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!
Elder Player
Website for the video:

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 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.

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 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!

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...

Elder Player
Elder Miller and me in St. Die

Our little Christmas tree!

Our homemade stuffing, rolls and yams!