Bonjour tout le monde!
Happy New Year! I am so surprised at how quickly this year has gone by! I've done so much and come so far! A quick look back on the year and then the week that just passed! Let's see... I started the year off at BYU in my winter semester. I received my mission call to Montréal Canada in April! I finished working at BYU Broadcasting where I was blessed with a job that I loved! I stayed for the spring semester with my great friend Nathan Fronk (Yo Nate! Write me! Someone tell Nate to write me!) I had a wonderful summer getting ready for my mission and hanging out with the best of friends. And I left on my mission on August 22! And the rest is history! (Well, actually the rest is below this letter, but... you know what I meant.)
So, as for this last week! Elder Baker and I had a great week coming back from what we called our "Christmas Break." (We had a semi p-day on Monday, Christmas Tuesday, p-day on Wednesday. So I just barely sent an email home on Wednesday so there won't be too much to update you on.) It's still a little hard to find people to teach because all of the students that we were teaching have either moved back home, to another apartment, or have finished school and disappeared! But we know that with the Lord's help and with diligence we can do anything! We've worked extra hard to make up for the lack of people to teach and have had some great experiences! I'll start off with what we've done since Wednesday and fill in before that if time permits.
So on Wednesday it was Boxing Day (Canada's Black Friday) and President Cannon was nice enough to change our p-day to then so that we could take advantage of the good deals and get some shopping done. I finally bought some nice boots! I had just been walking around in dress shoes—not a good idea! So I bought these really nice boots that were on sale for a pretty good deal (they're Helly Hansen I think...) And just in time, too! The next day was a record setting snowfall! I'll send some pictures along so you can see just how nuts it was. We ate at Five Guys—so good! We helped the YSA clean the chapel at night and I quickly sent off an email home!
Thursday we woke up to a major blizzard! It was amazing! I've never seen so much snow! I guess it's finally winter here in Canada! The Zone Leaders, Elder Heder and Elder Reid, drove us to the church for our district study. It was nice because almost all of the districts on the island came to the church for their district studies so I got to catch up with a few of the Elders that I haven't seen for a while! After our district study we quickly ate and then one of the companionships came into the gym where were eating and asked for some help getting their car out. Little did we know that for the next two and half hours we would be digging cars out of the snow! It dumped about 3 or 4 feet in a few hours and every car was absolutely packed in! We only had a few shovels so I grabbed one and got to work! I think at this point it would be appropriate to thank my dad for having me and my brother dig the hole for our trampoline—apparently I'm pretty good at clearing snow. Thanks, Dad! Because of the snow all of our appointments cancelled on us because they couldn't get onto or around the island. Caitlin was stuck in Ontario and everyone else couldn't get out of their front doors! So we went looking for some good French buildings to knock because the work in the French side of things has been pretty slow—we teach students and all of the universities require you to know English (except one) and so the students want to practice their English. So we went knocking around the one university that's all French and found a pretty big building full of students. Well, it should've been full but most apartments were empty. We found a nice guy named Charles who we talked to for a while about the need for a restoration and he ended up inviting us to his church! We finished knocking and then went home and had some of the yummy hot chocolate that my mom sent us.
Friday felt like we were running errands almost all day! We had our weekly planning session at Laurier and kept having to stop to do odd jobs for the office missionaries. I absolutely love them! They are so much fun to work with! They are two senior couples, the Conways and the Arhets. We are at the office (which is the top floor of our church building at Laurier) almost every day and each time I walk through the door both of the sisters pull out their list of questions for me. I teach them how to send emails and how to copy and paste and every sort of computer question there is. It's quite fun, actually! We spent a little more time digging and clearing out snow to take the seats out of the mission van. We finished our planning and then called my cousin, Katie. On Christmas my mom had told me that my cousin and her husband were planning on coming up to Montréal to visit and that they wanted to take us to lunch. President Cannon said it would be okay so we called to make some plans. We met Phil at Subway and he gave us sandwiches for cheap! I feel bad each time we go there because we walk out with having payed next to nothing for our food and it feels like we just robbed the place! We went to check the mail for one of the YSA, Amaru, who is waiting on her mission call (which she just got today! We don't know where she is going yet, though!) So obviously, the mission call wasn't there. We weren't going to have enough time to knock as much as we wanted if we went back to the building we found the night before so we decided to knock a street close to where we live. It was crazy! It was like a ghost town! All of the students are gone and we saw maybe 10 people on the streets the whole night, and remember, we live right in the middle of downtown so it was nuts! We decided to knock a few of the nice houses on the street because we knew that the families would be home even though they don't fall into the age range we are supposed to teach. (That is a weird thing to me—as YSA Missionaries we are only supposed to teach people from the ages of 18-32. I don't like having to limit the people that I share the Gospel and so regardless I always make sure to share as much as I can and then we pass them off to other Elders.) We met some great people but they were all busy doing things with their families—which is not a bad thing! The idea of the family in Québec seems to be falling apart. The history of the area with the Catholic church is really interesting. If you want a good history read, look up some of the recent history of Québec!
Saturday started off great! We had a lesson with Stephanie, who Elder Baker has been teaching since July. Her story is absolutely amazing and I wish I knew it well enough to share. Basically, she has been ready since July to be baptized but her parents, sadly, only see the Church as large scheme to get her money and so they won't let her be baptized. We have been working with them and finally were able to have a formal lesson in their home with President Cannon. We made sure to help her mom realize the sincerity of the message and understand the importance of the Gospel in her daughter's as well as her own life. President Cannon explained the Gospel in such a simple and clear way. He is an amazing teacher and great example and leader. I'll always remember that lesson—I learned a few important lessons myself. After the lesson we met one of the less-active members we have been working with for a while named Françis at the Grande Bibliotheque at UQÀM. He wanted to go grab a pastry at Tim Horton's (basically Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts but a million times better.) We were able to have a great conversation with him about the importance of prayer and the scriptures in our daily lives. But during the lesson, my cousin Katie called and we just barely missed the call. She called again a few minutes later and picked up the phone and said "hello" and all I could hear was the phone being hung up! We knew from the conversation the day before that they were planning on being around Old Port so we left there as soon as the lesson with Françis was over. We walked around the old cathedral, Notre Dame, and China Town for a while hoping and praying that we would run into them. We never saw them but I was glad to be able to see the oldest part of Montréal! Amaru called us and told us that she had just made it back to the island and needed her keys and told us that she wanted to help us go knocking (she is going to be such a good missionary!) So we met up with her and went by our friend Asli's apartment with Amaru. We had such a great lesson with her about the Book of Mormon! She told us that she didn't want to disappoint us but that she was interested in what we had to say. I told her that the only way she could possibly disappoint us was to listen to us without trying the things we taught for herself. When we give commitments to people we are providing them an opportunity to learn for themselves and receive the blessings of the Gospel. She told us that she would read and always try the things we asked her. That takes faith! After the lesson Amaru had us come to the restaurant she works at for dinner. I had some delicious manicotti! (Mom, don't worry. Yours is still the best in all of the world!)
Sunday was interesting! We started off by going to the church that Charles invited us to... I don't know how to talk about this experience. I do not mean to offend or belittle in the slightest. It is a strong belief in our Church, in fact so much so that it is included in our "Articles of Faith" that "We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may." We met Charles at a metro stop and walked with him to church. There were about a hundred people walking with us and I started to realize what we were going into. We walked into a very large building that resembled an events center and it hit me. There was a stage and flashing lights and stadium seating and a band playing. Everyone was really nice and happy to see us but got a little fidgety when they saw our tags. The church (all in French) started with singing about our Savior in a very uncomfortable way. They were talking a lot about money and the need for tithing and I started reading the pamphlet they gave everyone which was basically a listing of events the church was holding that all cost hundreds of dollars. The whole time I was just in awe at how the people were being misled and blinded by a very nice and eloquent man they called their pastor. He was claiming to heal people on stage and that he was talking with Jesus right then and would have these one sided conversations in the air and told everyone how the church needed tithing. He was very crafty about the way he did it. It was really sad, honestly. I had a great time there and seeing the way other people worship and getting to know other people but man—I was just absolutely shocked to see how far the honest and simple truths of the Gospel had been taken and twisted. Yes, tithing is important, in fact so much so that it is a commandment. But the prerequisite to that is that the tithing is being used by the Lord's own Church and watched over by His chosen leaders. I wanted so badly to walk to the front, stand on the stage and show the congregation what they were missing. To spell out the simple truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I cannot say how badly I ached to do something! I am almost upset that I let it happen in front of my eyes. Anyways, we thanked Charles for bringing us and thanked everyone we met for being so kind to us and then left to our meetings. I was so happy to be asked to pass the Sacrament that day and reflect on the glorious responsibility it is to hold the Priesthood. It meant so much to me. I am so glad to know that amidst all of the confusion and turmoil in the world there is truth. There is light and there is peace. It is within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The peace and joy that have felt in my life can never be taken away knowing that I have a Father in Heaven who loves and cares deeply for me. So much so that He gave His Son Jesus Christ to provide a way to overcome our sins and be forgiven and made clean so that we can live in peace. He has given us His plan which cannot fail because of His Son who did not fail! Christ has overcome all and we can as well! Let the Gospel change your life and I promise you that it will. You are never too far out of reach for God to bless you and bring you back. Have faith enough to act on the promptings you feel and I promise you will be blessed. I am so happy to be sharing this message with the people I come in contact with each day.
Thank you for your support in your letters and kind words! I am having the time of my life out here! To all of my friends who are serving or preparing to serve—may God bless you in your efforts! Stay strong and carry on!