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

Monday, May 25, 2015

A productive adventure

Well, here I am. Back in this burning-hot Internet cafe with a bunch of beard-and-ponytail "League of Legends" players of varying degrees of cleanliness and life goals. One of favourite times of the week.
So. Funny story. We went to a ville called Choisy-Le-Roi, which is not the nicest or fanciest of villes, to visit our ami Patrick. The neighbourhood this guy lives in is essentially like God spilled a cup of Haiti into the Europe recipe. Constant Haitian music playing, dudes hanging out doing n'importe quoi, not a white guy in sight except the two naïve little Mormons hiking around trying to talk to people about Jesus.

We got to his apartment only to find out he'd be a little late getting back, so we decided to leave and go contacting for a bit before returning. We stepped out of the building to find 5 or 6 policemen in bulletproof vests, one holding some kind of big automatic weapon, looking all menacing and stuff. We tried walking away but one of them stopped us and asked if we lived here, what we were doing, etc. After those questions he then asked us to go against the wall, feet wide apart, bags open, for a drug search. I felt like the guy in Saratov Approach: "You don't know much about us, do you?" During the search he was like, "What are you guys, Evangelists?" to which I responded "We're Mormons actually." The guy looked at his policemen buddies and said "They're Mormons, logically they're not going to be drug consumers." I guess he did know a little bit.
So that's the story of how I got felt up just a little by a policeman in France. (Or was it Haiti? No wait, France. The policemen were white.) On the plus side, we had a good lesson with Patrick, in which we committed him to come to church every week that he's in town and to a baptismal date of June 20th.
Also, we set 3 baptismal dates since last week's email, for a running total of 4. Good things are happening. Each has individual concerns that could keep them from doing it, so our job now is to help resolve those before the big day.
Not much other news. We're finally seeing amis in progress again. We're helping people to help themselves and find the help that the Lord can offer to anyone who seeks it.
God is good. Y'all should be good too.

Elder Stanford
Elder Stanford leading the music in the Antony Ward Sunday School
(photo credit Shawn MacDonald)

Elder Stanford and Elder Harris

Opening the Canadian candy
sent by my loving mom through Shawn MacDonald

Thank you Shawn!

The Pfost family also visited the Antony Ward
(Michelle Pfost was companions with Danielle)

(photo credit Mary Pfost)

Monday, May 18, 2015

Mini missionary miracles

Hey guys! It's still day 104. I wanted to write one email of complaints and then one email of a couple happy miracles, in a sort of "the night is darkest just before the dawn" theme.
This week has been a good one. Especially the second half. First of all, Roshan, who I mentioned last week, came to church! The lesson in Sunday School was perfect for him and he strengthened his desire to bring changes into his life. Also, our ami Hubert came for the first time. This week we're expecting many more as well!
Also, my hopes of teaching a family have finally been realized. A less-active member in the ward made his way back to church and had us start teaching his wife and kids! 5 beautiful kids. It's great. They are all 10 years old or younger and so great.
So. Mini miracle #1: The aforementioned guy, Matthieu, texted us to confirm our rendez-vous that we had set that night at 7. Long story short, our reply didn't send, which eventually led to the meeting being changed to 6:30. On our way there, we met a guy on the bus who had been taught by missionaries years ago and wanted to start again! We got his number and set a rendez-vous for this week. If we hadn't been on that bus, we never would have found him. If our text had sent, we would have been on a different bus half an hour later. In short, failed text = new ami. The Lord works in mysterious ways. Heck, if I were all-powerful, I'd do fun little stuff like that too.
Mini miracle #2: We have a policy where, when someone Frouges us, we contact 10 people before going home to do something else. But before the RDV we had set, when we were planning, we felt as though if we got Frouged, 10 wouldn't be quite enough this time. We decided on 12. We ended up getting Frouged (for those of you who have just joined us, "Frouged" means getting stood up for a rendez-vous. Be sure to tune in next week). After contacting 7 people with no results, we got a bit discouraged and thought "let's go, we'll just contact the other 5 on the way home." But then the feeling came back, No, you planned to contact 12 people around here, now go do it. So we did. And guess what. The 12th person happened to be an ex-TJ who was interested in learning more about how to get a personal relationship with God. Well buddy, have we got the message for you! We've already met with him once and he's down to know more. Spiritual promptings are real.
That's all, folks! Keep it real. Until next time.
Much love,

Elder Stanford

Day 104. Some new issues have arisen.

We may need to involve the police in this Mme C situation.
It wouldn't be the first time. She's called the police on the missionaries in our apartment before, on account of the noise they were apparently so senselessly making. The police showed up, pretty much said "Yeah the floor is old, nothing we can do," asked the missionaries why they had no TV, and left.
But I'm not kidding about involving the police again. Let me explain. Recently, she hasn't come up to yell at us very often. She tore our label off our mailbox, and when we didn't retaliate, it seemed to tame the beast known as "Mme C's rage" a little bit. Even though my son and the other missionary who's new to the apartment have actually made more noise than we ever did before, we haven't seen very much of her. Good? I think not. She may just be attacking us in a different way.
So our mailboxes in our apartment building have a broken lock, meaning that anyone can access anyone's mailbox. We've also gotten no mail for a couple of weeks now. Suspicions arose in our minds, but we decided we were just being paranoid. THEN! This morning, I saw a letter from my dear cousin Hunter, serving his mission in California. We all decided to put it to the test: now that we knew the letter was there, we could leave it in the mailbox and see if it mysteriously disappears. We went out for P-day, came back, letter. Somebody has been taking our mail. Now I'm not great at legal stuff, but I'm pretty sure that's a federal offense. Call me judgmental, but we're pretty sure there's only one lady in the world who would do that.
Also, if you've recently sent letters to me or anyone else serving in Antony, and they haven't been answered, there's your reason.
More updates to follow. Elder Stanford, out.

Monday, May 11, 2015

To the non-Mormons out there

This post is dedicated to anyone who may be reading this who is not a member of our faith.
Let me ask you a question: Why do you think I'm here?
Now I'll dispel any reasons you may think it is. My church did not force me to go on a mission. My parents did not force me. I do not get paid for this work. This is not a way to "level up" in the church--in fact, the top four presiding people in the church did not serve missions.

I work six days a week from the morning until 9 at night, following very strict rules. I speak a different language than my own, and I talk to strangers every day who haven't yet realized that they want what I have to offer. I don't get to listen to the music I love or hug girls. I don't get to watch movies or sleep in past 6:30 AM. So I ask again... Why do you think I'm doing this?
I'm doing this because I have found a peace, a hope and a joy in my life thanks to something called The Gospel of Jesus Christ. You know when you eat something awesome for the first time, and for some reason instead of eating it all you have this desire to show all your friends how good it is? That's how I feel about this message. I'm willing to do this work because I need to share what I know, what has helped me so much in my life.
In the Book of Mormon, an ancient prophet named Moroni writes "a few words by way of exhortation." To exhort means to sincerely ask or plead someone to do something. Right now, I'd like to exhort you, dear reader, to find some missionaries like me in your area and listen to their message. It takes half an hour and it doesn't have to be more than once. Since you almost certainly know someone who is a Mormon, they would love to help you get in contact with them. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

I missed my family this week

Not that I didn't miss you guys before. But when you're focused on helping strangers receive the best happiness they could ever have in their whole lives...if you're always thinking about home, you're doing it wrong.
I missed you guys more intensely because of my birthday and because I got to see you yesterday on Skype. Lots of feelings. Oh yeah, I guess that means I'm 20 now. "Stricken in years" as the scriptures call it. You guys sent wonderful birthday packages, but for my next birthday you might just have to buy me a walker or something.
Not much to report this week...many of our usual amis weren't able to meet with us this week, and most weren't able to make it to church either. Thursday was actually my first day in the mission (except P-days) where I didn't have a single RDV planned. Straight-up contacting and porting. It sucked because the people I contacted were especially closed that day and would cut me off before I even got the chance to testify. Testifying to someone makes me feel better in any situation, but they didn't even let me do that. Through all the adversity we did find one awesome guy though, who contacted us on the train. Let me just emphasize how big that is. HE struck up a conversation, HE asked to come to church and learn more. Just think...if we hadn't been out working and getting rejected, we would never have found him. He lives in the zone leaders' area so we passed him off, but still a miracle find.

Just a couple of exciting things happened: Sr Belair came to church again :D and this time she actually started to make friends. And Lony, being the stud that he is, found us someone else to teach who's going through the same stuff that he himself went through. Together we're going to show him how to change his life and help him stop smoking and drinking. His name is Roshan and he's incredibly humble and it's awesome.
Love you all! Be good.
Elder Stanford

Monday, May 4, 2015

My first week of fatherhood

Hello all you wonderful human beings. This week has been an adventure for sure.
Training a blue is wonderful and challenging. I know that I can help him become a great missionary though, because we were assigned to each other through revelation and the Lord will give me the capacities to meet my new calling. You know how some missionaries' goal is to become AP? My goal is to train a future AP.
Elder Harris, my blue, is a really good guy. I love him. His French is excellent for someone this new, and he's got a huge desire to learn more of it. He's also a fearless street contacter. It's great. We have lots on common. He is the 3rd of 5 children, he does park skiing like me, and he's got a desire to work hard and see great things.
I prayed much for us to have a great spiritual experience to help start Elder Harris into his mission with a love for the work. It happened. Remember Helder, the miracle find from months ago? We were finally able to see him again! We had a PERFECT rendez-vous, not because we were perfect or said anything incredible, but because the Spirit was so strong. He has a huge desire to change his life. It's amazing. He accepted to read the Book of Mormon and pray to see if it's true, and he even came to church! He liked it and got to tie a friendship with some members there, including some who speak his native language of Portuguese

. Anyway, after the RDV, Elder Harris and I just couldn't stop talking about what an incredible lesson it was. We were on a spiritual high for the whole next day. Prayer answered.
Okay, now let me tell you about the Belair family. They were found by Elder Wheatley while he was on an exchange, through some inspired tracting. They were legitimately led by the Spirit straight to this random apartment building, felt like they should start knocking on the top floor instead of the bottom, and found her on the fourth door they knocked. Sister Belair is a less-active who stopped coming to church due to an illness, never made it back, and somehow got lost from the ward directory. She let them in right away, we've been teaching her, and she came to church last week too! First time in years and years. It was a great Sunday yesterday, sitting there in between Helder and Simone Belair as they experienced a (re)exposure to the Spirit that is present in sacrament meeting.
We finally got to see Christian again! It required playing soccer with him and his buddies for a whole morning so we could talk to him after, but I won't complain. He told us a lot about his life that I didn't know, a lot of which is too personal to share over email, but suffice it to say that 1) He has so so much faith, and 2) He thinks his parents would be okay with him being baptized! It worked! The letters and prayers and rendez-vous beside soccer fields and his consistent desire to attend church has finally won them over. He would like to set a baptismal date for after school is over, so he won't be as stressed about the massive exam French people have to take. But I'm okay with it. A July baptism is a baptism.

Other than that, I've just been showing a jet-lagged and confused blue the wonders of mission life in Paris France. We've taught some great lessons that I will never have time to talk about in fullness, but we've experienced lots of joy and adventure together already. And we've only gotten lost once.
Much love!

Elder Stanford