Tuesday, September 11, 2012

July 30, 2012 "Final Exhortations"

Bonjour Bonjour mes chers amis! This week I've been spending alot of time looking at my plaque. I remember the day I first put it on. After being dropped off at the curb of the MTC, I was lead by a kind sister missionary. She helped me drop off my suitacses and then guided me to a room with a long line. At the end of this line, they gave your plaque (nametag...). As I inched along with other nervous missionaries I couldn't help but feel excited. I was about to recieve a real plaque-the sign of a real missionary! The kind volunteer helped me pin it on for the first time- not to high, not to low, right over your heart. I became...Soeur Smith. I soon learned I really had no idea what it meant to be a "real missionary". Sure I had heard it described- hard working, obedient, unshakable faith, follows the spirit in all things, etc etc. But these were no long attributes of missionaries in stories in the Ensign. This was real life. This was my mission. As a missionary I've learned alot of things, and I'm sure I've learned many lessons I don't even know I've learned yet. Somewhere between the rising in the morning and putting on my plaque, and coming home exhausted at the end of the day and taking it off -and repeating this day after day- I've learned to be a real missionary. But what does it mean to be a real missionary? Or maybe a better phrased question is "did I accomplish what Heavenly Father wanted me to...did I become a real missionary?" As my mission comes to a close, I've wondered, "how does one handle the end of a mission". I decided to take my question to the scriptures, by looking to see what prophets had to say at the end of their missions. Lets start with Lehi. The man who had the courage to flee into the wilderness. As his life comes to a close he first remembers of all the tender mercies of the Lord (2 Nephi 1:2-3). He gives the classic Book of Mormon promise - keep the commandments and you will prosper in the land (2 Nephi 4:4). And then he speaks to his family "according to the feelings of his heart and the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Nephi 4:12). I would love to hear the feelings of this dear prophet's heart. I feel like that is what I am trying to do today- express the feelings of my heart and the Spirit. Then we have Nephi. The first stud of the Book of Mormon. What does this man of great stature teach us at the end of his mortal ministry? He speaks of his weaknesses. ( 2 Nephi 33: 1,4) He testifies of the importance of relying on the spirit (2 Nephi 33:1). He prays and weeps for his people (2 Nephi 33:3-4).He testifies his purpose of writing the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 33:4). He teaches the importance of charity (2 Nephi 33:7-9). And finally he glorifies in Jesus and exhorts us to believe in Him. ( 2 Nephi 33:6, 10-12). Despite his feelings of inadequacies he never looses site of his purpose- to invite others to come unto Christ. We then have the priviledge of hearing from Nephi's brother, Jacob, he who was born in the wilderness amongst tribulation. As he looks back on his life he poetically states "our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream" (Jacob 7:26). I feel like this statement hits a little to close to home when looking back on the mission. But Jacob died with peace of conscience that he had done all he could to be obedient to the commandments of God (Jabob 7:27). Jacob's son, Enos, was able to look back at his life and say he did all he could to declare repentance and he died with hope for the ressurection- testifying that when it was his turn to see the Lord, "then shall I see his face with pleasure." (Enos 1:26-27). Skip six generations of record keepers who didn't particularly love keeping records, to Amaleki- a righteous man who leaves us with one final inventation. He says " offer your whole souls as an offering unto him and continue in fasting and praying, and enduring to the end. (Omni 11:26). Then we reach King Benjamin. Really all the teachings we have of this righteous king are his final 'exhortations'. He first teaches his sons to search the scriptures diligently. Then he echos Lehi's final promise- keep the commandments and you will prosper in the land (Mosiah 1:7). After reminding his people the importance of serving one another, he asks us to "consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments" (Mosiah 2:41). He teaches the Plan of Salvation (Mosiah 3-4). And just as his time of perserving comes to a close, he invites us to "be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord omnipotent, may seal you his, that you may be brought to heaven" (Mosiah 5:15). This is where the Book of Mormon gets complicated. Groups of people start to break off and the lineage of who writes it the Book of Mormon becomes ...not so lineage-al. But we have some very powerful 'dying testimonies' of missionaries and prophets amongst all the confusion and 'ites'. First we have Abinidi, who give his life to defend his powerful testimony of Christ, reminding us to fear God more than men. Mosiah "labored with all the power and faculties" he had to teach the commandments (Mosiah 29:14). And he helped the people to establish righteous judges. To teach the people this he "unfolded unto them all the trials and troubles of a righteous kind, yea, all the travails of soul" (Mosiah 29:33). He told the people what he had suffered for them and then taught them the importance of sharing responsibility and bearing one another burdens (Mosiah 29:34). When Alma summarized Mosiah's life he simply stated he "warred a good warfare" (Alma 1:1). Alma encourages his sons to "learn wisdom" and "to keep the commandments" (Alma 37:35). He promises us that the words of Christ "will point to a straight course to eternal bliss" (Alma 37:44). But this great missionary could not rest, he wanted to preach (Alma 43:1) and continued to do so until he was taken up unto the Lord (Alma 45:19-19). Helaman leaves his sons with some beautiful fatherly wisdom. He says "And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall." (see Helaman 5:7-12) And then, the most important event of the Book of Mormon. Christ comes to teach the people. And while Christ does not directly say when he will stop visiting them- we can see what is important by looking at what is mentioned in his last recorded sermon ( 3 Nephi 27). He teaches what is to be the name of His church. He declares His gospel. He invites us, "for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do" (verse 21). He promises "Therefore, ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for he that asketh, receiveth; and unto him that knocketh, it shall be opened" (verse 29). He warns us of worldliness, and finally "it came to pass that when Jesus had ended these sayings he said unto his disciples: Enter ye in at the strait gate; for strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leads to life, and few there be that find it; but wide is the gate, and broad the way which leads to death, and many there be that travel therein, until the night cometh, wherein no man can work." (verse 33). The rest of the Book of Mormon is like unto the first half - people falling into wickedness and prophets exhorting them to remember God. At the end we have two incrediable heros, who manage to have hope in the most destitue of situations. Mormon testifies one last time perserverance- reminding all followers of Christ to "labor diligently" so that "we may conquer the enemy of all righteousness and rest our souls in the kingdom of God" (Moroni 9:6). Moroni says goodbye twice- the first time he simply testifies that God is a God of miracles and reminds us to "doubt not, but be believing" (Mormon 8:27). The second time we recieve a farewell from Moroni, it is full of "exhortations". He invites us to do many things- but theme of his exhortations is it to come unto Christ. He says "Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot." (Moroni 10:32-33). Isn't the Book of Mormon wonderful? I've loved studing the final testimonies of these prophets. It has helped to see what kind of things these 'real missionaries' valued at the end of thier ministry. And while I'm sure your eyes are tired and your wondering when I'll finish this email and face the fact that I'm just one little missionary and not an epic war hero in the Book of Mormon, I just have a few scriptures I want to share that I think summarize how I feel at the end of my mision, and to me define "a real missionary". First, I want to express humility. Like Nephi and Moroni, I worry sometimes that my weaknesses could keep people from accepting the gospel. But I gain strength from the scriptures Doctrine and Covenants 1:23 that says "the fullness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world, and before kinds and rulers." I feel a real missionary knows thier weaknesses and depend on the Lord to quailfy them for the work. And I know that as we forget ourselves and our weaknesses, the Lord will make us strong so that we may " preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound" (Isaiah 61:1). And as we serve others - something wonderful happens. We start to love them, and you can truly loose yourself in the work. And " So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us" (1 Thess. 2:8) and as we give our whole souls to people they become "our glory and joy" ( 1 Thess. 2:20). But the more we invest ourselves in people...the more room they have to disappoint us, to make us cry, and to make our very souls..sad. As we watch them reject the gospel...it hurts. Again, I've learned to trust and rely on the Lord in all things- for there is always hope in the gospel. "And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise." (Moroni 7:41). So, the real question, have I become a real missionary? Yes. I love this gospel. I love the people of France (and Belgium, and Africa, and China, and Russia, and everyone else I've had the chance to serve during my mission). As I look at my plaque I know that it is really just an outward expression of all that my mission has meant to me. An outward symbol of my desire to serve God. I know when I take it off, that underneath lies my new heart. On that heart, the name of Christ and the spirit of missionary work have been permanently carved into it. I am so grateful for the chance I've had to serve a mission. I know its changed me forever. And if I could leave you one more exhortation, my dear friends and family-whether you are a return missionary, future missionary, current missionary, member missionary, or even if you not sure quite yet what the big deal is with missionary work- remember always to "cleave unto God as he cleaveth unto you" (Jacob 6:5) God loves you. I love you. Soeur Smith.

July 23, 2012 "Preparing for baptism is like being pregnant"

Bonjour Bonjour. Miracle number one of the week: the sun is shining. And its actually lasted for 24 hours. Sometimes the sun shines and I get all happy inside, and then 10 minutes later its back to being gray and I'm back to scowling at the skies. But its actually been nice out for more than an hour....so I'm letting my guard down and I'm just rejoicing in the sun. This week was quite eventful. We got permission from President to have Tracy do a four-day mini mission with us. I have honestly forgotten what it's like to have the energy of 16 year old. Or maybe I've just forgotten what its like to have any sort of excess energy at all. haha. It was a great experience to introduce someone to missionary life. Even if she wasn't too keen on going running at 6:30, she was a trooper and was much happier in the morning than I generaly am. (no parents, if you were hoping that one of the lessons I've learned on my mission is how to be a morning person, that one never quite settled in) Tracy told us one day she wanted to try passing by her aunt's house. Her mom had told me about her aunt already and they had tried to share with her the gospel and she was never very open to it. But Tracy was very persistant so we finally agreed. When we first got there it was akward because her aunt's friend answered the door and thought we were jehovah's witness and told us to go away, but Tracy then said she was looking for her aunt. Her aunt let us in and we tried to keep it pretty casual, just talked about where we were from and ask about them. The aunt's friend, Jessica, told us she was believing but not practicing. We explained to here the Book of Mormon and a little what we believe, and afterwards she said "I'm actually really interested, how much does the book cost" oooh I love it when people ask that because then we can say its FREE! And the look on their faces are priceless...Anywho, Jessica ended up taking the book of mormon and saying she would come to church (you know after vacance, etc....) and we were able to fix a return appointment with Tracy's aunt! She was prepared this time... or the love of an aunt for her niece softened her heart a little Well then Day 2 of the mini mission hit and our dear little Tracy fell asleep in a rendezvous...luckily it was a less active member who thought it was hilarious. Made me feel a little better about being exhausted all the time haha. But my favorite experience with Tracy this week was while we were porting. We were going from door to door, and getting kindly rejected at each door. And when I say kindly, the people really were very nice. One man let us explain that we aren't polygimast (sp?), another old couple told us about how they had met with elders 30 years ago, another lady told me how about her vacation she is going on to Canada next month...all nice people. No one interested in the gospel. But after every single door Tracy would say "aren't we so blessed! we found a neighborhood full of people with open hearts!" Soeur McGhie and I just looked at church confused because no one had actually been open to learning more, but I soon realized it was us that needed to change perspective. Our little "Soeur Tracy Tessa" taught us that its ok to count those little seeds planted at open hearts. And we had another lovely experience contacting with a member this week. This week at ward council the bishop asked if we would be willing to go out and passby some less actives with the young women's president for the evening.We passed by a couple people we knew of and no one would let us in...so we decided to just pick a random name on the ward list. Well we ended up finding the apartment complex...but could not actually find the apartment building. While investigating one apartment building a lady came out of the door, our YW president asked her if she knew the family we were looking for. The lady said no, sorry, I'm not from here. Well then our YW president pulled out a pass-along card and asked if she could leave her our card anyways, and started to explain the restoration. It was awsome! We ended up talking to her for a few minutes, and while in the end she didn't give us her number she did say "thank you for talking with me, I really enjoyed it". Go member missionaries! And the elders had a baptism this week. Wahoo! And one of our amis decided to come. She even brought cookies for everyone afterwards. Afterwards the Relief Society president was talking with her about baptism. Solange, our ami, said "the baptism was so quick! just in the water and back out again!"...and then our relief society president explained "well its like giving birth, there are nine months of preparation before you go into labor. Preparing for baptism is like being pregnant, and being baptized is being born, quick compared to the preparation". I'm assuming she had easy labors....most people I talk to dont seem to refer to labor as "quick". haha Anyways, it was great for Solange to see a baptism and for her to feel the spirit of a baptismal service. We keep asking her when her's will be and she is very insistant on 'researching the whole book of mormon first". We're working on convincing her that preparation for baptism does not actually have to take as long as a pregnancy.... And this week we are going to start teaching a chinese girl, Grace, that the elders contacted on the metro. She is amazing! She came to church yesterday and everyone thought she was a member already. As my district leader put it, a christian chinese? How could you be more prepared by God? I really hope we can fix a baptismal date with her this week. And we finished of the week with some porting. The last door of the night was answered by this older man who threw open the door and said "vous cherchez quoi?!?" (what are you looking for?) I told him we were looking for someone who wants to learn about Christ. He softened and told us he was practicing catholic, then he looked at us and said "arent you a little young to be doing this?". Gave us some room to tell us a little bit about our missions. He told us a little bit about how has been a volunteer for Catholic church for 50 years and how his family has been clergy since the 15th century. Honestly, I didn't feel like telling him his family has been mistaken on doctrine for quite awhile, so I just said "you know, it is so nice to talk with someone who loves Christ and wants to serve him". (and the entire street had been athiest...so it really was a nice change) He asked when I went home, (since we had already explained how long missions are, etc). I got a little sad inside and told him next week. When I gave him our card he put it in his shirt pocket and told us he would cherish it. I don't know why I enjoyed talking to this old, catholic man so much, but our entire exchange just made me happy. I guess Tracy taught me to look for 'open hearts' in a new way. As we walked away from his house I couldn't help but think I have to keep practicing my french so when we meet up in the spirit world I can still teach him and 9 generations of catholic family the gospel. Good thing I've still got some time to keep practicing the french ;) Love you all, have a great week! Soeur Smith

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

July 18, 2012 "Just another missionary week....you know with some trunky tendancies‏"

Well I won't lie, I just had some serious hyperventalating moments opening up my inbox. This is what I saw: -flight itenirary -baggage regulations -my interview scheadule with president -and lovely little emails from the family saying things like "next time I'm at home, I'll be with you"...or "I don't know if we're going to have internet in Greece the next two Sundays...so if we don't write you...we'll just see you!" Oh gosh. So for the sanity of my companion and the lack of tissues in this creepy cybercafé I'm just going to tell you about my week and box all the emotions about to spill out until I have to give that torturous thing called a homecoming. So this week was pretty crazy. We had interveiws with president, which ended with "see you trés bientot!"....btw I told president my family was trunky and he told me thats normal...so I guess I shouldn't be so hard on you guys lol. Then we had exchanges. It was good..You know other than we were doing exchanges with sisters in the most southern ville in the mission, and we are in the most northen....4 missed trains and 2 extra hours in Paris later, I spent a lovely day with Soeur Pymm from Idaho Falls, Idaho, we got to reminsce about potatoes and gave Soeur McGhie a break from listening to all my stories from my mission, and got a fresh pair of ears to talk to. We had some pretty cool rendezvous this week. There is less active that the bishop has asked to visit. We pass by maybe twice a week trying to get inside. Once in a while she will come out and sit on the steps while we a read a scripture to her. Well this week we actually got inside! We tried to make small talk and she was just quiet as usual...then we tried to share a story from the Liahona...but at the end she was like 'honestly, I didn't understand that story at all' ....then launched into a series of appologies about she's sorry that she's been so cold to us, and then pulled out pictures from when the sisters first taught her and told us all her memories about when she first was baptized. She told us how she just started working alot and she forgot about her testimony (she is currently living with a guy and is pregnant) but that she wants to come back to church. She ended with some encouraging words that we need to contact people on the street because we never know when they will accept. It was what you could say is a major breakthrough. Only took 10 weeks. We felt like we had a lot of major breakthroughs this week that 'only' took 10 weeks. We had an ami finally come to church, first time for us. We contacted this lady Zhara, and it was such a neat experience. At first she wasn't interested, but for some reason I just felt pushed to just keep talking. Finally we asked if we could just sit on a park bench and teach her for 10 minutes, she agreed. We explained the book of Mormon and she ended up telling us this experience she had with prayer when she was like 14, and ever since that experience she's asked herself "maybe there is someone who listens to prayers". The spirit was so strong there on the park bench right next to the loud construction. It was so neat. The sun even shone for us for like 10 minutes. She took the Book of Mormon, and said we could call her to fix another rendezvous...On Verra. And we had a cool experience with porting. So during interviews President asked why, I thought, we were having such a hard time finding new people to teach. I really didn't know, I honestly feel like we've been trying everything. We've been trying to apply everything our leaders teach us, we are doing finding all the time...we find cool people...just no one actually progresses. We've taught lots of first lessons and gotten lots of numbers....its just been frustrating to see nothing go anywhere. So he just encouraged us to do more porting. SO, we did. We found this one street where almost every door was an adorable family. Seriously, picturesque mom and dad with three little kids....at every door. And at every door they were very polite in telling us 'no, thanks'. But this one lady, she came to the door with 3 little boys...loud crazy little boys. We were trying to explain we are missionaries blah blah blah, and she was trying to battle these three wrestling boys trying to close the door in our faces. Finally I just said 'listen, I know its wierd to come to people's door and talk about Jesus, but what we really talk about is how to apply his gospel to our daily lives and how it can bless our families". She said "well that, I would be interested in, can you pass by another time?" Of course we said yes, and I barely asked her name when her sons succeeded at closing the door. I guess being blunt works. When in Lille, do as the Lillois? And we celebrated the lovely Bastille Day, which really the only thing that changed for us was that the buses were less frequent...I really think the French would die if they saw what the Fourth of July is like. Oh well, I was super spirted and wore blue, white, and red. haha It was a pretty good week, and while yes in the back of my mind I know the clock is ticking on my little missionary life, I also know that I still have alot of hours of contacting ahead of us...so pray that I can have emotional stability in the next few weeks and pray we find people! Je vous aime! à très beintot! Soeur Smith

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

July 9, 2012 "Don't worry, be happy now"

Bonjour Bonjour!!!
Well this week Soeur McGhie and I were invited again to mission council...one more train ride to Paris (which is ironic because everytime I make that train ride I get all sentimental and tell myself the next time I make that train ride I'll have my suitcases...then something else happens and woaps off to Paris again...)

Anyways...mission council was good. I was expecting all the serious, bussiness talk that Zone Leaders like to make...when President Poznanski got up and asked "when is the last time you really laughed with your companion?"
And he was serious...he wanted stories. So people started raising thier hands and talking about how they had seen someone crash thier bike, or someone had told them they couldn't understand a thing they say, or the cell phone had rang during a prayer. Here I was thinking prez would react by wanted to say something like "have charity for those who crash their bikes, work on your french, make sure you phone is on silent in rendezvous"...but no...he was laughing right along with us. Then I realized...I probably sound much too serious in my emails...ok maybe I imagine that I sound like a serious, seasoned missionary in my emails...but comme meme I decided its time to share with you some of the hilarious things that have happened to us the past couple weeks. Because, oh gosh, being a missionary is one of the funniest things ever. Par example:

-So the cute 16 year old that admires our tags, remember that story? Well her name is Tracy. And Tracy loves to speak english. She is also asking us for help with her homework and always trying to speak with us and the elders. Well, an elder and I somehow started teaching her gibberish words and told her that it is Canadian, and that actually english is my second language. And this has been going on for a good 2 and a half weeks. Now whenever she sees us, she greats us with "ashneedersnider" and says goodbye with " oobish". We even demonstrated entire converstations of "canadian" for her. But before you get worried about how cruel we are...we did finally sit her down and tell her Canadian is not a real language (she might have announced to some ward members she's learning canadian). Anyway...she is kind of a dramatic one, so once we got over the fake crying, she starting saying "I hate you elder!" We told her, Tracy you can't say I hate you...that's very rude in english. But you can say "I don't like your chicken".....haha yes it starts all over again.

-So we have this less active that smokes. We prepare for our rendezvous with her by wearing lots of layers, so afterwards we can peel off all the layers and not smell like smoke for the entire day. Well this week we were teaching were appropriately teaching the word of wisdom. Imagine the situation: We just finished reviewing all the things we are supposed to and not supposed to partake of. She is waving her cigerette in our faces "it is ridiculous that we are supposed to eat vegetables...I hate vegitables!"
 We get out of the rendezvous and Soeur McGhie looks at me "I don't think she gets that we're not very concerned about her intake of vegetables."
-So last week we went to visit Rositta in the hospital. We had planned a pretty dramatic rendezvous...you know...the DTR (determine the relationship...but in a missionary way)  Either commit to living the gospel...or we can't come see you anymore. Well, we come in and she had just been given some medications. But of course, we don't understand what the nurses give her...so I'm trying to ask her some questions...to see is she is really interested. And she keeps closing her eyes....then opening them...its like blinking...but really slow motioned...and then one time they stay closed. Of course, I'm in the middle of testifying...and finally I just say "Rositta? Rositta?"...yup she fell asleep. We had to try so hard to not laugh until we were out in the hallway...we just decided to come back another time for the whole DTR to be a bit more effective...

-I called this member last week so see if we could pass by and share a thought...well I asked for Soeur ________...and she acted all suspcious and was like "yes, who is this?" and then I said "its the sister missionaries"...and she acted all relieved and was like " oh with your foriegn accent I thought you were going to try and sell me something!!!" hahaha I just want to know what company calls people by "soeur".

-So we were contacting and we stopped this lady with a little boy. We got through introducing ourselves...and her little boy took of running down the street. She just looks at us, and then starts running after him. I wasn't sure what to do...so I chased after her. Soeur McGhie just stood there looking confused. Meanwhile...the lady is chasing her little boy up and down the street...so all three of us are kind of running circles around each other. haha she finally stopped and I was able to finish the contact.....she's not interested. The best was after Soeur McGhie was like "well that was fun to watch" hahah.

-This story is my favorite. So our 84 year old neighbor comes out every morning, walks across the lawn and dumps a jar of mystry juice in the bushes next to the sidewalk. Its always at the same time, and Im always sitting in the chair watching him.  Well, a few weeks ago, we were noticing that our front porch smells like urine. Soeur McGhie jokingly said "maybe our nieghbor dumps urine in our bushes every morning " I was horrified and said "no, that can't be it...there must be a stray dog somewhere'"...and a couple days later we even saw a dog in our yard! Well...fast forward a couple weeks and we are at mission council. One elder comes up and says "so I see your living in my old apartment...does your nextdoor nieghbor still dump his urine on your yard"...we both looked horrified and were like "what!!!" and the elder was like "ya, he has a cathader(sp?) and apparently doesnt know how to properly empty it" hahahahahah So Soeur McGhie was right...our 84 year old friend literally dumps his urine on our yard. Apparently the Elders once spent french study writing him a very nice sticky note asking him to stop...maybe we'll try again....

Everyday we're faced with funny situations...sometimes its just getting caught in the rain and deciding to laugh rather being frustrated by the soggy feet and ineffective contacting. In Proverbs 17:22 we learn "a merry heart doeth good like a medicine". I realize some of these stories probably arent too funny for you...but remembering the funny things that happen to us each day help us remember that all this soul-saving bussiness is supposed to be joyful!
Anyways, I hope you all had some funny moments this week too!
Love you!
Soeur Smith

July 2, 2012 "Parable of the Rock"

Bonjour Bonjour.
So I thought I'd start this week off with story time. Our lovely zone leaders shared this nice little parable with us:
Once upon a time there was a man. And one night, the Lord came to this man in a vision. He instructed the man that there was a rock just outside his house. The man was to use all his might and strength to push against the rock. The man awoke from his vision with determination. From that day on, he woke up every morning and would go and push against the rock. He would push with all his might and strength for the entire day. He would come in at the end of the day exhausted and worn out. He did this...every day. Days turned into weeks, which turned into months. Satan saw this man's efforts to be obedient, and decided to enter the picture. He started to place thoughts into the man's mind such as "why are you doing this? You have been exhausting yourself for nothing. The rock has not moved one inch and you have been doing all you can. Why try?" The man fed into these thoughts. He started to create his own thoughts such as "maybe I could just put in half the effort...why does it matter. Even with all my strength the rock doesn't move. Maybe this is worthless. I'm not being a profitable servent to the Lord. I cannot move the rock". One night, overwhelmed by these thoughts, the man decided to make it a matter of prayer. He expressed his thoughts and doubts to the Lord. And the Lord responded " My dear servent, I did not command you to move the rock. I simply commanded you to push with all your might and strength. Look at how your muscles have grown from all your pushing. Your arms and back are strong and ready for greater tasks. I did not ask you to move the rock, I will move the rock. I simply asked you to have faith and be obedient. I simply asked you to push.I, the Lord, will move the moutains."
I can think about 100,000 ways this story applies to missionary work. But in discussing this story with Soeur McGhie, I decided to break my rule about not talking about the end of my mission with her. I couldn't help but bear testimony of how much my 'rock' or my mission, has helped me change. Throughout my mission, I've seen things happen for reasons I don't understand. You try and have such and faith and hope in people, to only have them turn away at the last minute from the gospel. You go out contacting with the faith that the Lord truly will put people in your path that are ready, only to return home at the end of the night with no success. You fix goals, only to fall short. At the beginning of my mission I had a list of things I wanted to have learned by the end of my mission, and I'm just starting to see that I had no idea what I needed to change and learn, but the Lord certainly does. He knows which of muscles need strengthening. And I most definately cannot see which mountains he will later ask me to move in my life, for now its all about the faith to push.
And push is mostly what this week has been. Our rendezvous with our Brik fell through. Other people we had high hopes for didn't turn out. Rositta is still in the hospital...and well this week she told us that she is sick of all this talk about baptism and will call us when she's ready to talk again. So we've done lots of finding. Which is really the focus in our zone right now. Finding, finding, finding. I feel very unified with our zone, and our district. Everyone is praying for one another to find. Yet, we haven't seen the success. Yet. And sometimes I feel anxiety because my time is limited...but in the end the Lord knows what we need. Right now, we must show our faith to go out and find and be obedient.
So that's the status in Lille: rain showers with intense rock pushing.
Love you all!
Soeur Smith

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

June 26, 2012 "miracles of tomorrow"

Bonjour Bonjour!
Sorry to be writing a day late and to give you a scare (mom)...Soeur McGhie had to go do her legality in Paris and so we had to do our emails today. But I got to take Soeur McGhie back to my old stomping grounds...you know, my humble birthplace of Paris. She enjoyed staring at the strange metal tower surrounded by lots of Americans...

anywho...its good thing we are writing are a day late because it gave us time for our 'miracles' to ...you know...become miracles.
So this week we've been doing lots and lots of finding. Shocker. And we've been having some pretty good luck... in the moment. People will stop and talk with us, they'll even give us thier numbers, some will even fix rendezvous right then and there with us. But then they never answer the phone or don't show up for the rendezvous.

There were two that were particularly disappointing. We contacted this lady, Brik, and her friend and we talked about prophets, and they were super excited and we fixed a rendezvous with them for Saturday. We were super pumped.

Well Saturday came and went, and she didn't come to the rendezvous or answer her phone.The metro was having trouble that day so we tried to convince ourselves that she just couldn't get there and that her phone was out of battery. Its like every time I get cut off in traffic...I try to imagine the person is driving to the hospital for an emergancy and that's why they are being a silly driver. Got to give people the benefit of the doubt, ya know?

Well, earlier in the week I contacted this girl on the metro, Claire, who actually had studied in California, so she knew a little bit about the church, and accepted an invitation to a ward activity Saturday night. Well the activity happened to be a rock concert (yup that's how they do things in France)...so when she didn't show up you can imagine what kind of wierd looks we were getting from members as we stood in the foyer, looking hopefully out at the road, and trying to not nod our heads to the worldly music blasting from the gym.

So, naturally Sunday was kind of sad. Another week of no amis at church, another week of feeling like all our efforts didn't really show for anything. Just when I feel like I hear about miracles all throughout the mission...I start to feel like our little well of miracles is running a little dry.

So Monday, we got to go to Paris. But coming on the train ride back, all I could think about is how we really need to find people to teach. Like, really.
So that night we were making calls- called all the people we've contacted in the past week and half. Honestly...not one single person answered. Not even one answered to yell at us and tell us not to call anymore. Guess we don't get that consideration anymore. So... as we started to get ready for bed the phone rang....

It was Brik! She really had had something happen on Saturday and was wondering if she could see us this week and fixed something for Wednesday. I think I jumped and leaped around that apartment until 10:30 when we went to bed. But then...around 10:45....the phone rang again! So I jump out of bed, try to speak french half asleep and with my retainer in...its Claire! She also appologized for Saturday and wants to see us next Monday!!!!

So it was pretty difficult to fall asleep last night...the thought I had running through my head over and over again was "the contacts of today are the miracles of tomorow (or next week...)". Cheesy I know, but hey, Im in France....life is about as cheesy as it can get!

Love you all!
Soeur Smith

Monday, June 18, 2012

June 18, 2012 "The first of the lasts"

here it comes. The dramatic ending. THE LAST TRANSFER.
So since training Soeur McGhie, I've been very obnoxious about celebrating all her first-milestones as a missionary. You know- first pasterie, first zone conferance, first rendezvous with someone smoking in your face, first time having a crazy person yell at you on the metro, first time being called a Jehovah's Wittness, first time someone tells you about thier dream when Jesus visted them- you know, all the normal things like that.Well this week was a momenteus first for her...first time with her name on the transfer email.

And my last.
Bah. So this is my first time I get to have momenteus freakout on my mission. OK I wish it was this first...but starting my very last planner spured all sorts of emotions I wasn't expecting. And while I normally favor the 'rip of the band-aid' style goodbyes...somehow I feel like saying goodbye to a mission is a much more gory, painful process. So I appologize now for whatever sappy and overdramatic emotional carnage slips into my emails over the next six weeks.
So all gory-emotions aside- this week has been another typical rollercoster. We showed up at Rositta's appartment on Tuesday and she wasn't there. The thing with Rositta though, is that she is an older lady with lots of health problems, including diabites and lots of other medical stuff I don't understand in french. She never leaves her house, her nurses and nurmeous other people come to her house to help her out. So when she isn't there...it can only mean one thing. She is in the hospital. So after much help from the ward (calling french hospitals still scare me) we were finally able to track her down and visit her. I guess she had complications with her diabites, she is doing fine, but for now her baptismal date is postponed until she can come to churcha again.

So that was disappointing- but we had really good rendezvous with a lady we contacted a couple of weeks ago. We've taught her once before and we had given her a Book of Mormon. In our rendezvous this week, the first thing she said when she sat down was 'so, I started reading...and I like it!'. I love hearing that! Its like seeing the sun in northen France. We taught the Joseph Smith story, and after we had finished she said "so once I pray and know, I'm going need to join this church!". Oh its so wonderful when people put that together themselves! She still has alot of worries about the church, and her husband still thinks we are a cult...but I just love it when you start to see the light and people and they see that the gospel JUST MAKES SENSE.

And this week we got to work with a young women in our ward. Her family are all recent converts of about two years. Her mom is now the relief society president, and her dad is in the bishopric. They are basically just an amazing family. Well this weekend she asked if she could hang out with us- well on the way to a rendezvous we were getting out of the metro and walking down the stairs, and she turned to us and said "oh how I want to be like you, I just want to have a nametag with Christ's name on it".

Oh gosh. You cannot say things like to emotional, dying missionaries. So the rage of emotions that suddenly tried to leak out of my eyes were bottled by saying "Yes Tracy, keep that goal, you CAN be like us". Not the most inspirational thing that's ever come out of my mouth...but I was fighting from becoming a blubbering puddle  in the middle of the metro.
So really, this week was a typical missionary week. Some ups, some downs. But also a little bit of realization that my time to be a full-time missionary actually has a time limit. But we won't talk about that for another six weeks.

Love you all!
Soeur Smith