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 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!

*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!

Elder Player

*Went to Paris on Friday for mission council
*Mission Conference with Elder Cook this 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!

*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.

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