Monday, December 29, 2014

Winter Wonderland

Snow at last!
Cleaning the walks with brooms!

Bonjour!  I hope you have all had a Merry Christmas and now are getting ready for the New Year.  This past week has been so great and filled with some cool miracles.  The last two days it has been a blizzard here in eastern France and it's the first time I've seen snow on my mission and I love snow!  It's awesome!

Christmas Eve dinner at the L'Homels

Let me start out with our Christmas Festivites!  On Wednesday night we had dinner with the L'Homel family.  We started the night out by dividing up into groups...a missionary companionship with two family members.  We took cookies to their neighbors and of course they asked who we were and it was a chance to share a little bit about why we are there.  Cookies and family members helped to make it extra effective!  We even got offered a bottle of champagne as a Christmas present.  We thanked them but explained we didn't drink.  They were in shock and asked, "Isn't that hard?"  We had an awesome meal of salmon, fish eggs, olives, 12 escargots/person and a buche de Noel for dessert.  It was delicious - even the escargots!

Christmas morning we opened our presents and then took off for the church to have a Christmas Brunch with the missionaries in Nancy, recent converts and members who didn't have a place to go for Christmas. We had Christmas music playing, cinnamon rolls and quiche.  It was great and Srdjan came!  We continued the day with dinner at the Langouet's house with another delicious meal of pheasant, exotic fruits, and delicious desserts.  We were able to play games with the family and then Skype with our families!  It was great!

Christmas Day!
Friday it was back to work with a Zone challenge to find at least two amis to teach.  We were on a mission!
The first person we met was Antonio who is a practicing catholic.  He spoke Spanish and so Elder Velazquez was able to to talk with him.  We are going to see him and his family after the New Year and he even invited us to eat with them!  As we continued contacting in the morning we also contacted a man who spoke Serbian.  We explained that we didn't but knew someone who did, Srjdan.  He said, "Srjdan is my cousin and he goes to your church!"  It was sooo cool.  He is interested to learn more with Srdjan's help!

After a long day and night of porting for 3 hours we were still looking for another ami for the day.  We tried to think of potentials we'd taught and could maybe fix a rendez-vous with for later in the week.  About three months ago Elder Gram and I met Francois and so we called him.  After doing all that we could a miracle gave us our second new ami for the day!  He said we could meet with him later in the week.  When we had our lesson it went great and we were able to teach him the "Plan of Salvation".  We watched a "Mormon message" that was so good and he asked a question about the Book of Mormon and now we are seeing him again tomorrow night!

That's only a small part of our week but here's a few highlights:
-It snowed...a lot!  We only had Sacrament meeting because there is so much snow!
-We got to see Jean Jacques and give him a Christmas present (Suit, tie and coat)  It was his first Christmas present of the year and he was smiling from cheek to cheek!
-Got to see a man, Ismael, who is a member from Aix-en-Provence.  He's been here for a vacation with his family and is so nice to us and his family (non-members) came to church yesterday!
-Met three cool people after contacting for 3 hours.  We were able to teach two lessons and turn one of them into a new ami!
Jean Jacques opening his Christmas present!

So there is a little summary of our Christmas week.  This week should be crazy with New Years too!  On Friday we go to Paris for mission council!

I'm so grateful to be in France for Christmas with these people who I've come to love so much!  To end I want to share a video that the church used for Easter but I saw it for the first time last week and I loved it. With a New Year and New goals remember that anything is possible BECAUSE OF HIM!!!

Happy New Year!
Love...
Elder Player
Website for the video:https://www.lds.org/church/news/church-to-launch-because-of-him-easter-initiative?lang=eng

Place Stanislas with the Nancy Christmas Tree
Elder Velazquez and me!

Monday, December 22, 2014

There is much which lieth in futurity! Et Joyeux Noel


Our 2014 Christmas Card
Don't you love the mustaches?
Bonjour tout le monde!  Wow!  Christmas is coming in just a few days!  We are all pretty excited on this end and have had another great week with success and seeing people's hearts opened to hear a message about Christ during this time of year that we celebrate his birth!

This past week was so crazy and busy with exchanges, a conference and lots of train rides.  We made the most of the time we had and had an awesome week.  Monday night we were able to go and give one of the less active members, that the Soeurs are teaching, a blessing and then had an awesome FHE with Guillaume with Pizza Hut for dinner.  (When I first came to France I was surprised they had Pizza Huts but it's delicious!)

On Tuesday the real craziness began.  We took our first train to Paris to stay in St. Ouen for the night since we had to be to the Versailles chapel by 8:45 in the morning.  We made it to Paris and then the Elders met us to take us home to their apartment.  We had 30 minutes to do a mini exchange with them.  I went with Elder Brockbank, who I've done exchanges with in Paris, and we were able to meet some really cool people and sing Christmas songs for them on the street.  It's amazing what we can do in a short time. The Elders here live next to the Stade de France, where Paris St. Germain plays their games and where "Taken" was filmed.  (It was pretty cool or scary depending on how you look at it.)  Thankfully, we made it out alive! Haha

On Wednesday we had our mission Christmas Conference with half of one day and half of the next.  It was awesome and we were able to have President and Sister Teixeira  there.  He's the Area President and they gave us some training about how we can continue to have more success.  My favorite part was when Elder Teixeira shared his experience about how the missionaries met his family.  It was an uncle, not even his immediate family.  It started with an Elder following the prompting to leave a huge apartment building and knock on a door where they could see a light on in a tiny 3 story building.  That's how they met his uncle and eventually they were baptized.  His uncle introduced his parents to the missionaries and then, because of that one prompting, there were over 40 people baptized.  I think that missionary could never have imagined that it would lead to a general authority, several mission presidents, stake presidents and many other leaders and active members today!  His message was to have faith to follow the promptings and the faith to see what it can bring.  It reminded me of a scripture that I studied that is in D&C 123:15-17
"Let no man count them as small things; for there is much which lieth in futurity, pertaining to the saints, which depends upon these things.  You know, brethren, that a very large ship is benefited very much by a very small helm in the time of a storm, by being kept work ways with the wind and the waves.  Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed."

I love this scripture, especially the part I underlined.  In missionary work, in trials, or whatever it may be we can know of God and that he has a plan for us.  Everything has a purpose, and though our actions may seem but small now or that nothing good can come from a trial, with his plan there is always some great purpose. He will continue to reveal it to us and one day we will see Him and have Salvation.  I'm so grateful for the Plan of Salvation and for the principle of an eternal perspective.  This week we asked a sister what she was doing for Christmas - would she be with her family etc.  She responded that it wouldn't be a normal Christmas this year.  Her sister and her had been in a car accident earlier in the week.  Someone had plowed into the back of their car while they were stopped.  Her sister was in the hospital paralyzed from the neck down and she was devastated, to say the least, but she knew that it would all be alright because of the Lord and his plan.  For me it was an amazing example of faith.  And like the scripture says, "do all things cheerfully", even though it wasn't a cheerful situation at all, she chose to acknowledge that one day her sister would be better and things would work out in the end.  I'm grateful for examples like this that teach me so much and how the gospel can helps us in all situations.

After conference we were able to go have an exchange in St. Die.  I was with Elder Fults and we had an awesome exchange.  St. Die is a small ville and so we were able to contact almost everyone we saw.  That is a great feeling at the end of the day.  We had a car, I can count on one hand the times I've been in a mission car, so it was cool because we were able to go to a couple of villages and go contacting.  At the end with 5 minutes left before we had a rendez-vous we said a prayer that we could find one more person to teach. Sure enough the next man, Moses, was the one that we were able to teach and have a prayer with.  It was another testimony of how our prayers are answered by the Lord!

I hope you all know how much I love you and how grateful I am for all of you!  When we ask what Christmas is to most people we hear that it is a time for the family to be together and that's why they think it is the best time of the year.  Even if I can't be with you I am there in spirit and I'm so happy to be where I am, sharing the best Christmas gift of all...Christ and his gospel!  I can't wait to talk to you on Thursday!

Till next week...
Love, Elder Player

Elder Utahia and me
I love this guy!

Souer North from the 1st ward
She just arrived!

Christmas in Nancy!

Monday, December 15, 2014

It All Started with a SMS...

Guillaume, Elder Gram and me having
a Family Home Morning together!
Bonjour Tout le monde!  I hope you have had a great week and are feeling the Spirit of Christmas!  It is quickly approaching!  It's been an awesome week here in Nancy full of change and miracles.  On Wednesday Elder Velazquez arrived.  He's an awesome missionary and we've already been blessed to see so many cool things happen this week.  I can't wait to see what miracles we will have this transfer!

Elder Gram and I had a great two days together visiting our amis and members so he could say goodbye.  We had a FHE with Guillaume, a FHE with the L'Homel family which featured a German dish that Elder Gram loves which had sauerkraut, sausages, meats and potatoes and was pretty delicious.  On Tuesday night we met with the Freard Family.  When we got back we did "face masks"! (Got to keep it exciting at the end of the day!)  Wednesday morning we took Elder Gram to the Gare and waited for Elder Velazquez to arrive.  While waiting we got a message from Vincent.

Vincent is the man that Elder Gram and I met about two weeks ago on Sunday night.  After about three hours of no success we were blessed to finish with three lessons the last hour.  We were able to teach about the restoration to Vincent in the street and give him a Book of Mormon.  He was touched by the message and said he was going to the South of France for a few weeks but to call him the week of Christmas because he'd like to talk more.  The message this morning was, "Hey, could we meet this afternoon...I'd love to talk more?"  We sent a text saying "yes" that we would be free after three and he promised to call when he was off work.  We met at a Cafe and had a coke and taught him.  Throughout the rendez-vous we learned that he had read 100 pages of the Book of Mormon and loved it.  He found it easier to understand than the Bible.  He'd been told by people at his church and work that we were a cult and to not go near us but he knew we weren't and wanted to know what our church could bring to his life.  The spirit was so strong and prompted us to ask him to be baptized.  He said yes, to my surprise, and then we were able to fix a date and he was so happy.  We set a rendez-vous for later in the week.  An hour later we got a SMS telling us his brother had died suddenly of a heart attack and he asked us to pray for him and his brother's soul.  Our hearts were broken.  Talk about a trial of faith right after accepting to be baptized into the Lord's church.  We were able to talk to him on the phone later and he asked, "What can your church give me now...my brother is dead."  It was an amazing moment to be able to tell him that through the Gospel of Jesus Christ he would be able to see his brother again.  We testified that we knew it was not by chance that we had met him when we did and he said he wanted to do anything he needed to so he didn't have to be scared of death.  It was such a miracle, so unexpected, and I'm so grateful for the spirit that prompts us to do the Lord's will.  I know you will never regret following a prompting.  I'm so grateful for the peace and hope this gospel gives to us.  Even when it seems like things aren't going our way, or we feel alone.  If we turn to the Lord in our hour of need we will feel the unmistakable love he has for each one of us.

HIGHLIGHTS:
Srdjan and his wife came to church, loved it, and accepted baptismal dates.  Thankful for "google translate" and the ability it gives us to teach them in Serbian!
Within the first hour of Elder Velazquez's arrival we taught a lesson in Spanish!
Met many new people contacting this week...so cool!
Saw a change of heart with Alfred...from saying he didn't want to meet with us anymore to saying he'd read and pray every night and see if it makes a difference!
Had an awesome ward Christmas party and picnic.  The Nancy ward is so great!
Last night we had a late night miracle.  We met a French man, Nicholas, who wants to see us again in the New Year!

There is so much to share but so little time to do it.  It was such a great week and I'm excited for our Christmas Conference with Elder Teixeira and the great things we have planned for the week.  Please know how much I love you all and pray for you.  Till next week...

Love...Elder Player
Our festive tablecloth my mom sent!

I know...kind of scary!  This was Elder Gram's last night
and we decided to do face masks!

Monday, December 8, 2014

L'espirit de Noel est dans l'air!

The Spirit of Christmas is in the air!
Salut tout le monde!  I hope you are having a great morning and a start to a great week!  This past week has been awesome and the Christmas Spirit is in the air!  It's the end of another transfer here. (it was only a 4 week transfer and this time it will be 8 weeks with the holidays)  We got news on Saturday and found out that Elder Gram is off to Paris, I'll be staying in Nancy and my new companion is from Dallas, Texas, Elder Velazquez.  This Wednesday will make for a lot of changes but we are excited and I'm grateful for the experiences Elder Gram and I have had together over the last 4 months.

This past week we were able to go to the Christmas capital of Europe, Strasbourg and do an exchange with a companionship there.  I was with Elder Davis and we worked together Thursday and Friday and saw some amazing things happen.  Everyone during this time of year is more open and when we sing for them most will listen.  In Nancy it was the weekend of St. Nicolas, which is based on a legend, and is a big deal.  It includes two days of parades, a huge fireworks show with videos that tell the legend and several other events throughout the day.  To say the least, there were plenty of people to contact and we were able to see the fireworks with some members and eat with them after  It was amazing and everyone was happy that the Christmas season has arrived.

We were able to teach some new people this week.  About two months ago a man contacted us and asked us where out church was.  We told him but hadn't heard anything more from him but we were able to fix a rendez-vous with him and taught him on Tuesday.  Srdjan is from Serbia so the language was difficult but we could communicate a little bit in french.  With pictures and the help of technology we were able to teach a lesson and invite him to church on Sunday.  As the third hour started there was still no sign of him and he wasn't answering his phone.  Just as our last meeting started who should walk in...Srdjan.  We were so happy to see him.  He apologized and said he got confused with the buses but hoped he could still come for some of it.  He was there for Fast and Testimony meeting and the Sacrament and after we were able to teach him with a young man in the ward.  He asked if his baptism would be next week and we said "no" but how about when you are ready and he accepted! So cool!

On Tuesday we received a call from a member of a different ward who wanted to give us a referral of a friend living in Nancy.  We took the name and were told it was a single father with three children. The week was busy but we wanted to stop by before the week ended.  Finally on Sunday night we went to his apartment and met him just before they were about to leave.  His name is Luis and his three children are 11, 9 and 6,  He invited us in and we were able to get to know him and explain why we were there.  We found out that his wife died about 5 months ago and now he is left alone with their three children.  We testified of how families could be together forever and thanks to temples and the ability to be sealed he could be with his wife again.  It was so cool and the spirit was telling him it was so.  We were able to finish by singing for him and the children and we are going back this Friday to teach him again.  They are originally from Mexico and Elder Velazquez, my new companion, will be able to speak spanish with them, even though they speak perfect french and english.  It testifies to me that transfers are inspired.  I can't wait to see this family progress and see how the gospel changes their lives.

It was a great week and we are continually being blessed here.  I can't wait for the things we have set up for this week.  We have our huge ward Christmas party this coming weekend which we are looking forward to as well.  Know how much I love all of you and have a great week!

Love...
Elder Player

Beautiful Strasbourg

Christmas Fireworks

Our District with our number of transfers.
Souer Bennion is on her last one! (12)

Our name tags with our number of transfers!






Monday, December 1, 2014

Thanksgiving, and the Trial of Enduring to the End in the Cold!!


Thanksgiving Dinner with our Zone!
Bonjour everyone!  I hope you are all having a great morning when you read this.  It's been a great week full of things like eating tons, contacting in the cold, watching Nancy come to life with all the Christmas lights and markets.  I would like to share three experiences from our week here in France!

First was Thanksgiving.  A time to come together and be thankful for all the many blessings we have and above all for the gift of our Savior and his atonement for us.  This year Thanksgiving started with our district meetings that morning and then a zone feast here in Nancy.  It was so fun to be together and to eat well!  I made stuffing without a box, never done it before, and to my surprise it was actually pretty good.  We had turkey, chicken, beef bourguignon , bread, yams, mashed potatoes and a table just for pies.  It was delicious and we all got our fill of good food for sure!  Later that night we had a mangez-vous with the L'Homel family who prepared a Thanksgiving meal just for us even though it was just a normal day for them!  They are so fun to be with and such great members here. It takes us about 30 minutes by bus to get there and Elder Gram and I both had a cookie sheet of rolls and were talking in English on the ride there.  A young college girl came back and asked if we were American and, as a proud American, I said, "Yes, I am!"  She came and sat with us and over the next thirty minutes we were able to explain why we are there and why we were going to such a small village and what we believe about our families.  She's from a family of 14! (That is super rare in France - take a Utah family of 14 and times it by 100!)  We took it as a sign that they are very prepared to become members!  Haha.  We had a great conversation and she said she'd love to come to church and right before we got off the bus we had a prayer with her and she loved it. We are praying to see Nadia come to church soon!

Second...On Saturday night all the Christmas lights in the ville were on and the Market was open so we decided to go caroling and when people stopped we gave them our card.  There were six missionaries that went out and we had a great time singing Christmas songs and it was cool to see how the music was putting smiles on peoples' faces.  I can't imagine how many people now have a picture or recording of the Mormon missionaries singing.  It was good PR!  After we sang for a while we decided to finish the night by picking a street and have a set of missionaries on each side of the street and one set of missionaries at the top going the other way and that way we could finish the whole street.  We rang or knocked at peoples' doors and also contacted people that walked by.  An older madame walked by and we started taking to her and sang her "Joy to the World" and then asked if we could come over and share a Christmas message with her.  What she said shocked us..."Yes and don't just share a message but come over and eat with me and my husband!"  (He's a Catholic Deacon)  She said she invited some others about a year ago but they never came and she thought she must have scared them off.  We said we'd be there and set the rendez-vous for Monday (today) at 12:45.  We just got back from an amazing lunch in one of the nicer neighborhoods in Nancy and they were awesome.  One of the most Christlike couples I've ever met and so kind to us.  We ate and talked about our beliefs.  I think they saw that it wasn't as different as they thought.  We finished by singing all together, "Angels we Have Heard on High" and then we gave them a Christmas book and said we'd love to help them if they needed it or answer any more questions they had.  It was an awesome experience and we hope we'll hear from them again.  If nothing else we planted a seed :)

Third...Sunday, after church, we had four hours of time with no rendez-vous scheduled so we decided to do some passbacks with some old amis and then visit some of our less actives to end the night!  u
But, as often happens - things don't go as planned.  No one was home and after about 3 hours in the cold with the wind blowing and one hour left before our mangez-vous we were not super excited to keep going.  We dug in our heels and decided to go downtown and contact.  On our way we saw a man sitting in his entry and said,  "Let's go talk to him...he can't run away!"  That's how we meet Gee, who is cool and believes in Christ.  We were able to sing and pray with him and we have a rendez-vous to go back on Wednesday!  Then we met a younger man who was from Marseille named Vincent.  We asked if we could come see him another time because we thought he needed to catch a train.  He told us he had 10 minutes and so we were able to teach the restoration and as he heard the first vision and we read Moroni's promise to him you could tell he was touched and he told us that was profound and he couldn't wait to read more and pray about it.  It was so cool and we are going to talk to him when he gets back from Marseille in a few weeks.  To finish it off we saw someone who we had sung for on Saturday night.  She was German but has been here for 16 years and spoke perfect English.  We talked to her and asked if we could give her a movie about Christ and Christmas and she said, "What I would really like is the Book of Mormon in German."  She had met with the missionaries years ago but they only had the Book of Mormon in English.  We ran back to our apartment and got a Book of Mormon in German and gave it to her.  She was so excited to go home and read it.  It was crazy to see that after 3 long hours of working in the cold with no success it was the last hour that we found success - lots of it!  I think that's often how life is...sometimes it seems cold and hard and we want to give up but if we just keep going the Lord will bless us with success when we have done all that we can!

The week was awesome and I'm so grateful for these two years I have to be here and serve the Lord.  I hope you all have a great week and think about all that the Lord has given you - especially this Christmas season.  Until next week...

Love,
Elder Player
Elder Miller and me in St. Die

Our little Christmas tree!

Our homemade stuffing, rolls and yams!

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Change of Heart

Elder Ursua and Elder Olsen

A foggy day in France!
Gobble, Gobble, Gobble to all of you getting ready for the Thanksgiving Turkey feasts.  This week was full of awesome things and I want to start with our conference in Versailles on Thursday with Elder Cook!

It was the first of its kind for our mission.  To have all 280 missionaries there in the same place at the same time was amazing.  Through hours of organization we all made our trains, treks through the metros in Paris and then on to another train to Versailles.  A quick walk to the chapel and we were there...by 9:30 in the morning!  At 9:45 Elder Cook and his wife and Elder Teixeira and his wife along with President and Soeur Babin walked into the chapel and we were able to shake their hands and be greeted by them.  Yes, all of us! For the next 2 hours we got to have an amazing conference with them.  Right from the beginning, with all of us singing, we filled the chapel and invited the spirit to be there.  After the Babin's and Teixeira's spoke Elder Cook told us that he was not going to give the message he had prepared but share something more personal with us and it was just what we needed to hear.  He talked about people and their free agency and how our faith effects our results dramatically.  He talked about how we were called here to this specific mission and how calls are based on three things.  The first if for the people, secondly to prepare you for future callings or events in your life and third to be with a specific mission president and his wife because they have a large role in the missionary's development.  Elder Cook closed talking about the four most important relations for us on our missions:
     1.  You and Your Companion - we have to love our companion in order to have unity and invite the spirit           when we teach.
     2.  You and the People You Teach - we have to love the people and see them as they can become in                 order to help them come unto Christ.
     3.  You and Your Relationship with the mission President and his wife - being close to them will have a                lasting impact on the rest of our lives.
     4.  You and your relationship with the Lord - we must grow close to the Lord and rely on him through               faith and become converted ourselves in order to convert others to His gospel.

It was such a great conference and after he finished he left us with a special blessing on us all and on the mission. The spirit was so strong and it was clear that he is an Apostle of the Lord!

HIGHLIGHTS:
*Porting last night in a new little village and finding two new families who are interested to hear more about the gospel.
*Going to meet the man who stopped us last week, while walking to his car, and asked us to come by his business and see him.  When we went by he told us he used to be taught by the Elders and wanted to continue to learn more.
*Having an awesome FHE with members and less active members.
*Elder Grams 20th birthday.  We went to a great restaurant with the other elders and had a great meal.
*Two ladies, Nadia and Jessica, yelled at us when we went to see Jean Jacques.  Things like, "How many wives do you have?"  "Go back where you came from!"  "No one wants Jesus here!"  We had an awesome lesson with Jean Jacques and as we were leaving the two women were there again and started to yell at us.
We said, "Have a good day!"  And then they yelled, "You speak French?"  They invited us over and asked if we were Mormon?  We responded, "Yes" and asked if they were believing.  One said no and the other said a little bit.  In the conversation she mentioned her mother, who had passed away, was believing.  This led to a discussion about life after death and the Plan of Salvation and that they could know it was true by prayer. The spirit was so strong and we could see how the spirit touched them and all of a sudden they were kind and opened up about their pasts and the difficult lives they had but just wanted a "normal" life for their children.  At the end we asked if we could pray for them and show them how they could pray to know if these things were true and they accepted.  After the prayer they said, "Thank you!"  It was amazing how two people that had been yelling at us and denying any belief in God or Christ had changed and were now apologizing for what they had said and they wanted to meet again.  I know that the spirit can change hearts and it gave us a chance to see people not as they were but who they could become.  For this I was grateful!

Tomorrow we are off to St. Die-Des Vosges for two days to do exchanges and then back for a French Mormon Thanksgiving missionary style!  We are having a district meeting with a huge feast as a zone and then we are going to eat with a ward family - the L'Homel's!  I am so lucky to be here with such great people.  I hope you all have a great week and eat tons of food followed by BLACK Friday shopping!  I love you all and am so grateful for all that you do for me.  Till next week...

Love...Elder Player

Elder Gram's 20th birthday!

The birthday meal!
Panna Cotta Dessert!







Monday, November 17, 2014

Count Your Many Blessings

Streets of Nancy

Bonjour tout le monde!  I can see from the email and pictures you have sent this week that many of you have got snow!  I'm so jealous since I haven't seen snow since the winter before I left and I love the snow! I have my fingers crossed that we will see some this year since I'm in the East of France!  This week has been great and very busy.  We have had some spiritual moments and some interesting ones too!

We got to go and teach Rene, a recent convert, who attended the temple in Switzerland with the YSA to do baptisms.  Man, was he excited!  He kept telling us how amazing it was and that the Spirit of The Lord was there and it was for sure the House of the Lord!  He went and taught with us that night and kept telling our ami that there was nothing else like it and no other church could bring them to feel that Spirit which he had felt in the temple...Only the true church of God could!  He can't wait to go next summer and receive his  own endowments!

We taught a new family this week that we were able to find a few weeks ago on exchanges.  We called and asked for directions and the directions we received were to go behind the prison and then we would see a camp with trailers.  A little hesitant we took the bus to the prison (which was very nice, I must say) and then went behind the prison.  We walked to what we thought was a camp of trailers and were surprised to see that it was very nice, organized with gates and a fence.  We found out we weren't in the right camp and so we continued to search.  We eventually got there and it was like watching a movie with shelters after a hurricane.  Tarps were on the trailers and mud was everywhere.  Everyone came out of their trailers and looked at us like, "What are they doing here?"  Then we saw Christian and his family.  He invited us into his trailer and we met his wife, 3 children and a friend.  We sat on two beds around a little heater in the the dark.  They explained that they turned on the lights for three hours a night because that was all the gas they could afford to fill the generator.  This family had almost nothing but as we talked to them they offered us a drink.  We kept saying "no" but they insisted and pulled out a half liter of coke and poured us two cups worth.  We were able to teach and pray with them and they are the nicest people, who believe in Christ and have a firm belief in his teachings.  Even though they don't have much, in the sense of worldly things, they are rich in spirit and happy.  They are thankful for three hours of light each day, the little heater, and more than anything else, each other.  When we told them we could come back and bring books for them they were so excited.  We can't wait to go back and see them on Tuesday. They walked us back out of the camp and gave us directions to get back to the bus.  We were kind of in shock. This was, for both of us, the poorest conditions we had ever been in.  We have taught in the streets, sat in an apartment sitting on newspapers but this was something else.  These people were happier than even the richest people we've taught and grateful for even the smallest blessings, which many of us take for granted, like lights, heat and water.  It was a moment for us to "count our many blessings" and be so thankful for all that the Lord has given to us.

With Thanksgiving almost here, I invite each of us to take a moment and look at all of our blessings, even during the hard times.  President Uctdorf said, "How much of life do we miss by waiting to see the rainbow before thanking God that there is rain?"  

I want each of you to know that when I count my blessings I count all of you twice.  Thanks you for all you do for me.  I love you all so much and hope you have a great week!

Love...
Elder Player

Highlights:
*Went to Paris on Friday for mission council
*Mission Conference with Elder Cook this week...it will be the first time the mission has all been together in over 3 years.  The mission, with couples, is over 280 people.  It is going to be so awesome and everyone is so excited.  It took some major planning to make it happen!
*FHE tonight with a member
*Some great exchanges planned for this week

Elder Gram and I start our third transfer together!





Monday, November 10, 2014

Singing in the Rain

District Picture with number of transfers!
Bonjour tout le monde!  I hope you have had a great week.  It's been an awesome week here in Nancy!  It's the start of another transfer so let me share that news first.  We all thought Elder Gram would be leaving for sure.  He has done four transfers here but, to our shock, he is staying another transfer.  I can't wait to see what is waiting for the two of us this transfer.

Last week was a week of miracles for our zone.  Every day we had a challenge for something specific and then we all shared what miracles had happened throughout the week.  It was amazing to see the contacts and experiences the Lord gave to us.  Fall/Winter has arrived and so that has meant rain every day, not a sprinkle but a downpour!  That didn't stop us.  We decided we'd contact people through "singing in the rain"!  One night with an hour to go before a rendez-vous we started contacting by telling people how music really brings the spirit and peace into our lives.  We asked if we could sing for them, which is strange anywhere, but very strange in France.  Even caroling at Christmas is not a thing here.  But it worked.  Within the hour we were able to sing for three people and teach them a lesson right there on the street under our umbrellas.  One of the ladies we sang for said, "I am a member of your church but not active for quite some time."  Of all the streets, and all the people we sang for this lady, who is a member of our church, she accepted for us to come and talk to her and her family at another time.  It was so cool and even the ones that didn't want us to sing for them were interested to talk with us again at another time.

Later in the week we had an hour and a half before we had a FHE with a member so we decided to go and do some knocking on doors.  We found an apartment building where someone was going in so we followed and started at the top of the building.  The first few people weren't interested but we were able to teach 3 lessons in about the last 25 minutes.  It was awesome and one of the people we taught was named Ami. Crazy since we call our investigators our amis or friends.  So, we made Ami a new ami and can't wait to teach him again.!

We had three FHE's this week with members and two of them have children that are not members so we were able to teach them and invite them to come to church.  At the third FHE there was a less active family with a 17 year old son that we invited to Samedi Sports (Saturday Sports) and he came and then came to church on Sunday!  Awesome!

Highlights:
*Continued to teach our recent converts and one of them is going to the temple with the YSA to do baptisms in Switzerland tomorrow.
*The souers had a baptism this week with an awesome family we have all come to love.  They are from Albania!
*Refound an old ami, Jimmy, who hasn't been taught in over three years.  He was super excited to have the missionaries come again and wants to meet every week!
*There were a few demonstrations this week.  One was an agricultural demonstration that shut the city down because it was overrun by tractors.  It was one of the most bizarre things I have ever seen.
*Had 2 no shows with an inactive member who recently told us he didn't want to continue having us teach him.  We were so disappointed but then he, Phillipe, text us and asked us to come over and is interested in learning again. #tendermercy

It was an amazing week with blessings from the Lord.  This week we go to Paris on Friday for a mission council so that'll be awesome.  Have a great week and know that I love you lots.

Love...
Elder Player

Checking a map with a new pastry!

Here is the blackberry macaroon up close!  Yum!

Elder Utahia's cousin at Saturday Sports!

Agricultural Demonstration...Bizarre!




Monday, November 3, 2014

Tender Mercies of the Lord



Fall in France
 Bonjour!  This week has been a great week and one full of blessings from the Lord in small things, like a bus running late so we made it home on time, to big things.  They were all "Tender Mercies" of the Lord and that's what I want to share with you this week!

First of all...What is a tender mercy?  Elder Bednar helps us out with that.  He said, "Through personal study, observation, pondering and prayer I believe I have come to better understand that the Lord's tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving kindnesses, consolation, support and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ.  Truly, the Lord suits "his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men."

I was able to recognize some tender mercies this week.  The members here in Nancy are awesome and when I read the words, "support and loving kindnesses" it made we think of our members here.  This week we were able to go and be with quite a few members.  We joined with the L'Homel family for FHE and had a great evening with raclette! (That was the cherry on top) We, also, spent an evening with our bishop and a less active member where we were able to feel the spirit and they made us feel like we were at our homes and really took an interest in our lives and our work as missionaries!

On Wednesday we had Zone Conference and again saw the hand of the Lord.  Tuesday we spent quite a bit of time getting ready for it and thankfully the bus came a few minutes late that evening so that we made it home on time.  The conference was great and President and Soeur Babin were awesome.  It is always nice to be with them and have an interview to see how we can improve and what we can do better as missionaries.

We were blessed with "tender mercies" as we contacted and in our daily life.  We were able to go on exchanges with the elders of Saint Die.  I was with Elder Sanchez and we spent a fair amount of time contacting.  Early in the morning we felt like we needed to contact these two men who didn't look very friendly, to say the least.  We were able to talk to them for over 30 minutes and even though nothing really came out of it we knew we had followed a prompting.  For me, I think it was to see if we would follow a prompting so that when we met Alex later we would be ready.  Alex, didn't believe in God 4 weeks ago but was invited to go with his friend to church and now, in just 4 weeks, he has gained a testimony that God is real, that he loves us and he is starting to feel real happiness in his life.  It was so cool and we were able to talk about our church and what we believe and he is interested to learn more.  He was our last contact of the day and a great way to end our exchange.

Later in the week after a very long day and 5 rendez-vous that had fallen through it was 8:40 p.m. and we felt like we'd just been walking around all day and were exhausted.  We sat on a bench and then looked at each and realized we needed help.  We said a little prayer to give us help to keep going for the last twenty minutes and to find someone to talk to that was interested.  We hopped up with a little more adrenaline and 5 minutes later we met Nordine.  Wow!  To say the least, it was a great contact and he taught us about apostasy and how God has always called prophets.  When we talked about eternal families he loved that and said that his church had that one hole because it didn't have that.  Elder Gram and I kept looking over at each other like, "Is this really happening?"  It was awesome and we were able to pray with him there on the street and teach a quick restoration lesson.  I know that God hears and answers our prayers.  If we ask with faith, knowing that he will answer, he will give us what we need, in his time, often through a tender mercy.

That's all I have time to share but try to recognize the hand of the Lord in your lives.  You will see how much he loves you and knows you personally from the tender mercies which he extends to each one of you.

"We should not underestimate or overlook the power of the Lord's tender mercies.  The simpleness, the sweetness, and the constancy of the tender mercies of the Lord will do much to fortify and protect us in the troubled times in which we do now and will yet live.  When words cannot provide the solace we need or express the joy we feel, when it is simply futile to attempt to explain that which is unexplainable, when logic and reason cannot yield adequate understanding about the injustices and inequities of life, when moral experience and evaluation are insufficient to produce a desired outcome, and when it seems that perhaps we are so totally alone, truly we are blessed by the tender mercies of the Lord and made mighty even unto the power of deliverance." ...Elder Bednar

I hope you all have a great week, remember that I love you all.

Love...Elder Player

The river Meurthe in Nancy

FHE with the L'Homel family

Exchange with Elder Sanchez







Monday, October 27, 2014

Exchange Miracles

Bonjour tout le monde!  I hope you are having a great day as you read this.  Our week has been very busy and there is lots to share...

We had 3 exchanges where I got to work with 4 awesome missionaries!  The first one was with Elder Johnson who is serving in Versailles right now as an assistant.  We had an awesome exchange.  We saw a couple of our recent converts and one miracle we had was while trying to get into a building to visit a recent convert we couldn't get in because he wasn't responding to our call at the door to open the main door.  A person came up and let us go in with them and so we were able to go to his door and knock but nobody answered.  We waited about two minutes and his neighbor, who was leaving, said, "You're the Mormons aren't you?"  We said, "Yes, people often call us that!"  We asked how he knew us and he started talking about Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.  To say the least, we were pretty surprised. and then came the real doozy.  He brought up the miracle of the seagulls eating the grasshoppers and how that was so amazing.  He said he didn't have much time but when we asked if we could come back and talk with him he said he'd love that.  The Lord always seems to put us somewhere that he has already prepared someone even if it wasn't what we thought it would be!

The next exchange was with Elder Hansen who is serving in Epinal right now but we worked here in Nancy. That night we planned to go and contact a referral that we had received but the phone number wasn't valid. We decided to take the bus, an hour away, to a tiny village named Vic sur Seille.  When we thought it was about time to be at our stop we asked a man if this was the stop Rue de Metz.  He replied yes and so we got off but quickly saw signs that indicated it wasn't our stop.  We were about 10 minutes, by freeway, from Vic Sur Seille and the next bus was an hour and a half out.  We started to ask how we could walk to Vic Sur Seille and the first two people looked at us like we were crazy.  The third person we asked said he didn't know but he was going there and we could hitch a ride with him.  So we accepted a ride and made it there at about the same time as the bus.  We started looking for the referral with the address we had but sadly he didn't live in either place that matched our address.  We decided to do some porting while we waited for a member to give us a ride home.  (Buses don't run after 6 p.m. going to Nancy)  We ported for about 30 minutes and decided we had time for one more home.  We knocked on the door and an 11 year old boy came down and started talking to us.  We asked if his parents were home and he said, "My mom is in the restaurant/kebap shop in front.  Do you want to talk to her?"   Of course we said yes.  He then led us into the kebap shop and his mom was wearing a Muslim burka and was preparing food for a customer.  We waited and talked to her son.  We were able to talk to her and she was in shock that Americans had knocked on their door in this small ville.  We talked about prayer and it was an awesome short lesson.  We were able to pray with them all huddled around in the kebap shop.  It was a sight to see.  It was an awesome way to end the night and a great exchange.

The third exchange was with two Elders here in Nancy.  Elder Pumford and Elder Ursua.  Elder Gram was off to Paris for the day and night to take the ACT for his application to BYU.  It was weird being a trio but a good experience.  We had some awesome lessons, one which was with their ami who is very French and a practicing catholic named Pierre.  We were able to talk about coming to church and the D&C.  And guess what?  A miracle happened and he came to church yesterday.  They are excited to be teaching him again this week.

That finished up the exchanges but there was still one more miracle.  Willy, who we thought was single, is a father of 10 and his sister was also there.  We started with prayer and then his friend and a few of his children came over.  We were able to teach 9 adults the restoration and it went so well.  They all loved the message and said they'd pray to know about Joseph Smith and tomorrow we are going back to continue teaching them. We can't wait!

This coming week we have Zone Conference in Nancy and interviews with President and Soeur Babin and another exchange in St. Die.  Tonight we get to go to the L'Homels home for FHE and have a raclette. (They are so delicious)  Looking forward to another great week.  Have a Happy Halloween wherever you are and know that I love and miss you all.  Till next week...

Love,
Elder Player
This is our chapel.
We are carrying in potatoes for the meeting!

Vic Sur Seille with Elder Hansen

Cathedral St. Epvre in Nancy

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Temple Brings Blessings

This is a picture of what the temple in Paris, France will look like!


Bonjour tout le monde!  This week has flown by and it has been another great week!  Let me start with some of the highlights!

Highlights:
*Had a great exchange with Elder Garcia from Epinal and we went to Toul to do a baptismal interview for the Sisters ami.
*Went to Emmanual's baptism and his dad who has been inactive is working at coming back and was able to baptize him...The mom and two other children are now interested too!
*Visited our recent converts and they are continuing to grow, especially Marie-Line.  We had a great lesson with her and Frere Clavey by watching President Monson's, "I Will Not Fail Thee nor Forsake Thee!  What a great talk (If you haven't read it and need some encouragement be sure to look it up...October General Conference 2013)
*Spent a lot of time with members this week with teaching, service, ward council, Saturday Sports and a ward picnic yesterday.  They are all so great and I love them more every time I get to be with them!

Now let me share two cool experiences we had this week.  The first one was at night when we had a few rendez-vous set up but no one was home and no one answered their phone.  So we went porting and after a long night of "no" we were on our way home and met Nicholas!  Nicholas is about 30, French, and we asked him if he had any experience with prayer.  He told us yes and how it had changed his life and how the scriptures had helped him.  Now he was praying that he'd be able to quit smoking and we testified that we knew he could overcome smoking and he asked if we could see him again.  We are excited to see him this week when he gets back from Paris!

The second awesome experience was with Kantinzo and Fat.  They are the family we found last week when we helped carry up bunk beds to their apartment.  We were able to teach them and the lesson went great.  They had so many questions and we even talked about temples with them, which is rare on a first lesson.  It all seemed to click and they want to come to church and know more.  At the end they asked, "So if we become a mormon the goal would be for all of us to go to the temple and be sealed for all eternity, right?" "YES!" we responded and it was so awesome!  we can't wait to teach them this week!  Then this morning while studying I found this to go along with the blessings of temples. I found the scripture in D&C 109 that is the Dedicatory prayer at the Kirkland Temple that Joseph Smith gave.  It says, (22) And we ask thee, Holy Father, that thy servants may go forth from this house armed with thy power, and that thy name may be upon them, and thy glory be round about them, and thine angels have charge over them: (23) And from this place they may bear exceedingly great and glorious tidings, in truth, unto the ends of the earth, that they may know that this is thy work, and that thou hast put forth thy hand, to fulfill that which thou hast spoken by the mouths of the prophets, concerning the last days"

I love this promise and it is something that I know is true.  The Spirit bore testimony of it during our lesson with this great family.  The temple can bring a power, glory, and angels into our lives that no other place can.  The members here are so excited to have their first temple here in Paris in 2016.  They know it will bring blessings to them all.  I hope that we all take the opportunity to fully partake of the blessings that the Lord has in store for us by going to the temple regularly.  It will strengthen us and give us the power we all need in these last days.  How blessed we are in Utah to have 14 temples. many of which are just a short drive, or walk, from us.  Take the time and partake of the blessings and protection the Lord has promised.

Thanks for all you do for me and for all your prayers.  I hope your week is a good one...till next week!

Love you all...
Elder Player   



 Porting in Dimanche

                                                                      Downtown Toul

                                                    Cathedral right next to our apartment!


Monday, October 13, 2014

Late Night Miracles

Crazy Bridge!
Elder Puairau and me in Mulhouse!
Salut tout le monde!  I hope you have had great week!  It's been a super busy one here and we've had some amazing experiences I can't wait to tell you about!

This week was full of travel.  Tuesday we went to Metz to get new furniture for our apartment with the Gionet couple, Wednesday to Mulhouse for exchanges and St. Die too!  3 different villes and 3 different beds!  We did it all and made it back safe and sound to Nancy and got to sleep in our own beds! (Although, getting back was difficult with a cancelled train)  After we got back from the Metz we had a lesson with Francis and then as we got off the bus by our apartment it was 8:57.  So we had three minutes to talk to people.  The first man didn't have time but then we met Michel.  He asked us if we were the Mormons and when we said yes and asked him how he knew he shared with us that he knew a member and had come to church quite a few times twenty years ago.  He was even taught by the missionaries here in Nancy and had read a large portion of the Book of Mormon!  He had moved to Paris and lost contact but said he would like to meet with the missionaries again and come to church.  We were able to take his information to give to the missionaries in Paris.

Luckily our apartment is right next to the gare so we can leave 10 minutes before it leaves. It is a nice walk, get on the train and take off.  (I don't think flying will ever make sense to me with the "two hours in advance" policy again!)  Wednesday morning we were leaving the apartment for the 10 minute nice walk that changed to a fast paced sprint when our elevator didn't open up in our building till 8:11 and the train leaves at 8:15 and we still needed to print tickets.  As the elevator doors opened we ran, with our bags, as fast as we could to the ticket machines.  Of course, one of the two machines was being used so Elder Gram started to print his ticket and finally at 8:14 it was ready.  Luckily we were right next to the platform for the train so he ran ahead and said he would hold the doors.  I rushed to print my ticket and it seemed to take forever to print and the train whistle was blowing for the train to leave and the doors to close.  Could the machine go any slower?  Finally, with ticket in hand I grabbed my bag and bolted for the last door that Elder Gram was holding open.  The agent seemed less than happy but we made it and the other guy, who was running late, was glad the door was still open too! Thankfully, Elder Gram wasn't fined for holding the door open!

In Mulhouse we had awesome exchanges.  Elder Gram was with Elder Smith, who just got here last week, and I was with Elder Puairau who is from Tahiti.  We were able to teach their ami, Antonio, and had a great lesson and also see the Hoxja family who were baptized a few weeks ago.  What an awesome, strong family in the church!  We finished the night by contacting and we were able to meet Magali.  She is super cool and super interested.  We testified how the family can be together long after this life and she was excited to learn more and have us pray with her.  I can't wait to have the sisters teach her more.  After our exchanges we boarded our train to head home.  It was a TGV train to Frankfurt and Elder Gram lives in Frankfurt so if we had stayed on he would have been home for dinner two hours later.  But of course, we got off the train in Nancy and made our way home!

Saturday night, right after two rendez-vous with two recent converts, we had 30 minutes left and decided to contact.  We saw a little street and as we went around a corner we saw two men trying to life a heavy box of bunk beds.  It was a perfect service opportunity!  We ran up and asked if we could help them.  They accepted and we helped carry the boxes up the stairs and into an apartment where they invited us in and gave us a drink.  We found out that they had also been taught by missionaries years ago and one of them had a wife and three children.  We were able to talk to them and sing for them.  By the end they were taking pictures with us and we have a rendez-vous with both Willy and the family of 5 this week.  We can't wait!

The Lord has been so good to us and I've learned so much.  If you keep going and going there is always a blessing, miracle, or person waiting at 8:57!

Highlights...
*In St. Die I got to go to a mangez-vous (meal) with Elder Miller!  When we got back to the apartment it was pouring rain and we realized the other Elders had the keys.  We called to see how close they were and they informed us they had a flat tire and would be a while!
*Did some porting in a cool area with a cool bridge (See Picture)
*Had fun doing service with one of the members and seeing Elder Ursua and Elder Pumford dressed up in, what looked like, Hazmat suits.  Sadly, I didn't get a picture of that!

The work is going great here and we are continually blessed by the Lord.  I hope you all have a great week and know how much I love, miss you and am grateful for all you do.  Till next week...

Love...
Elder Player
New furniture in our apartment!

Car ride home with new furniture!








Monday, October 6, 2014

The Gospel Can Change People

Bonjour Tout le monde!  I hope you have all had a great weekend especially with the awesome conference that we were able to watch this weekend.  Conference weekends are like Christmas for the missionaries.
So, we are all super happy right now!  We have had an awesome week with some miracles that I would like to share...

Tuesday we had the best lesson ever with Marie-line.  It was filled with the spirit and at the end you could see that a lot of the stress she has had was gone and she was being comforted.  It was so awesome!  We also had a rendez-vous with Francis, a recent convert, and when we arrived his friend, Oliver, was there and he decided to stay for the first time.  We changed our plans and explained why we were there, sang for him and watched a Mormon Message that gives a brief summary of the Book of Mormon.  If you haven't seen it I'd recommend it. (Here's the link - http://www.mormonchannel.org/video/mormon-messages
v=1256696369001)  After we watched the video he was super open and said he would like to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it.  We were so happy and we know the Lord softened his heart.  Later in the week we went and saw him again and he had read in Alma 40, which he said had answered a lot of his questions.  He wants to keep learning more and so we taught about the restoration and Joseph Smith.  He loved it and said if he continues to know these things are true he'd be baptized.  What a miracle!  Peoples hearts can change so never give up or stop having hope if they don't accept it the first time!

Thursday we had a fun lesson with a recent convert, his brother and family (who are members) and made "faith" plants.  After that we went porting for an hour and a half.  The first man said no, through a window, and we moved on.  The next door we knocked on was a woman, Caroline.  She came out and started to talk to us in English, French and German, for Elder Gram.  We talked for some time and then her husband came out.  We were sure he would tell us that they weren't interested but instead he joined the conversation. They invited us in for a drink and dessert and expressed interest to know what we believed.  They are such a cool family.  By the end the spirit was there and they could feel something.  They took the family proclamation and Caroline said she would try to come to church.  We are praying that they will come to church or call us soon!

Highlights from the week:
*Had an awesome lesson with the Pierrel family and for the first time the mom, Michele, listened in.  She said that the gospel has changed her children and husband's lives since the missionaries have been coming and that the change was for the better.
*Contacted a cool man and his daughter, Riad, who were very open and we were able to teach them on the spot and get his number and address to go see them this week!
*Marie's baptism was validated by the bishop and counselors and so she and Jean Claude, her husband, will receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost next week!
*Went to Paris to hear President and Soeur Babin speak - they are awesome leaders and I'm grateful for them.
*Got to watch 4 out of 5 conference sessions and had 12 elders in our apartment Saturday night so they could watch conference on the weekend.
*Had an awesome FHE with the L'homel family and ate with the Carmona's later in the week.

It's been a good week.  I hope you have a good week and know how much I love and miss you all.  Thanks for all your support.  Till next week...

Love,
Elder Player

Soeur Mangum and her companion
Her brother lives by my sister, Lisa

12 Elder at our apartment on Saturday night
so we could watch conference on Sunday