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

Monday, February 16, 2015


All right. This is the end of my first full week in the mission. Let me tell you all about it.
The first couple days were super tough. Hardest days so far, which I know isn't saying much, but still. We could not get any rendez-vous with anyone, or at least any that stuck, and we had 0 progressing amis. We worked really hard and did lots of contacting and prayed hard. But even after that we just kind of felt dead. Things would happen that we would be really excited for, but then no visible results would end up coming from it, and being let down from high hopes kind of just drained our energy.

Then! I went to my first zone conference, which was great and spiritual and good old President Babin loves this gospel so much that he will tear up while talking about anything, even progress records haha. That happened. I also got to see E. Rivas again and watch Meet The Mormons which were both kinda nice bonuses. But more importantly, the Spirit we felt at the conference--especially from President Babin's message--put the fire back in us (as Elder Wheatley would say) and after that...we started seeing miracles.

We had a first lesson with a rich white guy (which is a miracle on its own, rich white guys usually aren't interested in our message) and brought the Spirit into his home and he accepted our offer to come back! We're going to teach his whole family next time. Then came the coolest thing ever. We got home from that lesson with half an hour left in the day and we had a choice to make: either do some of the studies that we missed that morning because of zone conference, or go out and contact for half an hour. We decided to pray about it. Right afterward, Elder Wheatley was like "we definitely need to go contact." And I agreed, so we decided to pray again and this time ask where we needed to go. Elder Wheatley, who is a master at receiving and following promptings, felt that we needed to go to one specific place by our apartment. It was weird because no one is ever there at 8:30 at night, but we decided to go. Finally, we said a prayer right before we left the apartment, as we always do. I was saying it, and right in the middle, I got the distinct feeling that I needed to stop praying and just go. So I ended the prayer really abruptly and we left right away. We went to the spot we had designed to go, and after one rejection, we found the most awesome perfect golden contact I've had in my almost-a-whole-month on the mission. This would not have happened if I had been praying for much longer in my apartment. She believes in God but is still searching for the right religion. She asked all the right questions: "So what sets you guys apart from other Christians?" "Do you have any suggestions for specific chapters of the Book of Mormon I should read?" "Am I allowed to highlight and underline things in the book?" "When I come to your church, can I bring a friend?" YES YES YES! Super good. I'm really excited to meet with her soon. So that came from three prayers and three specific promptings followed. I also thought it was cool that Elder Wheatley and I both had to be in tune and follow the promptings we each got, or we would have totally missed this girl.
Yesterday we also taught the first lesson to an awesome family, the Senyigan family, who we found thanks to a recently converted member in our ward named Pierre. A whole family! That is the dream. The Spirit was the super strong, especially when we talked about the first vision. The father then testified of how much God loves us all, and he started crying right there. It was perfect. They invited us back next week! They told us their home is our home. Super sweet.
This next week is already booked almost solid! That's another miracle. I'm used to having blocks of three hours where we just go contacting or something. The miracles of this week are extending into the next, and I hope to have a lot of good things to talk about next week. Hopefully we can start adding to the list of progressing amis!
I've learned so much this week about the power of the Holy Ghost. Now that I'm more dedicated to following Christ more closely than ever before, now that I'm praying more fervently and reading more deeply and doing the things I should, it's like night and day. Spiritual promptings are there all the time and they can guide literally every aspect of our lives if we're just prepared for them. I wish I could have had this throughout my whole life up to this point. To everyone reading this, do everything you can to get this in your life! I'm not by any means perfect, but I'm experiencing this more than ever before in my life and even this difference is so worth it. Obedience to the gospel brings blessings beyond compare.

I want to write more but I don't have much time! Just came from the Eiffel Tower, which was cool and stuff. I'll send pictures. I also have a funny and weird experience that just occurred but I shall write about it next week!

Thanks to everyone that wrote to me! I read them all but didn't have the time to get back to everyone. I will next week!
Love you all! Hugs and prayers.

Elder Stanford

Coincidences? I think not!

Hey guys. Thanks for all your emails! And for sending me stuff! I got one of those slips saying I have a package, so I'm excited to get that and find out what's inside! Also, I wrote a couple of letters on the plane--the plane to Madrid, about a month ago--that I was never able to send but hopefully today!

What is this I hear about my singing being on Facebook?? I never agreed to this! Haha. Pretty sure we screwed up a couple of times.
Last week I promised to tell you all about a weird experience that happened. So. Every week we write all of our emails in this internet cafe. This sketchy-looking dude wearing sunglasses indoors and this trench-coat-looking thing is sitting across from me. He sees my name tag and says like "Hey, Stanford." So I go straight into missionary mode because obviously this guy wants to hear about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, right? We talk for a bit but I'm having trouble understanding him because he's speaking really quietly and kinda mumbling. So he asks for a pen and something to write on. I give him my pen and my planner and he starts to write... and I see that he's writing a phone number and I get just super excited because we're totally gonna teach this guy! I get my planner back and this is what it says: "(Just read don't talk) I want see you later. Please juste you. You're a human bomb." With his phone number. What the heck! So we kinda just...get out of there. We go to the Eiffel Tower a few minutes earlier than planned and go back to finish our emails after the dude's gone. Don't worry, I don't have any explosives on me, and nothing else sketchy happened haha. We didn't call the number. I don't think we had the BoM he was looking for.
This week felt super short because it was super busy! Let me tell you about some highlights. First of all, the father of the Senyigan family, Jean, came to church yesterday! So happy. After only one lesson. That's a huge step. He just needs to bring his whole family next time! But seriously you guys, member referrals are absolutely the way to go. Give names to the missionaries in your area! Helps so much. And then be there where they teach the lessons. Do it for me. Cool, thanks. Side note, the awesome guy that gave us the referral, Pierre, is getting the Priesthood soon! We're almost as excited as he is. Our goal is for him to be able to bring his whole family (who are seeing the missionaries in Togo) to the temple to be sealed together.
Now to explain the title. Three really cool things happened that, just based on probability, should not have happened. Let's hope I have time to explain all of them.
So. Last week, Elder Wheatley and I went to a little ville in our area named Chilly, because neither of us had ever been there before. We did a bit of contacting but no one wanted any of it. Then we decided to just go do some door-to-door work (or, as my president calls it, heart-to-heart) the middle of the day on a weekday when probably nobody would be home. We went to an apartment building and rang every name. but sure enough, nobody answered. So we decided to say a prayer because everything was feeling pretty dead. As we were praying, a few full minutes after we rang, some guy answered! So we did the whole "Amen!" scene from The Best Two Years and talked to this guy through his intercom, like "Hey we're Elder Wheatley and Elder Stanford and we're missionaries blah blah wanna hear our message?" He told us we had woken him up from a nap, he was tired, but to come back later. We asked when, and he week. A week! Man, if you don't want to let us in, just tell us. But we promised to come back in exactly one week. We asked him his name and he said "Elder." At that point we were sure this guy was just being a punk. But we left, and one week later we came back because we promised we would. On the way, we missed one of the trains and had to wait half an hour for the next one, so we decided to go contacting. And we found an ami! Taught him a lesson right there in the park. He's in the other Elders' area but they're meeting him this week! Really exciting. We tried to see "Elder" but, sure enough, he wasn't home. But we were okay with it because we found this other guy. THEN the sister missionaries in our ward called us with a referral from one of their amis. And who is it? A man named Helder, living in a ville named Chilly. Turns out it's the same guy! What are the odds?? So you better believe we are going back again and bringing about a miracle with this guy.
Second thing. A week ago I lost my Navigo, which is my pass for all public transport. Giant pain. But it set into motion a bunch of events that eventually led to us bumping into Sylvette on a bus! I talked about her two weeks ago. She hasn't been able to see us since that first contact but we found her again! We just need to help her see how much the gospel would benefit her life.
Third and coolest story: we were on a bus. (Notice how all of my stories involve public transport? That's because so much of my life is spent on public transport. But hey, I can't complain when it brings miracles like the one I'm about to share!) This guy named Louny starts talking to us on the bus and asks if we're Mormons. When we say yeah, he explains how his cousin met the missionaries and they changed his life. The missionaries and the gospel helped him overcome his alcohol and smoking addictions and he was baptized into the church, and apparently he's just way way happier now. So the cousin told Louny about how the gospel blessed his life and he needed to meet with the missionaries, but he never acted on it until he saw us on the bus! He wants what his cousin has. He was super excited to see us and even called his cousin while we were still with him to tell him the good news. We're meeting him for the first time in his home on Wednesday.

You guys are great! Love you all!

Elder Stanford

Monday, February 9, 2015

Only 101 weeks left

And I need to make the most of them.
Here I am. I am in France. This is it. The real thing.
Thank you everyone for your emails! I have more time now, so I finally got the chance to read all of them. You guys are all great.

So. The day after writing my most recent email, I got up (earlier than early) and drove to the aiport with my whole tiny district at my side. So sorry guys but I didn't get the chance to call you on the way out! It may just be a SLC airport thing.
So I got to Paris and met all the other arrivals from Provo (who can speak like no French at all, poor things) and then we got on the train to the mission office thing and our first assignment was to place a BoM on the train! We waste no time here I guess. So Elder Rivas and I got on the train with two other terrified little companionships, and immediately I spotted a lady alone on the other side. And I just told E. Rivas "Let's talk to her first" and we just went for it right away. I would not have been able to do that if I hadn't had those terrifying experiences proselyting in the park in Madrid. If I can do it in a language I don't speak, I can definitely do it in a language I do! I let E. Rivas do all the talking though haha. Anyway, she took the book! First contact in France, first Book of Mormon placed. Later, one of the other missionaries who had been on the same train car thanked me for showing him an example and helping get his confidence up. I actually felt better about that than anything else. I accidentally helped another missionary be able to be more confident in his future encounters with God's children. It turned out that E. Rivas was the only one of the bleus (new missionaries) to place a book on the train. BUT! I talked to two people on a train the next day and got a Book of Mormon to them.
I also bumped into my first TJ (the French acronym for Jehovah's Witness) on that first train ride. I don't want to bash any other churches right now, so...I won't talk about my conversation with this guy.
Oh! Cool story: Elder Rivas is actually from the part of Belgium that's in our mission boundaries, and guess what? His trainer is one of the missionaries who visited him while he was inactive and brought him back into the church! How cool would that be??

The very next day (Wednesday) I met my trainer and moved in to my first area! My trainer's name is Elder Wheatley, from Las Vegas. He's really great, super enthusiastic and likes to work hard, which is exactly what I wanted. He's also a singer, and when we sang our first hymn and he found out that I don't suck at singing, he got super excited and started making all these plans for when we can sing for people. He told me the two things he was most worried about were 1) helping his bleu with the language, and 2) having a tone-deaf companion, so he feels pretty lucky I guess! Haha. I still have a lot of learning to do though, both with the language and with the gospel. Not with my singing voice though. It's perfect. Obviously.
My first area is in Paris! An area called Antony. The ward is small but really great. I live with Elder Wheatley and our two Zone leaders. I visited Notre Dame with all the bleus on the first day, and today after I write this we're going to Sacré Coeur. Maybe the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe too, if we have time.
I'm going to be in Antony for the next six months, almost guaranteed. So I guess it's safe to say you can mail stuff to that address now haha. Here it is:
Elder Jordan Stanford
Les Missionnaires
27 Rue de Fontenay
92340 Bourg-La-Reine
By the way, I just got your letter yesterday! Thanks so much! My wall was barren and now it has two beautiful pictures of the Savior and one beautiful picture of the beautiful Calgary Temple. You guys are the best.

So my first lesson ever was with two amis (meaning "ami de l’Église," which is someone investigating the church) named Andrea and Alex. And guess what I got to help teach for my very first real lesson ever? Yep. Law of Chastity. They're living together. Alex just proposed which is SO great but the date is in July. What?? So far! Alex wants to be baptized, he knows the church is true, but we gotta wait until they're married. We encouraged them to find a sooner date. I wasn't looking forward to any of that but they actually took it really well, especially Andrea. They know that we love them, and the Spirit was there. We're seeing them tonight so we'll see how everything's going!
Okay so. Coolest contacting story so far: We met a woman named Sylvette on the street. And she was so happy to be talking to us. The gospel is exactly what she needs in her life. She believes it's a sign from God that we crossed her path. She has about 4587 struggles and challenges in her life, including some friends recently passing away, which led her to ask herself questions like "What happens when we die" and "Why do so many bad things happen, even to good people?" Well Sylvette, LET ME TELL YOU! And we gave her a Book of Mormon, asked her to read 2 Nephi 2 later, and got a rendez-vous. Unfortunately, she couldn't come to church and may not be able to make it to the rendez-vous because of some health problems (which she will be getting surgery for soon). We've prayed and even fasted for her and I really hope we can meet to her soon!
The work here can be hard. One day all of our appointments fell through and we just did a bunch of contacting with very few noticeable results. (I say "noticeable" because I know that none of my labours go to waste! 1 Corinthians 15:58. One of my new favourite scriptures.) We got 0 in every single key indicator that day. But I don't care what anyone on the outside says, the work is progressing here! And I will help it along. There are people waiting for me and my message and you better believe I'll find them!
Thank you for your letters and emails and thoughts and prayers! Love you guys!
Elder Stanford

 Selfie at Notre Dame with one of the missionaries from Provo.

I'm going on an adventure

February 2, 2015
(last one from the Madrid MTC)

Hey guys! I know I said my last email would be my last from Madrid, but apparently they let you email on the day before you fly to your mission just to keep everyone up to date and let you know we´re not dead. Again, I don´t have much time, but I´ll write what I can. Tomorrow morning, earlier than early, I fly out to the real thing. Practice is over. It´s game time.

P-day happened. We chose to go to downtown Madrid. Super super pretty and cool. Not a lot of remarkable experiences, but it was all just pretty great. I bought some postcards to send to you guys but I can´t seem to find them. :C Again, once I have time, I´ll upload pictures.

We taught some really powerful lessons to our fake investigators this week. We got much more unified, better at planning, better at following the Spirit (absolutely the most important part), better at asking questions, better at discerning needs and teaching to fit those needs, etc. I feel so so SO much more ready to teach now than I felt two weeks ago. The three strongest and most spiritual lessons all involved bearing testimonies and personal experiences. We have three incredibly different life stories in this three-person district and we often have something that´ll help someone. Also, in two of the most powerful lessons, I or someone else recited the First Vision story in French and it really invited such a strong spirit.

Let me tell you a bit about my district. Elder Rivas was forced to leave El Salvador in the middle of an engineering degree when his stepfather (he never met his real father or his siblings on that side) was threatened for being a police officer. He moved to a different continent, learned a whole new language, and lived with 7 people in one room. He was inactive for a long time and had to re-find his testimony. When he did, at 25, he left his job and almost-fiancée (who called him an idiot for it and broke up with him) and came on a mission. Soeur Yaka Yake, on the other hand, was the only active member of her whole family, most of which was super anti. She found her own way to seminary every morning and walked to church on Sundays. She didn´t get any presents from her family on Christmas or her birthday because they hated that she was a member of the church. In the past year, both her dad and the woman who raised her (remember that she didn´t have the best mom) both passed away from illnesses. Yet both of them are here, serving the Lord. I can´t believe any of that. Super strong people.

You guys wanted to know about the food. Well, it´s nothing like the Provo MTC food place, from what I´ve heard about it. It´s some pretty local food here. Lots of fried stuff. Decent amount of soup. There´s this sauce that Elder Rivas calls "samurai sauce" that I put on almost everything. It´s kind of like a slightly spicy version of thousand island dressing? Best way to describe it. The cooks stop serving food after 20-ish minutes, so you have to decide right away if you´re going to want more of something so you can grab another plate. Other than that, it´s just lots of bread, lots of Nutella, lots of caffeine-free Coke, haha. But yeah, not too exciting. Talking about food is not something I´m good at.

The devotionals here are SO GOOD. They´re replays of other MTC devotionals and you can only see them at MTCs. Otherwise I would tell you all to watch every single one of them. I have four favourites - two by Elder Holland (big surprise eh?) and two from Elder Bednar. Elder Bednar´s were about recognizing and following the Spirit, and the character of Christ, respectively. Something I learned about following the Spirit is that we don´t have to wait for a super distinct prompting to act. If we´re being good, keeping the commandments and the mission rules, and being true to our covenants, our steps will be guided and our mouths will be filled with what we need to say, and most of the time we won´t even realize it. Promptings come when we act, not when we wait around. Something I learned about the character of Christ was His tendency to turn outward instead of inward. I already read about that on Kelsi´s blog (shoutout to Kelsi) so it was kind of a review, but it was still super good. After fasting for forty days and being tempted three times by Satan himself, Christ still thought of His friend John the Baptist, who was in prison, and sent angels to him. After suffering through the Atonement, which was literally like going through hell for us, and then being betrayed by His friend, He still took the time to heal the ear of one of the guards who was coming to arrest Him. When He was on the cross, dying one of the most painful deaths, He thought of His mother Mary and made sure she would be cared for. I think we need to all strive to be more like that.

Elder Holland´s talks were superb too but I have no time so I´ll write about them later! Thank you all for writing me and for your prayers! I promise to respond soon. Love you all so so much!

Elder Stanford

Me and my MTC companion, Elder Rivas. It was windy in Madrid that day. Don't judge my hair.

Me, Elder Rivas, and our friend Elder Bekker (a missionary from Israel!!).

One solitary email from Madrid

January 29, 2015
(still from the Madrid MTC)

Hey hey! I don´t have much time! When I opened my inbox and saw so many emails I almost died of happiness. 10 days is too long to go without hearing from your loved ones. I´ll try to read everything and answer people after I write this but no promises! Sorry. I just have seriously no time.
So I guess you guys probably want me to tell you about the MTC. It feels weird to tell you guys about all the basic stuff because it feels like I´ve been here for a while. This MTC, as you know, is super small in terms of people. What I didn´t know was that it would be super small in terms of square footage. We´re in one building. 4th floor is classrooms, 5th floor is dorms, 6th floor is where we eat. That´s it. This is where I learn.
My companion is Elder Rivas. He´s a half-Taiwanese guy from El Salvador who´s been living for the last few years in Belgium. First language Spanish, second language French, third language English. He´s 25 and just returned from inactivity a year ago. I think it´s super cool that he still decided to serve. Super faithful guy. Very energetic.
Almost everyone here is in the 6-week Spanish program. We 2-week French speakers are the smallest district. It´s just me, E. Rivas, and Sister Yaka Yake, who was born in Congo but grew up in Paris. She only speaks French, which is good because it´s forcing me to improve mine. She´s also really strong in the gospel, even though she´s the only one in her family who´s active. The languages taught here right now are French, Spanish and Russian. Every time we sing hymns it´s just super great because there are three different languages going on. All the missionaries here are really great. Kinda sad I only get two weeks to get to know them.
Madrid is beautiful. I don´t see a lot of it, but we do go outside every day for sports, on P-days (my first of which is today) for sight-seeing, and on Saturdays to proselyte in the park. I´ll tell you about that experience soon. Best of all, we get the best view ever of the Madrid Temple, which is so so beautiful. Every day at dinnertime the sun is setting behind it. I´ll have to upload some pictures soon. I just really have no time right now. 10 days´ worth of experiences in 45 minutes? Plus answering everyone else? Impossible.
I´m learning so much here. Not about doctrine or anything, just mostly about how to teach people and how to invite the Spirit into our lives and into the lessons. I´m also learning a lot about my strengths and weaknesses, and how I can use my strengths to help investigators and how I can improve on my weaknesses.
A normal day is like this: wake up, shower, eat, plan, study, classes, teach. Lunch, classes, teach, do sports. Dinner, classes, teach, bed. Yes, we´re a week in and we´re already teaching three fake investigators once each per day. We need to tailor our teaching to their needs and help them feel the Spirit. We´re learning a lot from that. Of course, our fake investigators are also our teachers. One of them, as you guys probably know by now, is Soeur Bicchierri, one of Danielle´s companions from her mission. She´s very enthusiastic and says to say hi to you guys and that she loves you. Something else cool is that all of my teachers are 24 or younger and they all speak at least four languages fluently. Usually five. What am I even doing with my life to just know two?
Saturday. Super scary. Especially because I know about 2 phrases in Spanish. Luckily, my companion for that experience, E. Jenkins, was very enthusiastic and not too terrible at Spanish (at least, not for only having learned it for 4 days). So as soon as you get on the metro to the park, it´s go time. The first person we talked to on the metro, miracle of miracles, spoke English! Super good for us to get our confidence up. We got to share in the gospel in words we knew how to use! We gave her a Book of Mormon but didn´t manage to ask for her contact info before she got off. We should have asked sooner. But oh well! We planted a seed, and maybe something will grow from it. But that´s not the exciting part of the day. So we´re walking and walking in this HUGE and beautiful park, and since we stayed on the metro for two extra stops to keep talking with this lady and then had to come back, everyone we talked to had already been talked to by the missionaries who got there before us. Then! I talked to this guy sitting on a bench who for some reason hadn´t been approached by anyone yet. And guess what! HE SPOKE FRENCH! E. Jenkins just stood there while I talked with this guy about the gospel and the Book of Mormon and our Savior and it was great. He was super receptive and so prepared. He said half of my words for me. “I believe it´s important to find and read the words of God,” etc. So cool. We gave him a Book of Mormon and he gave us his contact info to meet with the missionaries in Madrid!! (It won´t be a problem because he speaks Spanish too.) Best feeling.
So sorry I couldn´t answer many people today! I have so many more things to tell you about but that´ll have to happen next week. Or never, honestly, because next week I´ll be telling you about life out in the field! I´m praying for you guys and I know you´re praying for me too. This is a great thing! This is real! God loves us! And I love you guys.

Elder Stanford

Basically what my P-day in Madrid looked like

Here I am

January 20, 2015
(from the Madrid MTC)

Hey awesome family! I´m here! They´re letting us email right away. Flying wasn´t the greatest. We flew through the night and then the night didn´t exist because it was the middle of the day when we landed. Or maybe it was the morning that disappeared. I don´t know. I don´t even know how tired to be. I met up with a group of like 20-something Elders and some Hermanas in Frankfurt so that was good. I have no idea who my companion is or what my room looks like or anything. Legitimately just got here. The Madrid temple is beautiful. Sorry I have nothing else to report! I´m here safe and I love you guys. I´ll tell you of my upcoming adventures in my next email! Write me lots!

Elder Stanford

Madrid Temple from window at the MTC. (#nofilter)