Bonjour Ma Famille,
It has been a great week! We were able to get out a little more, went to a zone conference (incredible, as always), and are seeing some improvements in our ward. Work is definitely different here than what I am used to. After having interviews with President, he told us that our main focus should be on strengthening the ward. There is very little point to finding and teaching a bunch of investigators, only to bring them to a ward that can't support them. So, that has been our work here this transfer. We are striving to work with members, constantly doing "public relations" (most of the missionaries refer to it as "endearing," but I think "public relations" is funnier and it has a nice, little abbreviation when I put it into my planner). It's great, one of our greatest tools for this is the fact that I can play the piano (thanks Mom), but the skills that Dad has taught me have payed off this week aswell. We were able to get into the homes of a couple member families and less-actives. What better way to strengthen our public relations than to introduce them to real American chocolate chip cookies? They don't know what they are, but they love them. We are starting to see some progress in the ward.
There are a couple amazing members here that have been such a support to our work. Our bishop and the DMP (I don't know what that is in English...ward mission leader maybe?) are wonderful. They are very focused on helping us be successful here and are so willing to help with the work. It's great. Our DMP's name is Frere (Brother) Vital, but we affectionately refer to him as Sensai. He is a karate master and makes us food from Vietnam every week. He's a convert and is absolutely fantastic. Our bishop, Eveque (Bishop) Martin, is such a rock. He has been bishop here for over eight years and literally holds this whole ward together. He and his wife are both converts and have a huge, wonderful family with several daughters who have served missions. We went to their house last night for dinner. For part of the meal, we eat this mushed up thing of stinging nettle. Who knew that you could eat that? Actually, it was not bad. So there you go, we're working with great people who feed us interesting food. What more could you want?
One thing that I have loved working on since I have been out has been my journal. That should be no surprise. I have been a huge advocate for journals for years, but it has been incredible to do it here. It's something that I have put a ton of time and effort into...doing it during meals and taking advantage of the time in the appartment that we have had lately. I don't only write down the daily events and the miracles, though. I have all of my thoughts, impressions, cool things that I have learned, personal progression, etc. My companions like to refer to it as my "novel"...as I tend to write quite a bit. Let's just say that I go through a Pilot G2 pen at least once a week. It is fantastic and such a treasure. Even when I wasn't on a misison, though, my journals were a source of so much happiness for me and it is amazing now to have my life completely documented. They are definitely one of my greatest accomplishments. It's easy to see the Lord's hand years later when it is recorded. If you're not a journal keeper, I suggest you start.
This week, I actually had some extra time to study too. Soeur Fairchild is a little better, but with allergies, things set her back quite a bit. It's insane. Going to church and smelling perfume or having the neighbors clean their mirrors can set her back for a whole day. But it's fine, I'm getting stuff done. I've made a significant dent in the missionary library. I have also moved on to Doctrine and Covenants, now that the New Testament is done. One thing that I studied a lot this week was Zion's Camp. While the outcome/purpose that the members of the camp had expected were not realized, God had a higher purpose for this band of saints. The Lord needed future leaders who had been tried, given experience, and had been personally trained. They needed to be the ones who were proven obedient and faithful to the Lord, even under difficult circumstances. God promised them that "all victory and glory" would be brought to pass by "their diligence, faithfulness, and prayers of faith" (D&C 103). This success was not brought about in the way that they had desired or foreseen. While the whole experience was a trial of their faith, I think that one of the most difficult parts for them would be dealing with the realization that they were not going to have the "success" that they had expected. Completely submitting your will to the Lord's is the big test of this life. If you truly comprehend and live according to this ideal, your life and the eternities will be blessed in ways unimaginable. Those in Zion's Camp had to learn to be content with God's purposes. The Lord was testing and training His leaders. Seventy-nine of the eighty-two original leaders of the church later came from this group. Of this, Joseph Smith said, "He (God) could not organize His kingdom with men...unless He took them from a body of men who had offered their lives." God needs a strong, dedicated people. Although He may be "frustrated" at times by the quality of army (yes, I finally read Elder Holland's talk...absolutely phenomenal), we can find peace in knowing that we are becoming who He wants us to be if we are constantly striving to make our will allign with His.
I love you so much. Thank you for everything that you all do for me. I am also very grateful for everyone who has been a blessing to my family at home lately. I am very excited to get to talk to you on Mother's Day. I will be able to do it through Skype, which means that you will need to set up an account and get me your information. I'll let you know more as it gets closer, but it will most likely be sometime that morning (as we're eight hours ahead). Everything is wonderful here and I am so happy to be a missionary! Have a great week!
PS-- I can't believe that Patrick was able to figure out where we lived in Carcassonne just by looking at the picture I sent. Here's my address if you'd like to check his accuracy... 49 Rue Marceau Perrutel, 11000 Carcassonne (but please don't send any mail to it, continue sending it all to the mission office).