Monday, March 7, 2016

This is war. 7 mars 2016

The battles are not few and the fight is not easy, but victory is the only option. This week carried a motif of war, on many fronts.

Finding has been slow and somewhat difficult in Arras since day one and this transfer our mission is focusing on finding, meaning new people to teach. With perseverance and hard work, things have been getting better little by little and the work is picking up. I've written of many of the little miracles and blessings; they continue to flow.

Wednesday we gathered the troops in St. Quentin to consecrate the whole day to finding. All of the missionaries from St. Quentin, Arras, and Amiens (10 missionaries) came together, had an inspiring district meeting about the refiners fire and putting our faith to the test, ate lunch then dispersed with members to find. Soeur Giordano and I went with their bishop's wife to find some less actives, none of which were home or still living there. It was a beautiful morning nonetheless.

After the hail & snow storm
St. Quentin
After this sister had to go back to work, Soeur Giordano and I prayed to see what to do next. We decided to pick a destination and be led to people along the way. We saw a park on the map, so we picked that, and headed off. We saw a lady standing at a bus stop across the street, so we went over to talk to her and ask for directions. Kelly is her name and she just so happened to be waiting for the bus we needed to take. After talking a bit, we ended up in a great conversation about faith, God, and prayer. We taught her about prayer and she accepted to pray with us on the bus just before we got off. She didn't accept a rendezvous, but she gave us her number! Miracles to come!

As we got to the park, the sky was rather gray and rain began to fall. Within minutes it turned into hail then snow and the wind was howling. Absolute a tempest. It was whipping us and pelting us everywhere and it may be the exact thing necessary to reach the lady we met. We picked our next destination seconds before the storm hit, then walked towards where we thought it was. We asked a lady walking just as the hail started and she offered to walk us in the right direction because it just so happened to be where she was going too. She was so nice as we trudged through the freezing wetness and we got to talking about her beliefs. She wants to believe but due to many difficult things in life has lost faith. As we got to the corner where she was to split off from us, we asked her if we could leave her with a prayer. She accepted. She seemed very touched and decided to walk us all the way to where we were headed. Though we were soaked and freezing, we parted with smiles and the spirit within us of each.

We got back to the church just before everyone else, so we went back to contact a lady just across the street from the church. She was nice and took our card a well as our invitation to come to church. Nice little last minute contact. Then we met altogether for a wrap up session to share the information and miracles each team had lived. It was an awesome day for everyone. In total, our district found 10 new Amis! Such a cool day. Nothing better than becoming good friends by serving our Savior.

It was a lovely day, though not entirely smoothly flowing. My skirt clasp had broken, so I sewed myself into my skirt before we left Arras. It held up until just before we met up altogether at the end of the day. It was fine until we had to walk to the gare from the church, we were speed walking and the zipper kept slipping. At one point my skirt, which comes typically 3 or 4 inches below my knee, was mid-calf or lower. Luckily it is a high waisted skirt and my coat was long, but oh my heck it was ridiculous. I was slightly panicking and speed walking with our zone leaders to the gare and trying to keep my skirt up. Ah. I bet I looked ridiculous but it's fine. All is well and no skirts were lost.

We got to visit a lot of members with Soeur Meurisse on Thursday, some of whom we've never visited. It is always a good day with Soeur Meurisse. She is phenomenal. She is the epitome of charity and could be the mascot for the Relief Society. I don't know if mascot is the appropriate term, but you get the idea. We ended the night with a family Soeur G and I hadn't visited together yet. It was awesome because two of the sons are not active, but were there! And one of them came back to church on Sunday for the first time in more than a year!

Bonday duck pluck.
Building the Livre de Mormon 2.0
Another adventurous day at the Bonds on Friday. It is so hard to go do service at the Bonds and not come back refueled with joy. They are such funny people and I just love them. There is nothing they can't do. We began construction of another giant Book of Mormon. This one is not as big as the original but I think it's going to be more practical and affordable to replicate for the mission. I'll send pictures when it's done. I'm going to paint it after emails. We also got to paint mirrors, weed black currant bushes, and the Elders plucked ducks that Frère Bond killed. They had feathers and blood on them for the rest of the day. Always an adventure.

Saturday is a special day, right? Well, we got permission to go help for the morning in Calais, where thousands of refugees are waiting to cross over into the UK. A few stakes from England drove more than 25 trucks over and got millions worth of food and hygiene supplies funded by the church humanitarian department from the Interregion. It was awesome. We had over 150 members from all over helping unpack, sort, assemble, and pack more than 650 boxes of canned foods and hygiene packs. It was a sight to behold. It was awesome to unite with brothers and sisters from England, France, chile, America, etc. to help those who are enduring extremely difficult times here in France. I'm sure those of you not on missions know more about what's happening in Calais and Dunquerke, but from what I've heard, it's awful. It was wonderful to help.

Agneau des Morts
Note Dame de Lorette
Notre Dame de Lorette
Soeur Meurisse drove us from Calais to visit another sister who we haven't seen for a while. It was a good visit and I think she really appreciated it. Soeur M then offered to drive us home instead of taking the train. She had a little plan up her sleeve. She took us on a bit of a detour, but one for which I am grateful. Through the countryside we rolled until we reached Notre Dame de Lorette, a famous Cathédrale and cemetery of WWI. A few years ago they built a monument across from it in the shape of a ring with all of the names of those who died, from all countries in the war, in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais. It reminded me a lot of the Vietnam memorial in DC. It was massive and the view was incredible. It's up on the hill where one of the bloodiest battles took place and overlooks the valley of where the war went down. There were a lot of Simpsons recorded on the plates. It was a very humbling visit.

Notre Dame de Lorette
That wasn't all. She took us to Vimy, another important battle site in WWI. The Canadiens have erected a massive monument in memoriam. To get there, you drive through a bit of a forest and up a hill, and all of the ground is bumpy. It has been left exactly how it was after the bombs hit. The ground is covered in craters and bumps, it is another incredible sight to see.

Both of these battle sights were places of long, slow, difficult battles. It makes me reflect a bit of my time here and battles I've faced. The soldiers were freezing, wet, tired, hurting, sick, and yet they didn't give up, they pushed on. They overcame and they won. It came with immense sacrifice, but the victory was worth it. This week has felt like Satan is just waging war on me and my mind. I've felt inadequate and frustrated, overwhelmed and under-qualified, emotional and weak, a lot of things I didn't anticipate or thought I'd be immune to at the close of my full-time mission. I imagine those soldiers prayed to keep going and have the help of Heaven, and this week I've done the same. In my personal study one morning I read in Ether 12

Canadian Memorial 
27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

Romans 5: 3 ...we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

God must have someone just ready and waiting for the gospel and Satan is trying to keep me from getting to them, or something. Ah. He is not going to win! I am grateful for my sweet companion who is patient with me as I come to an end. I don't feel like I'm going very gracefully, but that's ok, she's a champ and is helping me enormously. I am grateful for humbling experiences that God gives me. They probably aren't my favorite, but I am grateful and know that they are good for me.

Sometimes life is a battle, often times with ourselves, but the gospel is the key to victory. Jesus Christ has won the war. As we ally ourselves with Him, we cannot fail. This I know.

Keep calm & carry on,

Sœur Kate Simpson

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