Monday, March 25, 2013

Family Home Evening=Fun for Everyone!

Bon après-midi tout le monde!
Well, I don't know if this week has been anything super out of the ordinary (at least not for a missionary, anyway).  I will tell you that for the past couple of weeks, the mission has been trying to focus on us having Family Home Evenings (hereto referred to as SF) with the members and with investigators (hereto referred to as amis). We have lots of amis that have more or less staying in the same spot, without a lot of progression, which is a bummer, so we're hoping that this will help them.  We were blessed this week to have 3 SF with both members and nonmembers, which were amazing.  Khadia has such a sincere desire to follow Christ, but she just can't seem to get her answer about authority, and she can't seem to make it to church either, luckily, the Mengolli's ( the members who are her friends) help her a lot.  We KNOW that one day she will be baptized.  We also visited Soeur Haumont, who is married to a really nice nonmember.  They had us over for dinner, and we had a great discussion.  We'll see if we can spark his interest in the gospel!  We also had a super great SF with Daphné and a member family on Friday.  Haha, actually, that is a great story.  This family has 3 kids, and each one has the reputation of having the energy of an atomic bomb, and about as much self-control as one, also.  So of course we prayed before-hand and hoped for the best.  We met up with Daphné just before heading to the family's apartment, only to find out that her son didn't feel like coming, so it was just her.  "Great, this could be a little weird", we thought, but we hoped all would go well.  When we arrived, we found out that the wife of the family was sick and in bed, so it was just us, the 3 kids, and the husband.  For a few moments, Soeur Thibault and I really were wondering what we'd gotten ourselves and Daphné into.  But then the father really took control of the situation and helped his kids recite the first 4 articles of faith, which really touched Daphné.  She later said how impressed she was that their kids who are still quite young, could know and comprehend so much about Jesus.  It gave a new determination to teach her own son better.  We ended up having a great discussion about the Book of Mormon and the Bible working together, and what it meant for Daphné to receive her own answer.  The husband was such a champ with Daphné and really bore powerful witness of the truth of the Book of Mormon.  In the end, Daphné loved the SF and both she and family said they would be more than happy to have another one.  On verra!     This past Saturday was also the much anticipated RS activity.  The Relief Society had invited all the sisters who were of different nationalities to give a small presentation on their country.  It was awesome!  Soeur Billings, Soeur Rasband, and Soeur Lam-Yam (all members of the ward who are either from, or have lived in the states for a long time) and Soeur Thibault and myself presented 'North America'.  I explained why we had Thanksgiving and the 4th of July, and we had cookies, rice krispie treats, pumpkin pie, and corn bread.  All the other countries were also very well presented.  We had ladies from Peru (Soeur Mengolli), Colombia, Argentina, Camaroon, Togo, Madagascar, Tahiti, Guadelupe/ Martinique, and others.  The best was when the sister from Africa, asked Soeur Thibault and I to help model the african clothes she had.  She explained to the crowd that the outfit I had on could send a lot of different messages depending on how I wore the belt.  I explained to them that the way I was wearing the belt said, "I'm a sister missionary".  That got a pretty good laugh.  I can now officially check off "Being funny in french" from my list of things to do before I die. Speaking of dying, Soeur Thibault and I studied the Spirit World this morning during out personal study!  What an amazing subject!  We had some talks that answered a lot of questions.  I really felt the spirit this morning testify to me that there is indeed life and this life, and that our family members and loved one are so much nearer to us than we think.  They want us to make right choices, and want to help us.  We really truly will be with our families again and forever.  Our loved ones care for us and help us, and children who died when they were young will be raised by righteous parents.  What a great way to start off this week leading up to one of my absolute favorite days of the year, Easter!  I'm so thankful for the love and merciful plan of our Lord, and for the glorious morning of His Resurrection!  "Why seek ye the living among the dead?  He is not here, but is risen."   
    A beautiful Easter to everyone, may it be filled with love, sunshine, and most importantly, the message of our Lord and Savior.  And if you get up early enough, you might just be able to see a 'purple east'.  (Look us hymn #199 for the reference! :)  )
I love you all, the sun never sets on missionary work!
            Avec espoir et amour,
                   Soeur Bracken

Monday, March 18, 2013

Elder Richards Rocks

Bonjour tout le monde!
J'ai aimé cette semaine!  This week has been great.  I think Soeur Thibault had more lessons in the presence of a member than we've ever seen before.  The elders contacted a lady named Mme  Bruneau last week, and we went and visited her.  She was very open to our message, and we fixed another RDV for the following Thursday (two days later).  We had a woman who returned from her mission to Greece a few years ago who said she could come with us.  We all ended up there a few minutes early, so we decided to do some porting (that is, knocking on doors) in the area. But since we were surrounded by apartments, we just had to ring the doorbell outside and try to convince the people through the interphone to let us in (not usually super effective).  We tried the first sonnerie, no one.  We tried the second, wasn't interested.  We tried the third, a man told us he believed in God but was going on vacation and to come back in 15 days.  We thought that was kind of cool, so we were in the process of writing down his address when all of a sudden he opened up his window and told us to come on up.  Usually, Soeur Thibault and I wouldn't be allowed to do this, but since we had another adult woman with us, all systems were go.  So we quickly mounted the stairs and he opened his door.  "Il y a du monde!" was the first thing he said when he opened the door, which is the french way of saying, "Holy Mackeral, there are a lot of you here!"  Haha, I guess he was a little surprised to see 3 women standing at his door.  Nonetheles, Stephan, our new friend, let us in.  We talked about the Book of Mormon, and he told us that he is in the military and will be going back to Iraq soon, but that he thinks he has an American Comrade who is a member of the church.  He really enjoyed our lesson, and told us that he will be sure to start reading the Book of Mormon while he is on vacation.  We are praying and keeping our fingers crossed!  What makes it even better was when we finally headed over to Mme Bruneau.  She had read, and liked what she read, and understood our message.  We have another RDV with her on Tuesday.  Her husband is from Portugal, and is catholic, which, honestly, made us a little nervous at first (we haven't met him yet), but we know the Lord can touch his heart.  Later on this week, we had the long anticipated Elder Richards Conference.  It was absolutely amazing!  The spirit was so strong, and he taught with such force!  I got to lead the music, which I only messed up slightly doing.  Afterwards, Sister Richards met with all the sisters in our zone and the Paris Zone (maybe 10 or 12 sisters) and taught us personally.  She definitely has all the wonderful attributes like, meekness, sweetness, and a firm testimony, that are characteristic of other women leaders in the church, like Sister Dalton or Sister Beck.  I really liked her.  We had a chance to ask questions afterwards, and both Soeur Thibault and I asked questions about our amies (investigators).  Afterwards, she told us that it was easy for her to see we were a dynamic duo and had a great work together.  Later on, Soeur Thibault and I were talking and I realized how true it is.  Both of us are pretty sure this will be our final two weeks together, and we both talked about how much we're going to miss our companionship..  We've both come a long way, and we love the work here.  
   I've had it brought to my attention by a few people that I am so upbeat and happy in my emails, which people love.  They also tell me that they were surprised because they thought the misson was going to be really hard, and it seems like it hasn't for me.  Well, I will just tell you all right here and right now, that this mission is the HARDEST thing I've ever done.  Every single day I want nothing more than to go back to bed and stay in pants and drink regular american milk.   And every single day it's a battle between wanting to give up and knowing what I SHOULD be doing.  I haven't had any breakdowns yet, but I've come close a time or two.  Being on my mission for 8 months, and never being able to see someone get baptized has taken it's toll on me, and there are so many time where I've wondered what I'm doing here.  I'm not saying this so that next week I can get 15 emails telling me how loved I am, but I'm just telling you this so that you know that I really am trying, and that this really is hard, and although we search for the wonderful things every day, there also have been a lot of dreary days (literaly and metapohorically).  This mission has also been the absolute best thing ever.  I can't imagine what my life would be like, if I hadn't had this experience.  Life just isn't the same anymore.  This gospel is true, and this work is worth it.  I've come to know Heavenly Father and our Redeemer and their plan for us like never before, and the people I've met are so amazing!  So there, sorry, I'll get off my little soapbox (I have no idea how to say that in french... boite à savon?)  I just want all of you to know that Soeur Bracken also has her share of challenges over here in France, but that she's loving it every step of the way! :)  
   Well, I think that about sums up my first full week of being 22.  And yes, Steph, I got your letter and laughed, but luckily, I did not laugh to the point where I peed my pants.  I really did love it, though.  We also just found out that we are now allowed to email everyone now, which is cool.  
              Thank you all so much for the love and for reading my sometimes ridiculous emails!
                                       Avec tout mon coeur,
                                               Soeur Bracken

Monday, March 11, 2013

Release the 22 years young Bracken!

Hey friends!
Sorry this email is kind of short, I don't have a ton of time.  Yes, it was my birthday on Saturday, and the Lord blessed us with sunshine all day (yesterday and today it has been back to very cold and a little snow).  It was great.  We had a great RDV with a woman named Khadia this week.  She is the friend of a member, Soeur Mengolli.  Khadia is an evangilist, but she really does have a desire to follow Jesus Christ, and we know she's going to get an answer that Joseph Smith was a prophet. We're also going to have an FHE with a family and a member this next week, which I'm excited about.  And of course, this upcoming week is the long-anticipated Elder Richards Conference, which will be awesome.  I'm super excited to listen to him!  The exhange went really well with Soeur Stahly, as anticipated.  We tried to do some P90X the next morning, which was a horrilbe idea.  My legs were completely dead the next two days!  I think I almost cried everytime I had to sit down the next day.  But they're doing better now.  We really do see miracles everyday, and we had two investigators at church yesterday again!  I love this work, and I told Soeur Johnson, a sister in my mission (she and I did a mini exchange this past week) that I really do LOVE France.  I was almost surprised to hear myself say that.  I was like, "Yeah, I'm not so homesick anymore.  In fact, I really don't even hate France anymore.  In fact, I really like it!"  Haha, about time.
I decided I would like to include something funny that happened during the week in every email now.  This week's experience is as follows... 
As many of you know, my boots are horrible right now.  They have holes in them, and my feet get wet all the time (I'm buying new ones today).  I was not looking forward to going to Sr Mengolli's, because it had been raining, and my socks in my boots were all wet, and I didn't want to be embarrassed if she noticed.  We arrived, and took off our shoes, I tried so hard to cover my socks with something the entire time we were there.  Then, finally, when we were going to put our shoes back on, all of a sudden, she said, "You're socks are wet!", and I had to be like, "Oh...yeah.  My boots are falling apart, so... I'm going to buy some new ones."  She then proceeded to tell us all the places we could buy shoes, which made us laugh.
Also a funny story, Soeur Thibault found out that lots of elders in my old District liked to say, "Release the Bracken!!" to me (instead of 'Release the Cracken' from Pirates of the Carribean).  She laughed so hard, and has been very content to say that all the time now.
Ok, there are funnier stories, but that's the first one that came to mind.  I got to go, but I love you all so much, and thanks especially for the birthday wishes!
     Avec amour,
        Soeur Bracken
Also, I met a companion of Sister Jamie Butler (from Brigham) the other day, when she was serving in the Carribean.  Her name is Wesland Olyssa, pretty cool, eh?

Monday, March 4, 2013

It's Birthday Week!!

Dearest all,
We've made it to March!  Glorious day!  On Saturday I celebrated Dr. Seuss's birthday by reciting one of my favorite poems from him.  I would also like to share it with you! 
                "Today you are you, that is truer than true, there is no one alive who is more you-er than you!  Shout aloud, 'I am glad to be what I am, thank goodness I'm not a ham or a clam, or a dusty old bottle of gooseberry jam'.  I am what I am, what a great thing to be if I say to myself, 'Happy Everyday to me!' " - Dr. Seuss
    Our Heavenly Father made each and every one of us different, with unique talents and gifts.  If we take a moment to stop comparing ourselves to others, and take a good long, appreciative look at ourselves, we'll see just how blessed and special we all are. 
Soeur Thibault and I had a great week.  We keep finding and meeting awesome young families in our ward who are more than willing to help us in whatever way they can with the missionary work.  Another awesome miracle was a woman named Josephine, whom we met a week or two ago.  We were finally able to fix a RDV with her, and, although it took an eternity and a half, we finally found her apartment.  So we had our RDV with her on Friday.  We taught the Plan of Salvation to her, which she liked, and invited her to church.  And she said she would try to come with her son, who really likes churches.  And, wouldn't you know it, halfway through Sunday School on Sunday, she and her son showed up!  They stayed for the rest of church.  There was an 8 year old/ member baptism right after church, and we invited her to stay, but she couldn't.  But we hope she'll come back next week.  We had another amie at church with us also, an older French lady named Nicole.  She's super sweet, but doesn't always get everything that we say, but still, she's making babysteps.  She really liked church and the baptism.  Unfortunately, the baptism that the Elders were going to have on Saturday fell through, so we'll keep praying for them that they can help their amie.  Nothing seems to be going on too much over here, except that all the really cool people that we contact always live in Paris Lilas's area, not in Nogent.  Elder Perez is the new Elder that is here in Nogent.  He is from Cannes, and is super cool.  He speaks english really well, but said he'd be more than happy to help me with my french.  He's so legit.  Also, he has been called to speak spanish, which everyone thinks is cool.  This week we'll be seeing a lot of families, which we're really excited about.  Soeur Thibault gets to go do her Belgium Legality tomorrow, and this week is Sister Exchanges, and I'm going back to Cholet!  Haha, they only place that I've GONE to do an exchange.  I'm I'll spend the day with Soeur Stahli, I love that sister!  This is going to be a great week, and with your prayers, our work, and the Lord's will, I know this can be a week full of miracles. 
I love you all so much, and I know that this is truly the Lord's work. 
   "Fear not, for those that are with us are more than those that are with them!"- 2 Kings, 6: ...17?
Thank you for the love and support!
                   Soeur Bracken