Monday, February 23, 2015

Sweet Blessings and a Bag of Bananas

bonjour mes cheris!

The past few weeks had been harder than normal, leaving me feeling a little heavy and weary. But I'm delighted to say that this week I've felt much more filled with the all so good and uplifting JOY of the gospel. Like that talk, "the joyful burden of discipleship", the two feelings often come together in the service of the Lord.

This week has been filled with incredible blessings. About a month ago we had no progressing amis. No one who was consistently reading the Book of Mormon or praying. Hahah hardly anyone who was inviting us back to be honest. It certainly felt that way some days. Well we focused the month on getting our amis to progress. To keep their commitments to draw closer to the Lord. Faith is a principle of action and no matter how much we teach or talk, it won't do anything to increase the faith of our amis if they don't do something with the teachings we share. Apply them in their lives. Reflect on them. Study them between visits. No one else can build your foundation for you. It's just you working side by side with the Lord building and molding.

But anyways, so so much digression. We prayed for our amis to progress. We fast together. And guess what happened. Our amis begin to progress. First it got up to 3 amis reading the Book of Mormon. The next week it was 4. Then to our incredible joy it was 5. And then this week. SEVEN. We have seven amis reading the Book of Mormon! Oh my it is the most incredible blessing. And it was all the Lord. The light and joy in these seven people's eyes is like a fuel for my soul. It fills me up and douses me with joy and gratitude. How grateful I am that sometimes the Lord allows us to see some seeds that we plant sprout up and begin to GROW. 

We have one ami that we just found last week. She is a Melanesian and has 3 foot hair that she wears wrapped in a scarf on her head. We did our first lesson with her about the Book of Mormon, and she said we could come back this weekend. We hadn't been able to fix a set day. Well on Saturday night we show up at her house and it looked like someone was home. And we call and after the third time she comes running from the back of her house holding a machete. Hahahaha she was grinning and was so happy to see us that she hadn't even stopped to put her machete down!!
Sweet PRAISES!!!
She then told us all about how she'd been studying the Book of Mormon with the Bible all week. Cross referencing about different subjects from the index. And that she LOVED IT. How all of her family left that morning but she stayed home and purposefully left the window open because she was sure we would pass and she wanted to be sure to hear us (context to better understand our joy: usually on return appts people purposefully shut their entire house and hide and pretend to be gone when we call hahahaha). At this point my face is about to break into a million pieces along with my heart cause I'm smiling so big and am so happy.
We had the most wonderful lesson on the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and at the end, with teary eyes she said, "I was just reading about that today. About all the churches in the world. And I was wondering why that was. And now, you've answered and spoken about that with me. God is so good. Merci. Merci beaucoup!" We walked out of there and literally for the next hour and  half were dancing and laughing and replaying parts of the lesson and singing sweet praises of joy. So happy.

Then yesterday we stop by to give her a Family :Proclamation to the World, cause oh by the way she has a family and a husband yessssss, and she runs out to us and then runs back inside only to run back out holding a giant bag full of bananas for us. I love her. 

So that was just a little highlight of the week. So happy. God is so good. Being able to share this message brings the deepest joy. How true it is, "How great shall be your joy if ye bring but one soul unto me". The first soul we bring unto Him is our own. We give ourselves to Him. And then we invite others to join us on this pathway to eternal, everlasting joy.

Love you all.
When the going gets tough, say a prayer, turn to the Lord and keep going. He doesn't give up on us, why should we give up on Him?

love youses!
soeur evans


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Monday, February 16, 2015

Both Sides

Bonjouuuuuur mes cheries!

This morning we got invited to explore a farm with one of our amis. So we got to go to this backwoods farm with pigs and cattle and horses and looots of jungly land and fruit trees springing up left and right. The couple we visited with our ami run a little home where people come and dine for a day and see the farm life here. After we explored their tree house... yes they had a TREEHOUSE right next to the river.... we dined with an old French couple on steaks of deer, pumpkin and coco rice and them some lemon tart. And there we sat eating all French and proper and having some slightly awkward conversation and it just struck me. We as missionaries get to see both aides. We get to dine with the fancy French people. We chat with wealthy cattle farmers in their fancy homes. We drink milo with locals in their shacks by the river. We go into the tribes and share a baguette while talking about Christ. What a unique blessed opportunity to be welcomed I to homes of all sorts. To share the same message with all of them. To know the message has the exact same importance to those we are with regardless of wealth or class or traditions or ancestral lines. Everyone needs the Gospel of Jesus Christ. All of us.

We have started to focus a lot of our first lessons on the Book of Mormon. The other night we followed up on a woman we met a few weeks ago. School was starting  the next day so she was busy preparing her children's things. But we talked with her for a few minutes and asked her about herself and her kids and her life. Then, 
we asked if she has just a few minutes. And she said yes! It makes all the difference to SHOW people you care and are interested in them. Shout out to Dad for that reminder: "People don't really care how much you know until they know how much you care" That's been my focus of the week. 

So yes, she invited us in. And we started to tell her about the Book of Mormon, asking her questions and explaining and testifying. And after 10 minutes she asked where she could get one. Do we sell them? No, we GIVE THEM!!! How sweet it was to give her the most precious sacred book in my life. And it was all the more rewarding seeing that she took recognized its worth and had a desire to read it. 

We've been blown away by the progress our amis are making when we focus on the Book of Mormon. One of them is already through the Isaiah chapters of 2nd Nephi after only two lessons! That is unheard of here. I have never had so many people READING the Book of Mormon. And I've never seen this kind of progress. Spiritual progress depends on spiritual effort. Read the word, feel the peace of the word, and live the word. It is so real.

Much loves! Time flies and it always flies better with the Lord!
Soeur Evans

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Monday, February 9, 2015

Sometimes people are mean



Well, surprise surprise.......WE'RE STAYING IN BOURAIL!!!Hahahahahzhah me AND Soeur Gunn. -Hahahahaha it is unreal. By the end of this transfer it will have been seven and a half months together and five months in Bourail. We are shocked because we were basically positive that  one of us would be leaving because it's unheard of to be together this long. But we are so crazy grateful to stay together and help Bourail to progress and help strengthen and bring others unto Christ.

The fun new news is that there will now be elders in La Foa! Which means we will be sharing our branch. It feels funny thinking that all of these members will now have another set of missionaries in their lives. Hahaha being all the way up here alone with the branch makes them feel like our special secret hidden treasures. It will be wonderful to share them and their love. It wil also be an ENORMOUS blessing to have more priesthood in the branch. That will make all the difference. We can do a lot and do our best to do a lot for the branch, but we greatly lack in something. And that's the power of the priesthood. Never underestimate this power and impact of a righteous priesthood holder. It is irreplaceable.

This week was full of some great lessons but also a few more "negative" things. But those negative things actually strengthened my testimony the most this week.

Example one. I was on an exchange and we were teaching this man. And suddenly he goes, "Jesus Christ is not the Son of God. That is just false." Oh my.  Words cannot do justice to the feeling I had inside. I was filled with a warm, sweeping, rushing NO. I just wanted to get up and walk out. I wanted to stare him in the eyes and make him recognize that he just told a grave lie. He lied. Jesus Christ is the Son of God. That I know. But in this moment when the Spirit manifested that truth so strongly to me it also told me that now was not the time to make a scene. So I sat there silently smiling while the truth brimmed inside of me. Sometimes we are called to be silent and sometimes that's even harder.

Another time this lady flat out SCREEEEEAMED at us when we called bonjour at her gate. She just screamed and cursed and threatened us and told us to get lost and was just so meeeeean. I don't think I've ever met anyone that mean. And I literally couldn't understand that kind of anger. That kind of hate. It is incomprehensible in my head. My life has been so full of love and light and joy and sometimes sorrow but never ever hate or anger. 

Fun Fact. The other day we talked to this man. He was half drunk and we left pretty fast, but before we left he have us "American girls, the Mormons" a free painting. He makes these sweet aborigine paintings so I was pleased.

A few extra notes from last week…….

We are currently experiencing a cyclone. But no worries it's not that bad, just a little rain and wind. One year a cyclone flooded the whooooole town, but looks like that won't be the case this year.

Last Monday was one of my favorite days of ever. One of the most wonderful sisters (our Kanaky member who lives in Bourail and loves us so much and we love her so much), well she took us to go see  her family who was camping at the beach. We drove an hour down this dirt road to a secret, back, local part of the beach. It felt like we were on a private island, This sister dug for mussels and me and Soeur Gunn walked around with her granddaughter as she showed us how to catch crabs and eels and paraded us around the beach. It was the most  beautiful place, like heaven touching the earth. And all you could hear was the distant sound of the waves breaking on the reef offshore.That's it. Silence. Oh it was so beautiful.I never  wanted to leave.

Love you!
Soeur Evans


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Monday, February 2, 2015

One Year Musings

Branch in Bourail

Bonjour to my family and friends,

It's official. This week I hit my one year mark.  And let me tell you my head has been filled to the brim this week with thoughts and emotion. Not only my head, but my heart as well and my tear ducts a few times too.
As dear Nephi said,  I can only write but a hundredth part, but I thought I would share a little bit of my reflections looking back on my mission so far.  I just finished Our Search for Happiness, by Elder Ballard and he says it so very perfectly and so very beautifully and eloquently.  "Many of our missionaries begin their missions thinking they are going to repay Heavenly Father for His goodness toward them by serving Him for 18 months or two years.  But before long they learn an important eternal truth; you can never do more for the Lord than He can do for you."
He could not be more right.  I started my mission hoping to end it feeling like I had somehow paid the Lord back a little bit for all the goodness He has always showered upon me.  But now I know that as life goes on I will only feel continuing, accumulating, overwhelming gratitude to my Lord and Savior.  I cannot pay Him back.  I'll never be able to.  What an incredible powerful and humbling realization.
Elder Ballard also talked about how our weaknesses, trials, challenges, and adversity are turned into strengths and opportunities, and triumphs  and adventure.  That is real and amazing and miraculous and nothing in me can deny the truth of that.  I know it and I've lived it and live it each day.
But I've also learned that the second, lovely, positive things can't come without the first hard, less positive things.  I will be very real.  Missions are hard.  My mission has not been all rainbows and sunshine and adventure.  Behind each miracle and blessing is a lot of hard work and ache and struggle and sorrow.
My mission, is not a mission of many baptisms.  I think the goal for last year was 40 baptisms for the whole island.  I have been blessed to see and take part in a baptism because I got to Bourail 2 weeks before their set date, but aside from that, no one I have taught and loved and cried with, and encouraged has made it to that wonderful point yet.  And sometimes it is hard and exhausting to pour your heart and soul into people and then to have them turn away from the "everlasting" gift you are trying to offer them: the gift of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I rarely talk about what  is the "real" or "average" day .  I like to focus on the miracles because the miracles are what make it all worth it and in the end, outshine the rest.  But I realize now that it is deeply important to understand the other side too.
 To give you a tiny picture…Plenty of days we spend all day following up on previous contacts—walking all over Bourail—and no one lets us in.  After a long, hot day of asking and offering and testifying, we return home that night, having taught zero lessons.
For every prepared wonderful ami we find, there are at least 70-80 people who reject us or drop us or are simply uninterested.  Aka, lots of "searching" is required before the "finding" happens.
No matter how much you love and pray for these people, they ultimately have their free agency.  Yes, the Lord can change their hearts and the spirit can touch their hearts, but if they themselves do not allow the change to take placle in themselves, it cannot continue.  This work is completely in both directions.
We invite, we act as instruments in helping them come unto Christ.  But they must accept our invitations.  And in the end, THEY must COME.  We do the best we can to fulfill our half of the process.  Unfortunately, it is rare that we find those sweet children of God who have both the desire and the willingness to fulfill their half.  When both halves come together and the spirit is there, that is when the miracles of conversion take place. 
Sometimes as missionaries, we could really use a "Mom" hug or a "Dad" hug.  The Lord is with us and sends us love and comfort.  But sometimes a nice, tangible squeeze of affection would be much appreciated.
Anyway, that's just a teeny tiny bit of real life. This last year has doused me with just about every emotion (not anger/hate).  I've learned to both tuck away my feelings way down deep and share  them and expose them in a way I never thought possible.  The Lord has stripped me down and showed me my absolute weakness, but He has also woven me with a deep enduring strength.  I have cried tears of profound, overwhelming joy and  soul-aching sorrow.  I have been humbled down and lifted up.
What have I learned in a year?  A mission is sacrifice.  Being a disciple of Jesus Christ is sacrifice.  He asks a lot of us and He asks us to give it all to Him until our last day. But oh does He GIVE.  He asks and asks and gives and gives and gives.  God is so infinitely Good.  He is so merciful.  He is so patient.
This past year has been so much more than incredible experiences in a foreign land.  I'm not on vacation.  I'm not on study abroad learning about world culture and the French language. I am on a mission.  I am a representative of the Lord Jesus Christ to the people of la Nourvelle Caledonie.  I love them with all that I am.  I love the Lord more.
I keep saying this but I just feel filled to the brim.  Everything I experiences seems richer, deeper, and more immense.  I think D&C 123:12-17 sums it all up pretty well.
12 For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it—
 13 Therefore, that we should waste and wear out our lives in bringing to light all the hidden things of darkness, wherein we know them; and they are truly manifest from heaven—
 14 These should then be attended to with great earnestness.
 15 Let no man count them as small things; for there is much which lieth in futurity, pertaining to the saints, which depends upon these things.
 16 You know, brethren, that a very large ship is benefited very much by a very small helm in the time of a storm, by being kept workways with the wind and the waves.
 17 Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed."

"A very small helm."  I wasn't called to a mission with lots of acceptance or thousands of lessons or many baptisms.  And looking back I am so grateful for that.  God has taught me to rejoice in the smaller victories, the more subtle successes.  I rejoice in the sum of all the little blessings.  And when the grand miracles come, it is all the sweeter!.
I love you all.  Thank you for all that you do and all that you ARE.  May we all "cheerfully do all the things that lie in our power."

Soeur Evans

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