Monday, February 28, 2011

pastries, miracles, and a place called Lille.

Bonjour, ma famille!

This week was just amazing. So many little miracles and tender mercies!

I believe I talked about Christiane in my last email. She has been struggling with her testimony and she has a smoking problem. We went to see her on Tuesday. We decided to just start from the beginning with the missionary lessons, so we talked mostly about the Book of Mormon and it went SO well. Much better than last week. She really needs to just read it! She says it's boring, she doesn't understand it, and she can't apply it to her life. So I promised her we would call her every single night and read a chapter of the Book of Mormon with her and talk about it together. We have kept our promise, and it has been incredible to see how much she has progressed in just a few days! Each night she understands more and learns more. It has been a great experience so far. Her testimony is getting stronger :)

After Christiane, we took the train to a little town called Visé so we could go visit Isabelle, a blind lady in our branch. We got there a little early, so we decided to do some contacting. We got a lot of "non, merci"s until we started talking to a woman named Kinna. We read a paragraph out of the introduction to the Book of Mormon with her, the one explaining what it is and what it contains. She finished reading, looked up, and said, "this book can help me receive salvation?" we all replied with an enthousiastic "oui!" She looked so hopeful, excited, and earnest. We told her she could keep the book so she could start reading it, and she said, "really? I can keep it?" You don't get a reaction like that every day! We were so happy the Lord led us to her. It's amazing how prepared some people are for the gospel. We exchanged information with her and we're going to see her this week!

We arrived at Isabelle's and started to chat. She started crying because it's so hard for her to be all alone without her husband, who died 6 months ago. Earlier that morning, Soeur England had asked me which conference talk I thought we should share with her. I blurted out the first thing that came into my mind: "The Tender Mercies of the Lord" by Elder Bednar. As we read the talk with Isabelle, it addressed each and every worry and sadness she had just expressed to us. We looked at each other with amazement as we finished reading. I knew that the spirit had prompted me to choose that talk. Isabelle was comforted by Elder Bednar's gentle words. By the time we left, she was smiling and laughing. It really is wonderful to see how MUCH we are guided by the spirit every minute of every day.

The next day was legality in Lille day! Lille is a city in northern France about 196 km away from Liège. I was excited to see a new city, even if it was for legality. We got on the 8:45 train and arrived in Lille around 11:30. We met some Elders from our zone there who had legality appointments too, and the six of us went to a patisserie. It was the only patisserie in all of France where you can get a Brazilian. The Elders were SO excited for them. They're famous around the mission. Soeur England had told me about them when we found out we were going to Lille. It was good, of course. It's a French pastry! It was nice to be back in France for the day. It's totally different from Belgium.

After pastries, it was time for legality. When I arrived, they took me back to get a chest x ray (no idea why). It was funny because the doctor and I just stood there as he lowered the panel to my height (or lack thereof). We stood there for a LONG time as the machine slowly made its way down. The Elder who went before me is over 6 feet tall! Finally the doctor and I just started laughing and he said, "vous etes trop petite!"
After the x-ray, i went in with the nurse who weighed me, measured my height, and made me do an eye test (in French!) After the nurse, I went into yet another room where a lady drilled me with questions and listened to my heart and lungs. After that, I went to the front desk and they put a big sticker in my passport, and that was it! I'm now legal in France! Now I just need to get legal in the country I actually live in :) Soeur England says for Belge legality, you go to Brussels and sign a paper. I sure hope that's the case!

Saturday was another incredible day. We went to see Sidonie, a recent convert (the one that fed us fou fou). We got to her apartment and she had a friend with her who had just arrived from Africa, also named Sidonie. We got to talking with her, found out she wasn't a member but had met with the missionaries once before. So, we launched right into teaching her! She said she grew up Evangelist, and I asked her if her religion was important to her. She said "No. I'm searching for the truth." AH! That's like every missionary's dream to hear something like that. Then I told her there once was a boy named Joseph Smith who was also searching for the truth. When I started reciting the First Vision to her, the Spirit flooded the room. I almost burst into tears! It was so strong. She said she would come to church with Sidonie and start reading the Book of Mormon. We're going to go see her again this week!

I think missionary work should be called miracle work. I have seen countless miracles in the short time I've been here, and they multiply every day. The Lord has been pouring his little tender mercies all over me this week and I am filled with joy and love. Isn't that lovely?

Thank you, thank you for all of your prayers, letters, and love. Je vous aime tous.

avec tout mon amour,

soeur williams

Monday, February 21, 2011

1 strike, 2 days of training, 3 train rides.

Bonjour, tout le monde!

This week was CRAZY. On Tuesday morning, we rode up to Brussels with the Skousens. On the way there, we found out there was a transportation strike (no metros or buses were running at all) so the traffic in Brussels was insane. It took us a while to get there! We finally made it to the Louise chapel where we met with our zone (Ardennes), the Brussels zone, and the Lille zone. President and Soeur Staheli along with the Assistants were in charge of the training. I can't even describe to you how amazing it is to hear President Staheli speak. He is so in tune with the spirit, and so very inspired. And sometimes he'll tell us stories about President Hinckley (President Staheli was President Hinckley's personal secretary for 15 years) which is SO cool. He shared with us this quote:

a testimony is as
illusive as a moonbeam.
it is as fragile as an orchid.
in order to keep it,
you must recapture it
every morning of your life.

It's amazing how easy it is to lose a testimony. I've seen it with so many recent converts. You make one tiny exception, like skipping church or something, and it's a slippery slope from there. I'm so glad and thankful I have the opportunity to recapture my testimony every morning and watch it blossom and grow.

President then introduced "PAR": Prayer, Attend church, and Read- the three methods that reach conversion. They lead to revelation; not only for our amis but for us as well. We started out talking about prayer. He counselled us to kneel down at night, then wait until you feel like somebody is listening. "Make sure your prayers get past the roof.".... I loved that thought.

we then talked about the Book of Mormon ("Read"), which meant it was time for me to give my talk. It went well; afterwards I had several people comment on how much they liked Richard's conversion story. I had fun bragging a little bit about how awesome my stepdad is :)

After day one ended, a big group of us missionaries walked to Grand Place. It was absolutely gorgeous! (We were in a hurry and it was raining, so I didn't take a picture. you should google it though. It's BEAUTIFUL.) I really REALLY hope I get to serve in Brussels sometime. It's a lovely, charming, historic city. And it's very international too, which is cool. After hurrying to the gare, we took a train back to Liège for the night. It was a long day- we were tired!

The next day we woke up early and hopped on the 7:00 train to "Bruxelles". the train ride there was lovely. I adore trains. I wish we had more of them back home. it is so peaceful to look out the window at the green Belgian countryside as it whips by. Heaven. the strike had ended, so we were able to use the metro. We got there much faster. :)

The second day we talked a lot about extending commitments and personalizing our missionary work through asking inspired questions. President Staheli counselled us to "declare repentance with meekness and mildness and listen with love." It was an incredible day... I received revelation about what to do with certain amis and less-actives. It was an intensely spiritual experience. amazing.

After arriving back home in Liège, we went to see Christiane. She's not doing very well at all. She lost her job and she's smoking more than ever. Just last week she stepped out during sacrament meeting to take a smoking break! It's out of control. She's been a member less than a year and she's already back to her old habits. We love her so much, and it just makes my heart hurt to watch her put herself through this. She thinks the Atonement is just for our sins, not our sadnesses and illnesses. She won't let Heavenly Father help her with her problems. I'm praying so hard to know how to help her... We need to pull her out of her situation. Please pray for her too! I know she has the strength somewhere inside to overcome this. She just needs a faith and encouragement.

The rest of the week was pretty uneventful... We had "Samedi Sports" on Saturday at the church. I played soccer for probably the first time in my life, and I did pretty good! I even made a couple goals. And I fell down. of course. The next day though, we all woke up in so much pain. It was hilarious... our entire bodies were sore! We looked kind of funny hobbling around church. :)

Oh goodness. Seriously, missionary life is the best kind of life. I love every minute. I'm so full of joy and peace and gladness and love.

thank you for your prayers, love, support, and letters. I love you with all of my little missionary heart.

avec tout mon amour,

soeur williams

PS -
Here are a few pictures we received in the mail from Lindsay this week... she looks so very happy!

i love Soeur England!

enjoying a "gaufre" in front of 
St. Paul's on a rainy day...

That dream-come-true day in Paris, 
seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time!

With Amadou at Stake Conference in Brussels

me & Jacqueline! I love her:)

With Rita - she is SO good to us!

Monday, February 14, 2011

I didn't fall ONCE this week. :)


I hope all is well in the states! Things are great here. I didn't fall down, scrape, or bruise anything. So it's been a good week! :)

On monday we had a little birthday party for Elder Weber at the church. We had an apple tart with 20 birthday candles crammed on it and vanilla ice cream. We watched "Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration" and joked that you know you're a missionary when a "party" means watching the Joseph Smith movie. That night, we had Soirée Familiale with the young single adults. After the lesson and the game, cupcakes were served-- a very foreign novelty for the members. we taught them how to say "cupcake" and explained how popular they are in the states. They love to learn about Les Etats-Unis.

On Wednesday we walked all over Liège doing inactive passbys. It was a rare warm day- the first warm day since I've been here. we stopped at a juice stand- we each picked three or four fruits and they put them through a juicer straight into our cups. I got mango-apple-orange. yum.

as we walked through the city streets sipping our juice and chatting in French, i could feel my heart swelling with happiness and gratitude. i looked up at the blue sky and said a silent thank you to Heavenly Father. I am the luckiest little mish in the world.

That evening we had a mangez-vous with Rita. She's such a little mommy to us: she makes dinner for us every week, she makes us take syrup when we're coughing, and she's always worrying we don't eat enough. We LOVE her! She is so very sweet. She made chicons au gratin (chicons is the belge word for endives) it was really good. Chicons are crazy popular here.

Thursday means district meeting. We talked all about testimony... It was so very good. Elder Hall, our district leader, is just awesome. He's really humble and does a great job teaching us every week. At the end of the meeting we had a little testimony meeting and the spirit was tangible! we went out to lunch afterwards to celebrate Elder Duarte's year mark in the mission field. the waiter at the restaurant asked us where we were from. Elder Duarte said "Portugal." At the cash register, the waiter looked at me kind of funny and said, "You're from Portugal?" haha, um no. I'm pretty sure I look the exact opposite from Portuguese.

We taught Beauty on Friday before English class and OH MY GOSH have I mentioned we love him?? He is seriously every missionary's dream. Every time we teach him, we prepare our lesson and he just blows us away- really, he's the one teaching us. We talked about missionary work and he said he prays for missionary experiences and he's trying to get his friends to come to church. He also said he's praying every night he can find a good girl to take to the temple so he can raise a righteous family in the gospel. He just GETS it.... He's incredible!

After english class, we had our usual lesson with Jacqueline. She is going to the temple soon to do baptisms! She got her recommend on sunday. We are so thrilled for her. I sat with Jacqueline on the bus on the way home. We chatted the whole way there, and as we said our goodbyes I realized I had understood everything she said! We were laughing and talking the entire time. I couldn't believe it. It was a big moment for me. When we got home I went straight to my knees and thanked Heavenly Father for that little experience. 

On Saturday, we had a mangez-vous with Célia and her mom. we were so excited to be able to teach a lesson with her mom there. You can imagine our disappointment then when she seated us in the front room with Célia and told us dinner would be ready after our lesson and then left us there. We had a fun little lesson with Célia... We taught her a Ten Commandments hand game to help her remember them. She is SO cute!
Afterwards, we moved into the dining area. We had chips and drinks on the couch as Célia's mom played the guitar for us. We sang "La Maladie d'Amour" together and then she sang a silly little song, "On Verra Jamais", with Célia's little brother Samuel. It was so cute and such fun!

After Célia's, we went to the church to teach Maurice. We taught him about the sabbath day and I think it started dawning on him mid-lesson where we were going with it. At the end, I said, "So Maurice, tomorrow is Sunday. Will you come to church with us?" we all held our breath. Then he said YES! We couldn't believe it. We have been trying to get him to come to church ever since I got to Liège.

...And he showed up too :) It was a happy, happy week. Amadou came to church with us too! My cheeks were hurting when we got home from all the smiling I did yesterday. It is so amazing the amount of joy being a missionary brings.
After church, we had a little activity with the Young adults. We watched "The Best Two Years", which was a real treat. It was crazy how applicable that movie is now... Especially because they're missionaries in Europe in the movie. There were some really familiar situations in there :)

a great big merci to all of you for your prayers, love, letters, and support. je vous aime tous!

la petite missionaire.

Monday, February 7, 2011

My first transfer is officially over

Bonjour famille!

Yep.... My first transfer is officially over. It went by so very FAST! And Soeur England says it will just keep getting faster. I'm going to be sprinting to keep up with everything for the next 15 months! After this transfer, I will no longer be considered a blue. Can't wait for that. :)

This week was eventful! On Tuesday we went to see Razia (pretty sure I've told you about her before) and it took us TWO HOURS to get through the first lesson. That woman can talk like no one I have met before in my life. It was good though... She said she was going to start reading the Book of Mormon. We'll see how it goes! She's really sweet. Whenever she sees us she claps her hands to her cheeks and says, "oh! you are just so young!" It's really funny. She l-o-v-e-s her cats... they're always climbing all over us when we're teaching her. Gross. One of them attacked my bible ribbon. Bleh. We have high hopes for Razia though!

That night we taught Eunice. She and her husband Bright are our newest amis. they are from Ghana, so they speak English. It was so weird to teach in English, but it went really well. We taught her the Plan and she already knew almost all it and believed in it. It was amazing! She basically bore her testimony to us and the spirit was oh, so strong. I offered the closing prayer and I could not BELIEVE how hard it was for me to pray in English! It made me really, really happy inside. The French is starting to stick! I think that was the first English prayer I have said since the MTC.

Wednesday was transfer day. We spent the morning grocery shopping, putting the bunk beds together, and getting the rest of the apartment together and ready for Soeur Turney. After picking her up from the gare and dropping her luggage off at the apartment, we went and had dinner with Rita. It went well-- she made us some traditional Belge food: Endive soup (endives are super popular around here... I thought about you, Richard!) and potatoes with green beans, ham, and vinegar. Yes, vinegar. It was actually pretty good. We talked to her about temples and tithing. The lesson went great... Everything went smoothly with three of us teaching. I thought it would be harder than it was!

On Thursdays we have a lot of meetings. After our meeting with the young adults, the three of us walked out of the church to catch the bus and I fell down the stairs! I am just so graceful. I sprained my ankle and bruised up my legs pretty good, but other than that i'm fine. We stayed in our apartment all day Friday because Soeur England got sick with a cold/flu. We were going prettty stir crazy in that small apartment all day.... We read the scriptures a LOT. Saturday was better.... I was hobbling around on crutches and looking like a dork. It was funny :) We went and taught Célia, the 11 year old little girl. We had a breakthrough-- her mom invited us to have lunch with them next week! we really want to start teaching her mom. I hope it goes well!

I attended an 8 year old little boy's baptism on Saturday too! His name is Noah Kapapula. It was really fun... There was a big African feast afterwards, of course. I thought a lot about Eric that day... I'm so glad the baptism went well! He is such a good boy.

On Sunday, I woke up sick with a cold and flu. Some week it's been! We stayed home from church... Soeur England and I were just miserable. I'm doing better today. I have kind of a man voice though.  We were joking that the fact both of us were sick means we were following the rules and sticking together. :)

I hope all is going well at home! I love you all! Merci for the letters, emails, prayers, and support.

la petite missionaire