Monday, January 27, 2014

"No wonder our mission is the second most expensive mission in the world." 1/27/14

Bonjour Ma Famille,

Oh my goodness, what a wonderful and crazy week.  I feel like I'm just trying to get my feet under me.  But, I'm very happy and am loving usual.  I guess I'll start by answering some of your questions.  Soeur Stevens and I are over all the West and Southwestern parts of the mission.  I can give you villes, but I'm not sure they'll mean anything to you... Bordeaux, Angouleme, Limoges, Toulouse, Montauban, Pau, Tarbes, and Bayonne.  We do exchanges with about twenty sisters every transfer which will keep us super busy.  But, we still have our own sector that we're over, which is Talence (the subsurbs of Bordeaux).  We'll be traveling quite a bit but are still expected to keep up everything here.  Talence is really great and has an extremely strong ward.  It's not as beautiful as the city itself, but our appartment is only a ten minute walk from the heart of Bordeaux.  All of our P-Days will definitely be spent there.  It's incredible!  I absolutely love my companion.  We get along so so well and have already become great friends.  It's really cool to work with someone who has been out longer, I feel like I'm learning so much from her and am getting tons of new ideas. And, I finally have a companion who runs with me every morning so there is no more running circles in parks.

I'm super excited because when we finish here today we're going out to Lyon for Jedi Council (AKA: Leadership Conference) with the other STL's and zone leaders.  And...WE'RE FLYING!  Crazy, right?  I thought the next plane I'd be on would be back to Salt Lake.  But, apparently they always fly the leaders from Bordeaux out to this conference because it's far.  Should be sweet.  No wonder our mission is the second most expensive mission in the world (next to Tokyo).  Oh well, I'll let you know how it goes. 

This week was lots of planning and organizing for the transfer, but there were some great highlights.  First and foremost, American Night!  We had this huge ward activity that the missionaries have been planning for weeks and it was all focused on, yes, America.  French people are obsessed with America, so it was perfect.  There were tons of American classics, including Coke floats (in place of rootbeer because they don't sell it here in France).  All of the members thought they were super bizarre.  I guess it never hit me what a strange concept it was.  There was also square dancing, which we were all kind of against (because no one in America really does that).  But, apparently French people all think that is what we do at all our dances.  It ended up being a total hit, I've never seen people get more into it.  Musical chairs, karoke, guessing famous American movies, a pizza contest (since Americans eat lots of it and we kind of just steal everyone else's food ideas), etc.  All of the prizes were authentic American classics, including the million, perfectly soft cookies that Soeur Stevens and I made (when we realized that the other person was a master at the delicate art, we knew we would have a successful companionship).  The night was perfect, a total success.  We sparked all of the members, who said that it was the best ward activity they could remember.  In addition, we had 10 amis there who members had invited.  Such a miracle and we're starting to work with some of them.

Cool sidenote miracles, Besancon basically exploded yesterday.  Three of the chronic less-actives that we had been working with for months came to church yesterday.  I had never seen any of them in the building and neither had anyone else for years.  I LOVE less-active work and we did so much of it there.  It's cool to get to hear of some results even if I was never there to witness the reactivation.

We started teaching several new people this week as well.  Miracles are happening all over the place.  I love being a missionary and feel so so blessed to be serving here.  This will be a fantastic transfer.  I love you all, have a great week!

Je vous aime,
Soeur Alisa Hulme

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

"Training Leaders are…kind of like Zone Leaders, but we're over three zones of sisters." 1/21/14

Members of the Besancon Branch
Bonjour Ma Famille,

Not much time, but I'll update you

"Soeur Hulme, are you tired of training?"  Dang it, that's not what I wanted to hear over the phone transfer call morning.  Not only has my lovely run as a trainer come to an end, I have also left my beautiful ville of Besancon.  I am currently writing you from Bordeaux, the second biggest city in the mission and on the completely other end of the country...hence me writing this a day late (as I was traveling for 12 hours yesterday).  But, the city is beautiful and I had been hoping to serve here for a while now.  My new companion is Soeur Stevens, she is wonderful.  She's 23, is from California, studies phychology at BYU, and loves volleyball.  I'm super excited to be working with her.  We will be serving as the Sister Training Leaders here.  Not so sure how I feel about that, I really just want to go and pick up another baby bleue.  But, I'm sure it'll be great.  Sister

Training Leaders are sort of a newish thing, since a couple months into my mission, and every mission does them a little bit different.  In our mission, we're kind of like zone leaders, but we're over three zones of sisters.  It's crazy, we spend nearly the whole transfer on exchanges.  Should  Cool-- I'll be Soeur Brimhall and Soeur Pagano's STL (still get to do stuff with my bleues).  Other than that, Bordeaux is cool.  I'll be serving in the Talence ward...which had 140 people at church this last week (not sure how to deal with that after our intimate 15 person meetings in Besancon) and I love the missionaries here.  Time to start a new adventure.  Apparently our sector is...less than booming, but I'm excited to help it turn around.
However, I'm really really sad to be leaving.  So much has happened in Besancon and I can't express how much I love it.  All of Sunday was spent at several different member's homes, I gave a was decent until I cried at the very end.  Wasn't bad.  I will miss them so much, I feel like I had a great relationship with every person there (helps when there aren't many).

Sandrine and her darling children.  "She has literally changed my life."
During one of the trains on my long journey yesterday, I had about five hours all by myself...that was weird.  Anyways, I had nothing to do so I decided to read over my journal from Besancon, literally took all five hours (will be sent home in the next month).  So many miracles.  I feel so so blessed to have met all of these incredible people, but in particular, Sandrine.  She has literally changed my life.  We are currently still kind of playing the waiting game with her husband, but she is so strong.  She knows it's true and can't deny it.  She will be a member one day.  As I was reading through my journal, I read this enrty and knew it was about her... 15 September 2013 (the day before leaving Aix) "I don't know what it is, but I really feel like someone is waiting for me in Besancon.  I know that there are people you're suppose to touch in every ville, but this time it feels different.  I don't know whether it will be a member, a less-active, or an ami, but I can't wait to find this person."  Met her.  Now we're really close and will be friends for life.
Ben, it's your birthday this week.  My awesome and only brother (and my worst writer...kidding, I'm getting over it), happy birthday!  I hope you have the most incredible day.  You are smart, witty, and a total stud.  Win.  Have a great week, I love you all.  Thanks for everything!
Je vous aime,
Soeur Alisa Hulme

Threw away my first pair of shoes.

Monday, January 13, 2014

There's a static…that the average recent convert runs into the missionaries seven times before being baptized. We just easily knocked out her first three. 1/13/13

Bonjour Ma Famille,

It's been a great week, just kind of normal.  Working hard as usual.  I guess the only unusual thing here was the weather.  Oh my gosh, it feels like summer.  Okay, not an Aix-en-Provence summer, but maybe a colder summer night in Utah.  It has been in the 60's nearly all week.  Wait, what?  I thought I was sent up north for the winter--no gloves, no coat, and most mornings I can't even see my breath.  Hmm, something tells me it's too good to be true, it will be freezing again soon, but for now I'm enjoying it.  I think all of the cold weather must have been saved for the States.  Thank you very much.

Other than that, the only other bizarre thing was having to renew my French legality (the joys of hitting your year mark).  Talk about a language test...

Crazy news of the week, our branch president got released after 19 years of service (Okay, so as I thought about this, I realized that maybe you wouldn't think this was super cool or a big deal.  But, I totally think it is and it's going to completely change the branch.  Haha, oh the things that shake the world of missionaries...).  He really served with everything that he had, but it was time to give him a little break (seeing as he has held the calling since only months after his own baptism).  Our new branch president is awesome, I'm so excited to see what's going to happen here.  He's a 25 year old student, returned missionary, and is a convert himself of only a few years.  He loves missionary work and has been one of our closest allies since arriving in Besancon this last semester.  Things are going to change here, I can feel it.  Cool sidenote: since we had the whole stake presidency in our branch yesterday we over tripled the regular sacrament meeting attendance (again, sorry for the things that shake the world of missionaries).

I absolutely love Besancon...not sure if you're allowed to have favorite villes, but this one is mine.  It's so incredible to see a sector and a branch grow so much in only a few months.  It's seriously exploding, I'm not sure that I have ever had so many amis to teach...only one of which was here when we arrived.  There are tons of potentials too and member referrals that we are just getting to start working with.  I love seeing how God works.

Cool miracle: We contacted this girl earlier on in the week who knew us.  Turns out that she had helped Soeur Pagano and I with our bags when we first arrived back in September.  Apparently we aren't too easy to forget...two blonde Americans, 6 huge suitcases, and nothing but scribbled out instructions to get us to our new appartment...or maybe it was the Spirit.  Either way, she remembered us.  Although she wasn't interested in learning more about the gospel, it was a nice coversation.  Several days later we met her again on the bus when we were headed to the gare to take a train.  Then, she ended up taking the same train as us and we talked to her for nearly an hour.  She's awesome.  There's a stastic (not sure if it's worldwide or just in Europe), but that the average recent convert runs into the missionaries seven times before being baptized.  We just easily knocked out her first three.  One day she'll be a member...

Everything is wonderful, I love you all.  I love being a missionary.

Je vous aime,
Soeur Alisa Hulme

Monday, January 6, 2014

"We decided, for some random reason (meaning inspiration), to take another route."

Bonjour Ma Famille,

I hope that you all had a wonderful week, I did.  Haha, I love my companion.  She is so funny.  Let me give you a glimpse into my life with a Swedish sister...

"Why do all Americans smile with their teeth?"  (because that's how you're supposed to smile)...I'm sending you a picture that I drew of us because she refuses to take a picture with me.

"Why do you not pronounce the 't' when you say 'mountain'?"  (I'm from Utah)

"Do all Americans make weird faces all the time?" (actually, that's just me) 
"Why do Americans make so many prideful, sarcrastic comments?"  (umm...)...funny story about that...we were watching a clip from the District (missionary training videos) and this lady, as a joke, said something like, 
"Yeah, my family is perfect."  My first thought, "Haha, American."

Also, Soeur Ronndahl walks around the house singing the American National Anthem.

Random French Fact of the Week:  They use baguettes for the sacrament.

We have been looking for tons of families to teach this last week, and it seems that they are just falling into our laps.  Here are some examples...

We were contacting one night and stopped this cute lady with her baby (I swear, whenever I see someone with a stroller I head straight for them).  Her name is Joycelyn and she was apparently taught by the elders over two years ago.  But, she agreed to restart the lessons with us and feels that it is time for her to make changes in her life and get closer to God.  Miracle.

Later on, we received a call from some missionaries in Gex.  They gave us a referral for this awesome, young mom with several kids.  She had been contacted in Besancon several years ago on a bus but had since forgotten about the church.  However, this last weekend she was in Gex helping her mother move (into a house that just happened to be across the street from the church).  Out of the blue, she decided to go to the services on Sunday, stayed all three hours, loved it, and gave her contact info to the missionaries to pass to us (because she is still living in Besancon).  We start teaching her later this week.  Miracle.

Finally, we had the most incredible contact.  We had decided, for some random reason (meaning inspiration), to take a different route to our rendez-vous one evening.  On the way, of course, we ran into this young dad and his two sons (ages 5 and 3).  He said that he was completely athiest but was suddenly sparked when we started talking about eternal families.  He admitted that he was scared of death and wanted answers.  He wasn't sure why he didn't believe in God and asked us how we could believe.  Naturally, we taught him how to pray right there on the street and set-up a rendez-vous for the coming week.  Miracle.

God is preparing people for us and putting them in our paths.  The incredible part...he doesn't just do it for missionaries.  Members of the church are put daily in situations where they can express the joy they and their family receive through the restored gospel.  Just share your joy!  There are several members of the branch who have friends we are currently working with aswell.

On a different note, more miracles!  I got an email from Migo this week, she is currently still on vacation in the States.  Here are some highlights... (PS--she got her temple recommend before leaving Besancon)

"...I had gone to the temple and church in Manhattan. There is such a big church. The chorus is very amazing. Children also sang hymn on stage. They were so cute:)...I still pray to dear Heavenly Father, thanks for everything in my live..."  LOVE HER!

Have a great week, I love you all.  Thank you for your love and prayers!

Je vous aime,
Soeur Alisa Hulme

Friday, January 3, 2014

"The only things that have changed in a year are that Ben's voice is lower and Liv's seems to have gotten higher." 12/30/13

Bonjour Ma Famille,

Christmas Eve Christmas Jammies! 
How are you?  I hope that you all had the most wonderful Christmas, I definitely had a great one.  And, despite the fact that I was on the other side of the world as a missionary, I didn't sleep on Christmas Eve.  I think this might be a lifelong plague.  Oh well.  Christmas here was lovely, thanks for all of the thoughtful gifts and for the great hour that we got to spend chatting.  Basically, the only things that have changed in a year are that Ben's voice is lower and  Liv's seems to have gotten higher (both of which were to my delight).

It was crazy to spend the holiday in France, I finally can say that I have tasted the creepy French delicacies (which they all save for Christmas).  Now on to the menu... (dish, translation, verdict)

Salty black licorice...supposedly candy (okay, not French, but courtesy of my Swedish companion)...nasty.

Caviar...little fishy eggs smothered on dry bread...not absolutely dreadful, but the texture killed it for me.

Escargot...snail...actually, surprisingly so good.  It's a little different but I totally liked it and ate tons of them.  Now I feel like a true French missionary.  The members were impressed because they said the elders could never get them down.  Win.

Foie gras...literal translation- "liver grease", basically they overfeed a duck until its liver explodes and then they eat it on was swallowed so quickly that I never really got to the taste.  The thought of it killed me.

Cuisses de grenouille...frog legs...isn't bad, it tastes like chicken.  But, it's ridiculous because there is so little meat and you have to eat around tons of tiny bones and creepy frog feet.

Other than that, the food was fairly normal--turkey/pork, vegetables, bread.  Oh, some of the members accidently bought the cake with rum in it.  That was awkward.  It did taste a little strange.  Voila, your typical French Christmas.  Oh, for trivia-sake, the French general eat some type of shellfish for the holidays too.  But, I was spared (already more than took care of that obligation in Nice).

Last funny sidenote, we were allowed to watch a Disney movie with members on Christmas.  We watched "Ice Age", so perfect, it made me think of Dad.  But, I have to say, Syd the sloth is REALLY hard to understand when he is speaking French.  Haha, I can imagine there was a lot of spit involved in that voiceover.

We spent some wonderful time with members this week and really felt of the Christmas spirit.  Besides dining with members, we were able to do service as well.

Cool experience-- So was Christmas morning, and I was settling down to open my packages after my nearly sleepless night (a little pathetic, I know).  Before opening anything, I had a cute nostalgic moment. I pictured our family all sitting aroung ready to open gifts and remembered my Dad's annual little phrase/message.  Before opening any gifts, he has always given us a couple minutes to think about and reflect on the service that we've given--often referring to "Sub for Santa" things or other projects that we have done during the season.  We always get so excited as we think about the joy that we have brought others.  Those few moments placed before the highly anticipated opening of gifts has always infused the meaning of the holiday into our Christmas mornings.  We feel gratitude and love for the Savior.  It was a tender mercy that this memory, that I had never given much thought to, came to me that morning. It brought a tear to my eye as I thought of all of the incredible people that I have worked diligently to serve this year.  As my mind flashed back and forth through all of their faces, I was overwhelmed with love and gratitude.  What a wonderful opportunity that I have to give the gift of service to my Savior.

I love being a missionary and I love you all!

Je vous aime,
Soeur Alisa Hulme
Aaaahhhh, beautiful!

"I'm loving every minute that I get to spend here with these members." 12/23/13

Bonjour Ma Famille,

Hope everything is absolutely wonderful for you as you're gearing up for your big Christmas week...the most important part being talking to me on Wednesday (...and remembering the Savior).  Can't wait!

This week has been great.  We met with lots of less-actives, several amis, and members.  It's interesting now that it's vacation and they're all going out of town, but it works.  We are seeing numbers slowly moving up in sacrament meeting attendance and I'm loving every minute that I get to spend here with these members.

The highlight of the week was definitely our Christmas conference in Lyon.  Loved it!  The best part ( to remembering the Savior): Soeur Bentley, my cute little MTC companion is back in the mission and I got to see her at the conference.  Ah, I love her.  She went home months ago with really serious health problems.  After weeks in the hospital, several surgeries, and lots of prayers, she was cleared to come back out.  Without getting into tons of detail, it's a miracle that she is back and it was not expected by anyone.  I'm so excited to have my cute friend here again.  Also, I just found out that my other wonderful MTC companion, Soeur Anderson, underwent serious brain surgery this past week.  Everything seems to have gone well, and, as far as I know, she's still in Paris.  Pray for her.  

I've decided that one of the greatest things I'm grateful for this year is my health.  In light of these experiences with my companions, as well as others with my family at home, I can't even express how thankful I am that I have been able to serve my mission with absolutely no health problems to this point.  Literally, I've probably had the best health of my life.  There has not been one hour in the last year that I have had to sit out working.  Thank you so much for your prayers in my behalf, I know that they have been a huge support to me.  I'm so grateful that the Lord would let me work without the disabilitating symptoms of sickness.  It makes me want to work even harder, knowing that there are no health problems holding me back.  I'm so blessed.

I love being a missionary.  I love serving my Savior and I love Him.  I love you all, Joyeux Noel!

Je vous aime,
Soeur Alisa Hulme