I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! Today we are going to be watching our Christmas Disney movie so I don't have much time to write an elaborate group email, but I will attach some pictures and a few short stories for you :) On the contrary, we will have wifi all day so if you happen to get on while p-day is still going, feel free to chat with me!
Christmas Eve with the Benbennours!
We spent Christmas Eve after skyping our families with this cute group! We slurped oysters, ate fish eggs on toast, and wayyy too much cake! Hahaha. But it was sure great! For those of you who have never slurped oysters before... it was a first, and probably last for me hahaha. It took me back to the day I went surfing for the first time (really great day) ... I sure had many mouthfuls of salty ocean water! Haha. Raw oysters taste about the same ;). Great memories!
Sugar, or Whisky Overload?
The members fed us soooo much sugar these past two days. There is a tradition here called "bûche de Noël" which means "Christmas Log" and it is a rolled cake that is made to look exactly like a tree log... aka... LOADS of Chocolate... and LOADS of sugar.... oh yes, and LOADS of whisky, which is supposed to be cooked out, but I'm not convinced Hahahah. Oh my goodness. I was soooooo sick after, hahaha. I ended up laying on the couch at the member’s house because my head was just pounding and I felt like the whole world was spinning around me hahaha. My head is still pounding! Must have been an intense sugar rush or something? Or maybe the alcohol wasn't actually cooked out! Ha! Either way, I think I'm set on cake and sweets for at least the next few years. Lol. Which leads me to my next picture....
The only thing I have been able to eat since the Bûche yesterday afternoon... was this beet, that I ate like an apple, hahaha. My companion couldn't resist taking a picture...
Spontaneous Caroling with the Family Schellhous:
We were on our way home for Christmas dinner when we made a few spontaneous caroling stops to a couple families in the ward and the baker next door! Then we had breakfast burritos, watched the kids open their Christmas presents, played a little badminton, and headed off to our next rendezvous!
My companion doesn't like Olives:
In trying to avoid having to eat the olives on the table, my companion reached for the bowl of raisins and quickly popped a couple of them in her mouth instead...When the shockingly salty flavor hit her tongue she quickly learned that she had not just popped raisins into her mouth, but her table neighbor's, already sucked on, olive seeds. Hahahaha. I got a good laugh that night.
Before I wrap up, I wanted to share a Christmas Conference quote that I loved from our mission president. "Why do we expect it to be 'normal' to take over ten years of hard work and dedication to become a doctor, engineer, or someone else of importance... while expecting to become a disciple of Jesus Christ *snap*, like that...?
We need to 'work' to be a disciple of Jesus Christ."
That's a "wrap" (get it? Christmas?) for this week! I love you all and will talk to you very soon!!
Joyeux Noël Mes Amis
Baptism in the Blue-Ville
In my very first area, my blue and I had an incredible week 5 when we ended up finding 19 new investigators. Well, news just came in that Clarisse, one of the women we found on the street and started teaching, just got baptized!!! I can't even explain the joy I felt when I saw her picture on our mission gazette.
Pardon My Missionary Memory...
Sunday we had a funny experience that I had to share Hahahah. We were running around trying to talk to all the members and then one of them (who was visiting from the U.S) came up to us and said he might have a referral for us. We were thrilled, to say the least. Anyways, he pulls out his phone to give us her information. He gives us her name, where she was from, and then... wait, no number?.... Did he just want to get us all excited and then give us no way of contacting her? Hahaha. Soeur George's face was priceless. It was like a little kid on Christmas who came running down the stairs to find there were no presents under the tree Haha. Just then, he leaves, and I burst into laughter. Sœur George sat and stared at me with a very confused look on her face. Then, I turned to her and said with tears practically streaming down my face, "22 Rue Albert Thomas!" (Address changed for obvious reasons). She immediately joined me in laughter as she realized I had "accidentally" memorized the number and address that I happened to have caught a quick glimpse of on the member’s phone. #Oops
We Wish You a Merry Christ-mas...
It wasn't really feeling like Christmas around here since no one seems to enjoy decorating or singing Christmas carols. So, Soeur George and I decided to bring a little Christmas cheer by singing loud for all to hear. We worked up a little something on the metro, practiced it really quick on an old man who was just on his way home from a concert, and then headed to the mission office to sing for all the senior missionary couples! They were so thrilled to have a visit from the missionaries. Our hearts melted as their eyes filled with tears and they told us it was "The best thing that has happened to us in a long time".
It made me reflect greatly on my last Christmas here in the mission and how "sad" of a Christmas it was. Being so far from my family and all. I had only been in the mission field for about 1 month at the time and I was indeed, quite homesick. I understand why last Christmas was so disappointing. It's difficult to enjoy Christ's birth, when we are celebrating it, without celebrating him. Christmas without Christ is simply ... MAS...
M-ONEY (or lack of)
MAS is a great family celebration, but yet lacks meaning, significance, and purpose. I'm sad to say that I personally celebrated "MAS" for many years before coming on a mission. Making it difficult to enjoy "my holidays" in France, without all of the exciting socials, fun games, yummy food, and expensive presents.
No wonder I wasn't happy! I was a missionary, a representative of Jesus Christ... trying to celebrate Christmas....without celebrating Christ!... It seems so obvious. And yet, it is so easily forgotten.
So I made a goal this Christmas to celebrate Christ, in striving each day to become a little more like him. Which has fit perfectly with the "Light the World" campaign that the church has going right now :) I hope you are all doing it. If not, find a moment to get started! I promise that if you do, you will be able to enjoy the beautiful spirit and unconditional happiness, that comes from celebrating Christ-mas, and not simply "MAS".
We Preach of Christ.
My companion and I made a goal this Christmas that every single day through the entire month of December, we would carry not only one, but multiple Books of Mormon in our arms wherever we went. We simply didn't want to risk missing any opportunity to talk of Christ during this special season. After all, "we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins" (2 Nephi 25:26) ... one of my personal favorites ;).
At the end of day one, our arms were VERY sore. We quickly decided that 6 B.O.Ms each was maybe a little too excessive, hahaha. Though somewhere in the midst of all our scrambling to keep the books balanced on our little biceps in a crowded metro, we met a curious young Chilean man. He stared at us strangely for several stops before Soeur George asked him if he had ever seen this book before (This is why we have companions, I was just staring strangely back at him, Hahaha). He reached out and took the Book, flipped through it a bit, and started reading. I guided him to one of my favorite chapters (3 Nephi 11) when Christ appears to the Americas and proclaims his divinity. Without another word, he began to read to himself. He read, and read, and read, aaaaalllll the way until we got to the metro terminus. We sat in silence for nearly 30 minutes. Then, just before getting off, he turned to ask if we had a phone number and if he could buy the book. Of course we gave it to him for free, along with our number! My companion and I then sat in silence for another 30 minutes as we tried to piece together what miracle had just happened right before our eyes hahaha. We ended up giving 4 Books of Mormon away on that one ride home.
The Not Dead Guy...
We were standing on a metro on our way to Paris, everyone plugging their noses. Something smelt absolutely wretched. Then, all of the sudden, BAM! A man falls flat on the floor. He was sitting in a chair and everyone had assumed he was sleeping. But after taking a solid blow to the head and no reaction, no one was actually sure if he was dead, a heavy sleeper, or just veeerrrryyyy drunk. You could just hear the whisper of rumors making their way from the front to the back of the metro as everyone began quietly gossiping among themselves. A voice came from somewhere and told the passengers to pick up the man and "Just set him outside"... hahaha. It was as if he had instantly instituted a giant game of "nose goes!?" between all the stockier men onboard. Finally, a couple of the metros stockiest stepped up to the plate. They drug him off and set him on the ground, and then we drove away, Hahahaha. Don't worry, he was just really drunk. #WelcomeToParis
The Pass Off.
Salah and Ynesse are still progressing beautifully. But, we had to pass them to the Elders.
Missionaries or Movie Stars?
I have never been on camera so much in my life. Thursday was the Reporter day. We met up in Paris and they followed us back and forth all day as we talked to people in the road. It was a different contacting experience than I have ever had. Actually, it was a lot more effective than I had expected! We started our contacts by letting the people know they were on camera. Then we asked their permission and if we could share a message with them. Apparently the French are born to be on camera because once they heard that, they were all oddly anxious to hear our message... hahaha. Well, whatever works!! We taught 18 lessons in 3 hours that day. Our favorite of the 18 was when we built up the courage to go and sit on the concrete outside of George Pompidou (very famous museum) in a circle of 5 girls our age and share a message with them while they ate lunch. We even sang a harmonized Christmas carol! Our moms would have been proud (they are both voice coaches. J It was such a sweet moment for us as we thought of Jesus Christ, during his Earthly ministry, kneeling among the people to teach them.
My Extensive Medical Vocabulary.
We went to the doctor (again) on Tuesday and figured out the cause of all my weird allergic reactions here... apparently we have a black mold problem in our apartment. So, we went to work spraying and scrubbing it with vinegar for over 12 hours on Thursday. I now have a super nerdy inhaler that I get to bring everywhere with me. I think it makes me look more intelligent. Just kidding... just trying to be positive, Hahaha. Saturday I lost my voice completely and somehow managed to get it back just long enough to perform an arrangement of Silent Night in our ward Christmas spectacular. My voice was completely gone again the moment I finished. #Miracles. When the mission nurse called to check up on me that night, she immediately called and set up yet another doctor appointment to check out my throat. We went. Turns out, I have strep. Hahaha. I couldn't help but laugh at the outstanding amount of medical diagnostics I have had since the beginning of my mission. The good news is: my medical vocabulary has become quite extensive. ;) Maybe I will consider staying in France for studies, considering I know more medical terminology now in French than I do in English, Lol. Though hopefully I won't have to learn much more between now and the time I return home, hahaha.
Our Dear Friend, Emelie!
We have an incredible new ami named Emelie. She met the Mormons 14 years ago while she was living in the U.S. but wasn't interested at the time. She lived there for seven years before moving back to France and living another 7 years. That's when she realized there was something missing from her life. As she struggled to get through trails and hardships on her own, she began to wonder, maybe she 'did' need God. So she sent in a request to have a Book of Mormon delivered to her. Salt Lake then called us, and we called her! Now she is taking the missionary lessons and doing wonderfully. We were able to take her over to Bishop's house last night for the first lesson after the stake Christmas spectacular. It went incredibly well. That night at the spectacular she met (without knowing) our mission president, his wife, a quorum seventies, and the presiding bishop of the entire church! She asked us after meeting them... "Okay, they were important. I could feel it. Why? What do they do? Their eyes practically spoke to my heart."
My Lesson with a 10-year-old Missionary.
Our member who was supposed to be present for our lesson somehow got lost in the after-church-rush--as well as did my companion-- and our new amis (Joshua and Shauna) were in a hurry to make it to their Sunday afternoon rendezvous. So, in a quick attempt to teach them a lesson before they left, I grabbed a ten-year-old little American girl from the hallway and asked her if she had a minute to help me out with a lesson. I told her we were going to teach about the Book of Mormon. She nodded her head excitedly and followed me into the room. Then, she picked up the Book of Mormon, and in a language that was not her own, presented it in a way that was more complete, more sincere, and more beautiful than I have ever heard in my life. Chills covered my entire body as she continued to testify of the Book of Mormon, the testimony of the witnesses, and the promise given by Moroni to all who read the Book of Mormon. She then, with both hands, presented our new amis with their very own, Book of Mormon, reminding them how special it was. Teary eyed, they thanked her sincerely and we closed with a prayer. Again, offered by my sweet little 10-year-old companion. I have never in my life taken part in a more powerful lesson, and I didn't even say a single word.
Baptism Coming Soon to Versailles!
So we have this awesome 19-year-old ami named Clemence. She was a self-referral and had been being taught for almost a year. But after lots of prayers on her behalf, we made the decision to start from the beginning with her in teaching the very first lesson over again and inviting her to be baptized. We asked President's wife, Sœur Babin, to teach with us. In the peaceful setting of the mission home, we taught Clemence the Restoration and invited her to be baptized on The 21st of January. She responded with a giddy, "EEEE!!!! YAY!". Man, I wish that was how ALL of our amis would respond to a baptismal invite-- "EEEE!!! YAY!" :D
Much Love and a Merry Christ-mas,
Sœur Tracie Wyson
-Singing for the ward nativity
-Us with the reporters
-Emelie, Me, My adorable companion, Bishop, and his wife!
Clemence, me, Soeur Babin, Soeur George
Last week I wrote, "for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.”...well, holy guacamole, I was not expecting him to work THAT many wonders!!! Witnessing the amount of outstanding and unexpected miracles that we have had this week has almost been a sort of out of body experience hahaha, we just can't seem to wrap our heads around it! We have also never spent so much time down on our knees thanking the Lord. It's been absolutely amazing. Sadly, I had to pick and choose which wonders to share in this week's email because as you know, our time is quite limited...
A "Wonder"-Ful Companion:
Let's begin with the miracle of a miraculous companion! Boy do I love and appreciate Sœur George. She is from Rexburg, Idaho and has been out on her mission for about 13 months, only one transfer behind me. I was actually her STL in the MTC but we didn't have the opportunity to get to know each other very well before I left for France. She always cheerful, smiley, kind, pleasant, patient, and very goofy, like me ;) she is also an INCREDIBLE dancer. So we highly enjoy our solid two hours of hardcore dance workout a day, 6:30-7:30 am and 9:00-10:00 pm. But most of all, she is also a miracle magnet! So the two of us together are #Magnetic 😉
Snails for Lunch?...Why not!...
Monday we attended a fancy Resto with all the Elders who were headed home. It was pretty hard to send off all the missionaries who have been with me since the very beginning of my mission. But, we didn't send them down into the grave without a final fête! Yes, I tried my very first snail. It wasn't half bad actually! If textures don't getcha' and you like the taste of over-seasoned garlic bread, go order yourself some snails! If nothing else, they are a GREAT mosquito repellent.
We picked up and left the apartment right in the middle of weekly planning to meet up with a young member at the Train Station and escort her to the Church. It seemed like a good opportunity to serve someone, while not taking "too" much time out of our weekly planning session. Until we found ourselves waiting for over an hour in a train station. With absolutely no way of contacting her (she didn't have a cellphone), we couldn't bring ourselves to just leave: even though we were going to miss the only opportunity we had to plan/fill our week. About a hour and half into the wait, a young woman of about 20 years walked up to us and, in her best French, asked for directions to meet a friend. Realizing that she had an American accent, we responded in English. She immediately let out a loud sigh of relief and said, "Oh English! Thank you!".. then she looked a little closer at our badges and said... "Are you Missionaries?... I am actually looking for a church right now!... Do you do English Translation?"
You can imagine our reaction... it probably went something like this... (jaw-drop). Hahaha. Don't worry, we said yes too!! So we will start teaching Margot very soon!
He Caught the "Jarretière" (Garter)...
On our way to the church with Chloe, we were sitting on the metro as I was trying to explain to her, in French, the wedding tradition of getting and tossing the Bride's garter to the crowd, and how the person to catch the garter would be the next to get hitched. Don't ask why I was trying to explain that... but It ended up being a GREAT contacting technique! Everyone around us was trying so hard not to giggle at our conversation. So instead of changing the subject, I just decided to involve them all in it! Hahaha. We all laughed and talked together for about 20 Minutes as the conversation evolved perfectly from garter catching to the gospel. Then we exchanged numbers with all of them and set rendezvous to meet up and talk about church this week!
"ALL My Friends are Mormon TOO!"
After dropping Chloe off, we jumped back on the bus to head home. That's when we met yet another new friend! A cute little Philippino woman who looks at us and with a great big smile on her face says, "all my friends are Mormon too! I otta come to your church with my son! I live right next door!".... Uhhh... yes you do! So we exchanged numbers, a few jokes, and were off to find the next miracle!
Day 3: "The Curse".
Day three of the transfer we were on our way to visit a member... reminder... it was also day three of the transfer that Soeur Neistadt and I got stranded in the rain... it also takes about 2 hours to get most places from our apartment...So, 3 hours later, we had almost made it to the family's home. When we finally made it to the right bus stop, she gave us an over the phone "how to" find her house guide. We thought we understood the given directions fairly well. However, anyone who has followed me on my mission knows... I have spent the past 14 months getting really good… at getting really lost, (and lots of other stuff). Unfortunately, Sœur George has too. We walked for about three hours, calling the member roughly every 20 Minutes. Eventually we called and rescheduled for another day... we had to if we wanted to make it back before curfew, oh lala... Haha. We were absolutely exhausted, but still laughing!
My favorite part of the night had to have been when we thought it would be a good idea to "treat" ourselves to a nice restaurant on the way home and we paid 15.90€ each for food that wasn't even as good of quality as a TV dinner. Hahahah. We sure laughed a lot that night!
You drove TWO hours!?!
We had a rendez-vous set up with a woman who sœur Neistadt and I had only talked to once on the phone. We had actually met her sister on the RER and she referred us to Dahnne, her other sister. The lesson went very well, at the end, she looked at us and said... "Now I understand why I for some reason decided to drive over two hours to come meet you guys." What!? Two hours!?! The cherry on top... it's only been one day and she had already read all the way through first Nephi! I've never been so happy!
Oh happy Day!
Speaking of being happy... Our new jam is "Oh Happy Day" from Sister Act II... if you want to know what we do every night once our miraculous day has come to an end... Go ahead and go listen to that song ;)
Last Minute Miracles
WAIT. LAST MINUTE MIRACLES. I thought I was done... but the Lord worked some serious wonders among us today. I usually draft up my emails Saturday night during dinner and then send them out on Monday. But what happened today (Sunday) was just way too cool to wait to share aaaalllll the way until next Monday. Are you ready?... Today at church we had SEVEN investigators show up! That is more than I have had in my entire mission.
Well, I still have heaps of miracles waiting to be shared, but I think they are going to have to hold on until next week...
Until then, I Love you!
Sister Tracie Wyson
Salam Alikom! (That means "hello" in Arabic)
Today's email will be an interesting melange of the past two weeks since I didn't have the chance to send out a group email last week...
We were hardly in Versailles last week so I don't have too many fun stories to recount to you today. We had P-Day in Paris and started exchanges right after. Exchanges went until 9:00 Tuesday night. Wednesday we spent the day in Paris again so that Soeur Neistadt could practice her song (which was phenomenal) for Zone Conference with the pianist and violinist. Thursday... can you guess?... we were in PARIS! Haha. This time it was for the actual Conference. We didn't get home until pretty late that night.
Friday morning Soeur Neistadt and I both woke up with the stomach flu and so we had to spend the day in bed taking turns running to the bathroom to throw up. On the bright side, The mailman brought me a little Christmas surprise! Saturday we actually had several Rendezvous and a baptism! It wasn't ours, but the Elders from another area called us the night before and asked if we could play piano for the baptism and come up with a musical number. Hahaha. Yes, the night before. We laughed and accepted, with great faith that we would be healed the next day. ;) Sœur Neistadt must have had greater faith than me because she woke up better and I woke up worse. So she ended up doing the musical number all by herself, again, (what a solid pal). I still had a bad flu of some sort so church was a rough one. Some members threw us a cute little miniature "Thanksgiving Feast" after church :). Granted I didn't really get to enjoy it because Turkey dinner doesn't taste near as good coming up the second time, haha. But my family knows I am just carrying on the good traditions because I am pretty sure I have had the flu every single Thanksgiving for the past 5 years at least hahaha. "TRADITION!" Can't break it now ;).
Sunday through Wednesday I was kept in bed with a series of fevers and chills along with a sore throat like no other. Wednesday I also woke up with my eyes sealed shut... Woo Hoo, pinkeye!... Thursday I was still sick, Friday as well, and so on, soooo... it was a heck of a week! 😜 (I have much greater reasoning to all of this than whining about all of my symptoms, I promise!)
You may ask what my poor companion was doing all during the 240 hours that I was stuck in bed...
It all started off with a call from Soeur Babin (presidents wife), giving her orders to travel to the pharmacy, by herself!! Now, for those of you who are familiar with missionary rules, you understand how extremely strange that must be. For those who aren't--it is absolutely necessary that a missionary remains within sight and sound of his/her companion 100% of the time. With the only exception being the bathroom-- So, in her own words she said....
"I put on my big girl panties, marched out the door, and said... 'I CAN DO THIS!!'......Theeeennn, I called the elders and made them talk to me the whole way there...."
Hahahaha. That girl is a hoot.
Lucky for me, she made it all the way to the pharmacy and back without any damage, and she came bearing good tidings of great joy (Meds).
I also woke up to our entire apartment decked out in hand cut snowflakes and other Christmasy decorations made from an emergency blanket that she found hidden somewhere in the black hole (closet) of our apartment, haha. For those of you who have seen "Elf"...? That is my companion, and that is exactly what our apartment looks like right now. Hahaha.
As for all the other days, we have had a series of sister rotations set up in the zone so that Soeur Neistadt was able to go to all of our rendezvous while I stayed home in bed.
Speaking of Companion.... Transfer calls came on Saturday! Drum roll please...Soeur Neistadt is leaving Versailles and Soeur George is rollin' in! Add that to my enormous list of companions I have never done more than 6 weeks with hahaha. I don't actually know who Soeur George is, so it will be a surprise :)
Now for my "much greater reasoning"...
About 5 months ago I made a goal to study and make goals for one Christlike attribute each month until the end of my mission. November was originally set aside to be my month of "knowledge" but I later felt the need to change the order and make it the month of "Patience". The order may not have changed much, but I was very grateful to have had "Patience" as my focus during this month of spontaneous change... and what better way to end my month of patience than with a ten day flu!? ;) hahaha. With that, I have a lovely Holland quote for you :)....
"Keep loving. Keep trying. Keep trusting. Keep believing. Keep growing. Heaven is cheering you on today, tomorrow, and forever....If gospel standards seem high and the personal improvement needed in the days ahead seems out of reach, remember Joshua’s encouragement to his people when they faced a daunting future. “Sanctify yourselves,” he said, “for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.”"
I can't wait to see the wonders of tomorrow!!! :D
Remember, Miracles happen!...Even in FRANCE!🇫🇷
Ps-Happy Birthday to my beautiful Angel mother and my lovely sister Randi this week on the 8th of December!!! I love you both!!
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.