling moment, as I'm doing these skits in French, with a native French speaker and two missionaries who are at the end of their missions. Suddenly my "awesome" French is baby talk again. (And by "awesome", I mean that sometimes I think I can actually communicate good. Then moments like our skit happen and I realize oh lala learning a language takes a looooong time :)

On our way back from the training, I asked the assistants what the most important lesson is they've learned on their missions. One of them said he's learned about repentance. He said at the beginning of his mission, his one goal was to not have any regrets. Over time, he realized that it's impossible to not make mistakes, but he learned that he could still live without regrets if every mistake he made he used to become a little better. That's what repentance is. My first few transfers on my mission, I was really overwhelmed with how much I didn't know, and how badly I was doing everything. But as I've accumulated a few more transfers since then and can see with a bit longer perspective, I see that in each transfer, I've learned a little better how to be a missionary. They aren't grand changes, non of them. They're just little tweaks, little adjustments in perspective, little polishings of this rough and rocky soul to make it a little prettier and a little holier.

The next day I found these scriptures. They're in Doctrine and Covenants 50: 40-42

40 Behold, ye are little children and ye cannot bear all things now; ye must grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth.

41 Fear not, little children, for you are mine, and I have overcome the world, and you are of them that my Father hath given me;

42 And none of them that my Father hath given me shall be lost.

Guess what. It's okay that we can't bear everything right now. It's okay that I'm imperfect. I have to grow in grace and knowledge, the same way the Savior did. But the truly beautiful part is the promise: that nothing shall be lost. When Jesus feeds the multitudes with a few loaves of bread and some fishes, at the end he asks that all the fragments be gathered up, "that nothing be lost." This is the same Christ here, who says "Fear not, you are mine, and none of mine shall be lost." On days when I make a ton of mistakes and all my best efforts really do seem totally useless, I find a lot of peace in these verses. Sometimes in my life I've applied all my efforts and force to bring about good, happy miracles in my life, and all those best efforts don't do anything, and I wonder if all those efforts were pointless, if I'm just wandering in circles trying to do good things but all of them just being sent up into the ether to dissolve into thin air. But He promises us here that that isn't how it works. He promises that if we are anxiously engaged in good causes, trying to do lots of good things, that even if we aren't totally sure how to apply these efforts, that the rewards will come (Doctrine and Covenants 58:27-28). So fear not little flock!

As for miracles this week, I only had about 87 (translation = too many beautiful moments to write about all of them), so I will pick a few favorites.

 4. One night, we tried to reschedule a rendezvous because it was going to be impossible for us to get there what with the training thing we'd been doing, but the person the RDV was with wouldn't let us reschedule. He said it was super important. So we moved heaven and earth to get there, at the last thirty minutes of the day. We taught a sweet little lesson about our Heavenly Father, about how we can know He exists, about how we can know He loves us. Our ami is reading and praying and coming to church now. I love getting to meet people like him and talk to them about such meaningful things.

3. Six of the people we're teaching came to church. One had showed up at noon and called us to see where we were (we were still at doesn't start till 2), and he had to work all afternoon, so he couldn't stay for church. But then, the last 20 minutes of church, he walks in and sits next to us. He had just finished work and said to himself, "well, I know there are only 20 minutes left...I'd still like to catch those 20 minutes." Three weeks ago he didn't believe in God. But now he's praying and feeling for himself the proof of such unproveable things.

2. One day we hadn't had a ton of time to talk to people on the street--we'd been inside doing planning and teaching lessons most of the day. But we had 30 minutes to walk home, and so we talked to every single person we crossed on the sidewalk. In those thirty mintues, we found three people who want to learn more about how they can have more peace through Jesus Christ and we also found six girls who were in the middle of moving all their belongings out of a moving van into their new apartment, and we got to help them. Service opportunities like that don't come around super often. Every corner we walked around their was someone to teach and someone to help. Great walk home, those 30 minutes.

1. And my all-time favorite moment of the week: when I got to co-teach a lesson with Elder Foote, my cousin. Soeur Vidal and I have been teaching an ami who technically doesn't live in our area, so we needed to get the right missionaries teaching him--the ones who actually serve in his area. So one night we decided to make the transfer. Me and Soeur Vidal and Elder Foote and Elder Escobar all went to teach him. We've had a lot of relatives from that side of the family serve in France--my brother, my two second uncles (or whatever they're called technically...I'm not sure), and Elder Foote. I think we must have some roots there, or an ancestor who helped start the Church in France. Maybe it's where Grandpa Foote would have been called had he been able to serve a mission :) But to get to sit next to my cousin and testify about the Spirit and Heavenly Father and how the principles of the Gospel bless families and individuals--that was a once-in-a-lifetime special experience. 

And as for the picture this week...well, life this week has been crazy. We've planned exchanges with the 11 companionships of sisters we serve with, taught a whole bunch of lessons, had 3 days of training stuff, took 30 new missionaries contacting (these are the awesome things we get to do since we live right next to the office, where the new missionaries spend their first few days), and adjusted Soeur Vidal to a new ville. This is the only picture we had time to take this week, and it was taken while we were speed-walking to do our emails, not on preparation day but on Tuesday since our preparation day was spent in leadership training and buying a new microwave because ours is leaking nuclear fog. It should be noted that in this photo, Soeur Vidal is on the phone with the gas company because also our hot water doesn't work. It's been 4 days of cold showers and today we're putting our foots down.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Feels like Home

Last P day, we went to president's house and played games. I was in the middle explaining to a couple missionaries that I don't play sports, when suddenly a ball comes rolling my way. A bunch of people were playing volleyball, so I pick it up and expertly smash it back to them. It didn't work so well. Elder Dampt (one of the office elders) falls on the ground laughing saying, "That isn't even a volleyball!" Exactly.
But don't worry I gave President a run for his money at pingpong. 21-2 at the end of the game (President won). Was almost like my basketball triumph a few years back with Coach Raymon. But for reals, then we all played around the world and I was one of the last ones left in almost every round. Glad those Christmas break hours of playing pingpong are paying off big time now as a missionary.

Also please see the picture of me and Elder Foote, my second cousin. Look at how wonderful he is. Look at how he's wearing the infamous Foote brothers shirt. We played volleyball together and I thought about the ranch and all the volleyball games there. Eternal families are important. In fact this morning I started crying for happiness when I was explaining to my companion how much I love my family.
And speaking of which, this week we took an ami to a family's house in the ward. We ate a good meal and did family history online, with We talked about how the family can be together forever after this life, how Jesus Christ has made the way for that to be possible, and he has revealed it to prophets who have revealed it to the world. The whole bus ride home, he couldn't stop smiling, thinking about the implications of that--"you mean, I can be with my family, forever. You mean all my family that I've never met before...that is distanced from me...I can be reunited with them and live with God with them?" Yeah. It means you don't have to worry that the beautiful things you've built in this life with the people you love are going to evaporate after death. I told him it means that you can have peace and joy every second, because you know it's all for a purpose, and that it's eternal. As this is all starting to sink it for him, his smile gets bigger and bigger, and finally he says to us (we're just smiling at him, confirming all the truths he's realizing about the promise that a family can be together forever), "How can you just be smiling? With this knowledge, you should be standing on roofs shouting for joy! You should be swimming in the lake!!!" I am happy because of the Gospel. I have peace because of the Gospel.

My other favorite moment this week was when we contacted a guy for the second time--the first time was a couple of weeks ago, and we had a really good discussion with him on the street, about what it means that the Church of Jesus Christ is on the earth again, led by Jesus Christ. Then we saw him a couple of nights ago, and had a simiarly cool conversation. Then we asked him how he felt last time we talked, and he said he felt like home. He felt like he was around the table with his family, having a good conversation, enjoying being together. This is what people most commonly say about how they feel when they start praying, reading the Book of Mormon, talking to the missionaries--that they have this very warm, happy feeling. Like they're home. I love that with all my heart. We are creatures of another world, and our spirits witness to us our home is not here.

1 art museum. yep. couldn't have been happier that day.

2 rain drenched missionaries. we suffered for the work.

3 laughing and contacting on our way somewhere.

4 morning exercises
5  eating homemade ice cream sandwiches (so much fun to live with an italian and get to teach her about things like ice cream sandwiches, and quilts, and infinity blackout.)

Monday, September 2, 2013

hard work + happy = magic

This morning I was reading in the gospel of John, the story of when Jesus healed the lame man at the pool of Bethesda. He healed the man, and then I guess because the crowd started to gather there, Jesus left. But later, it says, he found the man in the temple, and finished teaching him. He taught him that yes, he'd been healed, but what was more important was that he not sin anymore, that he change his life. I love that Jesus found the man again, knowing the man didn't quite yet understand fully what he needed to do. This is really important to me, in terms of the character of Christ. There have been times in my life when I've taken a giant step of faith--when I've taken up my bed and walked, so to speak--but when right after, I realized I had no idea what to do next. These moments are scary. But this morning I realized that part of the character of Jesus Christ is that he promises he won't ever leave us only halfway there. The Lord will not suffer that we should stop beyond the sea in the wilderness, as Ether 2: 7 says, but that we should come forth even unto the land of promise. He'll find us in our places and teach us the rest of what we need to know to get to where he has promised we could be.

We had zone conference this week and it was so so good. Every time I get to talk to our mission president, I come out a different person. He explained that as sister training leaders (me and Sister Bicchierri's job right now), one of our most important jobs is teaching 22 other sisters missionaries and motivating them. I love love love it. He asked us to do as many exchanges as we could in the last two weeks of the transfer, so we're doing one every day except for Sundays. Our main goal in exchanges is to uplift and motivate and teach the other sisters how to have success on their missions. President Roney said the formula I'm supposed to teach sisters is that happy + hard work = magic. So needless to say we're having fun. And learning how to have fun better. It's incredible how heavy the weight of missionary work can be somedays. I can't quite figure out why it is this way. Perhaps it has something to do with knowing you have to talk to strangers all day, and be outside of yourself all day... (This is coming from a girl who prefers a quiet room with an accordion and a novel on Friday nights...) Sometimes we feel really inadequate (sister missionaries especially). Plus the fact that every moment you feel the clock ticking and the constant question, "Am I doing enough? Am I loving my mission enough? Am I doing everything I need to???" I'm learning how careful you have to be with your thoughts, because regret and worry is a black hole. But oh how laughter and talking fixes these crazy ways of freaking ourselves out. So yeah: we try to laugh a lot and talk a lot on our exchanges, all the while teaching sisters better, happier ways to be missionaries. Oh lala. It is an adventure and I love it.

And one lesson I learned this week is that one little kind word can totally change a person. Even words you don't think are particularly profound or anything. If they're encouraging someone to be more who you know they can be, they are very very important. I think of the kind things people have said to me before that probably to them were nothing but to me I have reflected on again and again and drawn strength from to become better and lift my sights of who I can be. I remember all the times my parents told me nice things about myself. Sometimes I look back and think about what a stinker I was sometimes and think, "Wow, they really had to see through a lot of rotten behavior to be able to say something that nice" hahaha, but oh how what they believed they saw in me shaped who I tried to become! We can help each other to become better by seeing good things in each other!

My goal for this preparation day today is to find an accordion. Pictures next week if I'm successful.

Pictures for this week:

1. Decided I needed to retake control of myself by not eating cereal for a week. This was the last bowl we ate before starting. It was delicious.
2. Makin calls. Bane of my existence. I'm so awkward on the phone, in French.
3. Art, in the middle of Geneva! At one point in my life I knew who made this rather large chair. I think he also made the large eraser in DC and the large arrow in San Fran but at this current point in my life, the only artist I can think of Leichtenstein. And Calder. I can always think of Calder.
4. Gex! So storybook it killed me.
5. At a lil service project. I got to weed for an hour and half and have never been so happy in all my life. Nature is a good good thing. Even the bad parts of it like weeds and dirt. (I don't know if you can see in the picture, but my hands were caked in dirt.)