Strange that this should be the last week that I write you. It has been an adventure. But the adventure is not over yet!
Elder Palmer and I have 20 projected lessons for this upcoming week, using the excuse "this is my last week in France" has been a good trick for getting people to accept lessons with us. The ones that I am looking forward the most to are those with Hermeline, we have 3 planned so far.
This last week was a turning point in the conversion process of Hermeline. Hermeline up to this point, has been very willing to meet with us, follow our teachings, pray, read brochures, etc. The only things that she was having difficulty committing herself to do were reading the Book of Mormon and coming to church, which are two of, if the not THE most important things. Everything changed however when Hermeline decided to come to a baptism. It was the baptism of an investigator of another ward in Lyon, his name was Alexis. The service was really powerful, President Roney spoke on baptism and the baptisée gave a powerful testimony after the ordonance. Most importantly was the spirit that Hermeline felt and the power of God that was manifested in this sacred ordonance. She was well welcomed by members of the congregation. One of the members, Mama Constance, a wonderful african member, gave her a warm welcome and talked to her about her conversion story. Then she suggested that Hermeline go with us to visit Papa Daniel. I'm not going to lie. I LOVE AFRICAN CULTURE. I feel like it is similar for africans all over the world. It reminds of like Song of the South or Lion King. There comes a point in every young hero's journey that he must visit the wise/jolly preacher, Papa Daniel (Mustafa). Papa Daniel is a former Evangelical Preacher literally. He was converted to the true church and kingdom of God through the power of the Holy Ghost combined with the Book of Mormon. Yes. Hermeline visited Papa with us this last week. That was the turning point. After shedding a few tears and feeling the Spirit powerfully, she committed herself to read the Book of Mormon. Then she came to church for the first time. Then last night she told us that she wanted us to meet her whole family. Little signs of conversion. God is good.
Now I'm going to tell you about the tender mercies of the Lord. God really is good. So 2 weeks ago, at the train station in central Lyon, Elder Palmer and I were getting train tickets when something caught my eye. It was LACROSSE GEAR. There was a guy decked out in straight up LAX shorts, a LAX hat, and a LAX hoody. I stopped him and started talking to him. Come to find out that he is from Zurich, Switzerland and that he is on one of the only lacrosse players in ALL OF FRANCE. There are 4 teams in the whole country and only 1 in THE WHOLE MISSION. And it is located in Lyon. He explained to me that there are about 6 or so players that get together twice a week and practice. We exchanged numbers, etc. I got permission from the mission president to take some time out of my P-Day and play around with them, non-contact. Can you imagine?! 6 lacrosse players in the entire mission and I ran into one of them! So this last wednesday, I got to pick a lacrosse stick back up and do what I love the most (after the gospel). The guys were really cool, half of them were french and half were international (Ukraine, Australia). The skills levels were really varied. The guy who organized it was really good actually. Anyway, I could go on about this for a long time, but I just wanted to show to you the GOD IS GOOD. It turned out to be a great missionary opportunity, actually. The Australian kid expressed some interest and we're planning on inviting all of them to church for my last sunday here in Lyon.
Papa and Hermeline
So I'd actually just like to spend a minute or two in this letter to bear my testimony to all of you. I've been a missionary for the Lord Jesus Christ since May 2012. In one week it will have been two years since I entered into the MTC to start learning French and missionary skills. These last two years have been the best two years of my life. I don't want to get too sentimental, but I can't help because my mission has meant so much to me! I love this work. I love the Lord. I love these people. I love the missionaries here. I love the missionary routine. I love the members. I love the Book of Mormon. I love French. I love cheese. I love teaching investigators. I love watching people coming unto Jesus Christ. I love this mission. I testify that in order for this work to advance in all corners of the word, the members and missionaries of this church need to exercise faith. That is the key. Ether 12:16, Yea, and even all they who wrought miracles wrought them by faith, even those who were before Christ and also those who were after. 18; And neither at any time hath any wrought miracles until after their faith; wherefore they first believed in the Son of God. I have been able to see miracles EVERY SINGLE DAY of my mission. I know that this is the Lord's work. HE personally leads this work. He is the most powerful being in the Universe. He loves all of us. He wants to bless us. He can when we exercise faith in Him.
I love you family and I look forward to seeing you again! It will be a joyous reunion. God be with you till we meet again!
It was such a pleasure to talk to you yesterday and to see (some of) your smiling faces! :) Happy Mother's Day encore!
So as I was telling some of you, we had a great week with a lot of fruit, but not exactly in the way that we expected. We were ratéd 15 times, my companion and I counted. This means that we had 15 planned lessons to which the investigator didn't show up or canceled last minute. This is not easy since teaching is the essence of missionary work, but we were able to focus our efforts in other areas as a result! We had some great less-active member visits and we re-motivated a less-active member to come to church yesterday! He is a great guy from the Ivory Coast and he is now preparing himself to receive the Melchisedek Priesthood. We will be having lunch with him and his non-member wife tomorrow, so this will be an excellent missionary opportunity as she doesn't know much about the church!
Yesterday we had a particular experience after my companion and I finished chatting with you all. We received a call from Olivier, a recent convert who was just baptized a few weeks back. He called and told us that he was going to leave the church, that it was a great experience getting baptized, etc. but that he no longer wanted to be a member. We told him that it would be better to talk in person so we met up with him right away. We brought a strong brother in the ward to join us. We talked for a long time and came to find out that he had never been reading the Book of Mormon, didn't have a testimony of it's truthfulness, thus not having a testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith and the Restoration. And he also still had some problems with the Word of Wisdom that kept him from being 100% attentive to the spirit. We had a great meeting with him and talked about all of these things openly. It was really edifying. The member's testimony shined! We engaged him to truly begin to read the Book of Mormon, to apply Moroni's promise and to fully live the Word of Wisdom. He accepted! He's a good man, but he just hadn't understood certain things and he still kept one foot in the world while trying to have a pure and spiritual life and it wasn't working.
Hermeline, remember, the young student from Congo? She is AWESOME! She is really attentive to the spirit and very pure. She reminds me a ton of Utile, someone that I taught in Toulouse. We met with her on Saturday and had a really constructive appointment. Unfortunately she was not able to come to church yesterday because she had other family obligations, but she promised this sunday that she could make it. We finished teaching her about the message of the Restoration and she grasped the magnitude of it very quickly. She opened up to us a lot and told us about her family situation, some of her worries and concerns. She's beginning to build a trusting relationship with us and it is a real privilege to be able to teach her!
This week we will be teaching a really cool couple! It's actually a pretty funny experience, the way that we found them. We were in an outer town, visiting our ward mission leader for our weekly meeting with him. After eating dinner with them, we left a little early before catching the bus in order to do a bit of work in their neighborhood. His wife didn't have the best attitude and she told us that we were going to have a hard time in their neighborhood. The first people who we talked to when we left their home was a super nice couple who invited us to come back to teach them! We called up his wife to share this miracle with her and she couldn't believe it! Hehe. You gotta have faith.
Many more miracles to share, and so little time! I love you all and I wish you the happiest of happy weeks! Never let a day go by where you don't do a special act of kindness!
This is truly the work of the Lord! Every single day Elder Palmer and I are eye-witnesses. I hope that in this e-mail I am able to portray how some of the amazing experiences that we are having are showing this to us.
I don't know where to start! Maybe I'll start with Boyang, one of our progressing investigators. Boyang is Chinese and does not have a Christian background, so teaching him about the restored gospel has been on a little bit slower pace. Just this last week, we finished teaching him all of the principles from the First Lesson, the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was fun teaching this to a Chinese man who will be receiving his Doctorate in Computer Science at the end of this year. He tried to tie all of the principles into some kind of formula or algorithm, we had to explain to him that there were certain things that you could mathematically explain, but in the end that "God's thoughts are higher than our thoughts" no matter how high or great our thoughts might be. He accepted. His prayers are very sincere and heartfelt. He is progressing in his faith in God.
In France, Labor Day, which is at the end of summer in the states, falls on May 1st. As a result, of no one working, the entire public transportation system and all of civilization as one might know it came to a stop. It was like in that Zombie movie with Will Smith, except there were no Zombies, only mormon missionaries. We decided to spend a good majority of the day doing some long put-off Area Book work. We called some old potential investigator sheets and made some great contacts! One of the people who I called is named Hermeline. She is from the Congo and came here to study to be a laboratory scientist (not evil). She is really sharp and spiritual. We met with her on Sunday and taught her about the Restoration. She had such great questions! She committed herself to reading the Book of Mormon and praying to know if it is true. She had the biggest smile on her face after she said the closing prayer. I think that is the best part of any lesson. Yesterday afternoon she gave me a call. She had remembered that we had told her about Family Home Evenings at the institute center on mondays and she wanted to know more. It is funny because Family Home Evening in French is translated to Soirée Familiale, which is ironic because Soirée is more like a formal evening with a dance, etc. while Familiale, is like familial or casual. So when she showed up last night, she came in a beautiful gown that might be worn to a Prom dance. All the guys at the activity were jaw-dropped because she is really pretty! HAHA. There was this one really solid Young Adult recent convert from the Congo who we had called beforehand to ask him if he would welcome her and integrate her at the activity. He sounded really confident and assuring on the phone but then when he saw her, he was really nervous to talk to her! Haha, we thought it was funny.
Another cool thing that happened on Labor (Zombie) Day was that we were able to call, or rather attempt to call, every less-active member in the area. Since we are both relatively new here, we both had an excuse. We had some cool results! One of the people that we called came to church on sunday! Three of them fixed appointments with us for this week! My companion called someone from Nigeria named Bright Prince Kennedy. YES. He came to find out that he had moved into the boundaries to another ward in Lyon, so we passed his coordonnées to some other missionaries in the city. These missionaries later told us that they had been able to see him and had also began teaching his wife! They told us that Bright Prince, on the last day of April, had begun a 24hr fast and prayer session to have guidance from God in his life. At the end of the fast and prayer session on Labor Day is when Elder Palmer called him. Miracle? Methinks YES.
Another miracle. Someone to whom I gave a Book of Mormon about 2 months ago when I first arrived in Lyon was finally taught! Her and I had stayed in contact and she had been pretty busy, so we hadn't been able to see her till now. But she had been researching on the church's website and been reading in the Book of Mormon. I was surprised at how much she knew about the church without ever having been taught! We taught her with the sisters in a different ward in Lyon, because she lives in the boundaries of a different ward. It was a smooth transition. She accepted to be baptized once she receives an answer of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. Miracle! Another one happened as we were leaving this lesson. We were closing and locking the institute center where we had taught. As we were locking, a girl came up and said that she was there to meet with some missionaries. She couldn't remember the names of the missionaries who were supposed to come to meet her, so we opened the institute center back up, let her in, and began phoning all the missionaries in Lyon to try to find out who it was. We explained to her that we would have to wait outside because we couldn't be in there alone with her. None of the missionaries were answering their phones and we started getting desperate. Then my companion had the idea to just contact people on the street who were walking by and try to drag another man into the institute center so that we could enter and teach her and him together. So as I continued calling missionaries, he contacted and NO JOKE, one of the first people that he contacted accepted to come for 30 minutes to learn more about Jesus Christ! Two new investigators were made and both accepted to come to church! We got super blessed for being obedient!
Well, those are all the miracles that I will have time for today. I love you so much family! I look forward to seeing you on Mother's Day! Elder Palmer and I arranged with an American couple living here to skype at 5:00 PM. I'm not sure if that comes out to 8:00 or 9:00 AM in Oregon. I trust that you will find out and be ready at whatever time it is on sunday morning! Have an excellent week and we'll see you then!
PS I just found out that I was awarded full-tuition scholarships for both Fall and Winter semesters at BYU! :)
For whosever will save his life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall find it.
The gospel helps us to be happier and to do what the Lord wants us to do!
Elder Palmer and I have lived some excellent experiences this last week.
1. Remember Marie? She was one of the first people that I got into contact with when I came into this sector. She was an old investigator who was discouraged with herself because of her addictions to tobacco, coffee and tea. Well some epic news! Her and I have been in contact and this last week she gives me a call and says that she wants to chat. We talked on the phone for about half an hour and she told me that she had finally read the chapter in the Book of Mormon, which I had given her to read a while back. It was Mosiah 27 about the conversion of Alma the Younger, and she wanted to talk about it. We talked, mostly about the Atonement. She told me that she wanted to change, that she knew that smoking was bad for her, but she told me frankly that she doesn't have the desire to quit. I think it is because she knows how difficult it will be. I invited her to pray morning and night to have this desire. She said that she would. We will be seeing her tomorrow and finally get to start teaching her again. She is full of fears and worries, but she is exercising faith, little by little, in her Savior Jesus Christ, who is going to do miracles in her life. She will be full of joy, peace and light!
2. Remember Jean-Noel? He is doing well. Even though he is very busy with his studies and work, he is setting his priorities straight. We had a great lesson about the Plan of Salvation this week. I am so grateful for this knowledge, I think that this is probably my favorite lesson to teach! I love it when I people start to understand bit by bit the magnitude of God's love for us and Christ's amazing gift of the Atonement. It is really "Because of Him" that the plan of happiness is made possible. Another cool little side note, we found out that one of his professors in his Business School is actually a member in our ward! We had it set up for him to teach with us last week, but it didn't end up working out... but it will soon!
3. After teaching Jean Noel about the Plan of Salvation, we walked him out of the chapel, where he hopped onto the bus. When he got on the bus, he actually ran into one of his friends who saw that he had met with us and just left our church. Her friend, Manon, had lots of questions and Jean Noel talked to her about some of the things he's been learning and feeling. The next day, as I was making some phone calls, I remembered this very nice girl that I had talked to on a bus a few weeks earlier. I remember her being really cool because the bus driver started yelling at me for contacting people on the bus, but she told him that we were having a conversation and to leave me alone. Epic. I ended up getting her phone number, and called her a few days later, but she explained that she would be busy with studies,etc. Then, when I was making those phone calls last week, I felt like I should call her. It was Manon! She explained that she had seen me at the church with Jean Noel and that she was good friends with Jean Noel. She said that she would be gone for vacation for a few weeks, but that when she gets back she would love to meet with us and learn more about our message! The Lord works in mysterious and amazing ways!
I testify that I see the hand of the Lord everyday. I will do my best to keep as many of these experiences down in my journal so that I can share them with you when I have the opportunity! This is the Lord's work and it is wonderful to know that I work for him. Best boss in the universe! I love you all and I wish you an excellent week! Try to share this video with someone who isn't a member of the church!