Monday, April 25, 2016

Fun in Paris!!

Bonjour family and friends!

This was such a great week! A couple weeks ago we got a call from a girl who told us that she was going through a faith crisis and had a lot of questions. She said that her mom was a member but that she wasn't. She wanted to meet with us because she figured that we could help her. We ended up having a lesson with her on Monday to start off the week. We talked a lot about Christ and how having faith in Christ can help us get through trials and the difficulties we have in life. It's comforting to know that somebody else has felt the same pain and sorrows that we are going through.  In Alma 7; it explains the atonement really well and how it applies to us when we are going through hardships.  "And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people..And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities." He knows how we feel and therefore he knows what need. In moments of difficulty we will not always be given what we want but he will always give us what he knows we need.

We had a lesson with the cutest little family. The mom is Catholic and the dad is Agnostic. They have a 18 month year old boy. We explained the "Plan of Salvation" and afterwards we asked them what they thought. Their first comment was, "It's beautiful." They really liked how God is merciful and how people don't just go to heaven or hell. We talked about about free agency and how we have the opportunity to choose where we go after this life based on the choices we make in this life. They also really liked when we talked about baptism being a choice. The mom was baptized in the Catholic Church when she was a baby but she said it doesn't mean that much to her because it wasn't her choice. We talked about the importance of being baptized by the proper authority. They really liked the idea of priesthood and they want to come to church on Sunday to meet a priesthood holder! They have a lot of potential and we are really excited to teach them again.

Eiffel Tower with Soeur Hodgeman!

On Friday we went into Paris for Soeur Witham's legality. While they were doing legality all the trainers went out contacting! I went out with Soeur Hodgeman. It was interesting contacting right in center of Paris and comparing it to contacting in Lille. There seemed to be a lot less people who stopped to talk to us on the street because they were in a hurry to get somewhere. We actually found a lot more success contacting on transportation such as the mettro, TER, RER etc. When people are just sitting on the train it's a lot harder for them to use he excuse, "je suis pressé." (I am in a hurry) It was so fun to get to go around Paris for the day! It made me realize how grateful I am to serve in such an amazing place. It also made me excited to maybe eventually serve in the center of Paris! I would say life is pretty good if you get to do missionary work with the Eiffel Tower in the background. Church is true. Life is good!

The dream mission!

Love, Soeur Johnson

Monday, April 18, 2016

"We are the Mormons"

Bonjour Family & Friends!

On Monday we started off the week by having a "Crepe" night and invited all of our Amis. We had a new ami come named Sophie who the V'Dascq sisters found but who lives in our area. She has been searching for religion and we are hoping to have a lesson with her next week!

On Tuesday we went over and started teaching the after baptism lessons to Lucile and Alexandre. They are literally so sweet! On Sunday they got up in Sacrament and bore their testimonies. They have only been baptized for a couple weeks but I can already tell they are going to be really strong members of the church. Last week, Lucile was able to go to the temple with the youth so we talked about temples and the importance of families. Afterwards, we had dinner with their whole family. Soeur Witham was able to have her first official "French dinner" with the absolute cutest French family!

The next day we had another great lesson with the ami that we met on the street last week! This time we taught her about the restoration of the gospel and she was listening very intently. The lesson went really well and at the end we invited her to read the Book of Mormon. One of the questions she asked was, "Why is it so important to read the Book of Mormon and not just the Bible?" We told her that there are a couple really important reasons to read the Book of Mormon. One of the reasons we explained that it was important to read the B.O.M was that it will help her gain a testimony of the things that we have been teaching her. If the B.O.M is true, than Joseph Smith was a prophet, which means the Church of Jesus Christ has been reestablished, which means we have Priesthood keys on the earth, which means we have a living Prophet, which means there are covenants (ex. Baptism) we need to make on earth in order to return to live with Heavenly Father and our families again. The Book of Mormon is complete evidence of whether the church is true. If the Book of Mormon is not true than none of this other stuff is possible. The Book of Mormon literally is the "keystone of our religion."  She said she would read it because she can tell the things we are telling her are genuine. She works a lot so we probably won't see her this week but we are definitely going to follow up on if she read the Book of Mormon!

"Book of Mormon hour" in Valenciennes!

On Saturday we went up to Valenciennes for "finding day." We spent most of the day going contacting on the street with members and other missionaries. When I was out contacting with Soeur Gilbert we had a really funny experience. We contacted this young girl and started talking with her. She realized that we were from America and since we were talking about religion she said, "I have heard that there are these crazy people called Mormons that are taking over America!" Soeur Gilbert and I both looked at each other and kinda started to laugh and said, "Actually, we are the Mormons..." The girl was so embarrassed and she kept apologizing because she felt so bad. We ended up explaining to her what our beliefs really are and clarified the misconceptions about Mormons that she had seen on tv. We ended up getting her number and she said she would be interested to talk another time. I'm not sure if she gave us her number because she was actually interested or because she felt so bad.. Haha. We ended the day by going to the center of Valenciennes and doing a "Book of Mormon" hour. All the missionaries grabbed a Book of Mormon and just went around and started talking to people. One of the Elders got a live action shot of Soeur Clements and I contacting a man who ended up being really interested. We haven't been allowed to contact single men until just recently so this was one of the first men I have contacted. He wan't with anyone at first but his family ended up being there as well so after talking with him for a little bit we were able to talk with his wife and kids! We gave him a Book of Mormon and read a couple versus out of it with him. He says he is atheist but to me it seemed like he does believe in a God but just isn't a part of an organized religion. We invited him to read the Book of Mormon with his family and pray to know that it is true. We also got his number so that the missionaries could meet with him and explain more.

Live action shot of giving away a B.O.M!

This was definitely a "Book of Mormon" themed week. I am so grateful that I get to carry around a Book of Mormon everyday. It is such a powerful book and every time I read it my testimony is strengthened. I love this quote by President Hinckley about the Book of Mormon, "The evidence for its truth and validity lies within the covers of the book itself. The test of its truth lies in reading it. It is a book of God. Reasonable people may sincerely question its origin; but those who have read it prayerfully have come to know by a power beyond their natural senses that it is true, that it contains the word of God, that it outlines saving truths of the everlasting gospel, that it ‘came forth by the gift and power of God … to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ" I am grateful for the opportunity that I have had to read it cover to cover and receive a personal confirmation that it indeed a book of God and that Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet. I invite you to do the same! Church is true.

Have a wonderful week! Love, Soeur Johnson

Monday, April 11, 2016

L'amour de Dieu

Bonjour family & friends!

We started off this week by watching the last session of General Conference because with the time difference it was too late to watch live. One of my favorite quotes came from Elder Holland's talk when he said, "Keep loving. Keep trying. Keep trusting. Keep believing. Keep growing. Heaven is cheering you on today, tomorrow, and forever." I love the idea about being persistent and believing in good things to come!

This week on Friday night we held an activity called, "pancakes, ping pong & penseè spiritual." We thought it would be a fun way to get ours Amis to come to an activity and to get to know the members in a fun environment. We actually had an ami come that we have been having a hard time getting a lesson with and I think it was a really good experience for her! Sunday we had all three of our Amis show up to church so we were super happy about that. We are doing another activity tonight so hopefully we will be able to get some new Amis to come as well!

We did lots and lots of contacting this week. Which is good because that means we had lots and lots of miracles. We had the coolest miracle this week! We decided to try contacting in a new spot. We got off the mettro and started walking around but there was basically nobody. We decided that it would be best to just start heading back to the main city. We were a little discouraged because we felt like it wasn't a very good use of time because we weren't able to talk to very many people. As we were walking back we stopped and started contacting one of the first people we saw. As we were talking with her, she looked down at the Book of Mormon and then said she has heard of us before and she wasn't interested. We explained that most of the things the TV says about our church are wrong. We were able to give her a brief Restoration lesson. We asked if we could schedule another time to meet with her and she said no. We talked a little more with her and what she believed. Again we asked if she had another time we could meet with her. She looked around and said, "Okay fine.. But only to work on your French!" I just looked at Soeur Witham and we both smiled and said "hmmm sure..." We were able to schedule a lesson with her for the next day! We went to her house and were able to teach her the Plan of Salvation. We talked with her for a long time because she had so many different but really interesting questions. She shared with us a spiritual experience she had where she said she felt the love of God really strongly. She said she didn't do anything to deserve such a great experience and she doesn't know what to do now. We told her that she can feel the love of God all the time. We invited her to pray and she said she would do it. She says she can't even remember the last time she has prayed. After talking with her for awhile we asked if we could come back another time. She said that she admires our conviction and courage but that we couldn't come back. We decided to keep talking and testifying to her. She has some unique beliefs that are definitely different from anybody else that I have talked with. She believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God but the atonement wasn't necessary because we are all just going to live with God again. She said the purpose of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ was to show God's love for us. We finally really had to leave so we asked her one more time if we could meet with her again. I explained that we had a lot more things to talk about that I know can make a big difference in her life. She finally said yes and we scheduled a lesson with her for this week!

Our lesson with her really got me thinking about the power that comes from the love of God. When someone feels the love of God it can literally change their life. That's what it has done for this lady. She says its something she has constantly been thinking about and wants to know what she needs to do. One of the best ways to see and feel God's love is through the blessings of the gospel. When we reflect and decide to focus on all the blessings we have been given, we can not help but feel the love of God. The happiest people in life are those that choose to focus on the blessings and not the trials. When we remember the blessings we remember the love of God. President Monson said, "Your Heavenly Father loves you--each of you. That love never changes. It is not influenced by your appearance, by your possessions, or by the amount of money you have in your bank account. It is not changed by your talents and abilities. It is simply there. It is there for you when you are sad or happy, discouraged or hopeful. God’s love is there for you whether or not you feel you deserve love. It is simply always there." What a great promise and blessing we have to always have access to the "l'amour de Dieu!" We have so much to be grateful for. Have a wonderful week!

Love, Soeur Johnson

Monday, April 4, 2016

Birthday gifts & Baptisms!

This week was definitely filled with lots of surprises. The transfer ended this past week so I knew I was most likely going to get a new companion. What I didn't know was that I was going to get a called to train a new missionary... I just got finished being trained so that was the last thing on my mind. So my new companion is fresh off the plane from the MTC! Let's just say if I don't get the "gift of tongues" pretty soon here we might be having some problems.. Haha. She actually took a little French in High School so she can pretty much already speak better than me. I can understand a little better because I am more used to the accent here so I told her that we will just have to work as I team... I will listen and translate what people are saying and she can respond back to them! It's going to be a little difficult at first but I know being forced to speak is really going to help me learn French quicker. So I think it's one of those things that you don't realize the blessing of it until after. Let's just say that these next two transfers are going to be quite the adventure!

So for my birthday this year I went into Paris to pick up my new companion! My birthday gift this year was Soeur Witham. She is from Provo, Utah and we are pretty sure we played softball against each other in High School. Small world! She is super sweet and really excited about missionary work. I think we are going to end up getting along really well! We came back to Lille, dropped off her luggage and I took her to visit a member in Ward. For dinner we went to this Italian restaurant that I have been really wanting to eat at since I got to Lille. I got a big margarita pizza for dinner! Ideally, a home cooked meal from my mother would have been preferred but since that wasn't really an option, I thought a margarita pizza was the next best thing! Afterwards, we came back and had chocolate cake for dessert. This was definitely a birthday different from any other I have ever had... But hey I got to spend my birthday in Paris so that's a birthday present within itself!

Birthday dinner!
Before Soeur North left we were able to have our baptism for the 14 & 11 year old that we have been teaching. It was such a great day because they have been wanting to be baptized for awhile. They come from a part member family but the whole family ended up coming to the baptism so that was awesome! They are the typical cute French family so we always love going to their house. Plus, they literally live 3 minutes from the Belgium border so she always has the best chocolate for us. Let's just say I am excited we get to teach them the "after baptism" lessons too :)

Baptism for Lucile & Alex!
I took Soeur Witham out contacting for the first time! I was a little nervous because I didn't know exactly how it was going to go. It actually made me even more excited for this transfer because we were able to see a couple miracles! Our miracle of the day was this girl named Tiffanie. We started talking to her about the ways we find peace and joy in our lives. She immediately let us know that she doesn't believe in God and that she wasn't interested. We kept talking to her and asked her what the goal of this life is for her. She explained that she just wants to be a good person and so one of the things she does is humanitarian work. I assured her that she definitely seems like a good person to me! We explained that Christ was a perfect example of how to be a good person and that we can follow his teachings and example. We ended up praying with her and afterwards talking with her for quite a bit longer. At the end of our conversation I asked if there would be another time we can meet with her and talk more and she said yes! We said a lot of things that I don't remember because now looking back all I can remember is how poor our French was but how she could still feel the spirit. It didn't matter what we said because it's not us that does the teaching. Our responsibilities as missionaries is to just be willing to open our mouths so that the spirit can do the teaching. Afterwards, we both looked at each other in shock and said, "That was a miracle that she understood us because that French was horrible... Haha." It was such a great testimony builder of teaching with the spirit. It brought me a lot of reassurance to know that as long I am willing to open my mouth the spirit will fill it and touch the hearts of people. They probably won't remember/understand what I said but they will always remember what they felt! Church is true. Have a wonderful week!

Love, Soeur Johnson