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

Monday, April 27, 2015

So many things

You guys. So many things are happening. I hardly even know where to start with all of the things.
First of all, Danielle! You're so married! Congratulations!! I thought about you guys all day Saturday. I'm so happy for you.
Secondly, shoutout to Danielle (again) and Paige, congrats on graduating! So exciting!
Third...we get iPads this transfer! This will make the work progress so much. I'm really excited.
And one more thing...Elder Wheatley is being transferred to Belgium and I'm training a new blue missionary. I get a son!! I'm so excited, you guys don't even know. On Wednesday of this week I became a dad.
This past week was a rollercoaster. We had around 18 lessons scheduled with people, and about 2/3 of them fell through. Seriously, just a week full of frouges. On Friday, we had planned a whole day of splits with two 16-year-olds in our ward, meaning I go the whole day with one of them as my comp and Elder Wheatley goes the whole day with the other as his comp. So we had scheduled

Then, the night before, he called us to cancel because he had some internship somewhere. (He didn't find this out sooner?) So we were stressing out because we had all these appointments and not enough people to meet them all. We ended up cancelling one and rearranging our schedule to fit in the rest...and by one, all of those rendez-vous fell too, except one. And I was just so mad at the world. I was mad at our member because he cancelled last-minute and screwed up our plans. I was mad at all the people who cancelled on us. It took a while for me to realize that a lot of it was my fault (I should have called ahead way in advance and confirmed all of our rendez-vous), and the rest was out of my control and not worth being mad about. As I finally humbled myself and prayed and asked for forgiveness and strength and energy, we went to our one remaining RDV and had an awesome lesson. The Spirit was there, and all four of us felt it. I was still mad at myself for not being diligent enough to create a better missionary day for the other young man with us, but it was more of a determination to be better for the next time.
overlapping rendez-vous because we could do that now. #efficiency. But we weren't doing it for efficiency, we were doing it because one of the 16-year-olds has no love for the gospel, and unless he gets some awesome spiritual missionary experiences he probably won't choose to go on a mission.
The next day we had a musical fireside that Elder Wheatley and I had been preparing for a couple of months. After hours of preparation and planning and exhorting and practicing and reminding and matching-tie-buying we finally had a great evening where the Spirit was super strong. But we had aimed to have all the members come and bring friends, and...they didn't. We went to almost every home and helped people think of three people they could invite, and then none of them managed to do it. We had just one non-member there from ward members' efforts (compared to about 16 amis or less-actives brought by the missionaries). If you're reading this at home, work with the missionaries! You have to help them. Preach My Gospel says over and over that members should be a missionary's main source for finding new investigators. A missionary will arrive in a new area knowing no one. On the street, we have no idea who might be ready for a gospel message. But you do. So help them. Do it for me.
Anyway, a few good things did happen from the fireside, like amis meeting members and one guy finally agreeing to take the lessons from us. So no (more) complaints there.
Love you guys!
Saying goodbye to my 'father'

Our family friend, Ysabelle Daage, came for a visit

Monday, April 20, 2015

An epistle to my loved ones, containing my most excited emotions.

Really, really good week.

Of course, the biggest news first: our Frère Lony Loungossi has been baptized and confirmed. It was a beautiful service and he is so, so happy. He still sends us daily texts about how great this whole thing is and how much joy and peace he feels now. For those of you blessed enough to read French, here's an example from yesterday: "Mes petits anges, Wheatley, Stanford, vous m'avez montré et conduit dans le bon chemin qui mène à la vérité tracée par Jésus-Christ. Soyez bénis à jamais. Je suis un homme nouveau, très heureux. Oui, je suis devenu membre de la famille de DIEU." Super cool guy. I think I'll visit him after the mission. "And there are also many other things which [Lony texted], the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the [blog] itself could not contain the [texts] that should be written. Amen." - John 21:25

We also got so many lessons this week. 22, to be exact, and most of them were even planned. Let's just say that in France, that is a really good number. Not that we should focus on numbers, but we worked really hard and it paid off.

Just a really good week.

In other news, I ate a tomato this week. Like three slices of straight-up tomato with cheese on it. It was awful. Those of you who know me well will know that this is a big step in my life. Why do you people eat those things? Worst.

Crazy that my siblings are getting married! I thought real life went on pause when you went on your mission...?

I've got some other stories that I have no time to share. Maybe next week. For!

Love you guys! Elder Stanford, out.

From left to right: me, our awesome recent convert Pierre, Lony, Brother Tomba (another recent convert), Elder Wheatley. 

Just so you know how beautiful this place can be in Springtime.

Thanks to Sister Gillis and the ward primary for the card! You guys are the best.

Elder Wheatley and I celebrated 50 days together a while ago...don't ask.

We got PJs as a gift for cleaning out a house.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Death by second-hand smoke?

Hey family and friends!
Nothing much to explain about the title. This country just makes me worry about my health. Nowhere is safe.

This week's letter is gonna be super short. We did a lot of finding this week and found some great potential investigators. But as for current amis, many of our rendez-vous fell through and most of our amis don't have anything new to talk about. Christian still comes to church but isn't able to meet with us during the week, even right after church. Haven't been able to get in touch with his family. Lony is still as strong as ever. Edmond, our ami from Madagascar, still won't come to church. Andrea and Alex are still kind of stagnant, because they don't manage to get to church most weeks and also our LoC lesson clearly had little effect. *cough*
I'll just share one experience and then I'm out. Long story short, this guy gave us his address that turned out to be incomplete, and then wouldn't answer his phone, so we ended up just standing around in some ville in the middle of nowhere waiting for him to call us back. As we waited, this girl started talking to us from her window, and we set a RDV for the next day (yesterday). We went, shared the first lesson, and invited her to pray at the end. She prayed, and it was super heartfelt, and she expressed her thanks to God for having put us into her path. At the end of the prayer she was crying. She really needs this. I'm glad we found her.
We've also had specific spiritual promptings that all led to us finding someone to teach. Many people to see next week. I don't have enough time to explain them all, but just know...God is there. He cares about us all.
Love you all!

Elder Stanford

Monday, April 6, 2015

It was the worst of times and then the best of times.

First, let me tell you a story. This is a true story of a young trainer and an even younger blue. The young trainer was sitting with his young blue in an old room in an old city, when suddenly, the old cell phone rang. The young trainer picked up the old phone and listened. As he listened, a new expression formed on his face. He handed the old cell phone to his young blue. This was news. The new blue listened to an old voice on the other end, and experienced something new: the Mission President was calling for him. His voice said, "Président Babin, comment allez-vous?" but his young mind was saying, "This is new." Was he being reprimanded? Was he becoming AP? No...he was being informed that his (young) mother had contacted his Mission President because he had not written that week. The young blue proceeded to inform his Mission President that he was fine, not dead, and not purposefully neglecting his family.
With that story, let me inform the world why I didn't write last week. Last week, since Elder Wheatly has been in France for a year, we needed to do his second-year legality. We got there as it opened, having blocked out 2 hours in our schedule to get it done. How naive of us. We proceeded to stand in line...for seven and a half hours. At one point, Elder Wheatley stopped an employee and asked why the line hadn't moved for two hours. He informed us that the staff takes lunch from noon to 2, so they don't help anyone then. Of course. Why would they? But if we left the line, we wouldn't be allowed back in. Mom, I love your country, but I hate the way they run things.
I brought my scriptures to do personal study while I waited, but at one point I took Elder Wheatley's place in line so he could sit down, and left them where I had been studying. Then a government employee embarrassed me by holding them up in front of a whole room of people and asking whose they were. And I spoke up and everyone looked at me. As she gave them to me, I heard someone say, "C'est un livre sacré et il l'a oublié." I didn't lose them! I love them! Ugh. Worst.
Anyway, after 7.5 awful hours, we got to the front of the line, where Elder Wheatley gave a paper, got a paper in return, gave a signature, and we were done. The whole thing took about 45 seconds. Then, later that night, I discovered that I had lost my wallet. So yeah...not my best day in the mission.
But it gets better because...General Conference! We got to go with Lony (to a different chapel because they weren't showing it in ours) and basically just have a day out. In between sessions, we got to have a little picnic with the ward, show him the baptismal font there, go on a stroll in the park, and talk about the blessings of the gospel. It was great. Of course, he loved it, and said it answered almost all of the questions he'd written down beforehand. We missed half a session, and didn't get to see the Sunday afternoon session yet, so I'm confident that the rest of his questions will be answered when he watches those. That's how Conference works. It's nice how that happens every 6 months, isn't it? Inspired people who don't know you saying something perfect for you. Anyway, he's the best. During our dinner he pretty much just opened his heart and told us how grateful he is that he found us and thereby found the gospel. Really great moment. Totally going back to France and visiting this guy.
I loved so many talks. The one by Elder Anderson in the Saturday afternoon session was the answer to the question I brought, which specifically concerned an ami named Yannis and what he needs. That was really great. I also really loved Elder Oaks' talk (especially the part where he called out the people who are on technology during church), almost every talk in Priesthood session (especially Pres. Uchtdorf's, which went really well with Elder Ringwood's talk that afternoon), and many others.
Not much other news from these past two weeks, or at least any news worth remembering for so long and writing down.
Love you guys. If you're reading this, it means I love you. Or I don't know you. But I'd be surprised if someone I didn't know was reading this. Heck, I love you anyway, random stranger.
Elder Stanford