Monday, May 27, 2013

Linda's Lucky Liahona

Hey everyone! 
Well, as with all weeks with Missionary work, we've had some downs, but we've also seen lots of miracles.  I will share with you one of my personal favorites.  A couple of weeks ago, we ported into a man named Matthieu.  His wife/girlfriend wasn't home, so we said we'd try to pass by another time.  And we did, and she wasn't there, even though I saw that there was a woman there, so he said come back at 4:00 on Wednesday.  So we did, and the same lady whom I'd seen before opened the door.  She quickly told us that Matthieu wasn't home, she was evangilist and wasn't interested, and to come back another time, and then she shut the door.  Ouch.  But ok.  So last Wednesday, we passed by in the morning, and this time, another woman opened the door.  We told her who we were, that we'd met Matthieu, and wanted to share a message for the family.  She said they were about to go out to lunch, but that we could come in for just a few minutes.  We see Matthieu and say hi, and find out that the woman who opened the door this time, Linda, was his girlfriend, and that the other, not so nice woman who opened the door before, is an aunt, Lydie.  So anyway, Linda lets us in, and tells us to sit down, she starts to lightly organize some things, to make it look a little nicer.  She brings in a stack of magazines and sets them on the table to make it look nice, and, I kid you not, the very top magazine is a flippin' OCTOBER GENERAL CONFERENCE issue of the Liahona!!!  Soeur Wynn and I stared in amazement!  Finally, Soeur Wynn is like, "That...that's a magazine from OUR church!"  Linda replied, "Oh!  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  My cousin is a member.  She lives in the south of France.  She was just recently visiting and she left her magasine here."  HOW GREAT IS THAT?!  We asked them if they'd had a chance to read "The family: Proclamation" that we'd left before, and she said yes, and that she totally agreed with it.  We bore testimony that it was written by prophets, and fixed another RDV with them!  Totally made my week!  Another awesome story happened this weekend.  Well, at least, we thought it was pretty funny.  We've been working with a less-active woman, Valerie, and her 4 kids.  The kids aren't always interested in religion, but Valerie knows it's important.  Last week, we gave the family the challenge to read the Book of Mormon for 5 minutes each day, and made sure everyone had a copy.  We went back to Valerie's on Saturday, and had a moment to just talk with her.  She told us that her youngest son, Sophian, who is 12, had read for 5 minutes every day.  We told her that was amazing, and she was like, "You're telling me!  I never would have imagined that he'd actually read!".  The part that really got to us was the story that follows, though.  Apparently, one day, Olivier, the 14 year old older brother of Sophian was talking about how he doesn't care about reading the Book of Mormon, and that it's just a waste of time, and Sophian was like, "Watch it. If you make fun of the Book of Mormon, you're going to regret it."  A few days later, Olivier was with his younger sister, and she pushed him and he fell and broke his arm, and Sophian said, "I told you.  That's what you get for making fun of the Book of Mormon."  Haha, Love it, even though I do feel bad that Olivier broke his arm.  
Aside from that, there's not much news from us, aside from the fact that I'm completely sick!  It's the pits.  I got a blessing from the Elders today, so hopefully that, combined with rest, will help.  Poor Soeur McGhie is sick also.  This next week is Stake Conference, and they're changing the presidency, and we just found out that WE are singing at it, as in all the missionaries in our Stake.  Haha, so that will be great.  I'm really excited, though, as long as I'm better by then.    This church is true, and I'm so grateful for the opportunity that I have to share this message with everyone.  It is such a blessing, and I know that through it, we will honestly find our happiness, our fulfillment, and our peace.  Let us all drink from the well of living waters, and share this message of joy with everyone around us.  Thank you all, and have a great week!
Soeur Bracken

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Miracle of Maria

Hello everyone!  
This has been an awesome week for us here in Nogent.  I try not to remind myself that this will most likely be my last transfer is this wonderful ward, not to mention my last transfer serving with Soeur Wynn or living with Soeur Tollefsen or Soeur McGhie.  We're going to try to make sure that this entire transfer is nothing but awesomeness and miracles and success, but we are also preparing ourselves for plenty of 'learning opportunities' which so frequently abound our lives. 
  We never had a chance to see Khadia this week, which is a bummer, nor Souleyman.  But we're hoping that we'll be able to see them this week and help them get back on track.  This weekend, we committed our  10 year old ami, Dany, to ask his dad if he could get baptized (his dad, we believe, is Hindu), so we're praying that that went well.  One of my personal favorite miracles this week happened during weekly planning.  We love our amie, Wilna, who WANTS to get baptized, but her husband, for some reason, won't let her (despite the fact that he is super nice and a great guy).  We've been trying to get ahold of him to fix a RDV with the two of them to talk about what is holding him back and see if there is anything we can do, but he is hard to get ahold of.  But then, randomly, on Friday, he called us!  I was so happy I almost freaked out on the phone- Soeur Wynn literally started dancing.  I explained that we had called earlier to check up on Wilna and to see if there was a time available  that we could see them.  He said not to worry, and that they would all be coming to church on Sunday.  Unfortunatley, Wilna ended up having a really bad toothache and a sick child come the weekend, so they didn't, but still!  We had contact with them, and I think he likes us!
   However, our biggest miracle happened all in the space of a couple of hours, and is now a testimony to me that you really can never know what to expect on the mission, and that the Lord really can do anything.  I was getting ready on Sunday morning when I got a call.  The number on the phone said it was an amie named Maria.  I answered, and a cute, young voice was on the phone.  She said she was Maria, and that she wanted to come to church that day, with her brother, but that she didn't remember how to get there.  So of course, I was like, "WE'LL DO ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING TO HELP YOU GET TO CHURCH!!!"  So we decided to meet her at the Gare (trainstation) before church.  In the meantime, we looked up her old information in our area-book, and what do we find?  Turns out, she  lived in Spain growing up, and LOVED the church (the power of friends and YW).  She did a lot of things with the young women, and really wanted to get baptized, but her sister wouldn't let her.  Now they all live in France (she, her brother, sister, brother in law, and their kids).  Her mom lives in Africa.  She has always wanted to get baptized, but, and I'm still not sure why, has never been able to (we think because of the sister).  We looked at the information on her page.  The sisters who wrote it a year ago said she was 17, and that the ward already loves her (from when she came last summer a few times).  And, sure enough, we meet up with them, and bring them to church, and the ward was like, "Hey, Maria!"  Both she and her brother loved church.  She even told me during RS that she really really wants to serve a mission.  I almost cried.  Numerous times I've expressed to Heavenly Father my desire to baptize someone who later goes on a mission, and here I was, having someone say that right to me!  She told us that she was having a birthday party that afternoon, and she wanted us to come, and we were like, "We are SO there!"  So we went, and got to meet the whole family. We tried to leave a really good impression on her sister and husband.  It's odd, they both know the church really well, I'm not exactly sure why they don't like it.  The Brother in law was even like, "Do you drink coke?  I've met some mormons who say they can't drink coke".  We explained to them that coke is fine, and that it's usually just coffee, tea, alcohol, ect.  I think the Word of Wisdom might be the thing that the brother in law doesn't like, because he seemed to know a lot about the subject and wanted to know why is specified 'hot drinks' in the scriptures, ect.  Either way, we had a good time with them, and we hope to see Maria often, and her brother, who I imagine will continue to come to church with her.  What a crazy day!  One minute we get a call, the next she's telling me she wants to go on a mission, the next we're heading to a birthday party!  I'm SO grateful for this miracle.  Soeur Wynn and I are going to try to really pay attention to the spirit, and help Maria make this covenant that she's been waiting to do for years.  She no longer needs her sister's permission, but I would like for her to have it anyway.  Miracles happen!  I'm so grateful for these tender mercies in our lives from our loving Heavenly Father. Well, I'd better go.  Like always, thank you for all the love and prayers and support.  The church is true!
                            Soeur Bracken
PS  A scripture that I love is always Alma 5:14.  This week I encourage you to read it and ponder about what it really means to receive his image in our countenace.  

Monday, May 13, 2013

Spoiler Alert! Cinderella makes it to the Ball

Hello everyone! 
Well, this week has been a little slow, seeing as how most of France in on vacation, so no one seems to be home, but we're hoping that this next week will be better.  Something that we are excited about is our friend Kashmira.  Usually, we've only been able to see Kashmira on Sunday nights, at Fatoumia's house (a member).  And even then, it was not even every Sunday.  But now that Kashmira has just moved into a different apartment, she feels more comfortable letting us come over and has really opened up to us (also, the Elders helped her move for 3 hours, so that really touched her).  We were able to see her 3 times within the last 10 days, which has been an absolute miracle.  She still has to work Sundays, so that's something we're working on, but she's still progressing.  Tonight we're going to teach them the Plan of Salvation again.  I love Kashmira so much, haha, and it's so funny, we can't ever leave without her giving us something to eat.  Haha, in fact, last week, we had dinner at the Lasa's, and then went and visited Kashmira, where we were force-fed another dinner.  Soeur Wynn's petit body doesn't always do well with excessive amounts of food, so, in the end, Soeur Wynn ended up feeling absolutely sick.  We had to end up calling up the Lasa family AGAIN, to see if they could take us home before Soeur Wynn exploded.  Haha, I felt bad so bad for her, but also couldn't hide my stifled laughter.  We also had another funny story this weekend, in fact, we can almost compare it to the story of Cinderella.  You see, going to a baptism is kind of like a "ball". And it turns out, there was a "ball" last weekend. But only those companionships who were bringing investigators with them were allowed to go to the "ball".  However, Soeur Wynn and I, despite all our pleadings and offerings (ok, mostly it was asking and praying), were left without any amies who could go, and therefore, we ourselves couldn't go.  And to make matters worse, we had been asked to clean the chapel at Nogent the very same morning as the baptism.  So there we were, in our regular work clothes, cleaning the chapel, while an hour away, all the other companionships were getting ready for the party.  We tried to make the best of our situation by working hard and trying to see the bright side of things, but really, we were SO bummed out.  And then, at noon, as we were nearing the end of our labors, and knowing that the baptism was just about to begin, we got a phone call from our 'Fairy Godmother'.  Of course, the absolute best thing would have been if it was an amie, saying that they were ready to go.  But instead, it was Elder Hill, telling us that they really wanted more people at the baptism, and so we had permission to change into our gowns, and get over there as quickly as possible.  Our pumpkin carriage was actually the car of one of the members, who took us halfway to Torcy (where the baptism was), we then took a train, and then RAN to the Torcy Chapel, where we were greeted with smiling faces and many desserts.We tried to make ourselves useful, and of course, the most important, make sure the man who had just been baptized felt very welcomed to the church.  And the best part of all, was that a girl named Luz, the friend of a member whom we'd been trying to meet for sometime, was there!  Miracle!  And so it goes, that thanks to diligence, prayers, and friends, Cinderella made it to her ball, had a wonderful time, and even made a new friend with whom she might be able to share the gospel...  And they lived happily ever after.
   Well, I hope you like that story.  We got a good chuckle out of it.  We also had a baptism for one of the children in out ward yesteday.  It was the Bishop's son getting baptized, and he'd invited many non-member friends to come and participate in his son's baptism, so it was awesome as we had the occasion to talk to a few people, also, I got to try alchohol-free Champagne.  I didn't like it.  
    Transfers are this week.  Soeur Wynn and I are staying together in Nogent, and Soeur McGhie and Soeur Tollefson are staying at Torcy (so they're both staying in the apartment), but that's about the only thing that's the same.  To our utter shock, BOTH Elder Garcia and Elder Perez are leaving Nogent.  We saw them today while emailing, Elder Perez told us he wanted to cry.  Elder Garcia told us that they both already had.  We also changed District Boundries again, so no one is the same.  But, all these things bring change and growth.  I have some awesome friends that are now Zone Leaders, and I'm really excited to work with some other missionaries. I love this work, it's the best sacrifice I've made in my life.  It's so hard, but the abilitly to help somebody by accepting the gospel is such an amazing opportunity.  Please continue to pray for our investigators, so that their hearts can be softened, and their families can accept their decision to accept the gospel.  Can you believe May is already halfway over?  I love you guys so much, and I know that Heavenly Father loves you too.  He has given us so much.  And remember "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."  You are all successes, and I love  you.
          Peace out!
             Soeur Bracken

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

What day is today (well, ok, next weekend)..? It's Mother's Day

Hello all, once again, this might be a slightly shorter letter, my bad.  This week has been awesome.  I've been feeling much better about life, and am looking forward to the lovely month of May.  We celebrated Cinco De Mayo yesterday by eating chips, salsa, and some guac.  Good stuff.  Elder Garcia just told me that they're going to celebrate tomorrow my drinking coke for breakfast.  Classy.  Yesterday, Khadia, her kids, and Wilna came to church.  We had a great lesson.  Khadia still has lots of concerns, but we're hoping to keep progressing this week.  The Mengolli family is going to the Temple this week, so they told us they'd put her name, and our names, in the Temple.  I had the chance to do an exchange this week with Soeur Callister, a new missionary from Provo (for those who are wondering, I believe Elder Callister is her great uncle).  So I went to St. Ouen, on the other side of Paris, with her.  It was awesome.  We taught a first lesson, in english, to a family from Ghana.  It was absolutely perfect.  The son recognized a photo of the Ghana Temple from when they lived there, and the family was so open to the message.  At the end of the lesson, after explaining the Book of Mormon a little bit, I asked if they would be baptized after they knew it was true.  They said yes!  I'm so excited for Soeur Callister and Soeur Barrero to continue teaching them.   I also had an amazing experience porting.  We were knocking on some apartment doors, and we had 3 different families let us come in and kneel in prayer with them.  Haha, and the best part was that Soeur Barrero and Soeur Wynn were having equally awesome experiences over here.  We have some new amies thanks to their contacting efforts.    We visited one of them yesterday, her name is Chriss, and SHE IS AMAZING.  She already has the light of Christ in her eyes.  She is ready to accept this gospel, I just hope I'm here in Nogent when it happens.  I love this gospel so much.  This morning I found a scripture that I absolutely love, in Philippians 1:20.  "20 According to my earnest expectation and my ahope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always,so now also Christ shall be bmagnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death."  
Let us never be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but always look forward with high expectations and high hopes (Frank Sinatra anyone?) to magnify our love of Christ.  One time, my MTC teacher told me, "You can be as bold as you want, when you're doing something out of love".  That's completely true.  We can be bold in our testimony of Jesus Christ, and magnify His life through ours.  I love you and thank you all for your love and testimonies.  Thank you so much for your inspiration.  
   Avec amour, Soeur Bracken

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Zone Conference, Zeal, and Madame Zozo

Hello everyone!
This may be a somewhat shorter email, because I don't have a ton of time, but I thought I'd make it up by sending a picture of my massive District.  The members are, from left to right- Soeur McGhie (whom I absolutely love and would be content to live with at BYU afterwards, or if we never get married, I could live with her just forever), Soeur Tollefson (who sings like an angel and is so incredibly sweet and kind, and also jumped out and scared the living daylights out of me the other day).  They live with us and serve in Torcy, which is right next to our area.  Behind them is Elder Burningham, who is definitely the quiet one in the District.  But he's so sincere in his desire to serve, he is serving in Meaux with Elder Hill. Elder Bequette is standing next to Elder Burningham/ Soeur Tollefson.  He is one of our Zone Leaders, and is serving in Torcy (he was in Quimper right before I kicked him out).  Next to him is Elder Garcia, whom I know all too well, seeing as this is our third transfer in Nogent together.  But he makes me laugh, so I don't mind.  Then we have the head of the household, the District Leader, Elder Hill (yellow tie), who is pretty much my favorite.  He gave me a blessing the other day... I cried).  He is serving in Meaux with Elder Burningham.  Soeur Wynn is standing in front of Elder Hill.  She's just the best.  She keeps me going and absolutely loves her mission.  Between her and I is Elder Perez, our other Nogent Elder.  I love Elder Perez, and his zest for the mission, not to mention he helps me with my grammar.  And then there is me, the one and only Soeur Bracken.  In the front is the funniest member of the District, our other Zone Leader, Elder Glover, who is in Torcy.  They are all such champs, and of course, our District meetings/lunches are always the best.  
Zone Conference was this week.  It was great.  I had a much needed interview with President and Soeur Poznanski. They gave me some good advice, and helped me figure out how to be a better trainer and all-around better missionary.  One of the things I'd been struggling with was my desire to do the work.  But after my interviews with them and a blessing from my District Leader, it's been a lot better.  I feel like I've refound my desire to talk to people, which has been wonderful.  It's especially been nice for Soeur Wynn, who'd had to deal with a lame companion for a few days.  
We've had a lot of great moments this week, like finding out that Souleyman has been keeping ALL of his engagements, and also, a member, Mamie, who gave us a referral.  Her neighbors name is Madame Zozo.  I am SO excited to teach her, partially just because her name is Mme Zozo.  Our amie, Kashmira came to church yesterday, which was AWESOME.  She was finally able to, because of vacation.  She really liked it.  The Elders were also willing to help her move for 4 hours on Saturday night.  Love those Elders.  We've been super blessed this week, and I love it.  We're going to really try to focus on living up to our potential this week, knowing that we'll see miracles everystep of the way.  I love you all, continue on in the work!
   Have a great week!
           Soeur Bracken