Tuesday, January 21, 2014

I don't even know what to call this e-mail...aside from awesome!

    Well, friends, this is it.  Soeur Holmes and I had an awesome week these past seven days.  Right now I'm in the weird phase of being like, "Wow, last week I was sitting here writing emails, and by this time next week, well, honestly, I'll probably be writing emails, but from a different computer, and to missionaries and members instead of friends and family."  But really, I can honestly say I've been very proud of myself.  Soeur Holmes and I have been staying focused, and I've been trying to make sure we have time for finding and contacting these past couple of days, instead of just going around and seeing everyone I want to see.  Here are some cool experiences I had a few days ago.  We were out contacting, and we talked to this 18 or 19 year old Belge girl, Deborah, on the street.  It was such a good moment to talk with her.  We talked about how Christ can help us, and we prayed with her.  I just felt so good afterwards, and I'm so excited to call her to fix another time.  Later on in the day, we were sitting on the tram.  I turned to Soeur Holmes to copy down some of the things she had written in her agenda.  Across from me was sitting a woman.  In my head, I thought to myself, "I have a totally justifiable reason to not talk to this woman.  I am doing something that I need to do (copying stuff down from the other agenda)."  I then said to myself, "I have lots of stuff I need to do.  However, that is not what I am HERE to do.  I am here to talk to people and invite them to Christ."  So I put down my agenda, and started up a conversation with a woman whom I came to find was named Martha.  Martha is from Brazil.  She knows the church already, in fact, she's already been to the church in Brazil before.  She is very sweet, and kind, and even though we were on a crowed tram, I asked if I could leave her with a word of prayer, so she and I folded our arms, and bowed our heads close together, and I offered a sweet, simple, prayer.  It made me so happy to have decided to talk to this woman (and don't worry, I got her number from her!).  We also had a miracle this weekend with our amie, Emilia.  She, and Gustavo (a young adult in the ward), came with us to have a FHE with another Brazlian family in the ward.  The evening went super well, and we finished with the four of us going to the church to see the end of the baptism of Landrine, a wonderful sister that Elder Alfaro and Elder Bananier taught.  Emilia loved it.  She talked with some people that she had met before, and had a great time.  The next day (aka, yesterday), we had another rdv with the Perez family (the family that introduced us to Emilia) and Emilia.  And when she came, she didn't come by herself, she also brought her two daughters, Daniella and Béatrice, and her boyfriend, Manuel, who is also from Portugal.  It was PERFECT.  We had planned to watch 'The Restoration' film, so before beginning, Emilia explained to her daughters what prophets were.  Gustavo was also there and helped explain.  Then all 10 of us watched the film.  I felt the spirit tell me to place my trust in the inspiration of this film, and I truly felt the spirit.  Afterwards we asked them questions about the film, then watched as Daniella (age 8) and Béatrice (age 10) offered their very first non-memorized prayers.  It was beautiful.  
     I've noticed my thoughts becoming more and more easily distracted with thoughts of going home and such, but I've also felt the Lord's strength in helping me get up every morning and keep going.  Lots of missionaries ask me how I'm feeling, and sometimes, I just tell them, "As far as I'm concerned, tomorrow I'm waking up at 6h30, and Soeur Holmes is going to make me go running."  Bishop Keesling thanked me for my work yesterday at the end of Sacrament Meeting, which was so sweet to me.  I love that man, he is so kind, and I love this ward!  Belgium has been having an awesome winter, which makes the thought of coming home to the dreaded cold even harder.  But I know we are all called for a specific time, and that Soeur Nilsson, who will be taking my place here in Louise, will do a wonderful job with Soeur Holmes.  Today President talked about how we all have specific missions and sometimes we work really hard and we accomplish what the Lord asked of us, and then He gives us a new mission.  So... I'm excited to see what the Lord has in store for me.  But, until that moment comes, I'm still Soeur Bracken!  I am so blessed, and these past 18 months have done more for me than anything else I could possibly have dreamt of doing.  I've made some eternal friends, and I know for SURE that the Lord has been with me throughout these months (although we all have moments when we distance ourselves from the Lord).  He loves us, like, seriously, He loves us so much.  John 3:16, people, JOHN 3:16!  We can all change, we can all become better.  His grace is sufficient!  I want everyone to just take 30 seconds of your life to think about that phrase.  "His grace is sufficient..."  Sufficient for what?  For the tiny children who are taken from this world while still in their innocence?  For all the righteous people who lived in the time of Enoch or King Benjamin?  People in our day?  His grace is sufficient, but for what?  To forgive us of our little sins?  To heal us when we're broken-hearted?  Even with depression?  With anger?  The answer to all of the above, as I'm sure you know, is "Yes".  End of sentence.  In Moroni and D&C 18, and in other places in the scriptures, the Lord simply says, "My grace is sufficient for you."  End of sentence.  Through the Lord, and only through the Lord, can we expect any real progress in this life.  I love Him so much.  
                 Soeur Bracken

Monday, January 20, 2014



 1) Emilia (next to me), her daughters, and Sister Perez, and her daughter, and us
2) Gustavo, Emilia, and us
3) Our DMP, André, (in the middle) the wards missionaries (Jacob and Gustavo), and us.  It's awesome to have such a strong, YOUNG missionary force in the ward
4) My umbrella got taken out by the bus this week... As you can see, Soeur Holmes was heartbroken
5) Victoria Palomaki and us.  She is our favorite little girl, and her parents are the most legit members of the ward!  She speaks french, swedish, and is learning english.  Her mom told us that one day, she said, "Mama, quand les missionnairs viennent, on parle english!"  Which translate to "Mama, when the missionaries come, we speak english! (only she actually did say 'english' in english.  That little girl is so smart!).
6)  And finally, our awesome Zone- For our District, Elder Platt is now going to Strasbourg, Elder Bananier is going to be Zone Leader in Antony (Paris area).  Elder Christensen is going to Versailles, and me, well... I might run away to the south of France.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Only one full week left?!?!

Dearest friends,

It's only fitting to share a little scripture with you, especially
since this scripture is an absolute powerhouse, and is our mission
theme for this next year.  We find it in D&C 64: 33-34
     33 Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the
foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that
which is great.

 34 Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the
willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these
last days.

This past week, Soeur Holmes and I were able to go down to Paris for a
giant Mission Leadership council, it was very spiritual, and we loved
it.  I also was able to finally get my Christmas package!  Thanks Mr.
and Mrs. Claus!  Haha, and also, due to a small joke I had with the
office elders, inside my box I found an extra present, a container of
Ferrero Rochers!  The six missionaries on the train enjoyed them, and
in fact, we gave one to the guy sitting with us, and we ended up
having a awesome conversation with him on the train about the church.
We also had our Zone Conference, and I gave my dying testimony.  It
was weird.  I didn't cry.  Soeur Holmes and I also gave a training
about being positive and having faith.  I think we actually did a
pretty decent job.  Of course, even with 7 other Zone Conferences
going on at the same time, of course it was ours that President
decided to come to.  Stressful... This week, I also did exchanges with
Soeur Callister and Soeur Hilton.  Soeur Callister is so sweet.  It
was super cool to be with her, because nine months ago, when she was
in her first transfer, we did our exchanges together!  I was her first
exchange companion, and now, 9 months later, she was one of my last!
It was also cool, because now she is training in Arras and has her own
baby girl.  Gotta love mission life.  We had a great time together.  I
also finally got to do an exchange is Liège, which is something I've
been wanting to do since July!  Haha, and it didn't let me down!
Soeur Hilton and I saw some miracles from passing by people and
contacting.  She's super sick right now (like half of the sisters in
the mission it seems like...), but we still carried on.  Satureday was
also an eventful day.  I reached a milestone in my mission - I've
officially been gone 18 months!  Soeur Holmes and I celebrated by
eating Indian food.  The Lord also rewarded our work by helping us
find 6 new amies!  We taught two women who live right by us, then we
taught again the cousin of a family in the ward, and then, that
evening, we met a mom and her daughter on the tram, and they let us
come over and share a spiritual thought with them and her son.  The
mom is from Angola, and speaks... portuguese.  But her french is
alright, and my portuguese is just enough to make them laugh and break
the ice.  We were able to fix another rdv with them also!  Seriously,
so blessed.  Another awesome moment came yesterday, Sunday.  Filipe
came to church with Gustavo.  Now, obviously, this is good and bad.
Maria wasn't there, which is a bummer, because she was tired and
hadn't slept well.  But Filipe came by himself!!!  How amazing is
that?  He also shared with us why Maria was tired and not sleeping
very well... they are expecting another child!  Hooray!  We visited
last night and had a wonderful lesson.  I know someday that Filipe is
going to get baptized!
      Well, hope you liked my longer-than-usual letter.  It's been a
great week, and I look forward to what we have in store this week!
            Je vous aime, tous et toutes!
                       Soeur Bracken

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Just 2 weeks!

Two weeks from today is Lexi's homecoming talk. She will be speaking in the Perry 7th ward Sacrament Meeting. Sacrament meeting starts at 1:00 pm. 2450 South, just west of Highway 89. When you see the Heritage Theatre turn immediately West. Chapel is across the street from the Perry Park.
Lunch and refreshments served afterwards @ the Bracken house. 2435 South 500 West, Perry.

Monday, January 6, 2014

"How do feel now that your are dying?"

Dear friends,
Well, it's that time of week again!  You get to choose whether to read my email or to save it and think to yourself that you'll read it later, haha, like THAT's going to happen... 
But seriously, every person that I send this email to is a personal friend of mine, and I am so grateful for all the positive affects you have on my life.  

   So, bonne année!  I hope 2014 has started off on a wonderful note for everyone!  For us, on Monday, I was on exchange with Soeur Stapley, we went and visited Grace and Sandra, two recent converts from this past summer.  They are so adorable.  Soeur Stapley and I did some contacting the next day.  Did I already mention that we live in mini Brazil/Portugal?  Got to learn portuguese!  We contacted a lady, and asked her about Christmas.  She repeated the question to herself in her native language, and I distinctly heard the word 'natal', and I said to myself, "I know that word!  I used it yesterday in my email to my family!  That's portuguese for Christmas!"  I guessed Portugal, turns out she was from Brazil.  We also saw Thérèse and Catherine, two of our amies.  I love them all so much, I just want to see them have their own testimony of these things!  New Year's Eve a bunch of the missionaries went over to the Palomaki's, and then to Marie-Pierre's house.  I LOVE THEM ALL SO MUCH!  I can't send a picture this week, because my camera is dead, but I'll send one next week.  The next day, we slept in.  I'm not going to lie, Soeur Holmes has said I've been doing pretty well on not getting trunky, but having a little taste of sleeping in like that makes me EVER so excited to be able to sleep in again soon.  But I know at the same time, I'll be so sad to leave this place.  We went over to a member, Claude Bernard, the evening, and watched 'Ephraim's Rescue'.  Good film!  We had our very first District Meeting of the transfer this past week, which is crazy, because is was already week 4!  We also went on exchanges with Valenciennes again.  I got to be with Soeur Whisler again!  She and I really get along, and we had some good moments during our exchange.  Haha, she is in her third transfer, and already has dreams of being an Sister Training Leader in Paris.  She asked me how I felt when I was called to be STL, and was a little shocked when I replied, "I was ticked.  I didn't want to do it!"  Haha, good times.  I also told her it was because I didn't like doing exchanges, she replied "You don't like doing exchanges?" and I said, " I DIDN'T like doing them.  I love them now."  She and others have asked me recently, "So... What is it like to be dying?"  For all the young missionaries, it's just so unfathomable to think about actually going home.  I remember those days... Saturday we ate dinner at Maria and Filipe's with the family Queiroz.  Haha, SO good.  Portuguese food is delicious.  I'm so jealous of President and Sister Fluckiger.  I adore Queiroz, because during our lesson, he had enough courage to ask Filipe why he hadn't been baptized yet.  I think that helped coming from Queiroz, and not from us.  Yesterday, we had a surprise meal right after church with the family Nascimento, again, a family from Brazil.  They are so cool.  They invited over two friends, and then today, had another friend over, that we were able to pass by and meet.  The Lord is with us, and we are so blessed.  I am so tired all the time, but I love my life, although it's true, 10:29 pm may still be my favorite time of day.  Today Soeur Holmes' wallet was stolen while we were shopping.  But, after trying to cancel her cards (a lot harder process than you would have thought) and many silent prayers, we were finally able to cancel her card and look at her account- no money had been spent.  Blessings!  Well dear friends, share the gospel, and remember the wise words of Alma 5: 44-45 - Make sure you know these things for yourself!
                                           Soeur Bracken

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Thinkin' I got called to the wrong language....

Feliz Natal!  Oh, in case you didn't know, I got transfered from the France Paris Mission to the Brazil Bresilia Mission, or... at least it feels like it.  Haha, so much Portuguese!  C'est incroyable!  For the past couple of weeks, we had been trying to hard to have a FHE with Maria/Filipe and Brother and Sister Queiroz, who are from Brazil.  We FINALLY succeeded in having the FHE at the Queiroz's house.  Unfortunately, Fililpe wasn't able to come, but Maria came with her mom and son, and absolutely LOVED it.  She and Soeur Queiroz are both young moms, and got along splendidly.  The next night was a Christmas party at a member's house, and Maria and Filipe came together!  It was wonderful.  We drove down with them and Gustavo, and they just loved it.  They are getting incorporated into the ward! Hooray!  We also brought out amie, Suzette, haha, which was last minute... Oh, that was hectic.  But, she made some friends at the party.  The Spanish equipe has an amie that they've been working with for a while, and she has finally decided to get baptized, and she just went over and befriended Suzette, and it was wonderful!
   So, between the Brazilian FHE, and eating at a Dominican Republic member's house on Christmas Eve,  teaching a new Polish amie, visiting the mother of a member who hails from Mexico, and other similar experiences, all I've got to say is, "Welkom bij Brussel" (Dutch).  Haha, I don't know if I spelled it right, but that language gets thrown in there every once in a while also.  Christmas Eve was fantastic- We sang at Grand-Place, which was an amazing experience.  We spent Christmas Day sleeping in, then we went over to the Wright's for lunch.  And, of course, Skyping with my family was absolutely wonderful.  We had a wonderful experience this weekend also.  We FINALLY succeeded in having Maria (Filipe wasn't able to come) and her mom and son come over to the Famille Queiroz (an awesome family in the ward).  Maria ablsolutely LOVED it.  The next night, at a Christmas party at a member's house, Maria and Soeur Queiroz talked for so long!  They are already planning another evening together next weekend (haha, and yes, we also got invited).  Yay for family integration!  It made me so happy.  We also had another amie, Suzette, who came, and also made friends.  We were so blessed!  Well, I wish you all a bonne année 2014!  My year in Europe, 2013, has been one for the books!
        Avec amour,
               Soeur Bracken