Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Conferences, Companionship changes, cold climate and the crazy chirgurie(french for surgery)

Well, this has been a totally hectic week for us, but like, what else is new?

First off, 3 Nephi 1:13- A wonderful verse that gets me everytime.  The Lord tells Nephi that the next day he will come into the world.  What an amazing moment that must have been for Nephi.  The Savoir, knowing He was just hours away from accomplishing the most incredible mission anyone could ever embark on, gave one last message of comfort to the Nephites.  He truly did come into the world to fulfill His Father's purpose, and that is something that literally has the power to change everyone's life.  How grateful we should be!  When I was younger, I always used to see the wooden star that my mom would have displayed on the piano mantle around Christmas time that says, "Wise men still seek Him".  That used to always confuse me.  I would read it over and over again, but I never 'got it'.  There were times I would just flat out not like it, because I thought it was written incorrectly, perhaps it was supposed to have been written in the past, like, "Wise men still sought Him", afterall, the wisemen lived well over 2000 years ago, right?  Eventually I just dealt with it, but every year, I just didn't like that star!  It was only within that last couple of years that I finally read it and it 'clicked'.  WISE MEN STILL SEEK HIM.  Haha, you can imagine my "Aha!" moment!  Now, almost 17 1/2 months into my mission, I can truly testify that the wisest thing any of us can do is to seek the one and only Jesus Christ.  Seek Him, and seek Him always.  
 
  The Christmas Conference was amazing this past week.  There should be pictures on the mission facebook page.  The Poznanskis are so loved by the missionaries.  I truly felt the spirit while we were there.  I did exchanges with Soeur Allred and Soeur Covington this past week, so that was fun, but tiring.  Soeur Wynn is really sick, so pray for her, please.  Speaking of prayers, the surgery for Soeur Anderson went incredibly well, and we all feel very blessed.  After being diagnosed with a cyst in her brain, the entire mission prayed for her as this amazing sister missionary underwent emergency brain surgery.  President Poznanski felt prompted to let us know that everything would be fine, and it was!  She is recovering, and our thanks go to Heavenly Father (and the awesome surgeon).  Well, this is Christmas week!  I hope everyone remembers just how blessed we all are!
     I love you!
         Soeur Bracken

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A request for Lexi's blog followers

The Bracken family is requesting prayers for Sister Emily Anderson. She is currently serving in the Paris, France Mission. After suffering with migraines for 2 weeks, she was diagnosed with a cyst on her brain. She has undergone surgery to remove the cyst. Her parents have arrived to be with her. Our prayers and best wishes for her and her family, please.
Thank-you

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas Contacting!

Buenos Dias, tout le monde!
So, what a crazy week we've had!  Tuesday, Soeur Holmes and I had an awesome FHE with the Wright couple, and Marie-Pierre and Marie-Paule.  We love those sisters so much!  Marie-Pierre is such a solid rock in the gospel, and all the kids in her family are so classy and wonderful.  Wednesday, we weren't affected by the change, but we did welcome two different elders into the Ward, Elder Martin, who is dandy, and Elder Everett, whom I've known for about a year now.  Elder Everett is from Canada and speaks Quebecoise french, which I LOVE!  We had an interesting expercience on Wednesday.  We had a received a text from some of the elders who were waiting at the church for their new companions to arrive.  It was just kind of a joke text about my mormon.org profile page, which they had recently stumbled upon, while looking through profile pages online.  We decided to get back at them, by taking a few minute detour and visiting the church.  My plan was to pretend to get really mad at them about the text, and then shortly after tell them it was a joke.  Soeur Holmes didn't have the composure to stand beside me, so I walked into the computer room, straight-faced and serious-toned, and just tore into them.  Poor Elder Platt, who had sent the text, and was sitting in the middle of the room, got the blunt of it.  I told them that what they had sent was inappropriate, stupid, and that they shouldn't even have been there, they should have been out talking to people.  Then before I lost the seriousness in my voice, I turned around and left, walked down the two steps to where Soeur Holmes was waiting for me, and smiled as we listened to the Elders sit in complete silence.  Then I came back into the room and told them it was a joke.  The sigh of relief that came out of those elders enough to keep a kite flying for a least a couple of seconds.  Poor Elder Platt, he looked like he had almost gotten a little emotional at me getting so mad at him.  Everyone was so shocked and were like, "That just wasn't like you!"  We all got a good laugh, but Soeur Holmes and I were like, "We can't stay, we have no need to be here"  We tried to encourage them to really go out and do contacting, but they're good missionaries, so we weren't really hard on them.  But then, talking about that, Soeur Holmes and I said, "You know, it really is important to use up this time wisely, and to do contacting (talking to people on the streets)", So off we went.  And would you believe it?  The first lady we talked to gave us her number, and then the third or so lady stopped, and we talked with her, prayed with her, and fixed a RDV!  How amazing is that?!  Her name is Patricia, and we're going to see her tomorrow.  Then, the lady after that was a lady that we had ALREADY contacted about 2 weeks previously, but hadn't been willing to give us her number, and we had unknowingly given her the wrong number from us.  So, miracle of miracles, we ran into her again!  She didn't look familier to me, but Soeur Holmes recognized her instantly, and amazingly enough, she was able to pull her name out of the depths of her memory.  Clemantina!  We got her number, and gave her our number.  All of this happened in just 25 or so short minutes.  It was amazing, and fortified my testimony of being outside when we're supposed to.  On Thursday, we went to the hospital to decorate the room for Catherine, our Recent Convert, who is still there.  She loved it.  On Friday, we had mission council, so I took advantage of seeing Soeur Mataalii, and listening to Elder Clawson sing.  It was also a wonderful time, where we learned about how to focus on Christmas while we contact people, hence, Christmas Contacting!  The Ward Christmas party was amazing!  There were SO many people there!  Marie-Pierre came with her sister, brother, and mom.  I love all of them.  It was incredible.  Our amie, Catherine, also came, as well and Cassandre, the neice of the Palomakis, and Filipe (Maria was too tired to come).  And yesterday, we had another amazing experience.  We decided to do the 'Christmas Contacting', and, would you look at that?  More miracles!  We contacted two Belge women, talked to them about Christmas, sang for them, prayed with them, and fixed a time to come back this week.  Then, 3 minutes later, we contacted a woman from Portugal, prayed with her, and fixed another RDV, after having talked about Christmas, and how to make it more centered on Christ, with her.  SO COOL!!!  Well, every day I get more and more tired, but as you can see, the Lore hasn't gotten tired of helping us.  He just waits for us to do our little part, just so He can show us how much He can give us!  How blessed we are!
            I love you all,
                   Passez une bonne semaine!
                                Soeur Bracken

Monday, December 9, 2013

I'M STAYING!!!!

Hello everyone!  Sorry, I'll have to keep it short!  So, I'm staying in Bruxelles!!! I'm SO EXCITED!!!  Soeur Holmes and I are staying together.  Christmas in Bruxelles!   Cassandre, the niece of the Palomakis, came up, and she is LEGIT!  She is so ready for the gospel.  And Suzette, oh, we had the best experience with her yesterday!  We went together to visit Catherine at the hospital, and they got along SO well!  Then, on the way out we ran into some people who kind of knew the church, and Suzette totally bore testimony!!!  I love this week!  Have a great week everyone!
       Soeur Bracken

Monday, December 2, 2013

Peanut Butter Pie, Parties, and Perfectly planned Trams

So, we had an awesome week this week!
This past week, Soeur Gordon came up from Charleroi and spent the day with me.  Soeur Holmes, the lucky duck, got to have dinner with the Ypersiers.  This past week was also everyone's birthdays- and by 'everyone's' , I mean both Marie-Pierre and Maria.  So happy birthday to our recent converts!  Marie-Pierre is doing awesome, and we FINALLY saw Maria and Filipe yesterday.  Of course, Thanksgiving was a party.  Soeur Wright went all out, with decorative turkey cupcakes and everything.  Can't beat her.  I managed to 'whip' together a pomegranate salad, which included actual whipped cream.  Later, all the 'kids' (aka the sisters and elders) watched '17 miracles', which was awesome.  Haha, I admit, it was a little weird watching a movie with a large group of people- not usually the norm.  Then, towards the weekend, it was Stake Conference!  Whoo!  Another party!  We had lunch with Joanna, a recent convert from Brazil, taught us how to make some wicked blackbeans and rice.  Man, I'm not going to lie, my cooking skills have become much better developed since starting my mission.  Then, all of us went to the adult session of Stake Conference, which all the missionaries were invited to attend (seeing as the entire session was about missionary work).  Then, the Liège sisters slept over.  Haha, and luckily for us, Soeur Holmes had prepared THE MOST AMAZING PEANUT BUTTER PIE EVER!!!  Here's a teaser for you- it contains peanut butter, powdered sugar, sweetened condensed milk, cream cheese, an oreo crust, bananas, and nutella.  So, the answer is yes, you'll die of a heart attack, but yes, you'll also die happy.  Seriously, it's incredible.  Then, Sunday, oh blessed day of the week, it was a day full of miracles!  So, it started out with us all heading to Stake conference in Strombeek.  First, we picked up Suzette, our amie, and walked to our church, there, we met Marie-Pierre, and all jumped in the car with Joanna.  Elder Teixeira spoke and Stake Conference, and they also reorganized the Stake Presidency, so that was cool.  Then, that night, we had 3 rdvs fixed at the homes of members, and they all happened!  First we went to the Perez family, but unfortunately, that went longer than intended, and we were unsure how late we were going to be to the Kabongo's, our next appointment.  We ran out of the Perez's house at 5:55, our next rdv being at 6:00.  I did the math in my head.  There was no way we were going to be there before 6:30, and Marie-Pierre was meeting us at the Kabongo's with her non-member sister.  The only information I knew- We needed the Tram 81 in the direction of Marius Renard.  The Tram had a stop at Gare du Midi, which was a 15 minute walk on foot.  I had no idea how long it would take us once we got to the gare, maybe another 20 minutes.  We get outside the Perez's, decided to run to a random metro stop and look and see what we need to do to get to the nearest 81 stop, and we see a Tram coming towards us.  Wonder of wonders, it's the 81!  Heading in the wrong direction.  We run across the street to the other side.  Miracle of miracles!  We see the 81 in the right direction coming right to our stop!  We jump on, say a prayer of thanks, and we're off!  We got the Kabongo's at 6:15, just 5 minutes after Marie-P showed up.  Then, back on the metro, and Maria answers her phone and says we can come over!  So we're back on the 81 for a wonderful lesson with Maria and Filipe!  It was incredible, and we felt immensely blessed.  So, life is going well.  Winter is coming on, but so is Christmas!  I feel so blessed to be able to serve the Lord again this Christmas, and help those in this place that I love so much.
             Passez une bonne semaine!
                    Soeur Bracken
PS-I totally burned my hand on the coil on the top of the microwave.  Dang thing hurts like the dickens.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Je suis fierre de Marie-Pierre!

Hello one and all!
Well, first I have to apologize.  I was just thinking about how I used to put so much effort into the titles of my emails.  I'm not sure exactly when that stopped, but I have realized that I have been sorely slacking in that sphere of email etiquette.  I'll try to do better next week.  
   Well, this week has just flown by!  And yet, because so much has happened, it feels like last week was a month ago!  This past week, Soeur Holmes and I went down to Arras, where I had a wonderful exchange with Soeur Campbell, from Bountiful Utah.  Apparently, from what I've learned on the mission, Bountiful is the place to live.  Both Sheri Dew and Elder Nelson are in her ward.  She has from funny stories about them.  Then, we came back and had our interviews with President Poznanski.  This interview was fantastic!  The only problem was when I was talking to President, and he asked if I had any questions.  The only question I was able to pose him was, "Am I staying here for my last transfer?"  Haha, I knew President would never ACTUALLY tell me, and sure enough, he gave me a vague answer with just enough clarity to scare me.  "You know, Soeur Bracken, I've actually been thinking about that.  You have one transfer left.  It would be easy for me to leave you here.  But then, maybe that would be TOO easy for you?  You're versitle enough, maybe I could put you with a struggling sister, or maybe have you train another STL?  I'm just going to wait until I receive some inspiration."  Geeze, President, way to make me nervous!  I told him I thought he should open Quimper to sisters again, and I'd be more than happt to go back.  All he said was, "Desolée, c'est pas toujours evident" (Sorry, it's not always that easy).  But, Soeur Holmes and I weren't the only ones getting interviewed on Wednesy, it was also the baptismal interview of Marie-Pierre!  Oh, she passed with flying colors!  And the Palomakis (a favorite family in the ward) were very welcoming at their apartment.  On Friday, Nov. 22, Marie-Pierre was baptized!  And she brought her whole family!  We already knew her sister and one of her brothers, but then we met the other brother and her mom, who live in Namur.  It was wonderful.  We had so many people there!  On Sunday, Frère Palomaki confirmed her.  Later that night, the three of us (Soeur Holmes, Marie-P, and I) all went to the Bishop's house for a little get-together.  We ended up inviting the Bishop (who is from Arizona) to have Thanksgiving with us and the rest of the missionaries in our zone! I also did an exchange with Soeur Anderson, from Seattle Washington on Thursday in Strombeek.  It was a wonderful time.  All these sisters are such great examples to me!  The first thing I say to sisters when we start our exchanges together, is that exchanges = miracles, assuming we work hard.  And honestly, I have seen a miracle CHAQUE (each) time I have done an exchange.  The Lord is amazing.  That honestly has been about my week.  This next weekend is Stake Conference, so that is exciting.  We just had a lesson with one of our amies, Suzette, who hasn't been able to come to church yet.  But she doesn't work on Sunday, so she said she would come this week!  So far, this has the makings to be a great week!  I love you all, and as I celebrate Thanksgiving here, I'll be sure to think of all the wonderful friends and family chez moi that I love and miss.  Have a Merry Thanksgiving!
             Soeur Bracken

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Get ready for Marie-Pierre!

Hello everyone!  
Well, this week, like usual, was crazy, but it in an awesome way.  I did exchanges with Soeur Johns, from Liège and with Soeur Searle, from Valenciennes.  They are both wonderful sisters, and we had a great time. I loved working with Soeur Searle because she's the only sister that we get to do exchanges with that is actually older than me in the mission, so it was wonderful to reminisce with her about life a year ago.  Ah, how weird is that?  I honestly never thought I would be 'reminiscing' about mission life a year ago.  It really happens.  Life, even mission life, goes on, one day at a time.  Sunday was the Primary Program for our ward.  It was in english and french, and was super cute.  I loved it.  Also, Soeur Holmes and I had some great times this week, for example (don't freak out mom), we were walking down the street, and a man offered us some weed.  Haha, then he saw our badges, and was like, "Oh... Jesus..."  Yeah...we weren't really interested.  And then, last monday, it was a holiday, so the regular store that we go to was closed, and we had to go to a more expensive store (that didn't accept our cards, so we had to run for 15 minutes to find an ATM) to buy our food.  The chicken was so expensive!  Then we saw a whole, unskinned chicken, which was less expensive, and I said to Soeur Holmes, "Oh, we can just cut it up, let's get it!"  So we did!  Haha, we had a blast when we finally opened it up.  We said to ourselves, "Well, guess we'd better skin it", so that was a new experience for us, but I'm proud to say we did it, and it wasn't that hard, and it saved us a lot of money!  Soeur Holmes and Soeur Whisler (from Valenciennes) had an awesome experience this past week.  They were some porting and decided to port this one street, and the very first door they knocked on was a portuguese/brazilienne family having their very own FHE!  They said it was awesome.  They let them in, and then later and talked to them.  A few nights ago, we went back and talked to them about the restoration.  They're pretty firm in their own religion, but hey, early apostles baptized whole congregations, right?  So why not us?  This weekend is the baptism of our dear Marie-Pierre, who just got back from Chicago.  We're SO excited.  The Young Adults are going to plan some stuff to make her feel really welcome. 
   Well, it's COLD here, and sometimes I feel like I just breathe cigarette smoke, and sometimes we have amies that just drop us, and sometimes life is just hard, but really, we are so blessed.  Life is wonderful.  I love you!  Enjoy the snow for me!
             Soeur Bracken

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Mini Missionary!

Hello everyone!  So, sorry, I'll have to keep this email a little short, my bad!  But in my defense, we have a train to Liège to catch in 40 minutes.  So, this past week, we did exchanges with Lilli and Villeneuved'ascq.  I stayed here in Bruxelles with Soeur Covington and then Soeur Soeur Hafen (mom and dad, her dad's side of the family is from Santa Clara!  I can't remember their names, but she's from Michigan).  They are both wonderful.  Haha, Soeur Hafen has only been in the field for a week, so everything was still pretty new to her.  We had a crazy man try to talk to us.  I think he thought we were from another religion.  Anyway, he told us we were of the devil.  I told him to have a nice day, and he said, "Don't you want to talk about religion?"  "Not with you" was my reply.  We finally told him we had somewhere to go, and he said "Ok, we'll talk next time."  Sounds like a plan... Aside from that, we've been having a somewhat normal week.  We had a sister from Nivelles, Soeur Carré, who's 16 and wants to go on a mission, come up and work with us.  She's awesome!  She had such a great time, she's going to see if she can come up again in a few weeks for another day.  Maria and Filipe are doing wonderful.  Filipe has promised us that he would pray about Joseph Smith and about being baptized on Dec 7.  In Priesthood last week, they talked about anointing oil, and gave all the men a little key-ring container.  Filipe was a little confused about it, but was  proud to show us that he had put it on his keyring.  Last night we simply explained that he has to have the priesthood to use it, but that for right now it can symbolize purity and a desire to follow the Holy Ghost.  I love them so much.  Well, I've got to go.  The church is true!  I read "Waiting on the Road to Damascus" yesterday.  It helped me realize that life isn't just about waiting for grand miracles, it's just about having faith, one day at a time.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Pictures from a while ago.

 This one isn't from the Conference, it is the view from our balconly, overlooking Bruxelles.  Pretty beautiful, right?!  
 My friend, Elder Barr, and I.  He is from Kamas and plays the piano like no other.  Also, if you watch the 'Mormon Message' about the story the President Hinckley tells about the two boys leaving the money in the farmer's boots instead of stealing them, Elder Barr is in it- He's the older brother!
Reunion with District from 'Meaux' (Transfer 6- from beginning of April to middle of May)- The only people we were missing were Elder Bequette, Soeur Tollefson, Soeur McGhie, Elder Garcia (all of whom have finished their missions), and Elder Burningham.
All the sisters at the conference with President and Sister Poznanski
 My friend, Elder Beckstrand, and I.  I like it because I feel like it looks like we're welcoming everyone to the Conference.  
My daughter and I
Reunion with District from 'Paris Lilas' (Transfer 5- from End of February to Beginning of April)- The only person not there was Elder Garcia. 

The one and only Soeur Mataalii and I.  We LOVE being together!
 Well, I hope you like the photos!  Mom, I promise my hair looked better before (I had it down during the actual conference).  Well, Love you!

Monday, November 4, 2013

No one like dull weeks.

Well, bonjour tout le monde!  We've had a crazy week here in the Bruxelles 2 ward.  First and foremost, and dear MARIA was baptized, YES!  Best line of the evening- the moment she comes up from the water, she says "Wow, I felt something.  I'll tell you about it later!"  Then when she was out and changed, she said, "When Gustavo said 'In the name of Jesus...' I just had this incredible feeling, like feeling like Jesus when HE was baptized!"  I love her so much.  We're going to try to fix a date with Filipe for the beginning of December.  Secondly,  Soeur Mataalii has left, and is now in Torcy, and now I am with Sr. Holmes, from Provo.  She is legit, and so far it's been great.  We've made some goals and the transfer is already off to an awesome start!  Tonight, we're going to fix a date with Marie-Pierre, our golden amie.  The only bummer is that she's leaving on Saturday to go to Chicago for 10 days.  The silver lining?  She's going to Chicago to visit members of her dad's family that are MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH!  Boom!  
  Also, random bit of information that some of you might like to hear... So, I'm staying until January.  Yep, it's official!  BYU will just have to wait until the end of April for me.  I just kept having the feelings that I should stay, so, I'm staying.  This will be sad for some reasons (like living with you, Sr. McGhie, or not being able to see you before you leave, Melanie), but I believe it's for the best.  
   Awesome lesson on perseverence that we had yesterday, whilst going door to door.  We were wet, tired, and hungry, and had just finished one side of the street with little success.  We debated going home to eat dinner, but decided to pray.  So we did.  Then, honestly a little bit against our will, we decided to keep knocking on some doors.  And wouldn't you know it?  The VERY next door that we knocked on let us in.  We met the family, and husband said he'd already met the elders and was SUPER excited to fix a RDV with us.  Donc, voilà, you just need to keep going!
 I love you all, have a wonderful week!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Well...they say good things can't last.

Well friends, it's that time of transfer again, the time when all the missionaries run to the computer like little kids running to the Christmas Tree on Sunday morning.  It's transfer time!  Some things are now official.  I will be finishing my mission here in Bruxelles.  But, sadly, my companion will not be Soeur Mataalii, like we had hoped.  A sister, Soeur Holmes, will be my companion.  I'm excited to meet her, but of course, Soeur Mataalii and I are super sad to part ways.  I love her so much.  This has been one of the best transfers of my mission, and Soeur Mataalii and I have had a lot of laughs, haha, hence one of the reasons we knew that we wouldn't be able to stay together for two transfers.  Like they say, Good things can't last (except eternal families and happiness :) ).  In other news, Soeur Mataalii and I have had an awesome week.  All sign's are go for Maria's baptism this weekend.  Her husband, Filipe, sadly, has postponed his date.  He simply doesn't think he's ready yet.  We talked about faith, and yet neither of us seemed to feel pushed to get him to recommit to Friday.  But I have faith he's going to follow in the steps of his wife, and our Savoir.  Also, here is another miracle, but... it's in french.  So go ahead and use Google Translate if you wish. :) :) Nous avons reçu une coordonnée cette semaine, une femme s'appelle Marie-Pierre. On s'est rencontré, et nous avons trouvé qu'elle est super! Elle a 25 ans, mais quand elle avait 16 ans, elle a habité aux Etats-Unis pour un an avec la famille de son père, qui sont les membres de l'église! Sa mère lui a conseillé de faire son propre recherche à propos de l'église avant elle décide de se faire baptisée. Donc, voila. Nous avons eu notre premières leçons, y compris une leçon avec les membres. Et hier, elle est allée au coin de feu avec les JA, sans nous! J'étais TROP contente! Cette semaine, nous allons avoir une Soirée Familiale avec Marie et une famille dans la paroisse.  Elle est incroyable.
   Soeur Mataalii is going to Torcy, so she'll be living in the same apartment as I did when I was at Nogent.  Hope you all have a great week!  I love you!
            Soeur Bracken

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

My first funeral in a Cathedral

Hello everyone!
  Well, first things first- Alma 37:6-7- Small and simple things people!  Small and simple things!  When Naaman wanted to be cured of leprosy, he was asked to wash himself in the Jordan river 7 times, that was all!  It's amazing how the Lord simply asks us to do simple things in order to receive these amazing blessings.  As missionaries, He simply asks to bear testimony, and talk to one more person.

Haha, so this week-  I did an exchange with Soeur Stapley, which was awesome. We go all the way back to our MTC days.  Then, I did an exchange with Soeur Hilton, from Liège.  They both went well, except the fact that I locked us out of our apartment, so that was fun.  Of course, the best moments of the week were when we were teaching Maria and Filipe!  Oh my goodness, the lessons are just incredible.  And they came to church!  Soeur Mataalii and I literally fasted for them, to help them make this awesome goal of being baptized and later being sealed come true.  We love them.  Best line of the week goes to Maria - "I had a friend, but she doesn't believe in Christ.  I told her, 'When you die, and if you can remember anything that I told you in this life, remember that I told you to choose Jesus.  You can still choose Him in the next life!  Remember, if you can remember what I told you after you die, Choose Jesus!' ".  Haha, SO GREAT.  Well, unfortunately, I have to go.  I love you all!  Have a great week!
         Paix,
             Soeur Bracken
PS- There's a chance Soeur Mataalii and I may or may not have boughten matching cow footie pajamas. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Maria and Filibe!!!

Hello everyone!  Oh my goodness, Soeur Mataalii and I couldn't have come up with a better way to end our week.  We have an amie, her name is Maria.  She's known the church for a while now, and wants to get baptized, but has a hard time really understanding that means coming to church every week.  And it doesn't help that she and her family has been super sick recently.  But nonetheless, Maria is still serious about learning more and getting baptized, and her husband, Filipe, although not really interested himself, is fine with her getting baptized.  She had said that she would come to church yesterday, but then, yesterday morning, she sent a text that said she couldn't come.  Of course, we were SUPER bummed, and a little bit frustrated, but then she said we could come over at 5 o'clock.  So we went over to her house, and her husband let us in.  Filipe has always been super nice, but yesterday, when he left us in, he was super welcoming.  He then informed us that he would be joining us for the rdv.  So, of course, we adjusted the lesson, and decided to talk about the plan of Salvation, focusing on eternal families.  Soeur Mataalii eventually posed the question, if he wanted to be with Maria forever, for ETERNITY, and Filipe actually started to cry, and said yes, and that Maria was his other half and that he loved her so much.  Long story short, it was amazing, and we fixed baptismal dates with the TWO of them!  MIRACLE!!!
 I hope all is going well with everyone!  We couldn't be happier!  I love you all, pray for Maria and Filipe!!!
  Avec amour,
         Soeur Bracken 

A Week Of Conferences!

Well, everyone, this email will be a relatively short one.  To be brief, Soeur Mataalii and I have some AMAZING amies.  One of them, Claudine, we are hoping can be baptized in the next couple of weeks.  We are going to try to fix a date with her this evening.  We also have Maria, who is Brazilienne.  She wants to be baptized, but unfortunately, she's just been so stinkin' sick this week, that it's affecting her progress.  But I have faith that the Lord will make it happen. :)  We had Zone Conference, where Soeur Mataalii and I had to give a 15 minute presentation on how to 'Spiritually Create our Day'.  Luckily, all went well.  And of course, we LOVED General Conference.  Hey people, in case you haven't gotten the clue, MISSIONARY WORK IS THE COOL THING TO DO!  Working with the members is the absolute best, so never be afraid to call up the missionaries and ask how you can help them!  Eler Holland's talk I found super touching, as well as President Eyring's.  This week is full of exchanges, with Liège, Valenciennes, and CHARLEROI!  Wish us luck!  I love you, and pray for you, and I'm actually dreading the time when I will have to leave the mission field and come home.  But for the next couple of months, I'm going to just keep keepin' on!  I love you!  And for those of you who have served missions (Tacy, Courtney, Dad, Soeur Pace), I would love some advice on how to make these last months the best months ever.  
       Love you!
           Soeur Bracken

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Mulhouse, Lille, and Villeneuve D'Ascq...what more could you ask for?

Hello one and all,
So, Soeur Mataalii and I had a crazy week, that's for sure!  We took a forever long train down to Mulhouse, so that Soeur Mataalii could remain legal in France until the end of her mission.  It was fun to be in France again.  We managed to contact one of the girls working at the post office. :)  Then, we came up to Lille, where I stayed whilst I did an exchange/ relived my entire Nogent experience, that is to say, I did exchanges with Soeur Thibault and Soeur Wynn!  Haha, how great is that!  I absolutely loved it.  Soeur Thibault and I laughed at how easy it was for us to teach together again, even after 6 months.  Wow, can you believe it, it's been 6 months since I was with Soeur Thibault!  One of my other favorite moments was when I commented about how obsessed she is with teeth, and she was like, "How do you know that?"  And I replied, "I lived with you for THREE MONTHS!!!"  Soeur Wynn is still on fire!  She loves life, and we fixed a baptismal date for their equipe!  I told them that our goal is to match their date, Oct 19th.  But I'm not going to lie, I was super happy to come back to Louise (Brussels).  While on exchanges, Soeur Mataalii and Soeur Francis had a great rdv with Karolina, an amie from Poland.  Oh, I'm so excited!!!  I already love her.  Also, we visited an amie, Maria, who wants to get baptized, but just needs to understand what it actually means to be baptized.  Maria also came to church!  Haha, also, speaking of church, I got to give a talk yesterday during Sacrament Meeting.  I talked on prophets, hoping to get people psyched for Conference (We're SO stoked!), then, in our class for our amies, it was an interesting situation.  We didn't know beforehand, but the teacher had to hold a meeting with the missionaries during that time, so he took one member from each equipe and left the other 4 to teach the lesson for the class.  Haha, I was totally oblivious to the entire situation until I saw the very worried look on Elder Platt's face in the class, and I was like, "Is there something I can do for you?" His reply, "Yes, you can help us!"  So then he, Elder Christensen, and I taught an impromtu lesson on Eternal families.  Then, moving on to the third hour, it was a combined lesson on missionary work!  So of course, Soeur Mataalii and I had a small portion to contribute also.  I felt that by the end of the day, I was very known throughout the ward.  Tomorrow is combined zone conference, and Soeur Mataalii and I have been asked to give a small presentation on How to 'Spiritually create our day'.  Wish us luck!   Well, life is good.  We continue to see miracles everyday, and we love life!  I love you all, and hope life is going well.  I've decided that I have to change my attitude about going home in December.  It used to make me sad, but I've decided to best way will be to just live it up, accept the fact, and work as hard as I can until the very end.  That's what the Lord expects from me, afterall!
Avec tout mon coeur,
       Soeur Bracken
PS- Studied obedience this morning.  Isn't crazy how being obedient really does make us happy, AND it allows us to have the spirit?  Why WOULDN'T we want to be obedient to the commandements from a loving Heavenly Father?

PPS - My address
             Soeur Lexi Bracken
             118 Avenue Henri Jaspar
             1060 Saint-Gilles
              Belgium 


Monday, September 23, 2013

Becoming the Best in Brussels, Belgium

Bonjour tout le monde!
Well, sorry again for my incredibly short email last week.  It was a hectic day.  Well, I made the 1 hour trip to Bruxelles on Wednesday and met up with my new (old) companion, Soeur Mataalii!  It was a bittersweet time on Monday and Tuesday.  It was crazy trying to make sure the apartment was prepared for the new sisters coming in.  Luckily I'm not too far from them.  It was also super sad to see Soeur Hunsaker leave, but I couldn't help but smile when I saw Soeur Mataalii for the first time as my new companion.  Life has been hectic from then on out, though.  We helped the sisters at Strombeek on Wednesday, and on Friday, we headed down to Paris for a all-day meeting.  But it was wonderful.  Our leaders really are so inspired.  It's so easy to see and feel the love that President and Soeur Poznanski have for not only the missionaries, but also everyone that we teach and meet.  Soeur Mataalii and I are so excited to work together and see miracles.  In fact, we already have!  We got to church on Sunday, and a member named Frere Casares was already there.  He introduced us to a girl he'd met, named Karolina.  He had literally JUST MET HER ON THE METRO, on his way to church, and had invited her to come, and she DID!  Karolina is from Poland, but is studying in Bruxelles, she speaks french well. At first, she was a little confused about church, but we explained what we do, and she really liked it.  We exchanged numbers, then she had to leave right after sacrament meeting.  Then, an hour later, ANOTHER polish person walked in.  It was a member, who happened to be visiting, and wanted to stop by.  Her name was Ola.  We were like, "What are the chances that another Polish girl would come into the church?  Coincidence?  I think not!"  We tried to call Karolina and organize a way to stop by quickly after church with Ola (Ola had to leave about 30 minutes after church to catch a train), but unfortunately, Karolina didn't answer.  For one minute, I was bummed out, wondering why we were so close to having a crazy awesome miracle, only to have Karolina not answer her phone.  Then I heard a tall blond boy walk over and start talking to Ola in Polish.  I was confused.  He then turned to me and said, "Hi, I'm Ethan, I'm from Pennsylvania.  I served my mission in Poland.  Last week was my first week in the ward, I'll be living here for the next 3 months."  I was like, "What the?!?!"  How many Polish people are going to walk into my life in one day?!  So, Ola had to leave, but because of her, we met Ethan, who, of course, is MORE than excited at the thought of teaching someone with us.  Miracles are everywhere!
             I love you all!
                      Passez une bonne semaine!
                                   Soeur Bracken

Monday, September 16, 2013

I'm MOVING!!

Bonjour tout le monde!
 I'm sorry, I don't have any time, sorry I'm lame.  Soeur Hunsaker and I had quite a surprise last night.  I got a phone call from President-  I'm being moved to Brussells to be a Sister Training Leader!  I'm SO sad to be leaving my dear Charleroi, and all the craziness it contains, but I am excited to be serving in Bruxelles, and my companion?  Soeur Mataalii!  What the?!  It's also sad, because President also said that Soeur Hunsaker would also be moving, so we're being whitewashed out!  So, we have a lot of stuff to do today and tomorrow.  Well, aside from that, it's been a great/normal week.  I love you all!
                 Soeur Bracken

Monday, September 9, 2013

Christel and Forgive are the best recent converts ever!

Hello everyone!
Sœur Hunsaker and I have been doing a lot of finding this past week.  Here is a cool experience.  We decided to pass by one of our member's houses, Sangeeta, last week.  We shared a quick message, asked her if she had any ideas where we could maybe contact some Young families, and had a prayer.  She said she didn't know, but then, as soon as I finished the prayer, her head popped up, and she told us that there might be some Young families a few Streets over.  So off we went.  After a few houses, we knocked on a door, where a woman answered.  Her name was Sabrina.  She told us that she had believed in God, but due to the loss of 3 people in the past 10 months, she wasn't so sure anymore.  We asked if we could share a message that would help bring her peace, and she said we could come back.  We came back yesterday, and she told us she was busy getting ready for work, but she still wanted to meet with us, so we fixed a rdv for this Friday.  We had a quick prayer and let her get back to getting ready.  I have a very peaceful feeling when I think about Sabrina, and I'm very excited to go back.  I also had some cool expériences this week with our recent converts.  The first is when we visited Forgive.  She told us how she and her brother Daniel had gone to Church for all three hours, and how she had given the prayer in her Sunday School class.  She talked about how scared she was, but that she did it anyway, and felt very good afterwards.  She says that sometimes at school, she'll pull out her Book of Mormon and read.  The other experience came yesterday, during our Sunday School class.  Christel talked about how when her daughter, Laura, was born with some mental problems, she thought it was such a burden in her life.  But then, after Learning about the gospel, she has come to realize how much of a blessing it is to have a daughter who she knows will inherit the celestial kingdom, and how pure and innocent she is.  After both of these expériences, I was just overcome with the spirit, and with so much love for these people.  Really, Forgive and Christel are just so amazing, and I'm so excited and honored to be a part of their lives. 
   A missionary from Charleroi 1 came home this week, so that was fun, but also weird.  His name is Kevin.  Seeing the entire ward be excited for his homecoming was a slightly unpleasant reminder these same circumstances lay not in the distant future for me.  Kevin served in the Washington DC north mission.  I asked him if he knew Hailey Wankier, and he said, 'Yeah!  She was in two Districts with me!'  Haha, small world.  Well, I love you.  Search the scriptures, they will change your life!
         Avec amour,
               Sœur Bracken

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Everyone loves Zone Conference!

Bonjour tout le monde,
Sœur  Hunsaker and I have been doing a lot of finding this week, which is both fun and challenging.  I found a large statue of a pigeon in a store the other day, and have told myself that if I continue to work hard and do my part, that I can buy that for myself.  I have really come to love pigeons are am working towards becoming a crazy bird lady.  This week we had Zone Conference, combined with the Bruxelles Zone.  SO WONDERFUL.  We had interviews with President and Sœur Poznanski, which are always wonderful.  They gave me a nice boost and helped me stay focused on enduring to the end of my mission.  I love them so much.  Sœur Poznanski complemented me on my outfit, I told her after 22 years, I finally learned how to coordinate colors.  And of course, I got to see my friends.  I listed to Sœur McGhie give her 'final testimony', I also listened to Elder Ensign give his.  Elder Ensign asked if he could pyscho-analyze me, which he did.  Turns out I don't do well when I don't feel like I'm in control of a situation, haha, he nailed that on the head.  Also, haha, my super good friend, Elder Hill, came in, sporting red hair.  He accidently dyed it (I have no idea what his original motive was, but I got a good laugh), also also, Elder Stoker, the epitome of a Young, growing, 20 year old boy who is full of enthusiasm and energy, did his part at lunch by eating a whopping 16 pieces of pizza.  16! But the best thing was the spirit, and feeling all the love of our leaders. 
   Sœur Hunsaker and I also went to Lille this past week for Legality!  Hooray!  Haha, we had MORE train problems.  It's absurd, but luckily, all worked out well.  Also, we FINALLY have a working kitchen sink again, after 2 weeks of it not draining.  I could have cried, I was so happy. 
   Our amies are progressing.  Madame Afiwor is looking at the end of this month to get baptized.  Forgive is doing absolutely amazing.  She was the only one in her family that was able to come to Church yesterday, but she told us she plans on coming everyweek.  And she's reading the Book of Mormon.  After she offered a prayer at our RDV last week, I almost became emotional.  I love her so very much, and her family.  The work continues, and I am so blessed to be a part of it.  We are ALL a part of it.  Thank you so much for your love and support. 
    Que Dieu vous bénisse!
               Sœur Bracken

Monday, August 26, 2013

One article can change your entire day!

Hello one and all!
Not much has gone on this week (ok, well, of course, a lot has gone on, but nothing too out of the ordinary), but I did have an experience the other day that I want to share with you.  Yesterday morning, I was dead tired.  I wanted nothing more than to go back to sleep, and since it was Sunday, and we don't really exercise in the morning, I was trying to decide what to do.  I was on the couch, kind of falling asleep again, when the thought came to me that I should read an Ensign Article.  At first I tried to dismiss the thought, claiming that it was too early in the morning to do anything, let alone try to focus on an article in the Liahona.  But the thought came again.  Finally, exhasperated, I picked up one of the many Liahonas, and flipped it open.  There was an article from Elder Richard G. Scott that talked about our capacity to make choices, and our responsibility to make good choices.  He talked about the decision to follow Christ, and what it means to simply make the right choice.  It was so powerful!  Seriously, I turned to Sœur Hunsaker, and was just like, "This article is amazing!!!" I know I can't do it justice here, and I don't have the name of the article nor the Liahona from which I got it at hand, but it changed me entire day.  Throughout the entire day, I would think back to that article, and the spirit I felt there, and think about how incredibly simple (yes, albeit hard sometimes, yet nonetheless simple) it is to simply make the 'right choice' during all circumstances.  Obviously, we all slip up, if we didn't we'd be perfect, but that's where repentance comes in.  How amazing is that?!  We can ALWAYS improve.  That's what life is always about!  I love it!  One other quick story.  Elder Fuller is serving here in Charleroi with us.  He is a contacting machine!  He always seems to have someone that he and Elder Stoker have found, and decided that we should have (because she is a single woman or something like that).  Such was the case the other day with a woman named Audrée.  We tried to call her after they gave us her number, but she didn't answer, so we sent a text.  Then a few days later, on the métro, Sœur Hunsaker and I both saw a cute girl in her 20s or so and we both felt the impression to contact her.  But before we had a chance, she came up to us, showing us a text, and asked if it had come from us.  It HAD!  It was Audrée!  She had simply forgotten to text us back, but then, upon seeing us, decided to talk to us.  We had SUCH a great conversation.  We have a RDV next week.  It was such a great miracle.  And Elder Fuller was pretty stoked to hear about it also.  Well,I got to go, the Church is true!  And that's all we need to know!
     I love you!
           Sœur Bracken

Monday, August 19, 2013

Birthdays all around!

Bonjour tout le monde!  J'espère bien que vous avez passé une bonne semaine!  So, this has been a crazy wonderful week for us!  Last Monday evening, Sœur Mataalii and I got to do an exchange together!  Say what?!  SO great.  We laughed and talked about the MTC the entire time (also we did missionary work).  We happened to run into the Elders at the Gare, which was wonderful, because it just so happened to be Elder Fuller's birthday.  We were told we couldn't play games at the ULTRA MEGA FAIR that is in town right now, so I told him I wouldn't be able to win him a prize, but he was touched by the gesture, anyway.  Also, Elder Stoker confided in me that it was his birthday the next Sunday (as in yesterday), so I logged that away in my head for things to remember.  This week consisted of us running around like crazy, trying to get things all sorted out for the baptism on Saturday.  Wednesday had us going up to Liège for District Meeting, and Thursday the Mons Elders came to give the baptismal interview.  Haha, it was Elder Barr's first baptismal interview.  We had told Madame Afiwor that it would probably take all of half an hour for everything.  But... they had some questions during the interviews, and Elder Barr likes to get to know people, so... 3 1/2 HOURS later, all four of us finally left.  We were there FOREVER!!!  After about 45 minutes, Sœur Hunsaker, Elder Willden, and I ran out of things to talk about with Forgive, and then we had to go through the same awkward situation when it was Forgive's turn to be baptized!  We tried not to be disobedient, but Shrek 4 was playing on the TV while we were there (in order to help keep the attention of the little kids there), and we also found our attention be directed over there.  So funny. In the end, we decided to postpone Afiwor's baptism, but move ahead with Forgive's.  It was an absolutely amazing service.  We had been told that there would be no hot water, but then randomly, the day of the baptism, we were told that it was fixed!  The water was almost TOO hot!  The ward members came and were so supportive, they loved the Beignets that Mme Afiwor brought, and were so excited that they would all be able to get together again in a few weeks to celebrate Mme Afiwor's baptism.  Forgive is so cute and was so happy.  She loves the Book of Mormon.  It truly was another birthday, as it was so incredible to Watch Forgive go down into the Baptismal font and be born again.  Here is the picture of us!  I can't think of a better day for my beautiful baby niece, Katherine to be born on!  Now August 17th will be such a wonderful, meaningful day for me.  Also, yes, on Sunday, I saw Elder Stoker and wished him happy birthday.  :)  Well, that is our week.  This week is looking a little calmer, but we're hoping to fix another date with Mme Afiwor and also our amie, Bernadette.  Pray for us!  I love you and pray for you!
        Have a wonderful week!
                     Sœur Bracken

 
 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Bonjour

Hello everyone!
This should be a big week if everything goes as planned. Forgive is almost certainly going to get baptized this weekend.  She's so cute.  I'm a little concerned for Madame Afiwor, though.  She is willing to get baptized, and she keeps the commandments, but because of the language barrier, and lack of reading skills, she is having a hard time acquiring a testimony of the Book of Mormon.  She says she listens as Forgive reads it, but I don't think she really listens, or if she does, she doesn't really understand.  And because of language issues, she has a hard time understanding the importance of the restoration and everything.  Elder Barr will be coming to give them both their baptismal interview this week.  We hope she passes, but I've prepared myself in case we are told she should wait.  It's been hard, I've been praying with all my might over the past couple days that the Lord would help her understand, that He would touch her heart and help her be able to understand that this is true, and what that means.  Then today I had an interesting experience, I was once again praying about this, and during the middle of my prayer, which consisted mostly of, "Please Heavenly Father, help her.  Help her understand.  Help her realize why we have the Book of Mormon, and that it's true.  Help her be ready for baptism.  Just help her.  Bless her with a testimony.  Bless her kids that they will be calm so we can teach her better.  Please, just help her be able to be baptized."  Anyway, it was during the middle of another one of these prayers, that all of a sudden, I thought to myself, "Well, what does Heavenly Father want?  Of course he wants her to be baptized, but He would not want her to be baptized without being properly prepared.  He wants her to be baptized exactly when she needs to be."That didn't give me an exact answer to my prayer, but it helped me to realize that I need to focus less on myself and my wants and more on Madame Afiwor and her needs, and especially more on the Lord, and His will.  Elder Barr will interview them Thursday, and let us know if she's good to go.  If she's not, there may be some reprecussions from the Ward (some of the members tend to overreact to late notice things like this), but I'll know that it's what the Lord wants and that the day she does receive that testimony of Joseph Smith, she'll be able to enter into the sacred waters of baptism to join Forgive.  So, tune in next week to see what happens.
    As for less heavy news, yes, Elder Stoker is here in Charleroi with me!  He replaced Elder Stucki here.  We have seen each other only once so far, but we'll see each other soon.  He's always asking me over the phone, 'What's Crack-a lackin' Sœur Bracken?' which makes me laugh (His trainer would always say that to me, so I'm pretty sure that's where he got it from).  The weather has been crazy here.  We still sleep on the living room/kitchen floor, because we're too scared to tempt the heat up in our loft where our beds used to be (this has been our living situation for about the past 3 weeks).  But now it's starting to cool down just a tad.  Oh, by the way, tomorrow we're doing exchanges, and I will be here in Charleroi with Sœur Mataalii!  I'm so stoked.  I've had a little bit of news from Court, which is great.  Also, some other crazy news, Melanie is going on a mission!  She just got her call.  She is going to Hermosilla, Mexico!  Crazy!  She leaves Dec. 18th.  That reminds, me, I've done a lot of thinking and praying, and I think I'm going to prepare to come home the 11th of December.  So I guess you may plan accordingly.Love you!
             Passez une bonne semaine!
                        Sœur Bracken

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

New favorite day of the year? August 17th!

Bonjour tout le monde!
  First of all, here are a few pictures for your viewing pleasure.  The first is me with Mme Afiwor's sons, David and Daniel.  Daniel is 6 and is such a good listener, he loves when we come over.  David is 4 and is...fun.  The other picture is from my District this past transfer. Back row- Elder Staples and Elder Willden (Mons), Sœur Hunsaker and yours truly.  Front frow- Elder Fuller and Elder Stucki (Charleroi 1), Elder Anderson and his son, Elder Haskell (Charleroi 2).  Great group.  Well, this week was crazy for us.  I had to go to Lille do start my second year legality, so that took about a day.  We started off on our train ride there without problems, but then, just across the french border, at a city called Ascq, the train stopped abruptly,and we were informed that there was a problem, and we'd have to take a bus, then a metro, to get to Lille.  Great.  It took forever.  And so much waiting!  But, all finally went well.  Best news of the week, we fixed a Baptismal date with Mme Afiwor and Forgive!  If all goes well, they should be getting baptized the 17th August.  How wonderful is that!  I don't have much time now, but I just wanted to let you guys now that I love you, and that I know this Church is true!  How marvelous it is to serve the Lord!
                     Que Dieu vous benisse!
                                  Sœur Bracken
PS- We just got transfer emails!  Sœur Hunsaker and I are staying together!  How great is that?  We're so excited! 



Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Men wearing shirts is vastly overrated

Bonjour tout le monde!
Pensée Spirituelle?  Alma 26.  Seriously, all of it.  It is AWESOME.  Read it with a missionary perspective, and you'll see that anything is possible.  I love and feel the spirit when I read of love that Ammon has for the Lamanites.  It's incredible.
I hope everyone has had a splendid week.  It has been a little cooler here the past couple of days, but still very, very hot and humid.  Sœur Hunsaker and I still have our beds down in our kitchen where the floor is a little cooler, albeit there is more light coming in from the Windows- you win some, you lose some.  We have had an awesome week.  We went and visited Mme Afiwor and her family.  They are doing very well.  Our elders went down to Paris the other day, and I made it very clear to them that when they returned, they were to have a Book of Mormon in Ebu for us, to give to Mme Afiwor, so that she can understand it better.  Unfortuntately, it was to no avail.  Elder Fuller tried his best, but I got a text from him while he was in Paris saying that he'd found one in Igbo, citing that 'it sounds similar, and looks african'.  I told him it wasn't it, but to bring it up anyone, that it might be fun to add to our collection.  I did some searching, turns out, they speak Igbo in Nigeria, but Mme Afiwor is from Ghana.  So, the hunt continues.  Nonetheless, Afiwor, Forgive and their family are great.  They even came to Church yesterday!  We're not quite sure what they thought.  Afiwor's two year old, Favor, was crying a lot of the time, so it was a little stressful, but hopefully they felt the spirit and will want to return.  We also finally saw Sylvie again, who was an amie from before I got here.  She is amazing!  She believes the message, she wants her and her daughter to be baptized, but she sometimes has a hard time keeping our rdvs, so it requires a lot of work and time.  We also saw Bernadette, who is long time amie of Char 1.  She is doing well.  She is reading a lot, and believes she will find answers to her questions.  We also had a rdv yesterday with the woman named Fanny that we met last week.  It was great (she's a talker!)  She is catholic, but searching for the truth.  Well, that just so happens to be exactly what we have up our sleeves!  We're excited to see what happens!
  This week, I get to go back to France for a day!  I have to go to Lille to do some legalité, so that I can legally stay in France after my one year mark in the field.  Crazy how close that is to coming up!  I love my life, and I'm so grateful for this opportunity to serve the Lord.  I know His hands are everywhere. Que Dieu vous bénisse!  Je vous aime!
                        Sœur Bracken
PS-Title of the email?  When it's hot outside, ALL the men walk around shirtless, and I'll tell you something, it's not hard to see that a lot of their diets consist of frites (french fries), and Jupiler (a really populer Belgium Beer).  Eww...

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Charleroi- the ORGINAL Brick Oven

Degemer mad! (throwback to Breton/Quimper for you all),
So, this has been a hot week for us here, in every sense of the word.  When I first found out I was coming to Belgium, I imagined me having my first somewhat cold summer, and when I first arrived, sure enough, it was still a bit chilly!  But as of 2 weeks ago or so, that has ALL completely changed!  Oh my, it's so hot!  In our apartment, Sœur Hunsaker and I have a little loft that we sleep on, but the past couple of nights have been so hot, that's it's really been affecting our sleep quality.  Sometimes I feel like Char is one giant oven, a brick oven to be exact.  Anyone who's studied a little chemistry should know that matirials such as asphalt and brick don't really absorb heat, they just reflect it, making everything around them just seem hotter, and then at night, they become cold again, because they never absorbed any heat during the day, hence the reason every night, we feel like we can't stand the sweltering heat, but every morning I Wake up with my covers on, because I'm cold.  I want to buy a thermometer so I can really know how hot it is.  Haha, but anyway, it's good.  We complain about the heat, but really, most of the time, Sœur Hunsaker and I just laugh about it.  Oh my goodness, Sœur Hunsaker makes me laugh SO much.  She is so funny!  She understands my sense of humor perfectly.  She is 21, from Idaho Falls, and is majoring in European studies at BYU.  Over the course of my mission, I've lost the ability to hold a straight face whilst saying something funny/witty, but she hasn't.  She's always making the perfect comment to make me laugh and also communicate how I am feeling at the same time.Mom, you wanted to know why Charleroi is like Chicago, stating that that made it seem a little scary.  Haha, I read that line to Sœur Hunsaker, and she was like, "Well, yeah, it's scary, THAT'S why it's like Chicago!"  Don't worry, it's not that scary, but it just really has a Chicago look to it.  Maybe Google images of Charleroi?  Actually, there is a sign in Charleroi, that has a picture of the american flag on it, with the name Pittsburgh next to it, so we think they may be sister cities. 
   But really, we've had a great week.  Yesterday, was a great day.  All four of us missionaries (Elder Stucki- American Fork, Elder Fuller- some cornfield in Kansas, Sœur Hunsaker, and I) spoke, AND we sang.  What the?!  That's the last time I let Elder Fuller volunteer us for something.  But it went well.  Then we went and taught Mmd Afiwor, who went to the last bit of Church at Char 2 with the other Elders (Elder Haskell- St. George, Elder Anderson- some ranch in Texas).  Then we taught her, and it was INCREDIBLE!!! Best lesson ever!  She and her daughter, Forgive, are so ready to accept the gospel.  We're going to fix a baptismal date on Wednesday.  The spirit was so strong, and they understand and want to be a part of this Church, I'm so excited!  I lovem them so much!  Well, I've got to go, but I've attached a classic picture of Charleroi, and also a picture of me with Sœur Hunsaker after our awesome lesson with Mme Afiwor (and she gave us popsicles!)  I know I look angry in the picture, but it's supposed to show how awesome the rdv was.
      Avec amour!
          Sœur Bracken


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

"OK, So maybe we WON'T have you lick the Eiffel Tower!"

Bonjour toutes!
*I will be throwing in some random french words for fun*
Sœur Hunsaker and I have had quite the week here in Charleroi aka Belgium's version of Chicago.  Last lundi night, we ate with the Bishop of Charleroi 1, at a Tex-Mex restaurant.  It was so fun!  It didn't taste exactly like home, but pretty close.  Then, on Tuesday, after a great Réunion de District, I had an échange with Sœur McGhie!  It was so dandy.  We taught a recent convert, and our lesson went really well.  We also had some gelatto, Ferrero Rocher flavored.  I happened to study Alma 17 that morning, which is AMAZING!!!  All about missionary work.   I loved it.  It shows that there is suffering in missionary work, but that through it all, the Lord is there and will buoy us up.  I know the Lord is preparing people here in Charleroi.  It's amazing.  I'm not sure if it's just the Belge culture, but I honestly feel like people are just a little more open.  I love it.  Also there's a small chance I'm getting fat (unlike the chance of me getting small, which, ironically enough, would be very fat (aka, fat chance!).  On Wednesday, after DMP meeting, Sœur Hunsaker et moi did some visites with Sœur Ypersier, which was awesome.  On Thursday, we went and saw our amie, Gertrude, who is way cool.  She listens to what we're saying, and I think for the most part she accepts what she hears.  We're trying to get her to ask more questions and realize why we're different from other churchs.  On Friday...  such a crazy day.  Sœur Hunsaker and I had to go back to Paris to do her légalité for France.  We had an early morning train to go straight there from Charleroi.  So Sœur Hunsaker and I waited very early at the Bus Stop for the bus to go to the Gare.  We waited, but the first bus never came (at 6:27), so we waited more, and again, the 6:50 bus never came!  The bus company is called TEC, and it drives us crazy!!!   So finally, we called a member, who drove us to the gare, just in time to see the train pull away!  We were SO ticked.  So, we caught a train that went to Bruxelles 20 minutes 
later, and there we caught a train to Paris (luckily, I had enough money saved up on my missionary account to buy us two tickets to Paris, you can believe that it cost a pretty penny), so we only ended up being an hour late to the légalité and training.  While all of our bleus were out doing everything they needed to do, we trainers were given the fun task of doing some contacting/a scavenger hunt at the same time.  While they were reaing off the list of things that we had to do, Elder Hall, one of the APs, said "Well, I really wanted you guys to do it, and yesterday we had the other group do it, but... mabye we WON'T have you lick the Eiffel Tower."  Haha, dang, that would have been fun.  Nonetheless, Sœur Stapley and I had a good time contacting people, as well as taking pictures, playing the piano at the gare (a man from Romania recognized when Sœur Stapley played 'Sweet hour a prayer' and came over and talked to us.  He's an amie, how cool is that?!).  Then we finally got home at 9:30, luckily we actually MADE the train home with the elders.  Saturday, we had an AMAZING lesson with a woman s'appelle Madame Afiwor, from Ghana.  So incredible.  She and her daughter, Forgive, are so ready for this gospel.  We also visited a less active named Cathy, who has, to put it nicely... a lot of pets.  But she's sweet!  It was also the baptism of Stéphanie Wéry, an amie of the Elders, so that was wonderful.  She's already married to a member, so it was an especially beautiful occasion.  Then yesterday, Elder Fuller received a call from a woman named Laura, who wanted to see the sister missionnaires, so we went over and visited her.  She is a less active who moved to Charleroi in avril, and decided she wanted to become active again.  We talked with her and asked her what we could do for her, and she said, "They used to have envelopes that people could put their tithing in, I would like to pay my tithing again, so will you bring me one next time?"  I was just shocked, and so moved.  We're so excited to work with her.  She reminds me  a little of my dear friend Sarah, at Nogent.  And so, here we are.  Haha, hope you liked my week!  It's been great.  I love this Church, and this ever-shortening time that I have as a missionary.  I can't believe I hit my one year mark last week!  I feel like I'm such a different person.  I hope everything is going well back in the states, and that you guys get some rain soon!  Love you!
     Avec amour,
       Sœur Bracken

Thursday, July 11, 2013


Our Baptism with Christel, the 29/06/2013
And my last picture with Sœur Wynn, with our spinache smoothie 'staches




Tec it easy!

Bonjour everyone!  
 
So, first of all, the talk from Elder Holland during the last General Conference.  Seriously, read it again.  I read it this morning, and it blew up my brain.  Love it so much.  I feel like trusting the faith that we already have is something that each of us need to do, but can sometimes be so difficult.  I encourage all of you to read it again. 
 
  Ok, so this week hasn't been near as eventful as last week.  I got sick this week, so of course, that was fun.  Luckily I'm doing much better now.  We went to Charleroi 2 last Sunday, which is the 'young' ward.  Charleroi 1 is the 'old people' ward.  We love both of them.  Something, however, that Sœur Hunsaker and I DON'T like, is the transportation system here in Charleroi.  I don't know, maybe I'm just being greedy, maybe I've been spoiled by the Paris transportation system, but I don't think so.  The corporation that runs all the buses and the metro is called 'Tec'.  Their slogan is 'Tec it easy' (Don't ask us why it's in English, we have no idea, but we love it).  Unfortunately, during the summer, they decrease the number of buses they have running. On many lines, buses only come once an hour.  I will tell you from experience, that when you have to change bus lines 3 times to get to an amie's house, and each bus comes once an hour or half hour, the times starts adding up really quickly.  Sorry, I don't mean to rant, but, it's just something I felt the need to share with everyone, haha.  Charleroi and Nogent are very different.  First of all, not last Sunday, but the Sunday before, I actually took the Sacrament, while SITTING IN A PEW!!!  That's something that hasn't happened since the week before I gave my Farewell talk (almost exactly a year ago).  A lot of the buildings here in Belgium, not to mention our two chapels here in Charleroi, seem much more American.  I love the accent here, it's so cool.  People here love their gaufres (waffles) and fries.  Last week, I went up to Liege for Zone Conference.  It was really good. Honestly, one of my favorite parts was just getting to see Elder Hammons, my Zone Leader.  Elder Hammons was in my MTC group and hails from Garland, UT, so we always enjoy talking.  Keep praying for us, and we'll keep working our little derières off! 
Avec beaucoup d'amour,
         Sœur Bracken
 
PS- I get to do an exchange with Sœur McGhie this week!  How did I ever get so Lucky?  Also, Sœur Hunsaker has to do French Legality this week, so we'll be heading into Paris!  And, I'm not sure if any of you are keeping track, but this week I hit my ONE YEAR MARK!!!!  Can you believe it?  It's as if I always knew this day would come, but I never actually thought it would.  Crazy, c'est fou!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Belgium- officially my craziest week ever!

Dear everyone,
I honestly feel like I need 4 hours in order to describe to you everything that has happened to me in the past week.
But since I don't have 4 hours, I'll just make do with the time I have.  Well, I talked to Sœur Pulupuna (the sister that was up here in Charleroi and was being transferred to Torcy) last Monday evening on the phone, and she told me lots of things about Charleroi.  Apparently, they haven't had sisters here in about 3 years, so she told me to be careful, or else we're going to have dinner appointments 2x a day with members.  She told me that it's wonderful up here, and that I was going to love it, and then she told me one other thing.  "Also, you'll be having a baptism on Saturday, her name's Christel, you'll love her."  I'm pretty sure I didn't hear the next couple of things she said, seeing as my mind had frozen.  I'm not going to lie, I didn't know how to feel about the news.  Part of me was so excited, the other part of me felt like I didn't deserve this awesome priviledge finishing this journey with Christel, because I literally would be showing up 3 days before her baptism.  I know it's not very important about who baptises whom, and that we're all a team and all, but still, I hope you understand that I was still very torn about this whole situation, feeling like I've worked for months to help the people I love in Quimper and Nogent, trying to help someone to the waters of baptism, only to have my first baptism just handed to me without any work, feeling like I'm taking credit for Sœur Pulupuna's work.  Sorry, I know that's kind of a lame rant, and honestly, that's not important, the important thing is that we finished teaching Christel on Thursday, she had her interview, we had a slight hold up trying to make sure if she needed permission from her future ex-husband for her to be baptized, but then, at approximately 5:30 on Saturday afternoon, she was baptized by her dear friend, Frère Bultielle.  On Sunday, she received the gift of the Holy Ghost, and is totally ready to embrace this gospel.  So yeah, that's been my week.  Crazy, huh?  I guess now I'd better tell you all the rest of the little stories also that have happened.  I was SO sad to say goodbye to everyone in Nogent.  I was so sad to say goodbye to Sœur André and her family, and the Adamsons, and the Lasas (although they told me that they might come and visit...).  Then, on Wednesday, I met up with Elder Fuller, who would be traveling up to Charleroi with me (I won't tell you how weird it was to be traveling with just one other Elder, transfer days are the days where they let little things like that happen, in order to be more cost effective).  Anyway, we had a nice 1 1/2 train ride up to Bruxelles, where we met our companions.  Elder Fuller (who is the District Leader) is now with Elder Stucki (yes mom, I talked to him, and I'm pretty sure we're related), and I am with Sœur Hunsaker!  She's from Idaho Falls, ID, and I will finish training her.  She's great, we laugh a lot.  She reminds me A TON of McKell Clayson.  I told you last week that there are 2 wards in Charleroi.  Apparentley, there is one set of elders for each ward, and then we, as the sisters, cover both wards!  It's so weird, our area covers both the wards, and we rotate attending every other sacrement meeting.  The only hard thing is that the buses here are so lame, and traveling takes FOREVER.  We're going to have to really plan out our days well in order to make sure we use our time really effectively.  Other than that, the city of Charleroi is pretty great.  People seem to be pretty nice.  I've already eaten at least 6 goffres (goffre is the french word for waffle, and Belgium is famous for them, although, ironically, they're nothing like the "Belgium Waffles" that we eat in the US).  In trying to describe the city, I think Elder Fuller said it best when he and I pulled into Bruxelles. I quote, "There seems to be a lot of brick here."  After he said that, I realized that indeed, EVERYTHING is made out of brick here.  It's amazing.  There are so many stucco houses, and metal appartment buildings, that to see everything in brick is almost overwhelming.  It is a very industrial area, with lots of textile factories.  I often feel like I am in downtown London, in a Charles Dickon's book, or in the book, "The Jungle", with all the brick and smokestacks around me.  But it's great.  It's still much more countryish than Paris (ok, I know, even the Downtown New York is more countryish than Paris).  But really, there are lots of fields, and there are horses here!  We even have horses that live right by our apartment.  We petted them the other day.  They are wonderful.  The french is a little different, they do their numbers a little differently, as well as change a few things here and there, but mostly it's just the accent, which I'd never really heard before.  We were teaching a older woman the other day, and I could tell that her french was a little foreign, so I asked her where she was from, and she said she'd lived in Charleroi for quite some time.  I asked her where she lived before that, assuming she would say Germany or Swizterland, but instead, she just named another city not that far from Charleroi, and I said to myself, "Well, ça alors (I'll be darned), I guess that's the french here in Belgium."  Love it.
  So that's Charleroi for you, we're expecting awesome miracles, and I will be trying my best to not pack on the pounds with all these loving members who literally forcing goffres into my sack to eat later.  Dang they're good (the members, and the goffres).  I love you all, keep praying for us, and we'll keep working hard!  With the Lord on our side, anything and everything is possible!
      Avec amour,
           Sœur Bracken

Monday, June 24, 2013

New address!

As of this Wednesday, Lexi will be serving in Belgium.
Here is her new address:

Soeur Lexi Bracken
2D rue du Moria bte 2
6032 MONT-SUR-MARCHIENNE
Belgium

She loves getting mail.

Soeur Bracken is quitting.........France!

Well, hello all!  As you can imagine, this has been quite the week here for us.  First of all, Soeur Wynn and I had an awesome week, and managed to cram-fill our week with lessons.  We even invited one of our amies to get baptized yesterday, she didn't say yes, but now we have a good understanding of what it is that will be her stumbling block (authority).  It was weird fixing rdvs, knowing that I wouldn't be there to actually have them.  I said goodbye to so many of the families that have affected my life so greatly over the past few months.  I almost cried (and I NEVER cry when I say goodbye) when we visited the family Lasa the other day.  I love Frère and Soeur Lasa SO much, but I know they will be in good hands here with Soeur Wynn.  I said goodbye to the Kusselings, Lethuaires (I'm still thinking I may have a child with the middle name of Franck because of Frère Lethuaire), and Fatoumia, some of the members that I love so much.  Christophe Kusseling, our Ward mission leader got mad at me the other day for already telling people that I was leaving, when I didn't know for sure.  I told him, "Christophe, I'm LEAVING".  I'm so sad to leave Nogent, but I know that my time is done here.  Soeur Wynn and I have seen some amazing miracles over the past couple of weeks, but it's time for me to pack my bags (literally).  So, where is it that I will be heading? Who will be there? What will be there? What will be the big surprise? Who will be my companion?  Well, I guess I'd better just tell you, I'm going to Belgium!!!  I really wanted to serve in Luxembourg, I guess I'll just have to settle for Belgique!  I'll be going to a place called Charleroi, in Belgium.  I should tell you, I wasn't completely shocked when I saw my name in Belgium.  I had a dream last night that I got called to serve in Louise, in Belgium, so I was kind of close. :)  I plan on having much success there, in helping to develop my own personal spirituality, and also those of the people around me.  It's crazy, there are THREE equipes (companionships) there (Quimper- 1; Nogent- 2; Charleroi- 3).  At first I was like, "Man, Belgium?! Really?"  But I'm actually getting more and more excited.  And my companion is named Soeur Hunsaker.  I have no idea at the moment who she is or where she's from, I only know that she has been here only 1 transfer, so I will finish training her!  I told Soeur Wynn the other day that I have NEVER met any of my companions before the day when they actually became my companion.  That is apparently still true. I am sure she is a good girl, I just hope she's ready to work hard!  This is going to be absolutely fantastic.  Serving in the Paris area was great, but I'm definitely ready to not be surrounded by apartment buildings all the time.  Although, really, I have no idea what Charleroi will be like.  And guess what?  Last night, we got a phone call from the assistants, which meant only one thing... Soeur Wynn will be having her own baby bleu on Wednesday.  She is absolutely terrified to train, but I know she'll do a great job.  Whom the Lord calls, He qualifies.  She'll be amazing.  I'm so excited for her to continue to see the miracles in Nogent.  All of this will be happening Wednesday.  I'm so excited to take a TGV or TER train again, I'm totally done with all the metros and RERs here in Paris (although I know in just a few weeks, I'll be talking about how much I miss them).  I hope there's a little bit more country in Charleroi.  Ok, back to regular news.  Tonight we finally have another RDV with Khadia.  I love her so much, and I really think that someday she'll join the church.  The thought of getting baptized again just seems to hard for her right now, but I know that she'll accept it someday.  It might be a little hard for the missionaries to stay in touch with her after I leave, because the Mengolli Family is also moving to a different ward, but I have faith.  Soeur Wynn went up to do Belgium Legality last week, so I got the chance to spend the day with my Beloved Soeur Barrero, and my new friend Soeur Allred (who hails from Providence, Utah, don't worry, I quickly told her about my love for Willow Park).  We had a great time serving on the west end of Paris.  I love exchanges, even just little ones, because it gives you the chance to get to know someone else learn new ways of doing things. I studied Alma Chapter 5 this morning.  Soeur Wynn just laughed when I said I'd studied it.  She knows it's one of my absolutley favorite chapters in the Book of Mormon.  There is so much to reap from this chapter, I encourage everyone to read it.  Afterwards, as I prayed, I fervently asked our Heavenly Father to help me to have a change of heart.  The ability to repent and change has to be one of the most phenomenal gifts our Heavenly Father has given us.  The ability to say, "No, not anymore", and stick to it, is such an amazing capacity that we have as humans.  Seriously, ponder Almas words?  Our hearts are always changing, but the question is, are they getting harder, due to pride and eating too many fatty foods, or softer, thanks to exercise and the exercise of our faith?  Well, I love you all, thank for for tuning in this week.  Next week our presentation will be broadcast from Charleroi.  Love you,
    Avec amour,
          Soeur Bracken
PS, I seem to always fail at obtaining a nice french accent, but maybe I'll be able to pick up a nice Belge one?