Monday, March 31, 2014

"Wow, I think this is the start of something new and really great in my life." an investigator

Bonjour Ma Famille,

How are you all?  I am wonderful, like always.  I don't have tons of time to write today because we are headed off to a castle (what a life...), but I'll give you a few highlights of the week.

This week was kind of weird, with conference on Monday and P-Day on Tuesday, it seemed that our week was cut really short.  Wednesday we had a quick exchange with Eysing, which was great, and then took a train out to Pau for another one with those sisters.  We got back and Soeur Stevens was sick all day Friday, she's better now, no worries.  So, by Saturday, our sector had been seriously neglected and we had taught a grand total of one lesson during the week.  Rough.  But, we worked really hard Saturday and Sunday, actually finishing the week rather strong.

We had four (rather international) new amis... Wei Li (China), Zenaida (Cape Vert), Nabil (Morroco), and Jeremy (France).  And, they're all just as different as the countries they come from... non-practicing muslim with sincere questions, confused agnostic that doesn't speak good French or English (and may or may not be in love with my companion), a referral who is currently dating a member, and a mom with a young family who is believing but searching for a church.  I'm really grateful that God is going to help us out and that He knows all of these people perfectly, otherwise this young, blonde, mormon from Utah would be totally lost.  The gospel can bless them all.  At the end of one of these lessons, the amie commented, "Wow, I think this is the start of something new and really great in my life."  She was right.

I hope that you all have a great week.  Enjoy general conference and cross your fingers that Elder Bednar doesn't speak in the Sunday afternoon session (the only one I won't be able to watch).  Thanks.  Love you all!

Je vous aime, 
Soeur Alisa Hulme

Thursday, March 27, 2014

"God's hand is really in this work and He has an active plan to get each of His children back to Him" 2/25

Bonjour Ma Famille,

This week was wonderful, probably the hardest one in my mission that I can think of at the moment.  There were lots of things going on with amis and our sisters that were difficult, but I'm so grateful for the experiences.  I learned so much.  And, Heavenly Father is really great, he threw in a few miracles at the end...

After church on Sunday, the relief society president came up to us and said that her non-member husband was ready to start receiving the missionary lessons.  We start teaching him soon.

Dominique is fantastic and actively working towards her baptism.  She is accepting everything really well and is so honest in her intent.  We learned more of her backstory this week that made her even more of a miracle.  Normally, Dominique lives in Paris with her husband and the rest of her family.  But, as of the end of January, she spends the majority of the time here in Bordeaux helping take care of her daughter and young granddaughters because the father is in the military.  About once a month, she spends a week in Paris--which is great, but was a little stressful for us trying to get her prepared for the baptism.  We called the Paris sisters this week and found out that Dominique had first met the missionaries in 2010.  After quickly losing contact, she was "refound" this last October.  The missionaries had been seeing her off and on since then, but she wasn't really progressing.  The last entry about her was at the end of January, explaining that she would be coming to Bordeaux.  This is where we come in-- we ported into her on Fevrier 1st-- two days later! (I literally debated whether it was "February" or "Febuary" for several minutes before going with the French word).  Anyways, such a miracle.  The missionaries in Paris are currently teaching her granddaughter, who is to be baptized the day after her, and have agreed to visit Dominique during her vacation in Paris this week.  God's hand is really in this work and He has an active plan to get each of His children back to Him.

Like I said earlier, this week was a little rough.  Just as an update-- we were working with Joseph and a lot of things came up that made it impossible for him to be baptized or for us to continue teaching him.  Everything is fine now, we know that it all turned out the way it was supposed to and we feel peace moving forward.

I really felt the atonement working in my life this week as we found our way through all of the struggles, stress, and tears.  I'm not sure that I have ever felt so small and incapable of the things that I was put up against.  But, I know that the Lord is mindful of us and gives us the strength that we need to overcome the trials of our faith.  Missions are faith builders.  There is a reason that it is the first principle of the gospel, it's the initiatory precursor to the other crucial steps.  I'm really happy to have had a week that built my faith and made me more easily see the atonement's power.  I have been praying to strengthen this testimony so that I can more powerfully share it with others.  I'm excited to see the miracles that will follow this coming week after the boost in faith that I just received.  I love the scripture in Alma 29, "Now, seeing that I know these things, why should I desire more than to perform the work to which I have been called?"  I love being a missionary.

Have a wonderful week!

Je vous aime,
Soeur Alisa Hulme

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

"We climbed the biggest sand dune in Europe, and sat on top of it looking out at the Atlantic. It was basically incredible." 3/18/14

Bonjour Ma Famille,

Hey, sorry it's a little late this week.  But it's fine, I had a good excuse.  Yesterday we went to Acharcon, climbed the biggest sand dune in Europe, and sat on top of it looking out at the Atlantic.  It was basically incredible.  Even though the pictures don't give it justice, assume that it is a billion times bigger than the biggest sand dune you've ever seen and that it's a crazy good work-out to run up.

Wow, what a week.  Haha, I thought that I would maybe give you a sneak peek into my life by telling you the itinery for the first half of the week...
Monday (supposedly P-day), we did grocery shopping and emails (the regulars) and then had approximately 20 to ourselves--so we ate fresh strawberries and drank diet coke on a bench in the sun.  It was fantastic.  After our little moment of relaxation, we sprinted off to a rendez-vous with Dominique (who is doing wonderful and testified of how much she loves the Book of Mormon).  We finished the lesson and headed straight to the airport with the zone leaders to catch the plane for Jedi Council (leadership conference) in Lyon.  

It was a really great meeting, topped off by the fact that Soeur Bentley and Soeur Luthi are the newest STL's (my MTC companion and my baby bleue, couldn't be more proud).  At the council, President revealed his newest tactic for converting (if you can call it that...haha, although that makes it sound really secret and epic).  He's changing the face of contacting for the mission by turning it into a questionnaire.  At first, it seemed like a bizarre idea, like we were salesman or something.  But, it totally works (of course, because it was inspired).  A good portion of the council was spent testing it out and putting it into practice.  Way more people stopped to talk to us and it gave us time to actually teach and testify.  With us all contacting hundreds of people a week, this is really going to help the efficiency of it by creating conversations.  

The way home was the biggest adventure, as we ended up being extremely late for the plane, sprinting through the whole airport, getting momentarily stopped at security because there were about 40 bobby pins in my hair and it set of the detector (don't worry, it was fine...), and missing the plane by ten minutes (just to clarify, not caused by my hair).  As a result, we had to spend another night in Lyon, woke up at 4 AM the next morning, and by the time we got back to our apartment in Bordeaux around 8 AM, we had two sisters waiting at the door ready for an exchange.  Not a problem.  We did the exchange, everything went great.  The next morning we got up, planned our presentation for 20 minutes, and ran off to zone training to give it....and played the ultimate hosts for all of the sisters that came in for the training (running around chatting with and sparking everyone).

Cool moment of the week... We taught Alain the word of wisdom.  He totally understood it all and at the end of the lesson profusely thanked us for teaching him about it (even though he had a problem with several of the parts).  He said that this commandment was exactly the next thing that he needed to push his spirituality to the next level and make him closer to God.  Isn't that how it should be?  The more we love God and the more converted we are, the more happily and anxiously we accept His counsel.  

French culture moment of the week... So the main meal every day here is lunch.  Literally, I'm pretty sure that the whole French culture revolves around their "midi repas".  For two hours, from 12 PM to 2 PM, everything in the country closes (including most food places...that part never made sense to me), everyone goes home from work and school, and they all eat their big, coursed meal together.  It's a really great concept as far as family togetherness goes, although the pratical side of me still can't wrap my mind around it.  But, I guess it's just one of those cultural things to make me laugh, we have actually turned it into a game.  If we are out contacting during this time, we have a contest to see how many people use the excuse that they have to go eat as the reason not to talk to us.  Even if it seems ridiculous to us, it's a REALLY big deal.

Joseph has been facing a lot of opposition this week in preparation for his baptism.  It's kind of a day to day thing with him, but we are still working towards it.  It's stressful, but it's actually really cool to be working with someone that could be such an enormous miracle.  I'll keep you updated.

Other than that, my life is really great.  I absolutely love being a missionary.  I love you all, have a great week!

Je vous aime,
Soeur Alisa Hulme

Friday, March 14, 2014

"Summer is coming so early…bring on the red-faced photos." 3/10/14

Bonjour Ma Famille,

Wow, it's a beautiful day in France... a little hot for my taste, but the average human says that it's a nice temperature.  This last week has been the first time that I have seen the sun since being in Bordeaux.  Summer is coming so early.  Haha, bring on the red-faced photos.

Wonderful usual. (sometimes I wonder if this is normal for other missionaries, I must just be really blessed)

We did some service for a family in the ward this week who is preparing to move.  I was able to use my random talent of packing and organizing boxes.  In the least prideful way possible, I can comfortably say that I am an expert.  We really helped them out and had a fantastic time doing it.

We're seeing a miracle with Joseph.  He bought an electronic cigarette which only has water vapor in it and he has QUIT SMOKING as of Friday!  Wow!  We will see how it goes, but that is a miracle in and of itself.  He is still really set on being baptized quick--right now the struggle is making sure that he really understands everything and he is going to stay in the church.  That is a missionary's worst fear and there are a lot of inactives in France... But he is really progressing and even though he's a little werid, we sure love him!  We're so blessed to have the Spirit to know how to help people and to direct us in the work.  Whatever happens, we can have peace knowing that it is inspired.

Another miracle this week is with our new ami, Prince.  He is from Africa but has spent a lot of time in the States.  He was found during our missionary day with the youth.  In 2006, he met the missionaries and went to the Talence ward for five month, but somehow lost contact.  He is cool, really sincere and wants to know the truth.  He recently got divorced and has two sons- one is 8 and the other is 3.  So cute!  We taught him twice this week and it went really well.  It's fun teaching in English and I feel like I'm more myself.  The only problem is that he is going out of town for two months in April.  It's a little frustrating because he wants to get baptized, we will keep working with him!

A couple weeks ago we contacted this really cool man from Serbia who was here in France a few weeks for work.  It was a really good conversation and at the end he told us that we had convinced him to visit our church when he returned home.  This last week, we saw some members from Bordeaux (who are American) who recounted to us that they had met this man.  They said that they were on a train and, while talking to the man next to them, told him that they were American.  Immediately the man answered, "Oh, I have two American friends, Sister Stevens and Sister Hulme."  Haha, how cool is that?  Then they got to talking about the gospel.  He'll be a member one day. 

Our sector is really crazy right now and we have so much work.  It literally blows my mind that it was dead so recently.  We're teaching lots and we are working lots with members (getting into at least two of their homes a day).  I really really love Bordeaux and I'm so happy with what I'm doing.  It's even more fun being an STL this transfer because I feel like I'm best friends with all of the twenty sisters.  Crazy, but true.  

I hope you all have a great week.  Hey, this week Maddy becomes a legal adult.  That's weird.  I hope you have the most fantastic birthday.  I'm so glad that we are friends, even from our littlest days when we played Barbie's (sorry that I always stole the good ones...).  You are really dedicated, loving, and patient.  Haha, you are also funny and are just an overall fun person to be around.  Love you!

Je vous aime,
Soeur Alisa Hulme

Monday, March 3, 2014

"Oh well, bring it on." 3/3/14

Bonjour Ma Famille,

First and foremost, no one needs to fret, I'm staying in Bordeaux with Soeur Stevens.  So, basically everything is the same, except we were given more sisters to be over.  Haha, we almost have double the other STL companionships.  I think this may have slipped their minds as they made the new assignments, this is what happens when they you're in the corner of the mission.  Oh well, bring it on.  We're excited.

I'm glad that you got my journal and are enjoying it....I forgot about all of those crazy things that I didn't tell you about in letters.  Oh my days in need to stress now!

This week was a crazy week of ups and downs.  The biggest miracle was with Joseph, he is an old ami that was taught in the summer (he was actually first taught by Soeur Pfost--my mission mom).  Unfortuately, he got super sick and was in the hospital for 6 months but now is BACK and wants to get baptized!  He is 56 years old, French (this actually must be a qualifier) and a concert pianist (he is INCREDIBLE).  Problem... he has also been smoking almost a pack a day for 40 years.  Luckily, he hs a lot of support.  The biggest part of this miracle is that there was a member Frere Cadeau, who called Joseph every single day for 6 months and visited him too.  He is the reason that Joseph is back!  Members are the greatest.  We met with him twice this week and he told us how badly he wants to get baptized.  We tried to set a practical date with him in order to make sure that he is totally ready.  But, he was not having it and wants to be baptized immediately--now we're going to be seeing him nearly daily for the next few weeks and pray for a miracle.

One of the craziest things that happened this week was the lock on our front door broke and we were locked both out of our apartment and in our apartment at various times of the week.  Positive-- I got to improve my French vocabulary and now know the word for "locksmith".  It really wasted a lot of time and was infuriating.  It is still not fixed so we have to leave a side window cracked open so we can crawl through it...just in case.

Nothing else really, slower week.  It was "les vacances", meaning that everything in France was closed and everyone was out of town.  Luckily, we got to meet with some fantastic members and had a great time with them.

I hope you all have a wonderful week, I love being a missionary!

Je vous aime,
Soeur Alisa Hulme

Sunday, March 2, 2014

"…the littlest daughter saying the prayer and thanking God for 'the pretty ladies who came to talk about You.'" 2/24/13

Bonjour Ma Famille,

(Haha, do you like how uniform the subject, the intro, and the closing off all my emails have been?  I'm only trying to make sure that you don't forget me and the sometimes crazy lengths that I go to to make things perfectly organized...)

What a wonderful week.  It all started with an exchange in Montauban, a cute French ville next to Toulouse.  Loved it!  When we came back Wednesday, the week was lined up with tons of teaching and miracles...

A couple weeks ago, I was porting with a sister on exchange (this seems to be the start of many of my stories).  We found this lady who told us to come back later to teach her.  And, despite the fact that she didn't confirm the rendez-vous, we decided to give it a try anyway and pray for a miracle.  Flash foreward to an exchange this week with a different sister, we go to her house and she was there with her three beautiful children (ages 13, 8, and 6).  Miracle.  Sandrine (appreciate the irony) is a non-practicing Christian and really wants her children to learn about God.  So, we taught a simple lesson about Jesus and talked about the Book of Mormon.  It was golden.  Picture three little kids, sitting on short chairs in a line, attentively listening to our lesson (I've never seen primary go so well).  They all loved it and Sandrine was really excited about the Book of Mormon and living prophets.  The lesson ended with the littlest daughter saying the prayer and thanking God for "the pretty ladies who came to talk about You," and her and her sister putting on a mini performance for us by singing American songs.  Oh my gosh, so cool.  We're finding families!

Let me tell you more about one of my favorite amis, remember Alain (scroll back three weeks if not...)?  He is progressing so well.  He went from not wanting to meet with us only weeks ago to excitingly coming to lessons to share with us how the gospel is changing his life.  He is so dedicated to learning and is sincerely studying between rendez-vous.  There is such a light about him, a literal physical difference.  Good and bad news this week, we found out what is holding him back from becoming a member-- he has a beautiful family, a wife and two teenage children.  Problem-- His wife is completely athiest and wants nothing to do with the church.  Why is this always the catch?  Obviously families are essential to the gospel, the major unit--I think this makes them the biggest blessing but also an extremely difficult obstacle for some.  Luckily, we are sure that Alain's wife's heart will be softened and that this perfect family of four will soon be assembled on the benches of our chapel (random fact--our chapel was the second one ever built in France and the only one I've ever seen with benches...benches are better for families, you can always squeeze to find more room.)  Anyways, he is fantastic and, in his own words, is ready to "daily live the gospel".

One of the greatest parts of this week was an awesome activity we organized with the young men and young women (okay, the young mens president did most of it...but we helped)!  It was a whole missionary day.  The youth came to the church Friday night and slept at the member's homes.  They woke up at 6:30 the next day, worked-out, etc.  That's when we came into the picture.  We did studies with them, had a few presentations, and took them out contacting!  Soeur Stevens and I took 4 young women with us.  We went to a big, open part in the heart of Bordeaux and they were terrified (as they rightfully should have been).  But, once they started doing it, they loved it!  We gave out 3 Book of Mormons and got 3 numbers in 30 minutes!  They were really pumped, it was so cute.  The rest of the day we took them to a lesson and then to our DMP's house. They loved the whole day.  When we were walking to our DMP's house it started pouring rain and we all got soaked-- it was a real mission experience.  The testimony meeting at the end was fantastic, as all of the youth involved expressed their desires to serve missions.  Success.

I love hearing from you all and am so proud of your many successes.  I have the best family in the world!  Thank you for all of your love and support.  I love you and I love being a missionary!

Je vous aime,
Soeur Alisa Hulme