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

Monday, January 25, 2016

A lot of change

Hey guys! Not much to report this week, but we've got a couple of good teaching situations lined up for next week, so good things are coming. To give you a sense of what this past week was like, it involved two trips to Lille, an impromptu ride home in President Babin's car, a lot of teaching members (10 of our lessons were to less-actives or recent converts), and Larry giving the most African prayer I've heard in a long time at the end of Sacrament meeting. It was in English, and as his enthusiasm increased, so did the volume of his voice, until he was just shouting English praises into the microphone. And all the white people were kind of terrified, and all the Africans turned into Evangelists for a bit and just started saying "Amen, amen" in the middle of what he was saying. And then it ended and the postlude music started and everything went back to normal. 

So one of the members we teach, Romain, is...kind of a hoarder. Earlier he told us he'd been having financial trouble with taxes and whatnot. While we were there, we looked around and saw these bowls full of small change--nothing more than 20 cent pieces--that he had been saving for years. And we asked him, Why don't you just cash all this in? But he has troubles getting out of the apartment sometimes, so eventually we just offered to take the coins for him and give him the money back. So we found a flimsy plastic bag to dump them in, and brought it around with us for the rest of the day, carrying it like a small child because otherwise it would burst and spill our coins everywhere. It weighed about as much as a small child, too. While walking through centreville with it, I was so scared to be approached by a beggar, because what am I going to say to him? I'm sorry, I have absolutely no small change to give you?

At Auchan, our current grocery store, there's a machine where you just dump in all your change, it counts it for you, and gives you a receipt with which you can buy food. Perfect--we'll just put in the coins, buy our food with the receipt, and give him the cash we would have used. Right? Well, we underestimated the ability of small and simple coins to bring great prices to pass. The receipt came out for ninety-five euros. And these stupid receipts force you to spend it all in one purchase, at Auchan only, and you can't buy gift cards with it or anything. Like a demonic missionary cooking show, to see how much p-day time they'll spend trying to spend exactly ninety-five euros on things they actually need. Two weeks' worth of food, some cleaning products and a set of ceramic cooking knives later (we were really out of ideas okay), we were on our way. And now we owe Romain almost a hundred euros.

That's all for now! Until next time...soyez sages!


Elder Stanford

PS Why did they give us iPads ?

                                                                 With "the Pumford"
                                                       With a recent convert Williams

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Kearon Conference

Hey hey hey!

So this week was the Elder Kearon Conference. It was awesome to be in a room with a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, hearing what he had to say and being able to ask him questions. He said a lot of things that made me reflect on what I can improve in my daily missionary work. 

Elder Kearon is actually a convert to the church. That one fact made it so much more interesting to hear what he had to say. Not only that, but he discovered the church by being contacted in the street by sister missionaries, like I do on such a regular basis. He was baptized at 26, after over fifteen invitations to baptism. When I go out contacting, do I ever think to myself that I might go talk to someone who will end up being a general authority - someone who will lead hundreds of thousands of church members across a multiple countries? I'll give you a hint for the answer to that question: it's "no." But perhaps I should think that way. 

When someone asked him what made him stop when the missionaries contacted him in the street, he said, "Their smiles." What difference can a smile make? There's just one. 

Other things he said that I'd love to share:
- We are agents to act, not to be acted upon. Good things won't usually happen unless we make them happen. Attack the day!
- Feeling the Spirit for the first time is "like a little part of my soul was waking up."
- Don't compare yourself to anyone but yourself. 
- "Stop worrying so much. Just work really hard."

                                                       Last transfer district pictures

I will hit my year mark this week! It went by fast. I'm told the second year goes by faster than the first six months. According to missionary tradition, as you saw in The Saratov Approach, I should burn a shirt this week. I'll go with my 5€ impulse purchase from H&M that can only fit the skinniest of all ties under its collar. 

Any other news from this week will have to wait until next, because I am out of time. Love you all!  Soyez sages !

Elder Stanford

Monday, January 11, 2016

Just an email to let you know I'm still alive

Hello all,

We didn't get to see many amis this week. It was crazy busy, I went to Paris twice for transfers and whatnot, and the rest of the time just seeing LARCs (less-active or recent convert) that we need to take care of.

My language learning program on the iPad may be slightly too easy at times.   

These are my new contacting shoes that I found in the Strasbourg apartment.
Each weighs about as much as my old contacting shoes combined.
They will survive the apocalypse.
It's like someone polished two potatoes black, then cut sections out of a tire and slapped them on the bottoms. 

This is two transfers ago in Strasbourg when Elder Pumford and Elder Lucas came from Nancy for an exchange. Elder Pumford is the one who looks like Clark Kent.

Your fault for sending these [paper crowns] to me. 

Out our apartment window

I'm learning Broken! Remember the language I talked about a few weeks ago? It's how Koffi (a Togolese recent convert) and the Nigerian recent converts communicate. Koffi doesn't speak English and they don't speak French but they all speak Broken. 

So I learned that "dey" is a little like être, and every conjugation is the same: dey. So that word shows up in most sentences. "How are you" is "How you dey." And the response is "I dey fine." Then I learned about past, present and future! Examples:

He is not big: him no dey big. 
He was not big: him no dey big befo'.
He will not be big: him no go big.  

Next week the whole mission is meeting with Elder Kearon of the 70! So that'll be cool. And off we go back to Paris. 

More in another email! Love you all! Be good! We go see latah. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Larry's story

Hey all! So transfers are this week, and we found out that Elder Smith is leaving to Rennes on Wednesday, after only three months here in the promised land of Amiens. We'll be going to Paris to drop him off and pick up my new companion, Elder Pumford. I know him already; he's a great missionary and I'm really excited to work with him. He's from Canada (first Canadian comp). Also, he looks like Clark Kent. I'll show you next week.

This week was Larry's baptism! Everything went well. Let me tell you his story. 

Larry is from Nigeria, born and raised, and has always been a really faithful guy. While there, he had a dream: he was flying high above the earth, looking down at it, searching for gospel truth. When he flew over Africa, everything was dark. But as he flew over Europe, he saw that some parts were lit up with the light of the true gospel. 

The exact same dream happened every night for a week. At the end of the week, he decided he needed to do something about it. So he packed his bags and flew to France, where the dream had shown him that gospel truth would exist, to begin a new life. Soon afterward, his friend Olive introduced him to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

The rest is history. After some time exploring the church and the Book of Mormon, a few lively debates with the missionaries, and an extremely sacred experience or two during church--the descriptions of which I don't view as appropriate material to just throw online--Larry was convinced that the gospel truth is found here. He is now one of the newest members of the restored church of Christ. 

Happy New Year! Soyez sages!

Elder Stanford

PS Church was great yesterday! We had the confirmation of Larry, one of our recent converts got the Priesthood, four amis showed up to Sacrament, we had a great discussion in Gospel Principles class with all our African recent converts, we taught Primary again, and we had my first branch council in Amiens. Good stuff.