Monday, May 30, 2016

We walked a lot this week

Buongiorno, la mia famiglia e gli miei amici :)

Dad, I may well have seen your plane to Spain as it flew over this area! Toulouse is a big center of aviation for France so we see a ton of airplanes all the time, but maybe one was yours! Just don't get any ideas about taking a TGV or RENFE train or anything to come see me... hehehe

We found out last Monday night from a member that there will be/are crazy grèves (strikes) going on nationwide, affecting trains, buses, and even restricting gasoline sales which means even ordinary car-owners will feel the hurt. Among it all though, we are happy and safe :)

The night after we went to another member family's house for dinner, it was awesome. Their kids are really energetic and he told us cool stories from his mission in West Africa, like teaching an Institute class at a local university to 300 non-member students, all about the Book of Mormon. Just before he left he was able to baptize the first person converted thanks to that class, and he found out later that over time, more than a hundred followed. The Book of Mormon changes lives! You won't regret reading it, I promise :)

Wednesday was a super awesome day. We actually had both lunch and dinner with members (lot of member visits this week, thanks to a lot of talking to members after church on Sunday). For lunch we went down to Fonsorbes and visited an older Italian couple who made spaghetti for us. It was sooooo good. Also the Sœurs came with us and one of them is Italian, so it was fun to see a bit of the Italian culture (which I'm determined to integrate myself into a few years from now, somehow 🇮🇹). From there we went to Muret and had dinner with a really awesome family with three kids, one of whom is a boy like 2-3 weeks older than Carter. I played foot (soccer) with them in the backyard and taught them random words in Chinese, it was really fun!

Thursday we went to Muret again and taught our ami with one of his friends who was randomly there. He has some soucis with the Word of Wisdom, but he's improving slowly so we'll see what happens there. That night we were at the church planning because...

...Friday morning we had district meeting! Woohoo! We discussed how we can find two new amis per week and what we're going to do to accomplish that. It went pretty well I think, and the rest of the district seemed to think so too :) for lunch we had baguette pizzas and then went out and did Zone Finding Day. Essentially we just jumble collègues around and then go around the city talking to people and inviting them to follow Christ :) first I was with Elder Haskin from Georgia (who served with Elder Bleak in Lyon right before I got there). He's cool. After a couple hours we switched and I got Elder Steinbock from Illinois, but he was actually born in Clackamas and lived there for a while as a kid. Fun stuff. One of his favorite hobbies is studying Church doctrine, so I made sure to ask him about that and was rewarded with some great insights into the Gospel of Jesus Christ :) That night Elder Peron and I met a recent convert who's preparing to move to London, so he wanted us to speak English with him the whole time. I wasn't sure how that would go, but he spoke surprisingly well! He says he struggles with understanding the English accents, but he'll get by. Before heading home we met a Chinese less-active and just talked to her for a while, it was sooooo nice to be able to speak Chinese again! I don't get to as much anymore, ça me manquait. Busy day!

On Saturday I called some more Chinese people and fixed a rendez-vous with one girl, we're going to see her tomorrow! We also did more gardening at a less-active's house. It was warm and sunny when we arrived, but before long it got cloudy and rainy and thundery. It brightened back up pretty quick, but then that whole night there was pas mal de (a decent amount of) lightning and thunder.

I shall tell my spiritual thought in the form of a story that took place over the course of these past couple weeks, but sort of culminated yesterday. Remember that family that lives way far away in Montréjeau, whose son will be baptized in a couple weeks? Their car's engine is destroyed, so they have no way to get to church other than spending a boatload of money on train tickets to and from Toulouse every Sunday. There are a couple members that live down that way, so Elder Peron was the key actor in calling people to help. Finally, after many phone calls and some stressful moments and some prayers, one family brought one of the five children and the rest of the family went in another car. The thing is, the driver of that second car is an awesome Tahitian member who is working on coming back to church himself. He lives in St. Girons. If you look on a map, that means he has to go pretty far out of his way to pick them up, drive to Toulouse, and then drive them back to Montréjeau before going home. He brushes it off every time people try to thank him, but the truth is he was the difference between 1) a single mother feeling joy that her children are at church learning how to act and how to be, and 2) a single mother sitting tired and lonely at home on Sunday, simply because her car doesn't work. That's a big difference!

"And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God." (Mosiah 2:17)

江长老

Friday, May 27, 2016

Pics: Picturas dos

In Toulouse with Elders Steinbock, Peron, and Peterson

 Bilingual street signs (French and Occitan)

Me planning out exchanges at MacDo after gardening



Got this picture of our amie (now recent convert!) from Lyon! Yay! It seems as though our other recent convert whom Elder Bleak baptized in February got to baptize her. So cool :D

Monday, May 23, 2016

Pics: In a really "francy" room (hahaha I'm so punny) inside the Capitole building (that last picture)




Pics: Cool double mirrors, murals, and ever heard of Fermat's last theorem? :D





Pics: Lamborghini from the train window, Place Capitole from the third story of a MacDo (yes 3-stories in a MacDo), and inside the Capitole





Did some stuff, learned some stuff, the usual

Good week y'all!

Tuesday: got tombé-ed in the morning by our engagé, so we just went and got lunch with the member that was supposed to teach with us. I got to see the inside of a French clinique (apparently clinics are like small hospitals, I never bothered to acknowledge the difference before now). I also learned how to say "to drool" in French! It's baver.

Wednesday: Uhhhh I don't remember what we did for the most part. We did some preparation for Ward Council which we were going to have the next day.

Thursday: I started calling all the Chinese people saved in the phone! Not too many people answered, but a few did. Going to be calling the rest of them this week and getting organized/hoping to start teaching some Chinese people soon! That night we had Ward Council, I thiiiiink I'm starting to get to know some people in the ward :)

Friday: Our plumbing is defective. Therefore, we had a ward member come over in the morning and check out our water heater and stuff, but he recommended we get a real plumber. Elder Peron described this guy as polyvalent (a French word) which apparently means a jack-of-all-trades. We then had zone training for a few hours and a lunch of stuffed peppers because Elder Peterson (currently serving in Tarbes) is awesome. That night we taught our ami that lives in a kinda sketchy quartier (definitely not the worst in Toulouse though) and then directly went and changed into street clothes and visited a less-active. We go over once a week apparently to help trim the trees/hedges in his backyard, it was fun :)

Saturday: Field trip! We hopped on a train far far away (not that far, just an hour and a half) to Montréjeau to see a family whose son is getting baptized in a few weeks! It was cool :) I also got to talk to Elder Bleak and get some numbers of Chinese amis and members here that I didn't have before, so hopefully we'll be seeing some reactivations going on here soon.

Sunday: Church was good, I really am getting to know the ward! We fixed a bunch of mangez-vous for the week, it'll be fun to see a bunch of members and get them involved in doing missionary work with us. For dinner I made some weird Chinese noodle soup that only tasted good if you added enough curry and cayenne pepper to make it too spicy to eat. My bad.

Today: Kind of running out of food in the apartment, so I cooked up some rice, threw in Nutella and coconut milk, and had a breakfast of cocoa rice that any Samoan would be proud of. 🌴🇼🇸 Yes I learned that at college. We had a real plumber stop by for a few minutes and fix some stuff (we hope), then we went wandering around centre ville for a while. Pictures to follow!

Here's my spiritual thought. After zone training I walked in on a discussion between Elder Peron and Elder Haskin, and learned something I'd never thought about before. It is that on a mission, we experience failure more than ever before in our lives. We want our amis, the ward, other missionaries, and ourselves all to progress, but the road to success is fraught with failure. It doesn't mean we're bad people, it just means we're trying more than ever before! It's easy to get discouraged, but just remember: not matter how many battles you lose, if you get up and keep trying, you'll always win the war.

Love y'all :D
江长老

Monday, May 16, 2016

Chui si flipping out of temps

That title pretty much describes how Elder Peron and I communicate. Mostly in French, but with the most American accent possible, even on his part. Multiple French people by now have thought he was American even when he tries to do a real normal French accent. It's funny, that's what happens when you have too many American collègues :) also Elder Peron is just a really funny guy anyway, we have a lot of laughs :)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY CARTER!! You're the best little brother ever! I love you!

And HAPPY BIRTHDAY KAYLA in just a few days!! You're the best little sister ever and I'm super grateful to be able to receive emails and pictures so I can kind of watch y'all grow and learn even though I'm not there to see it directly. Love yoooouuuuuu

But yeah, not much time. We have a less-active showing up here any minute, so I'll just let you know that I'm doing well and will have more to tell you soon! We're helping a number of different people through the lessons now, most of whom really want to progress and get baptized. It's awesome to see how the Gospel can be the driving force in your life no matter what background you're from, since we're all working toward the same goal anyway!

"Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life." (2 Nephi 31:20)

That's the goal! If you have any questions about that, read the whole chapter (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 31) and ask the missionaries. They can help you.

Elder Jensen
江长老

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Pics: Elder Peron and the inside of a train?


Garrett didn't elaborate on why he took the train picture, but it appears to be nice enough and also underutilized at the moment... :)

Monday, May 9, 2016

Pics: Transfer Day - Lyon to Toulouse!

Elder Walters, Jenkins, Pittsenbarger, and Spencer - All four of them heading home...

Leaving Lyon


Trapped behind a wall of luggage


Ever wonder where denim comes from? De Nîmes... look it up


Montpellier

I'm so far away from everything I know...

Which is exactly why I'm here. Bonjour from Toulouse :)

I figured I was leaving Lyon since I'd already been there for 4 transfers (about 6 months), but didn't have a clue where I was going. However, the Lord did! I don't have a ton of time, but I'm doing well.

Before I get into that, CONGRATULATIONS to my little sister Candace who got baptized on Saturday! She got baptized the same day as our amie in Lyon, now one of the newest members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints :) It was so fun to see everyone's smiling faces on Sunday when we skyped, even though it was early in the morning where you are. I love my family! Happy Mother's Day to all you mothers out there!

Our train from Lyon was delayed half an hour, so I didn't have time to go running around Montpellier (or even grab lunch there) like I'd hoped, but we did make it onto the train to Toulouse just fine. It was crazy once we passed Valence since I knew every second I was heading further and further south than I've ever been in the mission. We went through Nîmes, Montpellier, Béziers, Narbonne, and Carcassonne before arriving here. My new collègue is Elder Péron from Calais (way up in the north of France), and yes he speaks English. Still, definitely going to be improving my French this transfer! I'll keep up the Chinese as much as possible by working with the Chinese amis and members and random people on the street where I can, but they're mostly in the Capitole sector and we're assigned to Concorde, on the other side of the river. For further clarification, shoot me an email. This transfer's assignment is a little complicated :P

The baptême on Saturday was really really good! Our amie wanted me to do most of the planning for it for some reason (Elder Pien and Zhu practically weren't allowed to help), and I can tell you I learned that there's a lot more to it than just showing up and filling the font. The mission is a good training ground for life, I'm trying to take advantage of it! I'll send pictures in just a minute.

For my spiritual-type thought, I'd like to talk a bit about the Book of Mormon. I finished it this past week (in English, now I'm restarting in French) and during the past few months as I've been reading it, I've been finding a bunch of stuff that I swear I've never seen before. For example, Alma 46:40: "And there were some who died with fevers, which at some seasons of the year were very frequent in the land—but not so much so with fevers, because of the excellent qualities of the many plants and roots which God had prepared to remove the cause of diseases, to which men were subject by the nature of the climate—" I found that scripture really interesting, not in a spiritual sense per se, but just because I don't remember ever reading that little fact or hearing about it before. The more you read the more you'll find those little nuggets, whether they be just good advice or the thing you really needed to hear to make it through the day. I know the scripture are true! They come through prophets from God so that we'll know what we should do to return to Him, and so we'll always have His words with us wherever we go.

Je vous aime!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Pics: P-day, pens, chinese food and Elder Lindsey




That's Elder Lindsey on the train he is beau.

Video: So, these 3 missionaries go into an elevator....

video video

The times, they are a-changing

Holy news from back home Batman! Thanks for writing me all you wonderful siblings :)

We had a good week and I shall now attempt to tell you some stuff about it.

After last p-day, I went on exchange in Chalon-sur-Saône as I mentioned in my last letter. It was super awesome, Elder Lindsey's great :) the town reminds me of Portland in the wintertime, just clouds, a cold breeze, and scattered showers aaalllll the time. A bit dreary, but the people there can be surprisingly nice! The people in Lyon too, we almost never have people being straight up rude to us when we try to talk to them. Don't let anyone tell you French people are rude, it's not true!

We got stuck in an elevator. We were heading out of our apartment on the way to the Institute and suddenly it just slammed to a halt halfway past the first floor. Better than falling into the basement, right? We hit the alarm button and struck up a conversation with the lady outside knocking on the door wondering why it wouldn't open, and she called some people to come rescue us. It was fun! Just 30 minutes stuck inside, c'était pas trop grave.

Also my cooking skills are coming along, I don't get much chance to practice because all my companions/Elder Tomlinson are better at it than I am, but I did make a ton of fried rice that was pretty good :) 炒饭很棒。That was for a fun activity we did at the church to help our Chinese amis get integrated with some French JAs (jeunes adultes, French for YSA).

As far as amis go, things are well. We asked our tallest engagée (who has had nearly all the lessons) if she'd like to move her date up and she replied "not at all," but she's still on track for the end of May, so no worries. We have a baptism planned for this Saturday too, so pray that that works out! Baptism is so awesome! We helped our amie getting baptized this week translate her testimony into French and English, it's cool to be able to see the miracles she's experienced during her journey of investigating the Church.

For my spiritual thought, I have a quote that I read recently. It's a little long, but super good:

"Can any of us literally eat bread and think it stone? Or look at a fish and think it a serpent? Or hold an egg and feel a scorpion’s sting? I suppose it is possible for us to experience such illusions, but it would be our perception and not the thing itself that is distorted.
God, not being a product of man’s thinking, is not limited by man’s perception of him, and his ways are not defined by man’s perception of them. We are blessed to live in a time when he has told us how to better know him and his ways if we want to do so. We may taste cold stone or feel the scorpion’s sting in unanswered prayer; or, by trusting his love and learning to perceive his blessings, we may eat bread and fish and eggs, and grow."

God answers prayers, that is certain. Converted members of this church know for certain that God lives, and they know that no earthly knowledge could have allowed them to learn that. No matter what anyone says, truth cannot be changed. We have the truth, which is why I'm out here talking to complete strangers who become fast friends, because we want them to know the truth the same way we do.

If you're not sure if God lives, if this is His church, if the Book of Mormon is true, or if Thomas S. Monson is a prophet who has authority from Jesus Christ himself, go study it. Then think about it. Ask yourself if it could really be true and what that would mean for you personally. Then find a quiet, private place and pray to your Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ to know if it's true, and He will let you know. Maybe a voice, maybe just a feeling, maybe some other subtle sign, but He will show you. I testify in the name of Jesus Christ that that's true!

Elder Garrett Jensen
江长老