Friends and family! We speak once again. I believe that this last week was the fastest past week in my entire mission. I hope that you enjoyed your festivities for the wonderful holiday of Thanksgiving. Our Zone through together a huge thanksgiving feast. We ate every morceau (French word) of the food that we ate. Elder Petek and I made two giant (GIANT) turkey breasts (you can't find a full turkey here unless you go to a farm) and candied yams (they turned out way good, actually) and we also had... stuffing, rolls, potatoes, GINGER ALE, and other joys. It was a wonderful feast full of much gratitude.
Elder Petek and I are seeing some cool miracles in the joyeuse ville de Toulouse. We will be having a baptism this Saturday... Utile, a very intelligent student of international commerce from Germany (but originally from the African country of Burundi) has embraced Christ's restored gospel. We actually just met with her a few hours ago and she is made of Gold. She comes from a Christian background, loves Christ, always loved his gospel, but never really found a church that she felt at home in. She tried our Catholicism, Protestant branches, but when she came to our ward here in Toulouse, met some members and saw the light of Christ in them, she felt out home. She gained her testimony of the Book of Mormon when Elder Petek and I gave her Mosiah 18 to read and pray about. She read it on the subway one day and got the impression that she needed to be baptized. She has changed quite a bit since when we first met her. She is one of the happiest people who I have EVER met. She loves to laugh, sing, dance and tease. Very full of life and very ready for the next stage of her's.
Our dear friend Sebastian received his spiritual confirmation this week. It was actually quite miraculous. He comes from a part-member family (his father-in-law is in the bishopric), but at the background, he was atheist... he comes from a family that is actually quite anti-religious. His heart has really been softened however. The first time Elder Petek and I met with him, we were impressed with how much doctrinal knowledge he had and how much he loved the Plan of Salvation. We committed him to be baptized the 15th next month, he was hestitant to accept at first, but he said that he'd reflect and think about it. On morning this last week, he was putting a DVD in for his young son and reflecting the plan of salvation, and the thought came to his mind, "All I really want is to be able to be with my family for eternity." Then the next thought that came was, "I need to be baptized on the 15th." When he told us this, he told us that he knew that it was because he had done what us missionaries, and Alma (in chapter 32) asked us... to continue feeding the seed with diligence and patience. He got his spiritual confirmation! We are so happy for him, he has really changed a lot since when we first met him... taking notes at church, participating in gospel principles class, etc. Christ changes people! He was a little bit scared to tell his mom about his decision, but we prayed a lot and her heart was softened when they talked, she accepted his decision and will even attend the baptism! Miracles!
Elsa and David are progressing very well. They accepted the Word of Wisdom, which is a very great sign of faith in Chinese investigators (tea and alcohol are a huge part of Chinese culture... it is drunk at family events and parties, to show respect to hosts and to your elders). They are keeping the Law of Chastity (they are the cutest, most innocent Chinese couple you'll ever meet). They are really growing in their faith. In our lessons, David always wants to say the opening prayer and he always says, "God, please illuminate the path before me" then he sits and listens attentively to what we have to say. Elsa is amazing. She is very honest, sincere, and asks the greatest questions. There is no doubt in my mind that they will be great tools in the Lord's hands when the field opens in China.
Speaking of which, we are finding incredible Chinese people to teach (this has been a focus in our companionship, because my incredible collegue speaks their language beautifully) and I have begun learning the language of Mandarin Chinese. It is a very difficult one, but fun to speak... and I can almost pray in it! The gift of tongues!
Well, that's all I've got time for this week, my loved ones. I love you and think of your examples often. I love the Lord also and am eternally grateful that he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and to set at liberyty them that are bruised.
PS. I'm really bad at taking pictures. I'll try to be better at that this week. Toulouse is BEAUTIFUL.
I would like to start this little e-mail by expressing my gratitude to my dear family, whom I love with every fiber of my soul and being, and also to all my dear friends who might be out there at this moment in time. I thank you for your love and for your prayers.
So I don't know if I've stressed this enough in my last few e-mails, but the last few weeks have been FULL of miracles, EVERY single day. Elder Petek and I don't really know what happened. The first few weeks of our white-wash were tough, we weren't teaching many lessons, we didn't have amis who were super engaged and we had a hard time finding. We just kept on going. We had our vision of the kind of people who we wanted to find and teach, those who were really ready to recieve the message of the restored gospel and to come unto Christ. We wanted to find the Lord's elect, those who were going to basically come to us. And we found them. This last week was incredible. First I'll give you a little update on our progressing amis and then I'll tell you a miracle or two.
So remember Jhonny from last week? Well he's getting baptized next month. We engaged him on Saturday and he accepted the 22nd of December. Unfortunately he lives in the boundaries of the other ward in Toulouse, so we won't be able to teach him anymore because we had to pass him to another companionship, but he is so GOLDEN. He was very ready to hear the truth
Utile is progressing really well toward's her baptism, NEXT SATURDAY! Wow, it's so soon. But she is so ready. We ate dinner at a wonderful member's house with her and the member told her that she was baptized in three weeks after meeting the missionaries. After this, Utile told me afterwards that she feels like she is ready to be baptized now, but the 1st will work. She was already living the gospel, she just needed to hear about it. And know she knows it and my is she happy.
Elsa and David are AMAZING. Absolutely incredible. Their faith astounds me. The faith of these Chinese who learn of the message of the restoration is astounding. It just makes me incredibly excited and anxious for the opening of the field in China. They are doing so well. Elsa came across some things on the internet about Mormons (there is plenty of that in France) but her faith was not shaken one bit. She came straight to us and asked some questions about the early church, etc., we explained and her testimony grows even stronger.
Elza (the French Catholic Convert) has a date now! She is progressing well, reading and praying! She really wants to know if it's true.
Jacques is struggling. He didn't come to church yesterday and he forgets everything that we teach him right after we leave (because of his memory problem). We're trying some cool little tricks with him to try to help him progress and increase his knowledge and testimony. He has such great desire!
The truth will always prevail. I want to tell you about Iris. Iris is very special. She comes from China, where she was converted to Christianity. A few Americans started a protestant church there a few years ago and her family were some of the first converts. Then she moved to Toulouse to study law. And then God put her in our path. And Satan did EVERYTHING he could to stop her from receiving the truth. So we met Iris just outside of a metro stop on Thursday, she said that when she first met us, she was afraid because of all of the misconceptions which were running through her head (polygamy and 14-year-old boy in dark woods). But she stopped and talked to us because of our "Christian smiles". We talked to her for a minute or two, sharing just a bit of what we were all about. Then out of NOWHERE came a drunk man who started screaming blasphemies and lies, scaring the poor girl away. But we refused to let it end there. We ran after her and finished our conversation, planning on meeting each other again the next day. The next day we got a text from her saying that she could not meet with us today because she talked to her pastor, who told her not to. We called her immediately and reasoned with her a little. She said that she PROMISED that she wouldn't meet with us that day, but she didn't say anything about any other day, so we set up a RDZ with her for Sunday. She came! And she had read a bunch of stuff about us on the internet (some of it not so great). But she was ready to listen to what we had to say and to hear our side of the story. She felt kind of rebellious and kept asking questions about our "2nd Bible". So we sat there, and for about an hour we related to her the truth and it answered all of her questions. She said that she was looking for the truth and that sometimes she felt like Joseph Smith. She bore her testimony of how she already knows that God will answer all questions and lead a sincere-seeker to the truth. She was very pleased to meet us. And she'll be seeing us again. IT WAS A MIRACLE! Miracle. God always wins. We were bold and not give up the fight on her and we refuse to in the future.
Also, that same night we met a Christian student from Africa who told us in our first RDZ that it was true, that it is only logical that God would give us more of his word and that she would accept baptism. God is putting them in our hands!
I love this work. I love you all as well! Have an excellent week and an excellent thanksgiving. They don't have pumpkin pie and marshmallow candied yams here, so eat some extra for me!
Well the last 7 days of my life have changed my life forever. I hope that I can communicate to you the things that I learned in a manner that you can feel the spirit of my week.
I've had at least one train ride every single day for the last week. We've had very little time to work in our sector... but my, oh, my have we seen miracles. Tuesday we were in Lyon on an exchange with the assistants. Thursday I went to Montauban (a very charming little Catholic town not far from Toulouse) on an exchange with Elder Frandsen (from my group, knew him before the mission!) Then on Saturday night we left for Bordeaux for our incredible experiences with the apostle which took place yesterday.
Yesterday was amazing. We got to go to the stake conference for the Bordeaux stake. It was the 20th anniversary for the formation of the stake, so they brought in Elder Anderson, who was mission president there at the time of the formation of the stake. Elder Forin (the British seventy who shared the story about scorpions last general conference). Oh, glory what a stake conference it was. Elder Forin talked about ACTION. He said that when we leave very spiritual conferences ON FIRE, determined to blow a trumpet and cry repentance to the corners of the earth, this fire usually doesn't last past the next Tuesday. He talked how it's nice to have great spiritual experiences and to think about things you can do to improve the quality of your service to the Lord and your personal discipleship, but in the end it all comes down to ACTING. It was really powerful. Elder Anderson spoke about Miracles. He talked about some of the miracles that took place while he was at the head of the missionary efforts in France at his time and what we can do to ensure that miracles continue. He gave a lot of love and assurance to these incredible French saints who really love him. He spoke entirely in French and didn't even use many notes!
Happy late Halloween!
After the conference addressed to the entire stake, we had another mini-conference with these general authorities. We had half of the missionaries in our mission gathered together into a chapel and we were taught by the hand of some of the men who in the closest communion of the Lord on the earth and who speak FOR HIM. It was an incredible spiritual experience. Elder Farin taught us all how to help our investigators to recognize the Spirit, the peace of God which passeth all understanding. Elder Anderson helped to look at our missions from a temporal and even eternal perspective. He had invited missionaries who had served under him 20 years ago and he had them tell us things that they wish they would have known back in the day, or just reflections on how their missions have effected their lives. He was trying to help us to avoid short-sightedness and to see that the mission is never about you, but the Savior, and as you learn that you will be happy and find incredible success. The rest of the meeting he talked about the Savior. He is an incredible, incredible, who radiated love and light. He had a great sense of humor and was very full of life. We all got to shake his hand and some of us (including me) got to sing for him. Very radical experience that's gonna stick with me for a long time afterwards. It really changed the way I see my mission and even my life.
So what happened in the work this week? Well we only got to work here in Toulouse 3 days this week, but we sure saw some miracles. We taught the message of the Restoration to another person who was very, very ready to hear it. His name is Jhonny (and no, I didn't misspell that) and he comes from Guyan, a little French-speaking county above Brazil. Elder Petek met him just outside the institute building when I was in Montauban. He's had a Christian background, but just couldn't find any church where he felt like he had all of the truth... he even investigated the Islam religion a little bit. But luckily he was on his search when we found him. We taught him on Saturday morning and my, oh, my was he receptive to the Spirit. He recognized us as servants of the Lord and was very attentive to our message. At the end the lesson, he offered a beautiful and humble prayer in which he asked to know of the truth. After the prayer, we were all in tears the SPIRIT WAS SO STRONG. He accepted to be baptized after he's done a little more investigation.
Goodness, I have more miracles that I'd love to share, but no time. Utile is progressing very well. We didn't get a chance to see Elsa and David this week, but David came to institute and they're doing well. Jacques (I don't know if I've talked much about him yet) now has a baptism date! A miracle for another day.
I love you all! Know that I know that Jesus is the Christ and the head of his work being done on the earth today.
We have had a week full of many very spiritual experiences here in Toulouse. I'm super excited to share with you a word or two from my recent past!
So I can't wait to tell you guys about her, so I'm going to start with Leila. Elder Petek and I "white-washed" Toulouse, which just means that both of came into this sector from different parts of the mission. We inherited some of the old amis that the previous companionship was seeing, but we found that most of them were not really progressing and even hesitant to see us. So we had a LOT of time to go out, start fresh, pray and search for those whom the Lord and his angels have prepared here in the wonderful city of Toulouse. This week we saw some miracles in our efforts. We found Leila on Halloween night. Leila comes from Malaysia, her father is from Morocco (Muslim background) and her mother from Spain (Catholic background). She was raised mostly in a catholic home, but she was always confused about who God was and who she should worship. She studies art here in Toulouse and speaks French, Spanish, and English. When we met her on the street, she really opened up to us and was honest about how she has always been intrigued with the passion of Romantic art and especially Christian art. She was touched with our testimony of the Savior on the street and agreed to meet with us. We saw her two days later and we ran into her on the street on the way to the RDZ! It gave us a chance to get to know her before the lesson. This lesson was the most spiritual lesson of my mission. Every single thing that was said, every point that was covered was directed and magnified by the spirit. We shared the beautiful message of the Restoration and after I shared Moroni's Promise with her, I asked her how she felt. She said that she felt like she wanted to cry. We just sat there in silence for a few moments and let the Spirit continue to work with her. Eventually she started to cry and said that she felt like she was coming home after a long journey. The Spirit was ultra strong and she expressed to us that she wanted to change and that if this was true, it would mean the world to here. I am so, so happy that God loves us so much that he has given us so so much. Through Jesus Christ our natures can be changed and we are so excited to help this incredible person who the Lord and his angels have prepared to come unto Christ and to receive all of the blessings that God has for her!
Some other way cool things happen this week. Just a couple days ago I met, in Captiole square (look it up on google, way cool and there are always weird mimes and child-kidnappers with music boxes) a student from Guadalopa who had been taking the missionay lessons back in her country, but stopped when she moved her to study law. She was in the square with her father, who was just there for the week. I asked her if she would be interested in taking them back up and in attending church. She said yes! She'll be at church this Sunday, but we will not... BECAUSE AN APOSTLE OF THE LORD WILL BE HERE! Yes, this weekend Elder Neil A. Anderson will be in Bordeaux speaking to all the missionaries on the western half of the mission! And my awesome companion speaks Chinese, so we get to sneak into the Stake Conference, which he will speaking at, so that he can translate for some Chinese friends of the church. Radical! I'll tell you all about it.
Utile is progressing really, really well. We fixed a date of baptism with her for the 1st of December and she feels good about it. Yesterday at church, twas fast and testimony meeting and she was really touched by all of the testimonies that were shared and the love that the members showed to her. She told me that at 8o clock every morning she says a special prayer for us, the missionaries. That really touched me. She is very, very faithful and was very ready to receive the restored gospel. By the way, the ward here is AMAZING! Really wonderful. And they love the missionaries and missionary work. We are treated so, so well here. Invited to dinner with a wonderful family this friday who will be feeding us duck chest and other Toulousian dishes (Toulousians are known for their strange and delicious cooking).
Since my companion speaks Chinese with a heavenly tongue, we have been receiving all of the Chinese amis from other companionships here in Toulouse to teach them in their native tongue. We received a wonderful little Chinese couple who have an incredible desire to learn and to receive more of the Spirit, which they have already felt. Their French names are Elza and David and I'll have to tell you more about them next week!
May your fall days be merry! It's chilly and rainy here in Toulouse and I'm going to buy a warm coat here this afternoon after we go to a CHINESE BUFFET. Fararara rah rah rah rah. I love you all and wish you a joyful week!