Monday, January 25, 2016

Miracles make it worth having frozen toes!

Bonjour family and friends!

This week President and Soeur Babin came to our district meeting so we could have interviews. We spent the morning doing interviews and afterwards had our meeting about the importance of helping our amis build a good spiritual foundation. I seriously love the mission president and his wife! They are both from France so they have a lot of good advice on how to adjust to the culture and be an effective missionary. They would literally doing anything for the missionaries. I feel so blessed to have such great people leading this mission!

After our district meeting we started exchanges with the STL's (Sister Training Leaders). When you go on "exchanges" you typically have to travel to the area where your STL's live and become companions with one of them for the day.  Our situation is a little unique because we live with our STL's so we don't have to travel anywhere. It has actually been really fun because we get to meet a lot of sister missionaries that come stay with us for exchanges! I went on my exchange with Soeur Proudfoot who is from England. We get along really well and she is such a good missionary!

You can always find me at the bakery!

Soeur Proudfoot only has one more transfer left in her mission and she says most of her miracles have come through door knocking! You get rejected the most but you have the most success once someone lets you in. We wanted to find a miracle so we spent most of our exchange door knocking. The first door we knocked on told us we would be better off going home, being warm and drinking some coffee... A little while later when my toes felt frozen it didn't seem like such a bad idea... Good thing we didn't listen because we ended up having a really cool experience! We had knocked doors for probably 1 1/2 hours and no one had been interested. Towards the end of the night we knocked on a door and this women named Catherine answered. I introduced us and told her that we were here in France for 18 months to share a message of how we can find peace and comfort through Jesus Christ. At first she wasn't very receptive but just wanted to be nice so she kept listening. We asked if we could say a prayer with her and she said no. As we started testifying she began to become more curious. She started asking questions and we started to have a better conversation. She talked to us about how one of her daughters died in a motorcycle accident. She said she wanted to talk to us more but we couldn't come in because her other daughter was home. She went inside and got her coat. I didn't quite understand what she said so when she closed the door I started walking away... Good thing for companions that understand French so they can yell at you to come back when you're half way down the street She came back out and the first thing she asked is why each of us decided to serve a mission. She asked how old we were and if we were going to college. She couldn't believe that at our age we would willing stop what we were doing in life and leave to go share this message with other people. She kept asking, "Wait this was your choice? Nobody made you do it? The church isn't forcing you?" She told us she wanted to come to church because our message must be pretty important if we came all the way to France to share it with her. THANK YOU CATHERINE! I would say it is a pretty successful day when someone tells you they are coming to church and you haven't even invited them yet! We talked to her outside for about 40 minutes. We were going to be late for curfew so we had to tell her we needed to leave. We gave her a Book of Mormon and asked again if we could leave her with a prayer. This time she said yes! She invited us inside to say a prayer and we said hi to her daughter. It was such a cool experience! That was the first time I have been let inside a house while proselyting.

The Cathedral by our apartment.

It was a good reminder that serving a mission is well worth the sacrifice because it can make a difference in someones life. It takes being rejected from a whole lot of people here for someone to finally listen. However, when those moments come it makes them so much better because they don't happen often. I am grateful for opposition because it makes the good things in life so much sweeter. We consider it a tender mercy if anybody even stops and listens. I am so grateful to be in France because I love the challenge, I love the people, and I love the pastries. Church is true. Have a wonderful week!

Love, Soeur Johnson

Monday, January 18, 2016

Last Minute Miracle

Bonjour family & friends!

It has officially been two weeks since I have been in France and officially two months that I have been out on my mission! Time is going quick so I better take advantage of my time here by eating some more French pastries..  I got to go back into Paris this week because we had a zone conference. Elder Kearon who is from the Quorum of the Seventy came and spoke to us. He talked about learning to "celebrate the rain and see the rainbows." This is very applicable to the city I am in because it rains a lot here. In life and in missionary work there is going to be a lot of "rain" and moments of discouragement. However, we can choose to see the "rainbows" even if they seem very far away. I am hoping that I can do a better job of looking for the blessings and "rainbows" in my life even when things are hard. "Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured." -President Hinckley

This week started off by attending Ward council meeting. Typically, missionaries haven't attended this meeting but we thought it would be good because we are trying to get the ward more involved in missionary work. We set ward missionary goals for the coming new year and they want to have 12 baptisms. I think this is totally realistic with a lot of hard work from the missionaries and the ward members! We also assigned a couple families to help fellowship our "amis." (amis: friends of the church aka investigators) We had a couple dinner appointments this week! We had dinner with a member who isn't active but she has the sister missionaries over every week. She is American but married a French man so she lives here. She is super awesome and I am excited I get to teach in English at least once a week! I had my first official French dinner with the Gouttin family. We were able to bring our ami Anna with us (the girl who is atheist that we taught last week) and I think it was good for her to get to know a family from the ward. We read a couple verses from Alma 32 and talked about the importance of acting on our faith even when it is small. On Sunday we went to the Bishop's house for dinner and had really great dessert!

The Lille church building!

We had a couple lessons cancel on us this week but it's okay because we had a miracle that made up for it! We were walking home from contacting and we hadn't had any people that were willing to talk to us. Right before we got to our apartment we contacted this elderly lady. In all honesty, I was expecting to hear the usual, "No no no, Je suis Catholic." As we started talking she actually stopped and listened!! (That's like a miracle just by itself) We started talking to her about her beliefs and she said she is Christian but hasn't practiced any religion for a long time. She said she knows there must be a higher power or some type of God. However, she went through a difficult time because her parents died at the same time and that made it hard for her to believe in religion. I was able to introduce and give her a Book of Mormon and explain to her the peace it has brought into my life. We got her number so we could set up an appointment and afterwards we left her with a prayer. Hopefully, we will be able to teach her because from talking with her I can tell she needs peace in her life.

Outside the Rihour bell tower

One of the reason I wanted to serve a mission was to give the opportunity to others to feel the peace and comfort the gospel has brought me. This week I have been reading the New Testament in John. My favorite verse I read was, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." (John 14:27) I think the world's idea of peace is that everything is okay and we don't have difficulty or opposition. The peace that Christ can give us is peace for our souls. There will be still be heartache and trials in our life but through faith in Christ we can receive peace because we know that because of Him everything will be okay in the end. I am grateful for the people I am meeting because they make me better a person by allowing me to reflect on my own life and testimony! Thank you for all your love and support. Have a great week!

Love, Soeur Johnson

Monday, January 11, 2016

La premiere semaine en France!

Bonjour Family and Friends!!

I made it safely to France without any problems! We arrived in France at about 11:30am on Tuesday. We were greeted by chocolate pastries and President & Soeur Babin. Let's just say I was already convinced France was going to be the ideal mission before I even walked out of the airport. We packed our luggage into cars and headed to the mission office. Apparently what usually happens is the missionaries get on the mettro and go directly to give out Books of Mormon in downtown Paris.  However, due to safety reasons from the recent events we were all directly taken to the mission office in Les Vesinet. We filled out some paperwork and had meetings with President Babin. Afterwards, I went out contacting for the first time! The first person we contacted was so nice and I gave her a Book of Mormon. The second person we contacted had some choice things to say to us.. the nice part of not speaking French is I never know exactly what they are saying so I am not really offended when they say mean things. I am just super grateful for the tender mercy of my first experience of contacting in France going well. We stayed the night in the mission home and the next morning went to the church in St. Merri (Downtown Paris). We met our trainers (companions) and were told where we would be going. My companions name is Soeur North and she is from Cottonwood Heights. I am serving in Lille, France! It is located in northern France, right next to Belgium.

The pastry shop right by our apartment!

After they told us where we were serving we had some lunch and headed off with our luggage to the train station. It takes about one hour on a train to get to Lille from Paris. We got off the train and took a bus to our apartment. When we got off the bus we noticed that this lady kept staring at us. We finally said "Bonjour" and started talking with her. Apparently, she used to meet with the missionaries but stopped awhile ago because she got busy with work. We shared a quick message and got her number because she said we could start meeting with her again. We left her with a prayer and they asked me to say it. My favorite part was that every time I would say something she liked or agreed with she would say "Mmmmhmmm." I was getting ready for her start saying "Amen" or shout "Hallelujah!" We have an appointment set up to teach her this week! Again, I was blessed to have such a good first impression of my new Ville (city).

Town of Lille

I taught my first lesson on Friday to this cute older couple that are in their 80's. They are seriously the cutest! They are strictly Catholic but the wife is really scared of death so she likes talking with the missionaries. Every time she talked about the idea of being separated from her husband she started crying. They are a great example of the ideal love story! They met when they were 14 and got married after he got home from going to war. They have been married 60 years and we asked how they have been able to stay that in love for so long. (They are so in love you would think they just got off their honeymoon) The husband responded by explaining to us that it is impossible to fall out of love when you have two people are working on it. He talked about how love is not 100% of the heart. Love is a behavior we can choose and decide to control. It made me realize that we are fully capable of learning to love anyone. However, we can't love others when we are thinking about ourselves and being selfish. True love is when we are able to look outside of our selfish desires and become concerned with the needs and feelings of others. (Don't be fooled that I understood anything of what he was saying in French.. This is what the translator told me he said) I couldn't say much during the lesson but I was able to bear my testimony to them about eternal families. I spoke in really broken French but I think they could feel the spirit because they both were crying by the end. It was an amazing experience that I will always remember! Next week we are going to teach them about the "Plan of Salvation" so hopefully they are receptive. I never realized that the first lesson I would learn on my mission would be the importance of love from a cute elderly couple. I guess it's something I need to work on. In fact I think it is something everyone could always get better at! My goal is to better love those who I serve.

On Sunday that asked me to get up and bear my testimony. It actually went relatively well! When I got up I wasn't as nervous as I thought I would be. I did get a little nervous though when the speaker who went after me spoke for about as long as my testimony was... And believe me my testimony was not very long. I was hoping that I wouldn't get called back up because I had already used all the French I know! I think I am going to prepare a talk so that if the missionaries ever get called on to make up the time I will be prepared. After church we taught a lesson to a girl named Ana who is atheist. The missionaries have been teaching her since September but they said she hasn't really been progressing.  Except she came to church yesterday and was asking questions about the Book of Mormon at our lesson. I think she finally is starting to progress so I am exciting about that! The people of France have been prepared to hear the gospel and I am excited to teach them about the great happiness it has brought into my life. We had other miracles that happened this week but I will have to tell you about them next week. I hope everyone has a wonderful week!

Soeur Johnson

(Sorry my pics are so bad.. I couldn't get them to upload so I had to just take a picture of them from my ipad)