Monday, November 30, 2015

Une belle vie dans une belle ville

Tuesday: my first full day in my new sector! Had a rendez-vous with one of our Chinese amis that afternoon. We talked about temples and it went really really well, she's awesome :) we mostly spoke in English because she preferred it that way, although we would generally clarify things in Chinese just to make sure she understood fully. After that we went shopping because we were going to celebrate Thanksgiving gosh dang it and we needed the food to do it. While at the store we grabbed a super awesome whisk too, more on that in a bit. Shopping took a long time, and after that we just went home because we have to be home by dark due to safety precautions in France right now. It was a good chance to unpack, make dinner, and bond with my companion and the Porte-des-Alpes Elders :) also at noon we got me a public transport pass at the gare and we talked to a cool Romanian lady working there, her English was super good and she told us it was because she watched a lot of movies. The evidence speaks for itself, if you want to learn a language, study and watch movies to no end. Also practice with native speakers. And pray. All those things will help.

Wednesday: had a rendez-vous with one of our French-speaking amis! He's from French Guyana and really cool, and he's getting baptized on the 12th, so just a couple weeks :D little miracle of the day: we were teaching at a member's house and I was getting tired (mid-afternoon nap time will get you if you're not careful) and wishing I had something to eat so I could stay awake. As soon as the rendez-vous was finished, this member pulled out cake and juice for everyone! The Lord takes care of his servants :)

Thursday! Potatoes evvveeerrrywhere. We had Thanksgiving dinner with a bunch of our Chinese friends and it was unbelievably amazing! I'll send pictures so you can see for yourself, the food was delicious, partly just because it was made with love. Elder Bleak and I aren't professional chefs but we made some awesome mashed potatoes (you would've been proud, Dad). Turkey was nowhere to be found so got two chickens and then confessed to the girl we had the rendez-vous with and her roommate that we had no idea how to cook a chicken. They took over from there and made delicious chicken for everyone. A Chinese member whom Elder Bleak baptized about three weeks ago is an amazing cook, and she made one of the most American apple pies I've ever seen. Man, everything was super good and everyone contributed something. Elder Tomlinson made the roll dough for us because he's nice, but the pretzel salad was an utter disaster. After making our own whipped cream by using our fancy new whisk for 20 minutes and getting an awesome tricep workout, it wasn't thick enough and the jello flowed down into the pretzels and made sweet raspberry flavored mush that just made you feel sad. Ça arrive des fois. We had a really great time with all our friends anyway and they all really enjoyed learning what an American Thanksgiving is like!

Quick note about our friends: they're all university students working on their Master's degrees and just barely older than we are, so it's really easy to quickly form friendships and not seem like a robot with no feelings who just wants to teach lessons and baptize people. Missionaries are real people! We're friendly, really :D

Friday: fun day today! We went to the Vieil Ville and saw some super cool things. Not too many Chinese people (unusual, apparently normally there are lots) but we saw the St. Jean Cathedral and lots of cobblestones and talked to a really enthusiastic French dude that met some missionaries I think in Ecully, out in West Lyon. He invited us to come to his restaurant, so we'll probably be back there sometime soon. We met one of our Chinese amis at the library where he was studying and then got Burger King with him, apparently you're allowed to eat in French libraries... actually maybe just that one, there was a snack bar inside anyway. It's the big bibliothèque right across from the Gare Part-Dieu in Lyon, check it out on Google street view if you want! It's huge.

Saturday: so awesome. Baptism!! We went to the Ecully chapel (not where we go to church, the other chapel in Lyon) and attended the baptism of a Nigerian guy who was taught by the Confluence French Elders, currently Elders Acheson and Keller. This guy is also the best friend of our French Guyana-an ami, so today we had this new member help us teach our ami about tithing. It was cool :) on the way back from the baptism I talked to an old, super nice French lady on the bus about how pretty Lyon was (holy cow Lyon is so beautiful. Crossing the Rhône or the Saone when the sun is going down and all the buildings and the water are reflecting the light and you can see the basilica on top of Fourvière... ahhhh it's so amazing). That night we played a Chinese card game at the Institute and made two new friends because of it! They were both going to come to church the next day, but one ended up having too much homework and the other had to go to the doctor, oh well. We'll see them again this week, and we did have a couple friends at church anyway!

Sunday: Elder Bleak had to do the French-English translation at church for a few people, and then he had to teach the lesson in Sunday School on the fly. He's impressive. Church is super awesome! If you haven't been to an LDS church service, I formally invite you to go to one this Sunday. You'll like it! :D

Wow, long letter. Ça va. I love you all and I know that this church is true! I mentioned that we taught our ami about tithing today. Some people have cool stories about huge miracles that happened because they paid tithing. I don't have one of those stories, but I do have the peace of mind that comes from knowing that I've kept God's commandments. In the end, that's just as good or better! I've heard it said that it's easier to live the Gospel 100% than it it to live it 98%. I wholeheartedly agree with that, the more commandments we keep the more we realize the blessings that God promises really do come! If there's anything going on in your life that you know isn't in accordance with God's laws, try changing it and see what happens! I know that you'll see greater peace and happiness if you do.

Have a good week!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Picture: Last day with Elder Jenkins!

Pictures: Frere Zinsius, slight football casualty, more Geneva!

Pictures: Creek, dinosaur, Switzerland, & lunch w/ Elders Acheson/Steadman

Pictures: English class flyer, Virgin Mary, Swiss train, and Lausanne!

Pictures: Geneva and Julmust from IKEA :D

The Lǐ'áng Dynasty

Life is good in France. I ate pizza, I walked around in the cold, I sat in a chair, and I continue to ask myself: "What would Jesus do?"

It's really hard to see people in St. Genis because they're always working or otherwise away, but there are miracles quand même! For example: we went out for lunch on Thursday at the Chinese buffet about a 40 minute walk away. We wanted to have five conversations between home and there, so we got one on the way to centre ville and then went to opposite sides of the street to try solo contacting! It was kind of fun, I talked to a girl about my age outside a boulangerie and she was decently interested so hopefully something will come of that soon :) by the time we got to the restaurant, we'd had six conversations! It was awesome, we talked to a guy from Martinique who lives in Texas and works in the oil industry. At the buffet, I said nihao to the lady and when she realized that I kind of spoke Chinese, it totally made her day! She was coming back to our table like every 30 seconds and teaching me the right way to eat Chinese food and all this stuff, it was really awesome :) being bilingual has its perks!

On Saturday we went out contacting before lunch with the goal of getting three conversations, and our last one ended up being with an Evangelical Peruvian guy (in French). It turned into a lesson as we were walking and talking all the way from the closer bus stop back to the Intermarché by our house, all about the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and Joseph Smith. He didn't fully agree with us, but the more we talked the friendlier he got, until finally when we said goodbye, he would have accepted a Book of Mormon if we'd had one in Spanish. He also said "Que Dieu vous bénisse!" which is something that we say to people a lot, so it was cool.

But anyway, Friday. That's the day you all wanted to hear about in the first place because that was the day of *drumroll* transfer calls! Normally Président calls us around 10:30, but our phones were being dumb like normal and couldn't get a signal, so we weren't able to get our calls until 11:30. Crazy stressful wait :0 but the calls finally came! Elder Jenkins will be staying in St. Genis and training for the first time, so the second missionary to be trained in St. Genis arrives to the mission tomorrow! As for me, I hopped on the 7:30 train to Lyon on the way to... Lyon.

That's right folks! It's the big city life for me now! I'm officially serving in Confluence with Elder Bleak (pronounced like "steak") or 白长老! We're an official Chinese équipe, it's super exciting :) we go to church in Confluence which is the southern part of Lyon, but as Chinese missionaries we get free reign of the entire city :D we also live in the Porte-des-Alpes apartment with those Elders, a trio, so it's a five-man apartment. Super crazy. I think there will be some great things happening here very soon, so I'll be sure to keep you posted!

Just remember: God has a plan for each and every one of you, but that doesn't mean we can't choose whether to be happy or not. If you read the Bible and Book of Mormon and follow the teaching of Jesus Christ, you will find that living the way He lived and the way He counseled will bring true, lasting happiness. I know that's true because I've seen that the peace, stability, and happiness in my own life come directly from my adherence and the adherence of my family and friends to the teachings of Christ. Please oh please, once you have started on the path of happiness, don't leave it! The world can make other things seem tempting, but it's only an illusion. Christ really is "the light and the life of the world." Follow Him!


Monday, November 16, 2015

Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

[editors note: this is his first email following the terrorist activity in Paris, arriving 3 days after the attacks.  In prior emails he's sent pictures of and discussed the refugees coming through the train stations he uses very commonly.  We are so grateful that despite the proximity to these tragic events his heart has been filled with love rather than anger.]

Please read the following.

Allow me to combine Matthew chapter 5 and Luke chapter 6:

  • Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
  • But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
  • And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also.
  • Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.
  • That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
  • For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.
  • And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.
  • And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.
  • But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.
  • Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:
  • Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Despite the sad events of Friday, this has been one of the most successful weeks of my mission! We taught a lot more lessons than normal due to people kindly letting us in to talk when we brought them homemade cookies (Elder Jenkins' idea) :) we had a soirée familiale (family home evening) with the miracle family that I talked about before. That went really well, I'm learning a really valuable in being your amis' friend before being their teacher. It's not about the numbers, people! It's about truly helping people to come unto Christ. As you can see above, the things Christ taught are what guide us on the path to perfection. It's a commandment, which means that He provides a way for us to get there! If you don't know what that way is, ask the missionaries! They should be able to explain it :)

On Wednesday night we stayed in the English Elders' apartment because we were getting up super early on Thursday to get to Chambéry for district meeting. It was a great meeting despite the tiredness and we got kebab afterward, so all was well :) that afternoon we were on a bus and taught the basic beliefs of our religion to a man from Kenya who is almost certain to look up the missionaries in Kenya any day now, since he was just in Geneva for two weeks. He was cool :D

On Friday I was on exchange with the Zone Leaders in Geneva, they were working on transfer recommendations but that evening we got to go see some amis and less-actives, it was really awesome and I learned how to be a better missionary and better teacher :)

Saturday and Sunday we had stake conference! It was suuuuper awesome! Elder Holmer, an area seventy, spoke at both sessions and gave us amazing counsel :) I encourage you all to go look up the talk "The Balm of Gilead" by Boyd K. Packer. You won't regret it!

Je vous aime! Dieu vous aime! Il aime tout le monde!

Un pécheur qui continue d'essayer,
Elder Jensen

Monday, November 9, 2015

Europe is small potatoes and big miracles

Seriously though, someone oughta get a few Idahoans over here to show Europe how to grow decent-sized potatoes. I miss them :(

Je suis pressé mais il faut vous dire ce qui s'est passé cette semaine! Actually first off: to my little sisters and Carter: I loved y'all's Halloween costumes! Way to be cultural (start 'em young, right?) :D

So yeah, last Tuesday was just a crazy crazy day which I must tell you about! It began like any other. We got up and did our studies and all was well. We had a rendez-vous planned with a member that was going to help us out. That member speaks English but does not speak Spanish by the way, that's important. We originally were going to meet a woman from Romania who speaks really good French, but that fell through with enough warning to get a rendez-vous with a woman from Bolivia. We had our lesson in the Gex chapel and all was well except for the trilingualness of it. I tried to speak a little Spanish but it wasn't going super well, so mostly we had to switch between French and English the whole time. It was a little distracting trying to figure out what language to say something in, but we managed! Later that day we went to Thoiry to do a passback for a woman who Elder Pien and I had found way back in August and was potentially interested in a Primary manual-type thing, something to help teach her children good values as they grew up. We had printed off some example Primary-type lessons to give her and see if that's what she was looking for, she seemed a little surprised but happy to see that we remembered after like 2 and a half months of no contact. On the way down the hill we noticed a car whose inside light was still on, and we all know from personal experience that that can make the next morning an absolute nightmare. We knocked on the door expecting the guy inside to come and immediately wave us away, but he was very kind and we explained what the situation was. It turns out it was his wife's car so he got her to go turn the light off and then suddenly invited us inside. We were confused but we went in, and then he proceeded to invite us to have a seat in his living room. Thoroughly perplexed now we sat down and had no idea what to expect. He sat down across from us and said, "Well, what do you want to tell us?" We hadn't even explained who we were or anything. That is the kind of thing you only hear when the Lord has really prepared someone to meet you and then led you to be in the right place at the right time. Completely stunned, we taught him about the blessings of the temple and how our families can be together for all eternity. He seemed to really like what we were teaching and said that he would read the Book of Mormon whan we invited him to do so. Then, to make a miraculous situation even better, he invited us to have dinner right then and there with him, his wife, and their two kids. We didn't know what to say so of course we ended up staying, we'd been on the way back home for dinner anyway. The food was delicious and we did a little recap of our lesson during dinner for the family members that hadn't heard it. Afterward, the husband gave us a ride down to the bus stop in the very car that was the reason we'd stopped in the first place! Funny how things come full circle like that.

The family lives right next to an awesome member family too, so we'll be organizing a family home evening with the two families hopefully this week! That one story is all I have time for, but let it be a testimony to you that the Lord is preparing people to hear the message He has for them! This Gospel is for everyone and everyone needs to have the chance to accept it because it really will bless the life of anyone and everyone, whether they be a super rich Italian guy on the Côte d'Azure or a poor honest farmer in his Alpine cottage.

Bonne continuation à tous!

Monday, November 2, 2015

...Lausanne city so so pretty, gotta get down Lausanne town

Yeah we went to Lausanne again. More on that in a bit.

Tuesday we went to go see a golden potential who is super hard to get in contact with and she was at home! It was awesome to see her and give a quick lesson there at the door. During this week we were inviting people to the Gex/St. Genis Halloween party and we thought she'd be coming, but it didn't work out. Hopefully we're seeing her tomorrow though! We had a mangez-vous with some members in St. Jean-de-Gonville and I sword fought their three-year-old kid. He won.

Wednesday we went to MacDo in Val-Thoiry with a member who had an idea for us to give virtual tours of the chapel, Google Street View style, to people on the street so they'd know exactly what the church is like on the inside. Once we clear it with Président, it'll be cool! We saw a cool Italian member in the branch, got a recorder from a thrift store, had a conversation with a Portuguese guy in a very Portuguese grocery store, and had dinner with a beautiful young family in the branch who live in Collonges. The husband served his mission in Utah, and he opened my eyes to what it's like being a full time missionary in Utah. Good gracious.

Thursday was district meeting in Gex! Elder Walters, being the half-Brazilian that he is, made us delicious Brazilian food along with passion fruit juice. For dessert we had ice cream with fried bananas and brown sugar. Oh, and the spiritual part was good too ;) But really, it was. We all went around the district, including the zone leaders who came, and bore our testimonies as per the challenge that Elder Adler gave us back in September. Super awesome :D after the meeting everyone else had rendez-vous, so Elder Jenkins and I were left to clean up. While we were doing dishes, a guy walked into the building wanting to know more because a member in Gex ward had talked to him about the Gospel. We taught him a quick lesson and went to his house later on to teach more formally, which was cool! His wife isn't interested right now, but she is Chinese so I got to speak a little 中文 with her and her parents who are visiting :)

Friday we had zone conference, in Lausanne again! It was cool to go back and the conference was fantastic. They did a few activities, one which involved calling your amis right there and fixing a rendez-vous and the other involved shooting people with Nerf guns. Let's just say Sœur Brown is a super cool mission mom :) Also as part of the conference we got to hear the testimonies of the six missionaries in Geneva and Lausanne zones who finish their missions this transfer, namely Elder Rosas (Ireland), Elder Ahlemeyer (Germany), Elder Kimbergt (France), Elder Tihopu (Tahiti), Elder Kettler (Hungary), and Elder Hladky (Austria). All six were fantastic and I'll be sad to see them go in just a couple weeks :( Friday night was the Halloween party! It's not a gigantic holiday in France, but it's still pretty widely celebrated it seems.

Saturday. Happy Halloween! In the morning, only the refrigerator in our apartment worked. Saturday afternoon, everything worked which includes the oven, the dishwasher, the clothes washer, and the dryer. In the morning Elder Steadman and Elder Acheson (the moving crew) came and replaced our broken washing machine with a new one. Frère Zinsius, the member who lives downstairs, is an electrician so he fixed everything else. Yay! That evening we went to Genève for the English ward's Halloween party. Elder Jenkins, having brown pants, a blue sweater, and red hair, went as Elder Tintin while I, being a proud Portlander, went as a hipster. Thing is, I don't think anyone knew I was wearing a costume. They assumed the sunglasses with the punched-outs lenses were real and that I'd just been in Europe long enough to adopt the skinny pants, tight sweater, and scarf. While the latter may be slightly true, it's not what I was going for! Oh well. It was a fun party, I talked to a cool Indian guy and spoke a little Hindi to him and his wife (they loved it)! About half the ward is American, so it was a very American, very Mormon Halloween party (i.e. totally normal for me). They had a trunk or treat afterward too! Elder Smith thought everything was super weird and funny because they don't do Halloween where he's from in England. After the fête we stayed at the Zone Leaders' apartment in Ferney because it takes too long to get home to St. Genis and it's easier to get from Ferney to Gex for church.

Yesterday, Sunday, we got up got out the door on the way to church, but found that we'd missed the bus we wanted by about ten minutes and they only come every hour. We didn't want to wait 50 minutes at the bus stop, but before we could even think about what to do some Gex ward members pulled up right in front of us! It was an awesome miracle and gave us time that morning to do our weekly planning that we hadn't been able to get to recently. Church was good, the branch council was super awesome in discussing people we're working with and how we can best help them. The members here are great! For dinner we went to the Fontanellas' house and, as usual, they made us delicious delicious pasta and told us fun stories from their lives.

Today, Monday. We had zone preparation day in the Geneva Chapel which was really fun, we ate lunch and played random games together like Simon Says and Red Light Green Light. One really fun thing was that Elder Pien was back in town! He came to do his legality in Gex (since you have to do the whole process in the same ville), so he and Elder Zhu spent the day with the zone. I got to practice my Chinese a bit more and it was really cool to see Elder Zhu again after about two months (since Blues Conference)!

Wow, super crazy long letter. This morning I was reading in the Book of Mormon, Mosiah 17-23 and would like to share something about it with y'all. King Noah, a terrible guy who didn't care about his people, had a son named Limhi. Limhi had grown up seeing all his father's awful deeds and yet is described in this way: "Limhi was not ignorant of the iniquities of his father, he himself being a just man." I'd just like you all to know that there is goodness and righteousness to be found no matter where you are! Even if no one around you is willing to follow the teaching of Jesus Christ, you have the choice to do it and be a good example! So, do it!

Love you all!
Elder Jensen