I hope that your week was an excellent and that the following is even better!
I had some really amazing experiences this week as a full-time missionary here in Toulouse, France. The more that I do missionary work, the more and more I realize how little it is that I actually do. I'm pretty sure that the secret to missionary work is just inviting people to do something that the Savior taught that we must do, and allow them to try it out, feel the happiness and peace that comes in following His example and wanting more. It is such an incredible blessing to watch these miracles take place in the lives of these people, to see them changed and molded by their discipleship of Christ.
Alexis is doing very well. We have taught him everything, and he has accepted everything. Elder Petek and I can obviously tell that there is something working in him. Before he was a bit of a shy person, who doesn't show a ton of emotion, now, he feels at peace, confident and very much more open and in tune with his emotions. He used to have a strong dependcy on coffee, drinking at least 5 cups a day, which he has reduced to 1 or less cups a day, and is in the process of eliminity completely (with the help of the members, who gave him a good, caffeine-free coffee subsitute). He says that he feels more in control of his life and that following Jesus Christ and the amazing gift of repentance has brought him HOPE, a concept that he didn't know before (... I find it incredible, this is pretty much exactly what Elsa said after her baptism, in bearing her testimony to the ward.) Following Jesus Christ and using his Atonement truly helps us to see the light at the end of the tunnel and to achieve it.
Last week I believe that I told you a little bit about Tracey, someone who I found just in the middle of downtown Toulouse on a rainy day. She comes from Matinique and has a Catholic base, but has not attended church since she moved to France 3 years ago to study art. I need to tell you that she is INCREDIBLE! One of the most amazing spirits I've ever known. She is so humble, so sincere, kind and Christlike. She came to church yesterday and ATE IT UP. It's true that the ward holds very good meetings and are very welcoming, but she was participating in discussions, introducing herself to members, entertaining toddlers, and paying close attention to all the talks. After church, we had the opportunity to sit and talk with her for just a few minutes before she left. My companion had to stay with David (who was ordained a priest in the Aaronic Priesthood yesterday), so we did a split and I taught with a member. I asked her about her first experience at church and she said that it was quite different than what she was used to at Catholic churches, but that she loved it. We taught her a bit about church attendance, the role of the Holy Ghost and what we can do receive personal revelation: read, pray and go to church. The member bore their testimony and decided to share a favorite scripture: Moroni 10:3-5. This ended up being from the same chapter that we gave her to read after our first visit with her. We asked Tracey, if she would like to start in verse 3 and she started reading. About halfway through the verse when she read the bit about "remembering how merciful the Lord has been towards the children of men" she stopped. We all looked up at her and she said that she was sorry. She explained that she had had this same feeling the first time she read it. This overwhelming feeling that would sweep through her and mount up to her chest. She paused for a minute and continued reading. By the time we had finished verse 4, I was in tears (I can be a bawl-baby sometimes in missionary work). We talked about these verses and I explained how the Holy Ghost speaks. I explained that it speaks to our heart, so that we can come to FEEL and KNOW truths, rather than just think they are true intellectually. She understood perfectly. I asked her that if she came to know that the Book of Mormon and the things that we had taught her were true, would she follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized on March 2? She said that she didn't know if she would be here on March 2nd, but that she already knew that the Book of Mormon is true and wants to be baptized... she proposed doing it sooner. It was a powerful lesson that taught me that the Spirit is the one who does all the work in missionary work. We just invite them to do things that will help them to feel it and help them to connect the dots.
I love you all, so much! I wish you a blissful final week of January... man, it passed by way too fast. Keep Alexis in your prayers and I'll keep you all in mine. ;)
In the last seven days, Elder Petek and I have seen some cool things here in Toulouse, France. Despite the cold, the wet, the snow and the gloomy skies, people are still decided to accept the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and to come unto him. Do you remember our good friend Alexis, who we met on New Years Eve? He's turning his life around for the Savior and will be baptized in just a few short weeks. Yesterday, we taught him about the Word of Wisdom, which I think sounds even cooler in French "La Parole de Sagesse". This is something that seems to be a stumbling block here in France where the culture is very centered on their wines, cigarettes, coffee and tea. We were a little worried that he would have difficulties having the faith to be able to overcome these dependencies. When we taught him about this revelation given to Joseph Smith 200 years ago, we were suprised to learn that the only issue he would have is with coffee. He has had a great dependency on this beverage for several years and drinks at least two cups daily. We testified of the strengthening power of the Atonement in helping us to overcome our weaknesses and temptations. Elder Petek shared the difficulties that his mother had in overcoming tea dependency. I told about Manita's power to overcome her dependence on Coffee, as well. We talked about all the incredible blessings that come in living this spiritual law. By the end of the lesson, he was filled with the Spirit, determined and motivated to live the word of wisdom. He is so humble and obedient. He reminds me of Ling Liu sometimes. He explained to us that ever since he been meeting with us he has thought a lot about his past and his future. He has done a lot of introspection and he expressed to us yesterday that he is really ready to change his life and to follow the Savior. It is so amazing to me that the Lord can work so quickly in someone's life!
It was kind of a word of wisdom themed weekend. Right after this lesson with Alexis, we saw Anthony. He is someone who had seen the missionaries about a year ago, had a baptism date set, but stopped seeing them because he couldn't overcome his dependancy on cigarettes. Of late, he has been coming to activities with the young adults and even to church. We asked him if he be interested in meeting with us again, and he agreed. We were able to see him yesterday. We focused our lesson on the principles of the gospel, mainly faith and repentance. He expressed to us that he knows that the church his true, he has no doubts, the only doubts that he has are in himself. He does not have confidence in himself to be able to live the commandments. We taught him about the Atonement and the incredible power of grace. He admitted that when he met the missionaries and strived to life the commandments, good things started happening to him, and he felt much happier than he ever had. We told him why and then we talked some more about the gospel of Jesus Christ. He told us that he would be willing to meet with us on a regular basis to build faith, repent and prepare to be baptized! The church is true and the spirit testifies of it. ;)
I don't have time to tell you about Tracey, someone who we found on Tuesday who is really looking for the truth, but expect to here about her next week!
I love you, family! Have an excellent week and stay warm.
PS. Funny fact: church was cancelled yesterday because it snowed a little in the morning. even though it was all melted by the time the meetings start at 2. reminded me of oregon.
PS2. The pics were taken yesterday... un bon homme du neige!
Yes, as the title indicates, there are frozen drops of water descending from the heavens in Toulouse France. Elder Petek and I didn't even notice them until we hopped onto our bikes (public bikes that we are now using... way fun) to head into town. In southern France, it does this... it'll get freezing cold after a fairly mild end of the year for just a few months and then it'll go hot again. I'm excited to make a snow angel.
Elsa and David
Dear family and friends, Elsa and David were baptized this last saturday and were confirmed the following day. Oh, was it a day that they are going to remember. The French members were so, so good to them. Even they don't speak the best French, and they're a little bit shy, they really reached out to them, showed them a ton of love and made it a really memorable experience. The actual ordonnance was quite special. David was baptized first, by Elder Petek, and since the faucet ran out of hot water, we had to turn it off early. It wasn't all the way full, and as a result he had to baptized on his knees and had a hard time getting all the immersed. That made it quite memorable. But they both said that it was such a powerful experience and that they felt pure in coming out of the water. It was a similar situation with Elsa, she had a hard time being immersed, but she loved the experience. I even got to say the prayer in Chinese! You would be proud, Manita!
Our friends with us
Yesterday, they were both confirmed and Elsa got up in sacrament and bore her testimony. Her French was incredible! She was a little shy at first, but then she really started to show some emotion. She talked about how she had only been in France for 4 months and that she never had imagined in coming here that her life would be so changed for the better. She said that she had always wondered why Jesus Christ was so important to westerners, but that now it all just made sense. She talked about how faith in Jesus Christ has brought hope to her life, and that it gives a lot of meaning and that it brings peace. The both of them are truly converted... well, on the right path toward continual conversion, rather. They are in such good hands in this ward here in Toulouse!
Elsa and David with the flowers and paintings that were given to them as gifts by the members
I have some good news and the bad news.... I'll proceed first with the bad news. The following transfer, because of the changes at the MTC and in the missionary program, will be short, only five weeks instead of six. This means that my mission will be cut short for one week, which really saddens me because I won't be able to physically be a part of all the miracles that will take place that week at the end of May next year. But the good news is that Elder Petek and get to stay together for the next five weeks here in Toulouse! We are mighty content because of all the good things that we have going for us here and because of our friendship.
This e-mail is going to have to be another shorty, because we need to leave in a few minutes to the train station (where we will spend most of the day, receiving and sending off missionaries since it is transfer day). But I just wanted to quickly update you on some cool things... Alexis is doing magnificently. Came to institute on Wednesday night, met some Young Adults and quickly became a part of the family. He even went to a movie with him afterwards. Yesterday he came early to church and afterwards we taught him about the gospel of Jesus Christ for the first time. He was very in tune with the Spirit in the lesson and is ready to put his life into God's hands and to come unto Christ. He is a very humble man who was really, very well prepared by angels. I am grateful that they trusted us to help him in his conversion.
I'll also be telling you about Alfiya next week. Be excited.
I love you my family and my friends and you are in my prayers.
Happy New Year one and all! May you, this year, realize all of your wildest dreams and desires! Think about it like this: people who are going to living in the year 2113 are going to think that 2013 looks like a long time ago. But you will have lived during those days and you will be able to tell them that YOU ACCOMPLISHED in that year your wildest dreams. (that thought sounded really cool in my head)
Also, I want to shout out to my lil bro, James, who just yesterday turned 18 and just began his journey into ADULTHOOD. This year he will become a missionary, and I will have the sublime priviledge of serving in the Lord's vineyard at the same time as my younger brother, someone who is such an incredible example to me. Also, Happy Birthday to Papa Kunzler! Love you so much.
I'd like to start by telling you about a man named Alexis. Elder Petek and I met Alexis, a 27 year old Frenchman from Paris, who recently moved to Toulouse to audit for a bank here, on New Year's Eve just outside a little Sushi joint. We told him a little about Jesus Christ and invited him to learn more. He said that he would be very interested. Then on New Year's Day 2013, we sat down with him. He told us about how he had recently (as in right before he met us) had a few personal, spiritual experiences in which he came to the realization that there is a God and that Jesus Christ is someone of significance. He told me that when I quoted the scripture, Luke 4:18-19 with him, it really hit home to him and that he really wanted to learn more. He told us that he had been doing a lot of introspection lately, and truly wanted to find the meaning of life and his mission on this earth. He is someone who is humble and was sincerely searching for the truth. There is no accident that we met him on this New Year's Eve. We shared with him the message of Restoration and at the end of the lesson, he prayed for the first time in his life. Then we saw him two days later, this time with a member who converted a few years ago. In this lesson, we taught him about more about the Atonement of Jesus Christ and how we can apply it into our life. The member testified of how in prayer, scripture study and in coming to Church, we can come closer to our Heavenly Father and really understand the Atonement of His Son. Then we told him about baptism, another way that he can feel God's love more in his life. He accepted to be baptized on the 9th of February this year. The next day, he came to the baptism of Jhonny (which was incredible, I'll talk about it in a sec) and then church yesterday. At the end of church yesterday, he told me that it was very inspiring and that it all hit home to him. He's already met the stake president, bishopric and many members. It is so incredible to me how the course of one man's life can be completely turned around in just a matter of days, and what's more, right at the beginning of a New Year! What a way to start off 2013.... to come unto Christ... to drink from waters and never be thirsty again.
Jhonny bore his testimony yesterday in fast and testimony meeting and he started to shed tears and he expressed the feelings of his heart. He said that the day before, the day of his baptism, would be a day that would never be forgotten. (BTW, it sounds really cool when you say that in French... because it's said like a day that will never go into OBLIVION...epic) He is a future bishop... that's all I can really say to describe the level of his conversion and his understanding. It was incredible to watch him change in coming unto Christ.
Elsa and David also came to his baptism and it got them STOKED for their own... this weekend! They got to talk a little bit with our bishop (who looks just like Will Ferrell) yesterday and they expressed their excitement and their real intent in following the example of Jesus Christ and promising to follow always. They are so great and so prepared. (David thinks that you're awesome, Manita ;) )
Other miracles are happening in our Zone. This week, we gave them the challenge to talk to EVERYONE all the time, and to keep an eye out for less actives. When you find them, to set a rendez-vous and invite them to come back. Our zone found 3 in a matter of days. Miracles are happening all over this mission! All of our missionaries are on fire, working with members and preparing for new year of change and miracles! Anyone who is coming into this mission this year is the luckiest missionary!
Good week to all you, my loved ones! Good luck to all those who are starting a new semester of studies. Enjoy adulthood, James... it flies. Rofl.
This letter comes to you late at the cause of these festivities! Yesterday Elder Petek and I spent the day at the homes of our dear friends in this church. Because of the festivities, this letter will be a little short.
I hope that this season brings a feeling of newness... new goals, new resolutions, new times and new experiences.
I am very much looking forward to spending EVERY SINGLE DAY this year in the service of the thing that is the most important to me, the work of Jesus Christ. The work of helping other people to first come to know him, and then to come unto him. 365.25 days of glory, is what I might like to call it.
I don't have a lot of time, but I would like to give you a briefing of how the work is going here in Toulouse, France.
I don't know if you remember, but months ago I told you about a man named Jhonny (remember he has an original name with an unoriginal spelling). Elder Petek and I met this man on the street one day and then taught him about Jesus Christ the following day. Our message of the Restoration of His church brought him to tears and he accepted to be baptized once he found for himself that it was true? Well, I haven't given you an update on this man in months, he lived in the boundaries of the other ward (at the time... and now we're actually in his ward) so we had to pass him to continue to be taught by other missionaries. He came to find for himself that it is true and he will be baptized this Saturday. He was such an incredible man when we met him, but he has truly transformed into a man of faith. He has had a lot of opposition from his family in his decision, but this hasn't in any way shaken his witness of the truth. He contributes in priesthood meetings at church, and truly engages himself in learning more about our incredible message. I will you send you pictures of the baptism of our dear friend soon.
Elsa and David spent the holidays in Paris. They will be baptized next weekend (we pushed back the date to give them more time to prepare and to feel completely ready). David is excited and very ready for his baptism, but Elsa, who is very particular and straight, which are very good qualities, wants to understand 100% before she gets herself into something. Elder Petek and I saw them silently huddled over a Book of Mormon together, just this morning in the metro. They have great desire and are truly trying to deepen their understanding and their testimony.
Their are many people who we are starting to teach now, who are simply incredible. I don't have time to tell you, so you'll just have to believe me.
Know that I love you and pray for you. Thank you for all the warmth that you sent me these last few weeks!