Monday, August 17, 2015

Back to Back to Back - 17 août 2015

Three exchanges this week. Yes, 'twas splendid indeed. I really feel lucky that I get to go on so many exchanges and learn and grow with the sœurs in this mission. Their lives, stories, testimonies, and examples inspire me. I feel incredibly blessed to get to serve at their sides and work to bring about the gospel of Christ to those around us.

Château de Vincennes
 Last Pday adventure. 
We forgot our OFII proof of residency
 so we couldn't get in free... 
So we just admired outside.
After a good district meeting, I headed out to Versailles to be with Soeur VanDenBerghe, who is currently training Soeur Woolley, who I "mothered" on her first day in the field. They are an awesome team. We just love them. I was so excited to be with Soeur VDB and it was a great exchange. I got to go to DMP meeting with their Ward missionaries and other companionships in the Versailles Ward. It's the APs, office elders, and the Soeur équipe. Fun people. After, the elders dropped us off and we had 10 minutes left of the night. We immediately prayed and voilà. A family walked up the street towards us. We started a conversation and the mom kept trying to leave but her two boys, who both looked under 14, kept her still and wanted to listen. They're from India and she didn't speak much French, but the boys did. We gave he boys a Book of Mormon, prayed with them and invited them to learn more. Unfortunately her husband is super strict and caught up in tradition. He doesn't allow her to go anywhere else, but she said she sometimes goes to Catholic Churches by herself to pray because she feels peace and comfort there. Such a sign to us that God lives and places people in our path/places us in people's paths.

We then were nearly home, when across from the soeur's apartment, we came across a lady sitting on a bench. We decided to go talk to her, though we had 2 minutes until 9:00pm.  It turns out, she has lived there in the same apartment complex as the soeurs for 30+ years and has never talked with them. She's seen them and was quite standoffish at first, but after a few rude questions and kind replies, we were able to see her heart soften and open to hear a little of our message. We prayed with her at the end and invited her to learn more. Though she refused, she said she would love to have "fate cross our paths again." Pretty cool night.

I also got to go to Versailles district meeting, which happened to be Elder Hall's last one. He was my
Camilla, a BYU study abroad student 
that taught Anna with us. 
She's headed back to America. 
+ André, a member of our Ward.
first ZL back when he was in Paris Lilas before he left to Brest then became an AP. It was a great training by Elder Reiss about miracles. Very inspiring and uplifting. It is true that the word "miracle" has become increasingly used in my vocabulary since serving as a missionary, as you've probably noticed. It is for a good reason though, because it is true: there are miracles everyday, all over the place, that show us that God is real, He is there, and He loves His children. It makes me excited to find the little signs and miracles everyday because they are always there.

Right after district meeting, we switched back companions, met the Rouen soeurs at Saint Lazare Gare and started the second exchange. I was with cute Soeur Brazeal from Florida. She is adorable and such a powerhouse of a missionary. So driven and determined. She inspires me. Though we didn't have much outward success, I learned a lot from her stories of things she has overcome.

Thursday morning we cleaned out the ZL's apartment as a zone activity... It is being closed down because the ZLs moved in with the Mandarin elders. It is a super old, run down apartment that has survived 20+ years of elders... Needless to say, it was pretty disgusting. We had a crew of about 20 people and it took 3+ hours for the bulk of cleaning and taking out. The office elders and ZLs were working and moving stuff to Versailles until 9pm that night. It was a little different of an exchange because basically all we did was clean with everyone. Not much one on one time, but it was still great.

Right after dropping off the Rouen soeurs at the Gare, the Mulhouse soeurs came in and we went right off to work. Soeur Tippett and Soeur North headed to our relief society president's home at the other end of our secteur for a FHE/meal and Soeur Clark and I made our way home to meet the Office elders at our apartment with a new vacuum, shelf, and mattress. No worries, they are a trio, so that helps rule keeping. Well as we got off the RER for our house, it began to pour. It has been really muggy and hot lately, so the rain was a welcomed blessing. So it was pouring rain and as we turn to cross for our street and I went to get the keys, I realized Soeur Tippett had them... 45+ minutes away and the office elders were already waiting for us. Good thing I've had a break in plan for a while. We put it to the test and it worked. Elder Reiss did the job. Some neighbor of ours let us in the second coded door. Then the tricky part, getting into our apartment. It is a blessed thing we are one the first floor. We went to the courtyard and E. Reiss  pulled himself up on the fence jumped/slid on a lip of the wall and climbed into our window. All while it was pouring rain. It was a pretty epic moment. And he was safe.

Scarf weather again.
 Château de Fontainebleau
After, Soeur Clark and I went out contacting in our neighborhood with nearly no avail. UNTIL the end! A bus stopped and a few passengers got out and a lady walked to the same crosswalk as us. I asked her the hours of the park and thus one of the most beautiful and uplifting conversations I've ever had began. En plus, it was from a French lady. I don't believe in labeling or stereotyping people, but most stereotypes have some reason to them and the French are a bit difficult, shut off, and not the most happy people. Ruth defied every negative French stereotype. She was truly inspiring. The overall message she shared with us was "n'abandonnez jamais!" (Don't ever abandon/give up) it was just a moment where I knew we were meant to cross paths. She seemed to be an angel sent to encourage us. Such a blessing.

The Mandarin elders had an ami get baptized on Saturday, so we spent almost all day at the Paris Lilas chapel helping and participating. They asked me to play the piano. Bad idea. I willingly did so, but I basically crashed and burned the intermediate hymns while waiting for him to change. I am not a strong sight reader and I had never played any of them... I was really grateful when they finally came in. It was a beautiful service. He was baptized by David Babin, our Ward mission leader, in Chinese. Pretty cool.

Sunday was a bit of a missionaries-run-the-Ward day. I was asked to play the piano in sacrament meeting... Ya. The day after I slaughtered playing, but I prayed super hard, picked songs I knew and the Lord blessed me. It wasn't too bad. Then Soeur Tippett and I split with two members because she taught primary and I taught English Gospel Doctrine. The elders taught Gospel Principles. I then played piano again for Relief Society and then translated. It was a busy day to say the least. But it was great. We had a Ward meal afterwards, which was great to talk with the members and some visitors.

Today we didn't have conference call because President and Soeur Babin are traveling to zone conference, so we got to start Pday like the rest of the mission. We headed down to Fontainebleau, one of the only completely preserved châteaux left from the French monarchy. It was outstanding. We only had 90 minutes because we got to teach a lady, but it was absolutely breathtaking.

Well tonight we are headed to Nancy for their zone conference tomorrow then exchanges in Toul! Then in Paris most likely for the rest of the transfer. This transfer is flying. Ah. It's been so good. I love this work. I know it's the work of the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I know He lives. I know He loves me and you.

Have a fantastic week. Keep praying, studying, and serving.

Avec amour,

Sœur Kate Simpson

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