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

Monday, June 29, 2015

When ye are in the service of your fellow beings

Hey guys!
This week's story is about how much Elder Harris is a stud. But first, some background. While waiting for an ami to show up to a rendez-vous (which he never did), we decided to go talk to a guy in the street. Turns out he was a less-active member who we didn't recognize because he's never at church. So we set an appointment to see him and his family. We were on our way to that rendez-vous when Elder Harris noticed a woman who was carrying a bunch of stuff up to her apartment and he offered to help her. Multiple trips up the 4-story stairwell later, we met her and her husband and managed to set an appointment to share our message with them as well. We went back yesterday, taught them both (plus their friend!) and got them to agree to read and pray about the Book of Mormon. Three new amis thanks to Elder Harris noticing and filling a need.
Also, the reason this email is so late in the day is because we helped someone move today. He moved to an apartment on the 7th floor of his building. And he has no elevator, because this is France. So yeah, instead of emailing I was helping carry a fridge/washing machine/set of weights etc. up a tiny French stairwell. But it got better, because it's like French Black Friday here and we got to go buy stuff in a big underground mall in the center of Paris. Life's not so bad.
Love you all!

Elder Stanford

Monday, June 22, 2015

Three Books of Mormon

Hello all!
Not as much time this week. Because this morning we went and taught a lady that was awesome and golden and perfect and...moving back to the US right away. But seriously it was so cool. I'll tell you her story in a sec.
First of all, I wanted to tell you the results of last week's miracle when we were led by the Spirit directly to that South American on the bus. He actually just moved a few days ago to the other elders' sector, so we decided to do a mini-exchange to teach them the first lesson (because he already knew me, and he needed to get to know one of them). I went with Elder Lewis, one of the zone leaders, and met him and his wife and two daughters in a park. They are from El Salvador and she doesn't speak English so he translated for her the whole time. It went SUPER WELL and they were open and curious and it was great. At the end, the wife said "esperadkhgdellibrofauymormonydaefduyfamilia" (or something like that) and the husband translated: "I hope this book [The Book of Mormon] can help me and my family." So cool. I got to testify that it absolutely will.
Ok so. While I was with Elder Lewis teaching these wonderful people, Elder Harris was with Elder Lattin, the other ZL. They felt inspired to go contacting in a specific place that doesn't see much action. As soon as they got off the train, Elder Harris, who is a stud, contacted the first woman he saw. She said she's leaving back to the States soon but she'd like to hear our message just once before that. This morning was the only time. So we saw her and she was so awesome. She said that she and her husband have been looking for the right path to raise her child and future children in. She even said that she believes the Spirit told her to stop and listen to what Elder Harris had to say. (He made her miss her train, but c'est pas grave.) She accepted everything we taught, agreed to start reading the Book of Mormon, and offered her information so we could give it to the missionaries in the States! They're going to stop by and teach that whole family. All because Elder Harris stopped a lady in the street in the middle of somewhere.
Last experience. Last week, right after emails, we got frouged and found ourselves with nothing to do. So we went porting. (We almost never go porting because I hate it and I'll find any other missionary activity to do than that.) Long story short: that frouge, a late bus, a prompting from the Spirit, a slammed door, some overly-obscure directions given by previous missionaries, a lack of graffiti, a double mix-up of two different names, and a conversation with some guy about black people in the church, all played their part in bringing us to a specific random door on a Monday night, on which we proceeded to knock. When they didn't answer, we knocked again. And then three more times after that. And then they let us in (!!!) and let us discuss our message a bit. They were agnostic and pretty open. We dropped a Book of Mormon off later in their native language (Portuguese) and we hope to see them again soon. I just wanted to share that story because getting into a home in France from knocking on doors is a miracle in they don't even believe in God. Crazy. More on that couple next week.
Today we visited Sacré Coeur which was beautiful and remains one of my favourite sites in all of France.
Love you all! Be good. God will guide you if you make efforts to draw closer to Him. I've seen that over and over and I know it's true.

Elder Stanford
The three copies of the Book of Mormon that I used on Saturday


The view from Sacré-Coeur

Monday, June 15, 2015

The struggle

So first of all, P-day was cool today. We visited Le Pantheon, which has got a bunch of tombs of famous French people. My favourite, of course, was Marie and Pierre Curie, but we also saw Victor Hugo, Voltaire, Louis Braille, Alexandre Dumas, and a bunch of others. Forgot my camera, so no pictures, sorry!
This week was kinda hard. We're really focusing on finding new amis, because those we have are really not progressing and they've been meeting with us less and less. Every week we have around 9 people promise to come to church with us, and every week we have around 2 or 3 actually show up. We've called roughly a thousand old amis and stopped by about 346 more, with only one or two visible results. But we'll keep going.

Other ways that it's been hard:
- Our bishopric made a new rule that we can only baptize on Sundays at 4.
- Our Relief Society President won't assign visiting teachers to our less-active member until she starts consistently coming to church for all three hours.
- I've been yelled at by strangers twice this week, once for talking to people about God, and the other for "following Paul instead of God."
I will tell you about one miracle though. In contacting, we felt prompted beforehand to go down a specific street. While on that street, we walked by a lady at a bus stop. I felt like I should talk to her, but then I ignored the feeling. As I walked past, the feeling got stronger, so I turned around to say something. Since we had already walked past her and since I'm just overall an awkward person, I decided to go for the "hey I'm not from here and I need you to confirm that this bus goes where I want" approach. And the conversation went nowhere, she wasn't at all interested. Then the bus came, and since I didn't want her to know that I didn't actually have any need to get on that bus, we got on with her. THEN! I ditched the awkward conversation with her, and complimented the shoes of another guy on the bus, who ended up being a South American who spoke English, knew a lot about the church, and was down for us to stop by and give him a Spanish Book of Mormon! Hopefully we'll see him this week.
Another miracle is that Elder Harris managed to convince an atheist in a park to meet with us again and hear our message. It was in English, but still, pretty impressive. This will be my first lesson with someone who doesn't already believe in something.
That's all for this week! Love you all! Be good.

Elder Stanford

PS "In the name of Jesus Christ"

I've been thinking a lot about that phrase lately.
As members of the church, we use it quite a bit--after prayers, talks, lessons and testimonies. But do we ever stop to think about what it means? Or is it just a way to end our speaking time?
I think that "In the name of Jesus Christ" means we affirm that the things we just said are things that the Lord would approve, or even things He would say if He were there in person. It means that He is happy we spoke them. (I've also learned recently that it's actually much better to end testimonies and prayers in His name than talks or lessons. If you'll notice, people in General Conference never say "I leave you this talk in the name..." but always end with a testimony.) As for prayers, praying in the name of Jesus Christ means we are doing our best to align our will with his.
I think that all of us could afford to reflect a little more on the things were members of the church use so often. When we finish with the Saviour's name, do we make sure the things we said beforehand are really in line with His will? Do we understand the significance of saying something in His name? Or are we just going through the motions? We know the dance steps...but can we hear the music?

Monday, June 8, 2015

District pictures and boubous

Honestly, the biggest news this week is that we got free boubous from Lony. A boubou is a traditional Africain style of clothing that we see so many Africains in the street wearing. It's a missionary tradition here to buy one from an African market, but we don't even need to anymore! (But we still might buy another.)

Number of transfers so far

Not much to report. We just need to find new people to teach because so many of the people we got right now are terrible at picking up their phones or being where they say they'll be and it makes it impossible for us to plan our days.

Just one funny story. We were walking with Christian, the awesome 17-year-old half-Japanese guy with a heart of gold. We were talking about his upcoming baptism and whatnot. He then switched to English (presumably so his friends close by wouldn't understand) and said "I have a you know how I have a girlfriend, right?" And we were like ohhh no. And he said, "So is it ok to have another girl as a friend, like if we're just friends? Even if I already have a girlfriend?" And we were just like, that's it?? Apparently in Japan if you walk down the street beside a girl it pretty much automatically means you're dating. We were just like " long as you're keeping the Law of Chastity" and he was like "oh of course!!" Haha so yeah. Super solid guy.
I got to see Elder Wheatley this week! He came down to Paris for legality. We went on a little exchange and I got to teach with him again for an evening. It was nice to be with someone just as companions for an evening. Training is great but it can be draining. Plus, Elder Wheatley is a fast walker like me. It was nice to walk quickly again. But I'm happy to be back with Elder Harris too.
Generation photo: my father and my son
Love you all!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Don't let me get fat!

So much bread. The French eat so much bread. Why aren't they fat? (Seriously, if you see a larger person here you pretty much assume they're a tourist.) Bread and cheese and crème fraiche and little pastries and more bread all over the place in this country. The French eat enough bread that even just the crumbs from all the bread they eat feeds enough pigeons that they could probably shoot 50 Hitchcock films simultaneously. Plus, my companion doesn't like to run in the mornings, so I often just do some pushups and then sit and stare at the chin-up bar and wish it wasn't attached to the wall because that way I could get my chin over it much easier. Jumping jacks and stuff aren't an option because of my lovely neighbour downstairs. So like...don't be surprised if I come home as a fat guy.
Super rough week for numbers...only 8 lessons, with 5 being to recent converts/less-actives. As for dinner appointments...hmmm...weekly average is probably hovering around 0.33 currently.

I've only got one experience I want to share with you guys this week. One of our amis dropped us a few weeks ago in order to start studying again with his old church. We were devastated because he showed so much promise and desire to change his life. We heard from a friend of a friend that he wasn't doing so well, so we called him up and left a couple of messages and texts but he never got back to us. Anyway, we saw his friend (the ami of the sister missionaries in our ward) at church and she said to call him again. And we did and he answered! He confirmed that he's been better, and then said that all of our texts and calls really did him good, even if they were missed calls. At the end of the call, he said in English, "Don't give up on me." I about cried. We won't give up on him.

Remember that the Gospel changes people. I've seen that time and time again. If ever I need proof of that, I just look at Lony, or Pierre (who started to cry when he talked about how much he wants the missionaries be able to reach his family in Togo so his kids can serve missions one day).

Much love,
Elder Stanford

Chinese food for dinner
(Merci Bro MacDonald!)

Full after dinner!

Back on the train for our next appointments
Thank you for the birthday present!
A visit to Napoleon's tomb
On an exchange to a pretty place called Chartres

Pictures of a variety show we were in for the ward