Hey family and friends!
I sat in front of my iPad screen for a good 10 minutes trying to decide what to write about. It's difficult to put all of these emotions and experiences into words.
Leaving Namur was really hard. We ended with a family home evening with Virginie and her two oldest daughters at the home of the Vandermostens, their integration family. It was really fun! We ate and played games and laughed and all that good stuff. But the best part was during the spiritual thought, given by Sr. Vandermosten, about the importance of having a testimony and sharing it. Virginie asked, What's a testimony? and they told her that it's when you know something through the Holy Ghost. She said, Can you have more than one? They answered, You can have a testimony that God exists, a testimony that prayer works, that the Church is true, that the Book of Mormon is true... and she said, Oh, well I already have that.
Ahghnejehebbh SO COOL.
Wednesday was transfer day, which was cool because I got to see a lot of my homies for the last time. The group of elders I came into the mission with were going home. It was weird, honestly, but fun. Elder Schow went to pick up his new son and I went to my new ville.
Now let's talk about Évry. It is different from what I expected.
- First of all, the apartment is terrible haha. Not enough space for the 4 missionaries that live here; old junk everywhere; ancient, caved-in mattresses; insufficient kitchenware (and food, for that matter—we legitimately eat rice every day); virtually no cleaning products; stained and pockmarked walls; all the pans have had their teflon coating scraped off by people who don't know you're not supposed to prepare your food on them with a metal steak knife... Yeah. Maybe Elder Schow just made me a real snob with his cleaning obsession and love of high-quality cooking experiences. Let's just say I've already thrown out over 6 garbage bags of clutter and trash that's been collecting here.
- People told me that Évry was full of African people. I didn't realize what they meant by that. I was imagining, like, 40 percent Africans and the rest would be French...boy, was that inaccurate. After being here for a few days, I'd honestly put it at about 80-85% African. The rest is divided between French and Arabic. It's an interesting thing when you get on a train and the only other white person you see is your companion.
- The ward is...big! Definitely the biggest ward I've ever had, at about 180 active members. And possibly the smallest percentage of French people of any of my wards or branches, too. (Still higher than the white:black ratio in the town of Évry, because all the French members live in nicer, smaller villes around it.) And ward council actually happens—and not only that, but when it happens, it actually helps get things accomplished! Another first for me.
- My new companion, Elder Grayston, is a huge fan of "split contacting": we find a place where we can stay within sight and sound while each contacting different people at the same time. It's something I haven't done a lot on my mission until now, but it's kind of exciting.
We've been working hard and finding a ton of people who have said they'd meet us again. They are all African so far. So we need to hope and pray that those appointments will go through—apparently that's been the recurring problem in Évry missionary work. In order to find more "solid" people, we've also been trying to do a lot of finding in the farther-away, more French areas of our sector (it's not racist, just a difference in culture that must be acknowledged). But whenever we've taken the trips to get there, which take almost an hour, we've found that they're just empty of anyone in the streets or the homes...so we'll have to find other ways to attack the issue. It's an interesting challenge. I may or may not update you on it next week. They tell me next week will be my last email home. Still feels like it should be forever away.
I did have a cool experience talking to a French guy in the street, though. Although non-believing, he was super open. There, I got to teach someone about prayer—someone who knew legitimately nothing about it, what it was or how to do it. He was amazed at the simplicity of it. No real rules except sincerely expressing your thoughts to God. He didn't want to meet again for the moment, but he said he'd try it. And you know what? I believe him.
Well, I don't want to get all dramatic about the whole "this is my last week" thing. All good things come to an end. Except life, heaven, eternal families, personal progression, priesthood, God's love for us, and foufou at an African dinner appointment.
This wall art underneath the Namur train station accurately represents how Elder Stanford feels as he sees the end of his mission approaching:
Our P-Day trip with the wonderful Badoux couple in Namur;
|I finally left a pair of shoes
behind. Goodbye, contacting shoes. |
They were trustworthy as ever. I always saved them for a non-rainy day.
|My new and last comp, Elder
I'm his 5th kill, the poor guy.
|The aforementioned African
dinner appointment. |
Tshim Tshinemu and his family.
Well, I guess I'll see you all soon. Love you guys. Be the best version of yourselves that you can be.
Elder Jordan Stanford
Mission française de Paris