For my last night in Lille Soeur McOmber made me peanut butter chicken.
SO GOOD. Africans are genius.
One last photo with Astou, Miguel, and Ryan.
It's been raining constantly here... so I guess it was God trying to make me
love Lille a little less before he sent me to sunny Tours.
One last picture with one of my best friends ever!
Priscilia and Amelie after our last lesson.
Right after I left, they set a baptismal date with Priscilia for this month! I am so happy!!
We spent our last night with Annie and her husband in an adorable little café.
I will really miss this California girl.
Tours. Is. GORGEOUS. It reminds me of my blue-ville, Nancy. It has no metro and no RER. Only a tram and buses. It's tiny and cobblestoned and sunny. I'm in love.
The cathedral in Tours!!
Hundreds of years old. NBD.
The real elephant that escaped from a circus in 1904 and destroyed part of the town of Tours.
Tours is a ville of miracles. I'll admit... I came into Tours the first day with half of my heart still in Lille. I was trying to be so optimistic and love it all but I still felt like a part of me had been ripped away. I felt weird like maybe somebody had made a mistake and I wasn't really supposed to be in Tours. But God has confirmed about a thousand times that this is exactly where he needs me now.
First of all, my companion. My companion! Sweetest girl I have ever met in my entire life. Soul talks every single night. Soeur Hawkes is exactly who I needed now. I love her more than I can explain. And... she luckily has a great sense of humor... because she reminds me of Cheryl in Miss Congeniality. So I sometimes turn to her and say "Oh Cheryl, I'm sorry. Baton twirling can be a real art."
Besides that, we met Helene. (I have ALWAYS wanted to meet a French woman named Helene ever since I saw Madeline. It's the name of the cook. It makes me want to jump up on my chair and make chicken impersonations while clucking and saying "chicken Helene, chicken Helene!") I got SO SICK this week. I was absolutely dying Saturday and had a fever and my body hurt and I couldn't breathe. So after drugging myself and sleeping all day, I had this aching feeling in me like I needed to invite at least ONE person that day. So we decided to go out that night. I put on my stretchy skirt and my baggy grandma sweater, wrapped my hair into a bun on my head, and pathetically walked to the bus stop. Not feeling very hopeful of finding anyone... but feeling like we had to at least invite. Then God smiled down upon us and right before we gave up for the night we happened to knock on Helene's door.
She just looked at us and instantly every single shut down she could think of came pouring out of her mouth. I was feeling pretty beat and just ridiculous by this point and just smiled and said "Well... even if it's a waste of our time and even if you are already catholic and your whole family is already evangelist, we actually aren't JWs but we are American missionaries just trying to spread some happiness and can we please pray with you anyways?" AND SHE LET US IN. WHAT? She poured us glasses of bubbly water and then pulled out a stack of religious books and went through every single one telling us why she hated them. Then we asked her if she wanted something simple and true. She looked intrigued... and we pulled out the Book of Mormon. We gave her a pamphlet about the Restoration and told her that it really is all very simple and she could know for herself if she would pray. The spirit filled the room. We asked her if she could feel it. She said she could. Then we told her it was the spirit and that's what she would feel when she prayed about the book. She smiled, said she liked that feeling, and then looked at us and said "I can tell you two have love. I can tell you two have compassion. You really believe this is all true. I am not promising anything... I am an old woman and I'm stubborn. But, I would like to see you again." Then we read a little in the Book of Mormon and Helene said her very first un-memorized prayer. And we floated all the way home.
My second night in Tours we decided to go pass-by an ancient amie. She turned out not to be home, so naturally we decided to knock on every door in her building. And little did I know that one of the biggest miracles of my entire mission was waiting for us.
We knocked on Léa's door.
This is Léa
The most beautiful French girl I have ever seen answered. We told her we were from America and began to tell her why we were there and before we could even finish she asked us if we wanted to come in. So we walked into her sunny apartment and sat down next to her cat. She offered us violet water (incredibly delicious). We asked her if she knew why we were there and she said "Yes, you want to talk about God. You see... I have always believed maybe there was a God, but I never did anything for Him. But then when I was 17 I got cancer. I just kept asking myself why. I have always been a good person. I have always tried to be kind and righteous. Then this terrible thing happened to me and I was hurt. But... I knew I couldn't turn my back on God. Something told me that would be the worst thing I could do. So instead, I started going to mass with my Grandmother. I began to pray and try to get to know God better. And even when everyone told me I was all alone and God had abandoned me, I knew it wasn't true. I could feel that God still loved me. I still don't know why I have cancer, but I know that God knows why. I finished my last treatments a few months ago. I'm 18 now. Even though I am getting better, I want to show God that I intend to keep doing what I started."
And the spirit is so strong. We pull out Plan of Salvation brochures and spend the next few minutes testifying about God's love and the plan he gave for us which gives us hope. She begins crying. I begin crying. We talk for the next few minutes and laugh and cry. We talk about church and she asks so many questions. We tell her she is welcome and she says "Oh good! That's what I wanted to know. I can come? What time is it? I will be there." Then we tell her we have to leave but before we go if we can please leave a blessing on her home. She gasps and clasps her hands over her mouth for joy. She tells us she would love that. Soeur Hawkes says a beautiful prayer and Léa is crying again. Then before we leave she tells us she wants to give us a present to thank us. She leaves and comes back with two bracelets. She slips them onto our wrists, kisses us on both cheeks, and promises to see us in a few days.
our bracelets. :)
A few days later, she walks into church. We pull her aside and she tells us she read the entire pamphlet. We explain the first part of the plan and answer her questions. She says it all makes sense. Then we begin to explain Christ's Atonement. We share a scripture in Alma which begins with the Atonement and then leads into how we can show our gratitude through baptism. Before we can say anything she looks up and says "Oh, I have always wanted to be baptized. But... I am afraid maybe it is too late." And we are so stunned we can't even say anything. Then we tell her it is absolutely not too late and ask her if she will be baptized when she feels these things are true. Her face fills with light and she says "Of course! I would love that."
We go to sacrament meeting and she tells us every testimony is for her. She asks what book it is that everyone keeps talking about. We pull out a Book of Mormon and tell her she can keep it. She eagerly says "What should I read before I see you again!?" Then she thanks us for knocking on her door, tells us she has no idea why but from the very first moment she met us she trusted us, and she walks out the door with promises to see us the next day.
All week a line from a song I really love has been stuck in my head. It's from a song about Christ and the woman who touched the bottom of his clothing. It says 'I will believe there's a miracle for me.'
The amazing cathedral with our French tour guide...
This morning... we spent our time with a French girl named Léa. She gave us a tour of some of her favorite parts of the city. She is a kindred spirit I will be friends with forever. She's a miracle that has been waiting just for us. Turns out, I really am meant to be here in the beautiful town of Tours.
xoxo, Soeur Autumn Bradley