Monday, December 26, 2016

Charity is the Pure Love of Christ(mas)

our Christmas card!
Christmas Eve!
It's December 26. The presents have been open, the dinner leftovers are stored away in the fridge, Christmas music has been replaced on the radio, and it's all happened way too fast. Well, of course none of those things really apply to me but Christmas always comes and goes in the blink of an eye, especially while you're a missionary. This Christmas was maybe my favorite Christmas ever, and it's interesting how it worked like that.

Zone training 
So we had Zone training on Wednesday, and it was up to us to do what we thought our zone needed. So we came up with an idea- we would talk about mission past, present and future, in showing all the new missionaries what kind of mission this is and what they have to look forward to. I was the narrator and the sisters and my comp were the ghosts. It turned out pretty good, we just had the missionaries sit on blankets and pillows while we were on the stage. We showed everything that has happened this year in our mission, all the challenges President has given us and everything we accomplished, then we talked about our current goals, and about looking forward to the future and the Paris temple. It was great! Then I went on an exchange with a little blue, Elder Encarnacion, and it was a fun exchange. Short, but fun!

santas workshop! 
We were also able to play Père Noël thanks to the generosity of my grandma! Me, my companion and the sisters in our ward went to the store after having the bishop pick out 2 families that would need Christmas and we started getting things. We got games and stuffed animals for the kids, as well as candy and chocolate. We got some nice chocolate for the parents and put €25 in a card for each couple. Then we bought chocolates to give to all the single elderly people in our ward. We wrapped it all, and we went caroling and delivered the older people their presents, and then we gave the bishop the presents to deliver secretly for the two families who are both less active. There were two older ladies who really appreciated the gifts, as well as the families. 

home theater
As one sister was leaving church unnoticed, I ran after her and asked her to wait, then i went and got a present, and giving it to her i said "thank you for everything you do for us and for the savior. Merry Christmas." She looked down, back up and started to cry. All she could get out was "thank you, thank you." My heart swelled with love and gratitude for the opportunity my grandma gave us to give these people at least something for Christmas.
Also, my mom sent beautiful paintings of Christ to give away, and so we went caroling (yet again) to members and we gave my favorites a painting, and they appreciated it so much. It cool to remind people of the true meaning of Christmas, which is what we did as we shared it with them. I love all of these people!

Christmas with the Vendassi's 
For Christmas Eve (Le Réveillon) we were able to watch Finding Dory or in French, Le Monde de Dory! We had all four equipes in Bordeaux come to the church, we brought popcorn and treats and we watched it together. It was hilarious, but the fact to be surrounded my beloved Bordeaux missionaries was so fun! We all laughed together during it, what a treat! Then we went to eat with a member family. They gave us oysters (which I slurped), shrimp, raw salmon, fois gras, and chicken and veggies. It was a lot of fun. They are half Peruvian so we had some Peruvian soda too, and the kids were so excited that the missionaries were there!

On Christmas, we had a sleep over with the Eysines elders and we were able to sleep in until 7h30 and then we opened our presents! We got ready and went to church to sing as a prelude. Sacrement Meeting was so special as I remembered the birth of our Savior, then His life and His sacrifice for me. Afterwards we handed out candy, and then went to a members house for dinner. The Picards are the parents of Sr. Vendassi, so they were there too, with one of their nonmember neighbors so we did some good missionary work while celebrating! We ate really well and then I got to skype my family!! I love my family with all my heart! I'm glad my real family got to see my French one!

However the best Christmas presents I received this year were seeing my newborn baby niece on skype, and the amazing video that my brother, Jansen made for me. It was a rollercoaster of emotions as I watched all my loved ones (and some strangers) wish me merry Christmas! All the other missionaries were jealous and they loved the dancing part (no one saw the good stuff except me haha). Thank you for that!

Christmas with the Vendassi's 
A special thing happens at Christmas when we give without expecting in return, when we open our hearts and let the spirit of Christ permeate it. I was able to live the principle I've heard my entire life, that there is nothing better to give at Christmas than ourselves. And in doing so, we are blessed with hearts that grow 3 sizes bigger, and miraculously, are completely filled with love and charity. I think I found what Christmas means, and I discovered it on my last Christmas as a missionary in France.

Have a great week! I love you all! We will talk in 2017!

Avec amour,

Elder Hall

Your Favorite Missionary

Christmas morning! (Ps I gave almost all of this away happily :) ) 

Monday, December 19, 2016

My 20th Birthweek

Christmas horns
Here I am, a one day old 20 year old. Don't worry, nothing much has changed in my demeanor, mostly I'm still as weird and awkward as ever! 😁  Thank you to everyone who wished me happy birthday, or had me in your thoughts and prayers. I felt it and I appreciate it! I felt like this whole week was a big birthday present to me, and as you read about it, you will see why! What a week! Work wise we kinda got shot, but spiritual wise it was amazing! This week we had a general authority come visit our mission. He is in the Area Presidency of Europe West and his name is Elder Gary B. Sabin. Forcément, there was a lot to do to prepare everything for him, his wife, and President and Soeur Brown.

the random less active family I
spent my birthday with
(we made origami trees!!)
But before that was a simple mangez-vous with our part member family, Melissa and Antoine! On Monday night we went to visit them to do a soirée familial. They have a little girl and a baby, so it was fun to share the Christmas spirit with them. We were going to invite him to be baptized if the spirit told us to, and so there were some awkward silences during our lesson, but neither of us felt that we should. And the reason why came at MLC later in the week. But it was great to be with them, and see the progress this family is slowly making towards one day being eternal! YAY!!

all my comps who are still here! Combien ils sont beau!
We spent the next day preparing everything for the conference, and that night President and Soeur Brown and the assistants came in, so we got to talk to them. That's always so fun! The next day was the conference, and 3 zones were coming in.

this was a life size crèche in a cathédrale.
In France they don't put baby Jesus out until the 25 :) 
We luckily had an equipe of elders come in the night before, and they were able to help us that morning as we went around and picked up dessert, the flower arrangement, and lunch from the various boulangeries. When we got back and walked in with the food, all the missionaries in the foyer started clapping (because they were probably hungry I guess 😉) and giving us hugs. It was so great, and I absolutely love seeing all those beautiful missionary faces! President and Soeur Brown came with the Sabins and we had a little zone leader/stl meeting with them before the reunion started. Then we all got to shake his hand.

random circumstances made it so that
almost our whole zone was with us today! 
The conference was so good. The spirit bore witness to me of many things, one of them being that I am enough in the eyes of Heavenly Father, and that as I try my best to be obedient and work hard, He accepts it! I also liked "stretch, don't stress", and "you'll never be happier than you are grateful". Elder Sabin talked about celestial steps that we should be taking and helping our amis take. It was so great, he is a master at scriptures! Also, if you remember our mission goal to present him with 1500 lessons in the presence, well before the conference started, we realized that we had forgotten to report 2 lessons taught by an equipe in our zone, so we hurried and did so. When President got up to talk and announce the results, he said that as a mission we got 1600!!!!! He said that miraculously, to round it off to an even 1600, 2 lessons came in not even 3 minutes earlier. 😁 And last but not least, our lunch was a big success! I got to share my love of beignets with everyone!! What joy!

PS the American family that moved into our ward (we helped with their sons baptism, remember?) brought us a bunch of American things!! Dunkin doughnuts, lucky charms, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and Froot Loops! Woohoo!

That night, Elder Oborn and his new companion slept over at our house because we were flying to MLC in the morning. So we flew to Lyon and got MasterTacos, then slept over at the office elder apartment. The next morning I went early to the office to help make Christmas presents for elder Oborns Zone, and we went to MLC. It was mostly a big discussion on our feelings and impressions over the past couple days and elder Sabin was there. It was super great, and en plus, every companion that I have that's still in the mission was there, so I took a picture! That afternoon and night (since our flight wasn't until the next afternoon) we went back to the office and I got to see the Mahaffeys and even got to do some reconciliations and reimbursements! I was in heaven! Hahaha we got burritos.

This is what 20 year old elder hall looks like
Now for my birthday! Unfortunately it didn't got as expected (do any of them, really?). My companion was very sick, and so we had to cancel our special lunch birthday RDV with the Vendassi's (my faves). But we gave all the members individualized Christmas cards and they loved them! We presented in primary, and then Elder Fiala and Elder Higham (in the other ward) ate leftover pasta from their ward party with us. The sisters gave me some fun Christmas socks! Elder Higham was sick too, so we went on a little exchange and Elder Fiala and I went to pass some less actives they're working with. They sang to me and it was super fun. Then that night Elder Oborn and his companion came back to stay with us again because he had to get his legality so we went back to the apartment and opened my birthday package and voila! A birthday in a box! So we hurried and set it all up and had a fun party!

birthday socks! 
When my comp was sick that morning, I was kind of disappointed, but I tried my best to think more of helping him than of myself, and I believe that Heavenly Father saw that and said "mmmm... we can give him a little something." 😉 it was a great birthday, and even today, a bunch of missionaries in our zone (who were here for official business) surprised me at Elder Fialas apartment with a cake! It was so wonderful! So yes, I had a great 20th birthday over here in Bordeaux, and I am so thankful for the people that love me and the whole week of happiness that made up my birthday... or birth week! 😊

But I think the best birthday present I got this year was a new baby niece, one who is healthy, happy and beautiful. I was praying that she would be born on my birthday, and that really made me feel loved. What a miracle, what a gift. Welcome to this world little girl, and my testimony to her and all of you is that God is our loving Heavenly Father, Christ was sent for us, you and I, the Atonement is perfect, the Gospel is true, and if there is anything I've learned in my 20 years of life, it's that love and faith overcome all. Cliché, but I testify of it with all of my heart, mind, might and strength.

I'll see you next week!

Avec amour,
Elder Hall

Your Favorite Missionary

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Light to Christ

Good ol' Bordeaux 
The first week of the transfer just hasn't been as hectic since I left the office, and in some aspects that's a great thing! But I did miss the part where I got to meet all the new missionaries that come in. Fortunately, of the 7 new ones, 4 are in our zone! How lucky are we! I think blues are just the best 😄 Before I go into depth on the week, I just want to tell everyone how much I love the people here! This is, without doubt, my favorite ward I've served in. The members are so wonderful, and they love us almost as much as we love them! For that reason, we spent a lot of time with members this week.

out on the town 

This next week we have a big conference with Elder Sabin, who is in our presiding area presidency. It will be in Bordeaux so we spent some time this week preparing for that (which means ordering food and prepping the chapel). We needed to buy a ton of food, but we didn't know where would be good, so we went on a little food tasting trip to the surrounding boulangeries. We had some ok stuff but when we went to this other place, we ordered one sandwich for the both of us. It was so so good! So we said to ourselves "this is the place". Then we went in and he was like "oh can I help you again..?" probably thinking that we were just some punk teenagers who were dressed nicely for some reason. And we were like "ya... we need 90 of these." It was so funny because his jaw hit the floor and he was so flustered! But we got everything we needed and lunch will be great!

We were invited to a lot of members homes this week, and I love spending time with the people that hold up the church here. We went to visit some older members who gave us delicious food, and we were even able to go to a part member family's house and so service by raking leaves and doing yard work with their two teenage sons. I think it really touched the father, who isn't a member, but I love hanging out with the young men too. It's so important for them to understand their role as priesthood holders! We made some more progress with our other part member family because we made no bake cookies for the dad who loves America, and we were able to talk to him about America and show him our villes in America on google maps haha. We invitied them to read in the Book of Mormon as a family, and we hope that they will.

happy birthday elder Fiala! Also, his blue Elder Higham
There is a very old, small, fragile sister in our ward whose name is, ironically, Soeur Petit. She is very sick and frail, but she loves visitors. So the sisters and us were able to go to her house and visit her. She wanted a blessing, and I was asked to give it. Giving blessings in French is always a little nerve wracking, even as my French has improved, but as I put my hands on her head and pronounced the blessing, I felt so warm and the words flowed so smoothly. It was an amazing experience. I love getting to use the priesthood!

If you remember Elder Fiala, one of the other missionaries here, it was his birthday on Sunday, so Elder Sebra and I bought him a beret and made him a cake. It was a fun party. Then we watched the Christmas Devotional, albeit in French. I LOVE CHRISTMAS SO MUCH! And I LOVE JESUS!
these are cool pictures of an old member of
our ward when he was a wee French boy

I thought about a good spiritual thought to leave, and I thought about the star that appeared when Christ was born. What better way to signify the coming of the Light of the World than by illuminating a new light that would guide shepherds and wise men to the baby Jesus. They followed the star, they followed the light, and they ended up with Christ. So too, is it up to us to do the same. We have so much light and knowledge that has been given to us by our Heavenly Father and our Lord, Jesus Christ. We have a perfect example to follow! As we look to the star, as we follow the light that illuminates the way through life, we have endless promises that we will be led to Christ. Then we, as the shepherds and wise men, can bask in His glow and glory in His love. This Christmas, and on throughout our lives, may we follow the light that leads to Christ, and on our way we can light the world.

Have a most wonderful, wintry week!

Avec amour,
Elder Hall

Your Favorite Missionary

Monday, December 5, 2016

Soft Serve

a cool mirror sculpture I found (I debated 
whether or not to send this cuz it's a selfie... 
but merry Christmas haha)
My dad says it's been very cold at home lately, and this is my saying that's it's also been very cold here, like the kind of cold where when you walk outside, your ears instantly freeze to death and anything that would have come out of your nose congelés inside of it. Thus, I got a cold... but I think that came a little later in the week, and despite it we were still able to do quite a lot this week, and a TON of service! That explains the subject of my email, just there was a lot of ice and not a lot of cream. 😉 Also, if you remember the story of the family history miracle, I have the second half, all coming up in this email!

I'll start will a couple little things first: we went went with the sisters and their Chinese ami to a Scottish pub (and it was fun because Sr. Clancy is from Scottland), and we got real fish n chips! Wow, they were so so good! But now I don't know whether deep fried slices of potato are called fries, frites, or chips... I don't know what I love anymore!! We also made cookies and went to deliver them to Melissa and Antoine but they weren't home, and it took a long time to get there, but we were able to leave a get well note for Melissa who was sick and leave them with an invitation to read in Alma 32 for Antoine! Also, we had a cool experience when we were praying for our part member families because we received inspiration for how to help them as we each took a turn to pray with all of our hearts for them. Heavenly Father really wants these men to come into the flock!

one of my favorite families in France 
For FHE we were able to go to the Vendassi's house again! They had planned for us to help them set up their tree and nativity for Christmas and little Marc Ange was super excited but when we went to look for it down in the cave it wasn't there! So then he got very sad, so I tried to play ukulele music to cheer him up, and when Sr. Vendassi went to look, she found everything! (Ugh, how do moms always do that?!) so we were able to decorate for Christmas and have pizza! I love this family so much!

We were also asked to go to a members house, la famille Magré, and do service for them. It was very cold this day, but we went and dug a trench in his backyard and then dug out a ton of huge weeds. It was actually a lot of fun (because elder Sebra and I have fun doing almost anything haha, what a good comp I have 😄). We worked for a good amount of time, then they invited us in for hot chocolate and treats, it's two old people who just built this home so that's why there's a lot of work to be done outside. Unfortunately I think that's where I got a cold...
Fish n chips with a Frenchie,
2 Chinese people and a Scottwoman 

Our English class was pretty good! We had our two dropped amis, the sisters ami and our crazy less active! We taught about grammar for the past, and I realized that I am not qualified to be teaching actual people about English... at the end we tried to do a spiritual thought but everyone got off topic and it turned from Christmas and service to Mary being the Sainte Verge (basically the holy virgin), then to our stance of Joan of Arc, and then the old lady ami told us a story of how when she was younger her twin brother tried to burn her at the stake... so we decided to call it good and ended the thought there haha.

We got transfer calls! I will be staying with elder Sebra here for another transfer, but our whole zone got blown up! We have 4 elders training out of our 10 equipes! Haha I love our zone! #bordeauxsbelt

Sunday was cool (this is the second part of that family history story). So Sr. Cadeau (the member we taught with during that RDV with Madame Bott) stood up to give her testimony and told the following to the story. Madame Bott called her this week to tell her what happened with all of the information they found. Madame Bott said that she used it to search up and find a man in Louisiana on Facebook, who had one of the names on that big list we found, and it turned out to be her half brother! They talked and rejoiced in the reunion! He told her that her father had remarried and had more children, but he told all his kids about his French daughter, and kept a picture of her with him always. She made contact with her siblings in America, and found out that her dad had passed away 3 years ago, unknown to her. She admitted to it being a miracle, and I felt the spirit so strongly when it was shared.
Ethan's baptism! 
Then on Sunday, we had a baptism for a new boy in our ward. They moved from the US, and don't really speak French, but he was baptized on Sunday and we were able to be in the confirmation circle with his father and our bishop, as well as make the programs, lead the music, set everything up, be witnesses to the baptism, and other stuff for them, because this is their first child getting baptized. It was great!

Voilà! Ev
Christmas in centre ville 
en though I've been very sick all week, the work of Salvation keeps going. I'm so excited to be staying here for Christmas, and to see how we can keep #eclairinglemonde! (I'm sorry that's the second hashtag I've used in this email...) I testify of Christs hand in this work. There is no possible way that this gospel could be spread to every people without Him at the head. And each and every one of us have the opportunity to feel Him work through us as we simply serve others, especially at this special time of year! Look for it, pray for it, and you will find it- the Spirit of Christmas which is simply the Spirit of Christ.

Avec amour,
Elder Hall

Your Favorite Missionary