Hello to all!— from the reasonably comfortable chairs of the church library.
In sharp contrast to the previous emails, I hope everyone had an average at best week. That you did not enjoy time with family and friends or doing the things you like. That you definitely did not find a time to relaxant release stress. And least of all: no one better have smiled this week.
I love you all so dearly.
This last week feels like it has gone by quickly. It started with another exchange. We swapped missionary companions with the duo who live and serve in Cherbourg right now. They have a car! It was absolutely bizarre to ride shotgun in a car again after so many weeks of not touching a vehicle. It was more nostalgic and comforting than it really had any right to be. During the exchange we had the chance to do more service from the eclectic collector (See older entries. Also see topical guide on shameless self promotion). He has a pair of glasses he wears, and then a second pair he attaches to them that flip up and down. He also has a problem with his pants falling down. His cluttered messy home is looking a lot better and he's been very grateful. It's was nice to spend some time with him again.
On the hierarchy of unique old people I thought I'd already experienced the cream of the crop, I was proven wrong when I had the chance to meet a Mr Kerdiles. He physically, and personality-wise, resembled a peach somewhat. Soft short white hairs, rounded edges, genuine and friendly. This guy has seen it all. He's really lived a full life. He collects owls firstly. Unfortunately not real ones. Carved, sculpted, knit, embroidered, stuffed, drawn, painted, captured in whatever medium imaginable. He likes them because they represent wisdom. He had all sorts of war photos and memorabilia. A collection of swords. He pulled out his handwritten family history dating back to 1440. He was also a Mason. He had also his Masonic order stuff that he enthusiastically told us all about. His membership cards and whatnot. His walls were covered with things from all over the world, just waiting for a finger to be pointed and a simple "Qu'est que c'est?" to be asked. He lit up with enthusiasm at the slightest interest in his life and possessions. He gave me a magazine about spies which I didn't really want but I couldn't think of a polite way to say no thanks when out on the spot. We shared a spiritual message with him (a little difficult given his incredible ability for tangents. It's not so much that he can't focus but that he has just so much accumulated knowledge he can, and does, tangent off of every subject. He told us all about Viking Navigation at one point. I don't know the French vocabulary for Viking Navigation and was very lost.) and gave him a Book of Mormon. He was super excited to see that though. The idea of reading something and gaining more knowledge really appealed to him. He gave us some orange juice.
Then we went contacting! We prayed and thought we should head towards the center of town to try and find people who would be interested to listen. And low and behold, we had some awesome success! We found a bunch of people who were interested in talking. All of them were young too. We talked about prayer with Candice. It was her birthday that day too. We talked about scripture study and how we have a relationship with our Heavenly Father with a woman named Ariel. We ran into a young Muslim and a Catholic who was from Brazil who were way interested but had to catch there bus. It was the best contacting experience I've had by far... Up until the Thursday after the exchange that is! We had felt that Wednesday night during planning that we should set the goal of finding three new people today to teach and sharing 5 lessons in the street. Lofty goals especially given our rather unimpressive track record. But we put our trust in the Lord and set them. The day produced no fruits until 14h00. My companion felt impressed that we should get off at this bus stop and contact a very specific route. Along that route we found person after person who was willing to listen. A strange man with an eye problem who didn't own a phone but gave us his address. A Catholic old man who was very kind. A portly Uncle Vernon with a killer mustache. A young Muslim boy staring off into distance. A happy 7th Day Adventist. Fascinating conversations with fascinating people. Wonderful glorious people.
Lately I've been giving some thought to just how orchestrated and planned this life is. I don't have an answer to that question. I attribute our ability to find and successfully invite people to this gospel during the exchange and after fully to the Lord. Elder Wheeler and I were just doing our best to be instruments in his hands. It was his direction that sent us where we were supposed to be. It was his spirit that accompanied our testimonies and allowed our words to touch hearts. Both the people we met that day and the confused bumbling missionaries that talked to them had carved out through time and space their paths that lead them there, to meet at the same time— by their own efforts, by their agency: We are all free agents. But here on my mission living on that cusp of divine intervention and coincidence, it is really beautiful to see the impossibly complex human clockwork behind some of the encounters. There are things in this life that are not just coincidence. I testify to you now that there are events-good and bad, or people-good and bad that will happen to each one of us that are not by accident. They are supposed to happen and are put in place by our Father in Heaven. Both the stumbling blocks and the great forces of good. An unseen and oft unrecognized conductor steers this unimaginably complex orchestra. I would take this moment to thank that conductor. To thank him for the trials that have prepared me for this mission. For the encounters we had this week. I invite all of the readers to take a moment and look for the hand of the Lord in your past— or if that's not your cup of theological tea, imagine for a moment that there was someone who loved you infinitely, even a Father in Heaven, nudging blessings and trials here and there into your life to give you the chance to become who you are, to give you the chance to grow, I implore you to just entertain the notion. Think of one of these experiences, and then tell someone else about it. It's our job, and our great privilege to share our lights with others. Do it. Tell your kids a story. Tell your Mom a story. Tell your friend(s) or coworker or enemy a story. Or me! I can always do with more emails. Cough. Storytelling is about the coolest thing ever and I testify of its potential to change lives and be a force of good. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
A la prochaine les amis,
Elder Alex Hacker
(Like a boss)