Monday, March 28, 2011

quite a lot of quite the weeks.

hello, dearest family + friends.
it has been quite the week. (i feel like i say that every week. there are a lot of "quite-the-weeks" in missionary life.)
we had a rendez-vous with Christiane on tuesday. We asked her how she felt now that we've been reading the Book of Mormon with her every night for three weeks. She said she doesn't feel anything. we asked why, and then... she just let it all out. all of her frustrations, worries, concerns, questions, and problems. She talked about her divorce, her smoking problem, her depression, her dwindling faith, her life. By the end, she was in tears and we were just stunned. It was overwhelming to get all of that at once (especially because she talks really fast) but it was so good too. we have a better idea of where she is, what she needs, and what we need to work on with her. we challenged her to come to church with one of her questions written on a little piece of paper. We promised her that if she prayed about it first, she would receive the answer to her question during church. she replied with, "what have i got to lose?" I pray that we can find the root of all this doubt and anger and sadness. I want to help her. I want to see her happy and living a full life.
On thursday, we had a special district meeting. Elder Hall brought a recent convert from his ward for us to practice teaching with. What a good idea! I learned so much. We all took a turn teaching the first lesson as everyone else watched and evaluated. The recent convert, Soeur Montous, acted like a different "investigator" with each companionship. We answered her questions and extended commitments, just like we do in reality. :) It was so good for me. I've been kind of stressed about my teaching skills lately, and I did better than I thought I would on the practice. I still need a lot of work, but I'm getting there! The Lord always helps me. But I have to do my part and work hard to develop my teaching skills. It definitely doesn't come naturally!
For lunch, we had tacos. Not the tacos you're thinking of... they were french tacos! I know... that sounds like an oxymoron. They were the same as traditional tacos, except we ate them on salted crepes instead of tortillas. I laughed to myself as I thought of all the spanish missionaries in my family. :)
Friday morning after studies, Soeur Turney and I hopped on the train to Brussels for my legality. We got to the gare in Brussels and went towards the big group of guys standing around in suits. (missionaries are so easy to find!) As we got closer, I saw it wasn't just Elders... Soeur Larsen was there! We were so happy to see each other. Oh my goodness. We chatted the entire day. It was so fun to swap actual mission stories instead of speculating about what the mission would be like, which is what we did in the MTC. Elder Kellett and Elder Hayden were there too, so we had a little mini MTC district reunion. It was a blast! And, I am now legal in the country I actually live in. :) The Belge legality was a lot easier than the French... I just walked in to the building and signed a paper! Piece of cake! It was fun to be somewhere different for the day.
We had such a cool experience yesterday. We were on the bus heading home after church. We sat down as more people filed in. A woman stood next to where we were sitting and held on to the pole as she chatted on her phone. Her eyes drifted over to us and fixed on our tags. She got off the phone and went right back to staring at our tags. Then she said, "Can I have a brochure?" Whoa. No one EVER asks us that! we're always the ones trying to give them away. We gave her a brochure on the Restoration and explained a little bit about our church. We asked if she was interested to learn more. She said yes, and then asked if SHE could give US her address and phone number! That never happens either! We're going to see her this week. I was so very excited. The Lord basically dropped her into our laps! What a blessing. I can't wait to have a rendez-vous with her. She was so sincere and very curious. Perfect. The Lord loves His missionaries!
avec amour,
little mish.
 The "Angel Bridge" (I have no idea what it's really called...) in downtown Liege.
One of my favorite spots in the city!
 Seeing Soeur Larsen again in Brussels! What a lovely surprise!
 We had a P-day picnic on the apartment floor
because it was too cold to go to the park!!

Monday, March 21, 2011

oh, there's sunshine, blessed sunshine.

bonjour, ma famille!

oh my goodness, what a week. Soeur England is gone, our apartment is completely rearranged (and feels kind of empty), and I am now a co-companion. whew.

On Wednesday, we woke up ridiculously early so Soeur England could make her 6:40 train to Paris. It's still really hard for me to get up at 6:30 everyday (shocker), so waking up even earlier was special. We made it on time though! It was a classic Sad Goodbye on the Train Platform.... Hugs and tears and "good luck"s and such. And then that was it- she was gone, and Soeur Turney and I were on our own! We walked slowly home in the gray morning light and as we arrived home, the sadness lifted and excitement settled in. Change is hard, yes, but good too. Time for a new adventure!

That night, we had our weekly mangez-vous with Rita. She served us "filet Americain"- nothing American about it! It was RAW BEEF. Yep. Raw. Red. Not cooked. How I forced that stuff down my throat without puking, I will never know. We had major stomachaches by the time we got home!

Thursday was our first full day all alone. It was a little scary being without our mother hen, but we survived :) We went to Visé to visit Isabelle. We read her a chapter from the Book of Mormon and it reminded me of that part in Little Women when Jo and Amy have to read to their Great Aunt March and she starts snoring. It was funny trying not to giggle as we read.
After we read and she woke up, Isabelle wanted to know what I look like. So, I took off my glasses and she felt my face. She got to my eyes then said, "ooh la la! long eyelashes!" All in all, it was kind of a silly visit at Isabelle's :)

On Friday, we spent the day in Ougrée and Seraing. The Seraing area is like the armpit of Liège... Garbage and dog poo everywhere, nazi symbols spray painted on the road signs, and a plethora of creepy men. On the bright side, we saw some lovely bright yellow bushes in bloom!
Seraing is notorious for its hills. We were up and down and up and down all afternoon! Our legs were so very tired that evening. It was a good day, though. we decided to go find some old amis that looked promising. We passed by one, Ano, a 21 year-old African. He wasn't home, but his neighbor Josephine was! We talked to her in the entryway for a few minutes. She said she was religious, so I asked her if she reads the Bible. Then... she bursted out laughing! She laughed for a few minutes while Soeur Turney and I just stood there, absolutely bewildered. She finally stopped laughing, and we took her little outburst as a no. So, I pulled out the Book of Mormon and gave it to her, explaining what it is and how we can know it is true. That got her attention- she said she'd begin reading. We fixed a rendez-vous with her for Wednesday! We're excited.

That evening, we had a lesson with Jacqueline. when we told her the subject of the lesson, (missionary work) she said it mentions that in her patriarchal blessing she just received a few weeks ago. Perfect! It was a great lesson. We read Mosiah 28:3 and talked about developing the missionary spirit. She said it's scary for her, but she knows she needs to share the gospel with others. She said the closing prayer and in it asked Heavenly Father to help her have missionary opportunities and not be afraid to share the gospel. I love her! She is doing so great. She'll be able to receive her endowments this fall... I wish so badly I could be there with her. We're so happy for her.

The weather is slowly starting to change: the cherry blossom trees are blooming, the sun is shining a little brighter, and there are chocolate easter eggs all over the grocery store. I love this time of year! I didn't even wear tights today. Hallelujah.
A new season, new transfer, new companionship. I am excited and joyful and grateful to Heavenly Father. We are so very blessed, aren't we?

let the peaceful, happy moments roll.

little mish

Monday, March 14, 2011

a bright & sunny future.

Bonjour, famille!

This week was great.... It started with Brussels on Tuesday for Zone Conference. I love that we get to meet together each month, not only to see other missionaries, but to see and learn from the Stahelis. They are just amazing and we LOVE them.

Soeur Staheli spoke to us first. She talked about a study done at BYU with five year-olds. They were put in a room full of toys, one by one. They were given a cup with five m&ms in it and were told they could eat the five m&ms now, or they could wait just a few minutes and they would get an entire bag. They didn't do very well :) Almost all of them could not wait for the whole bag and ended up eating the five. Soeur Staheli said, "we are promised all that the Father hath... Truckloads and truckloads of m&ms. Hold out for the truckloads of m&ms." I really liked this quote by President Packer:

we're not obedient because we're blind.
we're obedient because we can see.

President Staheli then addressed us about the Doctrine of Christ and our Missionary Purpose. Do you know what the missionary purpose is? We recite it every morning during companionship study:

 Invite others to come unto Christ
by helping them receive the restored gospel
through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement,
Repentance, Baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost,
and enduring to the end.
Inviter les gens à aller au Christ
 en les aidant à recevoir l'évangile rétabli
par la foi en Jésus-Christ et en son Expiation,
par le repentir, par le baptême, par la réception du don du Saint-Esprit
et par la persévérance jusqu'à la fin.

He talked about the difference in translation. In English, it says "invite others to come unto Christ". The French translates to "invite others to go to Christ". He said that little change used to bother him a little bit, until he read a talk by Ann Pingree. In it, she said, "The way to come unto Christ is to go to other people."
I loved that. Isn't it so true? We need to "go about doing good", just like He did. That is how we come unto Him and invite others to do the same.

On Wednesday, we had lunch with Christiane and her children, Ismael (11 yrs) and Sabrina (9 yrs). Christiane's ex-husband is Muslim and tries to persuade the kids to follow his religion. Ismael is already baptized a member of the church and he refuses his dad's attempts. He is so sweet and has such a sensitive spirit. We love him :) Sabrina, however, is leaning more towards being Muslim because her dad bribes her with presents. Seriously. Anyway, the kids had their vacation from school this week, so they've been there for our nightly scripture study with Christiane over the phone. The first night was just Ismael and Christiane on the phone. The second night, Sabrina joined in and wanted to say the prayer, which was a HUGE surprise! We were thrilled. We're hoping we can start teaching her the lessons.
After we ate lunch, we taught a little lesson on the Gospel. Ismael talked about his baptism, which was so neat. He said when he came up out of the water, he felt like a new person. He is the sweetest little boy. Sabrina was very involved in the lesson, asking questions and listening really well.
I really hope we can help Christiane. I don't think she realizes who she really is... A daughter of a loving Heavenly Father. What an amazing identity to have. I pray every day that we can take her by the hand and help her to leave the cigarettes behind and look forward to a bright, sunny future.

Soeur England is leaving us this week... back to the States she goes! It's bittersweet for all of us. I'm grateful for the time I've had to serve with and learn from her. She has been a wonderful trainer. Now it's onward, ever onward!

I sure do love you, family and friends. Thank you for your support, love, prayers, and encouragement.


soeur williams

Monday, March 7, 2011

heaven is missionary work.

Bonjour famille!
It has been a crazy week. And this week is going to be even crazier! I can't believe we're in the last week of the transfer already. Where is all the time going??
It started out with a little trip to France for exchanges. We went to a little town called Valenciennes and it was très cute. France is so charming. How does that country do it? Seriously. Soeur England went with Soeur Didier, who is from Nice. She doesn't speak much English at all, which was so much fun for us. We spoke French a LOT and I just loved it. Soeur Turney and I went with Soeur Barros, from California. She is hysterical and a wonderful storyteller. She could probably talk all day long! It was fun.
That night Soeur Didier made us a pizza (SO good) and we all chatted and looked at pictures before bed. We had to leave first thing the next morning, so it was a pretty quick exchange. I like exchanges... It's nice to learn from the other sister missionaries. We are so individually different, but our goal is the same. There is an automatic sisterly bond that is strong, joyful, and full of the spirit. Wherever there are Soeurs, I feel at home. 
We arrived back in Liège after almost 7 hours of train rides. (about 3.5 hours each way) It was heavenly. And exhausting. I had no idea what tired even meant before my mission :) But it's a good tired. I love missionary life, even the tired bits. We met Maurice in a park shortly after we arrived home. He is SO close to baptism, he just needs to do it! He has a light in his eyes, and he's so happy when he's at church. We extended the baptism challenge, and he said maybe in July. We're still working on that one :) we read the Book of Mormon with him on a park bench and it was just lovely, even though it was freezing.
The next day, we had district meeting. We talked about Elder Christofferson's talk, "Reflections on a Consecrated Life", and talked about being consecrated missionaries. I love our district. For lunch, Elder Duarte made us a Portuguese dish for lunch: rice with basically every type of seafood mixed in. After finding out about my little "problem" with fish, the elders had oh-so-much fun egging me on and teasing me about the fish still being alive. I couldn't do it! I know I'll have to eat fish someday on my mission, but I'm putting it off as long as possible :)
We went to see Christiane after district meeting. She's still smoking, but doing better other than that. We still call her faithfully every night to read the Book of Mormon with her. Every night after we've finished reading,we ask her what she learned. Every night, her response gets a little longer. I love seeing the Lord working little miracles in the lives of others! I hope Christiane is noticing the difference too. We still have a long way to go with her, but she's definitely making progress.
THEN. We got on a train to go to Visé to visit Isabelle (the blind lady). About ten minutes into our voyage, the train suddenly stopped. The conductor came over the loud speaker and told us there had been an "accident de personne". No idea what that means. They locked all the doors and told us to stay put. We stayed put alright... For an hour and a half! The train ride to Visé usually takes about 17 minutes. They came on the loud speaker again and told us the train had to be evacuated. For reals. We got to the door, and the train workers were all lifting the old ladies down to the ground, and there was a huge crowd of people huddled together in the cold. The conductor handed us down as we jumped down. After I jumped, Soeur England turned and said, "that was a big jump for you!" (I'm definitely the short one in this companionship... Shocker.) They informed us they were sending a bus for us to take us back to Liège. A half an hour later, the bus showed up and we all crowded on. There weren't any seats left, so we stood in the aisle and held on to the little handles hanging from the ceiling. Like I said, I'm the short one, so it was quite a stretch for me. The bus driver drove like a maniac, and the three of us were thrown all over the place. By the time we we arrived in Liège, we were hysterically laughing. It was quite an adventure. Oh, the life of a missionary.
On Friday, there was a nationwide transportation strike. No buses, no trains. That was kind of a problem for us, considering we don't live in our area. We have to take a bus to get to our area every day. It was an interesting day! Europe loves its strikes. Sheesh. We spent the morning working on our area book. The Skousens came to our rescue with their car (I am so grateful for cars.) and whisked us off to the church so we could teach English class. It was such an odd week for transport. I'm glad the strike was only one day though...We were going crazy, we couldn't go anywhere!
On Saturday we actually went to Visé to see Isabelle. We read her verses from the Book of Mormon. She has the Bible in braille, but she has no way to read the Book of Mormon. How terrible would that be? We try our best to make sure she feels loved by her Heavenly Father. The best way to do that is through the scriptures! After we read with her she had me wash her hair for church the next day. That was an interesting experience. I was willing to do it if it meant she was coming to church! I styled it for her and she asked, "is it pretty?" I love little moments like that.
Maurice came to church on Sunday! He came for two hours instead of just one... Like I said, progress. :) In Gospel Principles, the teacher talked about making covenants. He focused on Baptism, since we had two amis with us in the classroom (the other one was Mike... Also close to baptism, but he's just taking his sweet time.) It was such a good lesson for Maurice to hear. He came to fast and testimony meeting too, which he loved. It's been so great to see him make friends in the branch and begin to be integrated. He has made friends with Beauty, who is the perfect person for Maurice to be friends with, since Beauty was just baptized in November. Speaking of Beauty, he blessed the sacrament for the first time on Sunday. The three of us were just bursting with pride, watching him up there. He is just the best, and he is doing so great in the church. A perfect example for Maurice!
Earlier today for our P-day activity, we climbed the stairs to the "Citadelle". It's a gigantic staircase right in the middle of the city... Probably around 200 steps (it felt like 200 billion). The view from the top was incredible! I looked out over the city-- my city-- and I felt that feeling again... That warm, tingly, happy, luminous feeling. The spirit nudged me, reminding me how very blessed I am. I am a missionary. I am a missionary in Europe speaking French. As Jane Austen said, "Is there any felicity in the world comparable to this?" I think not. :)
avec tout mon amour,
soeur williams
This one is Soeur Turney and I with Soeur Barros in Valenciennes
The next ones {above and below} are from the stairs at the Citadelle today.

Lovely view of the city
checking out the view from the top!
This picture is from P-day last week. I had just told my companions a couple of days before that dad used to call me "lover", and what do we find? "Lovers Place". Perfect :)