There is so much to recount to everyone from what has happened over the last few weeks. We saw blessings come in so many different ways, and in so many different facets of the work that we do – with the amis that we teach, with mission conference with Elder Nielson and Elder Kearon from the seventy, and with transfer week.
One of the most remarkable miracles was with our ami Alain Vassaux. He first came to know the church in 2008 when he was in a book collector’s shop with his daughter, Celia (one of our recent converts). Amongst the books in that collector’s shop was a quad, or a collection of the standard works we have in the church – the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. They thought the quad was really interesting, and though they did not speak any english, they decided to go online to search and find out where it came from. Soon after they began meeting the missionaries. Over the years, Alain ran into some difficulties. From time to time, he wanted to be baptized, but his daughter did not want to and he therefore decided to wait. Eventually, they distanced themself from the church until last year when they walked into the visitor’s center again in Paris and decided to let the missionaries start teaching them again. Unfortunately, however, Alain was not ready. He had read many false accusations about the church online and had a hard time accepting what the missionaries had to say. After a couple of months, his daughter decided that while she did not know everything, she knew that the Book of Mormon was true, and was baptized my first week here in Versailles.
Since being here, my companion, Elder Christiansen and I, would make our weekly visits to Celia and Alain’s home. Because Alain seemed to oppose everything that had been taught before, we felt during one of our planning sessions that the best way to help Alain would be to teach Celia, without directly teaching him, and hope that he would slowly gain a testimony. Well, gradually he started coming to church on a regular basis, even without our asking. He seemed to change over the months, though very slowly. We went to his home one time, and found the Book of Mormon opened. He had already read it twice from cover to cover and was going over it again.
4 weeks ago, Elder Hall and I decided that it was time to teach him directly again. We talked to him and asked him why he had read the Book of Mormon over and over again, and he said that it was simply because he wanted to know if it was true. He accepted our invitation to meet with him 2 times a week to teach him. We started teaching him really slowly. focusing on each point of the restoration, and ensuring that we were helping him understand with the right examples, scriptures and personal experiences. After a lesson 2 weeks ago, the spirit in the home was so strong. There was a huge feeling of peace and I while we had not previously planned it, I felt impressed to extend a baptismal date. I shared my experience of having to decided to come on a mission, and the great leap of faith I had to take in order to come on a mission, and the blessings that came as a result of listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and acting on them. With great care, I asked Alain, “Would you follow to example of Jesus Christ and be baptized by someone holding the authority of God if you knew this is true?” Humbly, he said, “Yes.” We fixed a baptismal date with him that day and while he may still be on his search for a spiritual confirmation, I know that he will receive one. He has been progressing so well. He even came to church with a tie yesterday! What a miracle.
Another miracle came when 3 days ago with the father of one of the less active families that we had begun visiting a few weeks ago. Jean Paul Staikovski was never interested in God or in the church. His whole family was baptized a few years ago, and he remained in his room each time the missionaries came over. I remember asking their oldest daughter Brenda when we first went there – does you dad believe in God, and she said, nope. So it was surprising when we asked him to join us for our family home evening, and when when we asked him if he believed in God, he said, I do believe there is a God. Well, we have been teaching him for a few weeks. And because we were so busy with transfer week and with the added mission conference, we were unable to meet him. We called him on Saturday to see if we could pass by and he said, “No, not today, but I will see you at church tomorrow.” Elder Hall and I looked at each other dumbfounded. It was a miracle. And true enough, he came to church yesterday, with his whole family. For the first time in many years, his family was sitting in church, and this time, it was with the father. It brought a tear to my eye to see how the gospel can really bring families together. I could just imagine them in the Paris Temple being sealed next year.
With the mission conference this past week, Elder Kearon shared some really great insights. He was one of the general authorities who visited the mission when I was still a young missionary and he really changed my vision and perspective of the mission. He flashed a quote from Elder Bednar on the screen in the chapel when he gave his talk which said,
“The ultimate expression of moral agency is in choosing God and in being good.” – Elder Bednar
I learnt that everyday is an expression of our willingness to be better. I know that there is so much that we need to improve, and while we may choose God during our baptism, we do have to remain true by choosing to be good. Every moment is a chance to be better, and to leave past mistakes behind, and to go forward with greater conviction. And when we do, we will find that inch by inch, or centimeter by centimeter, we will put bring ourselves closer to the Lord’s side.
I know that the Book of Mormon is true and that with the Bible, it will give us an unshakable faith to overcome anything.
Thank you everybody for all that you have done to uplift and strengthen me during my missionary journey.
Till next week!