Thursday, February 16, 2012

Miracles Abounding

February 13, 2012 

Bonjour bonjour! 

I've been extremely blessed throughout my mission to be able to witness countless miracles. However, I don't recall any week like this past one. Just when you think you've reached your miracle quota, God tosses another one our way. It's been...amazing, incredible, unreal, wonderful and an endless number of other joyful words. =) 

The best day started off with a rendez-vous with Paula. It was the first time Sister Ingraham ever got to teach her. (Last time I taught her with Sr Murray.) We got to the chapel a little later than expected because our tram was delayed. However, the other district was holding their district meeting and invited Paula to eat lunch with them. Once we got there, we took her upstairs to the young adult center and watched the restoration movie with her. At the beginning of the rendez-vous she was a bit disheartened. She'd potentially just lost the temporary job that a member of our ward worked out for her. However, despite her continued stress of providing for her family, she was still pointing out the good things around her. She said the biggest thing has been the members of the ward. She told us that when she got to the chapel that morning, the German sisters were there (the elderly German sister equipe in the ward) and they hugged her when she walked in. "Then they said, 'Paula are you okay?' because I held onto them for a really long time. I don't know. I just feel my mother in them. It's been a long time since I've seen my mother, but every time I see them, I see her. And every time one of the brothers shakes my hand, I feel it is one of my brothers who I haven't seen in six years. And when I see you two, or the women in the ward, you're my sister that I haven't seen in years either. It's weird. I felt all alone, but now...I really feel like you're my family. Is that weird? I...I just here." The members have just been so wonderful with her. They've reached out to her and it's majorly affected her. And it all started with them just saying "hello." 

As I said, we then watched the restoration film with her. She's been coming to church, and believes that everything that's taught is true, but had yet to hear the Joseph Smith story (we've really been struggling to meet with her. Her son has chronic bronchitis and she often has to take him to the doctor at the last minute.) I've never seen anyone be so into that film/story before. As it got to the clip of Joseph translating the gold plates, she freaked out, turned to me and said, "Those are the gold plate! That's the Book of Mormon! That's what I'm reading!" (She already about half way through the book.) Then as it showed the church being organized and the congregation following Joseph in a sustaining vote, followed my the sacrament, again she turned to us, "That's like what we do here!!! We do the same thing in this church!" (Her first week at church, several callings where extended. So since the beginning, she's seen us sustaining people.) By the end of the movie, she was so excited she could hardly speak, struggling to formulate sentences. "I've never seen that before. I've never seen a church that was created based on faith and not just on man. He didn't want to create his own church. He wanted to do what God wanted him to do. There isn't another church like that. It really is God's church!" I agreed with her, testified that it really is God's church and told her "If you would like to be a part of it, you now have that opportunity too. Paula, will you prepare yourself to be baptized on the 25th of this month?" Tearing up, and giggling through her answer, she buried her face in her hands, looked at me, smiled and, practically exploding with energy at that point, "YES! Of course. Oui oui oui!!! This is the proof that I've been waiting for! Yes!" The feeling in the room was beyond words. I wish I could really explain it, but...there just aren't adequate words to do so. But for sure, we were not alone. That room was...celebrating! =) She left the room floating on air. 

As if that wasn't enough, we left the church to do a pass by. Ended up not finding this old ami, but found a crazy old African lady who talked to us for a while. It's always a bit of an adventure trying to talk to people when they keep going in and out of tribal languages and French. ha ha. On the way to our next appointment, we stopped in a store to buy a drink. I might have gasped as if I'd seen a celebrity when I saw...Diet Dr. Pepper sitting on the shelf! ;) Thinking the day couldn't get any better, the senior couple (the Halls) were at the church, and told me that they had a new comforter and cover in their car for me. =) =) =) Since we moved to the Forest apartment, I've been using a nasty shredded comforter that has probably been used by missionaries for the past century. I can appreciate hand me downs, but...I have my limits. So, baptismal date, dr. pepper, new comforter and next: a new amie.  


Dana was contacted by the elders on the metro. She's only been here for eight months. She's also from Romania. With her broken French and our missionary/American French, we had to move a bit slowly through the lesson, but the Spirit was still there. I'll forever be grateful for the power of the Spirit and knowing that the Spirit doesn't need perfect teachers nor perfect French to still touch people's hearts. At the end of the rendez-vous, she told us she was going to read the Book of Mormon as fast as she could so that she could give it to her sister to read as well. Then we asked her to pray to close the lesson. She prayed in Romanian then looked up at us and said, "I feel something in my chest and on my back. It's...warm. I like it." So despite our imperfections and whatever information what lost in translation, the spirit still could speak to her. It was so tender the way she went on describing her feelings and asking us what that meant she needed to do. She's such a cute gal. =) 

We had a cool experience with our goal setting this week too. While doing our weekly planning last week, we felt like we should say "three amis with a baptismal date." So...we did. Having absolutely no idea who we would be setting them with. Then, you know Paula's story now, second came Chantal. 

Chantal met the missionaries with her daughter in London. Chantal's brother-in-law is a member and invited the missionaries over while she and Joanna were there on vacation. We're not sure how we got their information since it's been a good two years since they were taught, but a few weeks back we got to see them for the first time. They are so great. And when we asked them to pray to know if the Book of Mormon is true and if Joseph Smith was a prophet, Chantal and Joanna both immediately said, "I already know it's true. All of it." However, despite that testimony that they already have, they have yet to make it to church (with us. They used to go all the time.) And with their work/school schedule, it's really hard to see them. So going over their last night, we almost expected to have to drop them until they were ready to really commit. But, after talking for a bit, we also set a baptismal date with Chantal. It's not until next transfer though. She didn't feel ready enough to go any earlier,'s still a date! We almost got Joanna to set a date too, but she said she just doesn't feel ready yet. "It's a big deal, and I want to be ready."  

All in all, we got to see, in a really cool way, how if we just listen to the Spirit, trusting the Lord (setting a goal of three baptismal dates) it can happen even though we may not know how to begin. And even though we didn't get the three, it was also that proof of how other people agency comes into play too. Yet in the end, we got to end the week, knowing that we'd done what they Lord had planned on that we hadn't imagined. That, as well as now having seven new amis from the week, we're ending the transfer on a very high note. =) 

I wish I had time right now to tell you about every little (and big) miracle from this week, but as you know, we just never have enough time.  

With another six weeks gone, I've got transfer news for you. I'll be staying in Louise for at least another six weeks (hopefully twelve.) Sister Ingraham is going to Caen. She's so stocked. I'm happy for her. She's been here for six months now and was ready for the change. And Caen was her dream city. So it was really happy news. As for me, Soeur Johnson will be coming up to Brussels. It's kind of funny that it'll be her because I got transferred here right after doing exchanges with Sister Ingraham. And this past transfer Soeur Johnson was here for exchanges with Soeur Ingraham. ha ha. I don't know much about her yet. She's pretty new to the mission (she'll be going into her third transfer.) But, all the interactions I've had with her have been great. She's a really cute girl. I'm excited to serve with her. =) 

I love you. Have a wonderful week. =)


From the Frozen Promised Land of Belgium

February 6, 2012

It's been a kind of slow week for rendez-vous unfortunately. Diamondo, Sara, Meritë and half of Belgium is sick right now. So it's been a real struggle getting to see people. But we've got great things planned for this coming week. So far, it everything goes through the way we've planned, we'll be seeing eight new amis. We're keeping our fingers crossed.  

Speaking of everyone in Belgium having a cold or the flu, I wish I could have taken a picture to show you a lab that I saw on the tram the other day. He had this massive scarf on under his collar. I started petting his head and when I stopped he started whining. His owner told me not to worry about it. "He's only doing that because he's sick. That's why he's wearing his scarf." Europeans are so funny about that. The second you sneeze, you've got to put on five scarfs. However, I think that's the very first time I've ever seen a dog follow the same rule. 

I realize that in last week's email I said we'd gotten things worked out perfectly to avoid any inconveniences for P-day. Well...I spoke a little too soon I guess. We've had a cold front come through from Siberia. Yeah...All I can say is I have zero desire to ever live in Siberia now. It's been SO cold. The sad thing is, number-wise, it's not really that bad. Utah gets about the same. But the humidity here makes all the difference.  

I'm just holding out hope that someday I'll be able to feel my fingers and toes again. ;) 

Mom, that scarf you made for me, while it was the biggest scarf I'd ever owned, and I wasn't really sure how I wanted to wear it when I first got it, has saved my life! No joke. Pretty sure I would have frozen to death without it. 

We did exchanges this week with the soeurs in Villeneuve D'Ascq. I went down there with Soeur Edgerly and her companion, Soeur Johnson came up here. I just love Soeur Edgerly. She's two transfers ahead of me. So she left the MTC right before I got there. So, we've pretty much been around each other since day one. We did an exchange in Versailles, but that's been our only other assigned time together. However, we both feel like we've practically served together with all of the times we seen each other in Paris, sleepovers before stake conference, etc. So it felt like I was hanging out with an old friend from high school, little odd since I've barely known her for a year now. It was just so fun to be with her and to be able to talk about all the missionaries who "died" at the beginning of our missions who none of our last few companions ever even met. 

While down there with her, we had a rendez-vous with one of their amies who will be getting baptized near the end of the month. I liked her. She's a little crazy ha ha, but I liked her. She'd ask the most random questions, at the weirdest times. In the middle of the lesson, talking about the ten commandments, she turned to me and said, "Kimberly, what do you think of Jehovah Witnesses?" (She couldn't say "Jorgensen" and asked me what my first name was. From then on, liking my name, she said it as may times as she could ha ha.) I covered that answer as tactfully as I could, then she went off on where she disagrees with their doctrine. ha ha That was a "fun" one to try and bring back on topic. 

In the mean time, Soeur Ingraham and Soeur Johnson were up here teaching English class and then an inactive member that we work with from time to time - and doing everything they could to not freeze to death. Before leaving the gare to go to Villeneuve D'Ascq with Soeur Edgerly, seeing the thin scarf Soeur Johnson brought up, I told her she could wear my scarfs if she got cold. With the disgustingly cold temperature in Brussels, it only took her a couple seconds once in the apartment to decide to put it on. Soeur Ingraham told me that the wind was terrible that night. So saved Soeur Johnson's life on Wednesday. And then Soeur Ingraham wore it on Thursday. And I've worn it all the rest of the week. So all-in-all, one scarf, three soeurs' lives saved. Soeur Ingraham and I discussed how, you'll never be able to imagine the ripple effect you've now had in preserving three missionaries lives. ;) All with one knitting project.

I can tell you, with this cold, I feel like I'm starting to look more and more Muslim. When we went out porting Thursday night, the only part of my skin you could see was my nose and eyes. Yup... I love layers. I had on the longest skirt I own, with three pairs of socks, boots, thermals, pants (hidden by the skirt and boots,) four shirts, two sweaters, a hat, gloves, my coat, and...the scarf. Sister Ingraham was just as layered. With the two of us looking like the Stay Puff Marshmallow man, we headed out.  

I'm so excited for spring. That's all I can say. 

On a warmer note, we had a rendez-vous Saturday night at the church with Hugo and the zone leaders. Having gotten a copy of the Book of Mormon in Swedish, we called him and asked him if we could give it to him. In the process, also passing him to the zone leaders, we asked him to meet us at the church about an hour before the zone leader's ami's baptism. When we told him that there would be a baptism at 6:30 and that he was welcome to come, he freaked out a little and made us promise that we wouldn't baptize him too. ha ha Not to worry Hugo. =) 

He came and we took him in the the JA center with the elders. We talked for a few minutes about who he is and what he remembered from the last time we spoke. We planned on going over the restoration and watching the film with him. Right before I turned the movie on Elder Hoopes asked him, "What do you want to get out of these visits." To which he responded, "Well, to be honest, I'm not looking to be converted. I'm interested in learning what you believe though. In fact, it was kind of interesting the day that the sisters knocked on my door, the only class I'd had at school that day was on religion. So I'd already been thinking a lot about religion that day. I think that's why I wanted to let them in and find out what you believe too." Cool, huh?! It's just amazing to me to see how the Lord is always preparing us and those around us for the next thing He'll toss our way. It was also incredible to see the Spirit work on Hugo and soften his approach. By the end of the movie, he was comparing himself to Joseph Smith, saying that "I've asked myself a lot of those questions. And I've got a lot more. I really hope this is what I'm looking for." And when the elders committed him to read the book, he practically jumped at it saying how much he wants to do so. Just to add the icing to the cake, when we were mingling with everyone else before the baptism, one of the older German sisters asked if he was a member. "Not yet." was his answer. He quickly caught himself, realizing what he said, but...Freudian slip? ;) 

Paula was also at the baptism. She brought her two sons and her husband as well. She was so happy to be there. Through the help of a wonderful member in the ward, she was able to get a small part time job. She started crying when I asked her how it was going and said, "You were right. It's like you said, God hasn't forgotten me. I thought He did, but I see now, He really is taking care of me. I just had to wait." Then after the baptism she surprised me a little bit when I asked her what she thought. Normally people just say, "It was good/interesting/touching/etc." Her response, "I'm a little afraid of the water. Is it normally cold?" (The heater broke. So the water was ice cold.) She then spoke to Sister Ingraham using the same tone - as if we were talking about her upcoming baptism and not the one we just watched. We expected before that she's be pretty open to the idea, but, having not been able to see her, we haven't discussed it. But now there's no doubt in our minds, she's planning on getting baptized. So...we're going to try and get these lessons out of the way as soon as possible. 

Over and over and over again this week, the Lord has been really helping me learn a couple of principles. I feel like everywhere I turn, and no matter what subject I study in the mornings, it always goes back to the same things.

1- God prepares us, and is currently preparing us for what lies ahead.

2- As long as we try, as long as we have the desire to follow the Lord and do the best that we can, even when we fall short of that goal, if we've tried our best, our "sacrifice" will be acceptable to the Lord.

3- And, less specifically, the atonement. Everywhere I turn I feel like I keep running into examples of how the Savior has covered us and the efforts that we need to put forth to obtain a fullness of those blessings. 

And every time I run into one of those three topics, it quickly leads to the other two. It just been fascinating. I wish I had something more insightful than that to tell you, but...that's all I've got for the moment. I think being with Soeur Edgerly allowed the both of us to reflect a little bit together about what we've accomplished over the past year here. We both acknowledged that neither of us are the world's best missionary, nor that we've been without our fair share of shortcomings, but we both have received the answer recently that, as we do what we can do, trusting the Lord...that's enough. Maybe we won't baptize 8,000 people like in the Book of Mormon, but we did/will continue to do our best. The Lord knows us and has prepared us to be who we are, where we are, at this time. He knew ahead of time the work that we would do, and it's acceptable to Him and what He wanted of us. I love that. I love that we can trust that, as long as we're trying our best, we have no reason to worry about His approval. Hmm...I feel like that's a little jumbled, but I don't really know how to explain it for the moment. But hopefully, you get a little bit of what I'm trying to say. 

Then again this morning, I felt impressed to flip through my notes from the MTC and came across the same three things, again and again. (shocker) ;) And found this quote from President Hinckley that summed it all up, "Please do not nag yourself with thoughts of failure. Do not set goals far beyond your capacity to achieve. Simply do what you can do, in the best way you know, and the Lord will accept your effort."

Anyway, that was my happy-feel-good-thought for the morning. =)

I hope you had a great week. I love you.

With love from the frozen promised land that is Belgium,


Siberia in Belgium