Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Empty & Full

Hey family!!!!!

Can I just say i love you?! Cuz I do. So much. I don't know how I got so lucky, but I'm definitely not complaining about having such great family and friends!

So, the Paris Lilas side of the apartment is totally empty, cuz it's just me. The other desk is bare, the closet looks so sad, and it's just weird crawling into bed and not having someone to say goodnight to on the bottom bunk. I mean sure, you'd think the whole 24/7 together thing would get a little old, but really it is surprisingly lonely without my companion here by my side at all times! So, since I am alone, I have been working with Sister Gifford and Sister Thompson and I love working with them, but our schedule is absolutely crazy full since we're working both areas. And Paris isn't exactly what you would call a small city! It has been one adventure after another this week. But President called last night and asked if I could take a mini missionary from Tuesday to Sunday, so I'll have somewhat of a companion until Sunday. Cross your fingers she speaks French! hehe.

Somehow we have been like surrounded by men lately. Good thing is that since we're in a threesome it's easy to teach them, but also leads to some interesting experiences. Like on sunday, this muslim guy, named Mody, (contacted him on the metro a few weeks ago and has come to church the last couple weeks)(and to clarify, he has muslim origins, but doesn't "participate" with them) came to church again. And afterwards i was talking with the other sisters and was like, "yeah, im pretty sure he winked at me; we are definitely passing him to the elders AGAIN." And they both said that he winked at them too, so voilà, easy decision. But then, later on, i realized he has an eye twitch. maybe the fact that he is coming to a christian, mormon on top of that, church on sundays and he might be found out and burned at the stake or whatever by his "people" is a little stressful, hence the eye twitch. Just throwin that out there!! (fyi i wouldn't actually joke about that if i thought it was an actual concern. we are very cautious about muslims.)

The chinese elders had a baptism yesterday and it was great and we had lots of investigators there!! kind of felt like we were herding cattle for most of it trying to run around making sure everyone is being taken care of, but it is such a blessing to have people see a baptism! the spirit is always strong, and then they can see that you know as much as we talk about baptism being like this big important thing, it really is very simple and very NOT scary. And can i just say how grateful i am for members who like "get it." k we'll ask people if they can help with some of our specific investigators or something and they'll be like, "yeah, of course, i'll come say hi at the end of church!" I mean that's nice, and it does help. It'll make them feel welcome. But at the same time it's like, no i meant like can you come take care of this person? like have them come sit with you and allow us to worry about the other thousand things that have to be done. For example, Fabienne (a young adult who got back from her mission like a year ago) came up after church yesterday and just took suzie and valerie into this meeting for the young adults (i think they were planning a party or something), which was so nice! We were then able to take care of the other investigators and didn't have to worry about keeping them entertained until the baptism started, and they felt like they were actually part of the ward, instead of just the tag-alongs of the missionaries.

So we taught the law of chastity to suzie and valerie this week, and the member who came with us, may or may not have kinda given the impression that we think you can never, ever, be alone with a boy. So, we might have to do some clarifying. haha. And after church on sunday, they came up to sister thompson and said, "so, wait, there is a living prophet today?" See!!! poignant example of why church is so important! Makes up for our mistakes and when we forget to mention like only one of the more important and unique aspects of our doctrine--like that we have a prophet! Big time stone. There is this story that sister staheli sometimes shares about a recent convert (like had been baptized for a few months or even more) who went to watch general conference and came out and the missionaries asked what she learned and she said, "well, i learned that God has a body and that we have a prophet today." hahaha. Oops. Slight oversight. There are interesting statistics that talk about how the average missionary, who was born and raised in the church, has accumulated over 6000 hours of gospel learning and instruction (or some very big number, but im pretty sure i just pulled that one out) by the time they are 19, but so many converts are baptized after like 12 hours! Kinda interesting perspective.

Seriously love you guys. I miss you lots (i actually got a little teary the other night lying in bed thinking of the next time i will get to hug my parents and how great that will be. probably like the best day of my life!), but I'm so very grateful to be here!

love, jordan xoxo

tell josh and halle good job on the primary program!!! and even though i wasn't there to cry during it, you can rest assured that ill probably get all teary reading his talk when i get it in the mail!!! so all is well!

and holy cow.....exploding fingers? What? i had no idea that could happen either! that's pretty gnarly. i hope you got good pics to log that away!!!

oh and guess what we heard? Elder collins was the new group of missionaries' teacher in the MTC. they said he was hilarious!

oh and tell tara i met elder hales! actually, we're becoming buds because im kinda like a guest member of their district these days.....and i am pretty impressed with his musical talent and french. and it's so funny because the first thing that all of her friends say is, "you are just like tara."

and yes, tell susan thank you for the letter and the handkerchief…… I was very grateful!!

did i also mention that we now have an exercise bike in our apartment? Elder Ellsworth bought like this 200 euro stationary bike a while ago, but it won't fit in his new apartment and he knows it'll get thrashed if it is in an elder apartment, so he had elder jensen and elder volpe deliver it to ours. and yes, they did come by way of metro, so the videos of elder jensen riding the bike while waiting on the metro quai or riding it while in the metro are seriously hilarious!! (they said this one lady was super annoyed with them, but it was funny to see how many people just didn't even bother paying attention. so french.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Baptismal dates & Toothbrushes!

Hey gang,

How ya doin'?! Reading your emails today was so great. thank you so much!! I'm glad that Matthew Cunger's baptism was so good! Tell grandpa he should send me his talk! I'll admit that being out here gives me a little different perspective on baptisms of the kids in our family. It just seems so "easy!!" I mean sure it's like a lifetime of teaching and instructing, but just in comparison it's a whole different ballpark! So I have decided that the whole multiply and replenish the earth deal is really the best missionary tactic we could employ; we don't need more effective missionaries, we just need to be more effective reproducers!! Just sayin.

I don't really know where to start today, because so many things have happened. But I will start with transfer news (transfer is this Wednesday). Sister England is moving to Anderres, but we will still have 4 of us in the Paris Apartment. Sister Thompson & Sister Gifford will be companions and me & Sister Smart will be companions. But, just because I'm too excited about this, i am going to blurt out that our district now has 6 baptismal dates! Fasting and praying and working works I tell ya! haha. We have four and each set of elders has one (ok, so i guess not 6 in our district, but 6 in our area). So yeah, surprise!!! We set two more baptismal dates this week. December 11th was what we had planned, but we found out that that is stake conference weekend, so it looks like we'll have to do some juggling. Their names are Suzie and Valerie Roberts. They are 18 and 20 year old sisters from Madagascar. We were finally able to see them again this week and they are totally awesome! Their cousin is a member in the nogent ward, so that's how they were introduced to the church. And it's seriously interesting how the people who are elect and ready are so easy to teach and really we do nothing! I am way excited to keep working with them.

This experience, on the other hand, was rather less than amusing. I learned quickly that I don't really like talking to behavioral scientist/psychologist dudes. Long story short, this Algerian man and I are talking at a bus stop and he's telling me what he does and we are just casually conversing when all of a sudden, he interrupts me and says, "you see, by the way you are sitting, i can tell that you are open and willing to talk." and then he turns to my companion and goes, "and you aren't. You are very closed off." And then he sees a book in my bag and asks if i like to read. I say yes and pull out the book of mormon, and he asks if he can see it. I was more than happy to hand over a book of mormon to this muslim man! hehe. And then he asks me why i like the book, so i basically start bearing my testimony about it and answering, what i thought, was his question. But then he stops me abruptly again and says like, "no, no. That's the problem! In the world these days, people try to put themselves into it, and don't talk about what the book, itselt, actually talks about, etc, etc" and just goes on and on.

So, now I'm thinking, "wow i didn't realize my opinion could be wrong, combined with a wow, this dude is annoying." So I start trying to appease him by starting to relay the history of the book, and then he interrupts again and is like, "Now that's interesting. Look at your hands and how you are sitting now. Now you are getting defensive, where before you were very open." And that's about when i just wanted to yank that book back and give him a good thump with it. Defensive my butt!!! ha. I may have made some strides in the whole patience-is-a-virtue thing, but i was so done with the behavior dude!

Hiccups while making phone calls is not the best combination. Faman got a good kick out of this huge hiccup that came out of nowhere when i was talking to him this week. Initially I am like horrified, but then he's laughing, and Sister Gifford and Sister England won't stop laughing, so then I can't stop laughing, and it was a little hard to regain composure and the whole "dignity of my calling" deal during that call. But, we did manage to fix a rendezvous for the next day after english class. And that rendezvous was hilarious as well. He starts out by saying "k we're only going to talk a little, because I don't want a headache." okay, faman. And then we finish talking about God and prayer and he just blurts out, "okay. That's enough for tonight." Okay, faman! And really, it's refreshing to know exactly where he's at! No unnecessary guessing games with him, that is for sure.

So, sunday afternoon, Becky taught us how to make Thai food, and it was definitely an adventure. I am now practically a professional shrimp de-pooper. yup, that's right. I was definitely glad i didn't bother to ask what i was actually doing until i was almost done removing all the "poopings" (as she called them)! We also learned how to make and roll spring rolls and coconut rice. And we didn't burn anything down, so i figure it was a success! (just cuz it was too funny--when we told the paris soeurs about it, sister gifford was like, "man i bet that was a crappy job" and then just cuz she can't help herself, added a "I bet that stunk!" Felt slightly like kib had come for a visit! just saying.)

Ok, and yeah......this wednesday is November 10th. Do you realize what that means? That means that I get to open up my fourth missionary toothbrush!! (side note, i sure hope i am still up to date that the guideline is that you should change your toothbrush every 3 months.) Back when i was on my first toothbrush, I just never thought this day would come. I was talking to this neuroradiologist the other day and he explained what the term "telescoping" means. Basically the idea is that when you get into a new situation, your neurons start firing and creating new neuronal pathways with the new memories. But, then as things start getting more familiar, time starts appearing to speed up (or to seem less like molasses, whichever is more applicable), because you have already created those pathways. So that is why the longer you have been out on a mission, the quicker time seems to go. I thanked him for giving us a better term and sparing us from forever having to use the toilet paper analogy! After all, telescoping does much more sophisticated than toilet paper! But yeah, I am excited for my new pink toothbrush. (In case you didnt catch on, that was, in fact, my round about way of trying to acknowledge that yes, we have made it half way!)

Anyway, I love you guys lots and lots!!!! I'm glad things are going well and hope you know how wonderful I think you are.


pS did i mention the blind couple brought us back rosaries from italy, so "that the virgin mary will protect us and guide our paths?" I think that nice little flare plays in well to your theory dad!

pSS I also did exchanges up in Valenciennes with Sister Pobst and it went really well (until our companions missed their train coming back up, of course, haha). That city is so charming (like mom you would be in heaven) and we talked to a lot of really cool people!

oh and BOYS!!! great job on your grades this semester!!! Im impressed! (and john--you must be completely devoid of any kind of human feeling or emotion if you didnt think the haunted forest was at least a little creepy! i mean really!)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Highlights, Happenings, and & Halloween

Hey gang!!!!

How you doin?! (May or may not have just thought that with a joey tribbiani eyebrow raise.) I can't wait to get those cow pictures!!!! oh man, i think i would pay big money to see Dad, Kirk, John, Matthew and Keaton in cow costumes, and now I get to see it for free!! the simple pleasures. K, but you were a little remiss in that you didn't tell me what costumes Halle and Josh chose. Hullo!! important details here. I absolutely loved seeing some cute little kids out trick or treating last night, even though in general I think France hasn't quite caught on to the awesomeness of Halloween and commercial holidays. Granted, the Irish Pub across the street must have taken their Halloween Party pretty seriously, because they kept that thing going loud and strong the entire night! Somehow, though, adults dressed up as soddom and gomorrah invitees aren't quite as adorable as little neige blanches (snow whites). How did the Great Pumpkin go? And Dad did you survive last week? You sounded pretty spent. Ok this is totally a side note, but mom, please tell me you are planning on going to the Motab christmas concert with David Archuleta????!!!!!! I know, I know, one holiday at a time, but seriously, some things are just THAT important.

Ok, as far as happenings and highlights go, I'm gonna have to back up a little and tell you that Aurelie and Claude Marc set baptismal dates! We had an awesome rendezvous with her and claude marc (he is her 8 yr old son) two weeks ago and just asked her if she had a desire to be baptized. She said yes, set the date for Nov 28th, and when she prayed about it at the end of the rendezvous the spirit was wonderful! Well, actually at first Claude marc was like, "I think I'll wait a little while longer........I can't swim!" Oops that's an oversight--definitely remiss in our teaching if we had this poor kid thinking we were gonna drown him! But, we reassurred him that the water is only "this" high and you only go under for one second. He had us get up and show him exactly how high the water was, but then he was cool with it. So, it's a good thing we successfully fought against Satan right before. And when I say Satan, I am referring to the crabby babysitter who was watching Claude Marc before Aurelia got home. Man talk about enduring to the end!! She chewed us out for probably a good 10 or 15 minutes standing at the doorstep, and let me just say that one would have to applaud her knowledge and proficient use of a very vibrant vocabulary. But, we were victorious and later found out that she had a brain tumor, so I probably should get around to repenting for having called the poor little old lady satan in my mind! Live and learn right.

Ok, so another blind couple story. Helped her through the market last week and when we got back to unload everything, I asked what she was cooking on the stove (she loves giving us cooking tips), and she said something about 'langue.' Oh ok......then about two seconds later was like, "wwwhat? did she seriously just say what i think she said?" And then, of course, curious george got the best of me and I made the mistake of looking into the pot. Oh yup, there it is. She is definitely cooking an entire cow tongue. (Some nice large taste buds on those things i might add.) And so then, ever so generously, she invites us to come over and eat dinner with them later that night. I think that may have been a new record for speed in declining a dinner invitation with as many excuses as I could possibly muster. Oh how i love our blind couple.

So, we had a couple firsts. First time I was ever tempted to tell someone we were actually nunns and that's why we would not EVER be going to get coffee with them, "and that is also why my companion will NO, not marry you." Also experienced a first rendezvous where tax deductibles became part of the conversation and apparently a selling point for the restored gospel. (bless their hearts, can't do missionary work without members, they add everything, but sometimes it is kinda like an "okay, how do we bring this back" struggle! Especially when they start going off on comparisons between us and Islam.....give that one a go just for fun.....)

Also, had a first Brazilian model contacting experience. Didn't know that when we stopped him, but it also didn't take us very long AT ALL to figure out why that was his chosen profession.....enough said. But, the best part was the next day, these new H&M posters were put up and guess who the model is? That's right, our Brazilian friend. Also, did I mention my first haircut experience? The coiffeuse was just full of sage comments, my favorite being that the key to staying young is to "be zen." Well, I must have come a long ways, considering I didn't shed a single tear after I got one of the worst haircuts of my life (nothing quite compares to the Harlem Globetrotters incident 1999), but I'd venture to say that was pretty "zen" of me. So hey, at least me and my horrible hair will look young!

Ok, also was the first time I have ever actually seen an investigator run away from missionaries! Oh so funny. We were waiting at the church for elders Volpe and Jensen, because they had set up a rendezvous to teach this lady and pass her to us. So, she shows up, but won't come in because, long story short, the elders aren't there yet and she needs to go cook for her husband, etc..... I tell you, I used every bit of persuasion I possibly could, but that lady was not stepping inside the church, and then is like, "ok next week," and turns and like literally starts running down the street. K just so we all have the right image--this is a 60 year old lady running down the sidewalk in little heels with her dress billowing around her. So then I am standing there, looking after her and then back at sister england and then back at the runaway investigator, like well, I'm just not exactly sure what the precedent is in this situation!! So then we look up the street and see the elders mosying their way down, so I yell at them and point after her and then back at them, like "what the heck do we do?"

And then Elder Jensen just takes off running down the street after her. Well, of course, a little old-fashioned chase action would be the way to go. And I tell you what, that kid has got some wheels! So, he is like sprinting down the street, bag under arm, elder Volpe is trailing after him looking a little confused, and sister england and I are just laughing like "this is really happening." Luckily, the lady started laughing when they finally caught up, and apparently she's got somewhat of a running habit and it wasn't the first time she had turned and run away from them! (Don't worry, I already asked the "so how many times are you going to make this poor little old lady run away from you before you get the hint that she might not be interested?" question, hehe, but they assured me she was interested and just has this slight running tendency! haha) Also the first time the Bishop tried to fake me out by going into bisoux me. My thoughts: "aaahh, what do i do? what do i do? this is the Bishop!!!" He got a good chuckle out of the panic that was, apparently, evident on my face!

Ok, so I mentioned we had a mini missionary for a few days. Well, Sunday night, all the companionships who were taking a mini were gathered at St. Merri waiting for the meeting to start (where the mini missionaries would get their "calls" and a blessing, instead of a setting apart). We were waiting outside and probably made it incredibly awkward for these young men and young women to have to wind their way through us to come in with their parents. But, I guess embracing awkwardness is a great first missionary lesson! Anyway, so as the youth are coming in, the only thing I said was that I hoped we got the one who chose to wear high heeled boots for her mini mission. And low and behold!!! We got the one with the high heeled boots! She was awesome! 17 yr old from the Cergy ward. She speaks French and English perfectly (mom is swiss, dad is from new zealand; born in utah, moved to france when she was 5), AND she brought another pair of shoes, so we totally got lucky! (I had never heard of mini missions before I got to France, and they can really last any amount of time, but the Paris stake has decided they are going to do this mini mission activity with their youth every year. So basically anyone who wants to can sign up to work with the missionaries for 3 days. They stay with us, study with us, plan with us, and basically are just a third companion for those few days.) She said she had a good experience and bore a beautiful testimony at the "homecoming meeting," but I think she was a little surprised at some things. After the first time we went street contacting, I asked her what she thought and all she said was, "that was hard." haha. But bless her heart she was a trooper.

She was with us on our day to fast (i think i forgot to mention that our zone was doing a 7-day fast, one companionship each day) and we felt like we were starving the poor girl! (side note-we had forgotten how much teenagers can eat......cuz for sticks those two could put it down.) So, she might have gotten a little inside view of the reality of missionary work, but we also saw some awesome miracles! For instance, we had found an old envelope of uncontacted referrals tucked away in our area book and decided to pass by a couple of them one afternoon. Well, after we had successfully snuck into the building of the first one, (we're getting pretty good at the whole creeper business), we knocked on her door, told her we were looking for a Julie Gali. She said she was Julie, and then saw our nametags and goes, "oh! you're the LDS. I have been waiting for you for two years!" She ushered us in right away and I can honestly say I have never seen someone so excited to get a book of mormon! It was so cool and suh-weet rendezvous! After that, Soeur Pettitt (the mini missionary) was like "I don't want to leave! I want to find out what happens with her!" It's true that seeing people excited about learning about the gospel and experiences like that definitely diminish any "hardness" of contacting or other things--the people make it worth it! Julie is a film director and has a big deadline coming up, so unfortunately, she can't see us again until the middle of November, but we figure that will just give her enough time to have read the whole book of mormon! hehe.

You also asked about Sister Davillé. I know you're really not supposed to have favorites, but I'll be honest, I'm not to that level yet, so I'm free to say that I think she is my favorite member in this ward. I will mop her floor with dish soap any time she wants! I absolutely love this woman. You saw the pictures of her, so you can imagine some of the struggles that she has. But, she was baptized last year and has like the most stalwart testimony. Her husband is very against the church (it's sometimes amusing how flamboyant he can be in his distaste for us; especially when he is kicking us out of the house!), but he is nice enough to drive her to church every week. Which is a blessing, because she is so big, she really can't go anywhere unless he will take her. Anyway, so she gets dressed up every sunday and is horribly uncomfortable and has a hard time sitting for that long, but her smile just about lights up the whole chapel because she is so excited to be at church! And if you ever ask her a question about how to do something or whatever, she will answer like, "well, you go to church and pray and read the scriptures." And you can tell she truly believes those things will work! She has this sincerity and earnestness in the power of the "primary answers" that is remarkable. And ya know, I think she's got it right.

If I were pressed, one of the things that would be towards the top of the list of things I've learned on a mission, would probably be the power of the primary answers. I found it interesting how a good portion of the new simplified Preach My Gospel curriculum focuses on how to help people gain a testimony, and whaddayaknow--what are the things on there? Revelation through prayer, the Book of Mormon, and church attendance! et Voilà. I love the primary answers! Plus, let's be real, we all know that primary is much more my kind of level! (Side note--This week I was reading in 1 nephi and started singing the "murmur" song from scripture scouts and the other sisters got a good laugh in. I tried to tell them about the time dad dressed up as King Noah and sang the "i want want want what i want want want" song for one of your overachiever-refrigerator-box-time capsule sharing times, but just don't think i quite did it justice!)

Ok, well I had to type super fast to get this all down, so if any of it actually make sense, then we have all witnessed yet another modern day miracle! Sure love you guys. I miss you lots and pray for you lots. Thanks for being so absolutely wonderful!! Can't wait to hear about next week's adventures and mischief on the home front!

Love, Jordo

ps mom I seriously love, love, loved the family theme. And I had tears streaming down my face when I read the letter from you mommy dearest. All I can say is DITTO! i have no idea about boots still. im sorry! ill look around here a little and then get back to you. Oh and will you tell robbie that i was so grateful for his quick email. seriously meant a lot and i send my love!

Pss tell Allie & Justin CONGRATS for me!!!!! I loved the blog and they are so cute!

Halle—how was the cheer clinic?!! By the way, we loved the Arthur pictures. Me and sister Gifford were talking about how much we loved Arthur when we were your age too! (granted, I think I probably kept watching it after school up until I went to Timpview hehe.)

Johnny – laughed so hard when you were like, “I don’t know I wasn’t really paying attention” so funny!!!!!! Pretty cool about josh warner too, though I have not the faintest idea who z vanny is. OH wait…is that zach vanleeuwen? Man I suddenly feel like I should be carrying a cane cuz I am not keeping up with your slang very well these days, haha. Thanks for the update brother.

Josh –pretty sweet you’re becoming a master origamier. Have you engineered a better way to do the rain gutter curious George boats yet? and how was being water boy? And I miss you too!

Tara – I think dad and I watched that movie together the same weekend we watched big country. Doesn’t get much better!

Matthew – I’ll have to give some thought to your christmas present question, but im kind of thinking you’re gonna have to come up with that one on your own. that's kinda the thing about a 'hearts desire' is that it's gotta be YOURS. sorry!!! dont pick something lame though! and fyi i am going to expect a good harry potter review once you see it. i can't believe how tall you are now!! that is crazy. and holy cow, i just realized i think that means i am in the bottom half of the kids in height now. hey and cool about the messick sibling! i went to school with her brother and i was in the same district as elder messick in versailles!!

pps funniest metro moment this week was with this old man--me:hey so do you think it'll rain today? (yeah super original conversation starter, i know). Old man: Oh no! I brought my umbrella today. It never rains when I actually bring my umbrella. (I just think old men are such a hoot. The world is definitely a better place because of their special little old man flare!)