First full week in France! I'd be lying if I said it wasn't one of the hardest weeks of my life. Mainly it's because it's really hard to not be able to communicate with people. I so badly want to understand what everyone is saying, because I hate feeling clueless. I want to help these people so bad, but I don't know how to say it. I can deal with walking for hours a day, being rejected over and over, and all that sort of thing. But it's the feeling of being a "useless" missionary that has been very hard. Lots of feelings of inadequacy, and it's been hard being patient with myself.
Let me tell you what keeps me going. Prayer, scriptures, and serving with all my heart. Such simple things, but it makes worlds of difference.
I have prayed harder than ever this past week. I get on my knees and I plead with my Father in Heaven. I talk to him about how difficult this has been for me, and I ask for His help and tell Him that I can't do this without Him. I ask Him for ways that I could improve or feel better. Every time, EVERY TIME, I get off my knees, I feel His love. I feel Him telling me "I called you to this work, so you can do this, with my help." The comfort I feel from my Heavenly Father is something that fills me from head to toe and carries me throughout the day. You can never pray too much. He wants us to come to Him for help, because He loves us. Let me also tell you that I can feel SO much strength coming from the prayers of everyone who is praying for us missionaries, and for me individually. I can't describe it, but I promise you I feel an extra surge of strength and support and I know where it comes from. Thank you so much for your prayers. They are REAL and God IS answering them.
My scriptures have become a lifeline to me in a way they never have before. I never knew until now how many millions of scriptures there are on things to just help us feel better in hard times, or how to be a good missionary, or how to have more faith that we can do the things we're called to do. I read Alma 29 this week for example, and if you don't know what it's about, go read it. I read it two more times after I got through it the first time, because I was so moved by the words in that chapter. There are so many good things in there, like being patient with ourselves and knowing that if we're doing our best, than that's enough. It's also great for humility and faith as well. All of which I really needed to read about. Alma wishes he could be like an angel as a missionary, that he would have the boldness to speak to everyone with the voice of a trumpet and that everyone would listen. But he says I'm not an angel, I'm just a man, and I'm doing my best. If I'm humble, have faith, and try my best, the Lord will be pleased with me. And like Alma, I AM trying my best. I've been very humbled recently, and my faith grows stronger each day as I see the hand of the Lord in my life and in the lives of others. With that being said, I know He will help me through this and that I can do it. This language will come eventually. I just have to be patient. Also D&C 84:88 brought me SO much comfort this week.
It's also way easier to forget about your own problems when you start caring more about other people's. That's our jobs as missionaries, to forget ourselves and help other people. I have found so much happiness in serving others. Even when we have a hard time communicating, we are still able to understand each other in a way that lets me know I am making a difference in their lives.
It is amazing though to see how quickly you progress here. One week ago I couldn't understand anyone and could barely speak. Now I can understand a general gist of what people say, and I can speak pretty well to a point where they can understand me. The gift of tongues is a very real thing.
I also want to tell you about miracles I saw this week. We had zone training and exchanges in Geneva Switzerland this past week. My comp forgot to tell me to bring my carte jeune (proof for our discounted tickets) and my passport (for crossing the border). So, on the way there, they checked for my carte jeune, and I told them I didn't have it, and they let me go without paying the fee. Then, on the way back from Geneva, they came around looking for passports, and when the man got to me (who was very intimidating might I add) I told him I forgot mine. He looked at me for a minute, looked at my tag, asked if I was a missionary, I said yes, and he said "Ok, I'll let it go this time, but next time don't forget it." That was a huge miracle--I could have been forced off the bus, because we had just heard of some people earlier who that had happened to. The Lord protects His missionaries, and provides a way for them. I was so grateful.
Also on that same bus ride, the only seat left was next to some 20-something year old guy. So I sat next to him. He was reading a book, so I had the tricky idea of pulling out my BOM and reading it, and then asked him "What are you reading?" He told me, then asked me, "What are you reading?" I was like..ha ha! Perfect! So I went all into the BOM with him. Turns out, this guy is from Lyon and the elders there had just contacted him on the metro 3 weeks ago. We had a really great discussion, all about the church, and about the world in general. I understood almost everything he said and was able to speak back which was awesome. The French also LOVE it if you ask for their help in learning French. They respect us a lot when they see we're making an effort to learn their language. So he liked teaching me French. It was so good for me to have conversation like that without my comp, because it forced me to really listen and to be the only one to speak back.
That moment gave me a lot more confidence in my contacting skills, so I've been a contacting machine lately. I LOVE it! It's so fun going up to people and just asking to talk with them. We get so many funny reactions, people pretending they don't speak French, to people asking if we will marry them. But some people actually listen, like it, and want to know more. It's the best feeling. All 3 of our amis also came to church yesterday. We were SO happy. I've never felt so much joy than seeing people come closer to Christ. I'm so proud of them!!
There's so many other things that happened this week. Funny stories about things that got lost in translation, gross things I ate and drank, walking around in the heat for 6 hours with not one door being opened. All sorts of stuff happened, but I don't have time. I'm sorry!
One thing I want to ask every member though is to PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE help the missionaries in your ward. We need your help so badly! We can't do this work alone. Please pray and think about people who the missionaries could teach, and then go to these appointments with them! This is starting to become nearly the only successful way to have converts that actually stay in the church. It's not scary, and I promise it will bring so much joy to your life. God will be so proud of you and will bless you so much if you help bring His children unto Him. This work would move so much faster if we had everyone's help. It is all of our responsibility to invite other's unto Christ.
One last request, please pray for inspiration on this about what to use, but if you could prayerfully find a general conference talk that you think would help me, please print it out and send it to me in the mail. I want all the extra help I can get, and I don't have time here to look them up. I would really love you for it if you did!! :)
There are so many things that I love about being a missionary. I love this work, I adore these people, and I love my Saviour. I know that we have trials to make us stronger and to learn from them. I know that this gospel is true, and I wouldn't want to be doing anything else in my life right now. I know that through God, all things are possible, if we put our faith and trust in Him. I'm so grateful that I'm here, and I'm so grateful for all of your support!
Love you all,
I love this family. They are straight from Africa and so crazy but so cool! That's Seour Pagano behind me. Seour Nuutinen is taking the pic.