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

Monday, March 28, 2016

The week in which any amount of activity pales in comparison to the four terrorist attack survivors.


First full week back in action.

This week was crazy tiring. For starters, we went to Lille on Sunday night to sleep over before the zone activity on Monday. He is a picture of the whole zone (minus the two équipes who couldn't come):

Elder Carson and I then stuck around and did some finding in downtown Lille on Monday night, stayed all of Tuesday to participate in their finding day, watched the last train home pull away without us on Tuesday night, ended up sleeping over in Lille for the third consecutive night and took an early train on Wednesday morning back to Amiens...just in time to buy food and set up for our own finding day. Then we took members out (worked really well, I would exhort you to spend an afternoon seeing miracles with the missionaries in your area) and did finding as a district for the whole day. Basically, I didn't see my apartment from 8:30AM Sunday until almost 9:00PM Wednesday. 

The finding day went really well, though - 9 new amis, over 20 lessons taught and over 25 people who gave us their contact info. Elder Carson and I went right to work contacting them, and now we have 22 rendez-vous set up for this week. Praying that not many of them frouge. Here is the district picture for this transfer (again, missing an équipe):

On another note, as you all have heard, four missionaries in our mission were injured in the Brussels bombings on Tuesday - the two Belgium zone leaders, a senior missionary, and a sister missionary. All received serious burns and leg injuries, as they were very close (about 10 metres) to the initial blast. I know all of them personally except the sister, who will be released from the hospital this week. The rest will be going home to the US for further treatment; at least for the moment, their missions are done. 

Elder Wells, Elder Empey, Elder Norby and Sister Clain received injuries that, from the sound of it, were not as deadly as they should have been given their proximity to the explosion. Somehow, they will be fine. Elder Empey has a cool story where, after coming back to consciousness, he ran (on legs that should have been way too injured to run on, but ya know, shock and stuff) to Elder Wells, who was lying motionless on the ground, and gave him a Priesthood blessing on the spot. He moved on to Elder Norby, the senior missionary and the one who was the most hurt, and gave him a blessing as well. It was only after that had been completed that he stopped being able to walk on his wounded legs, so he sat on the ground in the destroyed airport and waited for medical help. 

After being victims of a terrorist attack, Elder Empey and Elder Wells testified powerfully of a loving Heavenly Father to the media. "I know that if I can feel His love sitting on a sidewalk next to a destroyed airport, that God -- He'll talk to His other children, too."

Well. Their example is better than anything else I could say.

Last picture: Elder Wells on exchanges with me in Amiens, and a recent convert, Koffi. 

I love you guys. 

Elder Stanford

Monday, March 14, 2016

Message to the masses

Hey everyone! Unfortunately, I won't be able to share my sage thoughts with you in a more personalized, one-on-one way, due to circumstances as unforeseen as they are unfortunate. 

This hospital room, to which I have been confined since Thursday afternoon, has no wifi. In fact, the entire hospital has no wifi. (Like you, I originally thought France was a first-world country--until last summer when I discovered, amid a windless 40°C heat, that apartments in Paris actually have no air conditioning.) Thus, I have no way of getting your emails nor responding to them. I assure you, it's definitely not for lack of spare time. I shall write this on my tablet and have my companion take it, go grab internet somewhere and send it to you all. 

I'm not sick, nor am I injured, in case you're wondering. Unless "sick of being in this room 24/7" counts. Satan wanted to hinder missionary work by having them bring a perfectly healthy elder into the hospital to do a million tests to make sure I'm not dying of tuberculosis. That's right, tuberculosis! The reasoning for this is that I was in contact with a missionary (I saw him a grand total of 7 times) a year ago who later got the disease. Luckily, the Lord saw straight through Satan's plans, and instead of leaving busy Amiens missionary-less for a week, He provided the convenient situation of my trainer being in a tri-panionship in the not-far-away land of Versailles. So he replaced me and is doing awesome missionary work with Elder Carson, and I'm sitting here...not doing that. 

I ran out of time! They're taking my tablet away to send this. Love you all!

(The only good thing about this hospital stay is calling, texting and FaceTiming with family!)

Monday, March 7, 2016

The miracle of my mission

Guys. This is incredible.

It was about a year ago when my trainer, Elder Wheatley, and I decided to go to a part of our sector in Paris to which we'd never been before. We didn't have any amis or members there, but I guess he felt that we should go, and I followed him because that's what blue missionaries do.

The whole story can be found on the post entitled "Coincidences? I think not!" from February 2015 and so I won't tell it all again. If you're feeling like it would take too much time and too many clicks to get there, suffice it to say this: it was a lot of prayer plus some surprising "coincidences" that led us to Helder's door and into his home.

Shortly afterward, with my second companion, Elder Harris, we had an incredible lesson with Helder that left us on a spiritual high for hours. And then...nothing. He texted us and cancelled everything. We later learned that Helder's had some really tough things in his life that were coming back and messing everything up. But we kept leaving the occasional message or text, and after some time he answered. He ended the phone call with five words: "Don't give up on me."

A couple of weeks went by, and I was transferred. That's where I leave the picture.

Fast forward three months. On transfer day, on the way from Belgium to Strasbourg, I was chilling in the underground Paris metro system with Elder Wheatley for a couple hours. And walking through the crowd, guess who we saw: our miracle find, Helder! He was looking as classy as ever. He approached us and told us that he's been moving forward with the missionaries in our old area, and that he was determined to keep going despite the barriers that were holding him back from baptism.

That was almost six months ago now. After many setbacks, some huge miracles, and much prayer and effort on the part of many missionaries, our brother Helder went into the waters of baptism yesterday. And although I wasn't able to be there, I can tell you that his life has changed forever. The old Helder is gone: he died as he was plunged into the water. The new Helder, a disciple of Jesus Christ, was just born.

Never forget that our Saviour can change any situation into something bright and beautiful.


Elder Stanford

Four of the missionaries who taught Helder

PS (Jordan wanted to include this email from Elder Wheatley, a former companion who, according to Jordan, said it better)

Hi friends,
When I first came on a mission, I was stupid. By that I mean, I thought the only way to measure missionary success was by dressing in white and standing in the water with someone ready to follow Jesus Christ. I was so set on baptisms. I wanted to baptize lots and lots of people and say at the end "what a good boy I am!" Stupid right? This week I had another experience that opened my eyes to the reality of true missionary work; or might I say, this week I saw the wrap-up of something that started over a year ago.

On the 26th of February of 2015, Elder Stanford and I were out working in a small town in the bordering region of Paris called Chilly-Mazarin. This town was over an hour away from our apartment, and we had come out because we were running around trying to follow
inspiration. It was raining lightly and after two hours of rejection we started feeling pretty frustrated. We prayed for further direction.

During this prayer we felt that we needed to tract -- which at 2:30pm on a Thursday is not the most efficient way to work. We started knocking doors, and saw little fruits. After an hour, we came upon an apartment building with about 10 names on the intercom. We started ringing. Finally we rang the last name under TAVARES, waited for a few seconds, rang again and then finally... nothing. A bit disappointed, we felt like there was something better we could be doing so we decided to pray again for direction, there in front of the door.

About a minute or two into the prayer, we were interrupted by someone who answered the intercom. His name was Helder. He told us that he was too tired and to come back the following week on the same day at the same time. We made the journey a week later and were disappointed when Helder stood-us-up. We wrote a note, left it in his mailbox and said if he calls, great, if not, we're not coming back.

That night we received a phone call from the sister missionaries in Antony who told us that, while talking to their investigator, they asked for a referral. Their investigator gave them the name of a man
who was having a tougher time in his life and wanted to change; a man who lived in Chilly-Mazarin; a man named Helder. We were blown away. Of the 10 million people living in the Paris region, they gave us the very name of the person we had tried to see that very same day!

We went back the following Thursday at 4pm. He was there. We taught him the message of the Restoration of the Gospel and about God's plan for happiness, and the spirit was so strong. At the end of the lesson, Elder Stanford asked Helder to pray, and in doing so, Helder started to cry. He wanted to proceed in the teachings. I was transferred right after this encounter.

Teaching Helder was a complicated process as it took a year. He stopped taking the lessons multiple times, but he couldn't deny the spirit he felt and always came back. Yesterday I was able to attend
the baptismal service of Helder Tavares, and I don't think I've ever attended a more spiritual service in my life. Here was a man who literally changed his life through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ; a man ready to forget his past, to embrace a brighter future. At least one missionary from each companionship that taught him after I left attended this service, and you could see the love they all had for this man. Each of these missionaries saw miracles in teaching Helder.

You know what? I didn't even touch the water of that baptismal font, but my joy couldn't have been fuller. Missionary work goes well beyond the actual baptism. I praise all those who have the faith and the courage to take part in the little steps of sharing the Gospel, whether it be on Facebook, through text messages, inviting friends and family members to ward events, teaching with the missionaries, driving people to church/seminary/whatever. If you participate in the conversion of your fellowman, how great will be your joy in heaven, and might I add, on earth as well.

I invite each and everyone of you to pray tonight. Who can you help? Who searches for this message? For those who have not yet entered through the gates of baptism by proper authority, I invite you to
learn for yourself by talking to your member friends, and searching for yourself at and with the missionaries - they don't bite, or at least I don't. Finally those of you who have strayed from
what you once felt and loved, I invite you to honestly humble yourself before God in prayer. No matter how far you think you've strayed, it couldn't be worse than Peter denying the living Christ three times. Look where he ended up after he repented. God loves you and wants you back.

Elder Nicholas Wheatley

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Consecrate Thine Attitude

Monday, Feb 29, 2016
Hey all! Our P-day was eaten up by a service project, and also by me getting stuck in a tiny stairwell in an African home while people tried to get a desk unstuck that was, in hindsight, just slightly too big for the stairwell itself. I feel it justified to write emails to you tomorrow on the train to St. Omer and email them afterward. Talk to you tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016
So President Babin has instituted a thing called "Consecration Days."
En gros, this transfer, each ville has a day where the whole district comes and dedicates the entire day to finding people for those missionaries to teach.

We've only had one so far, in Calais. Let me tell you about this ville. Calais is one of those cities that goes around in missionary folklore as a "difficult" city. They say that it's just a bunch of old white people alongside a camp of desperate immigrants, and that nobody wants to listen. Missionaries will joke about their companions being banished to a place like Calais if they start being disobedient.

Elder Carson and I, knowing that 1) The cities around Calais (St. Omer and Dunkerque) have the exact same reputation as Calais, 2) That the missionaries in all three villes weren't happy to be there, and 3) That we'd all be together for this Consecration Day...we decided that it was up to us to show the missionaries a thing or two about good attitudes. So we came into the ville with the faith that God would use us to find people for Calais to teach if we had the right attitude and followed the Holy Ghost.

On the walk from the train station to the church building, where we'd meet the other missionaries, we were stopped in the street by a young French guy asking how he could find peace after the death of his friend. Talk about a question every missionary wants to hear! He agreed to meet with us later, and the missionaries in Calais are seeing him multiple times per week now. The missionaries were amazed that we already had someone for them to teach. But it was only the beginning.

In total, due to train times and a district meeting, we only had three hours to find people that evening in Calais. We decided to find a poor-looking apartment building and knock on all the doors, because poor = humble = ready to accept the gospel, right? Well, joke was on us, because behind each door was rude white person in a cloud of questionably-legal smoke. The night wore on and we started to think that maybe Calais really was just a "dead" ville that couldn't be resurrected for the moment.

The turning point came from Elder Carson, who decided that we needed to pray and ask God where He wanted us to go. We felt after the prayer that it would be useless to stay in that bâtiment. We went back toward centreville through nearly-empty streets, our enthusiasm having taking a couple of hits but some hope and determination still remaining. The Spirit pushed us to get on a bus, where Elder Carson talked to an awesome guy from Côte d'Ivoire. We got off at the same stop as him, got his phone number and even prayed with him right there. He afterward expressed how much it touched him. The missionaries will be meeting with him soon.

We had 45 minutes left, and we knew that there were more people out there. So we prayed again, and the Lord blessed us by putting us on the path of three more people who agreed to hear the message of the restored gospel: a woman with a kid, a kind Eritrean man, and a dope young student.

As always, the mission can be compared to life. Are you faced with a situation where it seems like you're destined for disappointment and failure? Do the odds overshadow your abilities? Do you feel that the powers that be have condemned you to a certain set of circumstances that squash your divine potential as a son or daughter of God? Elder Carson and I would recommend three things to you:

1) Have a positive attitude! "Those who say they can, and those who say they can't, are both usually right."
2) Seek and follow the Spirit! "The Holy Ghost...will show unto you all things what ye should do."
3) Have faith! Trust in the Lord. An all-powerful, transcendent Being knows you personally and loves you. "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God."

 Much love and prayer,

Elder Stanford