Monday, December 16, 2013

Investigators comment, "my role models are God, Jesus, and John Stockton." (Too bad he's retired, we could use him).

Bonjour Ma Famille!

I hope you are all doing wonderful and enjoying the best part of the year.  I had a fantastic always...can't really remember the last time that I didn't. My birthday was good, kind of just another day of work.  But, it was fun.  Although, I'm kind of sad to not be a 19 year old sister missionary anymore.  I really liked being the super young one.  Oh well, I guess I'll still always hold the title of being the first one in our mission.

So, we'll start with the basics.  My new companion in Sister Ronndahl.  She is from Sweden.  It's really cool because we have been receiving basically no new American missionaries.  They are mostly European now.  So great.  Anyways, she's 20, is funny, and really likes art and food.  Speaking of, that is one of the funniest struggles of having companions from other countries.  Example--last night we were making a grocery list.  She eats a lot of bizarre things and makes fun of the English names for food.  She was especially confused when she found out that we call the meat we put on sandwiches "lunchmeat".  Haha, "Why?  Do you have "dinnermeat" too?"  ...never thought about that before.  Anyways, she's fun and really dedicated.  I'm excited to work with her.

Funny moment of the week-- 
One of our amis said that his role models are God, Jesus, and John Stockton.  It took a second to compose myself before continuing the lesson because I was laughing so hard.  Haha, sounds like he's a Utah mormon already.

Texts of the week-- 
(an ami) "I just wanted to thank you for the time that you give me.  I really feel something special during our lessons."
(random number) "Hi, I'm not sure you remember me, but you gave me a Book of Mormon a few weeks ago.  Is there a time we can get together this week and talk about it?"

Other miracles--
So this week we had our Branch Christmas Party.  It was unreal.  There were more less-actives and nonmembers there than members.  Are you kidding me?  It was fantastic to spend the whole night running around and sparking everyone.  Examples...
Severine (our amie) came and brought three of her children.
A less-active/partial member family came.  They have not stepped foot in the church for years (some of the super offended ones).  But, you would never know because they stayed after for hours and chatted with all of the members.
Another less-active came, brought a friend, came to church the next day, and payed her tithing (I've only seen her at church once in three months).
Hsuan also came and brought a non-member friend (such an incredible missionary!).
And then, there were several other members that invited friends and less-actives that randomly showed up.  It was so so cool.  It really was a night of miracles...and really yummy food.

Oh, so remember several weeks ago when Severine was in the hospital and we set-up for the priesthood to go and give her a blessing?  End of the story... While they were there, they ended up giving a blessing also to a lady that was staying in the same room as Severine.  She was an old lady who was really sick and was told that she would be in the hospital for months until they could figure out what was wrong with her.  Nope, the day after she went home in perfect health.  Power of the priesthood.

Sandrine is doing well too.  Oh my gosh, I love her so much.  She is so incredible.  It has been difficult lately with her husband because he is so so against the church.  But, she was at church yesterday with all four of her kids.  She has such a strong testimony.  Probably one of my favorite amies ever!

Other than that...we have a new ami from Colombia, all of the buses were on strike this week (apparently strikes are the national sport in France), and our new phone broke.  Um, good week.  Love you all!

Je vous aime,
Soeur Alisa Hulme

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"Jesus got a great birthday present - Migo was baptized!" 12/9/13

Bonjour Ma Famille,

Last picture of Soeur Hulme with Soeur Pagano
Oh my gosh, so much stuff to talk about this week.  I guess we can start with transfer calls so that you know where I am.  I'm very excited to announce that I will be staying in my very perfect little ville of Besancon for Christmas.  Soeur Pagano is being shipped down south to spend the winter in the warm weather of Tarbes.  And, I'll let you guess who my new companion is...  Right, I don't know either.  I'll be picking up my new bleue on Wednesday.  I'm currently waiting in Chalon-sur-Saone (a little ville almost as cute as mine...there is Josh Groban Christmas music playing in the streets right now) before going down to Lyon tomorrow,  I'm kind of wondering if I'll ever receive a "normal" companion.  Oh well, I'm super excited--training is all that I know.  Which is great because I love it.  Maybe this time I'll get it right (haha, who does that sound like?).

We'll save the most important things for last and now move on to the funny moment--probably the most embarrassing experience in my life that I can recall.  So, here you go...  This transfer, there was a small group of elders called to put together a musical performance that they would perform all over the mission.  Basically, they just travel everywhere and bring the Spirit with their incredible musical talents.  This last week, they came to Dijon, which means us and the surrounding wards were all invited.  Cool, right?  Yes, that's not the bad part.  Bad part-- "Soeur Hulme, would you help us with a musical number?"  Okay, let's see about this...  I don't sing.  Not even like a little.  I did choir in elementary school and got turned down all of the solos I tried-out for (imagine that) and have been a strictly "car radio singer" ever since.  Nearly all of my companions, without fail, have commented on how "fun" it is to sing hymns with me because I can't read the music or count.  You get the picture.  After rather convincingly, I thought, explaining this dilemma and asking every other sister if they would be willing to do it, they were insistent that I perform in the number.  Okay, fine.  I'm a missionary, I can't say "no" to something like that.  But, they were given more than fair warning.  But, it was fine, right?  There were other people who were singing my part so that I could just blend with them.  Nope.  It was definitely a duet with the lead singer of the group, an elder with the most beautiful voice, and it was full of solos.  Haha, funny.  That was embarrassing.  It was so bad.  Every time I think about it, I just laugh in a "I kind of just want to curl up under a rock and die" kind of way.  There you go, missions stretch you.  Warning--this is not a hidden talent I will be coming back with.
Best miracle of the week, Migo was baptized!  It was absolutely perfect.  It's kind of crazy because I thought that there would be a lot of things to tell you about this, but I can't really describe it.  The service was incredible and so sweet.  She was beaming the whole night and teared up several times.  I feel so blessed to have been able to be a part of this miracle.  Crazy, but it was one of those that I got to see from start to finish.  She is doing wonderful and is looking forward to visiting the temples and the "forest in New York" (sacred grove) in the coming weeks (hopefully she doesn't get a tick).  This experience really strengthened my testimony of member missionary work.  It started with her best friend bringing her to church.  She was alongside her the whole way, coming to every lesson and responding to questions.  It made our work easy and so much fun.  I know this is the way missionary work should be done.  Jesus got a great birthday present and I got two new friends that I got to help come closer to Him.  So great!

Member missionary work!
Random sidenote-- I decided that I was going to practice my Chinese this week.  So, I drew this character on the board that I thought looked pretty authentic.  Turns out, it meant potato.  See, I know Chinese.  Ironically enough, today we went to a "pataterie" (a restaurant that only serves different potato dishes).  It was great.

Other random sidenote--A nun stopped us this week and congratulated us on our choice of lifestyle, explaining that she made the same choice when she was about our age.  Awkward, not sure she understood....

Well, I think that about sums it up.  Awesome end to a wonderful transfer.  I love being a missionary!  I love you all, be sure to eat Cafe Rio and something mint chocolate for me this week!

Je vous aime,
Soeur Alisa Hulme

Monday, December 2, 2013

"I prayed a lot to the God Father last night" - an investigator

Christmas Lights in Centreville…Aaaahhh!

Bonjour Ma Famille,

I'm so busy and so happy.  Oh my gosh, this week has been crazy.  We taught more lessons with amis/members/less-actives this week than I have in a single week my whole mission.  It was insane...our numbers rivaled some of my totals from whole transfers.  Not that any of that matters, we were just very booked.  Loved it! 

Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope you all had a wonderful day with the family.  It was pretty great here too.  We were very blessed to have a senior couple in our district who made us a great dinner after our meeting on Thursday.  (plug for senior missionaries) You should all be senior missionaries one day.  We all love you and you do so much to help the work...and to make a bunch of American missionaries very happy on the holidays.  Anyways, that meal was great...but I'm thinking that we need to instigate a new tradition in our family.  So, the night of Thanksgiving, we were invited over to the Branch President's house for fondue.  Oh my gosh, I can't even explain how good it was.  What is France known for?  Bread and cheese.  Take a moment here and just imagine how good it would be in fondue it?  So, as a precursor to Black Friday, we have fondue...from France.  Deal?

Okay, for miracles this week, let's start with Migo.  So, I could go on and on about how wonderful she is and how much I love her, but I thought I'd give you several "Migo Moments" of the week that will make you laugh/melt your heart/make you really jealous that you are not blessed to teach her...

(while discussing her readings in the Book of Mormon) "I really like in the tree of life when it talks about the juicy fruit.  It makes me feel magical."

"Do you maybe think that I could see you and have lessons every day until my baptism?" ("Hmm...let me check my schedule...OF COURSE!")

"After my baptism I will be going to the United States for a couple weeks.  Are there chruches of mormon there that I can go to?"

"I prayed a lot to the God Father last night."

"I really really like your lessons.  But, do you think you could make them much longer so that I can learn more?"

(in all of her prayers) "Thank you for sending me these three friends (referring to us and Hsuan (her member friend)) so that I can learn more about You."

Okay, so I probably had the coolest experience of my entire mission yesterday.  I've had some pretty incredible ones, but from what I can recall, this one is my favorite.  Yesterday, Migo bore her testimony at church and she asked me to come up and translate for her.  She had written out everything that she wanted to share, I cannot even explain how beautiful and sincere it was.  It was the most amazing thing ever to be standing up there next to her, repeating all of the beautiful things that she has learned and that we have helped in teaching.  This cute girl that knew nothing of God only months ago when we starting teaching her, who we heard pray for the first time, was expressing how much joy she feels in the church and her love of her Heavenly Father.  (last line of her testimony) "After all the classes learning about this church, I am sure I had heard the sound from my deep heart that is "I'm ready for baptism and excited about that I am on the way of God's plan for us."" And then she invited the whole branch to come to the service.  It was unreal.  Definitely cried.

We had another super cool miracle this week... So last week, we were given the number of a less-active lady that had apparently been trying to get ahold of us.  We didn't know who she was and couldn't find her number on the ward list, but called and set up and rendez-vous anyway.  She was super nice.  Several days later, before the rendez-vous, we received a call from her husband saying that she was in the hospital and needed a priesthood blessing.  We called the Branch President and worked everything out for the priesthood to go and give her one.  The blessing went really well.  Upon them returning to tell us how it went, we were shocked to find out that Severine was actually not a member of the church.  She had been taught over a year ago in a different ville.  She had received all of the lessons and even had a baptismal date, which unfortunately fell through at the last minute.  After moving, she lost contact with the missionaries and the church.  But, she suddenly had the desire to come back and be baptized (hence her calling us).  So, we met with her this week, she is absolutely incredible, and we're starting to reteach her the lessons and prepare her for her baptism in the future.

Basically, the rest of the week was like this.  It was a great week to be a missionary.  Other amis continue to progress well.  Unfortunately, we are having some struggles with Sandrine right now because of her husband's intolerance of the church.  We're working through it, God will make it work out when and how it is supposed to.

Thank you for all of your love and prayers.  Congrats Maddy on making sterling scholar, that is fantastic.  I'm so proud.  Love you all, have a great week, I love being a missionary!

Je vous aime,
Soeur Alisa Hulme
One of the first editions of Le Mis at Victor Hugo's home

Zone Conference

Monday, November 25, 2013

"I got to work with my "granddaughter", Sister Bragg" 11/25/13

Bonjour Ma Famille!

Crazy, crazy week.  I ended up only being in Besancon for about three days of it.  We had two exchanges in Lyon, so basically I lived there.  Cool part-- one of the exchanges was with Soeur Luthi's companionship.  Loved it!  One, two of my bleues worked together for a day.  Cool, right?  Two, I got to work with my "granddaughter", Soeur Bragg (meaning that Soeur bleue: AKA her trainer).  Confusing family ties.  But, to put it simply, I had a fun week with most of my mission posterity.  Basically, they're all clones of me.  Aren't they lucky? (not prideful...just a joke)  

Random moment from one of the exchanges... So I was working in my first ward of the mission and we got to do service at the bishop's house.  It was cool that I could officially meet him as a somewhat more capable French speaker.  The project: Scrubbing and chipping paint off of the walls and floors of their house.  They recently moved in and the painter did probably the worst job I've ever seen in my life.  I definitely could have done better at the age of eight.  Anyway, we spent hours scrubbing all of the extra paint off of the doorframes and tile.  Interesting experience...maybe next time they'll just ask the missionaries to paint the house from the start.

My beautiful ville of Besancon welcomed it's first snow this week.  Oh my goodness, so incredible.  Seriously, a winter wonderland with all of the trees twinkling with the freshly fallen snow.  And, to add to that, they've turned on all of the Christmas lights in town...the giant tree, the city hall that is wrapped in a huge, red ribbon, and the snowflakes and wreaths hanging between the streets.  Cutest thing that I've ever seen.  Don't worry, Mom, I'll be sure to film myself walking down the cobblestone streets so you can see it all.

Today I had a weird realization.  So, a little while ago I wrote home asking my mom to send me sheet music for the piano.  #1: Who would have ever thought that I would be asking for piano music that I would have to carry with me the rest of my mission?  I'm stoked whenever I finish a chapstick that won't add weight anymore to my luggage.  #2: Um, pretty sure I never played the piano before my mission and considered it the bane of my existance for a good portion of my life.  #3: I received the music this week and looked forward to nothing else this P-day than playing while Soeur Pagano wrote her emails to her family.  So basically, it took my mission to get me to love the piano.  Look what's happening to me.  

So this week, there were also lots of miracles.  One night we were out contacting and it was getting late.  We only had a couple more minutes before going home and only needed one more person to make our daily goal for contacts.  Okay, you see where this is going...typical missionary story, but it was cool anyway.  We were walking through this neighborhood and literally couldn't find anyone so felt that we should start going back another way.  And, of course, there was a girl.  Sadly, she wasn't interested.  Oh well, we got our contacting goal.  But then, there was one more guy behind her and, of course, we passed him because we already had our contacting goal.  Whatever, we totally talked to him and taught him a lesson right there on the street and prayed with him and testified and left him with a Book of Mormon.  There you go, an end of the day miracle.

Also, we had the most incredible lessons with Migo (our wonderful Taiwanese amie).  Love her!  We talked to her about Christ, which was really cool because we had to start from square one and, did I mention that it's all in English?  Luckily that wasn't a problem because we speak English.  Except, it's kind of embarrassing when you get to the first vision and realize that you don't know it in your native language.  Awkward.  Anyways, the lesson was great and the Spirit was so strong.  At the end  she told us how she knows that God answers her prayers and that she feels peace and happiness when she reads the Book of Mormon and comes to church.  Miracle!  Guess who has a baptismal date now?  What an awesome Christmas present for the Savior.  She is seriously the most sincere and sweet person ever and we're so excited to be helping her prepare to follow Christ.  Also, what an cool thing for our little branch.  The last baptism they saw was over 1 1/2 years ago and now that person is completely inactive.  I can't even track back to the baptism before that.  I love miracles!

Everything is great and I'm loving my mission.  There is no better way to spend my favorite time of the year!

On a sidenote, are you kidding me?  Mom, you have literally been stuck in bed for 10 months because a tick from New York bit you and the dentist gave you too much numbing medicine during a root canal?  That sounds like the start of a joke.  Well, I'm definitely glad they finally figured it out.  I'm praying for a miraculous recovery before your trip to France.

Have a wonderful week!

Je vous aime, 
Soeur Alisa Hulme 
(Votre missionnaire préférée)  

"The rest of the conversation we went by Sara and Elodie" 11/18/13

Bonjour Ma Famille,

Well, another wonderful week here in the lovely Besancon.  As a disclaimer....This was going to be a good letter, I had one of the funniest, best stories of my entire mission....but, to maintain companionship relations, I have graciously chosen to omit it.  But, it will be in the journal I send home in a month.  Then, you can consider this a good letter and have a good laugh.

Anyways, I guess I can tell you two other highlights of the week...
1) Soeur Pelot made us part of a nativity set.  Now I will always have one of her "little muslim dolls".  Love it!
2) We contacted this lady this week, she was cool.  But, she was really confused when we wouldn't tell her our first names.  So, as to not make it "awkward" by calling us Soeur Hulme and Soeur Pagano, she made up first names for us.  The rest of the conversation we went by Sara and Elodie. 

It has been super interesting on my mission working with all of these different people and situations.  It's easy to see that we are just a part of God's huge missionary force.  There are missionaries here in my mission and all over the world who are doing the exact same thing.  And, it's not about us at all.  Missions are short, especially when you consider the amount of time that you spend in each ville (for me, never more than three months).  Rarely do you see the beginning to the end of a story.  You go in and work hard.  You find people to teach, prepare and give lessons, help less-actives, work with members, etc.  And, of course, you see miracles.  But, it's not always in the ways that you expect and it's not always in the ways that "look good in the books".  Change takes time.  And, it's often not one person that makes all the difference.  It's the consistancy and the power of the Lord's army that is going to bring about His will.  I guess, it's just really humbling.  You can do a lot as a missionary and give it your all, but it all depends on the Lord's timing and not necessarily "one specific missionary".  If the missionary force is constant in their faith and worthiness, the Lord cannot withhold His miracles. 

I love working here with all of these wonderful people.  Our amis are doing well, we're still working with tons of less-actives, and strengthening our tiny branch.  I love my companion.  I'm learning so much in all of my studies.  I love all of the amazing missionaries I serve with and the beautiful places I see.  I love you all and am so grateful to be part of the Lord's army.  Have a wonderful week!

Je vous aime,
Soeur Alisa Hulme

Monday, November 11, 2013

"This one will be quick and scattered" 11/10/13

Bonjour Ma Famille,

This week was great, as always.  Sorry, this one will be a little quick and scattered because my mind is all over the place right now.  We're busy running everywhere and it's a little we've been and will be hopping back and forth between France and Switzerland a ton and our phone self-destructed yesterday.  How were people ever missionaries without phones?  Blows my mind.

This last week we were able to meet with lots of our amis, including Didier (the one that we found contacting last week).  He is really cool and is definitely searching to find the truth in his life...looks like he came to the right place.

We had really high goals for contacting last week and went crazy in our little town.  We talked to the most people that we have in a single week since being here.  Tons of miracles.

There was stake conference in Lausanne.  Almost every single talk was centered on missionary work (imagine that) and we had members coming up to us afterwards with tons of ideas for how they can better be missionaries and help us.

Funny moment of the week...having one of the French members read all of the really patriotic quotes in my U.S. passport in an attempted British accent. 

I absolutely love President and Sister Roney and it was fun to see them at the stake conference.  He is hilarious and she is all heart and I'm pretty sure they've won over everyone in our entire mission.  If for no other reason, members here are going to help us out of love for the Roneys.  I have the most incredible leaders.

I love being a missionary.  Take a moment and think about how blessed you are this week.  The church is true.  I love you all, thanks for the support.

Je vous aime,
Soeur Alisa Hulme

Sunday, November 10, 2013

"So many miracles...I think we should use pamphlets more." 11/4/13

Bonjour Ma Famille,

So much wonderful stuff this week.  First, the random/funny...kind of things of the week.

One, we started teaching someone who does acupressure for a living.  Wait, what is that?  Exactly.  She was shocked that I could talk to her about it and how it can cure you from being allergic to the cold.

Two, we were teaching some of our amis, this older couple, about eternal families.  It was a really powerful, spiritual lesson.  We talked about how we left our families because we want to bring happiness to the families of others.  Really powerful...then I brought out the picture of our family (the one we took less than a year ago).  It was cool until she asked if we had taken the picture three or four years ago.  Are you kidding me?  I'm sorry I don't do my hair and am in desperate need of a long nap.  Kind of funny...kind of didn't know how to take it.

Three, Halloween in France...not a huge deal.  But, for me, that absolutely was not a problem.  They have Christmas decorations already up in Centreville (middle of town).  There are huge lighted snowflakes and wreaths hanging between all of the buildings...kind of like Disneyland.  Love it!  I  made it a point this week to share my "anti-Halloween" scripture (2Timothy 1:7 "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear...") in our rendez-vous.  Also, funny Halloween experience.  So we're meeting with Soeur Pelot (our French Grandma who makes us hot chocolate), and she decides to show us her homemade nativity.  They were all of these funny little men made out of toilet paper rolls and adorned with robes, tassels, and sashes (the wisemen and shephards).  Come to find out, Soeur Pagano got a little lost in the conversation when we started talking about Christmas (maybe because it was Halloween) and later asked me why Soeur Pelot had made so many little muslim dolls.  I thought I was going to die laughing, in fact, I'm getting teary-eyed just writing about it.  

Now, some cool miracles of the week...

So we were going through the area book and calling old potentials.  We were able to set a rendez-vous with this guy named Daniel.  The first rendez-vous went okay, but we weren't really sure where it was going to go after that.  He didn't seem super interested and had lots of deep/random questions.  Anyways, we left him with a Book of Mormon and retablissement pamphlet (restoration) and an invite to church on Sunday (which he promptly turned down).  Yesterday in church, I'm leading the music and watch him walk in and sit in the back of the chapel.  After the meeting, come to find out, he had stayed at the park after our rendez-vous and read the pamphlet/the chapters we had asked him to in the Book of Mormon.  Then, he had woke up Sunday morning feeling uneasy and  decided that what he needed to do about it was to come to the mormon church.  So, he did.  He was very touched by testimony meeting and the fact that our church is so centered on Christ.  He later set-up another rendez-vous and is giving us the coordonnees (referrals) of his friends.

Later on in the week, we contacted this really cool guy (Didier).  As we turned the corner, we saw him walking with his cute, little daughter on a bike and heard, "Oh hey, it's the mormons."  Apparently he had met the elders before because they often went to the store where he works.  We had a quick contact, but he didn't seem super interested.  He's very practicing in his protestant religion.  So, we left him with a Book of Mormon and a plan du salut pamphlet (plan of salvation) and continued on our way.  No less than 30 minutes later, we got a text and later on a call from him, thanking us for the book/pamphlet, telling us how much he loved them, and asking to set-up a rendez-vous.  It was so cool.  I can't recall another time in my mission where someone has actually called us to learn more.  We're teaching him later this week.  So many cool miracles...I think we should use pamphlets more.

Everything else is going well.  Migo is coming back into town this week (she's been in Iceland...what do you do there?) and we're excited to keep working with her.  Also, Sandrine is doing well--the branch is the most incredible support for her and her cute kids.  They haven't missed a Sunday in a month.  We are seeing miracles and I love being the hands of the Lord here in Besancon.  I love being a missionary.

I hope you all have a great week!

Je vous aime,
Soeur Alisa Hulme

Monday, October 28, 2013

No French translation for "quarterback" can stump the teacher reading a story from the Liahona. 10/27/13

Bonjour Ma Famille,

Hope that you are all doing wonderful, c'est toujour comme ça ici.  Another crazy busy week.  I'm excited to announce that we got transfer calls and I'm staying here in Besancon again.  And, I get to stay with Soeur Pagano and finish the last six weeks of her training.  So fun!  Traveling is great, but I hope I'm able to stay put here a while longer.  I love it and Soeur Pagano is fantastic.

Random funny moment of the week... We're sitting in relief society and the instructor is reading a story from a talk in the Liahona, I believe it was David Beck's from the last priesthood session or something.  It had a story about a football team.  She was reading it and then got to this strange word... "quarterback".  Hmmm, everyone was stumped.  They came to the conclusion that it must have been someone important and left it at that.  I was laughing so hard and figured it wasn't the time to I'm not really sure that I have the vocab...or that the sisters would really care.

It has been another week absolutely full of less-actives.  I love working with these members, it totally opens my eyes.  It's very interesting working so closely with the branch president in such a small branch because I feel like I know everything about everyone.  And then, when meeting with all of the less-actives in their homes, they have been opening up so much.  Regardless of the reasoning for them becoming uninvolved in the church, whether it be testimony problems, other obligations, or being offended (oh my gosh, that one is the worst...literally half of the branch), there is such a need for them to come back.  Everytime we meet with these people, I just want them to see clearly.  They've literally already signed-up to have the most joy possible, but for one reason or another, they are making the choice to not accept it.  Not going to lie, sometimes the fact that people have their agency is really frustrating.  You meet with these people, hear their stories, and love them so much.  I want them to understand.  It's all about being converted to Christ.  We do everything that we do out of love for Him.  If you don't currently have that mentality and motivation, He's provided you a way to gain it.  And, it's not just about having a testimony, it actually requires actions.  Crazy concept.  The Gospel is not just about preclaiming your beliefs, it's about becoming a new person because of them.  Hmmm, sorry.  This could keep going, but I'll stop.  My little imput on the less-active situation.  We are seeing progress, it's definitely coming.  

I feel very blessed for these opportunities, though.  I can honestly say that one of the greatest things I've been learning during my mission is being patient and working well with people.  Whether it's less-actives, members, people on the street, or companions, the mission is the best for this.  Still working on it, but getting there. 

I hope you all have a great week.  Haha, reading your descriptions of the primary program made me laugh, they're my favorite.  And, I had a little burst of pride thinking of Liv giving a completely memorized talk.  Love it.  Love you all!

Je vous aime,
Soeur Alisa Hulme

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"If everything did make sunse to us, it would be evidence that it had all been made up by a mortal mind." -Pres Uchtodrf 10/21/13

Bonjour Ma Famille,
Hope this letter isn't a letdown after the masterpiece last week.  Just kidding, but there's less to announce today.  Just lots of hard work this week and I loved it.  But what else is new?
Oh, there was a funny realization this week.  We had a "Best Two Years" moment.  So, Soeur Pagano is super into asking me tons and tons of questions and wants to know my opinion on everything.  Which, of course I'm willing to give...although I'm not quite sure how valid the advice is.  Anyways, this week she asked me a question, and as I started responding she demanded that I stop until she could grab something to write down my response on.  Apparently, she's been writing everything down all transfer.  She literally has enough sticky notes with quotes from me that she could make a novel, "The Mission According to Soeur Hulme".  So funny.  Haha, life of a trainer.
What can I tell you about the work here?  We are currently actively working with at least eight less-active members/families, several of which came to church yesterday.  We just started seeing a less-active young woman and are beginning to do personal progress with her.  We went out to lunch at a Chinese restaurant with the relief society and young womens presidents this week.  That was cool, we planned lots.  Sandrine came to church with all of her kids.  She was able to receive a blessing and we're doing a family home evening with her family later tonight.  Everything is going really well.  Lots of work, our days are packed.  I really love the people here and hope I'm able to stay in Besancon for a while (for the people and for the sake of my luggage).
There was a quote that I found recently that I really like.  President Uchtdorf said, "If everything did make sense to us, it would be evidence that it had all been made up by a mortal mind."  It has been really cool for me to be on a mission and to have the opportunity to study the gospel so much.  There are many things that I thought I understood before but that are much more clear now.  But, at the same time, I've realized that you won't have the answers to everything-- not just doctrinal questions, but also the "whys" of life.  However, I know that God's hand is in all of it.  I know that Christ directs His church just as he directs our lives.  And, even if we do not understand at the moment, we can cling onto our testimonies that Christ lives.  I know He is my Savior.
I'm so happy to be a missionary and am grateful for all of the love and support that I've received.  I'm also so thankful for all of the people that are blessings to my family at home.  I know there are many that have done so much for us, especially the past months that have been crazy for my family.  It gives me peace to know that you are all there.  Thank you! 
I love you all so much, have a great week!
Je vous aime,
Soeur Alisa Hulme

Thursday, October 17, 2013

"Let me tell you what made me smile this week..." 10/14/13

Bonjour Ma Famille,

I hope that you all had a wonderful week, I definitely did.  I'm just so happy.  I'm reminded of when Christ said, "Ye have desired that ye might bring the souls of men unto me...and for this cause ye shall have fulness of joy" (3 Nephi 28:9-10).  That's honestly how I feel right now.  Yeah, a mission is hard, blah blah blah.  It's true.  There are definitely days that are struggles.  But, the bizarre part is, I can't really remember any of the hard stuff.  Even when it's happening, it's kind of pushed to the back of my mind.  I feel like I have a "fulness of joy" all the time.  It's the greatest.  Let me tell you what made me smile this week...

Talking to two, really old French ladies in the park after church on Sunday--hearing all about their lives.  Two cute ladies who have been friends for 60 years and who gave us little "grandma talks".

Realizing that I don't have to save my boots for another winter so I can completely wear them out...getting there.

Finding out that Soeur Pagano has joined all of my previous companions in her love for taking hilarious pictures of me sleeping on trains...definitely felt like I had a stalker when I went through her camera.

Receiving a letter from the Philippines-- covered in stamps with the faces of the country's leaders and a postmark dated back two months ago.

Being super busy at church--teaching young womens, teaching Sunday School and then switching halfway through to primary, playing the piano and leading (not at the same time), speaking, sparking members, setting up rendez-vous and teaching a lesson to an ami afterwards... Oh, and finding out that they will be watching the general conference broadcasts in Besancon from now on.

Spending half of the week in Switzerland for exchanges and conferences.

Going to our beautiful Citadelle (another fancy French word for castle) for P-Day. So cool!

Sandrine telling us that her kids begged to come to church again all week after having come for general conference.

Being given the wrong train times and, as a result, missing our connecting train back to France after the conference in Switzerland (actually this part wasn't funny...wait for it...).  Stuck in the Lausanne Gare-- there are no connecting trains that night, different currency, different cell phone services, we have no money, mission office is closed, etc, etc.  Crazy stressfulness.  Part that made me smile--turning around and watching Soeur Pagano carelessly wondering the gare singing, "I love to sing. I love to sing.  I love to sing a song.  Sing, sing, sing..." with an, "Oh, it's fine, Soeur Hulme will figure it out" mentality.  Luckily, we did.

Listening to Christmas music.  Thankfully, Josh Groban is approved.

Long, awesome conversations with people on public transport.

Realizing that the comment I made a couple weeks ago about The Lion King was profound.  Turns out that the Citadelle had a huge zoo and we saw SImbas, Timons, Pumbas, Zahzoos, Rafikis.....and tigers (those are cool too).

Hearing an incredible, Taiwanese girl say her first ever prayer.  So beautiful and sincere!

The elders from Tahiti doing tribal dances at zone conference.

Sitting at cute Soeur Pélot's house (an older lady in the ward) and drinking incredible hot chocolate (Real hot chocolate.  Not powder.  Real melted chocolate with milk.), using her adorable tea set--while discussing French art and Jesus.

The bus driver who was playing Michael Bublé. 

Having incredible, lovingly bold moments with less-actives.  Like, when you end a lesson and they ask, "And now you're going to tell me to come to church again, right?"  Then, having a powerful moment of explaining our purpose as missionaries and expressing love.  But, proclaiming that as personal representatives of the Savior, we will absolutely invite you to change and come to church at every chance we have.

Making people smile when you talk to them in the pouring rain and share your umbrella.

So, yeah.  I love being a missionary.

Congrats on all of the wins this week (Ben, Mary, and the Cougars).  Oh, and I'm sorry for Stanford's loss (still working on my repentance in that catagory...kind of).  I love you all so much and am grateful for the love and support.  Have a happy week!

Je vous aime,
Soeur Alisa Hulme

Thursday, October 10, 2013

"Sitting in this branch council, there were several times I just wanted to cry." 10/7/13

Bonjour Ma Famille, 

So, of course, last week was fantastic.  I have so much to say so don't have tons of time to expound all of my favorite conference talks.  But, I absolutely loved it.  Ah, it was perfect, I'm inspired, there is no doubt that Jesus Christ is the head of this church and that he inspires our leaders.  Oh, and in case you're wondering, when I speak English now, I have the accent of Elder Causeé (priesthood session).

So, I thought I'd do this letter a little different.  I'm basically going to copy some segments of my journal so you can get "real time reactions" to things.  Here's a little bit of my week and my thoughts...

Mercredi, 2 Octobre 2013
"Tonight was spent in meetings for several hours.  Oh wow, I just want to help this branch.  It is really struggling--but in different ways than the ward in Carcassonne was.  There are 166 members in Besancon with an average of 20 at church every week, every member that has been baptized as far back as I can trace is completely less-active, and the active members are trying but they are exhausted.  Sitting in this branch council, there were several times I just wanted to cry.  There were five members there and us.  This literally comprised all of the super active people in the branch with the others being a couple older sisters, one primary kid, the youth  program--one YM and one YW (and they're twins), several students, and then the couple "off and on" members.  Out of the five members present at the meeting, there were two couples.  It was evident that these same five people had been meeting together for years and merely exchanging back and forth major callings (except for the branch president, who has held his calling since my birth).  They talked about the struggles they were having--how the relief society president's efforts with the less-actives are not making a difference, how the perception of their branch among less-actives, amis, and even members is becoming to be more of a social institution rather than the church of God because it's basically a monopoly when it comes to leadership, how the active members are being neglected because so much is being focused on the numberless weak, etc.  Don't get me wrong, this was not a meeting of dispair.  There was a lot of hope and desire in these leaders.  But, there is a lot of work to do.  I'm excited.  I don't know what it is, but I have grown to love situations like this.  I know that many missionaries would prefer to get sent to Aix--a thriving ward who baptizes quite a bit and is fairly good at retention.  I loved Aix, but if I had a choice, I would rather be here or in Carcassonne.  I feel like I'm more needed and I like this type of work.  I love working with the members and the less-actives.  It doesn't make sense to me why we would beat down every door in the city for months, trying to find anyone who will listen, when we can't even retain the members that we have.  I love this kind of missionary work and I'm excited to see miracles."

Samedi 5 Octobre 2013
"Oh my gosh, day of miracles.  First off, we resolved the mess with general conference that we've been working on all week.  So, they've never broadcasted general congerence in Besancon.  They always go to Dijon and watch it with that ward.  I'm honestly not sure why they've never showen in here-- I'm not sure they understood it was a possibility with the technology.  Pretty sure that was the problem.  The problem is, there are lots of old ladies, less-actives, amis, and people without computers or cars.  All of these people have never seen conference.  Not good.  Problem: the prophets of God are speaking and the people aren't hearing it and we're not even in a third world country. So, we've been working all week to get things set up to show it here.  It's really not difficult, it has just been a pain.  But (miracle), all got set-up this morning.  And, I'm so glad that it did because that was just the start of many miracles.  While we were at the church preparing for conference, Soeur Roux, an older less-active that we've been trying to get a hold of for weeks showed up.  She said that she was needing to reschedule the rendez-vous we had set for Monday, but that her phone wasn't working.  She figured she'd just stop by the church in hopes that we'd be there.  Well, there was about a 98% chance that we wouldn't have been there when she came because we're never at the church.  But, we were and she was shocked to hear that general congerence was going to be here.  Now, not only has she met the missionaries, she's been in the church, and is probably coming to conference tomorrow.  Next miracle, Sandrine and her four kids came to conference!  She loved it!  I feel like every talk was for her, expecially President Uchtdorf's (I knew he'd have my back).  The whole time she was constantly looking over at me, smiling, and confirming that what she was hearing was true.  I'm not sure that I've ever felt the Spirit so strong in a session--and I know it's because I was watching it with an ami."  So, I definitely just ran out of time, but we ended up having several of our amis there, members, and less-actives.  Total success.  Nothing like the prophets to start turning a branch around.

Je vous aime,
Soeur Alisa Hulme

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

"There is definitely a power that comes from learning the basics of the gospel." 9/31/13

Bonjour Ma Famille,

Well, it's been another week.  Still not sick of this whole missionary thing, I'm pretty sure that I could do it forever!  It has been a great week here in Besancon and I'm constantly baffled by how blessed I am.

Oh, can I start with a cool fact I just discovered that totally made my day?  Victor Hugo (author of Les Miserables...hopefully you knew that) was born in Besancon!  I knew I liked this place.  Now it'll be even more cool later today when I'm walking the paved streets in the rain.  Viola, most amazing mission in the world (you know you've been in France too long when "voila" comes out in normal English sentences).  Just another example of how I'm so blessed!

Anyways, now on to the other (more important) reasons that I am so blessed...

The work here is exploding.  Who would have thought that being sent to a tiny ville with a tiny branch, we would be having success so quickly?  Not me...probably should have had a little more faith.  Our days are packed, just like I like it.  Here are a couple of the amis that we are working with...

Sandrine is fantastic.  She lives here with her husband and four little kids.  Being found by the elders several months ago, she has already been taught all of the lessons.  She has a really solid testimony, feels very welcome in the branch, and has a good understanding of the gospel.  Quite frankly, she would be baptized already if it weren't for her husband.  He is a member of another church and is definitely not a fan of his wife joining her own religion.  It got to the point where he wouldn't really let the elders over anymore.  But...they took the elders out of Besancon.  He has been much more receptive to having sisters come and meet with his wife.  Little by little we're getting there.  We keep having these little miracles with them.  Sandrine has become really good friends with one of the sisters in our branch and her husband was recently sparked by a brother who talked to him about the bible.  Just little things, but Sandrine never neglects to tell us that she's grateful that God sent her the sisters.

Two of our other amis are Miko and Rae.  They are from Taiwan and came here to study at the university.  Such a cool example of member missionary work!  Their friend that came with them from Taiwan is a member of the church.  She simply asked them if they wanted to start coming to church with her when they got to France.  They accepted to give it a try.  They've been to church the last couple weeks and we've been able to teach them.  Both of them, but expecially Miko, are progressing well.  It is definitely another situation of starting from the ground up because they have no religious background.  It's also sometimes difficult because they don't speak great French, but we're getting there.  They're both really cool and very sincere in their desires to understand.

We have several other amis and are working with tons of less-active members.  We've committed a couple of the less-actives to retake all of the missionary lessons.  There is definitely a power that comes from learning the basics of the gospel.  We're hoping that reviewing these lessons will remind them of the testimonies they have and rekindle their desires to come unto Christ.

I guess I can end with something cool from a zone training that we had this week. So, being near Switzerland, our zone has many of the international missionaries.  It's so neat (Tahiti, Spain, Scottland, France, Belgium, etc).  At the end of the conference, our zone leader (who's from France), personally thanked us for being missionaries.  He thanked us for our efforts to bring the gospel to his people and expressed how much these people desperately need and deserve to know God better.  It was really powerful.  I love being a missionary and bringing others the joy that I have because of the Savior.  I'm so blessed!

I hope you have a wonderful week!  Enjoy General Conference, I know I will...partly because I'll be able to understand a lot more of it this time around.  Thanks for the love and support.  Remember how blessed you are!

Je vous aime,
Soeur Alisa Hulme

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

"Breaking news (no puns intended), both of the wheels are broken." 9/23/2013

Bonjour Ma Famille!

Wow, the end of another crazy week of being a missionary.  After the rush of last week, I'm excited to settle down and start working.  Here's a little bit of how last week went...

I left Aix.  Before continuing to tell you about the insane travel schedule that ensued, let me give a disclaimer that will make it more comical.  Remember my beautiful, purple, snakeskin suitcase that I love?  Yes, the one that Dad said not to buy because it wouldn't have good enough wheels?  Breaking news (no pun intended), both of the wheels are broken...and have been since getting of the airplane in France.  And, the fact that I've been to four villes in eight months has not helped.  So now, I carry nearly everything (approximately 90 lbs.) in the good suitcase and get to drag the limpy one carrying my lighter clothes across the rough cobblestone.  Now that you can truly picture this, back to the story... Normally you can take one and at the most two trains to get anywhere.  For some reason, the office thought that they would make my trip more fun.

I took a train from Aix to Marseille, Marseille to Lyon, and Lyon to Dijon on Monday.  At this point, I didn't have my new companion nor was I in my new ville.  I spent several days in Dijon with the sisters there.  It was wonderful...but freezing!  I showed up in a short-sleeved shirt, all dressed for the Provence sun.  That mentality was quickly changed as I was adorned in my large winter coat, a sweater, a scarf, and tights the very next day.  

(Note from Jen: I so was not stalking her!)
On Wednesday, they sent me back down to Lyon (snakeskin suitcase and all).  There, I picked up my wonderful new bleue, Soeur Pagano.  Love her!  She's from New Mexico, was studying elementary education at BYU-I, loves cats, smiles a lot, and is obsessed with taco bell mild sauce.  There you go, my new companion.  She is an absolute delight to be around.  President Roney was excited becuase we are going to be quite a sight walking the streets--her hair is even longer and blonder than mine.  I'm excited.  Funny story about Soeur Pagano...appartently Mom has been stalking her.  Several weeks ago she was in San Fransisco getting her visa for France.  While sitting in the airport with all of the other missionaries, this cute missionary mom spotted them and ran over to see where they were going.  Turns out her daughter was in the same mission they were headed to.  They chatted and Soeur Pagano was left with the name of her future trainer on a piece of a wripped airplane ticket.  Thanks Mom, your new friend says "hi".

"My beautiful French kingdom"
After some fun in Lyon, we took a train to Dijon and then another one over to Besancon.  Yes, if you have been keeping track, me and my luggage took six trains before getting to my ville.  It has taken a little bit to get organized, to figure out where things are and everything, but I think I'll finally be able to sleep well this coming week.  This ville is absolutely beautiful, I love it and can't wait to serve here.  Our first Sunday ended up being a little crazy.  One, we're basically the new young womens president(s...?).  We taught that class, but there is only one active girl in the ward.  It's so small!  Two, we had a crazy day for amis at church.  Out of the 31 people in sacrament meeting, 8 were non-members!  Who would have thought that we would have had the mission's weekly record our first week here in one of the smallest branches?  Haha, God sure loves us because we didn't do anything.  It was totally out of the blue, they've had maybe an average of one non-member each week for months.  There were a couple people that we met on the street that came and several members invited people.  So great, I can't wait for work to explode here.  It's been one of the more struggling areas for the last little while.  We are stoked to work with all of these people.

One example from yesterday...  One of the members in the branch has been working to invite one of her friends to church for a while now.  She has come to church several times but her husband has never come.  They've also tried to set things up with the missionaries, but it has never really worked out.  Yesterday, the member felt this prompting to invite her friend again.  She and her husband came and they were totally sparked by the fact that the branch had sister missionaries.  Maybe this is what they needed, God's timing.  We should start working with them this week.

So basically everything (except my suitcases) are doing great.  I'm sorry that I've been so bad at writing you all back.  If all goes as planned, I should get mail this week (everything you've sent since the end of July), and be able to start responding.  Sorry about that.  I still love you and appreciate the support. 

Congrats Liv on your baptism!  I'm positive that you were absolutely beautiful and that it was a great day.  I was thinking of you...and figuring out in my head how I could count it as one of "my baptisms".

Oh, one last thing...  My darling MTC companion, Soeur Bentley, recently went home for medical reasons.  They are hoping that she will soon be able to come back out, but please pray for her.

Je vous aime,
Soeur Alisa Hulme
"All the streets are lined with Sycamore trees"