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