Monday, 7 March 2016

January and February Adventures in France!

Nate is still serving as an Assistant to the Mission President in Versailles, France.  As part of those responsibilities every 6 weeks they work with the Mission President on moving missionaries around to different area’s (transfers).  He is also involved in picking up and welcoming new missionaries who are arriving in France and providing them with some initial orientation and training.  He then helps with those missionaries finishing their service and takes them to the airport.  He also works with the Mission President and Zone Leaders to set up and provide training to the 220 missionaries in 7 Zones throughout northern France and Belgium.  He is also busy continuing to teach people in the Versailles area and has less than 5 months to go and is loving it!

Jan 4th
We spent 10 hours in the office of our President today to finalize the vision of what we would like our mission to become in the new year. Touching on notable subjects my head is almost ready to explode!  I couldn't be more thankful for it though. I wake up absolutely exhausted everyday but I'm happy and it's worth it.
I have grown enormously in the past 12 months and I am extremely grateful for that. I don't imagine a much greater change taking place in my life, than the one, I have seen unfold in serving a mission. The knowledge of the gospel is too precious to not be shared with everyone.  I would encourage you all during this new year to find out why. To research this special blessings in your life and make the changes that the lord would have you make to be happy.

Jan 11th

We have to do a lot in the office preparing. One of my responsibilities is to buy all the transportation tickets. Almost everyone will come to Paris or pass through on the way to their new city as part of their transfer. I have to coordinate all the people, times and where and when they will meet.  A lot of time and energy go into it behind the scenes and I buy all the tickets online.

On Tuesday we went to get the new missionaries at the airport and took 5 cars between the President, his wife , ourselves and senior missionaries. We had a group of 19 coming in and had to use our giant van to transport all of their suitcases. When they arrive at the airport we give them a pain de chocolat which is a classic French pastry.  Still remember my first one when I got to France. Then we bring them back to our mission office in Versailles where they have interviews with the President and his wife. While they wait we have missionaries that live in Paris come and take them out contacting for their first missionary experience. They have so much fun speaking to French people for the first time and it's amazing to see how much excitement, energy and desire they have to share the gospel. They usually end up seeing some really cool miracles. The interviews end at about 6:00 pm. After we take them out for dinner and after the restaurant we take them to a hotel for the night.

Dinner with departing Missionaries, their last night in France

On Wednesday morning we go and pick them up around 7:30 am and we walk with them to the ReR metro stop where we live. We take all the new missionaries to a place we call consecration hill. It's a lookout at the edge of Paris where you can see the seine river, the commercial center, a vineyard, a castle and long metal barrier railing over the edge of the lookout. We take some time to explain that the hill that they are standing on was where missionary work was consecrated in France. 

Then we give them some time to write in their journal about how they are going to consecrate themselves over the period of their mission.
To share that moment with them is something so refreshing and enjoying. After we are done there we head in to Paris where the program starts for the day. A series of trainings directed towards trainers and new missionaries. They meet their trainers and then head off to their cities. After that we head back to the office and facilitate people getting their going home interview with President Babin and then have a testimony meeting and dinner at our favorite Chinese restaurant.

New Group of Missionaries, Consecration Hill

Thursday we had the day to prepare for Friday. Our mission leadership council. A 4 hour informative spiritual goal setting meeting in which we establish a theme for the mission, in this specific case for the year and transfer.

Transfer week is long but worth it!

Jan 18th
This week we had to organize two conferences. The first of which took place on Wednesday and the second on Thursday. We split the mission half and half. We ordered train tickets and sleepovers for everyone just to make sure all went well.

The Area President Elder Kearon was here and for the Thursday conference, talks given by President and Sister Babin followed by Elder Kearon who addressed us for about 2 hours. I was conducting, something I have gotten used to. It was all in English though which was more difficult.

President and sister Babin talked about the culture of our mission. And how we thrive off obedience, faith and working hard. These three things are represented on the three colors of the French flag.  Elder Kearon spoke for about 2 hours and he was a convert to the church at the age of 26. Contacted by missionaries on the street in London. He took lessons for a while and had decided to get baptized. He married an American women and has a family now and lives in Germany.

It would be too hard to summarize all he talked about. Some of the most common words that he used was attack, real intent, be the message, invite, act, love them, simplify, be yourself, hard work, get out of comfort zone, weird awkward, obedience, stretch. He basically told us that we were not exactly producing the results that we should be giving the reasons by which we need to change. Of course in a loving way. The amount of love he has for everyone is amazing. In working with him throughout the week I was overwhelmed by his capacity to love .

I think I really felt this during the 20 min or so interview I had with him. A moment I will never forget. He asked me every possible question. How is your family? What did you study? Did you have a girlfriend? Where do you see the mission going? How are you going to do that? I was really thrown back by his interest in my life. He gave me a couple very specific pieces of council.  He said an overwhelming humble prayer at the end. I was blown away by his love and meekness. More than his knowledge or spirituality what hit me the most what his Christ-like abilities. He was truly a representative of Jesus Christ and that was felt.

"A View that never gets old!"
Jan 25th
Elder Stolk and I had  an hour one night to go out and knock doors. I had strongly felt that we should go to a neighborhood we drive by quite often so we headed over to the neighborhood. We parked the van on the side of the road and prayed asking specifically what direction we needed to go and we both felt we should go down the street on the right. So we did. About the 4 door we knocked on an African lady answered and we introduced ourselves as missionaries telling her why we had knocked on her door. She let us in and we meet her two daughters and taught them about prayer and left a blessing in their home. They wanted to pray in a big circle holding hands to so that was fun and I really felt the spirit being able to share that moment with them. We went back on Friday and learned more about this Famille.  They are from Kenya and they moved to France because the father is the chief ambassador and the embassy and they speak English and Swahili which is cool. Anyway we taught them the restoration. It was a great lesson.  We knelt down and the end of the lesson with them in humble prayer. They had a real desire to know the truth and they could feel that they were getting closer to it.  It’s unbelievable how God can lead you to people and if you have faith and can handle it he will place people in your path. When someone needs to be found he will help us.

Moving Crew to New Apartment and Elder Martin's Birthday

Feb 1st
Elder Martin and I had 2 more exchanges that were done here in Versailles. We decided to take advantage of the fact that we are in the center of the mission to have all the Zone Leaders come to us. We do all the exchange in Versailles. We have developed a certain attitude about doing exchanges. We work the closest to President Babin so we take the time to discuss points of confusion and inform them of different changes and updates. We take time to talk about all the missionaries in their zone and their progression. They give us valuable insights and we exchange ideas and opinions on these things.

We also work HARD.  Elder Martin has a pretty good grasp on that, from his two years in the US Naval Academy. We start with our exercises at 6:00. We run to the park and pick up assorted heavy materials that we have found such as tires and logs. I have to admit, it's a lot more fun than doing sit ups and push-ups in the apartment. After that we work hard and try to find and teach as many people as we can. The other day we managed to teach about 17 lessons in a day. The Lord prepares people to meet us and you realize that more than ever when you put the effort forth to go and find them. So overall the exchanges were a lot of fun and super successful. We have two more this week to look forward to.

Soccer in the Park

Feb 8th
Another week in the books with a lot of progress. We finished our last two exchanges this week with the Zone Leaders and we focused a lot on finding people with faith and intensity.  Missionaries sometimes don't have enough faith to suffice when finding and if you decide you will be successful you will usually find miracles and success. We taught 50 lessons and found 13 new people to teach.  We were very blessed and thankful that we got to connect with that many people but I wanted to two lessons and people that we got to teach.

Mall in Paris

Feb 15th
President & Sister Babin asked us if we could teach one of our Ami’s at their house this week and they wanted to do a family home evening with them. Convenient enough we have a friend that lives in the same neighborhood as the mission home. His name is William and has been taking the missionary lessons for quite some time. He started a spiritual search out of curiosity but has now found a real source of peace and joy in his life. He is about to finish the Book of Mormon and has the desire to be baptized. We helped him understand that absolute truth exists and that it is manifested though the spirit. He has already felt it but we talked a lot about how this feels and happens. It was highly beneficial to have President & Sister Babin with us. They are both French and understand educational and institutional differences that helped us relate to him. We had a little meal, talked and laughed together. It was great. William was very impressed and had a lot of fun as well.

We got the chance to participate in a Book of Mormon activity we do in the heart of Paris. Bring together 15 or so missionaries and put up a giant Book of Mormon in a public square. We contact and hand out cards and teach people about this special aspect of our religion. This weekend it rained a ton so we pulled an audible.  We went street and metro singing and handed out cards for the visitors center. It was a lot of fun. And you run in to all sorts of different people especially contacting in the most flamboyant streets in France. Lots of fun. Not exactly successful but met a lot of cool people.

Art Museum Paris

Feb 22nd
It was our transfer week so on Tuesday we picked up the new missionaries at the airport. Took them out for their first day. We get them to a little contacting and experience the work. Then we have dinner at the mission home. On Wednesday we bring them into Paris and they met up with their trainer and we give them a training and some necessary tools like their iPad. It's a long process for them because they are very jet lagged and I totally remember those first couple weeks when I arrived here I was so tired.

On Friday we had our transfer mission leadership council where we get together and share the theme of the transfer which was finding. We presented with President Babin our vision of finding which is the hardest aspect of the work. But you never have anyone to teach if you don't find so it’s very essential and sometimes discouraging.

In other news we found a new family and set a baptismal date with a girl named Angel. We taught her with her mom and her sister and she was literally just waiting for us to invite her to be baptized. We had a really spiritual discussion with them and it's fun meeting new people and being able to touch them with the spirit.

We played soccer and tennis today at this rec center close to our house and I miss getting outside and playing sports. Over all we had a great week and a lot of progress in our sector and as well in the mission. We are trying to be the best examples possible and we are seeing the difference it makes. Loving life. We also taught primary his week!

Loved teaching these guys!

Feb 29th
This week we had two exchanges with the Zone Leaders in Paris and in Bruxelles.  Lots of travel and fun memories with some really cool people. Just wanted to share a couple cool experiences.

Elder Empey and I were in Brussels and they had fixed a rdv for that evening we arrived in Belgium. So we went to teach this man his name is Sylvian. A Belgian man who is about 45 years old and his family was killed in a car accident. He developed a spiritual sensitivity in his life and searches continually for a greater light. He took lessons about a year ago with my trainer when he served in Brussels but he stopped for a while. The Zone Leaders just started to return to teach the lessons to him. We taught him about Joseph Smith and how he received an answer from God. We felt the spirit and had a really good lesson. At the end he offered us a couple pairs of boots and we accepted them and ask how we could thank him. He said not to worry about it. I saw a Guitar in the corner of the room and ask if we could play a song for him in return. We sang blackbird by the Beatles then Elder Empey played this really cool song which was so good at the end of the song Sylvian asked for the guitar back, took a sharpie and wrote on it "from a friend to a friend" . He gave us this handmade guitar made in Canada. So cool. We were over whelmed. He said "Elder Empey you can play that better than I could ever so you take it. Never stop playing". Pretty cool experience and a simple act of kindness and charity.

The next experience that stood out was on wed morning we were on the subway home to our house from Paris. We sat down and then a stop after us a girl sat down in our little section. She started to cry. She was 22 and her name was Marie and we asked if we could do something for her because she was obviously upset and stressed. She went on to tell us that something terrible had happened in her life and she opened up and broke down crying.  We testified of simple truth that she has a loving Heavenly Father and that she has extreme potential in this life and in the future, and that the principle of forgiveness is true and best understood through the atonement of Jesus Christ. She was very happy we had taken the time to talk to her and she expressed that it made her feel a lot better. That is something you walk away from smiling and thanking God for the people he puts in our path.

This week was full of fun. We had lunch in Brussels, Thai dinner in Paris. Acted as a missionary moving crew. I was the truck driver. Not easy moving in Paris. Especially on tiny little streets. Had Stake Conference at the Palace of Congress in Versailles. Pretty much sums up life right now. Not to shabby!

Usual Transfer Picture, Only 4 more to go!

March 7th
Hi friends. I had a really good week . Lots of events and travel. We had our first week of zone conferences which was fun. The format for those is  a training given by the Sister training leaders  as well the Zone Leaders, followed by us and then President Babin. It's fun to be able to see all of the different missionaries and visit and talk with them. You learn a lot more by being out there with them. We gave our training on finding as in missionary work you can't teach until you find. The first fundamental aspect of the work. So we shared that at the conference in Paris Sud and in Rennes.

Our teaching pool in increasing with a lot of Amis taking the steps towards baptism. We have been praying a lot about how we can help them and have seen numerous miracles in working with members. We have a women named Peirrette who is really trying her best to say her prayers and read. She doesn't have a strong education background but an enormous amount of faith and love for the savior. Things are looking up not only in our sector but in the mission. We have seen a lot of progress in the success we have had over the past month so we are extremely happy.

Train Station

Oh we played some soccer today and timed each other running for no reason at all haha. We try to amuse ourselves ...

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