Serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in northern France, southern Belgium and Luxembourg.

Monday, December 28, 2015

"Mon frère, je suis à Paris"

Merry Christmas everyone!

"Je suis à Paris" is a running joke among those missionaries who have taught Africans in France. If you haven't had someone tell you they're in Paris when you call to ask if they're still coming to your appointment, you didn't serve in the France Paris mission. It's just the way it goes.

Right then. This week...everyone was in Paris. It's as if there were a huge party being thrown there and everyone was invited but me. A big African party (by that I mean a big party for Africans, not necessarily a party for big Africans) where they play "C Bon Le Mariage" on big speakers and dance around in boubous and eat spicy semoule and talk to each other in that language that all Africans seem to understand regardless of nationality. That's what I'm imagining, because why else would everybody be there at the same time??

Christmas was good though. I wanted to give a HUGE thank-you to everyone who sent me stuff for Christmas. I really got too much.
(Seriously though. Either I'm going to die from all the candy I got, or I'm going to have to throw a party similar to the one in Paris in order to give some away.) We also ate at the Raherimandimby family's house for over 2 hours straight. Not that you care about whose house it was, but I just like saying Raherimandimby. Try it. But yeah, thank you everyone who send me cards and packages! I now know I haven't yet been forgotten.

Last spiritual thought of 2015:

Right now, we're in a special moment where we still have the feeling of Christmas and we remember the Saviour more strongly, but the new year hasn't yet begun. I think we should all profit from this occasion to begin setting goals, using that special spirit of Jesus Christ that hasn't made its leave, for how we can be closer to Him in this new year than ever before.

I love you all! Be good.

Elder Stanford

Christmas Skype call ! 

Monday, December 21, 2015

I'm not used to praying like this.

Let me preface this story by telling you all a fun fact: over the course of my mission I've taught the gospel to people from over 25 countries, and met people in a non-teaching capacity from over 25 more. This Tuesday I added one more country to the list: Romania. 

So we were in Lille for exchanges. Me and my exchange comp, Elder Fonua from Hawaii, decided to go batting (a missionary-invented word made by combining "tracting" with the French word for "apartment building"). Around the 4th or 5th floor, we rang the doorbell of this family of five Romanians--some of whom spoke very limited French, the rest of whom didn't speak any at all. They let us in (which was already kind of a miracle) and eventually we got across that we were servants of Jesus Christ, and we asked if we could just pray with them because they couldn't understand much else. They all got pretty excited to pray with us. All five stood up, and the women went and got these prayer shawls (I'm guessing they got that from 1 Corinthians 11:5) and one of the women started praying out loud in her language. And then the other woman joined her, both saying their personal prayers aloud beside each other. And then the three men joined in one by one, so that five individual prayers were all being said out loud simultaneously. I didn't know what to do, so I just looked at Elder Fonua, bowed my head, and said my own personal prayer out loud with the rest of them. God hears all of them anyway, right?

After a few minutes (and a few amens and hallelujahs) everyone quieted down one by one. We looked up...and saw that one of the women was crying. Initially I thought that she was just feelin' the Spirit super hard, but then she told us that her husband was really sick. And before I could even open their Romanian Bible and show them the verse that says elders can heal the sick with oil, they were asking us for a blessing! Using this half-broken-French-half-charades language, I'll just let you imagine. So we ended up giving a Priesthood blessing to an ill Romanian man that we had met 10 minutes earlier. 

We set a return rendez-vous for the next day and left. Then the next night, as Elder Smith and I were back in Amiens, we got an excited phone call from the elders in Lille, who told us the rest of the story: they went back, and the family of five had brought nine more Romanians to listen! As they passed around a few Romanian copies of the Book of Mormon, one of the new people (who spoke French) said, "I like this book. Can I have more copies?" When they asked him how many, he responded, "Well, my Romanian congregation has about forty people. Can we get forty?"


Stay tuned as the elders in Lille distribute forty BoMs to a congregation of Romanian Christians. Will they believe? Will a Romanian branch be started in Lille? Find it all out next time, on the new hit series, Why Don't We Ever Just Teach French People. 

One other story before I close. So we met a man from Cameroon in front of the Amiens train station to teach him. After a weird and slightly contentious conversation (in the which he said it was pretentious to call ourselves Latter-day Saints and judgmental to say our message brings people closer to God), we offered to pray with him. Suddenly we became best friends as he offered the prayer. As per his suggestion, we ended up the three of us holding hands in a circle while he said a typical Evangelical African prayer (Oui Papa trois fois saint, mon Dieu mon Roi etc). It wasn't that weird until he started singing (while still holding our hands in front of the train station). He went for four verses of song and then broke into falsetto, and Elder Smith and I could barely control our laughter. So that's the story of how I ended up holding hands with a big African man singing Jesus songs in his falsetto, while people walking out of the train station observed. 

That's all I've got for this week. Merry Christmas everyone! Make it awesome, and anyways focused on family and on the Saviour. Love you all!

Elder Stanford

Monday, December 14, 2015

Blood pressure: maximum

Let me tell you all about my experience this Friday. 

So we woke up at 5:30 in Arras and caught our train to Paris for the Christmas conference. It was great, by the way. I got to see my last two companions, Elder Orton and Elder Dudfield, as well as many friends from my last two zones (Belgium and Strasbourg). 

So we had to leave early in order to catch the early train that would get us back to Amiens in time for Blessing's baptism that evening. This is what happened starting from the moment we arrived in Paris before the conference in our connection to Versailles. I will tell the story using all the misfortunes and miracles that happened. 

- Misfortune: we lost a sister missionary between two Paris metro stations. Miracle: the Sister Training Leaders happened to arrive right afterward and find her so she was okay. 
- Misfortune: on the way from Paris to Versailles, I accidentally got on the train without getting a ticket from the Paris zone leaders. Miracle: as the controllers went through checking everyone's tickets, they controlled everybody except me and I escaped the fine. 
- Misfortune: we left the Versailles chapel way too late to get to the train station on time. Miracle: we got a senior missionary couple to drive us I their car so we didn't miss our train from Versailles back to Paris. 
- Misfortune: as we sat in the train back to Paris, Elder Smith and I realized that we had BOTH left our in Versailles. (I haven't seen any miracle attached to this one yet.)
- Misfortune: we were 30 cents short of having enough change to buy tickets back to the right train station in Paris, and we had about 2 minutes to find some. Miracle: out of desperation we tried the tickets that we had already used, and somehow they worked again. We got to the correct train station with just a few minutes to spare. 
- Misfortune: we realized that my train tickets from Paris to Amiens were in my iPad case sitting in Versailles. Miracle: I was allowed to buy a new ticket when I was already sitting on the train, and Elder Smith and I found just enough cash to buy it. We got back to Amiens on time. 
- Misfortune: back in Amiens, the bus to take us to the chapel (which comes every 10 minutes) didn't show up for like half an hour. Miracle: because of that, we bumped into an old ami, who then came to church this Sunday. 
- Misfortune: we only have one white baptismal dress in our little chapel. Miracle: it fit Blessing almost perfectly. 
- Misfortune: a man came to the baptism that we've only met with one time, and he proceeded to take some paper from the library and use it to roll some cigars in the bathroom. Miracle: he suddenly had to leave and didn't smoke anything inside the church. All he left behind was a bunch of tobacco scattered around the bathroom. 
- Misfortune: the printer didn't have any ink and we weren't able to print out the programs for the baptism. Miracle: we were able to remember everything we had scheduled even without the program in front of us. 
- Misfortune: the branch president didn't show up (and you need a member of the branch presidency to come to authorize the baptism), nor did one of the people who was supposed to give a talk. Miracle: his one counsellor came last minute, and somehow everything went well anyway. 
- Misfortune: when Elder Smith and Blessing got into the font, they realized it was SUPER cold. Miracle: Blessing, African though she may be, found the courage to be baptized anyway. Only took two tries. 

As you can see, Satan tried everything to get this thing not to work. I can safely say that those rushed prayers I said all throughout that day were some of the most sincere and faithful I've ever said. And I was able to see the hand of God in so many ways making everything work out. Makes you think. Could I see that many miracles every day if I prayed like that every day as well?

I think everyone can stop relying on themselves so much. It makes things suuuuuper stressful. Because we're imperfect and can't take on everything at once. If we turn our situations over to God, then as long as we're still trying our best, everything will work out the way that is best for us. 

Love you all! Be good!

Elder Stanford

Monday, December 7, 2015

How to share a language

This week was kind of a blur. Elder Smith and I have been working hard trying to baptize the whole city and it's gone by super quick. 

Let's see, what even happened? We went to Arras, Lille and Calais for exchanges, which made the week even shorter. (Side note: the mission spends a lot of money getting us missionaries from one place to another. If this were a business, it would honestly be the worst business plan ever.) We taught 13 lessons, got frouged a few times, did a bit of contacting, got bugged by some Arab kids who may literally all be clones of one another, planned Blessing's baptism, and a bunch of other stuff. 

Something cool this Sunday was that the branch finally got a translation system so that all the Nigerians can actually understand what happens in church. So they all put in earphones and someone sits in the back with a little headset to do live translations into English of everything that's going on. Kinda cool. I was the one who got to do it first and I felt just a little like a secret agent. Spiritual James Bond. They said it really helped their experience. 

I learned from my Nigerian friends about Broken English (also known as "Pigeon"), which is a language they speak in Nigeria. Apparently not everyone there gets a formal education, so they don't all know how to speak English. And their tribal languages are all different as well. Being the friendly African people that they are, they can't stand the thought of a person not being able to participate in a conversation, "because how can you get to know someone if you can't speak to dem?" And thus Pigeon was formed. Basically it's English with no grammar rules whatsoever, and so people can pick it up really quickly. (For example: "I'll see you later" doesn't work, because "I will" is a grammar rule that indicates future. So you say, "We go see latah.")

Our ami Lawrence explained Broken English this way: keeping a language to yourself is selfish. You must share it. When you have a piece of food, how do you share it? You break it in pieces so everyone can have some. So, logically, they did the same thing with the English language: broke it in pieces, broke it in every way they could, so that everyone could use it. Man, I love African culture. 

That's all I've got for this week. I love you all, soyez sages! Christmas is coming. We go see latah. 

Elder Stanford
Mission française de Paris

Monday, November 30, 2015

Welcome to New Nigeria!

When I stepped off the train into Amiens, I did not know what I was getting myself into. I stepped into an explosion of African-ness. On another note, the missionary work here is really prospering.
Correlation does not equal causation, am I right?

So this Saturday was the first day I got to do real work in my sector.
First stop - an African store. I mean literally a store called "Gloire Exotique" that only sells things that Africans like. Wigs and weaves, weird-looking vegetables, you name it. We taught the owner of the store, Fideline, from Nigeria. She walked up to me and said "Hello my bruddah. You are welcome." We taught her about Jesus, and then at the end she offered to give us some food from her store. We declined, and she looked at us and said "If you don't take this food, I'm not letting you come preach to me anymore." So we left with a bottle of Coke, some African peanut butter and a bag of chicken. One rendez-vous down, many more to go.

Then we went to a member's house, Olive, from Nigeria. I introduced myself and she said "You are welcome bruddah. You are welcome." We were there to teach an investigator, Lawrence, from Nigeria. He was late so she called him and said "What is wrong witt you? The missionaries are here waiting." Lawrence got there, I introduced myself and he said "Hello my bruddah. You are welcome." We taught him about Jesus. He's dope, by the way. He has a baptismal date for January.

After that we went to another member's house, Evelyn, from Nigeria.
Her friend was there - an investigator, Blessing, also from Nigeria. I introduced myself and they said "Hello my bruddah. You are welcome."
We taught her about Jesus. She's dope, by the way. She has a baptismal date for two weeks from now. At the end, they gave us four meat pies.

So we left their apartment eating these African meat pies and realized we were late for the bus. We saw it stopped at a red light and ran to it, and the bus driver kindly let us in. Two white guys in suits running with African food. The bus driver was, of course, African.
This story gets funnier in a bit. Stay tuned.

After that we taught our investigator Georges, from Congo, with a member from Madagascar. I got a little flashback of Paris with that one. We taught him about Jesus. I apparently wasn't as welcome this time.

So after this rendez-vous, we walked toward the bus and remembered about the extra meat pies we had in our bag. We took them out and ate them as we were waiting. Then came the bus, and we got on, still holding this African food...and make awkward eye contact with who else but the very same African bus driver. I'm just imagining what this guy was thinking...after seeing the same white guys in suits, an hour and a half later on the other side of town, still eating the same African food. What does he even think missionaries do? The world may never know.

Then we went and taught Williams, a recent convert from Nigeria. We taught him about Jesus. He was invited to church for the first time by a different recent convert, Valentine, from Nigeria. Now this guy's got a crazy story.

Williams converted from Islam to Christianity in Nigeria. As he was running for an office in the student body presidency, he became a target due to his change in religion. One time he visited his family for a few days, then came back to find his classroom bombed and his roommates dead in his apartment. Another time he was shopping, bent down to tie his shoe, and a sniper bullet passed through where his head had just been. Knowing that staying in the same place would get him killed, as would running away, he ran toward the sniper, pulled him out of the tree, and fought him until the police arrived.
...then he decided it might be a good idea to move away. He came to France, met the restored church of Jesus Christ, as voilà. The rest is history.

We have more investigators but I'll tell you about them next time, lest I bore you with an email which would be, as the French say, "hyper long."

Love you all! Bisous!

Elder Stanford

Monday, November 23, 2015

One and done

Y'all didn't see this coming. 

The good news is that despite recent attacks on France, the world-famous Marché de Noël will still be happening in Strasbourg, the capital of Christmas. The bad news is that I won't be around to see it. 

That's right, this Saturday we got transfer news. And they're booting me out of Strasbourg. After just one transfer. In the mission we call that a "one and done." For those of you keeping track at home, I have spent exactly half the time in each ville as the ville prior--Antony, 4 transfers (6 months); Liège, 2 transfers (3 months); Strasbourg, 1 transfer (1.5 months). I think this means I may only get three weeks in my new area. We'll see.

So my new ville is called Amiens. (If you wish to try to pronounce it correctly, saying "umm-yeah" quickly may get you as close as possible.) I'm told that everything good is happening in Amiens right now, as far as missionary work goes. Baptisms, progressing investigators, working with members, everything. The missionary I will replace talked to me on the phone just to tell me that (basically to say "don't screw this up for us please"). I'm super excited but a little nervous for the responsibility. But they tell me that Elder Smith, my new companion, works really hard so I'm excited to work hard with him. 

So... umm yeah. 

The pins are where I've served. Just for you visual people. 

Anyway. A new adventure sure to catch the next season of "I still don't know what I'm doing but it's awesome and I'll do it anyway."

District pictures
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Elder Stanford

Monday, November 16, 2015

O that thou hadst hearkened unto my commandments...

...then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea. 
Isaiah 48:18

Disclaimer: what follows is somewhat rant-y, possibly a tad self-righteous and has almost nothing to do with the events of my week. Readers may skip on if they wish. 

Isaiah 48:18 was the scripture that I chose at the beginning of the week to focus on and ponderize. I chose it because for the past few weeks, I've been realizing more and more how much better the world would be if everyone lived the commandments and principles of the church. Do you guys realize this? The world would be a thousand times better if everyone lived the way Latter-Day Saints are taught to live. 

The truth of this scripture was made manifest this weekend. Imagine if these people, indoctrinated and radicalized in the wicked traditions of their fathers, had grown up with the Gospel of Jesus Christ instead. These poor people who make the choice to end innocent lives because of whatever reasons--those reasons would not exist had the gospel been planted in their hearts when they were young. 

But that's not everything. The things that are going on in the rest of the world are not good either, terrorist attacks aside. What the world doesn't seem to see is that as they drift further and further from God and the values that originate from Him, things become worse and worse in the world. People are running around trying to fix problems that wouldn't be there if everyone lived the principles of the gospel. And as people continue to devote themselves to pride, lasciviousness and self-justification, the problems will not be fixed. The amount of people "that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness" (Isaiah 5:20-25) is greater now than it may have ever been before. 

Ezra Taft Benson, a modern-day prophet and head of the church, said: "Only the gospel will save the world from the calamity of its own self-destruction. Only the gospel will unite men of all races and nationalities in peace. Only the gospel will bring joy, happiness, and salvation to the human family." Just sayin'...he's not wrong. 

Anyway. Don't follow the world. Ye are not of the world. As the world turns more and more away from what is right, it is your duty to stand firm, shine your light, and be an example of the believers. 

Love you all. Until next week,

Elder Stanford, signing off. 

PS Missionary work restarts today, although I'm sure in Paris they're not quite there yet. We're still not supposed to go to centreville (who knows who might do demonstration things in centreville) and common sense says to avoid certain areas, especially after dark. But the work rolls forth. No unhallowed hand, am I right?

Zone Conference in Nancy

Monday, November 9, 2015

A New Hope

Disclaimer: Any references to Star Wars, despite the upcoming Episode 7, are unintentional and spring only from the subconscious of a missionary surrounded by the ads thereof.

So this week was actually really good. Here's some of what happened:
- We met people on the street who were actually down to talk to us. 
- We got fed twice in one day. 
- We finally managed to visit some members. (Who didn't feed us but ça va.)
- Our amie found herself in Germany while trying to get to church. 
- We definitely found out where not to go in our area after dark. 
- We broke Elder Dudfield's record of most lessons taught in a week, despite being out of our sector for a day to work in Colmar. 
- We taught an awesome new person who is our New Hope. 

But more on Daniela in a sec. I told you last week I'd talk about Patrick, one of my Strasbourg heroes. This is him:

Patrick was contacted one day in the street by missionaries, before I was born. He accepted to hear the gospel and was baptized. Soon after, he fell into inactivity. But just recently, he started coming back to church for the first time in 20 years. He stopped drinking and smoking out of sheer willpower and divine assistance. We visit with him every week, mostly just to support him as he makes his own changes in his life. And he's noticed those changes that the gospel brings and he testifies of them. That's the first thing I admire about Patrick - he's using the gospel to change his life around. 

The second thing is his perseverance through trials. This dude's had a hard life. Health problems, the death of his father, rejection from both his mother and daughter, plus the mistakes that he made when he wasn't active that still have consequences now. Yet he keeps on keepin' on. 

The third thing I admire about Patrick is that he is not ashamed of his beliefs. In France there is a sickness where talking about what you believe is highly discouraged by society. People here pretend to always be happy with their personal lives, and no one wants personal stuff to be brought into the public sphere. Patrick is one of the only French members I know who will actually post something about his beliefs on social media, for example. I love it. Sooner or later he will help someone come to the knowledge of the truthfulness of the gospel, while the others won't. 

Anyway. We taught a girl named Daniela who's got a friend in the ward. And having him in our lesson made a big difference. But mostly it was just her awesomeness. She is one of the most sincere people I've ever met and she's totally ready to change when she receives her answer to her prayers. The lesson went perfectly. We're seeing her again this week, by then she will have read 3 Nephi 11 and she'll be ready to hear more. We have more hope for her than any investigator we've taught together so far. More news next week!

The Hannecart family, Grandpa and Grandma's friends

Be good! Show the example of a real Christian, and don't forget Peter's counsel to "be  ready always to give an answer" to anyone who asks you what you believe and why. Love you all!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Thus passes another week

I lost my glasses. And I can't see how I'll find them again.
Heh. Glasses jokes. (I want you all to know that I made that one up all by myself. Right before Elder Dudfield found my glasses.)

Soooo this week. Let's see...we taught a guy named Robert who's super tranquille. From Congo Kinshasa obviously. He's the second non-member we've contacted here who actually is down to hear more. The first is an Italian man we've taught twice now named Alessandro. He's a very classy dude who's got an apartment with classy person things in it. You know, giant books that are held open to a certain page by little wooden arms, mini sailboats on stands, chic paintings done by himself, etc. He asks super deep questions. And the pattern continues where I don't know how to convince French people to listen to me. Italian and Belgian is the closest I've gotten so far.

Since being here I've also managed to spend some time in Metz, Nancy, St. Dié and Colmar (well, Colmar is tomorrow). Don't worry, it's all missionary stuff. Exchanges and stake activities and whatnot. This region of France is pretty lovely.

We teach some interesting people. One of the coolest ones is named Patrick, who is one of my heroes, but I'll tell you his story next week. (Suspense!) I'll have to get pictures with some of them. For now, all I've got is a picture of our amie, Adeline.

Sorry, nothing exciting. Love you guys, though. Be good.

Elder Jordan Stanford
Mission française de Paris

Monday, October 26, 2015

Do you believe in the wind?

So this story starts with two young, attractive men on a tram, slightly past 9:00 on a Friday evening. Only one other person was on the tram, and he got off one or two stops after the attractive young men got on. As he did so, the red-headed, slightly-more-attractive young man thought to himself, "I should have talked to that man. I hope I'll be able to find someone else to talk to on this tram ride home." Little did he know to what extent his wish would come true.

One stop later, a few people got on. Among them was a man with a mustache-goatee combo sitting on his face and a beer can sitting in his hand. He walked up to us (okay yes, this story is about us) and asked, "What are you guys? Mormons? Jehovah's Witnesses?" After we informed him that we were Mormons, this man took it upon himself to express his feelings toward our church in a most colourful manner.
Apparently his sister had joined the church, and this man was upset that she didn't go drinking with them anymore. He proceeded to say many things--some of which were false claims against the church, while others detailed his violent feelings toward...well, everyone who wasn't like him.

After he realized that attacking the church wouldn't ruffle our feathers very much, he decided to change his approach by attacking the core beliefs of religious people in general. "How can you believe there is a God?" he asked as derisively as he could manage. "You can't see Him so He's not there."

Then I got an idea. I looked at this man and said, "Monsieur, I'm going to ask you a question. Do you believe in the wind?"

He quickly answered, "Well yes, because although I can't see the wind, I can feel it."

Perfect. I looked him in the eyes and told him, "I have felt God in my life."

For the first time since I had met him, he stayed quiet. For about half a second, that is. Then he chose to ignore everything I had said, offered to fight us at the next stop, informed us that he knew more than we did, and finally got off the tram.

There was an awkward silence as all the other French people around us (the tram had gotten full near the end of our conversation) stared at the ground in shame because of what their compatriot had been doing.
Then we smiled at them and said "It happens." That broke the awkwardness a little. We wished everyone a good night and got off the tram to walk safely to our home in beautiful Strasbourg.

The end.

One of my favourite amis (Toussaint) and one of my favourite less-actives from back in my days in Liège.

Monday, October 19, 2015

I don't know anyone in Strasbourg

Week one of whitewashing: few immediate results. But that's to be expected. We've got a lot of building up to do, and my companion and I don't know anyone here. We hardly even know each other. He's pretty young and his first ville was very far away, so I had never even heard of him in my whole mission life. 

Elder Dudfield is a quarter-Asian man from Melbourne, Australia. He's in his 5th (two transfers behind me). He writes a lot of girls--though one of them is more special than the rest--and likes to point out differences between Australian and North American culture. But at least he understands what a kilogram is. On that note, this is my first non-American comp. In fact, this is my first comp not from the Salk Lake City area. It's nice, because lots of people assume we're all Americans. They don't understand that the restored Church of Jesus Christ is not an American church. 

Strasbourg is a beautiful city. There are buildings everywhere that look like they belong in a more modern Beauty and the Beast. We live on the river and it is gorgeous. Allow me to attach a picture:

This is what you see when you get off the tram to go to our apartment. We live right by that bridge you see. 
And those boats are actually just floating restaurants. Cool, no?

And this is what you see when you walk from our apartment to the tram stop. The Apostasy was architecturally astounding. 

Here's my comp and me on the bridge. Can you make out what we're fencing with?
That's because we're in France. Pretty sure this is an accurate historical enactment. 

So I've been shifting my focus lately. It's been going from a "contact-until-you-teach, teach-until-you-baptize, rinse-and-repeat-until-you-leave" approach to more of an approach that's focused on the ward members and helping them grow and share the gospel. If they're less-active, I want to get them active. If they're active but only somewhat committed, I want to get them fully committed. If they've got strong testimonies but don't know how to share the gospel, I want to get them sharing. Because those results will last far longer than my time here. Obviously I still need to find, teach and baptize, but my impact can extend much further than that. There's no stat for helping a kid in your ward go on a mission, yet I see it as one of the best things I could do. 

...don't let me skip out on contacting, though. It's essential. 

Anyway, you guys can do it too. You can join me in the work of strengthening the ward. Show someone that you care that they're not going to church. Invite your friend to a ward activity. Strengthen your own testimony..."and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren."

I love you all. Strasbourg week 2 coming your way. Bisous!

Elder Stanford

Four-generation pictures: Elder Wheatley (my father), me, Elder Harris (my son) and Elder Barton (my newborn grandson).

PS: A cross-language study of New Testament translations

So I've started a pretty interesting study recently. I've been comparing the two Bibles I use here on the mission: the King James Version in English and the Louis Segond Version in French. Both claim to be translated directly from the original Hebrew and Greek texts. The differences between the two - despite the similarity between the English and French languages - demonstrate how important points and even pure doctrine can be changed with just one or two translations. 

Imagine, for example, that you want to show someone using biblical proof that God presented the Plan of Salvation before the Creation even happened. Easy - Titus 1:2. But in French, instead of saying "before the world began" it says "since the earliest times," which could be taken very differently. (Luke 1:70 is similar.)

Or if you wanted to show that it was Jesus Christ who created the world under the direction of God the Father. Ephesians 3:9 - God "created all things by Jesus Christ." But in French: God created all things. Period. 

In Hebrews 1:2, depending on what language you're reading, you might find that the Lord created multiple worlds, or you might find that He created just one. 

As you can see, doctrinal correctness appears to be found more often in the English KJV whenever discrepancies exist. In fact, the only French difference I've found that I like better is Acts 17:29 - in English, "we are the offspring of God"; in French, "we are the race of God." I think it does a better job of highlighting 1) the fact that God is not a cloud, but more importantly 2) the divine potential of all humans. 

Now, the soul-searching disciple and curious scholar alike ought to pose the questions: If there are doctrinal differences that appear in the Bible from just two translations, how many have been perpetuated over the centuries through the many translations just like them? What if we add that to careless transcriptions by hand, or even the express altering of "original texts" by those whose goal it is to please men rather than God?

The Holy Bible is a good thing containing hundreds of priceless truths - including the firsthand accounts of the life of our Saviour - but left on its own, it makes for a sandy foundation indeed. Do you see, dead reader, the need for a prophet today? Do you see the need for divine scripture translated by God rather than men, scripture which clarifies the plain and precious things that the Bible can only sometimes reveal?

The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ is evidence that God loves and speaks to His children in other places than just the holy land. The restored gospel of Jesus Christ is evidence that God loves and speaks to us today, just as He did in ancient times. He speaks to us through chosen prophets - after all, He always has. He can also speak to you, if you ask Him to. Put it to the test. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Surprise whitewashes and grandfatherhood

See ya later, Liège. 

So transfer announcements were made this weekend. And for the first time on my mission, they surprised me...because after only two transfers in Liège, they're shipping me out! I was sure I'd stay and possibly get a new companion here, but Elder Orton will be doing that instead. I'm really gonna miss this place. 

So where, you may ask, am I going? I don't think I'll tell you, you can all find out next week...JUST KIDDING I'll say it.

I am going to...Strasbourg! Look it up on a map, y'all. Apparently it's a ville that many missionaries wish to serve in at some point on their missions. I feel super lucky. I hear it's beautiful there. Just gotta make sure not to accidentally step into Germany. 

Another surprise is this: I'm whitewashing! (For those of you who aren't yet familiar with mission language, whitewashing means that both missionaries in a companionship move into the area at the same time, so neither of them knows anyone or can find their way around.) Whitewashing has always been on my mission bucket list - just didn't think it'd come this soon. So I'll keep you updated on this new adventure. 

But even with all those surprises, I think the best news on the repertoire is this: I'm going to be a grandfather! Yes, my son is training this transfer. I'm so excited for him. Elder Harris is an excellent missionary and he's got all he needs to help his blue succeed. 

Oh and something else that's cool is that on my way to Strasbourg I'll stop in Paris for a few hours, which is where my father (Elder Wheatley, remember him?) will be as a zone leader, along with my son and his new son. 4-generation picture coming up next week!

Love you all! See you on the other side...of the border. Ya know, because I'll be in France again instead of Belgium. Yeah.

So there ya have it, folks. This Wednesday morning, I'm packing up and moving from something great to something even better. And thus the Lord's work rolls forth. 

Elder Stanford, out.

I shall write my next epistle from France. Salute all the brethren of the household of faith. The grace of God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen. 

P-day bowling with the Calgary homies!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Of General Conference and friends

Hey family and friends!

First of all, big shoutout to the Tillemans and the Primary! Thanks for the letter! You guys are the best. 

So this week was General Conference which was awesome. If you come with a question, listen attentively and take notes, you're sure to leave the conference not only as a slightly better person, but with a huge desire to become the best person that you can be (because hint: that's the person God wants you to be). And it's cool because with His help and thanks to His Son, the best you can become is far greater than what your best would otherwise have been. 

If you haven't watched Conference, I encourage you with all the energy of my soul to go to and watch it. If Moses were around, wouldn't you want to hear what he had to say? There is a prophet on the earth today as well. It's like the holy scriptures, but meant specifically for modern times, and not written in Ye Olde English. 

Whose talks were the best? That's for you to decide, dear reader. For my situation personally, I liked Elder Lawrence's, Brother Durrant's, Elder Renlund's, and many others. Different talks, such as Elder Foster's and President Utchdorf's, are ones that I can see being very helpful for me and others down the road. 

This weekend was also a cool occasion because my dear friends Josie and Taylen stopped in Liège and watched Conference with me. Shoutout to them because they are awesome! My mommy will probably post pictures so no worries about that. 

As far as missionary stuff, suffice it to say that our last couple weeks of not getting the usual results for our work have ended. We don't have too many progressing amis right now, but we managed to get a BUNCH of new amis this week. Most of them were actually delayed results from last week or the week before. 

Which brings me to ponder again on the impossibility of measuring the real impact of a mission. If I'm seeing good results a couple weeks after putting the work in, I wonder how many good results I haven't seen because they've come months after. Or how many good results haven't even happened yet but will because of some of the things I've done. I'm convinced that I'll see a small fraction of those good results years down the road, and the rest in my Heavenly Highlight Reel. Yes, that is the first thing that happens upon entrance into the Celestial Kingdom. #doctrinebystanford

I love you all! Keep it real. A good way to do that is by watching Conference and inviting others to do the same. 

Elder Stanford

Monday, September 28, 2015

A Bible! A Bible!

Hey everyone!

So this week: We called a potential ami in our phone who actually answered (surprise) and agreed to set up a RDV with us (bigger surprise). So we got his address, found the street, and got to that street 5 minutes before the time we had set. And then:

Elder Orton: "So what was the house number?"
Elder Stanford: "570."
Elder Orton: "Ok what number are we at?"
*both of us look over*
Elder Stanford: "...crap."

Thus began the epic tale of two missionaries walking down a street, through construction, past the TJs and chapels that date back to the Apostasy, from #3 to #570. Yes, the numbers only went up by 2 with each house. And yes, we were quite late. But this is not the sad part of the story, because the guy and his girlfriend were 20 minutes late to their house, and we were only 18. 

So we get into this RDV and explain things, including the Apostasy, Restoration and Book of Mormon. And we think it's making sense to them...yeah...turns out we were mistaken. And then they pretty much quoted 2 Nephi 29 without even knowing it. 

Here is the account of some of the things they said, and some of the things I would have liked to say back. 

"Wait so...the stories in here...aren't in the Bible?"
No...we know you already have a Bible, why would we give you the same stories?

"All we know is Jesus Christ. We can't accept anything else."
It literally testifies of Christ the whole time and has His name on the cover. 

"So this guy, Mormon, was he one of the 12 disciples? If not then we can't accept."
Was Moses? Doesn't mean he can't write scripture. Wait, I thought you knew the Bible...?

"So why didn't Jesus ever mention Mormon?"
1) Why didn't He ever mention Noah or Paul? 
2) Most of the life of Jesus isn't actually recorded (John 21:25). 
3) He did mention His other sheep that lived elsewhere (John 10:16). 

"Doesn't Revelation say not to add anything else?"
1) John only says not to add anything onto that specific was he supposed to know that centuries later his revelation would be put at the end of a book called the Bible?
2) If we were supposed to take that literally, everything after Deuteronomy 4:2 would be false. 

Any more questions?

I'm telling you, we really tried everything. Everything that wasn't impolite to say, that is. Sometimes people just don't understand that they need something other than La Bible. At the end, all we could say was, you've just got to pray about it. I hope that at least that part was understood before we left. 

Face it, world. The Book of Mormon makes sense. You can't prove it wrong -- scientifically, biblically or otherwise. You've just got to pray about it. Pray about it. Either it's true and you should listen to what it says, or it was made up and you won't feel anything when you ask God if it's true. There's really nothing to lose. 

That's my challenge to you: pray and ask God if the Book of Mormon is His word. Even if you already know it's true. Listen to what you feel. Let it improve your life right now and guide you to a much better life after. There's nothing to lose. 

Love you all! Until next week...Elder Stanford, signing off. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Random thoughts from a random week

Hey all!

Stuff is good here. Honestly there's not much to report though. My comp and I have taken turns being sick so we've spent two days inside, which kind of sucks. I went to a lesson while I was sick where we taught the Word of Wisdom and I was like "Today we're going to talk about a commandment that's here to help us keep our bodies in good health." But I could barely even speak when I said it and I kept coughing and stuff. I hope nobody noticed the irony. (Is that what irony is? I keep forgetting the real definition. I just know that most people use that word wrong.) but yeah, we go to our rendez-vous but instead of contacting we've just come in and slept. So we haven't been finding new amis to replace the ones that inevitably fall off the planet. But we're trying! We just found a dope African couple (he's from Burundi and she's from Rwanda) who seem promising. They're not even living together! Which is pretty rare for couples here in Europe.
More updates to follow.

There are fruit flies everywhere in my apartment and they can't die. I trapped one in the microwave and turned it on for 15 seconds...and then I opened the door and it just flew right back out. Dunno what the microwave radiation did to it. Mutant fruit flies in the future? But we found one of those giant bug-eating bugs in our apartment (you know the ones that look like mosquitos but they're like the size of a golf
ball) so we're keeping it alive and hopefully it does some work.

My area is huge! Most of it I'll never even get to see in my 24 weeks here, just because of the amount time and money it would take. We called a potential ami in the phone who was like "Oh I can't see you guys, I moved to Waremme." Well Waremme is in our area...but sadly he's right. It would take too much time for us to get to his place and back (we have no car, just trains and buses) and so unless he's willing to drive into Liège to see us, it can't really happen. And as huge as our sector is, the zone leaders who live with us have an area about 3x the size. It touches Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
The stake is the Brussels Belgium stake, and it covers all of French-speaking Belgium. So I go into Brussels for zone conference and stuff which is kind of cool.

A couple funny stories (well more like funny quotes from investigators):

1. We were in Priesthood class with our investigator, Hugo. Hugo is very...sincere. And he speaks his mind. So we were talking about the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and the teacher said "When the Priesthood holder tells the person to receive the Holy Ghost, the person receives it at that moment. Are we all in agreement?" And everyone said yes, except Hugo. He just raised his hand and said "...skeptical." And Elder Orton and I just busted up.

2. We were teaching an Arabic-speaking man named Jamaa. He was telling us in broken French that he wanted to be a missionary like us and go around talking to the Arabs about the Book of Mormon. So to make sure he understood, I took the iPad and spoke into it, "Jamaa, if you want to be a missionary, you have to be baptized first." And when the iPad spoke it back to him in Arabic, he looked at us and just said, "...c'est juste." (That's fair.) Ok then! He's in the ZLs' area so they're working with him. We really do think he believes the Book of Mormon. (Side note: The guy converted to Christianity from Islam and had to flee to Europe for his life, so he's already got a pretty cool

3. We were teaching a man about fasting and how he can fast for strength to overcome his smoking addiction. And he said "Two meals? Ok so I'll fast for three...and if this works, that means the Mormons are right."

Anyway. This email had about as much cohesion as my week. That's all for now.

Love you all! Write me big letters!

Elder Stanford

Monday, September 14, 2015

On baptisms, relationships, and unity.

Hey all!

This week: the zone leaders had two more baptisms. This time it was a couple - a guy from Congo (of course) and a Belgian woman. They had to get married and quit smoking before their baptism, and they did both!
I got to go to their house this week on an exchange and eat there, and then we are at a member family's house last night too, thus getting double the Liège mangez-vous count in one week than I had gotten until that point.

So we brought our ami Toussaint to the baptism, and he brought his girlfriend and three kids! Really a beautiful family. The only thing that would make them more beautiful would be if they were married and sealed for eternity...but hey...we're gonna work with them for that!
Anyway, after the baptism, Toussaint told me that when he watched it, he just "wanted to get up right then and there and go into the font too." He said he's ready. We'll teach him more this week, and especially his wife. More updates to follow. But you guys...invite your friends to baptismal services! Especially convert baptisms.
Nothing can go wrong.

I mentioned the member family that we visited last night. First of all, we got there early so we decided to knock doors for 20 minutes.
And we actually had someone give us her phone number and invite us back! I can count on one hand the number of times that's happened on my mission (this is #4). And we usually don't even get the number.

But that's not the cool part. Before the member visit, my comp and I had a bit of a disagreement on what we should share for a spiritual thought. I wanted to just do a classic missionary message about how we can share the gospel with our friends, and he wanted to do something about Moroni 10:3-5 and how we need to pray to know spiritual truths even as members. Eventually I decided to not be so stubborn and to be unified with my companion instead. And I guess I'm not always right, because when we shared Elder Orton's message it actually went really well. We got a text later that night from the mother saying "Your message was just perfect! [My son] has been having some doubts and is looking for a reason to keep coming to church. You are great missionaries and brought a good spirit into our home! Thank you for being a blessing to us." So that was a super humbling experience that I'm glad I was able to have. And they invited us to come back soon (:

Love you all! Feed the missionaries! Share the gospel by extending invitations to your friends! Be faithful!

Elder Stanford

The Liège District

                       A nice senior missionary couple took us to the Namur Citadel on P-Day
View from the top of the castle

The dude who invented the saxophone lived in this city

View from the Namur apartment

Monday, September 7, 2015

Singing songs

Hey all!

This week...was another week. Met some people. Taught some people. Got stood up by some people. Sang "I Will Survive" with my zone leader in front of the members. The usual. 

Saturday was crazy. We got up at 6 to go clean the church, because somebody switched the cleaning schedule around without telling us and we found out the night before. At 8 we started a funeral service for a member of the branch. We all sang "How Great Thou Art" in English at the request of her less-active son. After that, we had a meeting with the zone leaders and some of the other équipes they brought in from around Belgium. Then we went back to the church for the baptism of someone the soeurs had been teaching (sang a musical number there), then to a karaoke activity with the branch where they got me to sing...three times. 

And now I'm typing this on my new iPad in the back of a car on the way to explore a castle with our lovely senior couple missionaries. Life ain't so bad. 

Love you all! Be good!

Elder Stanford

Monday, August 31, 2015

Some weeks are just uneventful

Hey guys! This week was honestly pretty uneventful. It's not that I'm having too tough of a time or anything, it's just that some weeks aren't full of remarkable experiences. Roger was confirmed yesterday which was obviously the highlight. The soeurs in our branch should be having a baptism this Saturday so that's cool too. We've had a few good street contacts and even another guy who contacted us (that's happened 4 or 5 times in my one transfer in Liège, which is more than
in my four transfers in Antony), but we haven't gotten to see any of them yet because this time of year is super busy for everyone. 

So yesterday I had my first mangez-vous in Belgium, chez a not-too-poor family who fed us well. Except the first course was an awful mix of just straight up melon and fruits with a bit of cheese and jambon cru layered in. And I ate the whole plate. The first forkful I got this super strong gag reflex, and then the second forkful was a less-strong gag reflex, and then by the end it was gone (but I still hated it). I ate way slower than everyone and used like two whole glasses of their calorie-free Sprite but I did it. And then I was rewarded with a delicious lasagna, and even the dessert was blessedly fruit- and chocolate-free. It was like a flan had a beautiful baby with rice pudding. Yeah. 

My beautiful comp
The difference between planners at the beginning of a transfer and the end.

District pics!
That's all for this week! 
Love you all!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Back in white

Hey all!

So the bad news of this week is that the second iPad they ordered for me also got stolen before getting to me...along with any mail that any of you sent to me in the last 6 weeks. C'est la vie. But I'm not that sad because the good news far outweighs the bad!

The good news is the baptism of our investigator, Roger! This man was so prepared. He was found before I got here, when the missionaries went to the residence of his friend, and he just walked down the stairs with the Book of Mormon in his hand and joined the discussion. Turns out he was taught in Congo, already knew it was true, just never got to be baptized before coming to Belgium. 

Small story to finish: we left the apartment and walked a couple minutes before I realized I had forgotten to put on my nametag. So we went back and got it and that somehow put us in the perfect position to be contacted by a guy in the street. He asked us to pray with him, gave us his number to set up a rendez-vous, and then left. Uh...ok! Sure! We taught him the Restoration in the chapel. He told us after the lesson that during the First Vision, he felt something, "like the feeling you get when you win a race." He felt like he had finally gotten something, like he had found what he'd been striving for. We're seeing him again tomorrow.

That's all for this week! Stay tuned for the next episode. Love you all!

The chapel in Brussels

 Just Liège
We found a dog in a window.
It looks like what would happen if the lion really did lie with the lamb.

My companion and the zone leaders decorated my bed while I was in the other room.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The day I lost my favourite pen (among other stuff)

Anyone who's ever lived with me, or around me, knew this would happen. Let me tell you the story.

This week after district meeting, we were going home on the bus when we found a gigantic wallet on the seat next to us. It didn't belong to anyone on the bus. We found an ID and some phone numbers and we started calling the numbers to see if any of them were him. Anyway, what ended up happening was that I walked off the bus with the wallet in my hand...and left my whole shoulder bag on the bus as it drove away. That bag contained both my passports, our apartment keys, my debit card, about 80 Euros cash, my planner, my Book of Life...and even my favourite pen. All of them gone in an instant. It was a weight off my shoulder, but not in a good way.

We looked everywhere. We stayed for hours and checked every bus 13 as it passed by. We checked the lost and found, the bus headquarters...everywhere. That bag (and basically my whole identity) was gone.

It's amazing how much more fervent your prayers get when you realize exactly how much you need the help of God. This time, I couldn't convince myself I could do it on my own. Lot even a little bit. I couldn't pretend my efforts alone would make any difference. I was finally 100% beyond hope, and for the first time in too long, I turned the situation completely over to God. I begged Him to change the heart of whoever had my bag and prompt them to return it to the lost and found. 

As I was on my knees begging for our Heavenly Father to somehow get that person to want to return it, a profound impression came. I remembered the wallet, sitting over there on my desk. And a thought came to my mind: Somebody out there has been praying for his wallet to be given back, and you haven't answered his prayer.

So finally, we started putting in some effort to get this guy his wallet back. I won't go into the details, but it took hours of searching, writing, phone calls, a visit, etc. After doing everything we could, we went back to the lost and found this very morning...and voila. There was the bag. The only thing missing was the cash. Someone had my bag, stole the money, and then felt like he should return it to a place I could find it. And find it I did. It even still had my favourite pen.

Take whatever lessons you want from that experience. For me, suffice it to say that God is good.

Love you all!

Elder Stanford

Monday, August 10, 2015

The dopest investigator?

I'll get right to it. So we're walking down the street, looking for people to teach, doing missionary stuff, the usual. Then this guy sitting on these steps gets our attention as we walk by and starts talking to us. Within 2 minutes, he's given us his number and set a rendez-vous for the next day. Uhh...ok! Yeah we can do that! The one thing he says is, "Text me before you ring my doorbell because so many people are ringing that I usually just don't answer." Uhh...ok. Yeah we can do that.
So we get to this guy's house the next day and he's not there. We call him and he picks up and tells us he'll be home in a couple minutes. So we wait there and we see him walking in the distance, but on like 3 separate occasions he stops to talk to someone before finally making it to us. He walks up and Elder Orton's like "You know everyone don't you?" And then he tells us, yeah, he's actually this hip hop artist whose music videos have apparently been on TV in France and Africa. Uhh...ok! We get up to his apartment and he shows us a couple of his videos and then proceeds to tell us that he used to investigate the Church, and it gave him discipline and values and he did well. He wants that again in his life. He said he knows that everything that the missionaries taught him three years ago is true and he wants to get baptized! Ok yeah, we can do that! So we're starting from the beginning with him. He's so chill though. Honestly one of the most receptive guys I've ever taught. And guess where he's from...Congo. Seriously, send me on a mission to Congo.

If you guys want to see a video of our new investigator, find the YouTube chain "2noble". (Am I allowed to advertise like this?) Then imagine me and another white kid sitting in his apartment teaching him about Jesus. It may not be like the time two missionaries tracted into Liam Neeson, but it's as close as I've gotten so far.

Here are some things that have happened to me in Belgium so far. Ready go!
- Remember how I was scared about becoming fat in Paris? Hah! If I were on a quest for fatness, Liège would be where I would go. Everyone in Paris is skinny except the tourists. Here, they have these fries that are fried in some special ultra-unhealthy fat that's apparently illegal in many places but that makes it taste super good. Then they dump that into a baguette with a deep-fried meat of your choice and add two layers of sauce and call it good. Even the pigeons here are greasier than French ones. Time to start running in the mornings again.
- An investigator who speaks very little English (and even worse French) offered to give us his son when his family arrives from Eritrea. And we were like...your son? We don't want him! After a few minutes we found out he meant "daughter." Which didn't really make it better, because he was still offering his 11-year-old African daughter for marriage. We politely declined.
- A man sitting at a bar asked us to sign his shirt with a sharpie. We politely accepted.
- A new investigator saw the sister missionaries and then told us over the phone that he saw our wives. -_-
- On Saturday morning, we saw some teenagers outside our apartment who had been up all night. We called an ambulance for the girl who was passed out due to substance abuse, because the other ones were not in the proper state of mind to realize she needed help. (I debated whether or not to tell this one, but at least now you see a little bit of some people's lives without the Gospel.)

- We were contacted by a beautiful daughter of God trying to get us to donate to save some pandas. Later, the zone leaders were contacted by the same girl, and then they ended up teaching her at the chapel. They win this round.
- Everyone in Liège has an adorable dog with them and I want to cuddle them all. There is also a big college close to us with many of our sisters in the Lord attending it. I don't know whether the cute dogs or the cute girls are more distracting to the missionaries, but voila.
Until next week! Loves!
Elder Stanford