Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Nate's past 6 months in France!

We wanted to catch you up on Nate’s adventures and experiences over the past 5 months!  He has been really busy and has covered a lot of geography and different responsibilities in France. Nate has moved from Nantes, to Tours and Antony and is now serving as an Assistant in Versailles

As of early September Nate had been serving for 5 months in Nantes which is described as “A city on the Loire River in the Upper Brittany region of Western France, has a long history as a port and industrial center. It's home to the restored, 15th-century Château des Ducs de Bretagne, where the Dukes of Brittany once lived. The castle is now a local history museum with multimedia exhibits, and visitors can walk among its turrets.

8th Transfer

A few experiences in Nantes, France

At about 8:55 just before we were going to walk home I saw two young guys who were walking down the Main Street and they were walking at a decent pace. All of a sudden they stopped completely and turned down the street where we were which usually is not a great sign. That is not exactly what you want at 9:00 pm as it looked like two young kids looking for trouble. I said to myself oh well here we go what are they going to say this time. To our surprise one of them blurted out "Hey Elders!". We said hello and asked exactly how he knew who we were. He then preceded to tell us that he was a member of the church that he just recently moved to Nantes and the other guy that was with him was his soon to be brother and law. They had all just moved here with his fiance. They were so excited to see us and even the non-member knew exactly who we were. He was giving us huge high fives and was so excited! We asked them what their names were and they told us.  We started walking and I was thinking about their names. Then I remembered the day before the senior couple in charge of referrals had told us there was a member that was moving to Nantes with his sister and her boyfriend. That the sister and boyfriend had taken the missionary lessons and were planning to get baptized before they moved. In that moment I asked what their names were again and confirmed it was the same people!  In that moment I was astonished.  How in the world did we find these people? Somehow in this little street at 9:00 pm, we ran into these two individuals among 100,000 people that live in Nantes. We got their phone number and set up to go by their house this week. Valuable lesson in following the promptings of the spirit and being obedient.

Nantes - Castle

This little family had been taught by some the Elders in the small city of St. Nazaire just on the ocean. So on Thursday I got to go to talk with them. It was two Little girls and their mom. The one little girl was 8 years old and the other one 10 years old. An interview is a special experience both for myself and the candidate because we both have the moment to testify. Firstly me of the choice that they have made. Secondly for them to testify of what they have learned from the missionaries. As I talked with these little girls I was amazed by the light and happiness that was contained within them. They were so excited to be baptized. As I asked them about certain principles it was amazing to listen to how they explained these gospel truths. The one little girl actually went on a about the importance of the sacrament and what that signifies for her. I was a little blown away. I then spoke to the mother and we talked about the decision she had made bringing her family into the gospel and what joy and harmony she will have in her life. At the end of the interview I just took a moment to congratulate her and bear my testimony. We all find great joy in helping others achieve this same goal we continue to strive for in the plan of salvation. There is something special about giving service. I read an interesting quotation this week that sums this up:

 “Service to others deepens and sweetens this life while we are
preparing to live in a better world. … When we are engaged in the
service of our fellowmen, not only do our deeds assist them, but we
put our own problems in a fresher perspective. When we concern
ourselves more with others, there is less time to be concerned with
ourselves! In the midst of the miracle of serving, there is the
promise of Jesus that by losing ourselves, we find ourselves! [
Matthew 10:39.]

“Not only do we ‘find’ ourselves in terms of acknowledging divine
guidance in our lives, but the more we serve our fellowmen in
appropriate ways, the more substance there is to our souls. … We
become more substantive as we serve others--indeed, it is easier to
‘find’ ourselves because there is so much more of us to find!”

Moving to Tours, France 
At the end of September Nate was notified he would be transferring to the city of Tours to work as a Zone Leader.  He and his companion would be responsible for the missionaries in the areas of Tours, Alencon, Le Mans, Blois, Bourges and Orleans.  Tours is southwest of Paris and is described as: “A lively university town between France's Loire and Cher rivers. At the doorstep of Loire Valley chateaux, it’s the traditional base for exploring the region. The city's long history includes Gallic-Roman settlements and a role as the 15th-century French capital and seat of kings. It was heavily bombed in World War II, and its atmospheric center is now surrounded with modern towers.” 
Cathedral in Tours

A few experiences in Tours

We had quite the busy one traveling all over and preparing the theme for this transfer which is to look and live. Forgetting about yourself and actively doing things out of the love you  continue to acquire for him. Sometimes we have success in thoroughly understanding the love that God and his son have for us. The more difficult aspect is applying this into action. Casting out fear and forgetting about yourself. 

Anyway in arriving here in Tours this week Elder Beck and I had the chance to witness some pretty cool miracles. This week we taught one of our investigators Max. He has studied the church for over six years. He knows everything, like EVERYTHING but has a really hard time committing to be baptized.  He has a ton of friends that are Mormon and over the years missionaries have continually taught him lessons not addressing this issue of why he is not baptized. This week we went into the lesson with not a whole lot prepared and talked to him like a friend. Asking questions and understanding his ideas and opinions. These moments are when you know that you are guided by the spirit saying things that you are supposed to say.  We talked with him for an hour and a half like two friends that loved him and wanted the best for him. God helped us understand his needs and desires. At the end of the lesson he miraculously agreed to pray to know if he should be baptized on the 10 Oct. This was huge considering where we started. So we are hoping that he will find himself, that this day is the one for him. 

Transfer #9
This week we met one of the most interesting people I have met thus far on my mission. His name is Sebastian. He is a man that had studied the church for years as well. He met the missionaries and received the Book of Mormon. He read it multiple times trying to find a testimony. He approached us this week telling us that he is ready. That he has been praying to know if he needs to be baptized. He told us this week that he is ready. He wants to be baptized. That he is praying for us continually. Today he actually texted us saying he wants to get baptized on Tuesday. So we are looking forward to making that happen in the next 2 weeks. God continues to work miracles every day. Sometimes it is overwhelming how you see his hands direct our work and comfort the people that have a contrite spirit and a broken heart. A quote I really like says "Do not be ashamed of Christ or His gospel, and be willing to lay down cherished things, cherished relationships, and even life itself for Him. But while you live, let your life be an offering. Take up His cross  each day in obedience and service. These are the implications and the fruits of our faith" I really like that. It should be a fun week coming up. Lots of traveling and exchanges!

Another project that I have been working on a lot this week is a presentation I have to give at the next multi zone conference in Paris on mission dress and appearance. The goal is help missionaries understand the importance of appearance and the principle of physical communication. There is a lot of variety in dressing but President would like every missionary to be informed on this subject outlining appropriate clothes that we can wear and how important it is that we carry ourselves in a professional manner. It should be fun. Get to add in a little personal touch with style do’s and don'ts.  I made a pretty cool presentation showing how being obedient and dressing within the guidelines can be fun.

Zone Conference Presentation
We finished eating and started back to the train station. Our train was the last one of the day. We got there and it said the train was canceled. It was about 740 pm around this time. So we were in a little bit of a pickle with no trains and 4 sisters + 2 elders (Us) and nowhere to spend the night. We had only the material that was with us. We called president to inform him of the situation. We checked multiple ways of resolving the problem. It was impossible to do anything else but to book a hotel. So we headed to a hotel with us and the 4 sisters. Luckily they had space we bunked up for the night. One of the weirdest days ever. Staying in a hotel for the first time in a year. We all headed out the next morning around 7 am and it was all good beside the sisters not having their makeup haha.

This week we were back in Paris for our stake conference. We are in the Paris south stake so we spent the weekend in meetings and sessions. President Babin asked the zone leaders for the stake and the assistants to attend a ward mission leader training meeting. It was interesting participating in these kind of meeting as a missionary. President ran the meeting and really clarified the needs and action plans for our stake. During a question and answer session he made references to one of my favorite gospel truths. He said " there is a difference in-between what you know you need to do, and what you really do why?" Such a fundamental principle in the gospel but also in managing a professional organization. We can think about whatever we want, we can have all the faith in the world or the best intentions but that means nothing if it is not acted upon.

During this conference we received teachings from the assistants, President and Sister Babin and then respective zone leaders. One thing I found interesting was what the  assistants shared with us. They talked about learning by faith. As we exercise our faith we see the characteristics of real conversion take place. That is how we know it is real conversion. The critical piece in this equation is the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is the motivation force that pushes people to act on the faith and the spirit they feel.

Monday is P-day and it just so happened that I had a doctors appt in Paris on Tuesday morning. We left Monday around 12 on a train to spend P-day in Paris. We visited the Sacrée Cœur in Paris one of the oldest biggest churches on top of a giant hill looking over Paris. It was really fun. A ton of tourists getting money stolen and gypsy’s outsmarting people and stealing their wallets. Then police running down illegal African immigrants for selling little Effiel towers and Louis V and Channel bags, good old Paris. That night we paired up with the zone leaders in Torcy (Elder Johnson and Elder Martin) suburb in the north east of Paris to work.  Elder Martin is one of the few fully French and mandarin elders. Called to speak both languages. Serves most of his mission in Paris due to the high Chinese population. So Elder Martin and I had a lesson at a recent converts house. We were teaching a woman and her family. She had been baptized a couple months before but her two sons and husband were not members. They arrived from China just 10 months ago. Their French and English were not very good so I listened to a lot of Chinese. We ate with them and their family. My chopsticks skills held up well so all that practice at PF Changs paid off! It was very good traditional food. After which we taught the wife a lesson. The rest of the family were not completely interested. I never really understood how hard it is to support yourself as a single member of the church. She expressed to us that it is not easy. Living in a culture and house where religion is not logical. We shared a little message explaining how faith in Jesus Christ is the passport to peace after all the hardships and difficulties in this life. It is a role of each of us to continually grow this faith to have the right to utilize the power inside of it.

Last highlight here in Tours was that we did a cool Zone activity as a reward for the hard work of the Zone this transfer. This transfer we focused on three things through the 6 weeks. The physical, spiritual well-being of missionaries and their capacity to speak the language. So we had themes every week as well as little tasks. Week 2 was Spiritual,  had to write down how you saw the hand of God every day. On p-day write to the people you are most grateful for.  Week 3 was language, memorize three useful scripture mastery scriptures in French. Week 4 was Health, with a focus on buying healthy food and to go running every other day. Week 5 was to clean and make sure you keep a clean apartment the whole week. A place where the spirit can dwell. Week 6 was the surprise. This was the zone activity in Tours. We all went bowling and handed out prizes. It was super fun.  Pretty cool looking around and seeing all the missionaries smiling and have fun. That's what it's all about.

Overlooking Tours

Moving to Antony
Nate only spent 6 weeks in Tours as they made some changes in the mission.  The mission comprises of 14 area’s or Zones and there was a change where they will be making larger Zones and condensing to 7.  Nate was transferred to Antony as a Zone Leader in the Paris South Zone.  Antony is a French commune in the southern suburbs of Paris, France. It is located 11.3 km from the center of Paris.  He served there with one of his good friends, Elder Wilson.  There will be 35+ missionaries in the Zone and a lot of work to do.  Nate was excited to go to Paris with one of his good friends.

A few experiences in Antony:

We left from Tours to Paris early Wed morning with 5 suitcases between us and had to get on and off trains through metros and crossing the oldest most complex train station in Paris.  A lot of fun!  We made it to this place in the very center of Paris where you come to pick up your new companion. So I said my goodbyes to Elder Beck because he was actually heading home. His parents were picking him up the next day. Soon after I found my new comp Elder Wilson, we were in the MTC together and are great friends. We share a lot of the same vision and desire and this week came to find out that was still true. So we got out navigos, which just means a huge metro and ReR train pass that basically lets us go anywhere in Paris and we headed back to the apartment.  We live a 20 min subway ride away from the center of Paris. The sector in which we work covers a lot of southern Paris including the Tower of Mont Parnasse and a pretty spectacular view of the Eiffel Tower. Pretty cool.

The Louvre 
At the beginning of every transfer we have mission council. An afternoon of meetings held in Paris in which the transfer goals and theme are presented by the President and his Assistants to the Zone Leaders. We take this information and present it to the district leaders to use as the core of their training for this transfer. We talked a lot about a couple questions that President asked us, this helps prepare us to train the District Leaders.

We had some other interesting new experiences this week as well. A really unique experience we had involved working shifts in a church visitors center in the center of Paris. The church's 2nd most expensive property in the world, the chapel St. Merri is attached to the visitors center. We go Tuesday afternoon and Friday nights with the doors open inviting people for tours off the street. Elder Wilson sits at the piano while I greet people at the door. It's so cool to see people come in and talk. People from all of the world come in and want to learn. Really unique experience. I taught an Asian women a French guy and a man from Tunisia who said he is coming to church. All in a day's work. Couldn't feel more thankful right now. I have an amazing companion. We have fun every day. Feels good to wake up with a smile and to get out on the street. The mission is awesome. Paris is beautiful.

Mission Council
This week was the most hectic of the transfer for Elder Wilson and I. We had been asked to attend all of the district meetings in the zone . So we went to all 4. The first two were held in Paris at the Marias. The other ones were held in the cities of Orleans and Le Mans both south of Paris. We also stopped in the various cities of Evry, Melun and Tours for meetings and exchanges. It was a lot of traveling but a lot of fun. To interact and hangout with different missionary's as well as doing exchanges with them.

On Saturday night I had an experience I will not forget. We got invited over to eat by a recent convert in the ward. He was baptized maybe 5 months ago. His name is Christian and he is about 50. He was born in the Paris region and had grown up there his whole life. He had kindly prepared one of the most elegant French meals I have ever tasted. First we started with some chips, olives and nuts washed down with some sparking lemonade, grenadine juice and sparking water. Then we moved on to the baguettes, duck pate and endive salad.  Then came the main course, an oven roasted chicken with traditional potato French fries with some spicy Dijon mustard. Then came the cheese and more bread. For desert we finished with chocolate mousse and a traditional flaky creamy apple tart.  I can't tell you how good this was. To make it better in the ambiance of Edif Phiaf (which he insisted we listen to haha). I could glance over to my left out the window I could see the sparkly large Eiffel tower followed by countless buildings. Somewhat of a spectacular scene. So cliché but "la vie est belle". It was a great night spent with some amazing people. Elder Wilson and I walked out of the apartment in a trance.  Among the smell, people, rain and transportation there is something magic about this city that's hard to explain.

Nate and Elder Wilson

Another one of our amis is Sophie. She is about 45 and the Elders have been teaching her for 2 years.  When Elder Wilson and I arrived we had no idea how to help her. We quickly realized that we needed to be taking a different approach. So we started making appointments fun and spiritual. Slowly she has been committing to make bigger steps in becoming a member. She even brought a friend to church and explained to us exactly how God had responded to her prayer. I am really hoping that all will go well. That we can really help her. You develop a love for the people you teach besides the problems and difficulties that arise. You want the best for them and are willing to spend so much time and effort to make them happy.  Had a good day at Roland Garros. Nothing Better than Autumn in Paris...

Terror Attacks in Paris
Elder Wilson and I had a pretty normal day.  We went out and did some contacting and had a rdv in the afternoon. In the evening just so happens that we had a shift at the visitors center that night. We arrived around 5pm and our shift was till 8pm. We finished our shift at 8 but had to finish something on the computer. We finished it fairly quickly and felt like we needed to head straight home. So we got on the ReR train and headed home. The area of the visitors center was attacked about 45 minutes later. There was a restaurant shooting about a 5 min walk away from where we were. Elder Wilson and I had no idea of what happened.  We went to bed sleeping well. We actually kept our phone on silent but woke up to about 17 missed calls and maybe 10 text messages. We had no idea what had gone on. We called some other Paris zone leaders and they filled us in. Soon after we confirmed with them that all the missionaries were safe and accounted for. Which they were.  There were actually missionaries living in the parts of Paris that were attacked.

Last week in Antony – Moving to Versailles
President gave us a call around 8:30 Saturday morning to confirm that everyone was accounted for and safe. We confirmed with him that all was good. He said he was going to call an emergency conference call at 10:00 to go over the precautions. We were not allowed to go out Saturday and Sunday just to be safe. President then asked  if I would come to the office in Versailles and serve as an assistant.  I was a little shocked I said I would gladly accept. The next transfer starts in a week and a half but I had to leave right away to get the necessary training from elder Amaya who I would be replacing and to participate in the transfer decision meetings. I was a little shocked by all the changes, after that....lets just say I wasn't very hungry the rest of the day. Interesting time to be called when France is in a state of crisis. I feel pretty blessed and thankful for the chance to serve, learn and grow alongside President Babin and his wife. My new companion is Elder Lattin who is from DC.  We get along really well and will have fun over the next transfer.
Transfer #10

Versailles is a city in the Yvelines département in Île-de-France region, renowned worldwide for its château, the Château de Versailles and the gardens of Versailles, designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  Nate has been serving in Versailles since the end of November as an Assistant to the Mission President.  His companion just went home this week and will now has a new companion. 

Versailles Gardens
Few updates from Versailles
Had a lot of work to do leading up to the transfers and changes in the mission as well as all the precautions of safety we have to take concerning the three countries in our mission and the missionaries that live there. Belgium is still a complicated situation and we have been talking with the zone leaders often as well as president to insure the missionaries safety.

Besides that this week on Wednesday and Thursday we had quite intensive meetings for transfers. Fasting and praying to know exactly at what point we needed to change people and move cities. We actually on Wednesday had a meeting that was almost 7 hours long. You start to really care and worry for missionaries. In the last week and a half I have really thought a lot about success and the satisfaction of fulfilling our purpose as missionaries to invite others to come unto Christ. At this moment serving as an assistant our purpose is a little different. I am very grateful to have the chance to serve and help other missionaries. Charity is most certainly a characteristic I have come to better understand. Really forgetting yourself and serving others is when we find the most joy. Spending time buying over 250 online train tickets and staring at a computer for hours on end, you find a joy when you are serving others. The couples that we work with in the office are great example of that. There are about 5 that work here with us. It's nice hanging out with wise old people.

Quick Trip to Utah
Nate had to get back to Utah to take care of some immigration work so he would be able to get back into the US when he finishes his mission.  So he had some time back on US soil and less than a week later was back in France.

Nate at the Versailles Gardens

Back in Versailles 
Well. Where to start with this week. Full of new adventures and lack of sleep.  We had our mission conference call held from Versailles then we had a couple meetings after. This transfer we have a lot of missionaries going home early for Christmas so we had to make plans to accommodate their post in the mission wherever they might have been serving. We then headed in to Paris, a short 30 min metro ride to the biggest corporate  business sector called La Defense. Also happens to be where the only Chipotle is! We had a district burrito lunch and then headed back to the office. That night we had a family home evening as the bishops house with a less active man in the ward. The ward mission leader had been encouraging us to leave a "personal touch"  with the members when we go by their houses. Helping them to remember who we are and to make our personalities known. So that day I had actually printed off some larger photos from a store and had them in my bag. There was a really cool black and white photo that I had taken of the Arc de Triomphe.  We kind of forgot until we got there that we had to leave them with  a personal touch so we got out the photo and wrote a nice note on the back thanking them for having us over and letting us teach the gospel in their beautiful country then left it on the front table.  They saw it as we left and thanked us enormously for the gift. They said for sure it would go up in their house. We thought that was kind of cool. The membership in the ward is so great and are so friendly. We have 2 Canadian families and 6 American families. The rest are French and Latin based. Makesfor a really cool dynamic.  On Tuesday we had an exchange with some zone leaders and in Amiens. A decent sized French city in the north of Paris. We actually drove the car instead of taking the train which was nice. The French countryside is beautiful minus the crazy tricky toll roads. It was nice because we could work and talk in the car. We wish we could do that more often but we would be driving 3-6 hours to get places. The trains go 300 km/h so it gets us there a lot quicker. The exchange was really good. Elder Smith and I got some good teaching opportunities.
When exchanges are done right it is a really good chance to learn from others. There is no one right way to do missionary work. Watching others missionaries helps you to become better and develop new ideas.

On Wednesday we started early at 4:00 in the morning. The day before was the same up early.  We went and retrieved two sisters at the train station in Paris.  Then brought them to the office to have their parting interviews. So at 4:00 the next day we went to pick them up at the mission home and we started off to our third home outside of our apartment and the office, the airport Charles de Gaulle. We help them to check in and then headed back to our apartment. It's about 1 hour drive across Paris. A lot of good bonding time for Elder Lattin and I. Later that day we had another exchange with the zone leaders in Paris. We worked a lot that day on showing the new Christmas video "un sauver est né". We got to share the special spirit of Christmas with multiple people inviting them to the huge Christmas concert that we are having in our ward on Sunday for the whole Paris stake. It was really fun to share something that everyone can relate to in one way or another, not the getting but the giving, loving, spiritual feelings of Christmas.

Arc de Triomphe

So this week we wrapped up all the Christmas activities with our last zone Christmas conferences. We had the last two this week. On Tuesday we had the zones of Paris and East Paris. It was really good. I played the guitar with some sisters for this Spanish children's song. It was fun. Sounded really cool too. Besides that the majority of the conference was done by the senior couples that we work with in the office. They presented different topics or presentations. It was really good.  All the Zones were able to come into Paris and there were a number of great musical numbers.  We also received our Christmas packages and letters from our families.

Two Zones at the Christmas Party - Nate is in the front row
On Christmas Eve we were invited to a members home and had a very French traditional dinner. The appetizer was 8 giant oysters and they were so good followed with different seafood dishes. Then the main course was duck, cooked in the only acceptable French manner which was very pink. Something I have come to like more and more. We ate that with potatoes and salad. It was so good. They had a little evening program while we were there. I played the guitar and we both sang a White Christmas. Lots of kids and energy. We had to be home by 10:30 that night because that was the special exception for Christmas and we had a present on behalf of the mission that we had to deliver to President and Sister Babin before Christmas morning. So we texted President before we went to our dinner appointment and ask if we could come by that night around 10:25. Just enough time to get home. His response was "actually we will be at Bishop Gerald Causée house so if you just want to stop by his place around 10:30 that would be perfect". We were a little shocked at the invitation but we said hey why not. So we got out of our dinner appointment about 10:00 and headed over to his house. We rang the doorbell and his wife let us in the gate. We walked into the house to find the Presiding Bishop of the church sitting at the piano giving a Christmas spiritual thought to about 40 members of his family including our mission president and his wife who are in-laws.  We arrived found our chairs and got to listen for 10 or 15 minutes.  Then at the conclusion of the spiritual thought we were asked to introduce ourselves. We did just that and then gave the present to Sister and President Babin. After which the family proposed that they sing us a song because we as missionaries sing all the time for people which is somewhat true. So Bishop Causée turned around to the piano and started playing, after which the family started in unison singing one of the coolest touching French Christmas songs I have ever heard. Elder Lattin and myself were a little star struck.  They finished the song and we talked for a while. They have an extremely warm loving family. I don't think I will ever forget the spirit of Christmas, but more importantly the spirit of Christ that I felt in their home this season.  Over this Christmas season  I feel especially grateful for the all the blessings that I have received for myself and my family. When we serve him and love him we see more clearly his hand in our life. Over this past year I have learned an enormous amount of things about myself and our savior. Wouldn't take any of it back.

11th Transfer (16th is when you go home)

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