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

Monday, December 12, 2016


Hey family and friends! 

I sat in front of my iPad screen for a good 10 minutes trying to decide what to write about. It's difficult to put all of these emotions and experiences into words. 

Leaving Namur was really hard. We ended with a family home evening with Virginie and her two oldest daughters at the home of the Vandermostens, their integration family. It was really fun! We ate and played games and laughed and all that good stuff. But the best part was during the spiritual thought, given by Sr. Vandermosten, about the importance of having a testimony and sharing it. Virginie asked, What's a testimony? and they told her that it's when you know something through the Holy Ghost. She said, Can you have more than one? They answered, You can have a testimony that God exists, a testimony that prayer works, that the Church is true, that the Book of Mormon is true... and she said, Oh, well I already have that. 

Ahghnejehebbh SO COOL.

Wednesday was transfer day, which was cool because I got to see a lot of my homies for the last time. The group of elders I came into the mission with were going home. It was weird, honestly, but fun. Elder Schow went to pick up his new son and I went to my new ville. 

Now let's talk about Évry. It is different from what I expected. 
  • First of all, the apartment is terrible haha. Not enough space for the 4 missionaries that live here; old junk everywhere; ancient, caved-in mattresses; insufficient kitchenware (and food, for that matter—we legitimately eat rice every day); virtually no cleaning products; stained and pockmarked walls; all the pans have had their teflon coating scraped off by people who don't know you're not supposed to prepare your food on them with a metal steak knife... Yeah. Maybe Elder Schow just made me a real snob with his cleaning obsession and love of high-quality cooking experiences. Let's just say I've already thrown out over 6 garbage bags of clutter and trash that's been collecting here. 
  • People told me that Évry was full of African people. I didn't realize what they meant by that. I was imagining, like, 40 percent Africans and the rest would be French...boy, was that inaccurate. After being here for a few days, I'd honestly put it at about 80-85% African. The rest is divided between French and Arabic. It's an interesting thing when you get on a train and the only other white person you see is your companion. 
  • The ward is...big! Definitely the biggest ward I've ever had, at about 180 active members. And possibly the smallest percentage of French people of any of my wards or branches, too. (Still higher than the white:black ratio in the town of Évry, because all the French members live in nicer, smaller villes around it.) And ward council actually happens—and not only that, but when it happens, it actually helps get things accomplished! Another first for me. 
  • My new companion, Elder Grayston, is a huge fan of "split contacting": we find a place where we can stay within sight and sound while each contacting different people at the same time. It's something I haven't done a lot on my mission until now, but it's kind of exciting. 

We've been working hard and finding a ton of people who have said they'd meet us again. They are all African so far. So we need to hope and pray that those appointments will go through—apparently that's been the recurring problem in Évry missionary work. In order to find more "solid" people, we've also been trying to do a lot of finding in the farther-away, more French areas of our sector (it's not racist, just a difference in culture that must be acknowledged). But whenever we've taken the trips to get there, which take almost an hour, we've found that they're just empty of anyone in the streets or the we'll have to find other ways to attack the issue. It's an interesting challenge. I may or may not update you on it next week. They tell me next week will be my last email home. Still feels like it should be forever away. 

I did have a cool experience talking to a French guy in the street, though. Although non-believing, he was super open. There, I got to teach someone about prayer—someone who knew legitimately nothing about it, what it was or how to do it. He was amazed at the simplicity of it. No real rules except sincerely expressing your thoughts  to God. He didn't want to meet again for the moment, but he said he'd try it. And you know what? I believe him. 

Well, I don't want to get all dramatic about the whole "this is my last week" thing. All good things come to an end. Except life, heaven, eternal families, personal progression, priesthood, God's love for us, and foufou at an African dinner appointment. 

This wall art underneath the Namur train station accurately represents how Elder Stanford feels as he sees the end of his mission approaching:

Our P-Day trip with the wonderful Badoux couple in Namur;


I finally left a pair of shoes behind. Goodbye, contacting shoes.
They were trustworthy as ever. I always saved them for a non-rainy day. 

My new and last comp, Elder Grayston.
I'm his 5th kill, the poor guy.

The aforementioned African dinner appointment.
Tshim Tshinemu and his family. 

Well, I guess I'll see you all soon. Love you guys. Be the best version of yourselves that you can be. 

Elder Jordan Stanford
Mission française de Paris

Monday, December 5, 2016

Transfer 17: Not Évry-thing goes as planned

Well then. Everything I had projected for the very last part of my mission has been changed. Somebody Else's plans were quite different from my own. 

For the final two weeks of my mission, I will be transferred back to France! My new area is called Évry. It's in the suburbs of Paris. I leave earlier than early on Wednesday morning. What I know about Évry is that it's a nice big ward with three équipes, Président and Sœur Babin went there before being called as mission president, and there are lots of African people who live around there. We'll see how it goes. Of course, I do love Africans, and even Parisians to a certain extent, but I'll really miss the  Belgian people. 

To be honest, I'm not sure what the reason for my transfer is. I'm not sure if I'm supposed to help my companion or one of my roommates, or if they're supposed to help me somehow; or if there's an ami that needs to hear things a little differently; or if there's someone that the Lord knows I'll find before I leave; or if I need to convince a teenager in the Évry Ward to serve a mission; or if I'll find my future wife there... Somebody knows, but not me. 

(I promise not to search for a wife in the Évry Ward hahaha don't worry Mom.)

I do know, however, that the Lord Himself directs this work and that He knows way better than we do what is best for His children. During church, while we were teaching the gospel principles class for investigators, we started talking about commandments and especially the Word of Wisdom. We shared that just like earthly parents are the ones who make the rules and call the shots for the safety and happiness of their children, our Heavenly Father makes the commandments and calls the shots for the eternal benefit of His children—us. Why don't the children invent the rules and make the decisions? Well, they have a very limited vision and little experience, and they simply don't fully know what's best. Same thing. 

Elder Schow will be training a new missionary! He is the next district leader as well. I'm excited for him. In fact, all of the five companionships in our district will be training ._. so that'll be fun. Also, my zone leaders will be in Antony from now on, so I may get to do exchanges in my birthplace! That would be cool. Like a full circle type thing. 

Church was sad. This may be the ward that I'll miss the most. I told everyone from the pulpit that I'd come back this May to visit them (hint, Mom and Dad). The most touching experience was right after Sacrament Meeting, when a shy Primary-aged boy named William came up to me. I asked him, "Ça va?" and he shook his head. I said "Pourquoi?" And without saying anything, he just burst into tears and hugged me for a long time. I'm told he hasn't done that for anyone else. At the end of church, right before leaving, the same thing happened. But he was comforted to know that we'd see each other again in the Spring. 

District meeting! At the last district meeting of a missionary's last (full) transfer, it is customary for a "dying" missionary to be "killed" by his companion. 

What a cute district I have. 

Ami update: Virginie is still amazing. We were worried that she may not be reading the Book of Mormon on her own...this week we found out she's at 2 Nephi already. She reads other Church literature as well. No problem there. I'll be sad to leave her. Rana and Merry are solid too and came to church once again. Our other amis, who I don't think I've ever told you about—Marcel and Jean-Gilbert, Adelard and Lafoi, Rachel, Alfred, Jason, Elisabeth and Dems, Christophe, Suzette—are also doing pretty well. 

Other stuff happened (such as moving our favourite members to their new home, who happen to be mild hoarders, so we moved boxes and furniture from 8:30 AM until 7:00 PM) but we won't bore you with any details. 

I still have a mission left. In my homeland of Paris Sud. It's not over till it's over.  (So try not to make me too trunky with all your emails haha.)

Love you all! Onward and upward!

Gros bisous,

Elder Stanford
Mission française de Paris