This week may or may not go down in history as my favorite week I have ever lived in my entire existence. For reals.
Soeur Nielson and I on an exchange for the day because both of our companion's were deathly ill
and couldn't leave the apartment. We had a blast! And Soeur Nielson ate her first ever kebab.
It all started with Soeur Elliott's birthday. 20! Woo! We had so much fun... in between Soeur Elliott (I don't know a refined way to say this...) barfing. Sad, I know! But she was such a trooper and still went to RDVs.
Her birthday sign! And... that is Soeur Elliott, not me.
But you thought it was me, huh? Because it was dramatic? haha
Soeur Elliott had her birthday and turned the grand age of 20! An American member in the ward invited us over for a birthday dinner. This American's name is Erin and she is from Utah.
She is an opera singer! Her nanny is Sabrina. They are the most WONDERFUL family!
Maria is Erin's little girl. She sang 'The sun will come out tomorrow' for us
and it was so stinking adorable and made me think of all my little nieces and nephews at home
and I may or may not have started crying.... much to my embarrassment.
Erin lives in the most BEAUTIFUL part of Lille. As we were walking home
through this gorgeous old square we had to take one last picture to celebrate Elliott's birthday!
The next day, she wasn't feeling any better but again she mustered all of her courage and went out again. And God smiled sown upon her and opened the windows of heaven! We show up to our RDV and she tells us she doesn't have time today. Dang. But we ask for just a minute and finally she comes outside and we talk about church and faith and say a prayer with her. Then she gets a light in her eye and says "Hey, have you met my neighbor Luna? She wants to meet with the sister missionaries. Let's go over now and I will introduce you." So, we go meet Luna! She had met with sisters before but they had lost contact. She hadn't seen the sisters in months but said she had never stopped reading the Book of Mormon! What!? What an amazing woman. So we taught her a little and set up another RDV, and then Soeur Elliott said "Hey, I LOVE your African dress (called booboo)!" And Luna went and pulled out all of her African dresses and showed them to us! When she left the room for a bit Soeur Elliott turns to me and says "I LOVE those dresses. One day I want to buy one! It's been my wish my whole mission." Then Luna comes back. AND GIVES HER ONE for her birthday! Two lessons and a booboo. :) God really blesses you when you push yourself a little harder.
Soeur Elliott's booboo!!
Then later that day the Elders text us. Elder Sumsion is ill too and they can't go to their RDV. Also, the girl they were going to visit is all alone because her husband is in Paris so they can't go anyways. So we tell them we can go instead. So Elliott musters all of her courage again... and we go see Annie. As we are walking up the stairs to her apartment, Annie swings open her door and in loud English says "Hey, girls! I'm Annie!" The Elders forgot to mention she's American. Best surprise EVER. Annie is from Bakersfield, California. She has been less active since she was 10 years old but still has good memories from when she was in Primary. She stopped the elders one day and gave them her number and has been inviting them over for dinners. They have been working with her non-member husband, but Annie needed some sisters.
ANNIE!! Our unreasonably adorable less-active friend from California.
That night with Annie was probably one of my favorites in my whole life. She made us dinner and gave us Reese's from America and then asked us a million questions about the church. We discussed the plan of salvation and who God is and why we need Jesus Christ. The spirit was SO strong and we all cried and testified and felt the spirit bear witness that we are all God's daughters. Then Annie said "Wow, this was exactly what I needed. I love the elders, but having just girls was just so nice and I feel so comfortable. I have been thinking about religion SO MUCH lately and trying to figure out which church is right for me. I have never been able to just pick one. But lately, I have been thinking about it constantly. I am really searching for something. I don't know what yet, but we'll see." And my heart BURST WITH JOY and LOVE!!! Instantly I knew that God sent these 2 California girls here for this fellow Californian. Instant soul friends.
Saturday we went and saw Rosita. The first time I ever saw Rosita... she was less than kind to me. But now I just LOVE HER! She is the sweetest and kindest. She always makes you feel so good. We shared 1 Samuel 16:7 with her and talked all about self worth. We are all worth so much more than our bodies and we told her that God knew her and loved her inside and out. She has so much worth even if she doesn't believe it. And I think for the first time... she started to believe us! :D And my heart BURST WITH JOY AND LOVE!!! I love her so stinking much I can hardly contain it.
Rosita. Our adorable amie who is just so so kind. I realized after we took the picture that you wouldn't be able to read the orange sticky note. It says "Je suis belle." (I am beautiful.)
Rosita found out that I want to be a self esteem coach for girls and she is so interested in it!
She asked if we could help her with that and we were honest and said it all starts with
knowing you are a daughter of God. So we talked all about prayer and talking to our Father
and being kind to ourselves and then wrote these orange notes and stuck them all over her apartment and instructed her to say it to herself several times a day.
Last week one of our amies called us and got mad at us and then ignored us for a week and we thought it was all over between us. Then... this week she called us and FIXED A BAPTISMAL DATE. Seriously. She called us and said "Hey, so I have thought about it a lot and it's not completely sure but I think I would like to get baptized April 12th." And my heart BURST WITH JOY AND LOVE!!! She came to church and we all talked and got to know each other better and she really is sweet. Just misunderstood.
And finally, Joelle showed up to church. We were walking to sacrament meeting and she stops Soeur Elliott and asks her where she can find Soeur Bradley. And I say "That's me!" And she tells us her story and how she used to go to English class but then they had to stop the classes. She invited us over for dinner and took pictures with us and was just so stinking sweet and sincere. And my heart BURST WITH JOY AND LOVE!!! I am overwhelmed with ho much I love Joelle already.
Joelle. :) When I came into my new ville I was shown this big book in the church building with the testimonies and pictures of all of the missionaries that have served here. And I found a man from my home ward who served here 13 years ago! He found out I am serving here and told one of his old amies who was never baptized to come to church and meet me. And she came! For the first time in about 10 years she came to church! And we talked SO MUCH and laughed and just had a beautiful time. And she is going to have us over for dinner this week! No coincidences. :)
This week I realized something really incredible about love. I knew that on my mission I had been filled with more love than I had ever felt in my entire life. I knew that I had fallen madly in love with love and needed to make it the driving force behind everything I did. But something that had never quite clicked was that all this love isn't even mine. It's His.
Years ago I read 'The Hiding Place' for school. I loved this book and love Corrie Ten Boom and all of her courage and love. Corrie tells a story about after WWII when an ex-Nazi came up to her and thanked her for her forgiveness and tried to shake her hand. This part was going through my head all week long:
“How grateful I am for your message, ’ he said. ‘To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!’
“His hand was thrust out to shake mine,” Corrie recalled. “And I, who had preached so often … the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.
“Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. … Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.
“I tried to smile, [and] I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness.
“As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.
“And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.”
Isn't that beautiful? We never have to worry about whether or not we have enough love in us to love our enemies as well as our friends. We never have to worry about whether or not we have it in us to forgive or to turn the other cheek or to be kind and understanding even when others are not. Because along with the command, God has given us the love to do it. It's HIS love. And I am just here to help others feel HIS love, often for the very first time.
This week Amelie broke up with her boyfriend and was completely heartbroken and so, so sad. We comforted and tried to help her the best we could. When I saw her the next day, she seemed to be doing so much better. We all spoke with her and cheered her up and then as we parted told her how much we loved her. Then we reminded her of how much God loves her too. She paused and said "You know, every time you say that you love me, I can feel it. Physically, I can feel this love you talk about. I feel it right here in my chest. It's too big for me. I know it's God's love."
Amelie! She is the amie of the Villeneuve d'asq Soeurs (whom we live with) but I got to teach her
for a day. She is a ballet dancer and just crazy and funny. I wish she was my amie!
It is. It's all His. And we have the most incredible and beautiful opportunity to let these beautiful people feel it. My heart is filled to bursting with His love for these people. I can hardly believe how much I LOVE these people who are practically strangers.
Well, I must be off. We have to go finish packing. We are headed to Brussels tonight for the conference with D. Todd Christofferson!
So...this is us standing in a grass field. A grass field in BELGIUM. We did a less-active pass-by in this far away town and when we got to the city, I pulled out the map, found her home, and realized that she lived about 50 feet from the border. So then I looked at Soeur Elliott and said
"Hey, wanna walk to Belgium with me?"
And so after we visited Soeur Doit... we stepped on to grassy field that started Belgium. SO COOL!
Here I am standing in two places at once.
The road on my right is Belgium. The road on my left is France.
BELGIUM!!! BELGIUM!!!! BELGIUM!!!!
Me jumping in BELGIUM!!!
Me so excited to be in BELGIUM!!!
My feet in BELGIUM!!!!
I love you all with a love that is so much beyond me. God loves you perfectly and completely and enough to fill the galaxy.
LOVE, Soeur Autumn Bradley