Monday, November 23, 2015

Coming Home!!!!

This week has felt very complete and full of peace. I don't even know where to start, but hang on till the end, because that's the best part!

Monday we had a crazy packing session and then we left our apartment! I literally have almost nothing in my baggage-they all weighed about half the weight that I'm allotted for my carry-on. Haha. 

Tuesday was rather crazy, because it started raining pretty much side ways the wind was so strong. Our umbrellas were practically destroyed and we decided then to go bus contacting because going outside was a joke! Haha. So we hopped on the buses and just talking to people.There were so many open-minded and kind people. Due to the recent events last week in Paris, I think a lot of people are searching for a peace of mind. We ended up speaking with a very kind Muslim woman about the events that occurred, the importance of faith and we even shared a little bit of the restoration with her! I was touched by how important it was for her that we find commonality with people and be strengthened together. And later that night, we did service for a member in our ward.

Wednesday was district meeting in Rennes and we had a training on being happy in our missionary service and not judging others. And so we had everyone take turns sitting in the middle of the circle and giving compliments to each other. I about died at first because I was super uncomfortable with the idea and then, it wasn't so bad. I really have loved our district this past transfer because of our diligence, love and sincerity towards each other and those around us. I don't really know how to explain it unless if you've served a mission, but it seems as if God gives you an increased capacity to love those missionaries you serve around-like the love you find for your family times 10. 

Thursday-note to self: If you're going to contact people on the bus, be sure to switch bus lines frequently or else you'll run into the same bus driver 3 times and it'll get pretty awkward...

Friday we were we were planning and I was talking to Soeur Erickson about a family that we'd seen a couple of weeks back on the bus. We had gone out to an area out of town in St.Nolff to get back in contact with a family of three that was formerly investigating. Without any success finding their precise address, we took the bus back. A couple stops later, I noticed a family get on the bus and sit down. The mom smiled at me from a distance, but I didn't seem to catch on to the idea that it appeared she knew me. But we ended up getting off the bus and I didn't say anything. Later, I thought to myself, "That was the family! And I didn't talk to them!" 
That experience kept turning in my mind and I couldn't help but feeling incomplete or that I missed an opportunity. 

Saturday, we were out visiting an ami when all the sudden, Soeur Erickson nudges/shoves me and says,"Soeur! There they are!" The family of three! And the mom smiled at me again. We only had a moment as they were getting on the bus, but I asked the if they knew the missionaries and the dad responded in English, "Yes, we knew some of your colleagues." It was the family!! And we later found their number and gave them a call. Although they haven't yet gotten back to us, I knew it was a sign from Heavenly Father that He knows exactly where we are and he's looking out for us.

Sunday was wonderful! Julie came to church and surprised me!!! And the members filled my bag with notes and gifts. We took so many pictures and said several goodbyes. I will miss them so much! 

When I talk about finishing with peace it is because of the perspective I have gained and I see more clearly the plan that Heavenly Father was orchestrating throughout these past 18 months and well before that. Elder Holland explains it beautifully in his Mormon Message entitled: "Wrong Roads." In it, he shares about a road trip he took with his son to St. George. They had a wonderful day out in nature and upon their return they came to a fork in the road. They didn't remember which way they were to go, but they felt prompted to go right. No less than a couple minutes after they learned it was a dead end. So they turned around, went back and took a left. 

His son turned to him and asked, "Dad, why did Heavenly Father prompt us to go that way when it ended up not being the right way?" He turned to him and said that maybe it was to assure them that they were now clearly on the right path home. 

He then continued, saying, "I have absolute, perfect knowledge that God loves us. He is good. He is our father. When making decisions, God expects us to pray, trust, and be believing and then not give up, panic, or "jump ship" when something doesn't seem to be going right.

We stay in. We keep working. We keep believing, keep trusting, following that same path. And we will live to fall into His arms and feel His embrace and hear Him say,"I told you it'd be ok. I told you it'd be alright."

Honestly, I couldn't agree more with this! I have found myself in that place so many times when I have come to a 'fork in the road' and I ask my Father in Heaven these same questions. And His response is always to keep working and keep trying so that when I do fall, I can fall into His arms and feel His embrace. That is why we have the gospel of Jesus Christ. For the past 18 months, I have come to know my savior in a more profound way than any other experience I've yet had. He has revealed to me solutions to problems I never thought were surmountable. He has created capacity in me where I didn't think it possible. And he has taken me by the hand and helped me to stand up time and time again after I've fallen more than a million times. He has delivered me from all kinds of conflict-inward and outward-and helped me to attain a lasting peace. He has lead me back home. And now I get to physically take that flight.

It feels like it has been another lifetime and I know that I will be forever grateful for this opportunity I've had to serve as a full-time missionary in this wonderful place we call France. I am so glad I made the decision to come and serve and I will never regret it. 

Alma 26:37 "Now my brethren, we see that God is mindful of every people, whatsoever land they may be in; yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth. Now this is my joy, and my great thanksgiving; yea, and I will give thanks unto my God forever. Amen"

Happy Thanksgiving and I can't wait to hug you soon!

Love, Soeur Bronte Hopkins

Well here it is, the last email. I love this girl and I am so amazed at the service she has been able to give to the people of France and I am oh so excited to see her!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

I'll Be Home For Christmas!

Hey everyone! We are all safe and sound, but very attentive this week given the events in Paris on Friday.It's been a really crazy week this week (you might all imagine), but let me give you the run down firstly all the good things.

Monday we went to visit the back doctor (that's good news) and we ended up having several Amis show up for fhe. The members give me so much joy and energy! It was so fun playing loup garou (were wolf/mafia) with them and being super goofy. They make me feel like myself. 

Tuesday we went and visited with an ami named Krystelle who we met on the bus the other week. She knits for a living and has such a strong faith in Christ. She invited us over to her and showed us her kittens. I, no joke, thought she owned ferbies (those little fluffy stuffed animals) and then I soon realized that it was a month old kitten! She let me hold it while we were talking. It wasn't until we got halfway through our lesson that I realized that I was still holding the kitten, drinking herbal tea and reading from the Book of Mormon at the same time. That's multi-tasking! Haha. She's a wonderful new ami of ours, so open-minded and so kind. 

We also met with our branch young women's leader and did some brainstorming to help our Portuguese girls come to church and feel more integrated. I love them so much and all they need is 'that one leader/member' who can reach out to them and be their role model. Never give up on people!

Wednesday was district meeting in Rennes and also a major holiday-November 11. Everyone was gathered at the Mairie to celebrate and they had bag pipes playing amazing grace. Can you imagine that blaring throughout the city on loud speaker?? It brought tears to my eyes listening to that familiar melody and thinking about how much I love my savior. 

Thursday we had an amazing day working with the members! We went out to the Devine's 'farmhouse' (it actually was a barn before they started rebuilding it and turned it into their current home). I got to see Sara Joelle and her fiancĂ©e! And guess what, they're getting married December 26th. I knew Sara in Evry and then we ended up both moving out to this branch at the same time. It's not a coincidence!

Later that day, we had a really neat experience teaching Jaene (California dreaming) with Soeur David. She lives in town in a beautiful 17th century apartment (Dad, you should've seen the molding! Haha).We taught about the restoration of the gospel and it was so powerful. Even more, Jaene kept on asking great questions that really showed me she's considered a lot of things about the apostasy and about the changes made in the Bible after many years of translation. Members make the world of a difference especially because her and Soeur David share similar backgrounds and immediately clicked once they started talking. It was like it was all coming together in her mind. 

And then, as if this rdv wasn't any more eye opening, Soeur David and her found out that they are relatives and their families come from the same region in Bretagne. Crazy! It was like we were just third wheeling the conversation as they went on about families they knew and what years they lived there, etc. She's leaving for the states at the end of this week, but she'll be back in January and the Soeurs can get back into contact with her!

Friday we went out to see Francoise and then the Gentrys. We did service for them and it was a lot of fun helping them. The Gentrys asked us to clean their windows and as we were, we started talking about family, what we've learned on our missions, parenting, troubled teenagers, differences with the church in France, etc. We talked about how Heavenly Father's ways are not our ways, the culture of the gospel is different from the cultures in the ward, we need to reach out to all those around us and when all our efforts seem to be frustrated and troubled teenagers become a lot to bear with, we must remember Pres. Hinckley's counsel that, "It will all work out. It always does." It's never about the windows, is it? ;)

Saturday we were preparing for the day and I kept on having a phrase impressed in my mind as I was making breakfast, putting on make-up. It was so clear: "Nothing can disturb my peace of mind." All throughout my studies, it just came back to that thought. And then right in the middle of studies, we got a text from president telling us that we were all to stay in our apartments because of the attacks in Paris. Then, all sudden, it became clear to me. Even when everything around us becomes chaotic and uncertain, we can find peace in our hearts and minds. And Christ is that source. Please pray for the families of the victims in Paris. They need our loving support.

Sunday we went to Stake Conference in Nantes and I got to see some of my most favorite people in the world including the Girard family (spent last Christmas with them), Soeur Babin's sister and family, the entire Calves family and yes, Soeur Mozos's mom! It was such a wonderful reunion and a beautiful way to close off these next two weeks. 

Today, we've been allowed to go out and continue proselyting, but with certain precautions. We've also started a "40 day fast" leading up to Christmas. We are praying every hour on the hour from 10am to 10pm and making it a goal to find one new investigator a day. President is pretty enthused about this and how this can be our gift to Heavenly Father for Christmas. What gift will you give for Christmas? Something that can't be wrapped- but what about some sort of sacrifice or service you can give to your Heavenly Father that would have no price tag? I challenge you to think about this, fix a goal, do it and see the blessings! Make it the most beautiful Christmas yet!

Yes, I'm getting so close to the end of this mission and I have loved it. I've never seen God's hand in my life more clearly than I do now. And looking back, I wouldn't change anything. Because I've realized that when we give something up for our Heavenly Father, He actually gives back so much more than you can imagine. 

I love you and keep looking up! We've got another miracle filled week to go and I can't wait to give you the biggest hug ever!!!

Soeur Hopkins

Monday, November 9, 2015

Lessons From My Youth!!

Monday!!!! Was p-day.

Tuesday!!! We went into Rennes for interviews with President and Soeur Babin. And I passed! Woohooo. But they're sending me home anyways.

Wednesday was zone conference and also the day I gave my "dying" testimony/last testimony in front of the zone. I found it somewhat odd giving my final thoughts and feelings with 2 1/2 weeks still left in the transfer! I don't know if I could manage to describe all that happened during this period of time. It's like living another lifetime! And I didn't suddenly developed a wealth of wisdom or deep understanding, but I have seen my faith and love for this work grow day by day. It is "by small and simple means that great things are brought to pass." Alma 36:7

I shared some of my ideas from the email Rudd sent me last week and an email I sent Soeur Hansen about Christ and his disciples. Christ, at one point in their ministry, asks the Apostles if they will depart from Him like many other disciples have. Sometimes, discipleship has its challenges and can get to be very hard when impassable obstacles arise and there seems to be no solution. However, Peter responds so faithfully and with an even greater understanding when he says,"To whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life." He knows that Christ is the source of hope and life and light and joy. When our hopes and desires and aspirations are founded in Christ, it is actually Him who enables us and helps us to attain them. Meanwhile, keep looking up and reaching out to others.

Thursday we did a little bit of service and cleaned the church! We discovered that there are all kind of hidden treasures at the church and sometimes those are ginormous spiders! :)

Friday was PLANNING and we got to visit a less active member who we hadn't been able to see since the end of July! People these days are pretty difficult to get a hold of. 

Saturday we went out working in some neighborhoods next to our Portuguese members. It was going well and then Soeur Erickson's back started really hurting her. We sat down for a minute and then decided it was best to head back and take our lunch break. In pain, she looked at me and said, "Sorry that I'm wasting your time." And then she looked away. I just sat there for a minute thinking and I turned back to her, threw my arms across the front of me and said, "I'm offended. You think you're wasting my time. And it's not even my time!" And then, I somewhat dramatically scooted all the way to the end of the bench to show her just how displeased I was that she thought of herself as a burden.

Right then a bus pulled up and we got on. It only took 2 seconds before we spotted an ami we had been trying to get ahold of. We sat and talked with her for a minute. The bus stopped at another location, other people got on and then two familiar little girls ran past us. I looked up and saw Joyce getting on the bus! It was sooo good to see her! We talked for a good moment and got off the bus together. She updated us on what her situation was trying to move back to Africa and now she has to wait an additional year. I felt so much sincere care and concern for her as we listened to her and prayed with her. She told us she wanted to come back to church again this week. Afterwords, Soeur Erickson and I were talking and we concluded that God has everything already worked out. Aches, pains, sicknesses-He has us covered!

Sunday Joyce and Mme Gallois came to church! I was somewhat surprised because we hadn't visited with either one of them for some time and they both just showed up themselves. It was also the primary program-and I love the primary program! :) And later that evening, the Bouaka's invited us over. Their son has been out on his mission for about 4 months now and so they are certain to take a special interest in their own missionaries. It was so kind of them and I think I needed it too. 

We talked about service and shared a Mormon message from President Hinckley:Lessons from His Childhood. It's the story about two boys who are walking down a road when they come across a pair of shoes and a vest. The owner of the vest was out working in the field and one of the boys suggested hiding his shoes and seeing what would happen. The other, a little more observant, made the suggestion to hide two silver dollars in his shoes and wait to see his reaction. The result of the kind act of service was just incredible. The man starting putting on his shoes when he notice one silver dollar and then the other. He pulled them out and upon seeing them, knelt and offered a prayer of gratitude out loud. Tears filled his eyes as he thanked God for this heaven sent gift. And I admit, tears welded up in my eyes just tad bit as we shared this experience and challenged them to serve those around them.

We can bless people in so many ways without even fully comprehending the extent of our service. Soeur Bouaka later said she just felt impressed to invite us over and asked if there was anything she could do for us. "Yes! Please come teaching with us," I said. We had just been having the most difficult time this past week meeting with our Amis and integrating them with the members and this was an answer to our much needed help. After all, we are just two missionaries and we need the help of every person around us. I love you and challenge you to be observant this week and always and look for ways help those around you. 

Talk to you soon! 

Soeur Hopkins

This is all of the Soeurs missionaries serving in my zone!

Prez and Soeur Babin when Soeur Erickson told them we were doing a jumping pictures. What reactions!

Even they are familiar with the front cover of High School Musical! Haha I love them so much.

We gave in and bought a new, strawberry decorated caddy for grocery shopping!

And the typical Bronte we have come to know and love!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

You Never Know How Much Good You Do

Monday we visited centre ville and I showed Soeur Erickson the sights
including the cathedral in Vannes. Later that day, we contacted a
referral from church headquarters and she texted us back later that
night asking, "So when can I get my Book of Mormon?" And later that
night, for fhe we talked about "Never Standing Alone" from President
Monson's talk. It was such a good reminder to me that as we keep our
standards, in fact, we never are entirely alone. There is always
someone around us that will stand with us if, for the moment, it is
only our father in heaven. We played a game involving tongue twisters
and if we messed up, we got a "tache" or a spot that made us look like
cows. Moooooo!

Tuesday was kind of wild. Soeur Erickson and I went to go look for an
address for a family that had been formerly investigating the church.
Needless to say, we ended up in the country walking alongside the road
(remember that one time Soeur Waite and I ended up walking to La Vraie
Croix?) and we caught some beautiful footage in a beautiful open field
we were passing.

And later that day, our STLs came in for my last exchange! I ended up
being with Soeur Defranchi again and it was so much fun! We went
contacting around centre ville and ended talking with so many people
who were so kind. We met a young student who was questioning the
existence of God, a nice older woman walking her dog, another young
woman who was super open and curious and, yes, a Brazilian dancer who
was very "spiritual." It was an array of contrast and we had such a
wonderful time!

Wednesday, still on exchanges, we went into Rennes for district
meeting. Our training was on living by the power of faith and it
really was something that resonated with me. We talk about having
faith that Heavenly Father can accomplish anything if we have faith,
but is it a principle that we live by, that infuses us with strength
and power? Also, is my faith and trust sufficient enough in my
Heavenly Father to let His spirit guide me? So many good
self-reflecting questions came to mind and I found that there is
always room for increasing and growing strength. We can become mighty
in the face of anything! I also loved how after our district left to
the train station, we saw that our train wasn't coming for another 20
minutes. So what did we do? We all went out, found our own spots to
pray with our companions and we worked! It was so great seeing us all
out and committed to taking this time, even somewhat small, and using
it the best way we could. There is great strength when we encourage,
lift and strengthen those around us. I always want to try to keep this
in mind.

Thursday, we met up again with Roxanne! Ann-Kristell drove out about
25 minutes to come here and it was such a wonderful rdv. It hadn't
occurred to us that with daylight savings, it was a little dark to
meet outside and so we went to the train station. People were walking
around, but we found some benches near a corner and said a prayer. She
had read the brochure about the plan of salvation and had so many
questions. We also explained to her more about the role of Christ.
Ann-kristell jumped in and added so much. But what was so incredible
was how the spirit came in and testified to her and us. It was
incredible how someone, never having any sort of religious background,
like her was listening so intently. It was as if we were sitting in a
room by ourselves. I know she is searching and God is reaching out her
if by simply putting us in her path. She's coming to church!

Friday was PLANNING. I sat Soeur Erickson down and I started off the
session 'dad style' saying,"I'd like to thank you all for coming out
today for this week's planning session. We're going to start with an
opening prayer by Soeur Hopkins...." I haven't yet figured out if my
companions love me or loath me for it, but its tradition!

Saturday was Halloween! And we made cookies for several members and
investigator to pass-by and do a little "trick-or-treating"
(Halloween's not a thing in France). This week I was a little bold and
prayed for patience. Although a lot of our plans ended up being
changed or cancelled, we found ways to go about serving and continuing
to help others. And that filed me with a lot of joy. Also, having a
good sense of humor! Later that night, as we were walking home, we
contacted two girls closed to our home and had a wonderful
conversation. Turns out that they had been in contact with Soeur
Tippett and Rasband, but never had a chance to meet with them. At the
same time, her mom opened the door to their house and immediately
invited us over for dinner another night. Uhhh, okay! Why not?! :)

Sunday!! She CAME to church, has already read 50 pages of the Book of
Mormon, put up with hovering members, felt the spirit during sacrament
meeting and LOVED IT. Roxanne had a wonderful time at church and it
was the first time in her life that she'd ever stepped foot into
church. Honestly, I was slightly freaking out thinking that she might
be overwhelmed with all of the classes and not understand everything,
but she just turned to me and said, "It'll come with time." Hold the
front door! It was the most incredible experience we've ever ever had
with an ami at church.

I went up to share my testimony about Christ and I felt strongly to
share the story she shared with us several weeks before about how
someone saved her life, but I wanted to be as discrete as possible.
And so I didn't use names, but I made a connection to her story and
bore my testimony that it is Christ who never gives up on us and He is
the one that can embrace us and pull us to safety if we are willing.
He invites us to come unto Him and feel the love of God.

Soeur Erickson later told me that as she was sitting there, she turned
to her and said,"She's talking about me!" And, as we got a ride back
together, she turned to us and said, "Those testimonies were
incredible. I've never felt my heart pounding so hard. Thank you." She
felt the spirit! And church is really the most amazing place ever. We
had asked a member to invite her, another to sit with her, another to
join us for gospel principles class and another to invite her over to
fhe. Members do sooo much when they take considerable care over

You are all wonderful! I love you. Be where you are and keep looking up!

Soeur Hopkins

This was a gorgeous field we were walking past and couldn't resist
taking pictures. You should've seen the resulting 14 bug bites I