Thursday, September 24, 2015

Follow the Truth

Dear Friends and Family,

I had one of the most incredible opportunities this week to give a
talk in church. And because I made Soeur Waite sick, I had a little
bit of time to prepare it. The talk I took from was the April General
Conference from 1999 (yes, we go back that far in conference
sometimes..) by Elder Neunschwander called "Eternal Bridges and
Keepsakes." It was on the temple and genealogy. And while, I haven't
been able to visit the temple since my mission or been doing a whole
lot of genealogy work, the talk left a powerful impression on me.
I felt so blessed as I stood up and began sharing my talk and,
although it was already prepared, the spirit just flowed and I was
able to clearly communicate and express the ideas I had prepared. And,
in the end, I shared the experience dad shared with me about grandpa
and the badge he had picked up in Vannes over 70 years ago. Everyone
just sat in their seats listening attentively as I shared the story of
this "not-so-coincidentally" news that came to me since his passing
and my arrival here in Vannes.
I testified that Heavenly Father does not make mistakes. And that His
whole purpose to help us "come home" and return to Him. And I am so
certain of that. As we make the efforts to search out our families,
perform saving ordinances on their behalf and keep the covenants we
have made, we will be instruments in His hands and the hearts and of
"our fathers" and "our children" will be knitted together with ours
and each other's.

I've included the last story excerpt below. Sorry, you're going to
have to google translate it or something. (Or learn French!)

<<Pour finir, je voudrais partager une expérience personnelle à moi.
Il y a quelques mois depuis je suis arrivée ici à Vannes. Au début,
mon grand-père, qui avait quatre-vingt onze ans, est décédé. Malgré
que je n'était pas chez moi a ce moment difficile pour ma famille, et
surtout ma grand-mère, ça nous a rapproché les uns des autres. Il y
avait un exchange des histoires sur la vie de mon grand-père et son
héritage de courage.

Deux jour après qu'il est décédé, ma grand-mère était en train
d'arranger ses affaires quand elle a trouvé un objet intéressant
qu'elle n'a jamais vû avant. C'était un badge des Forces Français De
L'Intérieur qu'il avait récupéré pendant qu'il servait dans le
deuxième guerre mondiale. Mais, quelques choses encore plus
intéressante, est que derrière il était écrit:

<<Reçu à Vannes. Septembre mille neuf cent quarante-quatre.>>
C'est un témoignage à moi que Notre Père Céleste ne fait pas les
erreurs. Le fais que je suis ici en mission n'est pas le hasard. Mon
père m'a écrit en disant que quand mon père est venue en France il a
combattu pour la liberté physique des peuples. Et moi, soixante dix
années après, je combat pour la liberté spirituelle.

Nos familles deviennent liés dans beaucoup de façons quand nous
faisons les efforts pour mieux les connaître. Et, on verra, qu'il y a
de moins en moins de barrières entre nous et eux.On peut réaliser une
famille éternelle en faisant la généalogie, en faisant leurs
ordonnances et restant fidèles aux alliances que nous avons fait. On
peut aussi créer les liens entre nous et les générations qui
viennent.C'est mon témoignage que je vous laisse au nom de
Jésus-Christ, Amen.>>

"Follow the Truth" was the response to the prayer that Sylvan had said since the last time we asked him to pray about the Book of Mormon and the restoration of the gospel. The spirit just washed over the room once more as he testified to himself of the truth he knew. So often, once we get an answer to a prayer and are then asked to move ahead and act on it, that is when it gets really "scary." I think those were some of the feelings and thoughts running through his mind. 

And, his wife, finally understood the apostasy for the first time. We revisited the restoration with them because it had been nearly forever since they'd heard it. And, at first, I started teaching about the cycles of apostasy in the bible and she just looked at me with the most confused of faces. And so I repeated myself. Nothing. And then Soeur Waite gave it a try. Nothing. And then our member, Soeur Vogel jumped in saying nearly the exact same thing and her respect was, "ohhhhhh, now I get it!" I suddenly realized that if she hadn't been understanding what I'd been saying that maybe she hadn't been understanding what All of the other missionaries had been saying. Major breakthrough. Lesson learned: always bring a member.

xchanges in Nantes with Soeur Defranchi. Her family is from the South of France and her mom is American. She's a professional celloist.

Francoise's one year mark since her baptism! We had a party! And her first missionaries sent her emails and pictures. It so sweet!

I tried to make a cake for her party and the recipe called for fake coffee. So I through in what we had in the cupboard and then I read the label and saw it was real coffee. NOOOO! So I gave it to the neighbors and taught them about the Word of Wisdom. I know, face labels!!!

And so on exchanges, Soeur Defranchi told me we were going to go visit a "less-active" family in the ward. We headed over, knocked on the door and when it swung open, it was the Girard Family! (Soeur Walker and I spent Christmas with them). What?! He blurted out, "Sorry, I can't keep a joke. We're still active!" Thanks for the pranks, Soeurs! I hadn't seen them since they'd moved out from Evry in February and it was the best suprise ever for them to set up a rdv during our exchanges. haha

The port in Naaaaaantes! ("Nont") Did I mention that Vannes is pronounced, "Van?" I hope you knew that and have been butchering it too badly..

We took a little trek this morning and visited the beach down in Arradon today. It was heavenly! We're taking advantage of what good weather we still have before fall.
Bonne semaine! Je vous aime!
Soeur Hopkins

Monday, September 14, 2015

Pumped for General Conference

This week we DID get in contact with our amis. Woohooo! 

Monday, like I told you, Soeur Waite and I adventured out to Quiberon. It was incredibly gorgeous and worth all of sacrifice to get there! That night, for Family Home Evening, at the church, we were in charge of the activity and we created a series of challenges for everyone to test their "strengths." The categories were strength, intelligence, lung capacity, sociability, and flexibility. And it was pretty hilarious when everyone found out what the challenges were. They included a push-ups contest, obscure bible story, blowing up a balloon with no hands and releasing it for distance, finding m&ms on a plate covered in whipped cream and a Limbo contest. Fun!

Tuesday, was district meeting in Rennes, but on the way back, we stopped off in Peaule to get back in contact with the family of four that we found during our finding day. They were home! And Francoise was just doing wonderfully. She wants to start learning English and is comfortable with saying the color "black," so I kept asking her what color all of the black objects in her home were. ;)

Wednesday, we helped Yvelise move again and this time, she bought me a face mask to where so that I did suffer too bad! Haha. We had the neatest experience walking to her apartment! As we were turning the corner to get into her neighborhood, we passed by a woman and her son waiting in the parking lot. We said, "Bonjour," and kept walking. But, almost like a sling shot, I made eye contact with Soeur Waite and we turned back around. I introduced myself to her and we shared with her our message about eternal families. She looked at us both and explained to us that she recently had lost her husband. We shared with her a little bit about the plan of salvation and with all the conviction in my heart, I testified that she would be with him again. She was so touched by what we had to say. We ended up giving her our contact information and a brochure for the time being, but it was wonderful seeing how Heavenly Father planted us in her path in that very moment. 

Thursday we saw Mme Gallois again and revisited the restoration with her. I think she's afraid of praying because she knows she'll get an answer that she'll have to act on. Please pray for her to have courage! It's funny how distanced she seems at first, but now she is completely a new person and is so sincere and kind and loving. There's a lot of things the spirit can do...including warm hearts. :)

Well, this Friday, the heavens smiled upon me and I came down again with a cold this weekend. (Hey, maybe there's a miracle waiting to happen, maybe?) And so I got to go through this past April's general conference magazine and reread through all of the wonderful articles. I came across one called, "Truly Good and Without Guile" that almost seemed to just come off the page it was so real to me. Written by Elder Ringwood of the 70, he quotes from Elder Uchtdorf, "When I was younger, I was impressed by those who were educated, accomplished, successful, and applauded by the world. But over the years, I have come to the realization that I am far more impressed by those wonderful and blessed souls who are truly good and without guile."

This struck me as something I'd never really thought of, but desired to see in those around me and in myself. He talked about the reasons behind why we should serve others and how our desires and motives can become refined by the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was wonderful. Read it!

One of the things I love about serving where I am is that, most often, the good acts of the members here, often go unnoticed except by Heavenly Father and missionaries like me who have somewhat of an "outsider-insider" perspective on their lives. After all, it's really only the missionaries who can feel free to invite themselves over for a short moment to get to know these families. And their hearts just open up to us as they share their stories and their testimonies. 

I see the member who plays with branch president's kids after church while he's in interviews. I see the other member who brings fresh vegetables from his garden for a widow in the branch. I see a family who picks up members and visitors every week because they don't have a car for themselves. I see a young, single mother who, though she is now back in school, has dedicated time every week to come teaching with us. And I see how all of their motives come back to their love for Heavenly Father no their desire to do his will. I wish that I might forever emulate their examples.

I love you all! Keep smiling and your chin up. (Otherwise, you'll get bad back posture...that's a nono). 


Soeur Hopkins

Here's some more images from Quiberon. You'd better believe that I explored all of the camera settings...

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

In A Letter To Myself

"I guess I'm just a prideful sinner," I concluded telling Soeur Waite as I finished braiding her hair and coming to terms with something that happened this week. Almost everyone of our rdvs with our Amis got cancelled and we ended up having all day finding days. (Which I am not at all opposed to. It's just that I'd prefer helping our Amis progress, that's all.) 

However, last Monday, during our p-day, we were standing in line to renew our buss passes when I saw a woman in line wearing a cool head band. After I complimented her, she turned to us and started asking us about where we were from and why we were here. Her name is queen and she's originally from Cameroon. This led to a brief conversation, but we didn't have a whole lot of time, so we gave her our card.

Friday morning, we got a call during our studies. It's Mme Gallois telling us that she'd have to cancel our rdv. It's only 8:10 in the morning, and our plans have already been cancelled! Finding day.....

And then like a scene from The Best Two Years, we get a phone call and it's queen! She remembered to call us! We set up a rdv with her at the church that afternoon and invited a member to come with us. And it was wonderful! She was so open and interested in learning about our message. We were able to, with the member, testify to her about the restoration of the gospel. Her and her husband are Christian, but disagree with certain practices and teachings in their own church. (I think it came as quite a shock to Soeur Waite when her husband came to drop her off, because when we said hi to her husband, it turns out that he's a middle-aged, well-established French businessman. Didn't see that one coming....people come in all shapes, sizes, colors and circumstances, right?

This week, we were helping one of our members pack boxes so that she can move soon. And she's a pack rat of sorts. As we were going through piles of clothing, I began to remember just how allergic I am to dust. I about sneezed myself to death and ended up holding a tissue over my face. And then after we'd cleared the piles....she told us to brace ourselves. She went to her closet and open the doors. It was full to the brim! And as she started pulling out clothes, there was no end! I couldn't resist and as she continued, I started humming the tune to "If You Could Hie to Kolob" and sang in French, "there is no end to clothes!" We all busted up laughing at how ridiculous it was!

And Sunday, my district leader passed me a letter forwarded from the mission home. It was from the UK! And as I opened it, I realized that it from none other than my MTC teacher- Soeur Hoover! Apparently, she'd finished at BYU, got married and is now living in the UK. It was wonderful hearing from her and seeing just how blessed she's been in the past year.

And inside the envelope was a letter I'd written for myself last year was I was still in the MTC. It was super funny reading a letter from myself, but amid all of the words of encouragement and reminders for myself, I saw just how much Heavenly Father has fulfilled his promises and just how much he has been wisely guiding my life up to this point. And I am so grateful. 

The reason why I decided to come on a mission wasn't because I thought I would easily be able to share the gospel with the people here or that I would statistically change the world, but simply because I know that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true. And that makes all the difference to me. All of the door knocking, all of those cancelled/ changed rdvs and even walking from place to place is put back into perspective in my mind. This work is miraculous and who am I to ever determine what my small contribution amounts to? 

Doctrine and covenants 123:17 "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 you all! Have a great week!

Soeur Bronte

And this is our visit to the coast in Quiberon. We were pretty excited....

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Week 6 magic, yeah!

Finally a picture with our English family/grave digging rock artist dad...

And just to show you how nice we look in normal pictures

The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain!
Or at least that's what Audrey Hepburn says in the musical, My Fair Lady...
Because it rained and rained and rained in Bretagne for nearly the
entire week. And it was fantastic. We always say that there are so
many things that happen the last week of every transfer and it's true
that there was a lot of "week 6 magic" and miracles!

While we haven't texted in any miracles this week, there were so many
things that happened. You know, the former investigator we met with?
She came to church for the second time in a row this week. Thursday
night, we had a rdv with her at the home of a member. She had asked
for the copy of someone's talk in church last week and they had given
her the conference issue as well.

She had already read through several talks and had sooo many
questions! It was crazy to see how much her and her attitude had
changed. We were almost going to stop teaching her because she wasn't
very interested and then....BOOM. Something clicked. She had questions
about the atonement, marriage, the word of wisdom, etc. And for the
most part, the member just jumped in explaining. I felt like we ended
up nodding our heads and finding scriptures for her. Breakthrough!

She's kind of an interesting bird, because she's absolutely obsessed
with Native Americans and wants to preserve their habits. She also
recommends touching trees....but overall, she's a good apple. She
brought up the idea of baptism herself, saying, "Me, I'm NO where near
being ready for baptism-Is it in a pool? Will I be swimming
around?..." Oh lalala, people are funny.
She offered to drive us home that night and as she pulled up to our
neighborhood to leave us, she got out to switch around her stuff. And
she paused to look at the sunset and said, "Wow, it's so beautiful."
To which we all looked and then she sighed and added,"Man is killing
nature." She looked at me for my reaction, but I hadn't yet heard what
she said so I was still smiling, somewhat confused. "What?" Is all I
could think.

Later, we were preparing to go visit Corinne and one of our members,
Yvelise, came with us. We were so excited to introduce them because we
felt like they'd get along pretty well. We told her a little bit about
Corinne's background and what message we wanted to share with her. And
after walking up the four flights of stairs, and knocking on the door,
it swung open. Before I could say anything, Corinne interjects,
"Yvelise, how are you?"
Once again, all I could think was, "What?"

I was totally stupefied to find out that they've known each other for
years! And so after they caught up a little (while I was standing
there with my jaw hanging on the floor), we had an incredible lesson
that also encompassed all of the questions that she'd had for us.

Sunday was fantastic and now finally we are starting to meet a lot of
members that were gone on vacation for the summer. (A little less
hectic with translating.) I just love Sundays so much. It feels like
everyone is such an incredible spiritual experience. Especially
sacrament. There's a wonderful talk from last October's General
Conference by Cheryl s. Esplin called "Sacrament-a renewal for the
soul." It really has helped make every week so meaningful. Especially
because by the end of every week we are Exhausted and just need a
little bit of a boost.

I'm so grateful for all of your prayers and support. Heavenly Father
is really helping us to change people's lives in all kinds of ways.
And I think He's also changing my heart and the way I look at this
work. I can confirm that those miracles haven't been coming until
after we have exercised faith, obedience and great diligence. I've
come to see that even our "car-less" problem has started becoming a
wonderful blessing and has helped us to look just right around us for
the people that we can lift. He has a wonderful plan.

Have a great week and I'll talk to you next! Going into transfer 11
and ready to see what's in store!

Love, Soeur Hopkins