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

Monday, September 26, 2016


This week I found out about the passing of my maternal grandfather, Gérard Vanizette. He was the oldest of my four grandparents. I must assume it was a peaceful passing in his care centre, and I've been glad to hear that he hasn't been lacking in visits from family members.

As I won't be able to attend his funeral, I thought it somewhat appropriate to commemorate his life and legacy with this blog post. It will likely be short and not as well thought out as it could be--written in the language of a 21-year-old on an iPad in an apartment in Belgium--but it will have to do.

I'd like to mention just a few of the best and most significant choices that my Grandpa Vanizette throughout his life.

The first was to marry my grandmother, Gisèle Amblard. I'm not sure what the marriage culture was like in France half a century ago, but right now it seems to be as avoided in France as it is sought after in BYU-Idaho. For two typical French people, not yet members of the Church, to marry and raise two children in the faithful keeping of those vows is a very significant thing. That choice affected generations for the better.

I've elected to depart from chronological order to be able to save the best for last. So the second choice I'd like to mention is the choice that the Vanizette couple made to take their young family and move halfway across the world to Calgary, Canada. It goes without saying that I'm grateful that they made this choice. Although I'm proud of my French heritage, I'm happy that I got to grow up in the true north...and moreover, that choice allowed my mother, just 13 years old at the time, to later meet my father and repeat the decision that Gérard and Gisèle had made years earlier.

The last and most impactful choice my grandfather made happened some years before the one above. One day, he chose to listen to two young men as they passed through his chocolate store in France. He chose to invite them over and listen to what they had to say (despite initial protests, I'm told, by his entourage). These young men were missionaries, representatives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Grandpa Vanizette accepted the most readily the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ--the kingdom of God on the earth. The rest of his family followed. All of his direct descendants have stayed active in the Church, with both of his daughters marrying in the temple, three missions served (with at least one more on the way) among his grandchildren, as well as five of his grandchildren (so far) marrying in the temple. At the time of his death he had two great-grandsons who were just beginning a life filled with the blessings of living the gospel.

I remain infinitely grateful for the choice my grandparents made to accept the restored gospel in France, despite all oppositions that came with being a pioneer of the small--but slowly growing--kingdom of God in that country. It must not have been easy to leave their Catholic traditions and enter into that new life. I'm thankful that they kept the faith and put their priorities where they needed to be:
"Seek ye first the kingdom of God." I'm grateful that my grandfather was able to remain true to his testimony until the end of his mortal life, and set the example for his descendants to follow.

I'm also grateful to two unknown missionaries--likely in their 60s or 70s by now--who brought this light to my family. I strive to emulate their example, though I don't feel as valiant as they must have been.
It's humbling to be in their place, to try to find and teach families about the same thing that has helped my family and me so much.

So despite the inevitable passing from mortal life, and the inevitable emotional pain that comes to the loved ones who remain here, I can say this with faith: Thanks to the Saviour and what He's done for us all, and thanks to the people that brought His gospel to my life, I can know that this isn't the end for Grandpa Vanizette or for any of us.
It's up to us now to follow this example that has been set for us by staying true to what we know to be true, and helping others do the same.

Alors je te remercie, Grandpa Vanizette, de ton exemple de bons choix, de foi et de persévérance.  Puisqu'on connaît le plan éternel de Dieu, on peut se dire à bientôt.  Nous t'aimons tous.

Elder Jordan Stanford

Monday, September 19, 2016

The rescue mission

This is it. The concluding chapter. The final saga. The epic culmination of 20 months of missionary experiences in one last showdown between the two most powerful forces in all the universe: Christ and His representatives versus all that personifies the evil one. 

Here's how it's going down in Belgium. There are four équipes in the district: Namur, Nivelles 1 and 2, and Charleroi. I'm whitewashing Namur with Elder Schow, an experienced missionary who's already done two whitewashes before. Nivelles 1 is getting whitewashed by one of the most hardworking sisters I know, plus a new missionary. Charleroi just got a powerhouse missionary as well. These villes weren't seeing spectacular success before...but the zone leaders told me that when they saw who was coming into the district, they said the district would be entering into "its glory days." We have all been sent here on a rescue mission. 

Normally I would try to avoid talking about positions--because that's not what determines a successful missionary--but in order for you to better understand my current task, you would need to know that they've asked me to be the district leader of this newly revolutionized district. As the most...*ahem*...seasoned missionary in the Bruxelles zone, I am leading the rescue mission of the Charleroi district. It all begins tomorrow with the first district meeting, and we're going onward and upward from there. The ZLs have already told me about the main problems with the work in each ward, and we're gonna put some stuff into action to fix them. There's definitely work to do. 

Now I'm sure you want to know about Namur. Unfortunately I couldn't tell you much yet, seeing as we arrived late Wednesday evening, and Friday and Saturday were taken up by training meetings in Paris and Brussels, respectively. (How fancy-executive-business does that sound?) From our Thursday and Sunday experiences, here's what we know:
- This is the smallest ville of my mission and the largest ville of Elder Schow's. I guess that makes it a medium-sized ville. 
- There has been a party going on downtown since we arrived, with live music stands and multicoloured alcoholic shots and fireworks. When I say downtown, I mean it takes up ALL of downtown, where we happen to live. It's an annual 5-day thing. Drunk Belgian people everywhere. But we only got yelled at once ^_^
- Members here are pretty cool. A lot of them are all related by blood or marriage. We need to baptize some new people here and make sure they stay active in order to change it up a bit!
- There are some amis here--but we've been able to see about 0% of them this past week. But we found a couple of cool new people, and we have more appointments set up for this week. Stuff is going to happen. 

Couple of pictures to end it off:

Generation pic! Me, my son, my grandson and my great-grandson
A monument in Brussels
I'm officially ready to die: my replacement came into the mission. Stanford 2.0. 
Ingredients: potatoes, two heart attacks, salt. 2.50€. 
Well, that's my life. The last adventure is beginning. Allons-y!

Elder Jordan Stanford
Mission française de Paris

Monday, September 12, 2016

My dying ville

My time in Paris is over! I saw it coming, of course, but it's always a bit surreal to pack up and leave someplace that's been your home for months. Almost every night since mid-May I've gone to sleep and woken up in Paris-proper--a beautiful, stressful, polluted, dynamic, historic city. It's been a blast. By far the most busy and chaotic time of my mission. No idea how my trainer did five transfers here haha. I'm excited to get a chance to breathe a little easier (metaphorically and physically).

I will be finishing my mission in Namur, Belgium! Super excited to go back to Belgium. The apartment is awesome, the ward seems cool, and they say Namur has the best frites in the mission. I'll have to try them about a dozen times before I can get back to you on that one.
There goes my end-of-mission beach body regime. Good thing I get home in wintertime, right?

For the second time, I'll be whitewashing into a ville (for those of you who haven't served a mission in the last couple of decades, that's when you and your companion enter the city at the same time and neither of you have any idea what you're doing). The first time was in Strasbourg, where I only got to do six weeks. I'm excited to see what work we can get done there!

Other news:
- My son, Elder Harris, just became a zone leader in the Paris Lilas ward. It's kinda weird, actually: My father, Elder Wheatley, only left Paris once, for two transfers in Liège. Then I did two transfers in Liège. Now my son has only left Paris once...for two transfers in Liège. Now he's coming back! As I leave.
- My grandson, Elder Barton, is training! It's been about a year since he was born. I get to see my great-grandson before I die :D

As far as missionary work, this week focused itself completely on Aurélien. He is doing so well! We taught him three times this week, each time with a different one of his new friends in the church. The highlight was when we had a family home evening with the Stonehockers on Monday night. It seriously helped him so much. He is a stud!

On Sunday, Mitt Romney stopped by during his annual Paris vacation and had a little conference with all the missionaries in the Paris area.
It was pretty cool, actually. I don't worship the guy, but he's an important man, great public speaker and a strong testimony of Christ and His gospel. It helped me motivate myself to give my all to this last part of my mission. (He also told a couple of funny stories, like when he and three other missionaries got into a fistfight with the Toulouse rugby team haha.) It was good.

I don't have much more to say, but you can have many pictures to complete this entry.
With Mitt and Anne Romney

Much love!

Elder Stanford
Mission française de Paris