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