Indroduction: Soeurs Wyson and Burgoyne leave their property and journey to Brest--
Usually when traveling to another Ville for exchanges, we arrive at the train station where the sister training leaders are cheerfully waiting, ready to greet us with big hugs and bisous. But when they weren't, we knew something had to be wrong haha.
We left for exchanges with the sister training leaders in Brest Wednesday morning--which is a 6-hour trip by train. After traveling all day Wednesday, we arrived in Brest around 6:30 that evening. Two hours and several phone calls later, we came to the conclusion that either they were kidnapped, or they completely forgot that we were coming. Luckily, they weren't kidnapped ;)
We decided to go explore a little bit while we waited for someone to answer or call us back. After a nice walk to the ocean view, we were able to get a hold of the Brest elders and get directions to the sisters’ apartment. Soeur Burgoyne and I thought the whole situation was pretty hilarious. The best part had to have been the look on their faces when they opened the door and saw us standing there hahahaha...We got a good laugh. Though completely unplanned, it ended up being a really great exchange! For the first part of the day we went to the train station with a group of us sisters and sang, it was so amazing! There is this button next to the piano that people can hit if they "like" what they are hearing and SOO many people were coming up to hit the button just one after another! Some of them hit it several times haha! The acoustics in the station were incredible and the spirit in the room was even better.
I think it is safe say that our favorite miracle that day began on our way to the train station when we jumped on the tram and Soeur Burgoyne sat next to a Chinese young man to practice her French. What was really hilarious is that he only spoke about as much French as she does so they ended up just speaking to each other in English haha. Turns out he's studied English for 15 years! His name was Zheng (pron. Chen). He's a student in Paris and he was here in Brest for vacation. He was interested in the fact that we were missionaries, so Soeur Burgoyne told him a little about the church and asked if he was interested in learning more. He said yes so we exchanged numbers and gave him a mormon.org card. We talked to him for a little longer until it was time to get off. Then, when we told him it was our stop, he said he'd get off too so that we could keep talking! (Never happens). He walked with us to the Gare and we taught him about the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Each one of us took turns teaching a piece and adding our own personal testimony.
When asked if he believed in God and Christ, and he said not yet. AKA, he's planning on it but wasn't there yet ;) We even committed him to stop drinking and smoking that first day too! How cool! He stayed the whole time at the Gare with us while we sang and we were able to connect him with the Mandarin elders in Paris before we left. Zheng has truly been prepared to receive the Gospel. He texted us later telling us that our meeting him must have been by the hand of God. Even though our exchange with the STLs had been completely unexpected/unplanned as far as we were concerned, I know that Zheng was right in saying that it had been planned by the Lord :) He always has a plan!
On the way home, we took another 3 trains, and for lunch Soeur Burgoyne had gotten a baguette and a wheel of stinky cheese. That was so French of her, hahaha. She offered it to this middle aged man who was sitting across from us on the train (not so French haha). He said no thank you, but we started talking to him about all kinds of things. After an hour and a half or so, we asked him if he'd heard of our church. José is atheist because his mother died when he was young and he doesn't understand why God would let things like that happen to such good people. We had the opportunity to teach him the plan of salvation in its entirety. Soeur Burgoyne even drew the entire diagram on her iPad.
He was with us on the next train as well so in the several hours we were with him we managed to teach him just about all of the missionary lessons. Although he still didn't believe in God at the end of the train ride, he told us that it made perfect sense that if there were a God, that this would be his gospel. He even said he would like to read the Book of Mormon out of curiosity and a passion for reading. We took him up on that really quick! We will be sending him a Book of Mormon this week :).
As soon as we got home, we went to Claudia’s house. She is the young African mother that we offered to teach how to hold family home evening. She has an 11-year-old girl and 3-year-old boy. We ate dinner with her,... A LOT of dinner... and then finished with a fun object lesson. We mixed corn starch with water which creates a runny liquid that you can roll into a ball. But, as soon as you stop rolling it, it immediately goes back into a puddle. We were going to compare it to testimony, but when they didn't really catch on, we quickly shifted gears and started talking about families, and how if you aren't constantly working to strengthen your family it becomes "mush". At this point they were extremely attentive. We talked about having weekly family nights and how they strengthen the family. As you continue to roll the ball, eventually your hands absorb the water and it stays solid and round. When their family is grown, they will still remain strong because of the work and effort they put into it while they were young. They loved it. To close, Antoine (the 3-year-old) said his first prayer. Carefully repeating each word that exited Soeur Burgoyne's mouth :). Very tender moment.
The Self Cleaning Bathroom:
I wasn't sure how to start this random story but I really wanted to share it. The title says it all. The other day Soeur Burgoyne and I were on our way in between rendezvous and I had drunk close to a gallon of water in the past 30 minutes because I was SO thirsty...Thus, I was dying and there were NO bathrooms to be seen! Public bathrooms do not exist in France. If you are really lucky, you might be able to find one, but it will cost you and of course... I wasn't carrying around any change with me either. I was ready to embrace my inner "French" and start looking for the nearest bush. Then, VOILA!! A random bathroom in the middle of a giant parking lot! And it was FREE! What's this? An answer to my prayers?! I sprinted to the bathroom and then after closing the door I hear Soeur Burgoyne's muffled voice say jokingly, "Just make sure you don't stay in there for more than 20 minutes!! It is a self cleaning bathroom!!" Then, the moment she says it, BAM!! Here comes the sprinklers! I yelled at the top of my lungs... "SOEUR!!! IT'S STARTED!!!!!" I barely got my skirt back up fast enough to dive back out the door before I was given a nice bath. I guess that's what I get for deciding I didn't need to take a shower that morning, ha! Soeur Burgoyne and I got a REALLY good laugh out of that one. It reminded me of a movie my family watches a lot called I-Robot haha. Apparently I am also a "malfunction magnet".
Oh yes, and coming this June, our favorite English person in all the world is going to be getting Baptized! Shout out to Lizzie! (because I know she is reading this, hehe) Don't worry Lizzie, I won't embarrass you too much :) Lizzie has truly become one of our best-friends in the short time that we have known her and we love her so much and are so excited for her :). Love you Lizzie!
Passez une bonne semaine!
Soeur Tracie Wyson
Happy Mid-April everyone!...
I have to keep reminding myself that it is April because I have been writing "February" on every single day of my planner for the past two months. I just can't keep up with how fast the time is moving!
Seeing as my time in Angers is likely coming to an end in the next couple weeks, Soeur Burgoyne and I decided to "Aller Jambon" (go ham) this week! ;) We sat down together and made goals for each day of the week with an overall goal of 70 total lessons this week and 10 new Amis! For a typical week in our mission, the "standard of excellence" is 21 total lessons. But, we fasted Sunday to get the work booming here in Angers and we were ready to start seeing those miracles!
We went to work and had an incredible start to the week. Originally we had planned to pass by all the inactive members in the ward but that morning during studies we felt prompted to go out porting and contacting instead. Two of our Least favorite forms of finding haha. But, if you never ignore a prompting, you never miss an opportunity! So we went! We ended up having 9 other lessons and found 7 new Amis, the first day!! It was amazing.
We ported into a Muslim lady's house (The same lady that told me several months ago that she would read the Book of Mormon if I read the Koran) we had a great lesson and her son is absolutely brilliant.
She has actually been reading the Book of Mormon! Guess I better get reading ;) We were even baptized Muslim haha! I will explain that one... When we ported her house and she was talking about how she speaks Arab, which we thought was super cool. We told her she has to teach us and her response was not what we expected! She was like, "Serious? Come in! I will teach you right now!" Haha! Cool! We sat down and she placed a giant book in front of us with a bunch of crazy symbols in it and begin teaching us to read it. She kept telling us how easy it was and how much easier it was than French....hmmm... Can't say I agree!
After she taught us the main rules she had us practice by reading some strange chant-like paragraph. When we were done she was SO proud with how well we spoke...she had to have just been being nice hahaha. She went on the explain how baptism for woman into the Muslim church works. You can probably guess what came next... She told Soeur Burgoyne and I what we had to say and we looked at each other and said... Hmmm, isn't that what we just read? Then she says, "Yeah! That's it!" Hahaha. Oh dear. Well, my email to president is going to be great this week. Oh! She gave me a really fancy French Koran too!!!
Later that night we were walking down the street and saw two young men. We smiled and said "Bonjour" as we do to everyone who passes us on the street. A few minutes later, they popped back up out of nowhere and introduced themselves haha. They invited us to go "drink a glass" with them then claimed they meant a glass of "juice" or "Coca Cola" after we told them we didn't drink hahaha. Yeahhh...riggghhht ;) Of course we told them we couldn't go out with them but that they were more than welcome to come to church haha. They totally came!! Not only did they come, they really enjoyed it! We fixed another rendezvous with them and the Elders for Lunch on Tuesday and a friendly game of basketball on Saturday where they are going to introduce us and the elders to all of their friends!
Wednesday we spent the entire day contacting and found 4 new Amis and had 14 lessons as a companionship! We were so exhausted after. Thursday morning was easily one of the most intense days of my mission up to this point. We had planned to finish up some book work before heading out on the streets because it was super stormy and there was hardly anyone on the streets. But, we felt strongly prompted to go out and contact in a specific area (which happens to be one of the sketchiest neighborhood in Angers). We had never contacted there before so we figured it would be good! Usually the elders take care of that area but for some reason we knew we had to go there. When we got to the area we saw a woman who looked very concerned, lost, and just about in tears.
We immediately felt prompted to stop her. She didn't want to hear what we had to say because she was in a hurry somewhere. But, we knew we needed to talk to her anyways, we started walking quickly with her and asked if we could help her find something. She had been lost in this neighborhood for 2 hours. We put the address into our iPads and walked quickly with her. Turns out, one of her employees didn't show up to work that morning which in the many, many years he has worked with her, has never “not” shown up without calling first. Thus, she was extremely concerned.
We found his building and someone let us in. We banged and banged on the door and yelled his name. No response. His neighbors came to help. His car was still there so we knew he must be in the apartment. In the middle of the chaos we asked if we could pray to find him and everyone there said yes without hesitation. Even though none of them believed in God. After the prayer we called the police. They and the fireman showed up. They banged and yelled and then broke into the apartment. The man was found laying dead on the floor next to his bed... The woman started bawling and we sat and hugged her as we prayed again together.
We ended up being with her and all the people there for a little over two hours sharing why we were here and what we know to be true. The gospel brings so much peace, everyone became so calm. She stopped crying and listened intently. She couldn't thank us enough for being there for her and said she wouldn't have been able to do all that alone. She said that there must be some "great power" that placed us in her path that day.
We saw an unbelievable amount of miracles this week and met so many wonderful people. We ended the week with about 40 lessons and drum roll please... NINE-TEEN new Amis!!!! Granted we didn't get all the way to 70 lessons but we worked very hard and the Lord truly did lead us to those children that he had been preparing. Besides... we would take 19 new Amis over 70 lessons any day ;)
I feel incredibly blessed to be part of the greatest work there is to be done here on the earth. The Lord's work. He guides it and he guides us.
Miracles happen everyone, even in France!! :)
Hello From Angers!
I hope you all have had a wonderful week, we sure have!! It started off kinda "eeehhh" if you know what I mean. We weren't seeing hardly any success at all and just about all of our amis temporarily dropped off the face of the planet... The "Vacance" has officially begun (summer vacation). Saturday we were doing weekly planning. It was seeming kind of pointless because none of our plans had changed since we hadn't been able to teach any of our amis. So, we decided it would be good to pray and ask the Lord if he wanted us to plan anyway or go do something else. After our prayer we both felt prompted to call up ALL 140 members in the ward and ask them to bring at least one non-member friend per family to church. With that, also do a ward fast to boost the missionary work here in Angers. We knew it was a huge task and quite a bit to ask on such short notice but we were okay with it because we know God works miracles!
The next day we left to church 30 minutes earlier than we normally do so that we could be extra early to greet all of the new amis that were going to be at church! Well... sadly, not a single member even invited a friend to church. We were pretty bummed. The two of us were ready to drop our bags and take a nap... But, we decided to work it off instead :) We knelt down, once again, and spoke to The Lord. We expressed our disappointment after having done the things he asked and not having had a single ami show up to church and asked him to help us find someone who he has prepared to receive his gospel. When we closed the prayer, the phone rang. Claudia! I haven't told you about Claudia because we have never met her before. We found her phone number while we were cleaning out the ancient ami section of our area book a few weeks ago. We called her several times but she never answered. I practically dove on the phone to make sure I got it before she hung up haha. We talked for a while about who we are and why the heck we were calling her haha. She then explained that she had served a TEN-year mission as a Nun in France before she quit and had a family. She also made it very clear that she was very much a practicing catholic and not about to change religions. At this point we weren't sure what to do except ask if we could serve her because we really really wanted to meet her haha. There is no way that was a coincidence that she called when she did! She laughed at the “sweet notion” and told us "maybe in a couple weeks". When she said that, I heard a little kid interrupting her in the background and I felt extremely prompted to ask her about her family. She told me a bit about her kids and then I told her that I came from a family of 12 kids and my companion from 6. Immediately her voice changed and very sweetly she began to ask about my family. After asking a few questions she says very softly..."Actually, you know what? A church that places that much value on the family actually really interests me...Would you mind passing by tomorrow and sharing your message with me?" Our Father in heaven truly does know each and every one of us individually and he has the power to soften the hearts of his children.
We went to Claudia's house today and we taught about the answers we can find through the Book of Mormon. Specifically, we focused on some of the questions of the soul. We read through some of these questions in Preach my Gospel with her family and one that really stuck out to her was, "How can I balance my family and my career?" Soeur Burgoyne and I both felt prompted to testify of the blessings that come from holding weekly family home evening and daily scripture study as a family and we offered to teach her how to hold family home evening. They are very excited to have their very first FHE next :)
Another cool experience we had with the area book was a sweet Muslim girl named Dina. Same thing... we had called her a billion times and she never answered, then miraculously, she called back! She invited us over to her house even though she had no clue who we were, we were pretty stoked about that hahaha. We headed over and turns out, her entire family is very practicing Muslim and from a Muslim country in the middle East haha. But hey, they invited us! We were at their house for about two hours as they just LOADED up the table in front of us with all kinds of African food hahaha. When we saw all the food, we asked them who else was coming for dinner and they said, "Oh no!! No one! We aren't eating! We made it all special for you! You will eat it all!" Soeur Burgoyne is still pretty new so she thought they were joking... I knew better...hahaha. I tried to laugh it off and tell them that we weren't going to be able to eat it all. I got to a point where my hand couldn't lift anything else to my mouth because I was so full, that's when the little kids started coming up and literally hand feeding it to us HAHA. (Help me Mom! ) It was really good food but holy smokes it was a lot. Definitely gained a few "poids" from that dinner. Lol.
After we ate they taught us some cool African dances and the kids wanted to dress us up in their robes. I felt like I was in a completely different mission haha! These people are definitely not French! It was awesome. They are so cultural! They said their people love to dance but that they aren't allowed to dance in public in their country because it is Muslim. So, they moved to France and they dance every day! Sounds like footloose, only a lot more dangerous.
So to sum up this week...We ate a lot of food and we saw some really sweet miracles ;) If I had a pound for every miracle we have seen here in Angers!... I would have about as many pounds as I have now after that meal. ;)
I wanted to finish with a spiritual thought, as I always do. I am a missionary, after all :) The other day in my personal studies, I was studying about keeping the Sabbath day holy and what we can do to help our amis and the members to better understand what we should be doing on the Sabbath day. I read about Christ healing the blind man and how he taught us that the Sabbath, being a day of rest, does not mean sitting on your couch and "resting" the day away. It is a day set apart for us to rest from the craziness of our every day lives so that we can use that energy to go out and serve instead. As missionaries, Sunday is our busiest day of the week. We don't even get personal studies on Sunday because we are out of the apartment and on our way to church at 8 am. This was so strange to me when I first got here because Sunday had always been such a relaxing day. Though, over my time being here, Sunday has become my very favorite day of the week. Because, it is the only day of the week that will allow me to relive my missionary days even after I go home.
I hope that we will come to see the Sabbath as this; one day each week that has been set apart for us to live as missionaries live. I pray that we will seize that opportunity to be missionaries and look for ways we can "invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end."
BIG NEWS this week!! No, I'm not changing Villes, I am staying in Angers for at least another 4 weeks :). JACQUELINE is BACK!!!!
The other day we were in the middle of planning some lessons and I was hit with this incredibly powerful impression to call Jacqueline--Our ami that had a baptismal date a few months ago but randomly dropped off the face of the Earth and then asked us never to call back-- Frankly, I was still pretty upset with her and wasn't too stoked about the idea. But, good thing I am on the Lords errand and not my own :) So I called anyway! I admit we weren't very surprised when she didn't answer.
The next day, we received a text from Jacqueline...more like 20 texts! We were shocked! Though not too shocked because the Lord is much smarter than we are and it was his idea to call her ;). I called her again that night and she explained everything to me over the phone. She couldn't stop crying. It's a difficult situation, her entire family is extremely against religion and gives her nothing but grief about her decision to associate herself with any type of religion. I felt prompted to remind her of the Book of Mormon story of Nephi's family in the wilderness and how his brothers were constantly fighting and murmuring against him and the Lord. They even went to extremes and tried to kill him simply because he was trying to be obedient to the Lord's commands. But, the Lord protected him and he was blessed in abundance because of his faith and diligence in doing the will of the father and keeping his commandments.
She was very touched by this story and began relating it to her own life and family. I promised her that the Lord will bless her as she continues to be faithful in keeping his commandments and living his gospel. We closed with a prayer, which I have never done with someone over a phone call. We both knelt down. As I prayed for her I felt I was giving more of a blessing than a prayer. It didn't feel like it was me speaking. I promised her many things that I know came from the Lord and told her she was a good person, despite what her family may say. Her Father in Heaven told her how much she was loved. She began to cry and couldn't thank me enough. Though it wasn't me, it was the Lord.
We convinced Jacqueline’s husband to let us come over to help them prepare for her oldest sons birthday party on Friday. We convinced them by telling them we would teach them how to use their BBQ haha. We cooked SOOOO much chicken! Holy smokes! Literally, smoke! We used a REAL outdoor French brick oven! Though we didn't tell them that we had actually never used one of those babies ourselves, hahaha. They thought we were pros! The chicken did taste pretty professional ;). We smelled like nice ol' campfire for our next rendezvous. Such a good day!
Saturday we had a rough morning. I wasn't feeling too hot, Soeur Burgoyne has a nasty cold, and I threw up during conference. Not too pleasant. To add to everything else, conference made all us missionaries feel a bit "homesicky". But, The Lord loves his children SO much... Just when we felt like we were about to crash, we received a phone call. A little background about this phone call:
When Sr. Burgoyne and I first got to Angers we sent out a mass text to everyone in our phone and area book hoping to see/meet/reactivate some of those Amis or potential Amis. Well, 2 months later, we get this call from a woman named Marie who said she would love to see us and that she was "always free!" She was found by the Elders when they lived in our apartment more than 10 years ago! I definitely teared up. I was so happy. Tender mercies of the Lord. That's what keeps us going :).
Speaking of conference, it was AMAZING wasn't it!? I am going to have to re-watch it in English because I can't share all the quotes I loved with you...seeing as they are all in French. I am bummed though because we didn't get to watch all of the sessions since the time change is wacky. We watched Saturday morning session at 6 Saturday night, Priesthood conference at 10:00 Sunday Morning, Saturday afternoon session at 2:00 pm, and Sunday morning at 6:00 pm Sunday night. It was the most tranquil day of my entire mission! ;)
I solved my "food problem" with the members. People here eat and feed you SO much. But, I am pleased to announce that I have made it through SIX member meals in the past week AND A WEDDING without leaving completely stuffed. I have started doing something where when they grab my plate I say, "Je mange comme un petit oiseau" ..."I eat like a little bird" haha. I literally don't let them serve me more than you would serve a 2-year-old child. It was tough at first because you're way hungrier than that but, by the time the 6 course meal is over, you have eaten the perfect amount! Haha!
We ate at FeiFeis the other day. She is a single Chinese woman in our ward who used to be an actress. She is very wealthy. She lives on an absolutely ENORMOUS property out in the countryside about an hour out of town. We love going out there, though we don't get to do it very often. She is great and makes incredible food. And a LOT of it! hahaha. Knowing this, I basically fasted the day before we went to her house. Then, during our meal, used my new strategy. I literally dished myself the tiniest, tiniest spoon of rice and chicken. All the missionaries where looking at me really weird and then one elder says...is that seriously ALL you're going to eat!? I advised them to do the same but they didn't listen hahaha. 7 VERY heavy courses later, they wished they had! They were on the verge of throwing up, but I felt great!!
My spiritual thought today is a little bit different than usual. I was speaking with a sister missionary the other day who is preparing to go home and she was expressing her frustration with the weight that she had gained on her mission because even though she is working so hard to lose it, she still has some stretch marks left on her legs from the unavoidable weight fluctuation that comes from serving a mission.
I have been thinking a lot about this comment lately. I have even noticed that I have a few small marks of my own. I examined the marks carefully and began to think of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and all the stripes he took for us so that we could have eternal life, "...He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5)
It was a tender moment as I thought....Surely, after all the stripes he took for me, I can gladly take and proudly wear these small stripes as I serve in his name.
We all have stripes of our own that we have acquired through the various challenges of life, whether visible or not. We can choose to view our stripes negatively, or we can choose to see them as sweet reminders of the infinite atoning sacrifice that our Savior Jesus Christ made for each and every one of us. I pray that we will choose to wear our stripes with pride and gratitude because It is by his stripes that we are healed.
I feel very honored to have had the opportunity to serve as a full-time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the France, Paris Mission.