Monday, February 23, 2015

"Attendez! Ils ont un caddie..." (Katie-Belgium)

What an AMAZING week that went by way too fast.

Let me start with church yesterday, and work my way backwards. Barbara came again! She just keeps telling us that she feels so good here, she just can't help coming back! And it was so wonderful. My dear little friend Irène gave the RS lesson. She's leaving on her mission the week after I leave here. The topic was the talk from last general conference about remember which way we face. She said something really neat that has become like a theme for this next week, I can just tell. We looked at the scripture in Matthew 22:37-39 that talks about the first and great commandment, which is to love God. The second is like unto it, love thy neighbor, as thyself. Then she had us read it backwards, so that the one that comes first is the last verse. If we are focusing all of our time on loving our neighbor, then we will be putting God first. Cool, huh? 

Also, I had to translate during Sacrament Meeting from French into English for two of the talks, and then from English to French for the other talk. Stressful...? Yep! :)

On Thursday we had our zone conference with the APs and President. Do you know what that means? I gave a dying testimony! AH! Actually, I'm not too freaked out about it. I'm not even sure it actually happened. However, I do remember feeling the spirit really strongly, and I realized how much music has been a part of my mission and how big of a part it has played in my conversion. I know that Christ really suffered for ME, and that He has and continues to strengthen me every single day. I reread the lyrics to my favorite hymn (they're beautiful in English and in French), and I understood just a little bit better how much my relationship with my Savior has grown because of His Atonement. Here are the words, they say it better than I can:

Where can I turn for peace? Where is my solace
When other sources cease to make me whole?
When with a wounded heart, anger, or malice,
I draw myself apart, Searching my soul?

Where, when my aching grows, Where, when I languish,
Where, in my need to know, where can I run?
Where is the quiet hand to calm my anguish?
Who, who can understand? He, only One.

He answers privately, Reaches my reaching
In my Gethsemane, Savior and Friend.
Gentle the peace He finds for my beseeching.
Constant He is and kind, Love without end.

I feel this every day. With every little miracle I see during lessons, with every person we talk to on the street I see His hand. Every morning when I wake up and see the sunrise, I know it's God. Each and every moment when the aching is pulled from my body, I know it's Him. And the coolest thing about it is that this is not just for now, nor is it simply for missionaries. This Atonement that Christ suffered that enables us to become better people, friends, family members, and disciples is for each one of us every single day of our lives. I am SO incredible grateful to know this. I can say with certainty that I know that He lives. I know it.

We had a dinner with a spanish family from our ward this week. Our spiritual thought focused on the three things that we can do each day to bring us closer to Christ. We each went around, sharing our feelings about the gospel or prayer or Christ. The night ended with tears and warmth and SO MUCH happiness. I am so grateful for members and people who are examples to me of people succeeding to live the gospel. I have people tell me every day that it's just too hard; I can't possibly live the law of chastity AND keep from smoking! It's too hard. It's not worth it. The church is too far. It's too cold. I CAN'T DO IT.

But you can. Because people do. We can live it, and it is the very act of living it that makes us strong. That is what the Atonement does. That is what it is for. 

Just to end this email, I would like to share a little story from earlier today. We are walking down the street with our little grocery caddie (on wheels, normally for old people but hey, stuff is heavy!) when we stop at a light. Suddenly I hear some voices behind us speaking in French, trying to decide if they want to ask us a question or if we're tourists (we were speaking in English). Suddenly, the man goes, "Attendez! Ils ont un caddie." (Wait! They have a caddie.) He then turned and ask me a question about a street name, which we answered and then went along our way. Our caddie made it obvious that we live in Brussels. No one else just here for the week would have a caddie to go grocery shopping. 

I hope that it is as obvious that I live and love the gospel of Jesus Christ as it is that I am a Brussels resident. I want everyone to know that I know that the Atonement heals broken lives! Sometimes it's not quite as obvious as a simple caddie that we carry around with us everywhere we go. But it can be. It totally can be. :)

I love you all! 
Gros bisous,
Sœur Katie Pettingill
Sharing her 'dying' testimony

Thanks to Sœur Nielson's mom who sent us little valentine's chocolates :)

Week 3 (Jacob-Limoges)

Well this week was super great! After staying in an apartment last week in BDX for zone training where 3 out of the 4 other missionaries either had gastro or a cold, we were doomed to catch the wave and get sick. In any case, our luck was high and only I caught the lesser cold and Elder Steinbock up until now has been sickness free! In any case, that cold slowed me down just a little in the beginning of the week and then Sr Povar sent me the pharmacie and I bought a yummy eucalyptus throat spray. Apparently this cold has been very hard on the energy levels of a lot of missionaries and many have even gotten bronchitis so I have been taking safety measures and I am feeling a lot better now!

Other than that we had a good week! We went to Bordeaux on Friday morning for Zone conference with President! We talked all about our families and the people in our family. He is really pushing that we use genealogy more and so we really focused on that! Some great points were, do we know what our great grandparents did and who they were? What do we want our grandchildren to remember about us? Then we talked about a lot of the missionaries ancestors and what they were doing. We have really been focusing on the spirit of Elijah and how powerful it is in our lives and how much it can help push forward the gospel!!

I saw Elder Davis at Zone conference so that was fun! President gave me a temple recommend interview during the conference and it was super funny. I asked him and the assistants got up to speak, and then he pulled me to the back and asked me all the questions while they were presenting, then took my old recommend, wrote me up a new one and gave it to me in like 5 minutes!! Talk about efficient! The best part about zone conference was that President had us watch "Meet The Mormons" afterwards!! It was so good! We all enjoyed it very much!! It was very well done and I would love to show it some non member friends! 

We made Damien, this member, the speculoos cheesecake (which if we can find the right ingredients I will gladly make back at home!) for his birthday! He got so sparced and shared with his friends! He asked for the address of the church as well so hopefully he will bring some friends to church (even if they are just motivated by possible food).

Last night we went over to Jacques' house because it was his daughters birthday so we passed by! We taught Jacques while we were at it and then later his ex-wife came over to grab something and basically she sat down and then just started rapid firing questions and we gave her a Book of Mormon so that was super cool!!! She seemed very interested and very open as well!! Fun experience! Jacques is Jewish so we are going to the Synagogue with him on Friday so that will be a fun new experience as well!

Well I love you all!! I love Limoges! Have a great week!

Elder Pettingill
Limoges District
Elder Davis and Elder Pettingill reunited

Monday, February 16, 2015

Week 2 (Jacob-Limoges)

Well this week went really quick!! It was very exciting and we had lots of fun!! 
We had many miracles!! 

Honoré- Wonderful guy that they have been teaching for a while now! He came to Family Home Evening on Monday night so that was very fun!! We had a great evening with several members and amis!

On Tuesday we did a lot of contacting and visited several members which was fun! We had a crazy miracle that day! Essentially we were on the bus and this man comes and sits down next to us and we started talking and then eventually we got off and he invited us to come to his house and share a message! It was super awesome! He was super cool and hopefully we will be able to pass by and see him again. We had a lot of other small miracles like stopping Vena, who had 4 kids around him when we tried to talk to him. It was obvious that he was busy so he gave us his number and said to call later so we could see him! We also went to pass Jie Zhou, a Chinese student who asked for a Book of Mormon a couple of weeks ago and then we passed by to check up on her! Her french has improved immensely and she said we could pass by another time! There have just been tons and tons of little experiences in the last week just like that! 

On Friday we went to Bordeaux and then Saturday had zone training, That was super fun because we are now going to be focusing a lot on family history work! It has been to implement some of the Family History tools that we have more fully! Just the other day we decided to talk to a man on the road about his family and about the experiences that he has had! The spirit got so strong and he fixed a RDV promptly!! So great!! I love the Lord!!  

Yesterday we had the occasion to go and give the sacrament to a member family, where the mom has been out of commission for the last couple of weeks and now is starting to feel better! It was so awesome to see the family spending time together and then obviously the very great moment of silence while this mother was able to renew her covenants. 

Well I love Limoges!! It is so great here!!

Love Elder Pettingill
View from desk

Valentine's Day and then some...(Katie-Belgium)

Well here I am, writing my last email to all of my favorite people. ..

No I'm just kidding. I have like a bunch left, so stop freaking out. :) Basically this week went by SO FAST...ohlala...I can only really remember the last 2 days which I guess covers most of the exciting stuff, so that should be sufficient. Maybe I can tell you about how our Valentine's Day went, no?

The day started off with me trying my hand at creativity by creating heartshaped pancakes for breakfast. They surprisingly turned out pretty good! So I made those as a surprise while soeur Nielson was in the shower, and then she surprised me while I was in the shower by finding some battery operated candles and getting out plates and juice and turning off all the lights. So, candlelit, heart-shaped pancake breakfast it was. Couldn't have asked for anything better! Although I assure you, the day actually did get better.

We had a baptism! Like, not WE we, but our ward did! Cutie little Sigrid who turned 8 and got baptized all on the same day which also happened to be Valentine's Day. Cool, huh? And I had the wonderful opportunity to give a talk on baptism. I loved it because I got to speak about one of my very favorite church-produced songs, the one that we all know as "I Like to Look for Rainbows" but what is actually called "When I am Baptized." Talking about what the earth is like after rain made me all warm and fuzzy inside because then I got to see the same thing happen to one of my very favorite people, Sigrid. It was a beautiful baptism, made even sweeter because we had to fill the font with water heated on the stove and taken from all of the sinks in the building because it wasn't filling as fast as they thought it would. So much excitement. It also strengthened my testimony of how we, in the Church, ALWAYS start late. Maybe it's especially here, but we were kind of worried because we didn't get there until like 10 minutes before it was supposed to start. Shouldn't have worried because the guy with the programs didn't even get there until AN HOUR after, which was time we spent taking pictures and filling the font. So happy day!

The day continued with a party with our spanish group. This consisted of us frantically making brownies for a last-minute dessert, getting there an hour late and just in time for it to start, jumping around in garbage sacs in a race to drink coke and eat bread, reading embarrassing love letters to ward members (we thought it was just supposed to be for a random person we looked up to...apparently it was more for, you know, couples. AWKWARD.), eating delicious food, and watching awkwardly as all of the couples went and danced. I love them so much. And I think we sealed the deal when we learned "Hasta mañana," and then went around saying it to all of the spanish speakers. They all love us now. :)

The next day was SUNDAY. And guess who came back to church? Barbara. Barbara is our muslim converted ami who is looking back into christianity. She is amazing. I think she pays better attention in church than I do...I need to get on that. She just isn't afraid to comment or read scriptures and LOVES the relief society lessons. Then during the Sacrament, during which the Spirit was so strong, my comp noticed her crying silently. After the meetings were over, we asked her what she thought of church and this is what she told us, "You know Sisters, today I felt the love of God." She then just looked at us with glistening eyes: "I haven't felt that love in years." 

So many feelings went through me as she said those words. Sadness that she hasn't felt so loved in so long, wonder as I realized the power of the Spirit, and complete joy that she was able to feel exactly how Heavenly Father feels about her. We should all get the opportunity to feel like that every single day. I am so excited to see her again this week (with our cute soon-to-be-missionary member who leaves the week after me!). I just love being a missionary. What a good week. :)

Je vous aime tous (I love you all)!

Sœur Katie Pettingill
on exchanges I met the coolest nouvelle convertie (new convert)! she's the best :)
our pancakes. 
the Atomium with our favorite Soeur Steenblik. She just had to make us get out to take a picture. It's an atom enlarged 150 million times. Right down the street from the church :)

Monday, February 9, 2015

Brussel Sprouts...who woulda thought? (Katie-Belgium)

This week I reached 17 months as a missionary. Woah.

But anyway, as it was transfer week, I should probably just make sure that all of you know that nothing huge happened here. Just chillin' in Brussels with my very last companion. She's holding up alright so far. :) As far as everything else goes, I feel like we didn't get to spend quite as much time doing good, hard missionary work as we wanted. The beginning of the week started with a trip to Paris for my dear companion's legality! So that was pretty fun. We also "got" to go to Paris on Friday as well for mission council! People often ask if I'm sad that I never got to serve in Paris, to which I just laugh and reflect on all of the many, many, MANY times I went there. I've seen pretty much everything, know enough to get myself around where I need to go, AND don't have to deal with the pain of serving a crazy, non-stop ville like Paris. I'm so blessed. :) 

As far as actual missionary work goes, we did have a lot of really neat tender mercies that I felt like were geared perfectly to me and exactly what I needed (sorry companion). We met with Landrine and Nicolas, and this time Nicolas (because he had promised the last time that he would say the prayer) said the opening prayer. It brought tears to my eyes it was so incredibly beautiful. It has been a long time since I've heard such a sincere prayer of blessing and forgiveness. It was really perfect because I don't know what it was about that day, but I had been feeling very...weak. I was doing everything wrong. And then along comes Nicolas with this absolutely incredible, heart-felt prayer and it was as if the Atonement became real again. And it is so real. 

Another cool/fun thing that happened this week is Irene! We actually had a first rdv with her during the afternoon, and tried really hard to change it because it turned out that we would be in Paris, except that her phone was broken. Oops. So we passed by later, and she was there thankfully! She had literally waited us to come that afternoon for like an hour and a half until she finally gave up. She has been SO prepared by the Lord to receive His gospel. We were able to teach her about the Book of Mormon, promising to get her one in Portuguese, and there was such a sweet spirit there testifying both of its truthfulness and of her need and desire for peace. She ended up giving us these beautiful collector's spoons as "a gift that we could always remember her by," and then ended up coming to our ward soirée familiale a couple of days later (yes, our ward has activities now ;) ). 

Here is some exciting miracle news: the little girl who we've been teaching (her name is Sigrid and her mom is mostly active and her dad is not a member) turns 8 on Saturday and she received permission from her dad to get baptized! Her mom was so cute and excited to tell us. Valentine's day will forever be a triple holiday for her now. Her birthday, her baptism day, and well, Valentine's day!

Oh hey we taught our weed-smoking friend, Camille, again! And guess what? She stopped smoking and drinking (but not weed though...haha). And she decided that praying before we do anything is a really good idea and wants to start doing it too. Even though she doesn't believe in God. She just cracks me up. She even taught the plan of salvation to all of her friends! The next step is for her to actually recognize that God exists and that Him being a part of her life would be a really good idea. :)

On Saturday we ate with our favorite philippian family, and guess what they fed us? BRUSSEL SPROUTS. Turns out they actually originated here. In Brussels. And although I've never actually eaten them in the states, I've heard that as a general rule they aren't very tasty. These ones were delicious! It's probably because they came from the city itself. I should've taken a time for sure. I think they might be my new favorite vegetable. 

Also, guess who came to church on Sunday for the first time in a LONG time? Nelly and her daughter Priscilla! Both inactive, they made it to church, and it was so cute seeing all of the ward members greet them with so much love. So many tender mercies. And as crazy as everything was with traveling, all of the YEARS of planning that we had to do, being at the gare on transfer day, and everything else--I am so happy. 

I love being a missionary. 

Gros bisous and have a marvelous week!
Soeur Katie Pettingill
Isn't this beautiful? I love God.
We got lunch in Paris. #3timestoparisin8days
our spoons from Irene!

Week 1 (Jacob-Limoges)

Well this week was obviously an interesting one; we were already off by one day but had a great time getting to know the city! It is amazing to be back in the heart of France because everyone here is so french!! The best part is being back in the part of France where it is a challenge to talk to people. Often we say that in the south everyone very easy and open to talk, but you can only create a relationship that is skin deep. Here everyone is like a coconut! Sometimes you feel like you have "smash them with a hammer" in order to open them up (but I guess it is even harder as missionaries because of the misconceived ideas about us and why we are here makes people more like a rock than a coconut!) But it has been awesome because the nice thing about the people here is that as soon as you have opened them up they are just the nicest and most loving people ever! Its becomes a game to see who can break the coconut open first! I love the gospel so much and I love the people here so much! They are all just so awesome!! 

The nice thing is that we already have some wonderful people with whom we are working! We have a great tahitian family that is so cool! The mother is Marie with her daughter Mareva and son Ocean. Awesome family! Mareva is really into the gospel and has been activily participating in Young womens. She has a huge test right now so she has been pretty busy preparing, but Friday night we made a cheescake (speculoos crust and so GOOD!!!!) and brought it over and had a great night! 

We are also working with the Jewish (what a coincidence) husband of a member that is doing really well! Ever since Elder Steinbock got here he has been more engaged in the gospel than ever. He has been coming to church for the last many years, but apparently never really got attached to the Gospel! We had the most amazing lesson ever on Saturday! Essentially I learned that Elder Steinbock is an amazing teacher! He taught perfectly to Jacque's needs and asked amazing questions!! I felt like a bleu (new missionary) during the lesson because basically Elder Steinbock took the lead and just taught so well! Obviously we did it in English or otherwise it may not have been the same! 

In any case, the funnest part of the week was giving my presenting testimony in the ward yesterday.. Essentially the Bishop called saturday and told me that the High Councilman was no longer coming and that Sister Jacobson and I now had a good 15 minutes each to present.. When Sunday rolled around it turned out that the other speaker had also canceled and so now it was just Sr Jacobson and I that were speaking. When the sacrament ended we had about 40 minutes. Luckily the bishoped called an audible and had all the youth (all 3 of them) come up and talk about the activity that had happened on Saturday in Bordeaux. They took up a good 5 minutes and then Sr Jacobson gave a 5 minute presentation, so we sung an intermediary hymn and then I went, stretching on for about 15 minutes and then Bishop organized (from the stand while I was speaking) 3 testimonies. In the end it all turned out well but I am glad I was able to get all of the up front details out of the way from the pulpit so now everyone knows me really well! At the end of church we had a ward meal so that was a great warm welcome!! I also got a very warm welcome yesterday at church from all the friends of Stephanie Christensen and Sister Murdock as well!

I am so grateful to be a missionary. I am so grateful for the opportunity and blessing of being in Limoges! It is so wonderful! I love the Lord and am so grateful that I can feel the love that our Heavenly Father has for me everyday! I know that if we want to feel the spirit, all we need to do it get on our knees and pray. Anytime we do something that the savior taught or did we are going to feel the spirit and the blessings that come will be peace and joy! I am so grateful for everytime I get rejected by someone on the bus or on the road because I get a chance to be different and love more!!
Matt 5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
45. That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
46. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
47. And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
48. Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Je vous aime tous! (I love you all!)

à trés bientôt!!! (until very soon!!!)
Elder Pettingill
With Elder Thompson

with Elder Steinbock

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Limoges! (Jacob-Limoges)

Well I guess I may have finally found a spot where you don't have some kind of connection in order to know everything that is going on in the mission. I guess we will find out Sunday if there are any american couples or anyone that is on the mission facebook page all the time. : ) In any case I am super excited to be in Limoges because now I am only an hour away from Brive so that will be really fun!  (if I ever get down there) In any case the cities in the district are Poitiers, Limoges and Angoulême. Out of the 4 equipes, there is one equipe of Elders, (that is myself and Elder Steinbock my new comp!) Elder Steinbock is super cool! He is a very new missionary and also a very new member. His family is Jewish, Russian origin, and just got baptised a year and a half ago, Sept 2013 (since I have been on my mission!!) He loves the Book of Mormon, plays many instruments such as clarinet, guitar, piano, and others. He also can read and write in Hebrew so I think that might be the focus of our language studies! He studied only the Old Testament when he was younger, so I don't have to worry about him wasting days and days studying that in order to get a stronger testimony!

As far as our last week in Montpellier went, well Rossil did end up getting baptised! That was super fun! He was so happy which was great to see! It went well considering everyone showed up to the baptismal service right at 10h30 (including Rossil) but it all turned out great because the font was filling up so we didn't start until about 10h45. The water was apparently super cold, even though it came out steaming! The confirmation was also great, which happened on Sunday! It was a very fun experience and the best part was seeing how happy Rossil was! 

Other than that our week went by pretty quickly. On Thursday we had a great day and worked hard, until dinner when we took a nice pain au chocolat dinner break. We sat down on a bench to eat that and while we were eating this guy comes and sits down with the same idea in mind, I think. It was so funny because we said hi and then 30 minutes later we had taught him the retab, given him a Book of Mormon and fixed another RDV! It was so awesome! He was super cool! We went the next night and taught him again, then Saturday morning he came to the baptism! He was great and hopefully Elder Thompson and Elder Erramouspe will be able to work with him a little more and help him develop a better relationship with our heavenly father!


I LOVE you!!
Elder Pettingill
Montpellier missionaries before transfers

Monday, February 2, 2015

'don't live your life without miracles' (Katie-Belgium)

- Elder Neil L. Andersen

This has been my motto this entire week. It really works.

Let me share with you a couple of them. I've really been in a pondering mode lately, and I think it's because this marks the start of my 13th transfer. My final one. With 6 weeks left, I've been really thinking about what I can do to give everything I have to Brussels. I was blessed to have this transfer start with fast sunday! So we fasted. And prayed. A lot. And as I was thinking and praying and pondering, I had the feeling to fast for member missionary work. In our poor ward with no bishop, no DMP, no RS president, it's been kind of hard to work well with the members. It's been all on us. But I felt that as long as I do my best to rely on the Lord and let HIM help us, we will be able to work with the members, and WELL. 

This brings us to Sacrament Meeting. I walk in, and I'm a little startled to see our ENTIRE stake presidency on the all of our spanish members joining in the meeting (strange because we just had spanish sacrament meeting a couple of hours ago). So i sit down, a little puzzled, and just wait. I had an inkling of a thought of why this would be, but I pushed it away, not wanting to be disappointed. Then Président Kahne stands up to do some announcements...


And a first counselor. And a relief society president. I was in tears, but mostly at the reaction of the members. The spirit in the room was so warm and happy and there were tears in so many eyes...almost 8 months without a bishop will do that to a person. What a miracle, and what a direct answer to my prayers to be able to work better with the members. I have no doubt that up there will be the call of a DMP. Amazing. God is so good.

Also, our muslim amie came to church. She actually was christian, then she converted muslim, and now she's confused. So she found the church website and referred herself to us! And then she came to church! The neat thing was that during relief society, the lesson was on President Uchtdorf's talk, "Living the gospel joyful" which was absolutely perfect for her. She just needed to know how much she is loved. Then during our gospel principles class for the amis, we talked about free agency and how we have the ability to choose. Also perfect for her as she is really struggling with whether she should just please her muslim husband or change back to christianity. THEN we had the super special spiritual sacrament meeting, and one member got up and testified of how he knows that Christ is leading this church, not the bishop. But that the bishop is inspired through was so good. Church was perfect for her. Her name is Barbara. She is amazing. :)

And one last thing...this week we had the amazing opportunity to go to a special soeurs' conference in Paris! All 70 of us united together for one conference. It was incredible. And we had the lovely opportunity, along with the 3 other STL équipes, to give a training! In front of everybody! Actually it was pretty cool because soeur Babin had us ask all of the soeurs what subjects they wanted talked about, and the four that got picked were competition between companions, communication, physical health, and the importance of prayer. We were so blessed to be able to talk about PRAYER, and the Lord really helped us a lot. He is so good. We prepared and prepared and prepared, and then just trusted. And He followed through. We all ended up having a beautiful, spiritual moment filled with tears (of course. It was a soeurs' conference afterall). And the food was REALLY good and completely dairy-free! 

Miracles, miracles, and more miracles. I just can't get enough. :)

Soeur Katie Pettingill

From Katie's mom: Katie has developed a sensitivity to dairy (among other things) on her mission and has been having terrible stomach aches. So she has cut out all dairy, sugar and red meat for her last six weeks. Yikes!
People just keep giving us things I can't eat...but are SO good
My dying travel buddy...came in together, but don't get to go home together. sad day!
Transfer numbah 12
The picture we used in our formation
My beautiful friend :)
Beautiful (and so belgian!) street in Brussels