Tuesday, July 24, 2012

July 23, 2012 - Pau, France


dearest famille,

yes I just titled my email the lyrics of a lady gaga song. BUT it has to do with missionary work. Not really. Just a song I sing randomly because we want the members love!! No; I do NOT sing this to them. That would be super weird. Haha. So first off, the members love us!! Or at least theyre getting there! Seriously, folks. things are a`changin! Soeur bertolio says shes never seen them be so giving since she has been here, which was just one transfer more then me, but still! Ill start kind of backward, which would be starting with yesterday. here we go:

Yesterday we were walking to church, mindin` my own business..jk. lol. (which movie!) no, but really, we were walking to church and a family stops and opens the door and just gives us a ride! then we get there, give out some thank you cards to people, then this really nice Thai woman in the ward and I begin talking in french/english because she knew english before french, and she tells me she has bread for us that she made! so we get some really good bread with bananas (NOT banana bread. har har har...) and then this one woman who is partially inactive was at church, the one that gave us 1/2 a CAKE to eat, we had given her a thank you card and she was sitting behind me during sacrament (its relief society, sunday school, then sacrament! so weird.) and all of a sudden this large arm has a hold of me and Im being kissed on my cheek, slobbery kiss, by the lady, twice! then she said, merci, merci beaucoup pour le card!! and then kissed soeur bertolio on the cheek only once and she was warned before hand. I was like, what the heck just happened??? lol. she gave us some eggrolls that the leangs had given her (she had a LOT so she gave us half), then someone had a garden with zuchinis and they let us chose one and they are HUGE. Like little kid baseball bat huge. haha. ridiculous. Then we stayed for a bit longer after church and talked to everyone and all the nonmembers that came (we had three families invite nonmember families to church!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! this is seriously HUGE. whole families!! AHHHH!!!!) and then we talked to the youth and then Jessica Barbaroux (the oldest daughter of the family that i love) offered to give us a ride home! She is sooo nice and happy all the time! Its crazy. I love her! So we gave been making cookies and cards for members for anything that they do or if they need a boost or anything for a reason to show our love. Its crazy how much thats making a difference, and its literally been a week. crrrrrrrraaaazzzy!! President Roney said at zone conference, "expect miracles", so thats what we are doing. its so great!!!!!!

So this week we went to visit this woman, Maria, who we met because her son said the family might be interested but to talk to the parents, so we went over there a week later, her husband said we had to talk to his wife because she was in charge (haha), so we went over a few weeks later and she had to go to work so we gave her the family:a proclamation to the world and then we went to see her on Friday after 4! we talked to her and asked if she read the brochure, and she said she had and that she really liked it, and started telling us about her family and she has 4 children and she really cares about them and always tells them that family is most important and to always be kind to each other. We were just like, yesssssssssss!!!!! so she said for us to come back sunday afternoon and we were super stoked. unfortunately that is waaay too vague. afternoon. So we show up and she isnt there, so we go back at around 8:20 and her husband is there and said that she had waited around for us but had to leave so to try back tomorrow (today). So we are going over at 5 today! preparation day or not, this woman needs our message!! And we feel sooo bad that we didnt go earlier cause she had been waiting for us!!!!!!!!!! egh. worst feeling ever. so today!!! I am stoked!! we may make her cookies because we feel so bad.

Okay! Wednesday I saw a guy riding a vespa with a big helmet that goes across your chin, and he was smoking. hahaha. This day soeur bertolio told me a lame but I think funny joke: "In a plane, this man said he could tell where they were by sticking his hand out the window (yeah, doesnt technically make sense but go with it). So! he sticks his hand out and says "we are in England!" "how do you know?" "because I touched the big ben" then later, he sticks his hand out and says "we are in france!" "how do you know?" "because I touched the eiffel tower" Then laterrrr, he sticks his hand out and says "we are in Italy!" "how do you know?" "because someone stole my watch!" hahaha. 

Thursday we had district meeting! and we also had a baptism! well, the elders in Tarbe had a baptism, but they come to Pau because we have the baptismal fount closest. Brother Johnston, the husband in our senior couple, brought his new classic guitar, and he let me play!!!!!! Oh. It was wonderful. Later on in the day we also taught David, a guy we met in the same apartment complex as Steven (another investigator who wont stop smoking and now wont return our calls but his mom wants us to help him). We gave him a brief overview of our religion and he said he was interested and he knows that God answers prayers because he has prayed to him before. Then he told us his brother was looking at the Book of Mormon that we gave him and is interested in learning more too!! and we met him and talked to him a bit, so we hopefully will be teaching both of them this week!!

 Friday we taught the African family the plan of salvation, and they really liked it! but then at the end of the lesson we mentioned the Book of Mormon and the husband was like, we`re catholic, blah blah blah and we were like, yeah.. soo.. but they came to church because the Barbaroux`invited them and they also invited them to their home this week so we can eat then have another lesson!! I love the barbaroux!! They are just so kind and nice. 

"Be the member you wish you had on your mission", I think Frère LePretre said that? Whoever said it, it rings true!! Mom, Dad, Ant, Ben, Nate!! Everyone else reading this who served a mission!!!! Members help SO MUCH!! Yeah, we can do missionary work without the members, but we are much less effective if we dont have their help!! EVERY MEMBER A MISSIONARY!!!! A prophet said that. In preach my gospel, at the end of the first chapter, "my purpose", there are a bunch of quotes from prophets about missionary work and they all apply to MEMBERS AND missionaries alike!! I commit all of you to read these quotes. They are so great. I hope that youre  giving cordinees to the missionaries to search out these families or friends of yours that might be interested in the gospel and having eternal life. No big deal or anything. BE a missionary!!!

Okie dokie. Well, I think that I`m done standing on my soapbox, but only until 5,  then I`m back on. haha. I love you all sooooo much and I know that this gospel is true!! There are miracles that are ready to happen, you just need to get the ball rolling!! Help out the missionaries! Teach lessons with them! Give them friends of yours that might be interested in the gospel! Mom, Yolanda! She just had her husband die! Perfect timing! that sounds bad, but you know what I mean. The Plan of Salvation! The Plan of Happiness!! How incredible is it?? Through this plan we are able to not only return to our Father in Heaven but be with our families forever!! I know that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ we are given this plan, and all we have to do is come to unto Christ. I am so blessed to have the Gospel in my life and for the opportunity for me to serve the Lord. It is so hard sometimes but so worth it!! I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and another Testament of Jesus Christ. I know that He lives and that He loves all of His children, even those far from Him. I LOVE this Gospel and invite everyone who is reading this to pray for the opportunity to recieve the testimony that the things written in this book are true, also!! It is incredible to know the truth and to know that the fulness of the Gospel is restored to the Earth today. EVERYONE needs the Gospel in their lives, some just need to prepare to recieve it.

I love you!!!!!!!! And letters!!!!!! oh, and photos!! haha
love you all sooo much it hurts sometimes,
-soeur gardner- 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

July 18, 2012 - Pau, France

Editing is getting very time consuming, and with the start of grad school for me in a few weeks, I've decided to post Devan's emails verbatim, except for definite spaces between paragraphs for easier reading. I believe they will add a new level of enjoyment at times :).

hola famille!

first off..HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MON PERE!!!!!!!!!!!! if i were at home, I would have been a part of that surprise party. and decorated the halls tomorrow morning with the number that your turning and made chocolate chip pancakes with that number also(29, right? no..thats definitely too young. you had the boys at 1yr old?! no. thats messed up. bad joke. continue..). anyway, happy birthday!! I want to send you a package so be ready for some mula coming out of my account. like around 30-45 euro or something extreme like that. 

So last week, we had lots of things happen, such as..

-soeur bertolios asian birthday!! (22) we celebrated all week long. literally. no, not literally, cause Im a missionary!! but every evening. yes.
-exchanges! and those wouldnt be any fun unless people didnt understand one another and the blue comp was in charge! (blue is like greeny in europe. weird)
-zone conference!!!!!!!!!!! this is where I met the wonderful Roney famille and got to see Elder Gruber from my mtc district!!!
-our activity and the efy kids from our ward
-tour de france with my district here in ol pau
-african food.
-famille de barbaroux!

so first off, soeur bertolio!! she is 22! an old lady!!! haha. she kept saying shes old now, and im like, seriously? youre 7 months older than me! haha. weirdo. but i love her. we had a lesson and one of us had to use the bathroom and she didnt know the word for bladder and called it a "pee-pee bag". i was grossed out. hahaha. then later in the week she was trying to remember the word for feminine and held the f for a really long time like "ffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffeminine". It was great. So we celebrated monday, found out exchanges would be wed and not thurs (her real bday and this is why we celebrated monday), so tues we go to a chinese buffet with this really nice old lady soeur arrieus (supposedly she takes us every month!), then right after this we go to this partially inactive woman, cecille`s house, and she made a round cake for us coming and literally cut us each a quarter of the cake to eat. HALF OF THE CAKE. Luckily it was only one layer with no icing!!! phew! but STILL!!!!! I looked at S Bertolio to see what she would say or do since we just got finished eating, and she just looked at the cake, picked up her fork and began eating. Ehhh. It was terrible. And what is funny is soeur bertolio said on sunday as we were walking home from church that she wished that a member would just stop and give us a cake to eat because we were super hungry. So we got that cake. just a few days late. Beghh. I dont even know if thats a real sound but if you can imagine the disgust...you can imagine that sound. So that evening we left for Toulouse for exchanges; next chapter! (not a reference to t swift. lol. btw, new album? we were in a clothing store cause soeur bertolio wanted a new skirt for her birthday and a t swift song  came on that i didnt know at all!)

exchanges! so we had exchanges with toulouse! soeur bertolio stayed in toulouse on wed night (were they surprised us with a birthday cake..haha) and i got back on a train the next morning with soeur tinoure (she`s tahitian!) who only speaks french. and Tahitian. she understands about 60 percent of what I would say in english and could reply in english about 15 percent of the time. yeah. Sooo that stretched me a lot! haha. and we were going back to pau so I was in charge..oh man. But she was really nice and fun; you know pacific islanders, always so fun and laughing a lot. But it was pretty hard, especially when I know the bus routes we take and she asked the bus driver and he said he closer to the street and he couldnt and she couldnt explain what he had said to me and so I was on the bus in a part of pau I hadnt been before. It was weird and reallllllllly hard. She kept repeating the same thing in french and I was like, I dont know what youre saying. Im sorry. I just dont understand. But eventually we got back thanks to a new convert, Jeffrey who was with us and showed us another bus that went to our street from this random stop we were at. phew. But she was really nice and we had a great time together other then that time! we had a train that left at 6 for Toulouse the same day, so we got on that train and got back to Toulouse by 9pm. The next morning S bertolio and I got back on the train and headed back to Pau. Lots of trains, and theres more!

Zone Conference!!!! SOOOOOOO goood. It was so great to meet the Roneys and see all the missionaries in the zone!!!! It was awesome being with other missionaries who are here for the same reason and having the same difficulties and all that. and President Roney!!!!! Oh man he is sooooooooo awesome!!!! I dont even know if that`s an appropriate term to use for a mission president but I just did. He is soo nice and when he spoke to us you could just feel the Spirit so strong!! He told us that he knows that what we need to do is to love and serve everyone; especially the members and the people of France! Just to show our love and breaking it down to the basics, the first and second most important commandments, to love they God with all thine heart, and to love your neighbor like thyself. Then everything else will fall into place! if youre serving with love, the members will feel that and want to help and the investigators will feel loved by not just you but by Heavenly Father!! ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE!!! That was our message of zone conference. not with that specific title. In our one-on-one interviews, pres roney told me I was one of his favorites because his daughter, Soeur Roney (bunkmate in the mtc!!) told him a lot about me. haha.cool! He shined our shoes!! He is an amazing president and we will have miracles!!!! who was it that said, "you either believe that nothing is a miracle or everything is a miracle"? please tell me! Its like Einstein or something..

So zone conference was great and I got all juiced up ready to serve and show all my love and its so great!!!!! soeur bertolio and i have been wanting to have an activity for the youth in our district with the other elders to show how important sharing the gospel is with your friends and it was just confirmed like nobodies business at zc. and this last week all the youth (almost all) in our ward had efy and they all bore their testimonies on sunday and were saying the SAME THING, how important it is and how they havent and how now they will, etc etc and soeur bertolio and i looked at each other and were just like, "miracle." 

monday! tour de france!!! so the elders asked us to make them lunch, italian style (lasagna) so we committed them to making cheesecake and bringing drinks. haha. and we slaved over the lasagna during our dinner time! and personal time after planning!!! and it was a lot of fun making since I havent ever made lasagna and it was cool: I love cooking!! and we made chocolate chip cookie dough (sooo american! ha) so we could bake it throughout the week for members and investigators! LOVE!! So Tour de France!! the elders came in on the train and we ate at a park, then watched the bikes go by after waiting for almost three hours!!!! but after 1 or 2 hours there were cars and stuff driving by throwing out free things and selling stuff. after this fun time with the elders, we went and taught a less active member, soeur toumaso. She is super nice, she just has a bf who she goes on vacation with. and she found out this week that she has cancer!!! soooo sad. I dont know what kind, but she finds out how bad it is this week. we are going to take her cookies. 

Sunday this african woman, soeur mwamba invited us over to celebrate her late-husbands birthday (he only died 3 years ago or so), and it was really touching how they cared enough to invite us for something so personal. But the food...was african. oh. my. gosh. rice, chicken, then some stuff that I dont even know what it was. Holy moley. SO GROSS. the first stuff was tan and had peppers in it and was kind of spongey, and was super spicy. It wasnt that bad until the second bite. by the last bite I had to contain myself from gagging. Eghhh. The other stuff looked like turnip greens and I was thinking, oh this stuff isnt bad! then took a bite. gagggg. It was.. I dont even KNOW what is was!!! It tasted like fish and grass and grosss and grossss. I was trying to mix it in with the rice and it was just so bad!!! I told soeur bertolio "I cant eat this." so she took some of mine. So kind. So very, very kind. before I was done finishing mine, I found a little fish skull on the plate. yeah. It DID have fish in it. eghhhh!!! we were burping fish taste the rest of the day and it was..so bad. luckily we dont have many dinners with africans. knock on wood.

last thing! the famille barbaroux!! I love this family. they have 2 boys and 2 girls in their family; the oldest son is married with a kid and is our bishop! cray cray!! but yeah, the family had us over for dinner last night and they have a house wayyyy out in the country and it is beautiful out there!! and they have a pool! and a cute little greyhound! anyway, their family made s bertolio and I homesick because they were so fun and laughing and loud during dinner. the mother is so sweet and made us some homemade herbal mint (mint from her garden!) tea after dinner! It was sooo good. and their dinner was great! their oldest daughter; jessica was at the mwambas for dinner on sunday so she was teasing me about the food because she gave us a ride home from there. haha. But theyre great and really nice.

Well, I better get off! I love yall so much and I know this gospel is true!! we have had so many miracles already and Ive been out for what, 1 month? Keep praying for the gift of tongues for me and for miracles!! funny thing about me and the language: I cant understand but I can express myself 90 percent of the time. everyone else Ive talked to is the opposite, and theyre like, one day youll just open your mouth and be able to make sentences! and im like, I can make sentences!! Its the understanding that I dont get! haha. then theyre like, ohhh..thats weird. Yeah. 

Love yall and I love letters also!!!!!!

Love always,
-soeur gardner-

forgot this! yesterday we were on a bus to the barbaroux home which is wayyy outside of Pau, and we were standing at the back of the bus with these two weird girls in front of us, with their chairs facing us so they were seriously staring for a long time. wtw?? and there was this couple sitting on the other side of the bus with the chairs facing us all over each other!!! and sitting next to soeur bertolio who was standing was a gay guy, which all of it just made for a good joke. haha. So Soeur bertolio said, "we`re between two crazy girls and two crazy people in love on a bus. And we`re in the middle of nowhere." and i said, "AND a gay guy!!" and she said, "best bus ride EVER!" lol. Good times. the end.

July 16, 2012 - Pau, France

Today we were busy at Tour de FRANCE so we didn't have time to email. I'll email Wednesday!!

Love yall!!!!!!


Sunday, July 15, 2012

July 9, 2012 - Pau, France

This week I haven't had time to edit the email for punctuation and spelling. This is almost completely in its raw form.


bonjour!! this week went a lot better then last. is the language still ridiculous to my ears? yes. Am I understanding more? yes! not keeping up with every conversation, but I catch words and sometimes understand what is being said. So thats definitely an improvement. 

So we found a new place to contact! its in the pretty part of pau, downtown. we went there randomly, just walking around to contact, and it was so pretty  and just enough people to contact and it not be super weird, cause we went in the evening (we went during the day saturday. bad idea; waaaay too many people shopping and everywhere and it was chaotic trying to find people in a crowd of people. super weird and sounds like an oxymoron, but thats how it was!) and got peoples info! funny story: we were walking past this bar and a guy was sitting on a stool and yelled, pointing at me(like 6 yards away) "C'est pocahontas!! Elle est très belle!!" and i hadnt even understood him, and was like, huh? and soeur bertolio pushed me forward in a disgusted way, then i asked her what he said and she told me. I was like, wow, thats pretty good for a drunk french guy recognizing a native american in france! lol. 

we have a family that has us over for dinner every week, the Leang family. The parents are chinese but grew up in Cambodia and Singapore I think? But they got married and moved to France so their children speak french. They are soooo nice and Soeur Leang has these crazy high cheekbones like mom and it made me a little homesick. So I told her that and showed her photos of the fam and she seemed to really enjoy it. But yeah, the family is really nice and they make us chinese food! its soooo good and you have to really watch how much you eat because she will bring out plates of egg roll things and lettuce and spicy sauce and mint leaves and its just soo good! so we watch each other on how much we eat because its easy to eat waay too much. haha. 

this week we also had this family, the Bournels invite us over for some cake and to share a message. We were planning on asking for names of their friends who might be interested so we were going out to visit them and they live like 2 long bus rides away, like out in another part of the area. So! we went and I was getting annoyed because we had to go all the way out and catch a bus going back to town and it was the last bus and we could be doing other things and blahblahblah. So we make it there, we cant find the street  and we are both getting annoyed then the husband calls us and finds us. So I am trying to pull myself together and forget about all of it, then we get to their house and its this humble little home without a walk way to the door and a little boy is looking through the curtains of the window and the father just looked so happy to have us and I very quickly felt like a huge jerk. my conscience slapped me. real hard. ha. so we go in and are greeted by the mother who looks like a tired audrey hepburn and her two little kids, lea and luc. yes, they referenced star wars, which i think is pretty cool. but theyre super cute and shy. then they had us sit down and just sat waiting for us to teach. it was crazy how bad I felt for being annoyed at this hard working family who were so eager to hear what we had to say! so we watched a how to be a missionary video with them and talked to them and come to find out they have been members of the church for only two years and they were going to be sealed in the temple at the end of this month!! It was crazy. I felt terrible. Then they brought out these cute little cupcakes that had apple in it and poured us some orange juice and they were just so happy! then we had to leave and they gave us the rest of the cupcake things and sent us on our way. That really taught me a lesson. aw man. 

So we went to the family with 7 childrens house and met the mom! at first she was sort of rude but then asked if we were jehovah witnesses and we were like, no! and she warmed up a LOT. so we talked about family and gave her a brochure of the proclamation to the family and a pass along card, and we will be going back next week to see if she read it because we forgot to ask if we could meet with her since we were so nervous!!!! yeah, dumb, but we can fix it. hopefully. Theres another family that soeur bertolio met doing porte à porte and the son answered and said his family might be interested and to come back. so two weeks ago we went back, met the father and the father said we had to talk to his wife who was in charge (haha), so saturday we went in the morning (moved our schedules around a bit to see the mom since she would only be there before noon) and we finally met her and she said we could come back this week sometime after 4 cause that is when she gets off! yeah!!! she was reallly nice. so there ya go. families are great!!!!!!

I have decided that the weird throatel r that is in french sounds like a cat purr when some people speak. its really weird but cool. just a random thought. And the Tour de France comes through Pau! Next Monday!! We are going to go see it and our district is coming also! funnnnn! I love my district; theyre all really cool elders and couple.

Soeur Bertolios birthday is thursday so we are  celebrating today kind of. exchanges this week and zone conference!
How was everyones 4th of july?? we made mashed potatoes and chicken and I played all the america music i had. church music.

Well, thats all I wrote down in my planner to write about! I love you all and I know the church is true! I am so grateful to have this opportunity to serve the Lord for 15 more months, and am so happy to be here in France (although its definitely not America). I love you and I am so grateful to be recieving your letters and keeping me updated!  I promise that everyone who wrote me will be recieving their letters in the mail shortly. :)

love always,

Monday, July 2, 2012

July 2, 2012 - Pau

2nd week

aw man,
     This week was...hard. Language-wise. So Friday night I got super upset with myself for not understanding and blahblahblah but then I pulled myself together and just read a bunch of scriptures to build up my confidence; Soeur Bertolio helped a lot also. She helped me recognize that this is only my second week here and that it was hard for her also. So I was just studying the scriptures before bed (thank you, Ben for the music!! that helped a lot too), and she brought a post-it to me with a scripture reference on it and said goodnight. I looked up the scripture and its a scripture i have been looking for that Frère Wilcox showed us! Doctrine and Covenants 128:22-24. Look it up. SOOO good and sooo beautiful!!!!  Oh man. So I read that and was like, that is what I need to be like. Courage!! (ha, just thought of Robin Hood when Prince John says, power! power!! So that voice saying: courage! courage!! Sorry, anyway..) So that helped me a lot. People in the ward are soo nice and willing to help me out with the language! I know that through study and lots of prayer, I will be capable of speaking and understanding French; it just takes a lot to get it! I am so grateful for this gospel and the opportunity I have to be here, preaching the gospel to everyone who will listen to my French, though it is slow! 
     So my preparation day is today, Monday, and I receive your emails and print them off to reply to them in letters and sometimes a short email back. And this is the time (or an hour before) that I check my email usually. So emailing I usually just send a long letter for everyone, but today I wrote short replies to everyone because I couldn't help myself, so this will be short also. Well, shorter than the other email from last week. 
     So could someone send me the history of Pau? Because I am thinking it has a rich history. The other day Soeur Bertolio and I went a different route home and went through this old downtown part of Pau that neither of us had ever seen!! It had all these cute cafes that probably cost an arm and a leg to eat a baguette there and expensive french clothing stores that sold designer brands and such; beautiful fountains and old detailed buildings with cute shutters and balconies and everything mainly was clean!! That's the thing with Pau, there's a lot of dirty places. SOO many apartment buildings with like 15 floors all near each other. Crazy. I can't help but feel like they're hamsters all crammed together. We have a nice apartment outside of the ghetto. I love France and the french, but after the mission, I want to live in America; like the United States. haha. Soeur Bertolio was like, we will see how you feel after the mission! And i was like, uhh yeah, I don't think that will change. lol. So many great things in France, but I love home. I don't want to go home right now (don't worry! haha), but after 16 months..yes. Anyway, sorry this is so short! But love you all and I hope to hear from you next week!!!

Love always,

June 29, 2012 - Pau

This is an email from a senior missionary couple serving in Devan's district. They were kind enough to send an update with pictures. :)

My wife and I are senior missionaries in the France Lyon Mission. We live in Mont de Marsan and are part of the Bayonne missionary district so we meet with the young missionaries every two weeks in Pau. I took these photos yesterday at our district mtg. Your daughter is well and you should be very proud of her. She has a wonderful trainer in Sister Bortolio who is Swiss and speaks Italian, French and a little bit of English.
Your daughter's language skills will improve quickly since she will have to speak french all the time. I am sorry the photos are a little fuzzy. I have a new camera and am just learning how it works. 
Frank and Barbara Johnston