Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Week 2 Transfer 2 (Jacob-Limoges)

Well this last week was great! We were very well nourished by President in the beginning of the week in Lyon. Some of the thoughts he shared were centered on the trust that we put in our Heavenly Father. He used Luke 8 and other scriptures to develop the idea that all that the Lord truly asks us to do in this life is to trust him. I guess that is what faith is. So in District Meeting we incorporated this idea in and watched a great mormon message together on Courage. It shows the story of Esther and it was super great!

A really cool miracle, Sunday we had Honoré show up to church without even warning us. It was awesome! Then afterward, we were hopping into ward choir because they have like 2 men, but then Bishop stopped me and asked me to come to his office. In there was Eric, the 17 yr old son of a less active. Bishop introduce us to each other and then said. "Elder Pettingill, Eric veut se faire baptiser" (Eric wants to get baptized.) It was crazy as well because Eric had only been coming back to church since a couple weeks, and came to church all by himself this week. I guess it is just incredible to see the desire in such a young kid who has a lot of other influences in his life. 

For iPads, essentially what is going to happen (and this is when I cringe slightly because of the experience of the last 2 weeks on trains--I think I hit a mission record on trains with a final total of 52 hours in 15 days...) Anyway, the whole mission is going to Lyon on April 25, so we will take the 12 hour train ride the day before. That is the last weekend of the transfer and Elder Russel M. Nelson will be there with other 70s to give us iPads and I imagine lots of instruction. Then that night we will all take buses home. We will get into Bordeaux around midnight and then go to church in Bordeaux. We will also receive transfer calls a week early this transfer so we will know the 17th or something like that. They haven't told us much more than that.

I am so grateful for the Savior and I know that if we follow his words we will be happy.
I love you all so much!!

Elder Pettingill

Monday, March 23, 2015

Week 1 (Jacob-Limoges)

Well this week went really really fast!!! I guess I will start by describing the first half of the week starting with last Sunday. We left Church Sunday afternoon at 13H and took 7 hours of trains to Montpellier where we stayed the night over. Then Monday I got to stay in Montpelier until 5 pm seeing many of my favorite missionaries and hanging out with Elder Erramouspe. Then Monday night Elder Barnes and I headed to Lyon. On Tuesday Elder Zenger and I, along with Elder Wilgose decided to go contacting all day in a big place called Bellecour. So we went to the store, bought some snacks, and grabbed a streetboard and a couple chairs and then contacted all the way until 6 pm when we went to pass a less active and then went out to eat as trainers. We ate at a place called Master Tacos, and Elder Wilgose and I ordered number 5's which are very large. It was great and then we slept over. Wednesday, we went to the training trainer's training. Later I picked up Elder Robards. We then spent the next couple days in Lyon and on trains. By the end of this week I will have been on a train for over 40 hours in 1 and 1/2 weeks. That is what I did.

Cool miracle. We found this Bulgarian guy a couple weeks ago and passed him with a Book of Mormon in Bulgarian. We checked up on him Friday and he had read up until the end of Mosiah. Amazing to see his faith and love for the Lord. He then walked the 30 minutes to church on Sunday all by himself, and got there before we did!!! He stayed the whole time!!! Amazing!!

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

Elder Pettingill

Monday, March 16, 2015

Through the unlikely, He accomplishes the impossible (Katie-Belgium)

Something that I love saying to our amis and members when they share a special experience that they had goes like this: "Wow! Le Seigneur, Il est trop fort!" (Wow! The Lord, He is too strong!) And it's so true.

This has been one of the most special, sacred weeks of my entire life. I grew this week. I changed. And I loved every moment.

The precious moments spent went from an amazing baptismal date set through the power of spirit to tears shed as a sweet spirit filled the room to a simple testimony shared on the street. I cried tears of joy this week. We talked to everybody, sharing all that we have to share. We ate WAY too much food with more members than I care to count. We had many, many, MANY spiritual experiences that I will treasure for the rest of my life. This week was truly a miraculous week. Unfortunately, I won't be able to share all of these experiences in detail...maybe some other time? But a recent theme has been taking over my life that I would love to talk about. In fact, this theme has taken over our entire mission. 


On Saturday, we received the news that three of our four Louise missionary équipes  would be leaving Bruxelles, including the Louise STLs. Actually, our entire mission is experiencing extreme changes like this, including changing of zones and STL équipes and ZL équipes and the Assistants. We still have our mission president though! Hah. Soeur Nielson is heading back to her bleuville, Villeneuve d'Ascq (practically next door!), to whitewash in the new STL équipe and I will be heading...well, home. Duh. During the entire day of Saturday we couldn't figure out what to do first--we went and visited the people that we had rdvs with, then ate pizza and fixed up our area book for the one équipe that will be staying here, then ate some reeses cookies (don't even question it, it was justified freaking out) and went to some more rdvs. Our ward is heartbroken. Our amies are crushed. Our apartment is a mess. Can we say stress? 

But do you know what I have had the opportunity to remember during all of this? Le Seigneur, Il est trop fort. I know that the Lord has inspired this, although trusting this incredible change has been trying. Yesterday during church I had the opportunity to testify twice to these amazing members that I love so much. I was able to testify of the Lord's love and inspiration. I was able to express my love and my absolute conviction that I KNOW that this will work out. I know that this is for a reason. I have spent 18 months and 1 week and, like, 5 days (or something) watching things work out. I have seen God's hand, and I know that this is still His hand. Il est trop fort.

It was also ridiculous because suddenly the change that I am going through in a couple of days began not just affecting me, but tons of missionaries as well. There is a quote that I read in one of the conference talks from last conference that I love. It says,

Change is what makes us better. Change is what allows us to become closer and more like Christ. Change pushes us to our ultimate goal of returning to live with Heavenly Father. Apparently, change is a good thing. :) So as I've dealt with no longer having a planner, and trying to pack all my stuff/make sure it all ways the right amount, and not participating in weekly planning, and now supporting my dear companion who's life is about to change about as drastically as mine, (okay, not really, but still.) I've been able to see that this is all for a reason. It will all turn out okay. You see, the Lord tends to use His most unlikely to accomplish the most impossible. He did it with me. He does it every day. 

I am strengthened through Christ. A really long time ago, a missionary named Ammon talked about one extremely important lesson that he learned during his mission, one that I would like to echo as having learned during mine: "Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak: therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in His strength I can do all things." I have seen miracles. I know that He is there. I love my mission, and I will forever cherish every moment, but most importantly, I know who I can rely on. And I know that if I do, I will never fail.

I love you all. For one final time I send you my greatest love and the most GROS BISOUS I can muster!

Sœur Katie Pettingill
our amie made us hummus

apparently soeur Nielson thought it was okay to shoot me...man...

Week 6 (Jacob-Limoges)

Well this week was incredible. Silvana is doing very very well and we taught her several times with members this week and then she came to Church for all three hours! We went at 8 again and she wasn't ready so we played the guitar and sang for her while she finished! We caught a bus at 9h15 and got the church in time for the second half of relief society (which unfortunately we did not attend with her!) Either way it went well and then we all caught a train (Sr Jacobsen, Cherry, Elder Steinbock and I) at 1 o'clock so we had members drive us to the gare (train station) to catch that. We went to Toulouse and then to Montpellier and it was super fun. We stayed with Elder Thompson (who is going to Perigueux DL, in BDX zone as well!) and Elder Erramouspe! It was fun to be back in Montpellier and to catch up with the two of them! Things have really gone well. Apparently the crazy miracle ami Bernard that Elder Thompson and I found came to Church twice now and is really progressing well. Rossil is still going strong so that is awesome as well! I am going to Lyon tonight and then I will get my bleu on Wednesday.

Well I have to go!! I didn't have much time this week!!

Love Elder Pettingill

Jacob has had permission to email me during the week about things to prepare for attending school this summer and fall. He emailed me Friday, after they had received their transfer news, to ask a question about housing. He didn't say anything about the transfer news. I asked him why he didn't just tell me his news since he was emailing anyway. I was actually teasing him, but his response shows how seriously he takes being obedient. Rich and I were impressed.

Well already we are not supposed to use the computer except for Pdays but because President had given me permission to talk to you during the week to figure out BYU stuff and so I felt excused in sending you info on that but I wasn't sure about the transfer stuff. Either way right now I am in Montpellier doing emails with Elder Steinbock. He is heading to TOULON!! and I am heading to Lyon to pick up a bleu (new missionary) so that will be really fun! I will most likely be there until Thursday so basically it is going to go quickly. Also something that we found is that we are getting iPads this transfer at the very end of the transfer and so they are having all district leaders go to Mission Leadership council next week... SO I am not sure what is going to happen. I may go to Lyon for 2 weeks or something... But either way voila... 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Becoming Christ (Katie-Belgium)

What is your greatest fear?

This question was asked during district meeting, and it has really been on my mind during the week. What is my greatest fear? I mean, I have plenty of fears of inadequacy, imperfection, change, sufficiency, and more. But my greatest?

The coolest thing about this district meeting training was that the theme was Christ-like attributes. After this question was asked, the question that followed was, "And which Christ-like attribute will it take to overcome it?" Good question. And every single day, as I've tried to answer these two questions, I've been given opportunities to learn from others and their Christ-like examples. We met this lady named Lenuta (pronounced "la-noo-tsa") this week. She has been a member for about 5 years, but recently moved to Bruxelles for her husband's job. They've lived here for 6 months. Back in Romania, she was extremely active and LOVED the missionaries and the church. When she got here, even after all of her best efforts, she could not find the church anywhere. It wasn't until she contacted someone that she knows from the States and they sent us a coordonnée (referral) that she got a visit from the missionaries--6 months later. 

This lady is a miracle. She is the kindest, most giving, most humble human that I have ever met. She saw us (me and the bleue who I was on exchanges with) and just held us, gently sobbing. She missed the church. She missed her family that she had had with the church. She missed the Sacrament. She missed her calling. She understands and accepts and appreciates every aspect that the gospel has to give, including partaking of the Sacrament and regular church attendance. Did I mention that Lenuta has read the Book of Mormon 10 times? Yeah. I know. She is truly Christ-like.

We saw Barbara three times this week. Once in a lesson, once at our activity on Saturday night, and once at church. Each time I talk with her, her smile is a little bit brighter. Each time she makes an effort to come to church or whatever it may be, she makes an enormous sacrifice. Yet there is something that draws her here. She is taking baby steps, and is slowly becoming more and more like Christ as she becomes kinder, gentler, more willing to sacrifice, more willing to love and to be loved. It's such a wonderful, amazing thing to watch.

I went on two incredible exchanges with the soeurs from Liège this week. Now THEY are examples of beautiful, Christ-like people. Both bleues that I had the chance to be with were examples to me as they served and smiled and sincerely shared their testimonies with everyone. For district meeting, we decided to make cinnamon rolls. Cute little Soeur Chisholm willingly and happily made the whole thing (with my help) because the other soeurs got home way late. Soeur Clements showed me what it is like to be truly patient as she works at her french and contacting and lessons and the light that is in her eyes is beautiful. I love missionaries! I love how Heavenly Father constantly puts wonderful Christ-like examples all around me so that I can become better. 

We had a soirée familiale (family home evening) with all of our amis (and the elders) on Saturday, and I got to see even MORE endless examples of charity and goodness! Whether it was the members that came and shared all that they had, the other missionaries preparing this or that, or my companion making sure that every little thing was in place, I was amazed. I am amazed. I want to be a better person. The gospel really is a gospel of change and improvement. People are incredible. The gospel is incredible. What an incredible week.

Once last thing that I think is a hilarious tender mercy, but soeur Nielson is leaning more towards undeserving happenstance. The APs sent us a text a couple of days ago reminding us about daylight savings! We freaked out a little bit. Not an hour of sleep lost! NOOOO! And it just kind of came out of the blue, no warning from members or people. Nothing. And I just had this itching feeling that that couldn't be right. So we texted to make sure, and they responded with an apology, saying that they had gotten it mixed up with the States. Our daylight savings here isn't for a couple of more weeks. Well...originally I thought that maybe I was going to have to go through it twice. But now, with this discovery, I found out that I don't have to do it all! I missed it in the States because I was here, but I'm going home next week so I'll miss it here as well. Huh. Funny how that happens, no? :)

Have a wonderful week! I love you all!
Gros bisous,
Soeur Katie Pettingill

Hey! (Jacob-Limoges)

This week has been absolutely wonderful! It has had its down and ups but it was incredible! My
Hebrew has been slacking this week so I will have less commentary about all that!

1st experience: Sylvana, SO the italian lady that we found last week turned out to be very humble and ready to be taught and we had some wonderful success teaching her the gospel this week. The funny thing is that she has an italian accent and so we could never understand what her name was so we thought the first time that she said Silviano (obviously a male name so we asked later and we got Silvian, then later we finally got the full and real name Sylvana). Anyway we had a great several rdvs with her. She is really going through a hard time and the Gospel is going ot help her so much! She was so ready to accept baptism because all she wants right now is to change and become a new person, so obviously she was ready to try anything. So we fixed a date for the 4 of April which is general conference so we may move it off. In any case getting her to church was the most exhilarating feeling because we just knew how much it would help her and then when we passed she had a very small perspective and had forgotten. But with lots of LOVE, PATIENCE, and PERSISTANCE we succeeded and she came. We got there an hour late but it was still amazing! 
After church we had a ward meal which was absolutely amazing! Elder Steinbock tried to make the chocolate cake from scratch twice again and failed so he had me try and luckily it worked because all the members loved it! 

Another fun thing was district meeting; the sisters loved it and said it was the funnest, most balanced meeting they have had. All of the Relief Society decorations went well. I used a picture that grandma Jeri had sent me and had some flowers for the centerpiece. There were a pack of 30 twix bars on sale so I bought those and used them as bait to get the sisters to talk whenever there was awkward silence. We talked all about our families and it just felt so good! Everyone was just feeling so happy talking about their families! I brought a box of relief society tissues and it was great because Sr Bridgwater was sick, but as well everyone was feeling so good that two sisters cried during the meeting. That felt good because I knew that I had found the perfect balance between fun and spiritual. That is a good feeling knowing that not only can we have fun and feel the spirit but that it should be like that. I felt so strongly the support and love of our Heavenly Father. I know He is there and I know He guides our lives.

Another great experience was that our proprietaire (landlady) invited us over for lunch with her family! It was so fun! They live in a little village outside of Limoges. She has lots of little grand children and it was very fun! It felt like our family! They fed us really yummy steak (another specialty of Limoges) that was very yummy, along with other yummy plates! Then we did a tour of their village (it only took about 15 minutes.... ) and then we headed home, stopping in at a store where all the products are made in the region. We bought home made yogurts that were very good. It was so fun to be able to teach the gospel in our conversations with her, since she is not a member, and to be able to influence those kids who are going to see missionaries someday and then want to know what it is that we do!

We also ate at a non-member families house Vincent and Gaëlle with the sisters. They fed us Raclette and it was sooo good! 

I guess I should throw in as well that on Thursday we went over to Jacques' house and he taught us (mostly me) Hebrew and then we taught him. I was able to read pretty fluently (not understanding....) so that was fun. He is  coming along but the best part was that at the end some other people showed up who are learning Hebrew as well and so we got to sparc them and introduce them to the Gospel a little. One lady has Jewish roots but is Christian at the base.

Voilà ma semaine! (So there is my week!) C'était une preuve que notre Père Céleste se soucie de nous. (It was proof that our Heavenly Father worries about us.) Je vous aime tous! (I love you all!)

à Bientôt! Ciao!

Elder Pettingill

Soap bars they carved for district meeting for each person
Getting ready for district meeting
the centerpiece

I think this was from dinner with the sister missionaries and a member family

Monday, March 2, 2015

Week 4 (Jacob-Limoges)

Well this week was a very quick week and was full of miracles! We set a goal as a district to teach 20 lessons each, so we obviously were all trying our hardest! Luckily we had lots of help!

One really fun experience was going to the Jewish Synagogue with Jacques on Friday. That was a super neat experience as I was able to see a little how others worship Heavenly Father. It was very funny because we walked in and there were a total of 8 Jewish men there (no women this time). So we all filed into a little room where we sat down, we each grabbed a Siddur (which means a religious book) and then just randomly one of the guys started reading from it! I luckily had the phonetic version so I was able to follow a little more than the just the symbols.... In order to prepare for that, Elder Steinbock decided to start teaching me Hebrew! That has been quite the experience because it is a language with a whole new alphabet and no vowels... So we printed out Genesis chapter one with Hebrew/ English side by side and I have been practicing on that and with other prayers. I learned "The Shema", a religious prayer that essentially is the most important prayer used in Jewish custom. It goes "Shema yeesrael, Adonai eloheinu, Adonai echad, baruch sheim k'vod malchuto leolam, vaed." I will leave it up to you to decipher it. It is even more complicated using the Hebrew symbols.

One thing that I have already learned is that, in Genesis, the word for God used in Hebrew is Elohim (pronounced AY-LO-HEEM) which is the plural form of Elohei. In Jesus the Christ, it talks about this plural form in the sense that God is plural in love, goodness, and mercy but it can also be taken literally, which is interesting to compare to the Joseph Smith translation of Abraham which uses the word Gods when describing the creation.

I also listened to an excellent talk called The Olive Press by Truman G Madsen. It was super great in analyzing olive trees. I learned both from the talk and then later that Gethsemane is Hebrew meaning olive press. I really love the point that he makes that, just like the olive which has soothing and healing qualities, so does the love that comes from Christ's sacrifice have the same qualities!

We found this super cool Italian lady this week! We taught her about God and the Book of Mormon. It was amazing to see how she realized the search that she didn't even know she was on!! We went back and taught her again and will be going on Wednesday to talk about Alma 32.

I know that God loves each of us because I have felt that love so much this week! I am so grateful for the opportunity to share the Gospel every day full time! I hope that I can continue that even after I return home!

With lots of love!!
Elder Pettingill

From Jacob's mom: Jacob and I were able to 'chat' for a while this morning over email. We got to discuss how he felt when he found out this week that he got accepted to BYU Provo. I will share this little bit he told me. It also describes more about what is happening in the pictures below

I found out about BYU last night as we celebrated the birthday for a Tongan rugby player at the church!! I had a wonderful week!! I had the opportunity to look at the CES website several times but decided to just push it off until the week was truly over. Finding out I got in was just like a dream come true that I never thought would happen. I didn't even want to think about it so my body went into an emotional coma for about 3 days. I did not want to come out and when I did had a little wave of emotions that were hiding down deep. :) Luckily the wave hit while we were eating home made chocolate cake (from scratch) with cream cheese frosting and speculoos cookies on top. 

Miracles of all shapes and sizes (Katie-Belgium)

This week has been very...I wouldn't say trying. But it has been an incredible learning experience. I've loved every moment, that's for sure. Rain and wind and storms brought me back to all of the moments during my mission when I was soaking wet and miserable (but not really, I was in a learning stage), and yet now I just feel so happy. Yeah I'm wet and cold and nobody wants to listen...but I have been so happy during this entire week. Let me tell you about some of the miracles we saw.

We had two exchanges, one of which took place in Arras, a city in France about an hour and a half away by train. This exchange was SO needed by all four of us. I got to be with my cutie little french friend, Soeur Defranchi (from Bordeaux, so not too far from Jacob) and we had 24.5 hours to FIND some people. And it rained. A lot. However, even though it felt tiring and hard as we walked and ported and walked and contacted, and nobody in the whole world felt like listening that day, it was wonderful. As a trainer, S. Defranchi has been rather stressed out. She told me later that contacting with me for 24 hours was exactly what she needed. We talked. We cried. We laughed. We took pictures. It was like I stepped into another world, and somehow God made those 24 hours a miracle for the both of us. I learned a lot about prayer and perseverance during that time, but I also remembered how much fun it is to just explore a ville for the first time and FIND. :)

Did I mention Kadi last week? I don't remember. Mais bon, she's this adorable african lady we met on the street, and one of the many that quickly give us their phone number and address with a speedy goodbye and invitation to stop by whenever (usually ending with either never being home or never answering the phone), yet she actually was home and let us in! This week we had our second rendez-vous with her. Guess who else was there? Ibrahim! Her 14-year-old son. When we asked about the Book of Mormon, her answer was, "I'm sorry, I would have read it except my son wouldn't give it back!" Apparently Ibrahim got a little too into reading it to let his mom borrow it as well. It reminded me of all of those times at home when we got a new book and everyone wanted to read it at once...I think we'll just get them a second one in order to avoid having to share. 

We managed to feel the love of God with Irène, our portuguese friend. She's been going through a really rough time because of a rough family situation, and the spirit was so strong as we read one of my all-time favorite scriptures, 2 Nephi 2:24-25. So simple, yet so true. Feeling unhappy or depressed? God says that we are here to be happy. So let's be happy! Poor thing just needs to read the Book of Mormon. That's what really makes me feel happy when I'm having a hard time.

One more cool thing before I leave. On the way home from church (after our very first meeting with our brand new DMP!!), this girl came over to us and practically stood there staring at our plaques. Well, one of the Elders noticed her and said, "Bonjour," to which she came over to talk to us. It turns out she's feeling super far from God right now, and just wants to feel His presence in her life again. We got a good talk on the tram ride, and set up another rdv. It was cool how God planned that one out. At the end she told us how good she felt and happy to know that God is watching out for her. And He totally is. I love the gospel. I love being able to see and recognize His hand.

Here's one last miracle that I managed to accomplish (with God's help of course): On Sunday, as it was my last fast sunday before going home, I bore my testimony. Except that there wasn't really time during the French one (we only had like 15 minutes after announcements and everything, not sure how that worked out). So I really only bore it once, instead of twice like I was planning--in spanish! The problem is that now people think I speak spanish...oops. The spirit was so strong though, and God helped me to remember the simple phrases I had memorized. The church is true in all the languages.

I love you all!! Have a great week!

Soeur Katie Pettingill
touching this statue apparently brings luck..
Soeur Defranchi and I :)
Hector Chicken with the Steenbliks
the Neuhaus chocolate factory
face masks that a ward member gave us while making chili!