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.
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.
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