A Change of Heart… actually, a couple of them‏

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!
Elder Lam

Lessons Taught and Lessons Learnt‏

This week was a great week!  A lot happened.  We went on exchanges with the Paris Sud, Paris Est and Rennes Zone leaders, had zone conferences with the Rennes and Paris Sud Zones, and saw some really great miracles both during our exchanges and in our sectors.

We went back to teach Alain this past week, on Monday, with the single goal of trying to understand his worries about committing to baptism and why he felt like he had not had a testimony even though he had read the Book of Mormon already.  We went to his home, sat down, and asked him the simple question, “What do you feel is stopping you from receiving an answer?”  For a complete hour, we sat quietly listening to him pour out his thoughts about his perception of God, his idea of what the Book of Mormon is his thoughts about the Bible.
I sat there mesmerized and confused, because he seemed to take every point of church doctrine and had tried to conceive the meaning of our existence through intellectual means of reasoning.  It was terribly confusing.  Throughout the space of an hour, I prayed in my heart trying to figure out what to ask him or tell him and nothing came to mind, no matter how much I tried to reason and undestand what he was saying.  I was just lost.  It seemed like his thoughts were so complex it was like string that had been tangled up a thousand times.  I wondered, “Why does the gospel seem so clear and simple to me.  I know who God is, I know why Jesus Christ is my Saviour, and I know why I am here in this life.  Are there things I do not completely understand yet?  Sure, but do they cause doubts?  Nope.  Because I know through my personal experiences and through the feeling and thoughts that have come to my mind that the restored gospel is true.”
We eventually got to ask him one question, “Who is God to you?”  And there was such a difference.  He spoke of his relationship with God as something so spiritual and so close to his heart, even though he had struggled to comprehend himself.  After much listening, we finally figured that his thoughts, doubts and his manner of reading the scriptures were too intellectually fathomed that he forgot that the way that our Father in Heaven speaks to us is through simple means – inspiration, feelings, thoughts.  We gave him the simple challenge to read the Book of Mormon only, to read it with an open mind, even though he had done it before.  We felt a confirmation in our hearts that we had done what we had to that day.  He realised for himself what he needed to change and do.
Thankfully, that was the only lesson where we were at a complete loss for words.  A few weeks ago, we met the Roth family, a widowed Cambodian mother and her 11 year old daughter, Virginie.  We had initially gone out trying to find a member we did not know, and when it turned out that the member no longer lived in the same building, we decided to continue knocking some doors.  That is how we met the Roth family.  Mdm Roth is one of the kindest and most caring people you would meet.  Though she is unable to converse fluently in French, we could just feel her desire to learn.  Her daughter would sit by her side and translate our lessons if she did not understand.  Virginie, as well, is one of the brightest 11 year old girls you would find.  Both of them had a huge desire to learn more about Jesus Christ and about Heavenly Father.  Well, we taught them this week, and both lessons were amazing.  Unlike with Alain, we had to be really simple, because there were many gospel words that they did not know.  We taught them from the scriptures that God is our Heavenly Father, and taught them how to pray on the first lesson.  When we returned to teach them with the couple missionaries, they had been praying every morning and every night, and had even read some of the scriptures we had given them in Cambodian.  They were super excited to meet with us and it made us feel happy to meet people with pure and sincere hearts.  I learnt that as we teach to other’s understanding, the light will fill their minds and they will come to know of the truthfulness of the message we share.
One of the greatest miracles this week happened when I was on exchanges in Rennes with Elder Baldwin.  We decided to do a couple of pass-backs to families who they had a difficult time getting a hold of.  We fixed a simple goal to make sure that we prayed every 30 minutes to be guided.  The first guy we passed by was not available because his family was preparing for a wedding.  We prayed with him and then left shortly after.  We had about an hour to spare until our next meeting, so we prayed again, and felt that we should leave the building to go contacting.  On the way contacting, I felt the impression that we should go knock some doors in a building just a block away, so we made our way there.  We started knocking doors, and at the 3rd door, a man answered the door.  He told us that he was Catholic and we talked about what we did as missionaries, and presented the message of the restoration, about apostasy and the priesthood.  We told him that we would love to share it with him, and he let us in.  It was a great meeting, we prayed with him, and taught him for about 10 minutes, before having to leave for our next lesson.  Miracle!  At the next appointment, we knocked on the door, and no one answered.  After ringing the door bell a second time, we decided to pray.  We felt like we should just wait at the door, and sure enough, we heard footsteps down the steps from the floor above.  The man we were supposed to meet was there!  Though he did not seem too engaged in the beginning, by the end, he told us that we should come back the next day to share more of our message.  Miracle!  Prayer really opened up doors that day.
To end the letter this week, I had been reflecting this week on how I would need to keep pressing forward to the end of my mission, and as I was praying during sacrament meeting, a gentle thought came to my mind about how I needed to keep on taking steps to progress as a missionary, right to the very end.  “You can take one more step further, because Jesus Christ took one more for you.”  I know that the Savior truly did do a lot for me, and I can rely on his redeeming power to continue strengthening myself as a missionary right until the very end of my mission.
I know that God lives, I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior, and I know that the Book of Mormon and the Bible are the word of God – one cannot go without the other.
Je vous aime tous, et j’espère que vous allez continuer en étant les lumières pour les personnes dans vos entourage qui ont besoin de l’amour de notre Sauveur,
Elder Lam
Elder Hall and I at La Defense

Elder Hall and I at La Defense

Elder Reiss, Elder Omohundro, Elder Nelson and I getting ready for Sushi

Elder Reiss, Elder Omohundro, Elder Nelson and I getting ready for Sushi

At the Rennes TGV station

At the Rennes TGV station

A Simple Prayer‏

Just a simple, short message today because there is not much time on my plate today.  One of the greatest experiences this week for me was a simple one that taught me a simple principle – the strengthening and enabling power of the Atonement.  As is usually the case for Elder Hall and I each week, there was much that we needed to do – strengthening other missionaries through trainings, exchanges, traveling to zone conferences to help other missionaries, meeting with our own investigators.  On Wednesday night, after finishing an uplifting exchange with Elder Sumsion, Elder Hall and I returned home.  After finishing our planning, it was already 10pm, and there were some points in our training that we needed to revise and change.

Because we were going to address the new bleu missionaries, we had to make sure that we were going to give them the best possible training that would apply to them, and would uplift them, simply because being a missionary in the first couple of months is one of the hardest adjustments.  Being spiritually, mentally and physically exhausted, and with this training left to be completed, we were in great need of some help.  So we prayed.
We continued planning, and ideas and scriptures came to our minds quickly.  It was so clear.  By the time we were done, it was 10:25pm, just in time to end our day with a prayer.  I was grateful that Heavenly Father helped us to find the revelation that we needed, even at a moment when we were exhausted.
“Prayer is not just for times of trouble.” – President Thomas S. Monson
Divine help is always at the doorstep, we just need to ask for it.  Our Heavenly Father wants to speak to us, guide us and help us.  I know that Heavenly Father loves us, and wants to help us more than we can imagine.
He is there.
Till next week,
Elder Lam
14 – Elder Player and I at the Brussels Zone Conference

General Conference and A Miracle‏

April General Conference 2015 – the last general conference that I will be watching as a missionary.  I have come to appreciate, so much more profoundly during my mission, the words of Heavenly Father’s chosen leaders.  Every talk that was given really applied to my personal life, and many inspirational things were said.  I am so thankful for a living prophet and apostles, who continue to guide us to help us find happiness in our everyday lives.  I am grateful for the knowledge that Jesus Christ continues to lead us today, and that His church has been restored.  If only everyone knew.

One of my favorite stories shared was that by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland.  He spoke of two brothers who found themselves stranded while free-climbing.  Even though they were just beneath the summit, the rocks made it impossible to climb to safety.  The older brother was able to use himself as a lever to help his brother get to safety, but found himself without a way to get there himself.  The only thing left for him to do was to either jump, and risk his own death, or to wait and die.  Deciding that the first option was the only option to safety, he told his younger brother to fetch a branch to help him up.  Of course, he knew that there was no such thing on that barren canyon, but he knew it would save his younger brother the horror of him falling to his death.  With all his might, he jumped, and succeeded at getting his arms over the ledge.  However, there was nothing to grip onto  He quickly slid, with sand brushing quickly under his arms.  All of a sudden, he felt the tightest grips around his wrists.  His brother had never left.  He had waited for him.  He saved him from plummeting to his death.
In the like manner, we have all found ourselves, at one time or another, having to take that leap of faith.  But our Savior, Jesus Christ, is like the little brother, who would never leave our side.  Just when we think we are falling, He comes and grasp our wrists to save us.  We all have to take that leap of faith, and trust that He will be there.  I am so thankful for my Savior Jesus Christ and for the ways that He has strengthened and uplifted me in my daily life.
This week was also a week of many miracles.  It was definitely a little fatiguing, with the tasks that we were required to undertake, but on the exchanges that we had, we were able to live some really great testimony building experiences.
One of the huge focuses that we have had has been on planning in a spirit of prayer.  I remember, at the start of my mission, when my trainer would have us pray and ask me to pick a place that I felt would be where our new ami would be waiting for us.  And almost everytime, we would always find someone who would be ready to receive the gospel.  We were always able to teach somebody and bless a life.  Well, this week, we took some time to plan for a number of members who we had not seen at church for a long time, and did not know.  My companion for the day, Elder Meng, and I went looking for one member who was supposed to have been active in the past, but had not been seen for a few years.  We went in faith to the address, knowing that we had felt that this was the perfect time to pass by his home.  Yet, unfortunately, his name was no longer on the list of letterboxes.  He had moved.
Knowing that we had to have been there for a reason, we began ringing the doorbells of the people living there.  After about 20 minutes, still, no one was interested, until a woman bringing out her trash in the parking lot caught our eye.  We went up to her and asked if we could share a message about Easter with her, and she smiled.  She replied that she had been praying more fervently to have God at the center of her life, and that she was starting to go back to church, but needed to know where and what to do to increase her faith.  She invited us to her home, and we taught her family an Easter message and set another appointment to teach her again.
Miracles happen everyday.  There are no coincidences in this life if we leave our home with a spirit of prayer each and every day.
I know that the gospel is true, and I know that Jesus Christ lives.
Elder Lam
18 – Elder Johnson, from Brussels and I
21 – Elder Meng, Elder Hall, Elder Dayley and I on exchanges

Steering through Transfer Week‏

This past week was transfer week, and as always, with the incoming and outgoing missionaries, and the transferring of missionaries, and the mission council training that we prepare with the President, we may try to be as prepared as we can, but there will always be something that does not happen quite as planned.  I have learnt a huge lesson since being in the office as an Assistant that can be summarized simply in a phrase that Sister Bousseau, a sister missionary in the office, used to say often, ” On fait avec…”  which translates literally to “we’ll do with.”  When things go wrong, or don’t quite work out as well, the best thing we can do is to be problem solvers.  I personally believe that the more we are able to become problem solvers, the more things will work out.  No one can predict the waves or the winds at sea, but with skill, the sailors are able to navigate and steer the ship in the direction they need it to go.  Thankfully, I can say that my companion and I were able to steer the ship in the right direction and get it safely to shore this week.

We had the new missionaries arrive on Tuesday, and as is always pleasant to see, they were bright and full of enthusiasm and faith.  After giving them the traditional welcome “Pain au Chocolat,” we all headed out on the train to give out a Book of Mormon and gathered at the church.  In fact, one of the missionaries, Elder Fonua, who arrived this week happens to be the brother of one of my friends at Stanford!  It was cool being able to meet him as well.  There were several funny instances with the bleus as well.  One of them was when one of the Elders, who had been selected to lead the missionaries in reciting “Our Objective” instructed the missionaries “Lavez-vous” instead of “Levez-vous” which translates to “wash yourselves” instead of “stand up.”  I love being with the bleus because it always brings me back to the moments when I was completely clueless when I first came to France.  I have really learnt so much since my first day, it is incredible to see.
One of my greatest highlights this week is my companion, Elder Hall, who has surely brightened up the mood here.  Elder Hall is a great ball of good energy, always full of great joy and who can find the good in almost any situation.  That definitely helped us a lot this last week when the week became a little more stressful with the planning that we need to do.  Though we were tired, we had plenty of laughs and fun.  While planning the mission council the thursday night before it was held, there was a point where I asked myself if we would ever be able to complete all that we had to do.  For the first time in a long time, I felt like once again, I was back in school, wondering if I would have to pull an all-nighter.  We definitely had to kneel down and pray to ask for some guidance from Heavenly Father because there we were lacking direction as to what we needed to present to the leaders at mission council – we had an idea, but it was not clear how to go about it in a way that would inspire and teach them effectively.  It was crucial that they would be able to translate that to the district leaders and ensure that the other missionaries received a correct idea of what they could do to improve themselves as better contacters.  It took a while but the inspiration came.  Prayer is something I am definitely grateful for.  While the road may be foggy, prayer is like the headlights that will help us find our way.
Have you thought to pray this week?
I know that God will answer all our prayers.  Because He answers mine all the time.
Love you all, and till next week!
Elder Lam

Week 6 Preparation Week: Miracle Week‏

A jam-packed week it was and another busier week it will be.  With transfers coming, President Babin, Elder Christiansen and I were heavily engaged reflecting on ways that we would be able to help the missionaries work more effectively and ensure that every missionary would be able to really experience all that our Heavenly Father would want them to experience during these short 2 years.  One of the greatest changes in the mission was the rearrangement of the zones to follow the current stake organisation.  As it says in the Bible, “no man can serve two masters,” and we wanted to ensure that the missionaries were able to follow the vision of the stakes in line with the objectives of the mission.  This rearrangement meant 13 zones instead of 11, and with many of the zone leaders finishing their missions this transfer, we had to identify 12 new zone leaders who would be able to motivate and inspire and most of all lead the missionaries and help them grow.  We took a lot of time to think about the missionaries, but we received the inspiration we needed and I know that the new Zone Leaders and Sister Training Leaders will really make a huge difference in the lives of the missionaries.

Besides working on transfers, the Mission Bureau was moved to a new nearby location as well.  We spent a good amount of time packing and unpacking, and for the first time in my mission, I spent an entire day in preparation day service clothes – jeans and a polo shirt.  It sure was weird but a great relief for my feet at the same time, being able to be in super comfy sports shoes.  It was a good break, but I prefer my white shirt, polished shoes, tie and suit.
Apart from all the craziness of what I call, Week 6 preparation week, we saw a lot of miracles.  A lot.
I was on exchanges with Elder Mattson in our area, and because we spent the entire day packing up the office, we were left with 2 hours that night to find.  We spent the first 20 mins taking the time to plan and see if we could pass by any people who we said we could come back, but eventually felt that we should just go outside and find some new people after calling and praying.  We stepped outside, completely clueless as to where we needed to be, and after talking to a few people, we decided to stop and pray again.  After opening our eyes from the prayer, we decided to head in the direction of consecration hill, even though it was no longer part of our companionship’s proselyting sectors.  Following what we felt to be good, we crossed the road, and out appeared a chinese couple.  Because chinese people are super rare here in Le Pecq, where I live, I knew that we had to talk to them.  We introduced ourselves in French, and then seeing their blank looks, I decided to switch to mandarin.  Upon hearing that we were missionaries, the chinese lady told her husband to drop his groceries because they needed to listen.  Eventually, after a few minutes, they surprised us by asking us if we would like join them for dinner.  Sadly, we had eaten, but we went to their home, taught them about prayer and the Book of Mormon, and fixed another appointment.  We went back for the second time last Saturday and they had already read the brochure on the Restoration we had given them.  They even asked us if they could be baptized!  Heavenly Father still gives us miracles in the little time that remains.
I also had the great opportunity to be part of ordination of one of my recent converts, Prisen, to the office of an Elder.  He received the Melchizedek Priesthood yesterday, and it was such an incredibly spiritual experience.  The blessing was so simple, and yet, there was not a dry eye after we took our hands of his head.  Prisen is going to be a great leader in the church one day, and is working fervently towards becoming a missionary in a couple of months.
I am so grateful for being able to be a missionary. For the changes in people’s lives that I have been able to be a part of.  There is truly no greater work than this – bringing them to a personal knowledge of their Savior Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father’s plan for us.
Till Next Week!
Elder Lam

Sharing the Miracles

Rennes, Angers and Tours – the zones that President and Soeur Babin, my companion and I went to visit this week.  It was such a privilege, once again, to meet the incredible people who I get to serve alongside and see their spirits shine with faith in the Lord’s work and a testimony of the happiness that the gospel brings to others.  Like the previous week, Elder Christiansen and I were able to do exchanges with the Zone leaders in each zone after their zone conferences and there we saw many miracles.

One in particular that I would like to share this week is the impact that missionary miracles have on others who are not missionaries.
On my exchange with Elder Brown, the zone leader in Angers, we had been running from appointment to appointment during the day, hoping to be able to make it for dinner just before our final meeting at night with one of the companionship’s new amis.  The appointment was set for 8pm at the chapel, and we had asked one of the young men in the ward, a 17 year old named Charles, to accompany us for the appointment.  Elder Brown had told me earlier that Charles was a stellar young man, with a great testimony, but who was also scared to his bones to talk to non-members about the gospel.  We had planned to meet him 15 minutes in advance to tell him what his role was – to testify and be himself.
We met Charles at 7:45pm, and told him his role, assuring him that he would be just fine.  He seemed to be a little more at peace as the minutes ticked closer to 8pm, but I could still see a little bit of hesitation and fear.
Well, 8pm came by, and as it comes to all missionaries, we got a call saying that the appointment had to be postponed.  So we were left with Charles, a young man, and 30 minutes to spare before the end of the night.  Elder Brown and I turned to each other, nodded and said, “Well Charles, today, we are going to take you out to talk to people on the street.  We’ll do the talking, and you can just observe.”  His eyes widened, with even more uncertainty, and replied, “Ok, as long as you don’t go to this house here, and the other house on that street, because my friends are there and I am afraid to talk to them about my beliefs.”  We agreed and headed out the chapel doors.  I whispered to Elder Brown, “We’re going to need a miracle to help inspire this kid.  But don’t worry, we will find one.”
We contacted the very first person that crossed our path outside the chapel, a french student who had just come from the university nearby.  We started talking to him about the purpose of life, and about how he found the motivation to continue every single day. He explained that he never really thought deeply about his purpose in life, besides doing well in school, and added that he never did because he never knew.  We were able to have a really good discussion with him on Heavenly Father and why we are here on earth, and taught him how he could pray to know his Heavenly Father.  We ended our discussion with a prayer, and parted separate ways.  All this was done with Charles just next to us.  25 minutes had already passed.
When we asked Charles what he thought, he couldn’t help exclaiming how cool it was that we were able to pray with someone and talk to them about the gospel with such facility.  He said that all throughout the conversation, he thought about what he could say, and as soon as he knew what to say, one of us would have said exactly what he was prompted to say.  He was truly edified by the experience and thanked us profusely for the chance to have been in a contact.
Charles was really changed by those 25 minutes.  His fears of talking to people about the gospel may have still been there, but he knew that it was possible.  The greatest testimony to me was the impact that the Spirit can have on giving others courage as we share miracles and personal experiences with others.  It only takes 25 minutes to change a young man’s perspective of missionary work, and it will only take an uplifiting experience to strengthen another for life.
How will you strengthen your fellowman this week?
I know Heavenly Father lives and this is His work.  I am grateful for the privilege to be a missionary, to bring happiness to others around me. #nogreaterworkthanthis
Elder Lam