Dear faithful readers,
I suppose there are only about 10 of you left. 5-10. Thank you for your diligence and heed to my words. You guys are the best of the best.
This week was pretty crazy. But how many emails have I started out like that? Not sure anymore. When missionary life becomes the only thing you can remember, when you find yourself contacting in your dreams, when you realize you've tied and worn at least one tie per day for over 700 days straight...it all starts to pass by super quick.
But don't think I'm getting all trunky on you. In my head, I've still got 2 years left.
So yeah, this week.
Tuesday was spent in Brussels on exchanges with the zone leaders. They are amazing, probably the best zone leaders I've had. Definitely, in fact. We did some finding and lots of teaching together.
Wednesday we went straight from Brussels to Nivelles, where we had district meeting. The training was on faith to see miracles—more specifically, prayer and its relationship to that faith and those miracles. We went straight from that to a medical appointment for Elder Schow's Belgian legality in Waterloo. Yes, the same Waterloo that's famous for having some important battle with Napoleon. I mean, I already saw the guy's tomb in Paris so it wasn't all that special. But hey, we can't all serve in the France Paris mission.
After going to Braine l'Alleud to do a bit of finding as a district, we left to get back to our sector. We had to pass through Charleroi and take a corresponding train to Namur...well, there was a bomb threat in the Charleroi train station and we didn't make it all the way there. They dropped us off in a tiny place called Luttre and essentially said "débrouillez-vous." Luckily, the ward mission leader from Charleroi came and picked us up so we could get back to the missionary apartment there and stay the night (after going out for frites, of course). So in one day the elders from Namur were in Brussels, Nivelles, Waterloo, Braine l'Alleud and Charleroi...and not Namur.
We finally returned from the wilderness to Namur only on Thursday morning, after over 48 hours away...and an hour later we were hosting the Braine elders for exchanges. We did a LOT of finding with them...but hey, thanks to that day we got five rendez-vous set up for this coming week! We were really trying to put that training from the day before into practice. Overall, in the time we've been here in Namur, we've gotten about 40 potential investigators (either an address, phone number or both) from personal street contacting/tracting. We just need to cash it in. As soon as life settles down, we'll spend an afternoon calling all of them to try to set up more appointments. If we can find the time.
The week ended with an AMAZING fast-breaking raclette dinner with members. Everything I ever wanted was there. There was even bacon, which is impossible to find in Europe. That was one happy Elder Stanford.
Then today has been an excellent p-day. We taught a member referral (that exists here??) in that member's home! I don't even care that it was working on our day of preparation and rest, because it was awesome. God's been working on her for ten years and now she's finally ready to search. And one of the best parts is that she understands. She understands the Apostasy, the message of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the story of Joseph Smith, the details of the history of the Book of Mormon. Such a rarity. And she even made the connection that the Book of Mormon is the proof of the message, the way to know if this is all true—a connection that she made without anyone pointing it out to her! That has almost never happened on my mission.
At the end of the lesson, it came time to talk about prayer. I've found out that a lot of people have no idea how to pray. As we were discussing, she quickly became very emotional as she described how she has always seen God as some stern lawgiver whose job is to judge us, "not as...a real father, someone to whom we can turn and express ourselves." For that reason, she had always prayed to Mary and left the praying to God to the "more important" members of her church (i.e. the clergy). It reminded me of a quote by Elder LeGrand Richards, who said "Throughout all my mission, not once did I meet someone who believed in a personal God." I think now I understand a little better what he meant by that. The spiritual peak of the lesson was when she realized that God loved her, that He knew her, that He was aware of her struggles, and that she needed to communicate more with Him. There was an incredible spirit there.
We can't see her until mid-next week due to our conflicting schedules (the days she doesn't work are the days we're going to Charleroi and then Paris)...so don't expect an update on her next Monday. But she's awesome.
Then we carried on with our p-day by hopping over to Brussels to play soccer with the whole district and the Brussels district (16 missionaries total) plus a few members. It was fun until the craziest hailstorm made everyone want to stop haha. We just got back to Namur and now I'm finishing this email up in my lovely apartment.
We have had a couple more experiences that I could share, but the most important is there. And so the rescue mission continues.
The Gospel is true. Obedience to God's laws, sincere and faithful prayer, and focused personal efforts to make a difference in ourselves and others—those things invite the hand of God into our lives. They bring real miracles.
Thank you for your emails and letters, your support and your prayers. Love you guys.
Mission française de Paris