Monday, October 26, 2015

Bruxelles & Bus Chasing - 26 octobre 2015

Week two in the north and all is well. In fact, it was a pretty awesome week, filled with a special conference, zone conference, blessings, miracles, and sprinting like madwomen after a bus, the only one for the next hour to get us back home. 

5:15am came fast Tuesday morning, but not to worry because we were headed to Bruxelles, Belgique. First time out of France in a year! We took a train to Lille, then a high speed from Lille to Brussels. We arrived, had just enough time to grab a gauffre (Belgian waffle) but it wasn't super street legit because we got it from Hagen Dazs...  But still a waffle bought in Belgium. I ate a few bites, because who knows when I would be in Belgium again? Who knows, but couldn't pass that cultural experience up. Haven't gotten tres sick, so ça va. 

Sister Oscarson, Sister Burton, 
President Keiron and 
their spouses + 
Soeur Babin and U.S.
Bruxelles, Belgium
Sister Bonnie Oscarson, General Young Women's President, Sister Linda Burton, general Relief Society President, their husbands, President Kieron and his wife, were the reason for which we gathered in Bruxelles. A special conference just for us, the zones of Lille and Bruxelles of the France Paris Mission. It was phenomenal. Such a blessing and inspired conference. Probably never again will I have an opportunity to be in such intimate setting with the president of Europe region in the presidency of the Seventy, and 2 of the 3 general auxiliary Presidents, and their spouses. Each of their messages came from the heart and were incredibly inspired, much of which was exactly what Soeur Soileau and I needed. The conference was in English, which was a nice change. Though the Spirit is still felt in French and I love our conferences, English, our maternal language just carries to the soul a greater impact. It was refreshing and inspiring. 

Adorable Soeur Babin spoke in English and she did such a great job. We, all the missionaries, we're just smiling and encouraging her as she occasionally asked if she said the right word. I love her. Such an incredible woman. She told of a few experiences from her mission, examples of going the extra mile and loving the people with one's whole heart. She served in the region of what is now the France Paris mission, so she definitely knows how it is to be a missionary in their mission. It was delightful. 

Sister Oscarson gave us a direct message from Elder Oaks and Elder Bednar. As she is now a part of the Missionary Executive Council, she told them she was going to be talking with some missionaries from the FPM on her trip and asked what they would like us to know. Their message was the importance of marriage. The sacred nature and beautiful blessing of being pure and prepared for an eternal marriage in the House of the Lord. How desperately the world is in need of strong, Christ centered marriages, who establish homes and families centered and anchored in Christ. It was a simple and profound message, given with much love and shown in example by these sisters and their husbands. Alors, I best be preparing for marriage. Ah. 

The conference was wonderful. It was so great to see just how friendly and "normal" they are. President Burton, who served as a mission president in Korea, had the youngest missionary in the room come up to the pulpit with him, take his suit coat off and put President Burton's suit coat on. It drowned him. He talked of the mantle of a calling. As in other callings, being called as a missionary, a large mantle of responsibility and trust is placed upon us, often too large for us and we feel overwhelmed and under qualified. As we continue, grow, exercise our "spiritual muscles" and rely on the strength of the Lord, we begin to fill out the mantle. After time, near the end of our callings, we finally feel like it fits, we wear it well, and we know what to do. Not for long. We are continuously in need of growing, progressing, and relying more upon our savior, Jesus Christ. 

Transfer No. 9 planner cover
President Kieron later remarked about his feeling as being called as Bishop, Stake President, Area Seventy, and then in the Presidency of the Seventy and the mantles which have been placed upon him. What humble servants of the Lord. Sister Kieron spoke before him, and told President Kieron's conversion story. He was a stubborn investigator, a young, British, university student, in London. He met the missionaries a few times, but had many walls he created between him and the gospel. He "ended up" living with a Mormon family during some of his schooling, such kind charitable people who took him in as their son, which greatly impacted his life. The sisters missionaries found him on the street one day, he refused to listen to their message but said he knew how hard it is but bought them pizza. After a few more events, the walls came down and he accepted that there was something that he just couldn't deny and knew that it was the truth. 

He then told us, "I was a baptismal goal. I am a number." But then talked about how the church counts everything, as the Savior too counted his sheep, and knew them each. His wife said, after a few years after he was baptized a missionary later asked if he was even active, saying he probably was less active... He was a Stake President at the time. Their overall message was DO NOT GIVE UP on people. Sometimes they may need a "rest" but never "drop" them. Some need more time, different people, and more experiences, but they need the gospel. Sister Kieron wept as she told how grateful she is for the missionaries who didn't give up on her husband. It was a beautiful end to a beautiful conference. 

We were wiped out after trains and train strikes causing problems getting back to France. The ticket man in Belgium said it was basically a national sport to go on strike. Haha They were the nicest custom service people I have ever met in Europe. It was greatly appreciated. We finally made it back to Arras, 4 trains later. We had dinner with the Janda family, Frère is French and Soeur is American. Super cute couple. They also invited us over for Thanksgiving! We shared a message and discussed Doctrine and Covenants 127:4, redoubling our efforts to build the kingdom of God and our temples, ourselves, despite persecution and difficulties. It was pretty fascinating. Frère Janda was the first member in Arras and has been an anchor and major building block of the church in northern France. 

Porting time. 
St. Nicolas 
Wednesday was filled with knocking doors in St. Nicolas & St. Catherine, tiny little towns off of Arras. There were fields and cows and air and it was wonderful. Cold and rainy, but wonderful. As we waited for the bus to go home, we started talking to a lady that was also at the bus stop. Dominique is her name, and she was so sweet. We invited her to church and said she had been once or twice because her sister was learning with the missionaries a few years ago. She agreed to come, we exchanged numbers and it was a lovely little conversation. 

Later, we were walking to the gare, and we stopped a lady on the road, it started to rain a bit, but no matter. We talked about Christ and who he is. She is from Morocco, she's Muslim, but was very open and interested to learn more. We invited her to church as well, to which she agreed and said she would come. We prayed with her before parting ways. She burst into tears. She explained she was going through a really hard time and that she was really touched by our kindness. That made our whole day; we were able to uplift and help even just one of God's daughters. Miracle. 

Thursday was Zone Conference in Lille. Also a great conference. Centered on working with members, which is exactly our battle strategy. It was kind of nice not having the stress of giving a training or worrying about getting things set up and such, I just got to go, soak it in, feel the spirit, and participate. It was lovely. We had interviews with Président and Sœur Babin afterwards. I cannot explain how much I love these two people. I am amazed by their ability to serve, love, and direct a mission with as much energy and grace as they do. I feel so blessed to know them. It's always a blessing to be able to have one on one time with each of them. 

The rest of the week was planning, contacting, porting, Edwige frudged us, and none of the people who we met and said they would come to church actually came to church...BUT cool experience last night. We were porting and after nearly 3 hours, a young lady actually said yes to praying with us. We shared the full Restoration, gave her a Book of Mormon and
Map HQ + magnum bars. 
Sometimes you just need 
ice cream after a long day. 
We're weird, I know. 
And no I don't wear glasses normally.
 got a number. She's a student in Paris...just home for the vacation, but still. Seed planted. It was our miracle of the day. It made the whole day worth it. 

I'm happy to be here, I truly am. The work is slow and slightly painful sometimes, but it's good. God has blessed us so much and there are little miracles everyday. The sun shone on Sunday. First time since I got here. Correction, we saw the sun for the first time. It shines everyday, we just can see it. Haha That was a huge blessing. It is amazing how much the sun can make in difference in the feeling of things.  I'm excited for another week of miracle and work here in the promised land of Arras. 

Have a splendid week. Remember

Hold tight & sail on. 


Sœur Kate Simpson


Monday, October 19, 2015

Arachnids in Arras - 19 octobre 2015

Bonjour d'Arras,

Dead suitcase...

All is well up in the North. It's freezing and I've been told I haven't seen anything yet...but it's been a great week. The weather and wearing the same clothes again as I did when I was a bleue is weirding me out a bit. This time, I'm the trainer. What? It's been a cool week though, filled with so much hard work I'm exhausted more than ever and many blessings and little miracles. My biggest suitcase completely died. It's gone. The handle broke off at gare du Nord in Paris, the wheel wore out and broke 2 meters from our building, and the top handle broke getting off the elevator into our apartment. It's a goner. It was funny. My bags were so heavy. I even left a ton in Paris. Soeur Soileau and I had to make goal check points dragging everything from the gare to our apartment. We'd probably walk 10 meters, pause, breathe, pick the next check point, and go. We hurt so bad the next few days. I'm feeling better now, no worries. Good times on transfer week.

My daughter, Sœur Chelsea Soileau
Pronounced "swallow". It's French. Cool, huh?
We actually did some of 
her genealogy for PDay today.
 Pretty cool. She found some ancestors
 thanks to a sweet 
French sister in our ward. 
Go family history! 
Soeur Soileau, my dear daughter, is great and I love serving with her. She is from all over the U.S., former military family, so she's been everywhere. Current home is Washington state. She is tall, blond, 19, and did color guard in high school, did a year at BYUI, loves her boyfriend, pants, The Office, and chocolate. She has been out for one transfer, but has had a hard time since day one dealing with anxiety and homesickness. It's been a bit of an adjustment this week for her, but she's been a champ. I can tell she wants to be a good missionary and doesn't know how exactly to do it. I do not profess to be a great missionary, but I can keep rules and work hard, so it's a start. It's been cool to see her progress and try harder just in four days.

Arras is nearly dead. We are starting at ground zero. I don't know what the missionaries here were doing before, but there is nearly nothing, not even hardly in the area book, at least not updated. We have one amie and she is not progressing nor truly interested in changing. We are going to have to drop our only investigator and literally start at ground zero. The first night after getting in, running strait to a mangez-vous with the Rivierre family, then home for planning, we cleaned and organized our area book, I showed her what the area book was and how to use it, and we got our battle strategy going.

The Elder team is whitewashing too, Elder Meng and his Bleu, Elder Tibbetts from Kaysville/Farmington! We got a new DMP on Sunday and pretty much we are rebooting the work here in Arras. I would think I'd be more overwhelmed and stressed, but oddly, I feel peaceful, hopeful, and excited. Our new DMP is Frère Bond, from the UK which is awesome. He gets how to do missionary work and is set to out our plans and ideas in action. It's an exciting time.

We are doing our best to be exactly obedient because we seriously need all the help we can get. Our strategy thus far is to go village by village, organizing old investigators, less/non active members, and finding new investigators all together. It's been a ton of planning, map drawing and finding, walking, knocking, talking, and praying. It's awesome. Soeur Soileau is a trooper.

There are spiders EVERYWHERE here and they are huge. Not like South America huge, but for me they're ridiculous. The French like to gate everything off, their yards especially, and most do so by shrubs and bushes. Spiders also love shrubs and bushes. We do a spider check every time we try to enter someone's yard because the chance of there being a spider is high. We have started naming the biggest ones we encounter. Wilfred was the first. Sir Charles, the next. Yesterday we ported into a Russian Orthodox man from Moldova named Vyktor, so we named the next giant spider Vyktor.

Saturday we spent 5 1/2 hours strait knocking doors in St. Nicolas-lez-Arras, with very few success. We gave a few contact cards out, a brochure or two, found an old investigator without meaning to which was a miracle, and finally at the VERY end, we decided to do one last tiny corner rue as we looked for the bus. It was a trio house. The first sonnerie didn't answer. The second one...she let us in. SHE LET US IN. It was wonderful. We didn't know what to say, we were nearly speechless and almost didn't believe she actually wanted to hear our message and pray with us. We sat down in her little flat and taught the lesson of the Restoration, gave her a Book of Mormon and explained and testified how we can know for ourselves if what we shared is true. There was a slight moment in the middle, she interrupted us and asked the churches stance on homosexuality, to which we replied doctrinally going off of The Family: A Proclamation to the World, also explained that God loves all his children and we still love and respect everyone, she seemed ok and we went on. She seemed very interested in the lesson and seemed to understand. Her stepfathers friend is a member, I believe and so she knows a little bit about us. We set up another appointment for this weekend and we'll see how it goes. New amie!

Slowly but surely, Arras will grow.

Sunday was great. The members are so nice and they feed us! I'm excited for some French food again. We didn't get fed much in Paris, but that's not what it's about. I love the members in Paris and I miss them already, but this ward seems awesome. Elder Tibbetts, Elder Meng, and I bore our testimonies and introduced ourselves in sacrament meeting, which went well. It's so cute to see bleus speak French. Elder Tibbetts said he's just been watching mouths and trying to catch little words here and there. He and Soeur Soileau are doing great though.

After church we continued our plan, but in Arras-même. We ported into some nice Muslim families, which two of them gave us referrals. An old investigating family was blasting music and having like a dance party, then when we rung the doorbell, everything went quiet and they hid. Kind of funny. It's the third time they've blatantly hid from the Sœurs. It might work better for them if they just answer and say they're not interested. Haha We continued the loop and came across an upper-middle aged French gentleman who answered the door, and let us in, saying to share our message, in an mocking/making fun of tone, with the intention of making us entertainment of sorts for his family and friends that were visiting, but we held our own, laughed with them, shared the full restoration and they let us pray. Thus, it turned out for our intention, their hearts were softened, and they felt the spirit. Worked out for everyone. I love the power of the truth.

Soeur Simpson, you're not in Paris anymore.
I know this work is the work of the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is the truth. It is His truth. I know it and I love it. I'm grateful for the opportunity I have to share it with the people here in Arras. They so desperately need it. I know it is through living and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ that we can be truly happy and feel real joy.

Have a fabulous week and don't forget to pray for courage to share and then go do it.

Avec amour, Sœur Kate Simpson

Monday, October 12, 2015

Bring out the thermals - 12 Octobre 2015

Where to begin?

We were out of our secteur for 3 days in a row, taught at a mini MTC activity for francophone Europe youth with calls or preparing for missions Saturday, and all of a sudden the week was over.

Metz Gare
As in the train station in Metz. 
Chocolat chaud à Angelina
We were in Toul then Nancy, out in the east, with a layover in Metz. Pretty cool stop. The station is magnificent. We bought a mousse au chocolat at a patisserie in Metz to celebrate our last exchange serving together, and my last as an STL. I have done 39 exchanges on my mission thus far. Holy cannoli.

Exchanges By transfer 
4 pre STL - Transfers 1-4 
9 - transf 5 
7 - transf 6 
10 - transf 7 
9 - transf 8 
= 39

What a blessing. Exhausting but awesome. I have loved serving these Sœurs and serving with Soeur Tupai and Soeur Tippett at my side. I feel incredibly blessed to have served with such dedicated and determined sisters.

Saturday morning, about 9:30am, our phone starting ringing, and I didn't think anything of it. Transfer calls for ZLs, STLs, and trainers don't start until 10. It was Président Babin. He asked me if I was surprised to be getting a call from him, to which I replied, yes. He was so sweet and kind, thanking me for all I have done serving as an STL for the past 6 months and joked a bit saying as much as he would love to call me as his Assistant, he can't. Well, he told me a bit of a struggling Sœur that just entered the mission field this past transfer and her trainer was struggling too. He then said he and the Lord are sending me in to train and help this dear Sœur learn to find the joy in being a missionary and want to go out and work. I said, of course and I'd try my best. As he talked to me, surprisingly, I felt very peaceful and somewhat like a soldier getting a special assignment. I am being transferred to Arras, France. It's in the north, near Lille. All I know is it's a small ville and there are some trenches from WWII and it's freezing cold. And I'm going in for winter. Bring it. Looks like my two shipments of thermal garments will come in handy. Haha

I am feeling mixed emotions. I love Paris. I love the ward, my companions, our investigators, our recent converts, and there are soooo many people here and so much work to be done. On the contrary, I am very excited to discover a new part of France and experience what it's like to serve in a small ville. As for training, oh dear. I am so grateful for my time serving as STL to help me pinpoint areas in which that Sœurs need help and then help them achieve it. The greatest thing I've gained serving as STL is to love. I feel like my heart has at least doubled in size. For the Sœurs, for their efforts, for their trials, for their wards and branches. I believe my new companion needs some extra love sent her way and a little helping find her love for the French people and love for this work. I pray that I can give her the love she needs. I am a little nervous going into an unknown ville to train, but I know I won't be alone. The Lord prepares us for our futures, and I am grateful for the previous preparation he has given me.

Gardening in Paris

Adorable Sister Powers.
And her balcony 
from which my camera fell 
and survived.
Friday, we spent 6 hours with an inactive member who is absolutely a sweetheart. She is the one who had a brain infection but is in recovery. She is SO full of energy, it's inspiring. We sewed for her, leggings with a heart patch, and fur from the 40s onto a new winter cape. She made us lunch then we shared a message about courage. She's a talker and ended up having us plant mums into balcony boxes after digging out geraniums. My camera fell out and off the balcony 6 stories... And it's alive. Nothing broke nor did it hit anyone, nor did a car run over it. Miracles. That night, I participated in my last young women missionary lesson. It was a bit all over the place with the attention spans of the girls, but it ended well. I was overwhelmed with the spirit and just testified of how loved those young women are. Their importance and example in France is so necessary and has impressed me since day one. I'm so glad for the young women's program and the guide it is for us.

Mini MTC crew
St. Merri, Paris 4ième
Saturday we spent the entire day at the church. From 10:00am-3:00pm we taught future missionaries in the francophone European mission prep MTC. Super fun. Basically just teaching how to teach the gospel and a ton of role playing. I felt like I was teaching at the MTC! I was fortunate to participate in the same activity in January with Sœur Stevens too. Good times. The youth are amazing. Some of them are already great missionaries, the their potential is astounding.

Elder & Sœur Maynard
+ Sœur Tippett
Later that evening was the Book of Mormon fireside for the end of the transfer, the second of the series. This one was how the Book of Mormon answers questions of the plan of salvation. It went very well. Malaki, a young man in the ward, showed up after absolutely no communication for the two preceding weeks. We were responsible for the musical number he was playing. It went well, we found the flowers to decorate and a cute book for the Maynard's farewell gift that Président presented to them at the end of the fireside. We had quite the crowd. And a few good friends from Nogent Ward came! Valerie, Marie Rose, and Chantal! So fun to see everyone in Paris before I leave.

Les Africaines à l'église
Me, Sœur Yao, Sœur Tippett, 
Grace, Sœur Allépo
All three are from Côte d'Ivoire.    
Sunday was beautiful. We made a deal with Sœur Allépo, and thus we wore our boubous at church with all the African sisters in the ward. They just about died and went to heaven seeing missionaries in their cultural dress. I was given the opportunity to bear my testimony for one last time. My attire matched the theme of my little testimony: we are all children of God, no matter where we've come from. The Paris ward is unlike any other ward. It is international every single week. I said thank you in nearly every language I know how to, and it just felt so good to tells the members what I know to be true and how much I love this gospel.
Monsons, Hillary, Tao, Maynard, and Halls

The Hall family invited us over for dinner to wish me on my way and the Maynard couple as well. The new couple came too, the Monsons, and no they are not related to President Monson. It was a lovely night. Our amie Hillary came with us and really enjoyed the night. I love these people.

Today was a perfect last Paris PDay. I can hardly believe it. We went grocery shopping after conference call, then went to Le Comptoir for the last time for lunch. Delphine hosted us again, and Aurélien made our delish food. We got a quick pic in the kitchen with them, bised Delphine and parted ways. I am determined to keep in contact and help her discover the gospel more one day. 

On top of the world
Arc de Triomphe
Then off to the Arc de Triomphe. We climbed to the top and saw a panoramic view of our city. It has been a humid, cold, foggy day, but it was beautiful. We made our way to Angelina, a famous restaurant across from the Louvre, and had their specialty hot chocolat. Outstanding. Like drinking pure chocolat. 8€, but so worth the experience.

I'm excited to see where the Lord takes me and what this next transfer beholds. It's gonna be a good one. Hurrah for Israel and the time I've had in Paris. I love this work and I am excited to meet the kind people of the North of France. Here we go!

Avec amour, Sœur Kate Simpson

Princesse from Nogent!
Hillary ❤️

Paris from the Ground
Champs Élysées

Nancy Sœurs
Me, Sœur Bell, Sœur Tippett, Sœur Hudson

Cutie Sœurs in Toul
Nogent friends!

The Hall Family

Selfie with Sœur Hall 😎

District transfer photos with
my dear Sœur Tippett.
+ Elder Harris...