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

Monday, December 28, 2015

"Mon frère, je suis à Paris"

Merry Christmas everyone!

"Je suis à Paris" is a running joke among those missionaries who have taught Africans in France. If you haven't had someone tell you they're in Paris when you call to ask if they're still coming to your appointment, you didn't serve in the France Paris mission. It's just the way it goes.

Right then. This week...everyone was in Paris. It's as if there were a huge party being thrown there and everyone was invited but me. A big African party (by that I mean a big party for Africans, not necessarily a party for big Africans) where they play "C Bon Le Mariage" on big speakers and dance around in boubous and eat spicy semoule and talk to each other in that language that all Africans seem to understand regardless of nationality. That's what I'm imagining, because why else would everybody be there at the same time??

Christmas was good though. I wanted to give a HUGE thank-you to everyone who sent me stuff for Christmas. I really got too much.
(Seriously though. Either I'm going to die from all the candy I got, or I'm going to have to throw a party similar to the one in Paris in order to give some away.) We also ate at the Raherimandimby family's house for over 2 hours straight. Not that you care about whose house it was, but I just like saying Raherimandimby. Try it. But yeah, thank you everyone who send me cards and packages! I now know I haven't yet been forgotten.

Last spiritual thought of 2015:

Right now, we're in a special moment where we still have the feeling of Christmas and we remember the Saviour more strongly, but the new year hasn't yet begun. I think we should all profit from this occasion to begin setting goals, using that special spirit of Jesus Christ that hasn't made its leave, for how we can be closer to Him in this new year than ever before.

I love you all! Be good.

Elder Stanford

Christmas Skype call ! 

Monday, December 21, 2015

I'm not used to praying like this.

Let me preface this story by telling you all a fun fact: over the course of my mission I've taught the gospel to people from over 25 countries, and met people in a non-teaching capacity from over 25 more. This Tuesday I added one more country to the list: Romania. 

So we were in Lille for exchanges. Me and my exchange comp, Elder Fonua from Hawaii, decided to go batting (a missionary-invented word made by combining "tracting" with the French word for "apartment building"). Around the 4th or 5th floor, we rang the doorbell of this family of five Romanians--some of whom spoke very limited French, the rest of whom didn't speak any at all. They let us in (which was already kind of a miracle) and eventually we got across that we were servants of Jesus Christ, and we asked if we could just pray with them because they couldn't understand much else. They all got pretty excited to pray with us. All five stood up, and the women went and got these prayer shawls (I'm guessing they got that from 1 Corinthians 11:5) and one of the women started praying out loud in her language. And then the other woman joined her, both saying their personal prayers aloud beside each other. And then the three men joined in one by one, so that five individual prayers were all being said out loud simultaneously. I didn't know what to do, so I just looked at Elder Fonua, bowed my head, and said my own personal prayer out loud with the rest of them. God hears all of them anyway, right?

After a few minutes (and a few amens and hallelujahs) everyone quieted down one by one. We looked up...and saw that one of the women was crying. Initially I thought that she was just feelin' the Spirit super hard, but then she told us that her husband was really sick. And before I could even open their Romanian Bible and show them the verse that says elders can heal the sick with oil, they were asking us for a blessing! Using this half-broken-French-half-charades language, I'll just let you imagine. So we ended up giving a Priesthood blessing to an ill Romanian man that we had met 10 minutes earlier. 

We set a return rendez-vous for the next day and left. Then the next night, as Elder Smith and I were back in Amiens, we got an excited phone call from the elders in Lille, who told us the rest of the story: they went back, and the family of five had brought nine more Romanians to listen! As they passed around a few Romanian copies of the Book of Mormon, one of the new people (who spoke French) said, "I like this book. Can I have more copies?" When they asked him how many, he responded, "Well, my Romanian congregation has about forty people. Can we get forty?"


Stay tuned as the elders in Lille distribute forty BoMs to a congregation of Romanian Christians. Will they believe? Will a Romanian branch be started in Lille? Find it all out next time, on the new hit series, Why Don't We Ever Just Teach French People. 

One other story before I close. So we met a man from Cameroon in front of the Amiens train station to teach him. After a weird and slightly contentious conversation (in the which he said it was pretentious to call ourselves Latter-day Saints and judgmental to say our message brings people closer to God), we offered to pray with him. Suddenly we became best friends as he offered the prayer. As per his suggestion, we ended up the three of us holding hands in a circle while he said a typical Evangelical African prayer (Oui Papa trois fois saint, mon Dieu mon Roi etc). It wasn't that weird until he started singing (while still holding our hands in front of the train station). He went for four verses of song and then broke into falsetto, and Elder Smith and I could barely control our laughter. So that's the story of how I ended up holding hands with a big African man singing Jesus songs in his falsetto, while people walking out of the train station observed. 

That's all I've got for this week. Merry Christmas everyone! Make it awesome, and anyways focused on family and on the Saviour. Love you all!

Elder Stanford

Monday, December 14, 2015

Blood pressure: maximum

Let me tell you all about my experience this Friday. 

So we woke up at 5:30 in Arras and caught our train to Paris for the Christmas conference. It was great, by the way. I got to see my last two companions, Elder Orton and Elder Dudfield, as well as many friends from my last two zones (Belgium and Strasbourg). 

So we had to leave early in order to catch the early train that would get us back to Amiens in time for Blessing's baptism that evening. This is what happened starting from the moment we arrived in Paris before the conference in our connection to Versailles. I will tell the story using all the misfortunes and miracles that happened. 

- Misfortune: we lost a sister missionary between two Paris metro stations. Miracle: the Sister Training Leaders happened to arrive right afterward and find her so she was okay. 
- Misfortune: on the way from Paris to Versailles, I accidentally got on the train without getting a ticket from the Paris zone leaders. Miracle: as the controllers went through checking everyone's tickets, they controlled everybody except me and I escaped the fine. 
- Misfortune: we left the Versailles chapel way too late to get to the train station on time. Miracle: we got a senior missionary couple to drive us I their car so we didn't miss our train from Versailles back to Paris. 
- Misfortune: as we sat in the train back to Paris, Elder Smith and I realized that we had BOTH left our in Versailles. (I haven't seen any miracle attached to this one yet.)
- Misfortune: we were 30 cents short of having enough change to buy tickets back to the right train station in Paris, and we had about 2 minutes to find some. Miracle: out of desperation we tried the tickets that we had already used, and somehow they worked again. We got to the correct train station with just a few minutes to spare. 
- Misfortune: we realized that my train tickets from Paris to Amiens were in my iPad case sitting in Versailles. Miracle: I was allowed to buy a new ticket when I was already sitting on the train, and Elder Smith and I found just enough cash to buy it. We got back to Amiens on time. 
- Misfortune: back in Amiens, the bus to take us to the chapel (which comes every 10 minutes) didn't show up for like half an hour. Miracle: because of that, we bumped into an old ami, who then came to church this Sunday. 
- Misfortune: we only have one white baptismal dress in our little chapel. Miracle: it fit Blessing almost perfectly. 
- Misfortune: a man came to the baptism that we've only met with one time, and he proceeded to take some paper from the library and use it to roll some cigars in the bathroom. Miracle: he suddenly had to leave and didn't smoke anything inside the church. All he left behind was a bunch of tobacco scattered around the bathroom. 
- Misfortune: the printer didn't have any ink and we weren't able to print out the programs for the baptism. Miracle: we were able to remember everything we had scheduled even without the program in front of us. 
- Misfortune: the branch president didn't show up (and you need a member of the branch presidency to come to authorize the baptism), nor did one of the people who was supposed to give a talk. Miracle: his one counsellor came last minute, and somehow everything went well anyway. 
- Misfortune: when Elder Smith and Blessing got into the font, they realized it was SUPER cold. Miracle: Blessing, African though she may be, found the courage to be baptized anyway. Only took two tries. 

As you can see, Satan tried everything to get this thing not to work. I can safely say that those rushed prayers I said all throughout that day were some of the most sincere and faithful I've ever said. And I was able to see the hand of God in so many ways making everything work out. Makes you think. Could I see that many miracles every day if I prayed like that every day as well?

I think everyone can stop relying on themselves so much. It makes things suuuuuper stressful. Because we're imperfect and can't take on everything at once. If we turn our situations over to God, then as long as we're still trying our best, everything will work out the way that is best for us. 

Love you all! Be good!

Elder Stanford

Monday, December 7, 2015

How to share a language

This week was kind of a blur. Elder Smith and I have been working hard trying to baptize the whole city and it's gone by super quick. 

Let's see, what even happened? We went to Arras, Lille and Calais for exchanges, which made the week even shorter. (Side note: the mission spends a lot of money getting us missionaries from one place to another. If this were a business, it would honestly be the worst business plan ever.) We taught 13 lessons, got frouged a few times, did a bit of contacting, got bugged by some Arab kids who may literally all be clones of one another, planned Blessing's baptism, and a bunch of other stuff. 

Something cool this Sunday was that the branch finally got a translation system so that all the Nigerians can actually understand what happens in church. So they all put in earphones and someone sits in the back with a little headset to do live translations into English of everything that's going on. Kinda cool. I was the one who got to do it first and I felt just a little like a secret agent. Spiritual James Bond. They said it really helped their experience. 

I learned from my Nigerian friends about Broken English (also known as "Pigeon"), which is a language they speak in Nigeria. Apparently not everyone there gets a formal education, so they don't all know how to speak English. And their tribal languages are all different as well. Being the friendly African people that they are, they can't stand the thought of a person not being able to participate in a conversation, "because how can you get to know someone if you can't speak to dem?" And thus Pigeon was formed. Basically it's English with no grammar rules whatsoever, and so people can pick it up really quickly. (For example: "I'll see you later" doesn't work, because "I will" is a grammar rule that indicates future. So you say, "We go see latah.")

Our ami Lawrence explained Broken English this way: keeping a language to yourself is selfish. You must share it. When you have a piece of food, how do you share it? You break it in pieces so everyone can have some. So, logically, they did the same thing with the English language: broke it in pieces, broke it in every way they could, so that everyone could use it. Man, I love African culture. 

That's all I've got for this week. I love you all, soyez sages! Christmas is coming. We go see latah. 

Elder Stanford
Mission française de Paris