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

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