What an awesome first week here in Lyon! It feels so good to be back in a big city! It's slightly overwhelming to get back into the swing of the hustle and bustle of city-life, but I really love it. We have an incredible ward here, and we're teaching some pretty cool people. So I'll give you some highlights of the week. First thing is a pretty huge miracle that happened our very first night here. We get a random phone call from an unknown number. Often times I'm hesitant to answer those because they don't usually turn out to be very positive. But I decided to answer this time. Well, turns out who called us is a sister who has been inactive for the last 30 years named Michelle. She is actually the sister of the less-active couple I worked with a lot in Chambery. She was spending the last couple of weeks at their house for vacation. Well, the elders in Chambery happened to be over at their house one night while she was there. They found out last Friday I was getting transferred to Michelle's ward, and so they told the family there, who then told her that she had to contact me. Well, when she got home on Monday, that's exactly what she did! She calls us up and we fixed a RDV with her for later in the week. We get to her house and she tells us she's just had a complete change of heart, and wants more than anything to come , back to church. So now we are re-integrating this once-lost sheep back into the fold! She's preparing to receive her patriarchal blessing and to go to the temple. We've gotten her her own set of scriptures, we're subscribing her to get the ensign, getting her home and visiting teachers...you name it, she wants it! It's awesome. She came to church yesterday and just cried through the whole thing as she felt the power of the spirit touching her heart once again. She heard the testimonies of truth that were familiar to her that she has missed so much. I want you all to know that lost sheep do return! It takes time, maybe even 30 years, like it did for this sister. But if we watch and wait with love and patience, as said by Elder Nelson, they will come back. And it is one of the most beautiful and happy experiences to ever witness. Living the gospel makes people happy. It's a type of happiness that you can really only define by witnessing what the other side brings--which is not true happiness. Alright, to continue on. There is a wonderful sister in the ward named Constance, who is extremely perceptive to the needs of others, and isn't afraid to open her mouth and share how God can heal troubled lives. She referred us to her neighbor named Julie, who is going through a very difficult time. So we go to her house, and she just cries as she expresses some pretty awful crises she's going through. She was pleading with us for answers and for guidance. I felt very inadequate for a moment. Here I am, just a 20 year old kid, first time meeting this lady, and she is desperately begging for some type of clarity and guidance from me. I said a prayer in my head to please just speak through the spirit, and to say what her Father in Heaven would say to her if He were there. Because I know that He knows her perfectly, and knows what she needs to hear. I just opened my mouth and what came out was just a testimony of God's unending love for her. This love is manifested by His Son's sacrifice, who felt all of our pains and sorrows, so that we could bear up our burdens with ease. Living the principles taught by Jesus Christ is what brings true peace and joy in this life. It is these 3 simple truths that came out that brought tears of relief to her eyes and calmed her heart. It is also thanks to Constance's acts of selfless and charitable love that have softened Julie's heart and helped her to become open to letting God in her life. She said she notices a real tangible difference now that she's let Him in. Another thing that we have done a lot this week is teaching our recent converts. Two of them are young African fellas. And let me tell you, they are the coolest people I've ever met. I don't think I'd be a true France Lyon missionary if I didn't describe to you my love for the Africans here. There are a lot, and they are hands-down some of the greatest human beings alive. (Constance being one of them) They are a people who are so close to God, and that mentality transcends into every facet of their lives. They open everything so much more easily than most do--their hearts, their doors, their arms, their eyes, their spirit, their mouths, and their kitchen tables. ;) They literally want to share all that they have, in every aspect. They make everyone around them family, and since they love and treat everyone like family, they understand that everyone is a part of God's family. So they do all they can to bringing others unto Him.
The last thing, and possibly the most important and touching experiences I have had this week, are those of which I've had with my new companion. She and I have really hit it off and I have been in awe all week as I have witnessed the strength that this sister has. I don't know how I would be able to serve under some of the difficulties she has faced, but she does it beautifully. I am learning so much from her in what it means to truly have a testimony, to live off of it, and to let it be your source of strength and hope in life. It feels like we've already known each other our whole lives, because I'm pretty sure we were buddies before this life. :) We have had some very sacred moments this week where it has been made very clear to us why we're supposed to be together. Companionships are one of the most inspired and important aspects of the mission. You are with that person literally 24/7. So obviously, God has you two together to learn a lot from each other, because you will learn almost everything about each other in that amount of time. As I'm teaching her mission-life things like French, teaching skills, or how to plan, she's teaching me real-life things like how to put trust in God, how to sacrifice, and how to serve out of pure love. It is a true blessing to work with her and I'm very excited for what the rest of this transfer will bring. I hope you all have a wonderful week! Love, Soeur Shields P.S. #gocougs