Monday, August 29, 2011

an indian, a polish, and a parisian.

six transfers down, six to go!
time is whipping by. i can't believe this transfer is over! this week, soeur smith and i were freaking out and hoping and praying that we would stay together for another transfer. we did! we are so excited. I'm so so happy... I will get to serve in paris for three seasons! I can't wait to see the city in the fall.
life is good, as usual. vacances is winding down, thank goodness! we had a little miracle this week: we received five referrals. that's a LOT. usually, we are lucky if we get one. the Lord is finding so many little ways to bless us and help us along. we are so grateful!

We met one of the referrals at the visitor's center on wednesday night. Her name is Marcellina and she's Polish. We gave her the tour of the center, explaining the Joseph Smith story. I gave her a Book of Mormon in Polish at the end. She was really impressed we had it in her language! Afterwards, she wandered over to a touchscreen display with the "Special Witnesses of Christ". I switched the language to Russian since we didn't have Polish. I didn't know which testimony to pick for her to watch, so I went with the first one that popped into my head: President Uchtdorf. We both stood there watching it, me having no idea what he was saying. At one point I looked over at her and she was smiling. She told us she was interested to learn more, so we fixed a rendez-vous for wednesday night, then she left. Soeur Smith and I dashed back over to the screen to watch President Uchtdorf's testimony in english. It was perfect for her... He talked about how the gospel is for everyone, no matter where you're from, what your background is, or what language you speak. Dieter never lets us down! I was grateful for that little prompting. I'm sure any of the testimonies would have been great, but that one seemed to fit her just right. we're excited to see what happens with her!

we had our second exchange of the transfer this week. since there are an odd number of sister villes and they want to give everyone the chance to do an exchange, they sent the Villeneuve D'Ascq soeurs down to Paris and Paris Lilas. I ended up going with Soeur Ingraham, Soeur Didier's companion. We went and had a lesson with Anbu! It was SO good to see him again. I've missed my little Indian man! We talked to him about eternal marriage. He told us he is going to go back to India and marry a "mormon lady". So cute. I explained to him about temples, then he said "no, I don't want to marry in the temple. I want to marry in the church." what? after a few minutes, we figured out that he associates the word "temple" with Hindu temples. After I explained that we have mormon temples, he was excited again :) that darn language barrier is funny sometimes.

we had a rendez-vous with Anne-Sophie, a recent convert, on friday. She is SO good. We went over the Plan of Salvation and she basically taught the whole thing to us. She is a sweet little (or not so little... she's six feet tall!) Parisian girl, about 23 years old. we l-o-v-e her. We were talking about the five principles of the gospel (faith, repentance, baptism, gift of the Holy Ghost, enduring to the end) and I asked her what comes next after repentance. She couldn't remember, so Soeur Smith made a little hand motion of going in and coming out of the water. Anne-Sophie looked at her kind of funny and said, "going to bed?" hah. no, going to bed is not a principle of the gospel (but it's pretty high up there on my list).

that night on the way home, there were piles of brown leaves on the sidewalks. first sign of autumn! Soeur Smith and I each picked a leaf and talked about our lesson, blissfully making our way home through the paris streets. I know I probably say this every week, but sometimes i still can't believe I get to live here.

sending love from the city of light.
La Parisienne.

Monday, August 22, 2011

"you have a lot of work ahead of you."

whoa. ten months. double digits. not quite sure what to do with myself, except keep working and don't think about it! this is going by so fast... it's making me sad. Soeur Smith told me today that i am now officially old. what happened?! I feel like I just got to Liège. moral of the story: never blink. I blinked and now I'm ten months into my mission. ah!

we had a rendez-vous with a member, Aurélie, tonight. It was seriously one of the best rendez-vous of my mission. the sprit was so strong. it was funny though, because we went over there to present the ward mission plan to her, and it turned out to be so amazing. after reading the ward mission plan together, Soeur Smith asked her to tell us her conversion story. she told us 15 years ago, her six-month old daughter died. she was, of course, devastated. she didn't understand why this would happen. she went to her priest and he told her since her baby had not been baptized, she would be sent to hell. Aurélie could not believe that God would condemn an innocent and perfect little baby like that, so she started investigating other churches. She went to a different church almost every day, looking for something she could hold on to, something that would help her understand this trial she was going through.
time passed, and she still hadn't found anything. one day at a bus stop, she saw two sister missionaries. their tags intrigued her, so she approached them and asked them about it. she started taking the discussions. she said everything they taught her felt familiar to her, like she had heard it before. the first time she went to church, she could see a light there, and she knew she had found what she had been looking for. she was baptized a few weeks later and hasn't looked back since. she bore such a strong, simple testimony. the power of her words just filled the room with light. I feel so spoiled to be able to get to know such wonderful people and to share tesimonies with them.

on the way home, soeur smith and i chatted about the mission. we talked about how the mission shines a giant spotlight on all of your weaknesses. sometimes it is hard to always have your flaws so... apparent. the cool thing is, the Lord really does make weak things strong, and through being shown all of our weaknesses, we are also shown our strengths. during my mission, I have learned to recognize that i was given specific gifts and talents for a reason. yes, I have weaknesses, but I also have specific strengths that need to be used to help others. like President Staheli once said, "Heavenly Fatherlikes humans. He created them." He knows we have weaknesses. if we didn't, we wouldn't be human!

wednesday was zone conference.... in french! for six hours! i was in heaven. the Poznanskis are so great. I am so excited to see how the mission will change and grow during their time here. We talked a lot about aligning our vision with the Lord's. we read 1 Nephi 11 (Nephi's vision) together. It was a really cool application. In the chapter, Nephi wants to see the same vision his father saw. we read through the chapter and came up with the three things Nephi did that we must do also in order to see the same vision of the Lord: consecrate ourselves, interact, and then we will understand.
we also talked about how every member is a missionary, but also every missionary is a member. we are really focusing on working with members, which is so fun. I love getting to know all the members in our ward. we need their help in order to succeed! I think it was President Eyring that once said it would be the dream if the members did all the finding and the missionaries did all the teaching. members have so much power. i love to see it.

thursday we had a mangez-vous (dinner appointment) with the Vulnays, a darling elderly couple in our ward. He is from Croatia and she is from Germany. As we ate, he told us stories about the ballet- he's a retired ballet dancer (and it shows... so skinny!) He also told us the story of how they met (they met in the temple!) then looked me squarely in the eye and said, "love is work." then, with a twinkle in his eye, he added, "you have a lot of work ahead of you." hah! so adorable.

yesterday there was a baptism in our ward: a sweet little taiwanese girl named Ana. It was the cutest thing I have ever seen. after she came up out of the water, she bowed and said "shei shei". then she said, "i have had these things (the gospel) for a few weeks, but they have been in my heart a long time." it was so sweet to see how happy she was in her slightly-too-big white dress. baptisms are just the ultimate joy for missionaries.

have a lovely
  joyful week.

i love you so much.

little mish.

we found the french statue of liberty!

on the roof of the galeries Lafayette overlooking the city.

Monday, August 15, 2011

tender mercies & a birthday.

you know when life is so perfect, so lovely, and so happy that you feel like you are flying in the clouds, looking down at your life, thinking, "wow, she's lucky" ? Today was one of those days. I am in Paris, but really, I am in the clouds. thank you to everyone for the birthday wishes, cards, emails, and gifts. i feel so loved and so lucky. today was a dream of a birthday, as you can well imagine! this morning soeur smith and I went out for groceries, and when we came back the apartment was decorated with balloons and a "happy birthday" banner Soeur Didier painted. she made me a gâteau with 22 candles and gave me a little music box that plays "La Marseillaise". (Soeur Didier and I used to sing it walking down the street together. She said she wanted me to always remember my birthday in Paris. I don't think I'll be forgetting it anytime soon!) Afterwards, we hopped on the métro and went to Sacré Coeur. It was gorgeous: the sky was bright blue, the sun was shining, and there were tourists EVERYwhere! it was still lovely though. it's a beautiful church with an amazing, sprawling view of the city below. After Sacré Coeur, we skipped on over to the Champs Elysées, looked at the pretty window displays and spritzed ourselves with french perfume at Sephora. It was a blissfully Parisian birthday.

this week has been oh so good! we had exchanges on wednesday & thursday. Soeur Smith went up to Brussels with Soeur Emilcy, and none other than Soeur Larsen came to Paris with me! As much as Soeur Smith and I did not want to be separated, it was so fun to see Soeur Larsen again. She got off the train, we hugged, and it was like no time had passed at all. we talked and talked and talked. at one point during the day, we crossed the Seine at Notre Dame and sat on a bench in a little park, soaking it all in. There we were, sitting in one of my favorite spots in Paris, both of us having one of those "I can't believe we're here" moments. we daydreamed about this so much in the MTC. Something about being with my MTC companion in Paris made it all brand new to me again. I have decided it is impossible to get jaded with this city. It is always enchanting.

the work has been slow- vacances is still going strong! we can't do contacting much because that requires walking, so Soeur Smith and I have been praying all week to be able to find someone to teach. Yesterday, Heavenly Father gave us a miracle! It actually starts two weeks ago, when the bishop's wife asked us to teach sharing time. we were so excited. yesterday was the day... we had sharing time on the Word of Wisdom. little french children are so darling! It was a blast. It went late, so by the time we were done sunday school was half over. We were standing in the courtyard talking business with our ward mission leader when all of a sudden, these two ladies walked in and asked us what time "mass" starts. I talked to one of them and Soeur Smith talked to the other. Turns out they had both just randomly (and separately) seen the sign for the church and wandered in from the street. We gave them both a brief first lesson right there in the courtyard, gave them copies of the Book of Mormon, and they both stayed for Sacrament meeting. If we had gone to Relief Society like normal, we would have been sitting in sunday school, not in the courtyard where the ladies walked in. Isn't that cool how it was all so perfectly arranged? Such a tender mercy.
 We had another lesson with one of them after church, and we have appointments scheduled with  both of them during the week! It was incredible. The lesson after church was so good. Her name is Alvine. She's probably in her late 20's, african, and really smart. She asked great questions, and I had one of those my-mouth-opened-and-french-just-came-out experiences. I said words and phrases I had never used before in my life! It felt like a river of french was flowing out of my mouth. It was definitely not me talking. I felt so comfortable with her- she is very real and honest. I couldn't believe how bold I was! The pre-mission Lindsay never would have had the backbone to say such things! That is one thing the mission has given me: gumption. I think she really appreciated our bold honesty and sincerity (Soeur Smith has already got the bold thing down... she is so good.) It was a literal miracle. There is no other way to describe it.
Earlier that day, a member came up to us and told us there is an inactive lady who would like to meet with the Sister missionaries. All of a sudden, we had rendez-vous falling into our laps! It was a testimony to both of us that Heavenly Father is so aware of our situation. He knows we can't be walking around all day trying to find people, so He brought people to us. We are so grateful and so excited to work with these two new amis. Afterwards, after all the squealing and hugging, Soeur Smith and I said a prayer of gratitude. prayer works! Heavenly Father knows us! We were on cloud nine. Like I said:

i am in the clouds. 
avec amour,
soeur williams.

at Sacré Cœur with the city view behind us.

isn't it beautiful?

 of COURSE there was a darling antique carrousel at the bottom of the hill. 
so cute. 

 the little music box from Soeur Didier. :)

 with my gâteau!

how cute is the banner soeur didier made? (the little green train below is a "french train" to help us remember the french sentence order, 
in case you were wondering)

agressive elevation in action.

 with Soeur Larsen at the gare!

Monday, August 8, 2011

vacances has got nothing on us.

here's this thing in france that happens during the summer. it's called
and it is the bane of every missionary's existence. why? because vacances is french for vacation. meaning everyone picks up and leaves for the entire month of august. EVERYone. even Zdravko went back to bulgaria for the month! so Soeur Smith and I have been very... creative this week. between having to take it slow because of my ankle and the work slowing down because of vacances, this week has been just that: slow.
there have been some events of note that have taken place this week. I thought I'd revert back to my old self for a few minutes and make a list. :)

10 little things that make me terribly happy:
august 8th edition.

1. watching a Chinese recent convert, Fu Jian Shu, bless the sacrament in chinese at church yesterday. he is the very first chinese member to receive the priesthood. it was so sweet. all the chinese missionaries were so happy and so proud of him. 
2. walking home the back way along the Seine at twilight.
3. my ever-so-thoughtful companion who spends half her dinner hour building a fort for us to sit in while i have to put my ankle up.
4. hearing testimonies in four different languages in church yesterday: french, spanish, chinese, and tahitian.
5. a breakthrough rendez-vous with a struggling less-active. love those.
6. pouring down rain almost daily. we looked like we had jumped in a pool fully clothed after we went out for groceries today. this is my kind of august weather.
7. picnicking in the shadows of the eiffel tower with 16 other missionaries today for p day. such fun.
8. seeing the bastille all lit up at night.
9. happening upon the cutest little flower shops ever.
10. waking up every morning in paris.

my week in a list. it was a particular week, but still lovely in its own way. i could live in this city a long while longer. i love paris. and with all this rain we've been having, I get the feeling that paris loves me too.
la petite missionnaire.


                  the bastille. this is right down the street from
our apartment.

this is St. Merri, where i go to church every week. no, i'm not kidding. isn't that the prettiest ward house you've ever seen? the ground floor is the church, and the second floor is the institute.

Soeur Didier, Soeur Ingraham, me, Soeur Smith, Soeur Dawson and Soeur Perez at the picnic today.

 with Elder Jaquier, one of our favorite elders. It was his last p day today :(

 the cutest flower shop ever.

the eiffel tower just never gets old.

Monday, August 1, 2011

everyone has a home in paris.

one thing i really like about the paris ward is the continual cycle of study abroad students. most of the time, it's BYU students, but for the past couple months, there has been a group of students from all over the U.S. here studying music. a handful of them are members, so, being the awesome little missionaries they are, they invited the other students in the group to come to church with them. most of them weren't interested, but there was one-- Audrey-- who kept coming.
Audrey just graduated from Harvard with a degree in biology and music. She's doing this hardcore Study Abroad for the Musically Gifted just for kicks-- aka she is brilliant. She's cute and petite, and of course, crazy smart. We had a lesson with her and two members from her group on tuesday. I wish you could have seen that lesson. words like "cognizance" and "fiduciary" were flying around, the opening hymn sounded like a choral masterpiece (seriously- musical geniuses, the three of them. Soeur Smith and I kind of just pretended to sing when really we were staring open mouthed and awestruck), and Audrey asked some of the best questions I have ever heard. We committed her to start reading the Book of Mormon, and then at the end of the lesson, she prayed! It was great, and so very sweet to be able to witness some of her very first communications with God. Soeur Smith and I loved being able to teach her, but we both got the feeling that we are not "her" missionaries. She left for the states today, and I just know at some point or another she will be baptized. 

that night, we had a lesson with the newly baptized and confirmed Zdravko. It was a double-chocolate-cake level of sweet, especially his prayer: "Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your blessing. Je suis Zdravko Radushev. I am here with my sisters of the mormon church and I feel protected. Amen." We love him! We talked about eternal families.

Zdravko quotes from our lesson.

when asked about how he feels since receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost: "I feel your love and I am protected and happy."

"maybe I am lucky I met you. there are people who are poorer than me or have more problems than me, but I got to meet you."

after we told him we call each other "brother" and "sister" in the church: "wait, wait. I need to debate this. If they are all my sisters, how will I marry one of them?"

"I have a hard time imagining what the Holy Ghost looks like, but when I am around people who love me I feel protected. That is the Holy Ghost."

He is so good! After the closing prayer, the three of us just kind of sat in silence for a few seconds, enjoying the sweet spirit that was there. He is funny and silly, but also so sincere and so sweet it is almost childlike.

On Thursday, we had to go to the American Hospital so I could get an EMG. I had no idea what an EMG would entail. I walked into the exam room and the doctor told me he would be poking me with needles, then electrically shocking me. Goodie. He started the test and we smalltalked as he worked. He asked me where I'm from, if I like France, and why I'm living here. I told him why, then he asked, "So, how was your church created?" He seemed mildly interested, so I started at the beginning of the first lesson. In betweeen excrutiating electric shocks, I told him everything. He asked questions about the church as he stabbed me with needles. It was probably the oddest lesson I've ever given. As the exam wrapped up, I had a strong impression to give him a Book of Mormon. It felt a little weird to give it to my doctor, but I went with it anyway. I pulled it out of my bag and offered it to him. He took it in his hands and stared at it, flipping through the pages. He told me he couldn't accept it because it was too precious. I insisted, telling him I wanted him to have it. I told him we would love to meet with him to talk about the book, and he told me to give him ten days to read it. done! I walked out of the office in a daze. finally, something good came from all of this silly ankle stuff! I pulled Soeur Smith out of her waiting room chair and we went and squealed and hugged by the elevators. We can't WAIT to meet with him! Tender mercy.

it was definitely a "this is why i'm a missionary" week for Soeur Smith and I. We decided at the beginning of the transfer that we were not going to let my ankle situation get us down, and this week the Lord poured out little blessings and miracles. We feel like we are right where we are supposed to be.

that's the thing about Paris- no matter where you're from, whether it's Bulgaria or Canada or American Fork, Paris still somehow feels like home. It truly is a giant melting pot of culture, people, and personality-anything you add to it just makes it that more spicy and unique. Even as little mormon girls, Soeur Smith and I feel right at home in this big huge city, adding our bit of flavor to the big pot. Isn't it cool how that works?

i love you and i miss you.

la parisienne.

we saw the oldest tree in Paris this week... planted in 1602!

 we were crossing the Seine today and were both taken aback 
at how beautiful it was. we are so so lucky.

smith & williams & the seine.