Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"Soeur Everett. We are blessed." - Soeur Skalka (Week 58)

Soeur Skalka and I
Brace yourselves. Just to preface this e-mail... everything contained in it is 100% true. This miracles may seem impossible but they aren't. Pretty sure this has been the most miraculous week of my entire mission.

Okay, here we go...

So this week we went on exchange with Montpellier!!! Even though it ended up being 3 days long with travel time we had some absolutely crazy things happen! I'll just tell you one miracle that happened while in Montpellier with the most adorable Soeur Andersen from Denmark!

Chemin de la Californie
We went to a members house to have a mangez-vous and when we got there they asked us if we would want to teach their friend if he came over after we ate. WELL OF COURSE. When he came over we could both tell he was extremely depressed. He could hardly look us in the eyes. He started to talk to us about how he had made such horrible mistakes in his life and that now that he was starting to believe in God again, the closer he got to God, the more guilty he felt. He said he hadn't been able to sleep for several nights and that he felt like he was damned. In this RDV I have never been more grateful for the Spirit. Heavenly Father completely took over this lesson and guided my words. I honestly don't remember exactly what I said but I made him specific promises that I could only do as a representative of Jesus Christ. After I finished what the Spirit wanted to say the member was in tears and I could see some tears in Georges eyes as well. I promised him he would be baptized and completely cleansed from his sins. And I know without a doubt that my promise wasn't my own. Really amazing experience. (There's more to this but I have no time with so many miracles to share!)

Second. This one is a silly miracle but a miracle nonetheless. So while Soeur Andersen and I were on our way to Montpellier we had a delay in trains and ended up missing our connecting train. We were there in Marseilles and weren't going to get to Montpellier until way past curfew. I said a prayer that we would be able to spend the night in Marseilles (mostly because I wanted to leave the gare and explore...) but the plans didn't work out and we ended up just heading to Montpellier and getting in late. When Soeur Skalka got to Montpellier we had about 5 minutes to go and catch our train. We booked it to the train and we got there right as it was pulling away... :( I was super sad because I missed Cannes a TON after only 2 days haha. Here comes the miracle. Because we missed our direct train we were given a replacement with a STOP IN MARSEILLE. We had an entire hour. It was one of my favorite moments to be in Marseille with one of my best friends at sunset in such a gorgeous city... That was how Heavenly Father answered my prayer from Monday night. In an unexpected way... but way better than it would have been if I had what I originally wanted.
Another billboard we imitated
Ok get ready.... this is the miracle you've been waiting for. Spoiler alert. We have 2 engagés getting baptized on March 14th!!!! Happy birthday dad!!! ;) Here's what happened.

My favorite member Kiwa told us that she had a friend that has been going through really hard times lately. She moved here recently with her 2 daughters and their situation is really difficult (I won't go into detail.) Kiwa invited her to the RDV we had set to meet with her! During the RDV Elizabete (Kiwa's friend) cried and said this is what she's been waiting for her whole life. She then recounted a dream she had 2 weeks ago..... There were 2 young girls on either side of her arms lifting her up to the sky (heaven). She interpreted her dream to mean me and Soeur Skalka and that now everything is making more sense in her life! She told us that she thinks the reason she has been having difficulties and why she had to move to Cannes was so that she could be ready to accept the gospel. Then she introduced us to her two daughters Leony (15) and Kleina (6). All three came to church on Sunday and Elizabete and Leony are getting baptized in 2 1/2 weeks!

An adorable Danish sister named Sister Andersen
We also have TWENTY LESSONS!! Yipee! On Sunday morning we still had 8 lessons to go haha. I love when that happens. But Soeur Skalka and I were extremely determined to get our 20 lessons so did it!! After church we came home and ate lunch, did some power squats and then recited our new favorite quote (one you sent to me mom!). The one about desperation by Sister Nelson. Then we hit the streets!! We set a goal to be done with our lessons by 4pm (about an hour later). Literally the first 4 people we talked to we had lessons with. The next couple took a bit longer but as Soeur Skalka was saying the prayer for our last lesson I looked down at my watch and it said 4:00 on the dot.

Miracles miracles miracles miracles.

Okay, darn I'm completely running out of time and I had such a cool one to share. But voila those are some of them!! This week was incredible.

Also Raphael passed the Sacrament for the first time on Sunday. I just about cried. (And he's at the temple all week with the ward!!)

Love you!

Soeur Ev

Monday, February 16, 2015

"Crumbs of shame" - Sr. Skalka (Week 57)

Valentine's date with Natalie
I am absolutely in love with my companionship. We do nothing but work hard and laugh together! This is probably going to end up being my favorite transfer of my mission, I can feel it.

So this week we ate out twice... it had been a long time since we had eaten out so we justified it. The first time was in Antibes at this cute little café called "restaurant" along the coast. We were sitting there staring out at the ocean and looking at the pretty french architecture and just thinking about how blessed we are. Soeur Skalka was like "Soeur Everett. Can you believe we're just casually sitting here eating delicious food at a café in France?" She's right! Sometimes we just gotta remember how extremely amazing our lives are!

So the quote for the week: we were at this café in Antibes and we (like good Americans do) asked for extra bread after we finished the entire basket. When we finished eating there were crums all over the table. How do French people eat bread without getting crums everywhere??? I'll seriously never understand.

My bff Kiwa
This Valentine's day as a missionary was far better than any Valentine's day yet. (And will probably always be my favorite unless my future husband takes me to France for Valentine's day haha.) We fixed a lunch date with Natalie to go to this restaurant along the Croisette (if you don't know what that is, look it up). Although it was pouring rain all day no one can damper Soeur Skalka's mood so automatically mine couldn't be dampered either. (Literally Soeur Skalka is ALWAYS happy. Never annoyed, never upset, never loses her patience.. she's an angel.)  Anyway, we had the best time together eating pasta straight from heaven and talking about life. Then later that night we had our ward activity to end our "40 day fast" (one or more members picked a day in the 40 days and they did a fast for missionary work and either prayed with us, invited us over, or went out and worked with us.) It was one of the best activities I've been to ever. It was simple and casual but the spirit was strong and we all had a great time!  Frère Perez took me completely off guard after I sang my song and asked me if I would share a missionary experience and then bear my testimony. He literally asked me on the spot! Haha. However, I was extremely grateful to be able to talk about why I am grateful to be a missionary. I talked about deciding to come on a mission and what it meant to me to be here. I couldn't help but cry and I saw some people in the audience who were touched as well. I love when I can help people feel the Spirit somehow. It's one of the best feelings.

Took a few too many of these and they were all fails....
Ok here's a good Valentine's day story. This actually happened the day before Valentine's day but that's ok. So we were at a members house going to help him move but then it started pouring rain and he decided to cancel. :( We got free umbrellas from it though! Haha. We got on the bus heading back and we paid for our tickets and while I was walking away the bus driver starts talking to Soeur Skalka. Here's the convo:

"Do you speak English?"
Then he points at her and very seriously says:
"I love you."
Hahahahahahahah I died. Happy Valentine's day Soeur Skalka. ;)

Alright now for some cool miracles!!!! Whoohoo!

We take the best selfies
On Monday night we decided to go porting. It was Soeur Skalka's first time ever. Right before we went to the neighborhood we were planning to porte we see this beautiful leather couch in like perfect condition on the road. Sr Skalka wanted that so bad... but sadly I had to break her little heart. (But I took a picture of her with it.) She turned to me and said she knew there was a miracle coming because of this miracle couch. So we started porte-ing and we talked to some weird people and we talked to some not-interested people. Finally we get to this door and Sr Skalka goes up on her tippy toes so that she can talk into the speaker phone....and he's not interested either. So we kept on keeping on and we rang this doorbell and the lady INVITED US IN. Whatttttt. She answered our questionnaire and asked if we could come back 2 days later. 2 days later we went back and we had an AWESOME rdv with her. Her house is as clean as a temple and she had snacks and drinks all ready for us. We taught her the Retab and we gave her a BOM and set a return appointment!

Then the next night.... literally anything and everything we planned fell through... one of those days. And even more it rained. So we went out to this outer ville where we were going to go to a members house but that fell through so we went porting instead. Guess what? After knocking on like 4 houses WE GOT LET IN AGAIN. The couple was way super cool. They said they already knew missionaries a really long time ago! We shared a story from Christ with them and they said we could come back whenever we wanted. :)

A picture a member printed out for us.
Missions are fun everyone. I know people say they're hard, but they're more fun than they are hard. I'm so happy.

Ok as for a spiritual thought... I know I've been talking about the same thing like every single week but I found this really really great quote this week from Uchtdorf (he gives the best talks.) It's about our testimony. Here you go:

"The more we incline our hearts and minds toward God, the more heavenly light distills upon our souls. And each time we willingly and earnestly seek that light, we indicate to God our readiness to receive more light. Gradually, things that before seemed hazy, dark, and remote become clear, bright and familiar to us."

Beautiful isn't it??

Ok gotta go!
Bisous love you!

Soeur Ev

Monday, February 9, 2015

"Goodnight my little princess." - Soeur Skalka (Week 56)

Companion shot
I think this quote sums up our companionship pretty well. Its been an AWESOME week. Nothing but happiness and laughter.

Soeur Skalka decided to call me her "Godmother" because I have been in her life ever since she was born (on the mission). I met her the first day she was in France, I went on exchange with her first transfer when she was in Toulouse AND I went on exchange with her second transfer when she was in Toulon (she was also in my district so we saw each other frequently). And now in her 3rd transfer we're companions! I think Heavenly Father was preparing us to love each other before we were even together so we could have the best transfer ever. :)

English Class Streetboard

Okay, I didn't say anything about Soeur Skalka in my last email so I will do that now! She is a little 4'11" beauty from Logan, Utah. She is a gymnast (and a really good one) and she goes to Utah State. Boooo. ;) She is a little ball of sunshine and literally she is never unhappy. She radiates! I love being with her.

We've had a great week! Its been weird, but its been good haha.

So much rain this week...

First of all. We went and visited Raphael this week with Natalie (I don't know if I've explained who she is yet but she goes to BYU and she's nannying a family that lives just outside the city so she'll be in our ward for a few months!) She is wonderful! Anyway, she came with us to visit Raphael. During our RDV we were talking about the Plan of Salvation and afterwards we were just chatting about how lucky we were to have this modern day revelation. Raphael said he knew for sure now that Joseph Smith really did have the first vision and that he was the prophet who restored the Church. I remember my first RDV with him when he told me that he didn't really believe in the BOM or in any of our prophets but just that he liked being at our Church because it made him happy. Its amazing how far he has come!

My cute companion, Soeur Skalka
So after Church yesterday I was sitting talking to Natalie and she told me that the family she is nannying for has apparently taken missionary lessons in the past and really loved it! The mom told Natalie that she had a ton of questions for her and that sometime they should sit and talk about it! Natalie said she's going to ask them if maybe we could come over again! So cool. But wait there's more. She then told us about this nanny who she met who had come to France a few years ago and didn't really know why she felt like she really needed to come. Natalie said that she had joined tons of different churches in the time she had been here and that she still hadn't found one that she really loved. Then Natalie gave her a BOM and she told us that she was planning on inviting her to Church!!! Natalie is so cool - she's basically a missionary too haha.
We were attempting to make a heart with arms & legs...
So remember that cool amie that we got last week? (The sister of a member in the ward.) Well turns out she doesn't speak French as well as I thought so we have to pass her to the Portuguese elders. :( BUT Antonio (her brother) told us that she is planning to come to our Church from now on so I think she will be baptized soon! The baptisms are going to start going crazy here. The Portuguese elders have sooooo much to do. (Also to answer your question mom: one is Brazilian and the other is half Brazilian so they're native speakers.)

Here's another poster we tried to imitate...

Oh cool experience this Sunday. So last week I prepared this lesson to give in Sunday school and we started super late and I hardly had any time so they told me I could do it again. Anyway, a couple things had happened that morning and I hadn't even reviewed the lesson and I wasn't feeling up to teaching at all. I said a prayer in my heart that the Spirit would be able to teach the lesson since I was feeling not adequate to teach. Somehow the lesson went perfectly. Afterwards this French man who I have a reaaaalllyyy hard time sparking came up to me and told me congratulations for the incredible lesson. YES!! I'm so grateful for the Spirit.

DL says we can't enter the dance competition:-(
Okay, timing has been weird since emails were cut in half so I think that's all the experiences I can share for this week. I'll try to get more included next week! But I wanted to share quickly what I learned this morning.

So this week I made a goal to study the woman in the scriptures! I started off today with Esther. She is soooo cool.

 15 ¶Now when the turn of Esther, the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her for his daughter, was come to go in unto the king, she required nothing but what Hegai the king’s chamberlain, the keeper of the women, appointed. And Esther obtained favor in the sight of all them that looked upon her. (Esther 2:15)

16 Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish. (Esther 4:16)

17 And in every province, and in every city, whithersoever the king’s commandment and his decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a good day. And many of the people of the land became Jews. (Esther 8:17)

What I love about Esther is that she is meek and submissive but she is also courageous and strong in her conviction! And look what one woman was able to do! She saved an entire people and many converted because of her too. I want to be like Esther.

Man I wish I had more time to tell you more about what I learned about her!! Its ok, we'll talk when I get back. :) haha.


Sœur Ev

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

"Literally only names of apostles are coming to my head." -Soeur Staples (Week 55)

My new companion, Soeur Skalka!!
So I'll explain the quote this time haha. After planning the other night we were sitting there trying so hard to remember a name of an actor in Les Mis and we tried for like 15 minutes just throwing out random stuff. Eventually Soeur Staples said that hahaha. I laughed for so long.

Anyway... TRANSFERS!!!!!! It was definitely exciting!!! They whitewashed our elders. :( (Antibes elders both stayed.) We're sad, they were really great. BUT they took them out to put in 2 Portuguese speaking elders!!! Whaaattttttt. Its going to be incredible. They will have TONS of work to do here. We have so many people from Portugal and Cape Verde for them to teach. Especially referrals from our Portuguese speaking members. Its funny, we have this one member named Alberto who just barely moved here from Portugal. He speaks veryyyy minimal French. He usually speaks to me in Portuguese and I respond in French. And I think sometimes he forgets that I don't really speak Portuguese because I'm mostly just guessing what he is saying haha. Oh well, maybe I'll be able to speak Portuguese when I get home. ;)

I had a really wonderful exchange in Nice last week with Soeur Grunke. :) First of all Nice is GORGEOUSSSSS. And second Soeur Grunke is amazing... I learned a ton from her. While we were on a tram going to a RDV with a less active I started talking to this lady after I composted my ticket. Just the usual asking her how her day was going. She was probably more sparked than anyone I've ever said hi to on public transport. She went on and on about how I was the most adorable person she had ever met and she even told some random lady standing by us how adorable I was hahaha. She's like: "Don't ever change! People should talk to each other more! You made my day!" So sweet huh?

We had such a cool miracle this week! I made this goal that once a week (this is a new thing) that I would have an English fast (aka speak French all day long). This week on Wednesday we did an English fast and we had the most miraculous day ever!!!! I'll just share one little part of our day. We were at the church teaching Raphael (update on him in a sec) and we finished and were all heading out the door. As we were leaving we see these two random ladies coming in the gate. I turned to our members and asked if they knew them and they said no... So we went up to them and asked them if they were members. They said, oh no we just wanted to come and see your chapel. WHAT. (First of all our church is not in centre ville its like out in neighborhoods where no one even walks by. Second, we are hardly ever at the church... it was a miracle that they came by at that exact time!) So of COURSE we gave them a tour. They absolutely loved it. They thought our chapel was beautiful and they said that they would come to church sometime soon! We got their number too so we can bug them. ;)

Ok now update on our amazing recent converts.

View of Nice from member's apartment
Raphael...... He's just so elect. I have never seen him happier. He just BEAMS with the spirit, its amazing! This week we were out contacting on the street and we ran into him! The first thing he says is "I had this feeling as I was leaving my apartment that I would run into you." How great is he???? On Sunday he got the priesthood!!! I just about cried. As he was saying goodbye to my lovely companion Soeur Staples he was talking to us about how much we had done for him. He said "It's thanks to you two and Soeur Hutchins (the sister right before I got here) that I'm a member now. You completely changed my life, thank you so much." This is basically the best thing in the entire world to hear as a missionary. We love him so much.
Sandra!!! The poor thing got some sort of flu. She had a fever and everything. We didn't even know she was sick until we got to her house on Saturday. I have no clue why she let us visit her! If I were her I would've wanted to stay in bed all day! Tangi told us it was because she needed that extra light lately after her long week of work. OH speaking of work! The reason why Sandra and Tangi had to move to Cannes is because Tangi lost his job. He has been out of work ever since and has been trying to find something. It's actually been a huge blessing to the missionaries that he hasn't been working because he was able to help us out allll the time. But this week (the week right after Sandra's baptism) HE GOT A JOB. It's full-time and he got a life-time contract!!!!!!!!!! They are now looking for an apartment so they can move out of Sandras moms tiny apartment. I'm sooooo happy for them. And they recognize that this is a blessing from her baptism.

Vanessa, the Antibes Elder's amie

Isn't it amazing how blessed I have been on the second half of my mission? I've met people who have completely changed my life. I can't even imagine what my life would be like if I hadn't come back. I'm so grateful I stuck it out even when it was hard. Heavenly Father knew what He was doing having me go home (in order to appreciate being a missionary that much more among other things) and to come back at this specific time so that I could meet these people. I'm not so sure that I am here to help them as much as they are here to help me. I love being a missionary!!!!! There is nothing I have ever loved doing more. I feel the Spirit all the time. I feel fulfilled all the time. And I feel this peace knowing that Heavenly Father is proud of me and happy with the work that I do, even when I wish I had done more. I am really blessed. Really really blessed. Heavenly Father really does know best, we just have to keep reminding ourselves.

So I read this talk recently with a really cool thought that I wanted to share!! Its about the story of the 10 virgins (it kind of goes with what I said last week about scripture study..)

“Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
“And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. …
“[They that were] wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
“While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
“And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.
“Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
“And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.
“But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
“And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.
“Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.
“But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, Ye know me not.” (Matt 25)

I don’t think there is anyone, especially among those with tender hearts, who doesn’t feel sad for the foolish young women. And some of us just want to say to the others, “Can’t you just share so everyone can be happy?” But think about it. This is a story the Savior told, and He is the one who calls five of them “wise” and five of them “foolish.”

As we consider this parable as a pattern for temple preparation, consider the words of a latter-day prophet who taught that “the oil of spiritual preparedness cannot be shared.”  President Spencer W. Kimball helped clarify why the five “wise” young women could not share the oil in their lamps with those who were “foolish” when he said: “Attendance at sacrament meetings adds oil to our lamps, drop by drop over the years. Fasting, family prayer, home teaching, control of bodily appetites, preaching the gospel, studying the scriptures—each act of dedication and obedience is a drop added to our store. Deeds of kindness, payment of offerings and tithes, chaste thoughts and actions … —these, too, contribute importantly to the oil with which we can at midnight refuel our exhausted lamps.”

Isn't her commentary so great!?! I used to always think that way about this story how it wasn't very nice of the five wise to not share their oil. But as Linda Burton says, oil can't be shared even if we wanted to! The personal efforts we make each day in reading our scriptures, praying, having family prayer, being kind, paying tithing, etc. etc. contribute to our lamps drop by drop. I love this image. I also feel like the more full our lamp is the happier we are. I think that's why missionaries are so happy. Our lamps are basically overflowing haha.

Anyway, I gotta go soon! I love you!!! Have a great week. :)

Soeur Ev