Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Cathédrale & the Countryside

Bonjour à tous,

A week well passed in Arras. Still not much on the finding people to teach front, but we have been searching high and low. We had a full week, quite all over the place, spent much with members, and the sun shone visibly this week.

The district.
Arras, St. Quentin, & Amiens
District Meeting is in Amiens. It's about a 45 min regional train ride away from Arras. Beautiful countryside landscapes and fields forever, it never ceases to amaze me. The weather was beautiful, like having Fall again. It was just about winter, but this week it warmed up a bit. Beautiful autumn leaves, clear blue skies, and warm sun rays with crisp cool air. The meeting went well with our new district. Elder Meng is the DL, and gave a basic formation covering the message of the APs from Mission Council about obedience and becoming deeply converted. Well done. We kind of failed on the food front though. We had main dish, and since it was the end of the month, we had nearly no money left, so we bought pizza. Soeur Soileau can't eat cheese and I can't eat gluten. We're brilliant. Well St. Quentin sœurs forgot their salad, so all we had was the traditional baguettes and cheeses + pizza, which is just more bread and cheese. Soeur Soileau and I completed each other though, I ate the cheeses and toppings and she ate my crust. Two peas in a pod.

La Cathédrale d'Amiens
DM finished early due to St. Quentin's train, but our train wasn't for 2 hours...since we didn't really get to eat, we ran to Macdo, ate some good American burgers and fries, and checked out the world renowned cathedral in the center of the city. I remember studying it a bit in AP Art History, not so much what about it, just that I knew I'd heard of it. Sorry, Mr. Oram. What I do know is that it is beautiful. Absolutely stunning, and impossible to capture in a photograph. They claim to have the relics of the head and bones of John the Baptiste. They are pretty heavily defensed but you can see some of the bones if you look hard enough. Pretty cool church.

Wednesday morning, after studies we headed out to find our future amis. We didn't find any, BUT we met Elizabeth. She is the most energetic and believing French lady I've yet met. She talked with us for about 30 minutes about God, Jesus Christ, faith, and the Bible. Pretty interesting views. She is evangelical and quite adamant. Very kind and enthusiastic about life and religion. It was a beautiful meeting on the street. She starting praying, without us knowing, just talking to Jesus and blessing us. We just stood and smiled and said amen at the end, then see if we too could pray with her as we do. She kindly accepted and prayed with us. Though she refused our number, the Book of Mormon, and even a brochure, it was a blessing to meet her and see her so energetic and happy about faith in Christ.

Exchanges with
the wonderful Soeur Proudfoot
Then to Lille to go on exchanges with the STLs. Not going to lie, it was a little different not being the STL and knowing exactly what she was doing and why she was doing it, but it was honestly a wonderful exchange. Soeur Proudfoot and I came back to Arras for the exchange and we sure saw some miracles. She and I are very similar and I appreciate the way she works and serves. She is also a good friend. It was fun. She asked me advice on STLing and I to her about training. We reminisced about nearly a year ago flying to France sitting next to each other, and being here now a year later thinking about all we've lived through and experienced and learned. It was pretty cool. It was a perfect little recharge to keep going full speed ahead.

She and I found a few fascinating ladies, only one of whom was interested, but we were able to street teach and pray with two others. It was a beautiful morning, filled with little blessings along the way. We talked to a lady, Mylène, who was sitting waiting for a bus. She asked us if she could give us her number...uh YES. The bus came to quick, but we got her number and she said she'd like to know more. Remember her.

When Soeur Soileau got back, the Elders, Sœur Soileau and I got on a train to go to our DMPs house out in the middle of nowhere countryside. He picked us up from the gare and drove us through tiny roads in rolling fields of potatoes and grains. The sun was setting and he had his instrumental guitar music that he and his wife recorded themselves. It was a movie moment, a time where I just wonder what my life is and now I got there. It was beautiful. The Bonds are from the UK, right, so it was a blast. Soeur Bond made a gigantic feast of random things. Sandwiches, coleslaw, shrimp, amazing fresh from the garden tomato basil soup, tomatoes in balsamic vinegar, chips, and sparkling water. Of course, it's Europe.

I've haven't laughed so hard in a very long time. The whole night was full of funny British sayings, misunderstandings with some French ward missionaries, and Frère Bond with his broken French + British accent. Probably the most memorable, it took Elder Tibbits 3 times to say the blessing on the food because the Bonds two dogs started tackling and fighting each other right at the beginning under my chair and we all lost it. It scared us / was just hilarious. It sounded like they were talking to each other. Elder T kept restarting the prayer but just couldn't keep it together after the dogs screeched again. We all nearly died of laughter.

Friday, weekly planning went well. Pretty quick when you don't have amis haha but we prepared lots of plans for ward council, which we had that night. It went very well. It was a special meeting, just the bishopric, DMP, and missionaries. We discussed callings of new ward missionaries, activities, and getting members excited and involved in moving the work forward. We created the ward mission plan, at least began it, for 2016. Changes and lots of new energy in the missionary department here in Arras. Pretty exciting.

We were the only women in the room, and honestly, it was like being in a room full of boys at times. They would play tricks on one another, and just make silly remarks and get side tracked super easy. It was pretty funny. Somehow, Frère Bond brought up the word "6-pick" and wondered what the translation was into French. The bishopric brethren thought good and hard for a minute, until the ward clerk said, "vous voulez dire une plaque de chocolat?" Of course the French are more classy with their analogies. A 6 pack, as in abs, in French is a bar of chocolate. Then, the clerk said, "mines more like a pot of Nutella." We almost cried laughing. Such good people. I love them.

Good news though, they approved and like our idea for a ward activity to invited neighbors and friends to! It's all on us, the missionaries, but they are excited and will help. We have planned a sorts of Halloween party, minus Halloween, focused more on autumn and the harvest and being grateful. The French don't celebrate Halloween really and Thanksgiving not at all, so we are making it a harvest season party thing. It'll be good. I hope.

Cute fall photo fail
raking leaves at the Sanchez
Saturday was a blast. We helped Sioban, a French/Irish member, make food for the baptism of a little 8 year old in the ward. Nearly 4 hours of baking cookies, muffins, and more cookies. Then Soeur Sanchez picked us up to do service in her yard. They live so far out in the country that no trains nor buses go out there. It was absolutely stunning. Blessed day. I love working in yards. I've only done it twice on my mission, but man do I miss yard work. Yes mom, I miss it. We just raked leaves and cleaned up the yard, but it was lovely. Then we helped make more goodies for Collin's baptism. We then had the honor and privilege of watching Frère Sanchez make corn tortillas, salsa, and tacos. He's from Mexico, she's from France. They met in America, and they now live in the most quaint and giant farm house estate that they are restoring. It reminded me of home. Power tools everywhere, unfinished walls, Sheetrock, paint, oh it was wonderful. Frère Sanchez is an interior designer and producer. He designs and makes interiors. He is currently working on restoring a castle in a different part of France. Very talented man. And he make some mean salsa and gorillas, fresh from the garden. It was heaven.

We spent a lovely Halloween with the Sanchez family. We made pumpkin pie, from a pumpkin strait out of their garden. It's was delish. It was their first pumpkin pie. We had fresh tacos and salsa with a Mexican/French family out in the countryside of northern France. They even had one person come trick or treat. France is trying to have fun like America. Little by little. It was cute. Good times.

Halloween package = this.
I successfully got my package mom. Thanks for the cat stuff and candy. We loved it.

Sunday was a full day at the church, pretty much. Church, then a delish raclette lunch at the Engelen's. Back to the church to help Soeur McKenzie with preparations for the baptism. The font didn't have hot water, so we boiled water and the elders filled it up bucket by bucket to warm it up. We were stationed in the kitchen to help set up the buffet and such. It was a beautiful service. Collins grandparents flew in from the states, and Soeur McKenzies friends came in from Germany. One of her friends from Germany bore his testimony during sacrament meeting in German and Soeur Mckenzie translated into French, and elder Meng translated it into English to the grandparents. Triple translation. Languages are crazy. So cool. The gospel is true, no matter the language in which it is given.

Miracle time : so we've been calling everyone in our area book since I've gotten here to see if anyone is still potentially interested or needs help. I have called over a 100 people now, and only one person agreed to see us again. Well it is not a coincidence, nothing ever is. Christelle was found by Soeur Tupai when she first started her mission. She only met with the missionaries twice before stopping due to work situations. It's been nearly two years and it is inspired that we happened to call now. The only day she can meet is Monday morning, so we decided it's totally more important to teach a child of God who needs and wants the gospel than to go to a museum on PDay. Don't worry, we still did both, just less museum. Worth it. She is amazing. After dealing with an unfaithful husband for nearly 3 years, she has been battling to keep her family together. She still believes in God and prayers to keep going. Though very difficult, she took our call as a sign from God that He is reaching out to her. We talked about the Book of Mormon and its power to help us, as it gives us power and answers questions. She accepted to read a chapter a day and committed to come to church, even saying she's going to make her kids come too. She was very touched by the spirit and even remarked on how peaceful we looked and the light we brought to her. It was a beautiful morning, well spent. Feel free to keep Christelle in your prayers.

After grocery shopping and a quick lunch, we made our way finally to the Musée de Beaux Arts. It currently is hosting an exhibition of 100 masterpieces from the Chateau de Versailles. It was beautiful. It felt like I was in Paris again for a bit. It was also time well spent. Culturally uplifting.

Well, another long email, sorry. I seem to have much more time to write when not in Paris and I get carried away in detail. Thank you for your support, prayers,  and love. I appreciate it and can feel the help. Keep praying, studying and ponderizing the scriptures. It makes all the difference.

Happy week,

Sœur Kate Simpson

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