Monday, December 21, 2015

The best way to spread Christmas cheer is - 21 décembre 2015

From the platform at Béthune
SINGING LOUD FOR ALL TO HEAR. And that we did. Basically our entire week was running around singing to everyone and giving people cookies. It was delightful. Except we burn cookies like it is an Olympic sport. We burned at least 6 trays of cookies. French ovens. Ugh. Or it was just us and our lack of hearing the tiny little timer. Nevertheless, people got some semi good cookies, some ok singing, except "angels we have heard on high" glorias made us bust up laughing with everyone's inability to hold it out, and beautiful cards we bought from an Abbey/Monastery in St. Pol sur Ternoise.

Macdo with Soeur Rivièrre
Sœur Meurisse drove us around the countryside into little villages to sing to less actives, single members, and brought us to a new ami! We visited 14 people in one day. May not seem like a lot, but considering the distance in between each of the people, it's a lot. The most time we spent in one place was 15 minutes. We were flying. But it was great.

The day ended splendidly. Franck is our new ami. The most solid ami I've had yet in Arras. God has prepared him and he has experienced a lot of difficult things to humble him to receive the gospel. He has had to start over at ground zero. Divorced, lost his job, lost basically everything else, and just had to pull himself up. He came from poverty but fought his way out of the cycle, beating many odds and recognizes the hand of God in his life in saving him until now.

He lives next door to a less active member, but works with another member. He had seen us come over to visit his neighbor a few times and thought we were Jehovah's Witness... Common mistake. Well, he had studied with the JW for a bit, as he has been searching for the truth, being confused with so many churches and so many bibles. He asked who we were to his neighbor and that began a discussion. The member with whom he works then got him a Book of Mormon and invited him to meet with us. And thus we met and had a lovely rendezvous at his house with Soeur Fournelle and Soeur Meurisse.

We taught the entire Restoration and it went so smoothly. No interruptions during the first vision, awesome testimonies from members, and he had some great questions. He said "it's like I've known this without knowing it before." when we shared the first vision. I asked him how he feels, and that is how he replied. We invited him to baptism. He accepted. He truly is such a miracle placed into our hands. I am grateful for valiant members who live the gospel and share it by their actions  and words. Without them, we simply cannot do this work. No matter how many doors we knock, how many people we stop on the street or on transportation, the best way to have solid amis is to have been taught by example of the members and they invite them to learn more. What are you doing to help the work go forth in your ward?

Bonday sticks.
Bonday was splendid as usual. It was nice to serve at their house, as we have not been able to for a few weeks. We cleaned up their garage, sanded a door, painted said door, painted some more picket fences, and climbed on some "sticks". Brother Bond got a little delivery for his wood working. They made us try some mince meat pie, strait up ginger drink stuff, and some chutney. Always an adventure. We practiced God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen for the ward Christmas party. To be quite frank, I was a bit apprehensive. Guitar + amp, tambourine, Shakers, and maracas.... In a church... I felt a little baptist or evangelical. But it turned out fun and everyone loved it. We added the spice to the evening.

Christmas caroling with
some wonderful members.
Saturday we weekly planned in the morning and headed strait for the chapel to be divided to conquer the world with secret Santa stuff and more caroling. We did member splits into 4 groups, so one missionary per group. I went with Bishop and Soeur Leterme, her mom, a young man, and two of the young women, Paola and Noémi. It was pretty fun. We sang, prayed, and delivered baskets of food and treats. Nothing like giving and singing and praying. It's the best. Then finished the night with the ward party. Every auxiliary performed a piece. Soeur Soileau and I were invited to sing with the young women too, so we sang "away in a manger" and then "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" with the rockin Bonds. It was a good night. Franck didn't come, which was a bummer, but a ton of less actives did and everyone seemed to have a great night of love, service, and Christmas spirit.

I am so excited for this week. It should be filled with awesome. Headed to Paris tonight, sleeping over in my old apartment, and going tomorrow to pick up my legality ID card that allows me to live in France for another year! Then district meeting, lesson visits, district activity, Christmas Eve with members, Christmas Day with the Sanchez family, SKYPE MY FAMILY, and find more of my brothers and sisters looking for the truth.

I am grateful for the 40 day fast we have been a part of. It has not been easy, nor how I thought it would be. I had mustered some faith to try and find 40 Amis before Christmas, we tried pretty hard. I don't feel like I did everything I could, which is frustrating, but I suppose it has been a very good lesson in humility and reliance upon the Lord.

Though we may not find 40 by Christmas, we've found 4. And two more children have been brought closer unto Christ: Soeur Soileau and I have both felt a deeper connection to our Savior, Jesus Christ. I suppose the soul that needed to be brought unto Christ was my own. If that is all I did, I think I can feel okay. I know my savior lives. I know He has a plan. I know that prayer is real. I know there is power, literal strength, in reading the Book of Mormon. I know that Christ loves me. He loves you. I have felt His overwhelming love for others. I know His gospel and church have been restored to the earth and I have come to know of their importance and vitality to our salvation. I have shared His message and the story of His birth and in doing so I have discovered why "a savior is born." We need Him. We simply couldn't do it without a savior.

Jesus Christ, our Savior was born and He lives.

Merry Christmas, Sœur Kate Simpson

Monday, December 14, 2015

Après Moi la Déluge - 14 décembre 2015

FHE with the McKenzies
Après Moi la Déluge

Indeed a flood. Not one of rain, though it did rain, but a flood of blessings. The drought of finding has been broken and God has poured the miracles and blessings upon us this past week. To give you an idea, last transfer our total stats for "other lessons taught" was a meager 12, new Amis was 1. The entire 6 weeks. This week alone we taught 5 other lessons, and 3 new amies. The pleas for help and direction were answered and He placed us in the right place and the right time. I wrote about it in my journal and simply couldn't type it all again, thus the photos. I apologize if my handwriting is difficult to read, I know it's a bit tricky.

The journal entry was just of Tuesday and Wednesday, but the miracles continued. Thursday we visited two less active sisters with Soeur Meurisse. It was a pleasure to serve, teach, and share with them. We finished the night at Soeur Bouhktouchen's. We ate Tajine, a Moroccan chicken and vegetable dish. They are Algerian/Moroccan. It was delish. Oh man. Spices of the Middle East and Africa are magical. It was a good lesson; we shared our message of Noël. They come from a Muslim background, so it was cool to learn of their love of Christ and Christmas as they have converted to Christianity.

1st class to Paris
Friday. The blessed day. Paris. ️ I went back to Paris. We had our Christmas tri-zone Conference in Versailles. When our TGV was pulling into Gare du Nord, I nearly cried. Also, they messed up the composition of the train, so we got to ride First Class to Paris. It was a beautiful feeling being back in that beautiful city. I lead the group of missionaries gathered to where we needed to go, as i knew it almost like the back of my hand. Oh I can't even explain to you how happy I was to get shoved onto the cram packed RER. It was bliss. We made it to Versailles without a problem and the conference was wonderful. Testimonies of missionaries who finish their mission this transfer, all of whom I know and love, spiritual thoughts, testimonies, songs, musical numbers, a presentation of the temple, 15 minutes "with our family" reading the letters president had from our families, then a fabulous turkey and mashed potato meal. Président said we could sit by whomever we wanted and eat as much as we wanted. It was SO nice. Soeur Soileau doesn't really know anyone yet, so she sat with my missionary friends and I. After all, she is a friend of mine. Haha we talked, laughed, reminisced of old times and updated each other on investigators or converts, etc. it was lovely. They passed out packages from our families too, as if Santa had stopped by. I love President. We took a giant group photo, which took a bit longer that it should have.

Imagine a mass herd of nicely dressed men and women running with boxes in one hand and copies of the Book of Mormon in the other running frantically through 6 levels of a Paris train station. Nearly every single missionary missed their train. Everyone had to wait inline and exchange tickets and wait for the next train. Good times. It took all night to get home, so we ate dinner, planned, and went to bed.

Saturday was contacting, visited Soeur Bond at the marché for a sec to cheer her up and buy some lemon curd from her, then weekly planning, contacting, and spent a family home evening with the McKenzie family. We shared our Christmas message and helped decorate the tree and the apartment. It was lovely.

Sunday was full of some unexpected miracles. Church was good. It's a bit frustrating because everyone talks over each other and has to add their 2 cents, but they are still wonderful and I love them. Just a test of patience at times. The Elder's ami Franck came! The YSA just swooped him up and made him feel at home. We keep praying someone of ours will come. Bientot.

Missionary Mana
we made lunch for the two of us and Mana, who is leaving on her mission at the end of this month. We prayed to know what to do, then off we went to find an old amie. We got to the gated fence and rung the bells. One neighbor answered but told us to go away. Then a super old lady opened her door, told me to kick the gate door to open it and come in. So we did. She just told us to come in and talk to her. She was 90 years old and all alone. She said she hadn't talked to anyone in years. It was so sad. We tried to share a message, but she didn't listen and kept talking over us. She also was a bit deaf. But we prayed with her, wished her a merry Christmas and went next door to the lady we were looking for. She wasn't home. So we wrote a little note to leave behind, and just as we were setting it down, a lady walked up and voila. It was her. She invited us in, and just sitting placed perfectly on a coffee table, was the Book of Mormon. On her buffet cabinet, the restoration and plan of salvation brochures used as pictures. She had been waiting for missionaries for more than a year to pass by. It was incredible. She said she had been praying for a long time to be found.

She spoke a lot, super fast, and a regional dialect of French with an accent we don't know. It was so nice to have Mana with us. She basically taught everything, because even I was struggling to follow everything Madame Petit said. She expressed her reliance and love for the Lord, Jesus Christ. She talked of the terrible things of the world but that it doesn't mean there isn't a God, but that men are the corrupt and bad ones who have deformed the world. A very sweet lady with a desire to do good. Absolutely a miracle.

It's been a good week. A bit odd at times, but with so many blessings. The Jandas brought us food for Christmas, I got my boots which were completely worn out and the heel is gone from walking in them for more than a year are getting fixed at the cobblers, my train pass was renewed, we got to decorate our apartment, so many little things worked out. I know that God answers prayers. Often times, we have to persevere and keep going, pushing further and harder and better, but he always answers. His plan is always better than ours.

I wish you a fabulous week. Be good Do more Look outward


Sœur Kate Simpson

Monday, December 7, 2015

Get Out of the River - 7 décembre 2015

Many blessings to be counted indeed. Still no new amis, and barely any lessons. We stopped quite a bit of dear children of God, but no one was ready to listen. It is a little frustrating when it is the time of Christmas and everyone should be happy and feeling the Christmas spirit, the love of Christ, but not quite yet, or at least we aren't looking in the right places.

Prayer has been our source of endurance. We have continued as diligently as possible to pray every hour on the hour. I suppose I needed/need to better rely on Him to do His work. We have been blessed to talk with a few kind people, even if they weren't interested in continuing. I'm happy to be sharing a Christmas message now, which I believe will soon soften the hearts of my dear Arrageios.

I had a lovely exchange in Villeneuve d'Ascq/Lille with Sœur Rasband. Yes her somehow-related uncle is the Apostle Elder Rasband. It was wonderful. I love Arras and life, but it is also nice to take a little break and have a new backdrop for the wonderful work of the Lord. I feel so blessed to have been able to serve with her. She was Sœur Tippett's companion right before I was, and they too were together for 3 transfers. She is wonderful. We went to Mouscron, Belgium for a rdv, which is a part of their secteur, so that was cool. Left France for a bit. We visited a recent convert of 4 months, who has lived in Belgium for 4 weeks, moving from Brazil. Absolutely solid member. They hardly have anything, but give all they have to come to church. They can't afford train tickets, so they walk more than an hour with their 6 year old twins, and 8 month old baby on chilly Sunday mornings across the French border to get to the Lille metro to get to church. That is conversion. We talked with the sweet sister and she ended up changing our lesson to Joseph Smith and the truth and happiness of the gospel. She just kept saying "I'm just so happy, I'm am just so happy." Here was a lady, struggling with languages, hardly any material means, struggling with her little family in a foreign country and a new church, but she was grasping on for dear life to the restored gospel and chose to be happy. She is a great example to me. We came away so edified. What would I give to go to church? What would you?

Wednesday was a bit rough. We had no appointments, rather they all fell through, and so we headed out into the world to find some lost souls. We searched for hours on end. It was windy, cold, gray, and absolutely no one was listening. Soeur Soileau asked if we could stop at a bench near a river so she could pray. Can't say no to that, so we sat and prayed silently. Just a few meters away in the river, an older teenaged boy was attempting to knee kayak. All suited up in his wetsuit, he slowly pushed off from the doc and wobbled, trying to keep his balance with his oar. He splashed and wiggled and tried with all his might to not fall in, though his hair was wet giving us hints he may have already fallen into the cold December water. We kept praying and thinking and talking, trying not to watch him and make him feel weird. He ventured out quite a bit. Just as we closed our eyes to pray together, we headed a big splash. He had lost balance, tipped over, and fallen in. We tried our hardest not to giggle in our prayer, and succeeded in finishing a reverent plead for help and direction. After we opened our eyes, he was back in the kayak and trying again.

I suppose it's a stretch of sorts, but it's kind of how we were feeling. We were trying and have been trying to succeed. I feel like I should be equipped with balance and experience, but the kayak of finding is wobbling and we aren't quite there yet. I am grateful for the young mans endurance and will power to get up and try again, even in the cold, gray, windy days. I know there will be a day when our practice and pleading for help will come to our aid. One day we will be blessed to balance and ride on the river smoothly, helping others as well.

I know endurance is hard. But it is necessary. I suppose the best thing to do is to find the beauty along the way and enjoy the journey of falling in the river, because one may as well make the best of it.

Make it a wonderful week this week and remember how much you are loved.

Love, Sœur Kate Simpson

Monday, November 30, 2015

We thanksgived indeed. - 30 novembre 2015

The daily weather.
Wind, rain, hail, wind,
rain, more wind.
Monday night we arrived early to our dinner appointment and so we ported for a good 45 minutes in the most biting foggy freezing cold of my life. My toes hurt so bad it was so cold through my socks and boots. I suppose I need to wear better socks and boots. But we had a lovely FHE with the Ziane family. Absolutely adorable and happy family. Happy people. It was a night filled with the spirit and laughter. Totally worth the biting cold.

Tuesday we went to visit a less active with Soeur Riem, who has been helping Soeur Soileau with her genealogy on PDays. It went...okay. The lesson totally derailed a few times. The French like to talk and discuss and debate and talk. Not necessarily a bad thing, just a very inefficient thing and didn't maintain the spirit of the lesson or help us help her with her needs. It's okay though, I'm sure she needed to talk. That night we made our way to the Rivierre's. Always a pleasure. Their daughter was there, who is not active, so we were able to get to know her and share with her a bit. I met a super nice lady on the train there, interested too, but lives in Lille, a different secteur. So I passed her information to the Lille sœurs.

Wednesday was a day in the car and visits with Soeur Meurisse. This one was honestly a day of endurance. Soeur Soileau didn't feel good, I had a head ache, it was rainy gray and cold and every lesson just dragged on and people talked over us and ya. Still good, just hard to get through. MIRACLE though. A sister we had visited the week before said absolutely no to the activity and hasn't come to church in over a year. Well we had something to give her from another Soeur and so we stopped by and she had changed her heart. Soeur Meurisse and her husband had come the day before and shared a message as they fixed something in her house and it was just what she needed. Cool change of heart. She came to the activity and even enjoyed it too.

Thursday was Soeur Soileau's 20th birthday. I had made a banner and hung it up the night before, wrapped some silly little presents from all that I had to give, and wrote her a card. I shot out of bed right at the alarm and started making pancakes to surprise her. She hates mornings, her family's package didn't make it and she thought her day was going to be awful and homesick and plus it was thanksgiving, so my task at hand to make it at least happy and somewhat enjoyable was a bit tough, but it worked. She cried when she opened the bedroom door and saw the banner and few little presents and the smell of pancakes cooking. They were small little acts, but I think it made a big difference. At least I hope it did.

6 less snails on earth.
You're welcome.

Revenge is... garlicky? The escargot count is up to 9.
Yes. Nine. Neuf.
I have successfully eaten 9
snails in my life thus far.
And the holidays haven't
even officially started in France.
It was a good day. We contacted our way to the store to buy chocolate to make mousse au chocolat for our Thanksgiving feast with the Jandas. Then made our way over, after having a lovely chat with a nun on the bus. She was so happy and friendly, and so I just went with her openness and started talking to her, but she was a little like, "uh do I know you?" But then she was fine and I just said nope, but your smile made my day and I appreciate your happiness. It was a funny little conversation. Thanksgiving meal was a dream. Apart from the escargots. It was the almost full on traditional meal. Mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, sweet potatoes. The almost part comes from the fact that turkey is nearly nonexistent in France nor is canned pumpkin... So we improvised with chicken and pumpkin purée for the pie.  It was delish. Soeur Janda is American and just was in heaven. Her sweet husband was so funny about how pumpkin shouldn't be sweet and a pie, but is only to be a soup as they do in France. They're great.

War fortresses indeed.
La Citadelle d'Arras.
We were stuffed and so we walked all the way back home, contacting the world without anyone listening. But the sun shone, we walked past the Citadelle, and it was just good to walk it all off. Some of it. We met up with the Elders, welcoming Elder Lucas to Arras and also to have final details planned for the fête (party) Saturday. The Elders were late, so we contact the only lady in the entire park and ended up praying with her and having a great little lesson. Miracle. Only street lesson of the entire week. Anasthasie. She was great. Well, then we met up with Mana and Soeur Koch to split and port double time. Mana is preparing for her mission to the Lyon mission and Soeur Koch wants to be more involved as a ward missionary and member missionary. It was a good time. We did the same streets, just opposite sides. It is ridiculous to go door to door at night, which is supposed to be the prime time. False. Everyone locks down for the apocalypse at 5:30pm. No joke. I'm not talking shutters and doors locked, but these things called volets (vole-ay). They are metal thick screen that completely cover doors and windows and makes it impenetrable by light. You can't even get to a door or a doorbell. And that's if you get past a gate. It was a good experience for the members to see what we do on a nearly daily basis. Mana and I got chewed out by a not so kind catholic lady. She said we take advantage of weak people and God doesn't approve of that. It was a bit of a shock for Mana, but we confirmed that we respect people's opinions and wished the lady a good night.

The new crew.
Welcome Elder Lucas
to Arras.
Soeur Koch then took all of us out to eat at Mezza Luna, a vegitalian, restaurant. Yes, a vegetarian Italian restaurant. And gluten free options too. It was delightful. Thought the garlic mushrooms in my pasta reminded my of the snails I had eaten earlier and nearly couldn't do it. It was very nice of Soeur Koch. It was a great day and I think Soeur Soileau had a great birthday too.

Friday was Bonday, but not as fun because the elders had to go to Paris so Elder Tibbitts wouldn't get deported. We sewed beanbags for the fête, set up the canvas umbrella that Soeur Bond slaved over the whole week, painted a table, and then painted picket fences for hours while enduring Brother Bonds hippie instrumental music. I could argue it was noise at some points. I believe some was from Soft Machine. Look it up. Or maybe don't. It sounded like computer modems from dial up days plus sci-fi. I don't even know. Finally he changed it to Afro-Celtic river dancing music. I love the Bonds. Soeur Bond made a fabulous chicken curry and we had just enough time to have a massage in the Japanese massage chair. we got all we needed to done for the fête and helped them with what they need. It was a good day. We made it back to Arras just in time. We finally had a successful PPP. We gave the spiritual thought to Stéphane and Siobhan, then Sœur Sanchez, Soeur Leterme, William, Elder Lucas, Elder Tibbitts, and Mana joined us for two rounds of Uno. Soeur Sanchez won the first and I one the second. The youth finished with seminary and wiped out the pancakes before anyone who actually was participating in PPP could. Darn youth. It was a great night.

Kids and the cake walk.
Saturday. Oh my word. Nearly 12 hours strait at the church. Soeur Soileau and I prepared and cleaned and moved and decorated and removed and decorated and baked and decorated and ah. It was long and fast all at the same time and before we knew it, it was time and people started showing up. It was a blast. A chaotic, messy blast. But a success. No one that we invited showed up... But a few members had friends and neighbors come, which was exactly the point. There were so many people we didn't have enough tables or forks. But we made do. The activities went pretty well. The Relief Society didn't bring what they were supposed to, so we didn't have a fun photo booth as planned, but no worries. The beanbag toss and cakewalk and face painting rocked it. We did a big game with everyone where each person had a balloon tied to their ankle and tried to pop everyone else's without yours getting popped. It came down to Soeur Sanchez and a little 9 year old girl of one of the members neighbors! Out of 35 people, young men and everyone. It was intense and they were troopers. Soeur Sanchez ended up winning, but she let the little girl be first for the Grand Prix: throwing a pie at the bishopric. They were good sports all tied up in garbage bags and just took all the shaving cream to the face. The ward loved it. The kids thought it was the best thing in the world. Soeur Soileau and I were whipping up the cream, and Bishop Leterme gathered some foam from on him and threw it at me! I was covered in cream. It was a good time and a relatively tidy event. It was a long day, but many miracles and blessings.

Sunday was good. I could feel a bit more unity in the ward, and the members are really opening up and trusting us. I feel like I'm apart of the family and I love these people dearly. They may freak out about having dinner at 6:30 and playing games first, but they tried new things and made it fun. We were able to make appointments for this week with some member families we haven't met yet, for which I am excited. It was a good week.

Today for PDay, finally something cool worked out to do. La Carrière Wellington. The Wellington Quarry, dating back to the 17th century and then later used during the First World War and later in the second. We were the only ones there and so we got a private tour 30 meters down under Arras where 24,000 British soldiers were lodged before the surprise attack on the Germans in April of 1917 during the battle of Arras, Vimy, and Tilloy-Les-Mofflaines. It was intense. We wore hard hats and was lit by candles, the sound effects and audio guide, as well as our tour guide made it come to life. Original artifacts from the soldiers awaiting their death on the front line remained, even drawings on the walls are visible to this day. It was touching. This city and region has been through so much. It was the front line of battle of WWI and parts of WWII. It has picked itself up again and again. Arras and the region Pas-de-Calais is strong. I am grateful to live and serve here, where so many have served before.

Here's to another great week in Arras. The praying and searching continues. Thank you for your support and love.

Be good. Do more. Look outward.


Sœur Kate Simpson