Tuesday, June 21, 2011


June 20, 2011

For starters, I think I told you last week how much I love trains. Well, it's a dang good thing. In just the last week alone, we've spent over ten hours on trains! (I sure hope this doesn't get old. I love trains too much to get tired of them here...) As much as I love them, holy cow they can be exhausting. Mom, I think it's kind of like how when you sit down for a second you get super tired. Well, same rule applies here. Best we can figure, we're just running all the time. So when we finally sit down -and for that long- our brains suddenly decide that they get to relax for the first time in months. Bah...that's taking some major time to adjust to.

Highlight of the week: we had zone conference! I LOVE zone conference. You know how there are some weeks where you just can't wait for Sunday to roll around to give you that spiritual charge to make it through the week? Well, zone conference is SO like that! (it just needs to last for six weeks instead of one.) The Spirit there is just amazing. =) And we learn so much, so fast! And one of the great things about having President and Sister Staheli around is that we almost always get first hand stories about MoTab or President Hinckley. (And that's NEVER a bad thing.)

President Staheli has some of the greatest stories. I could listen to him for hours and never get board. One of the many that he told us that we all got a good laugh out of came while he was working in the church office building. One day as President Staheli was waiting for the elevator, President Kimball walked over with the first presidency and a few other apostles. Of course, when an elevator arrived on the floor, everyone waiting to get on, let President Kimball get on with the other apostles instead. As President Kimball was walking past President Staheli, he grabbed his arm and said, "Will you come?" With a quick, "Yes sir." President Staheli followed them onto the elevator. He then taught us several things from that experience, (like looking directly into President Kimball's eyes and only being able to describe it at "liquid love." And what a prophet of the Lord really means when they say "Will you come?") But, like normal for President, we also get the funny side of the moment. As the elevator was descending, it stopped on one floor (now since the car is already full, no one would be getting on. They'd just end up with a quick glance at these amazing men, and then see the doors shut and wait for the next car.) Well, the doors opened. There was a young man standing in a suit. After a moment of amazement at who he was seeing, he blurted our very loudly and quickly, "I just got off of my mission." and...the doors shut ha ha. Maybe that's exactly what he wanted to tell them, but I feel like if I were that kid, as soon as the doors shut, I'd have thought "Seriously! Did you really just say that?! That's all you could think to say!" ha ha (Maybe you had to be there to hear President Staheli tell the story, but we all very much enjoyed it.)

So as I said, I love Zone Conference. The only problem is that this one ended on a really sad note. It was President and Sister Staheli's last Zone Conference with us. They'll be turning over the keys next week to President and Sister Poznanski. We're excited for the growth that we'll experience under the Poznanski's, and I've only heard great things about them, but we will certainly miss the Staheli's a lot. It's amazing the love that radiates from the two of them. It's crazy to think how little we really do see them, and yet we all love them more than even words can say. After they bore their dying testimonies, we all went in a circle and hugged and/or shook their hand, and then standing, sang "God Be With You Till We Meet Again." And, with the room plenty full of tears of love and gratitude, the two of them said goodbye one last time and left the chapel.

Sister Staheli made the comment in her testimony that she believes that we were all in the preexistence together and said, "Hey! 2011. France Paris Mission. Be there!"  Silly though that seems in a way, I totally believe it. We were all put together for a reason. I don't know how I ever got lucky enough to know and serve under them, but it really has been a huge blessing. Like one of the senior sisters said, "How often do you get the opportunity to serve under a man who was personally tutored by the hand of a prophet? And then you have Sister Staheli with her ever ready smile."

The love in that room was just incredible. I don't know how they managed so perfectly to get over 150 missionaries to love them with all of their hearts, and then to do the exact same back to us. (This may sound a little cheesy, but it's what hit me in that moment.) If we were able to feel that kind of extreme love here, I can't even imagine what the Celestial Kingdom must be like.

Okay, moving on, kind of. For lunch at Zone Conference, we usually have pizza. And by usually I mean always. But this time, they got individually wrapped black styrofoam plates of little potato wedges and chicken thighs. As she was pealing back the plastic wrap, one of the sisters standing next to me said, "Wow! This is so fancy!!!" After a moment of discussing that comment, we couldn't help but laugh. I love mission life: where KFC type dinner plates are the fanciest thing you've eaten on since entering the field and even the sight of such a meal is practically startling. ha ha

Epic discovery of the week! They have vending machines here for bread! Seriously! We found this machine than just distributes different kinds of baguettes! The lady restocking the machines thought we were rather strange as she watched us taking pictures of it.She thought we were even more strange when she found out we were Americans. She told us that the machine is made in American. So it doesn't make sense that we don't have them there. Apparently she doesn't realize that American bread is nothing like a French baguette.

We had kind of an awkward (and "kind of awkward" in this sense translates to "the most awkward I've experienced my whole mission") rendez-vous this week. It was with that father and daughter we set baptismal dates with. But this time it was in their home and his wife was there. She was shocked when she found out they were getting baptized. He hadn't said a word about it! Well, after clearing that up, we went on teaching our lesson. We made it through Joseph's words describing the first vision, and then...things changed. Somehow the topic flipped upside down and his wife started telling him that she decided the week before that she was leaving him. They have some pretty difficult family situations to deal with, and she feels like she's handling them without his help. Of course, there's all kinds of other factors involved, but...all the same...Spirit gone. Our member we had with us, got up and held this woman's hand and was just wonderful in calming her down. I don't know what Soeur Rowley and I would have done without this other wonderful sister there with us. But for a good half hour while that was going on, Sister Rowley and I just had to sit silently on the couch across from her husband who didn't seem even slightly bothered by what was going on. Oh heavens! Never fight with your spouse in front of sister missionaries. It's terribly awkward and not a situation anyone should feel comfortable with!

We didn't see them at church yesterday and when we called them last night, he told us that she's leaving him for sure, but she doesn't work or have a phone. She really likes the church and likes the missionaries, but we have no idea how we're going to track her down. We're just praying that we'll be able to catch her before she's officially moves out and that we'll still be able to work with her. I am SO not a fan of situations like this. =/ It's never fun when families are torn apart, but there's only so much we can do to stop it unfortunately.

On a much happier note, we had a really fun rendez-vous earlier in the week. The sisters a few months ago were just going door-to-door, and contacted this lady. I found her in the area book and decided to call her. Guess what. She's our bishop's mom! What are the chances! She's just a hoot. I love her! And she has a one eyed cat! (Bonus!) Her cat is incredibly Toulouse-ish. As we were sitting at her kitchen table, he clearly thought we weren't paying enough attention to him, even though I'd been petting him the entire time. So...he jumped up on the table and laid down on top of my open Book of Mormon that I was reading out of. The other bonus of that lesson, we had Michèl with us. Michèl is our other amis with a baptismal date. He's always had members at the lessons when missionaries taught him, so he asked if he could teach with us too. How great is that! You've got to love amis that are that excited to play the role of a member even before they are baptized!

One last quick story before I take off. Again, back to zone conference. Zone conference always gets me SO jazzed to go out and be the best missionary I can be. This one was no different. That evening I decided I wanted to be better about recognizing the people that I need to talk to in places or at time when I normally wouldn't. I just prayed and asked God to "shout" at me if necessary and I would listen. Well..."ask and ye shall receive" right? I then had a dream that Sister Rowley and I were on a train and I saw a guy across the aisle from us. That was it. That was the whole dream. And considering the amount of time we spend on trains, I thought nothing of it. Until...we were headed up to Mons the next day to get the car from the elders. Sitting on the train, I was heavily engrossed in my scriptures. I looked up for a moment at Sister Rowley and the dream came flooding back to me. We spend a lot a time on trains, but this one was totally different in design and color. I hadn't ever been on one like it before, but I remembered in that second that I'd seen this scene perfectly just a few hours before in my dream. I looked across the aisle. There was a man in the seat that I had seen in my dream, but...it wasn't him. So I got slightly confused. However, at the next station, that guy got off and was replaced by the guy I'd seen in my dream. I even recognized his clothing. It was him! I'd never met him before in my life, but I knew I had seen him. Now came the tricky part...I had to talk to him. I can talk to tons of people on the street all day long, and not be even kind of bothered by it. That just doesn't really stress me any more, but man I was having a hard time with this guy. There were some major forces battling in my head to stop me from talking to him, but...I couldn't ignore that "shout" that I'd asked for. So for no logical reason (other than the major discouraging thoughts from some not so friendly foes) I was more stressed about making that contact than virtually any other that I've done. However, success! No major miracle (that I know of) came from talking to him thus far, but I did my part. I can't even tell you what a relief that was. It's so not worth walking away from promptings. You feel guilty about them for what feels like eternity. I'm just so happy that the ball is in his court now and that I am able to say I did my part. (I should know by now what happens when you ask for "growth opportunities" like that ha ha ha)

Well, I've got to go read the Book of Mormon, sitting on a bench, over the phone with an amis now. So, I'll talk to you next week. I love you!


Wednesday, June 1, 2011


May 30, 2011

Happy French Mother's Day yesterday!

I'm starting with the end of the week today. So, it's P-day. Sister Williams and I went to the Musée de l'Orangerie and saw Claude Monet's Water Lilies. It was beautiful. It's crazy to think that he was able to create something like that when he was nearly blind.

The best though was as we were walking to the museum. The museum is housed in the Tuileries, right next to the Louvre, looking out on the Eiffel Tower, Place de la Concorde, and down the Champs Elysees at the Arche de Triumph. I pointed out how cool that view was and Sister Williams said, "We are so freaking lucky! We're walking on, like, five million year old side walk right now!" ha ha (Moments like that never cease to remind me how much I love being her companion) I'm not sure the side walk is quite that old, but the history that we get to see on a daily basis is just incredible. We really are the luckiest missionaries in the world.

Current thoughts on this coming week:
-Wednesday, I hit my six month mark. I'm freaking out about that a bit. I still can't believe time's flown by so fast.
-Saturday we'll be getting the transfer email. I can not believe the transfer is almost over!

Now, as for the last week...

Planning a baptism is crazy! This baptism honestly felt like Christmas; it was SUPER exciting, but seemed like the build up took a lot more energy and time than the actual day would. I love Christmas, but it's kind of a relief when it's finally over. Well...baptisms are JUST like that.

It was more of a daunting task than I thought it would be to stare at the ward list, try and figure out who was active and then make seemingly endless phone calls to set up the food assignments, prayers, talks, etc. But after a couple of stressful days near the beginning of the week, we got the majority of those program details ironed out the best we could. (Even though it meant that Sister Williams would be making a LOT of pasta salad and I'd be making a ton of brownies ha ha, still...ironed out all the same.)

After the program assignments, we switched our focus to the baptismal interview. Like always, Philomene has a crazy work schedule, only allowing us one day to squeeze the interview into. Luckily, the day that worked for her was the same day as our district meeting - meaning our district leader, the one who normally should do the interview, would be in Paris and at the chapel. (He serves in an area about an hour and a half outside of Paris by train.) And, since we'd be having district meeting, Philomene would also get to meet Elder Weed. She wanted one of the missionaries in our ward to baptize her. She didn't care who though and she hasn't gotten to know either of the elders. So she left it up to us to pick. However, we still wanted her to know who he was before the actual baptism. So the way things were, Wednesday seemed perfect. But...nothing seems to ever go according to plan with her.

She was supposed to meet us at the church at 2:00. At 2:30 we started getting pretty worried having not seen her yet and she wasn't answering her phone. She HAD to have that interview and we didn't know when she'd be able to do it if not then. Our district leader hung around as long as he could, but by 3:30 they had to take off.

Super frustrated and confused as to what had happened, we headed home to grab something for dinner before heading to the hospital to check on Sister William's ankle (she sprained it in January really badly and it was swollen and bothering her again.) No sooner had we walked in the door, saw the Paris soeurs, told them Philomene boffed our rendez-vous, when the other soeurs' phone rang. Tender mercy #1: It was Philomene! 1-she never calls us. She doesn't have credit on her phone. So we have to call her, never the other way around. and 2-She called them and not us...? Had we not been home, we would never have been able to talk to her and figure out what to do. But...as an answer to our prayers, we were able to get a hold of her and still take care of her interview. As it turns out, to be able to get work off on Sunday, her boss scheduled her at the last minute to take a shift on Wednesday. But since she can't call us, she couldn't let us know the change of plans.

Tender mercy #2: the zone leaders (the elders in our ward) were on exchanges with the assistants that same day. Since we'd had district meeting, we'd heard their plans for the day. One companionship took up a shift at the visitor center. So, while the district leader had left Paris already, we knew where to find someone who could still do the interview, AND they wouldn't already be busy with another rendez-vous on the other side of town. So...three hours later than it was originally scheduled, Philomene had her baptismal interview and passed with flying colors!!! She came out of that room just grinning and giggling. She was so happy and so excited! =) Yet again, as proved through our work with Philomene, prayer works! First we had that insane day with English class and the suicide on the metro to test the validity of prayer with her. And then again with her interview. Not having ANY idea how we'd possibly be able to still have her baptized on the 29th, I just prayed that SOMEHOW it would work. And IT DID!! Like I said, pray works!

On Friday, Philomene had her very last rendez-vous with us as an amis before becoming classified as a recent convert. We didn't need to teach her anything. We just wanted to go over the program with her and have her try on her dress, etc. She was right on time *huge sigh of relief* (we never really know with her) She showed up wearing a brand new wig. I greeted her at the door and complimented her on it. She gave me the, "Well duh. I'm getting baptized. I have to have a new wig response ha ha. She's so funny. =) When she tried on the dress she immediately started spinning and strutting around the room. I wish you could have seen it. We were all just laughing and loving every minute together. As missionaries, we feel the Spirit in every rendez-vous, but it's usually a very "typical" (if you can call it that) spiritual feeling. But the Spirit in that room was so different that night. Clichéd though it is to describe it this way, the only way I can explain it was that it was a feeling of true happiness! The feeling was just joyful in that room! I loved it!

Saturday the Paris sisters had a baptism for one of their amis in the evening. We made brownies for them in the morning, ran off to a rendez-vous while they made cookies for our baptism the next day. We got home as they were heading out to teach English class. I threw in some more brownies for our baptism while Sister Williams got to work on her massive batch of pasta salad. Our poor oven really took a beating on Saturday.

We met up with the Paris sisters shortly after that and headed out with them to their baptism. It went over wonderfully. Other than their amis showing up 20 minutes later than they originally planned to leave (still getting them to the church in plenty of time) it went off with out the slightest hiccup. And now Anne Sophie (their ex-amis, current recent convert) is talking about going on a mission! =)

On the way home from the baptism we had a...weird encounter on the metro. A TON of guys came running onto our car right as the doors were closing. Most of them had a baby bottle full of alcohol tied around their necks with metallic ribbon. All of them were wearing shirts that said "Oliver et Jessica." One guy was dressed like a French maid and was carrying a bonsai tree. French maid with the tree: that's Oliver. He's the groom. Apparently his bachelor party consisted, at least partially, of running on the metro singing at the top of their lungs, stomping their feet and filming the reactions of the rest of the people on the car. And every now and then Oliver would shout that "I have a bonsai tree!" Holding it over his head. Um...not sure I quite understand...ha ha. We weren't terribly disappointed when at one station, one of the guys shouted "Change!" and they all went running off and switched to the car in front of us. There's a typical Saturday night in the Parisian metro for you.

Sunday finally rolled around. We gathered up our huge list of things we needed to take to church and headed out the door. When we got there, two of our amis were there, and a bit later Edinton and Anbu walked in, but...no Philomene. If I hadn't been all week (and trust me, I had) now, I was stressed. Sister Williams stepped out into the hall to call her. The problem with calling Philomene is that she tends to decide when the conversation is over and then just doesn't answer after that. So you have to get as much specific information out of her as fast as you can. Sister Williams came back in, looking rather confused, sat down next to me and said, "She's at home making a cake. She said she'll be here at 1:00, and...something about her niece being sick." What?! 1-We REPEATEDLY told her that we'd have food and she didn't need to bring anything, and 2-What niece?! She hasn't mentioned any family in France. Everyone is still in Congo. AND what does that have to do with her not being at church?

Sister Williams called her a few more times during church to try and talk her into coming sooner. No luck. One o'clock it was. So...stressing out a bit as to when she'd actually be showing up (Africans tend to have this thing where time doesn't really mean anything to them) we started getting the font and food ready while waiting for her. 1:00...no Philomene. 1:15 I called her. When she answered there was a ton of noise in the background and she answered by immediately shouting into the phone "J'arrive! J'arrive! J'arrive!" ("I'm coming") It wasn't angry shouting, just flustered shouting, if that makes sense. I asked her if she was on the metro. I couldn't understand her answer. Between her accent, the background noise, and the phone cutting in and out, I was having a very difficult time understanding what she was telling me. So finally I just said, "Will you be her by 1:30, yes or no?" Happily, she said yes. I confirmed her answer with her again. So...1:30 was the new goal.

At 1:45, the Paris missionaries showed up with their amis, but...still no Philomene and now, she wasn't answering her phone anymore.

While running from the front door, where we were watching for Philomene, to the font at the back of the church, I grew to really hate the endless, "Where is she?" "Is she coming?" "How far away is she?" questions I got every time I passed the members waiting for the service.

By 2:30 I'm stressed to the max. Sister Williams and I had been standing on the sidewalk again waiting for her. Despite our copious amounts of silent prayers we'd both been offering all day, I knew we needed to go find a room in the chapel and pray together. I didn't voice that to her, but I headed inside and she followed. Before we even turned the corner, the two elders in our ward came walking the other direction. Elder Gilmore said, "Still nothing? We were thinking maybe we should pray or something." So the four of us,  found a class room, shut the door and got on our knees. When we were done, we headed back up to the main doors. Neither Sister Williams nor I could tolerate standing in front of the doors on the sidewalk any longer. It was killing us. So we stood at the end of the hallway leading up the the doors. Elder Gilmore walked out the doors. The doors had barely shut behind him when he turned and looked at us through the glass giving us two thumbs up! Absolutely ecstatic, Sister Williams and I literally ran to the door! SHE MADE IT!!!! Not only did she make it, but she had a huge cart of drinks and a bunch of baignets she had made. And she's just adorable, she had her new wig, new shoes, a new necklace, and a new dress. (and we found out later, when we were helping her get dressed after being baptized, she even bought brand new underwear. I know I've said it easily a thousand times already, but she's just the cutest thing. She went all out. And she looked great! =)

The second we saw her, we were SO SO SO happy and Philomene was SO angry. She went off on how everything was going wrong all morning long. "Satan doesn't want me to be happy! Satan doesn't want me to get baptized! The very day of my baptism, the very day, and he's still trying to stop me!" (At least she recognized where all the opposition was coming from.) She explained to us all the things that had gone wrong. When she finally made it into the metro, she thought she was in the clear and would make it to the church on time (that's were the "j'arrive!" "will you be here at 1:30" phone call came in.) But right after that, someone committed suicide, blocking her train. Being in the metro, she didn't have service, and not knowing of the accident, we had no idea what had happened. She told us she got SO mad when that happened and she sat on the metro, fuming at Satan and told him to stop. He had no right to get in her way.  Somehow, she was able to make it out of the metro and get help from someone to get her to the chapel.

So...again very late, but all the same, SHE MADE IT! And once again, the power of prayer is just the coolest thing ever!!!

The service was wonderful. They had to dunk her five times though. (Her knees kept popping up.) But she didn't care. She was just laughing and smiling the whole time. When we were helping her get dressed she said, "I had a good shower today." Confused, we both just said, "What?" To which she replied, "Well...I went in five times! It was a good shower!" and then started laughing. Flip I just love her. ha ha ha =)

She was SO happy. She kept telling us, "I'm a member now. I'm finally a member." The whole time, just grinning from ear to ear.

As we were eating after, a woman with three girls and one boy, who Philomene called her "family" walked in. (I put family in quotes because we're still not sure if they are actually related to her. She's African. Everyone in her world is classified as family.) They got there around 5:00, and were shocked that she's already been baptized. When Philomene told them it had already happened the woman said, "What?! You said it was at 2:00!" Like I said, time doesn't mean the same thing to Africans. They were shocked that, three hours after it was scheduled, it had already happened ha ha. But, great news, they want us to teach them now! And the whole time they were talking and eating, Philomene kept saying stuff like, "When you're baptized..." and "After you join the church too..." And they were cool with it. We'll see what they think after we start teaching them, but they're at least starting off on a good track.


Stressful and crazy though it was, it was absolutely worth it!!! I'm SO happy for her!!! If I spend the rest of my time out here without ever seeing another baptism or having a single progressing amis, it would all have been worth it just for her!!! =) If you don't meet her in this life, you absolutely will  in the next one! You'll just love her. I certainly do. =)

There's my week in a nutshell. I hope yours was even half as wonderful - hopefully a bit less stressful though. ;) I love you! Have a great week. =)