Monday, December 29, 2014

"I just ate one piece of chocolate for dinner." - Soeur Staples (Week 50)

La cite
This is our life. All we have in our house is chocolate. One thing you should know if you ever come to France: French people love to give people chocolate as gifts. We found out the hard way. ;)

WHAT A GREAT WEEK. Christmas on the mission is the best thing in the entire world. As usual I have about a million things I want to tell you and absolutely no time. I'll do my best!

New shirt!
We did some really cool things for Christmas. This is definitely a Christmas I'll never forget. We did caroling/contacting with the elders and Vincent (I should be tagged in this video on Facebook?). It was way fun and people were so much nicer about talking to us! We did a tram flash mob in Nice after zone training. We all got on the tram and one person started singing "les anges dans nos compagnes" and then I added in, etc etc, until all the missionaries in the tram were singing. I did a flash mob in France. That is now checked off my bucket list. I got to go to midnight mass!!!! Another dream come true. I didn't actually attend the service because it started at midnight and we had an 11 pm curfew but I was able to at least see the actors for the live crèche and see the cathedral and everything. It was magical (there's no better word to describe it.) - We got to go because of a little bit of shmoozing on our part. The Gonçalos had us for dinner and then we kept (ok it was mostly me) dropping hints about wanting to go to midnight mass. Eventually Frère Gonçalo (not a member actually) says "you know what I really am going to take you to midnight mass." I think I may have cried.

Tracking down less actives on Christmas Eve.
What else?? OH Christmas Eve we went caroling with a group of missionaries and the DMP and a couple amis! We passed this inactive lady in the ward who had recently lost her sight completely. Her husband is not a member and I don't think she had been to church in a really long time. While we sang to them the spirit flooded the room. Afterwards I went to say hello to her and she grabbed my hand and cried as she told me how much it meant to her that we came. I think she has had a lot of trials lately and she needed to feel that spirit that we brought. It's been amazing to see how many little experiences like this we have been able to have. Heavenly Father has really blessed us to be an instrument in His hands to help His children here! I couldn't be more grateful.

Ahhhh I have so much to tell you! I'm overwhelmed haha. Sometimes I figure we'll just have to catch up when I get home.

Allez je continue.

The Christmas tree the Elders gave us.
I have to tell you about Sandra! I'm not sure how much I've talked about her but she is the wife of a member in our ward who just recently came back to church. They've only been married for about 2 years and Sandra has been investigating the church for a few months. She has already gained a really great testimony and she loves the church! But she was having a really hard time being motivated to want to be baptized (or even seeing the importance of doing it as soon as possible). We went over to their house this week and we ate together and then we shared a lesson on the Atonement. Something totally clicked for her. Without us even saying anything about it she said "Ok I need to quit smoking." Since then she fixed a date for herself to stop smoking by, she accepted January 24th as her baptism day, and she received a Priesthood blessing to be able to quit! She is AWESOME. I love her so much. Please pray for her!

Christmas Tree!!!
Ok really quickly one more. So Soeur Staples and Soeur Hutchins before I got here met this man named Aliou. He is from Africa (I can't remember where) and he has had a really really hard life including being abandoned by his family. He shared briefly his story with us and as I listened tears came to my eyes. He is strong and he loves God and he is so ready for the gospel. He grew up Muslim but said that one night while he was dreaming Jesus Christ came to him and told him that he needed to become Christian. Shortly afterwards he met the sisters. He had been in Paris for a couple months and so we had lost contact with him, but randomly the other day we ran into his friend who recognized us! We were able to get in contact with Aliou and we had a really great RDV and we fixed a baptismal date for him! He is great and needs prayers!

Ok we had a bunch of other cool miracles but I really wanted to talk about the Atonement. I've been studying it quite a bit this week and we even gave the Sunday school lesson on it. I wanted to share an analogy that President gave me when I asked him about the enabling power of the Atonement:

Our Cathedral :-)
Take for example someone that is trying to become more patient and they decide to do it without the help of the atonement. So every time something happens where they have to be patient they will just bear it and bear it until it goes away. President compared this to a headache. Say someone has a headache and they decide to just bear it until it goes away. But why bear the headache when we could take medicine for the pain? So in a situation where we need to be patient we could just sit there and bear it or we could use the enabling power of the atonement and feel peace and love (from the Spirit) in trying moments. Maybe in both situations the trial will pass, but one will be infinitely easier and we won't have to worry each time we feel a headache coming on. We'll know that there will be help.
I'm not sure if I explained that well at all. But I hope it makes sense! The enabling power of the Atonement is so real. Its one of the hardest things to explain to people but all I know is that I can feel a difference when I use it and when I don't. We need the Atonement. I can't imagine my life without it. Heartaches and trials come to everyone but how lucky are we that we have the help of the best person who ever lived? Someone who understands us perfectly and knows perfectly how to help us. I have probably shared this quote before but it is one of my favorites about the Atonement:

Creche at the Cathedral
There is no physical pain, no spiritual wound, no anguish of soul or heartache, no infirmity or weakness you or I ever confront in mortality that the Savior did not experience first. In a moment of weakness we may cry out, “No one knows what it is like. No one understands.” But the Son of God perfectly knows and understands, for He has felt and borne our individual burdens. And because of His infinite and eternal sacrifice (see Alma 34:14), He has perfect empathy and can extend to us His arm of mercy. He can reach out, touch, succor, heal, and strengthen us to be more than we could ever be and help us to do that which we could never do relying only upon our own power. Indeed, His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
I could explain my feelings about the Atonement so much better in person but I am so grateful that I can share this wonderful news with everyone I can. It is such a blessing to be a missionary and it is such a blessing to have access to the Atonement. I love Jesus Christ. I am privileged to say that He is my friend. He has helped me more than I could ever express or repay. He is always there. Without fail. Always.

I invite you to study the Atonement! There is always more to learn and understand.

Je vous aime beaucoup trop! Passez des bonnes fêtes et Bonne Année!

Soeur Ev

Thursday, December 25, 2014

"You're fantabulicious" - Soeur Staples (Week 49)

My colleague would like me to publically clarify that all of these quotes are taken completely out of context so don't judge her. :) haha

This week has basically been insane. If I ever thought I was busy before on my mission, those times don't even compare to how busy we are now. We don't even have time to study OR eat. I know its bad... we made a goal to be better this week.

David Archeleta - Sings like an angel even live.
I can't remember if I told you this but President invited us to visit every single member in our entire ward before Christmas. This is one of those challenges that should be impossible but we are doing our best and we're getting close!! Luckily we have an amazing DMP and amazing relief society members who are extremely helpful. This week we have gone on splits 3 times and spent about a total of 8ish hours with members. Which is about 16 hours together! Not to mention that we were in cars so it took about 10X less time to find people. Pretty cool huh?

It's been incredible the miracles we've seen from this challenge President gave us. The night I was on splits with Soeur Perez we saw her mother in law and by the end of the RDV she was in tears as she prayed and said how much she needed our visit that day. The Lord really does send people when we need them! And I love when I can be an answer to someone's prayers. There's nothing better.

Soeur Francis.  Absolutely love her.
So I think I told you about how our ward is collecting, cleaning, and packaging toys for children in need? This week we have done a lot with it! We went with Mama Gentil to drop some off and we did even more sorting and cleaning and packaging as well. The Christmas spirit is really strong in our ward. It's inspiring. So one day when we were planning to go drop toys off at a hospital with Mama Gentil there was another lady there who was helping us load toys into her car. I didn't know her but I found out that she was a member who was only inactive because her only child made her choose between her and the church. She was alone since her husband was deceased and she couldn't loose her only child so she chose her. She even told us about how her daughter had recently had a child who was a miracle after they had waited so long to have children. She had been diagnosed with something fatal and was going to die soon. (I found most of this out from Mama Gentil after the lady had left.) I learned a huge lesson from her. Even amidst all of her many trials she is able to turn out just like Christ would. While we were at the church I was looking for my scarf that I had left there a few days earlier on accident and I couldn't find it anywhere. I asked Mama Gentil if she had seen it and she couldn't find it either. This sister then took her scarf off her neck and gave it to me. She said would be fine without a scarf and that I would be outside longer than her that day. Can you imagine that? An elderly lady with so much sadness in her life and she can still give a missionary she doesn't even know the scarf right off of her. Now forever when I see this scarf it will be a beautiful reminder for me to reach out to others.

Elder Carré. A RM from my first district.
So as you've seen from my pictures.... DAVID ARCHELETA CAME TO OUR MISSION. If you had any doubts about the France Lyon Mission being the best mission I think you can go ahead and tell yourself you're wrong. ;) It was incredible. Not only did he sing flawlessly but he is a great example to us as missionaries and he definitely taught us what the most important things are. Namely serving our Heavenly Father. He even sang us a song completely in French that he had just learned like the day before. And I have never heard a better rendition of "We Three Kings." Ok now I'll stop being a fan girl hahaha.

We've been feeling a bit overwhelmed lately because of all the extra things we need to do and we didn't feel like we were getting enough time in to contact people. But its interesting how if we're obedient and do all we can to bring people to Christ, He will make up the difference and give us people to teach anyway. This week we received 11 referrals and contacted 9 of them. 9 of those referrals were contacted all on the same night but one amazing member named Alberto. (From Portugal.) He is another one of those people who has changed my life. Honestly when I think about his situation and what kind of person he is I often cry. Just briefly he is here in France and his wife and children are all still in Portugal. He came here to find work but couldn't afford to bring them with him. So he is working and saving until he can have enough money to have them come. In the meantime you would never know how much stress/distress he has. He is the most smiley person I have ever seen and he constantly wants to help us! The other night we went around and caroled and shared the "he is the gift" video with 3 different households. The last place we went was his sister and as we sang she cried. I think that might have been an answer to her prayers as well. Isn't it cool how even though we haven't had much time to contact Heavenly Father still blessed us with all those people to teach?? He is so good to us.

Right before getting on our bus
Ok I should probably give you a quick update of Sandra and Raphael. Both are doing really well!
At church on Sunday Sandra expressed interest in getting a priesthood blessing to be able to quit smoking. Sounds like she is getting more serious about being baptized!! We are going to set a solid date with her this week. :)

My favorite Christmas present

Raphael!!!!! He is so great. We went and visited him with Soeur Paya (one of my fave people ever - shes an RM) and she was sooo bold with him. It worked like a charm!!! She told him that if baptism was what he really wanted there should be absolutely nothing standing in his way and that he would do anything to get to that point. She encouraged him to be serious about quitting smoking and to set a firm date to not only quit smoking for good but to be baptized. He was engaged the entire time and he accepted!! January 17!! Everyone pray!!

Sorry I don't have much time for a spiritual thought but I invite you to watch the "He Is the Gift" video again. Even if you've seen it 10 times already. I have watched it about 50 and I still feel the spirit just as strongly during it. Merry Christmas everyone! Remember the real reason for Christmas and show Heavenly Father how grateful you are to know Christ is the Savior and for this time to remember Him and His birth.

I love you all so much!

Talk to you in a few days!

Soeur Ev

Monday, December 15, 2014

IL EST LE DON (Week 48)

AWESOME week! I love Christmas time on the mission more than anything. It's absolutely magical. I have no clue where to start! Its been a super eventful week.

I think I mostly want to focus on little miracles that have been happening lately. God has answered countless of my prayers this week.

The view from where we were teaching Tatiana....
Here's just a simple experience we had yesterday that really touched me. We were walking down the street on our way to get a bus to go visit Sandra and I felt like I should stop this lady hunched over her cane slowly making her way. We started off by asking her some questions from our questionnaire:

"Do you celebrate Noel?"
"No I'm all alone and I don't like Christmas."
"Do you believe that there is a true meaning of Christmas?"
"No I don't believe in anything."
She was short and super closed off. Sr Staples and I kind of just exchanged looks and didn't really know what to say. The lady started going off a bit on how she has only ever had bad things happen to her and told us all about her family problems and how she didn't even have any friends. I felt really sad as I listened. As she finished I told her that we wanted to be her friends and invited her to come to our Christmas activity this Saturday. We gave her our number and then she bised us! (Which is not exactly normal for people to do during street contacts.) You should've seen her by the end. She was smiling and laughing with us when before she had her head down and she was angry about everything. As we parted I knew we had touched her life. It was so simple but so important to me!

That's what being a missionary is all about. Helping people feel the love Christ would show to them if he was there.

We love riding the bus!
Oh guess what!! We sang at church on Sunday! It was a super last-minute thing and we didn't really practice all that much but it turned out really well. We even had Vincent (return missionary from the this ward of about 4 days) join us and Elder Allen played the piano! While I was looking out in the audience I saw many people in tears. We had one lady who came up to us afterwards (who none of us had seen at church before - I assume she had been inactive for a long time) and told us that she was really touched by our song. We got asked to sing it again at the Christmas activity on Saturday! I'll have someone record it and I'll send it next week. :)

WE GOT HOT WATER!!!!!! After two and a half weeks of suffering the water is back!!!!!! I've never appreciated hot showers more in my whole life. Thanks for your prayers, they have been answered haha.

We've been praying recently to find service opportunities and to be able to touch the lives of those around us and God has blessed us immensely! Recently we have had many opportunities come up to help people! We're going to help someone move, we're going to help someone decorate their apartment foyer for Christmas (I'm excited for that one haha), and today we're going with Mama Gentil to deliver Christmas presents to children at the children's hospital. We've had a few other small services we've been able to do as well and its been keeping us happy and very busy!

The Cote D'Azur is so cool.
Ok can I just say how much I love this city???!!?? I love all of France but this place is incredible. Its gorgeous. Our ward is huge and super helpful. The people are super nice. I just love it! I'm so excited to spend Christmas here!

I need to give a shout-out to Frère Tantely. He is the best missionary every. He gives us referrals basically every week. This week we went and saw his mother in law and then the wife of a member in the ward who recently died. She is having a hard time with it but she has been coming to church and I think she is seriously thinking about baptism. She really loved her husband and she misses him a lot. Honestly I think she already acts exactly like any other member. I wouldn't have known the difference is someone hadn't told me! Pray for her. Her name is Christianne M.

Okay, I saved time to show you something cool! We have been sharing this a lot lately and it goes perfectly along with the "He Is the Gift" video!

There are so many things I love about this passage. (Luke 2). The video talks about doing 3 things: Discover, Embrace, and Share the gift. This passage shows how the Shepards did all three.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. (DISCOVER)
 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
 15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. (EMBRACE)
 16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
 17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. (SHARE)
 18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
 19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

As members of the church we have already discovered the gift and we are so lucky! We need to truly embrace this gift that our loving Father in Heaven has given to us by using daily the Atonement of Jesus Christ and constantly working to become more like him. And of course we need to share the gift. Look everyone. We don't need to invite our friends to take the discussions (although that is always great) but we can share the love of God in small and simple ways which will create a spark in them and they will want to know more.

Please please please please share this video with everyone you can! It's completely normal to tell someone who you care about that you want to show them why this Christmas season is so important to you.

Find at least one friend to personally share it with!

Hey Everett family. I want to invite you to find someone to invite to our house for an FHE. I don't know who but if you pray God will help you know who it should be. And share the video with them!

I love you so much!

Joyeux Noel!!
Soeur Everett

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

"I don't want to be in Antarctica." -Sr. Staples (Week 47)

It's now been about 2 weeks that we've had no hot water... I think its progressively getting colder and colder... The other day I was sitting writing in my journal while Sr. Staples was showering and she comes out in her towel and collapses on the chair and says "I'm officially a reptile. I don't think I'll ever be warm again." She didn't move for another 15 minutes hahaha. HOWEVER we went to Nice on exchange this week and I took the best shower of my entire life. Everyone take a second and be grateful for your hot shower. Cold showers for 2 weeks is fairly unpleasant haha.

Mama Gentil
I have a few really really cool experiences from this week that I'd like to share with you!!

Sisters apartment in Nice.  Nuf said.
So last Monday we had an FHE with Kiwa, her two kids, and Berto (all from Portugal). Berto is at the very beginnings of his French and can hardly communicate with us. But he always has this enormous smile on his face and is always saying "ca va ca va" :) Anyway, during our spiritual thought he seemed to be thinking a lot (I'm not sure if he knew what we were saying). Then he started sharing his thoughts on the scripture passage in Portuguese and I'm not kidding you... I understood everything he said. It was the coolest gift of tongues experience. In days afterwards I would keep trying to understand Portuguese and I couldn't. It was just that moment when I needed to understand.

On Thursday while waiting for our train to go to Nice I was talking to this couple that was waiting as well. We started discussing about missionaries and eventually the husband asked me the question "How can a loving God allow so many terrible things to happen to His children?" He said that this was the reason why he had a hard time believing in God. I told him that God gave us the great gift of the freedom to choose and that unfortunately some people use their agency to do evil things. I testified to him that God was a loving God. Afterwards he kind of was quiet and then said "You know.. I've asked this question to every religion that I could and no one has ever given me a good, straight answer until you." He was so sparked after that. He kept telling his wife how impressed he was haha.

Okay, the guy at the computer next to me has headphones that are not at all keeping the sound in and he is blasting Indian music... Sr. Staples was like "tell him to turn it off!" but I'm too scared...

Sr. Staples cutting mangos in our tiny kitchen :)
I have to tell you about Ahmadi!! I can't remember if I've ever mentioned him. He's this really cool 26 year old guy from Senegal who loves God! (He is Muslim.) He is extremely reliable and he has never tombez-vous-ed us. The other day we had a lesson with him and we taught the plan of salvation. At the end he told us "If I have to become Mormon to go to the celestial kingdom then I'll do it!" We'll see how it goes!!

We had a bit of a scare this week with Raphael. We had a RDV fixed with him for Sunday after church and he hadn't come to church that day. We tried the next few days to pass him and call him and he never answered.


Anyway back to Raphael. We prayed so hard for him this whole week that he was ok and that he would be able to resist whatever opposition he was facing. On Friday we called again and HE ANSWERED. He said he was really sorry but he had so many things come up this week and just hadn't had time to see us. But he came to church and all is well!! :)
Matthieu - my favorite baby in the world

Okay, extremely cool member referral miracle. This week we felt really strongly that we should visit the "T" family. Things weren't really working out for us to be able to get over there and it was going to be super out of the way but in the end we went anyway. Soeur T was the only one there and we had a nice spiritual thought but she didn't have anyone for us to visit. So we left her cookies and went on our way. The next morning Frere T calls us and is COMPLETELY sparked by our visit that he wasn't even there for. He told us he had this work colleague and her mother that he sort of knew that he was thinking of going to visit and asked if we wanted to come. OF COURSE!!! The day we set to go see them it was a torrential downpour.. Frere T kept going back and forth with going or not going and eventually we decided not to go. We started on route to go pass a potential when the rain completely stops and then Frere T decides he wants to go haha. So we got on the bus and headed off! He told us about the situation as we went.

Note I found from Sr. Gerritsen

Véronique (the daughter of Mm F) had been in an accident and had extremely fragile lungs. We weren't completely sure where the RDV was going to head but we sang and then Véronique asked to read a text so we read some of the bible and that turned into talking about the Book of Mormon and that turned into Restoration and it just all went perfectly and led by the spirit. (They accepted the BOM and were excited to read it!) At the end Frere T turned to me and asked if I thought he should offer her a blessing. I said YES!!! It was one of the most powerful RDV's of my entire mission. The spirit was so strong. As we left they said they hoped to have us over again soon!!! Frere T was more sparked than I've ever seen a member. Since then he's given us two more referrals.
Anyway holy cow I ran out of time so quickly. I don't have time to give my spiritual thought but I will make extra time to make is super great next week!!

I love you!! Have a great week!

Soeur Everett

Rainbow from the apartment

Monday, December 1, 2014

"Chicken" (Week 46)

We walk by that sign pretty much every single day and we crack up EVERY time. I don't even know why it's so funny hahaha.

I'm pretty sure I say this every week but this week was AMAZING. So many miracles. Honestly I can see why missionaries would hate the rain, but I have this theory/testimony that you see more miracles when you're working in pouring rain. And let me tell you... its been quite a miraculous week.

For some reason French people think its the funniest thing when I joke about the rain. I've used it in pretty much every contact this week.(Imagine me entering a silent bus with an enormous American smile and as full of energy as possible.) It usually goes something like this:

me: how are you?!?!?
French person: fine....?
me: That's great! I love the Cote d'Azur. Except the rain...

They literally laugh every time I'm not sure why. And if they're laughing at me I don't really mind if I get their number in the end. ;)

So on Tuesday we were on exchange with the Sister Training Leaders. (I was with Soeur Francis.) We had such a good exchange!!! She is wonderful. Anyway, so we decided we should pass a woman named Madame M. (her husband was a member but he just barely passed away about a month ago). She is so sweet! She comes to church from time to time but wasn't very open to having us come and visit her. So we thought maybe we could just leave her American cookies to sparc her. Sr. Francis and I took a 45 minute bus ride over to where she lives and when we got off the bus it was POURING rain. We started walking in the direction we thought was right and then just like in the movies a truck wizzes past us and splashes a huge puddle of water on us (we were in the middle of talking so it also got in our mouths hahaha). We were cracking up that we could finally check that off of our bucket lists. Anyway so we finally got there and we find out there's like high security to get in. Enormous gates and even a guard in front. Sr Francis was like "okay lets just sneak in behind this car." The security guard stared at us the entire time and didn't even say anything or stop us... BUT we successfully left the cookies after a bit more sneaking around haha. Hopefully she was touched by all of that!

I have so many cool things that happened this week that I could share! Here's a couple quick things:

  • All of the less actives we're working with came to church this Sunday!! That was huge!
  • We taught 20 lessons! (Just barely right at the end of yesterday...that was a miracle.)
  • We had 2 Thanksgiving meals in one day... I thought I was going to explode.
Having some mock coffee
Okay story! So we were out contacting one night (of course it was raining). There weren't a lot of people on the street so we pretty much contacted everyone unless they seemed sketchy. We got to this woman who was smoking outside of a hotel (she was on her break from work) and she was so excited about everything we said. There was a light in her eyes. She told us she had met elder missionaries not too long ago and that she really wanted to meet with us. She was like "here can I write my number down for you so we can set something up?" I felt really impressed that we should pray with her even though she said she had to go. I gave a prayer (don't even remember what I said). We said amen and we looked up at her and she was crying. She apologized and said she was sorry for getting emotional but that she could feel God's presence so strongly. We had to go right then but we're going to meet with her this week!
Biggest Lindt Lindor Chocolate Ball I have ever seen!
I have no clue where my time went for these emails... Sorry I didn't get to say much! Let me just tell you something I learned this week in my studies.

I was reading chapter 5 in Preach My Gospel about the Book of Mormon and came across this quote:
"[We] will come to know [the Savoir] by reading, pondering, and praying about the Book of Mormon."

How cool is that!! There's a promise right there that we can learn about the Savior as well as grow closer to him as we read the Book of Mormon. One of the best parts of the Book of Mormon is when Christ comes to visit the Nephites in 3 Néphi 11-27. So I thought I would invite you all to read and study it this week. :)

Okay I have to go if I'm gonna be obedient. Have a great week! I love you!

Sœur Everett

 P.S. Here are some wise words of the week from Sr. Staples: "We don't need friends! Friends are for wussies!" :)