Monday, September 2, 2013

Tender Mercies & Struggling, Striving, & Desiring.

Tender mercies, man. They just keep you going.

& we had a MILLION this week. (Not even exaggerating)

REALLY REALLY awkward picture of us as we're walking home last night. Winning.

1) It's pouring BUCKETS one night and we get rejected... and rejected... and... rejected again. It's getting late, so we decide to head home... but do just one more door. A beautiful lady sticks her head out the window and yells "oui?" and I begin "Bon soir! Je m'appelle Soeur Bradley et je viens des Etats-Unis et on est la, en France, parce-que nous avons a message a propos de..." And she smiles SO big and says (in the most charming accent ever) "I'm English!" and comes and answers the door. 

We start speaking in english and just laugh and chat and she's LOVELY and wanted to know why two young girls are out in the pouring rain so late. And we explain that we're not here as missionaries for 18 months and don't want to tear down anyone's beliefs, but just add to the truths people already know. She smiles and says "Well, that's nice!" And we're going to go back to see her.

2) About to get in bed on a cold night and all of a sudden The Smiths starts pouring in through our open window from somebody's car on the street below. And we begin singing along. And I know God is aware of me.

Equipe is what they call companionships here...but it actually means team! 

3) Find a new area to port and that night TONS of people tell us we can come back and one lady lets us in and we have a beautiful lesson about God's love. 

4) We teach a first lesson to a sweet Armenian lady we met porting the day before. She LOVES us and gives us treats and then completely opens up and tells us how throughout her entire life she has always heard a little voice guiding her and telling her what to do and that it will all be ok. And we get to explain the Holy Spirit. And she begins tearing up. And we're going back to see her tomorrow. 

5) We find a burger shop with REAL amazing burgers run by this SUPER nice Algerian man who speaks fluent English and LOVES us.

6) We meet a couple at a bus stop and begin talking and they're SO great, and kind, and funny. But for some reason we don't get their phone number...because it's not time yet. Then Later that day we go to catch a bus, and we miss it... and the next one comes in half an hour. So we decide to take the tram somewhere else. The tram takes FOREVER but finally comes. We get to the lady's home... and we can't find it, So we try to call her. Nothing. So we get back on the tram to go somewhere else and the elders need us to meet them somewhere. So we get off the tram and run back to our apartment. Then we leave our apartment again and go get back on the tram to meet someone else. 

And we run into the nice couple from earlier! So we talk to them and get off the tram with them and explain what we do and about the lessons and they give us their phone number! And the lady says "You girls are SO nice and wonderful! It would be a pleasure to have you over for dinner some time soon." They LOVE America and we talk a lot about where we're all from. At the very end the lady says "I would love to have American friends!" and we say "Well, now you have two!" And she BEAMS. And we can all hardly walk away from each other because we're having such a great conversation and all laughing. But eventually we do with many promises of seeing each other again soon. And I'm so grateful we were on THAT tram at THAT time.

Empty space in an apartment hallway? DOG POSTER! 

7) Two little girls (who live in our new neighborhood that we found) ADORE us. They stop us and ask us who we are and where we are going and they keep saying "You're the most beautiful girls in the world!" and "Look, we're wearing the same color!" and "You should come play with us!" and their names are Mimi and Naelli and now we're all BFF's.

8) We teach the lesson for gospel principles about the plan of salvation. There are two Amis (Solomon, from Ereitrea. and Pierre, from mainland China) and then Donald, our dear Albanian friend. We explain almost the whole thing and Pierre begins asking the BEST questions I have ever heard and you can tell he is really listening and trying to really wrap his head around everything we are saying. 

Then he says "Ok, so I play a lot of video games..." and proceeds to give the most BEAUTIFUL analogy about the gospel using a video game. If anyone knows me, I do not like video games at all. But during this analogy, it is seriously so beautiful, I begin tearing up. Then Pierre stands up and draws this on the board. (PICTURE) He says "So, this is where we all want to be. This square is happiness that lasts forever. This straight path is God's way to get there. It's the best, and it makes the most sense. But this squiggly one is the way most people try to get there. There are lots of distractions and we keep veering off the road and it's hard. So, if I follow Jesus Christ then I will be on THIS path... the top path." 

And my eyes are brimming with tears as the spirit fills that little classroom. And we say "Yes, exactly." And the Elders invite Pierre to be baptized right there. And Pierre says "I am afraid I am not strong enough... but yes. That is something I want to do." 

And I realize just how true it is that God goes before us to prepare the hearts of  people for this message. 

Place Stanislas. Never gets old.

Sometimes people talk about missionary work in a way that stresses me out. There's a lot of "If you don't do EVERYTHING PERFECTLY and find EVERY SINGLE PERSON who is ready and if you miss ONE OPPORTUNITY, tsk tsk tsk, That will hang on your poor tortured soul for eternity." ( maybe I exaggerate a little...but sadly, not a whole ton.) 

Maybe this guilt tripping method works for some people, and maybe it really does drive them to work harder and be better... but for me, it kind of grows a big rock where my stomach used to be and I feel like throwing my hands in the air and yelling "Why am I even here then!? I'm a human being! I make mistakes EVERY DAY. I am trying to be good and trying to be led, but I am a sinner!"

But the thing is, God knows that. And the more I learn about the character of God and Jesus Christ, the less I feel like God is trying to trip me up. Because God is on my side. God is setting me up to succeed. God isn't expecting me to be perfect. God knows that I'm a human. As long as I am desiring the salvation of the people I teach, and desiring and striving to have the spirit with me and follow to the promptings, and obeying the mission rules, and trying to turn my heart over to God ... I'm doing ok.

Sitting at a bus stop and it's raining and Soeur Rhondeau has to take a picture because I "look so French!"

Bruce R. McConkie said " The path of discipleship doesn't require perfection. Only that you are struggling, striving, and desiring."

A WHOLE LOT OF LOVE, Soeur Autumn Bradley

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