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

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