Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Week 16 - White Powder and a Chinese proverb

Hello everyone! I hope that you are all well and that no one is ill.  To those who have the capacity and time: treat yourself to an ice cream or perhaps a pastry sometime this week. Or better yet, treat someone you don't know very well to an ice cream or a pastry. I wish you all a good week!
Alex and his Companion Elder Jackson at a Zone Conference in Paris (photo courtesy of the mission facebook page)

Let us start with a true story then:

We are trapped in the church. We can't leave yet on the off chance the person who scheduled to meet us actually shows up. It's raining outside too. That may have increased our conviction in waiting for this person. We decide to call just about all the numbers in the phone in the mean time. Lo and behold, someone named S (just the initial of the name) said we could come visit her and her husband A a few days later.... Fast forward to that rendez-vous: After a hesitant knock on the door-we have no idea who's these people are mind you- we are welcomed by a incredibly happy couple who insist we sit on the couch and eat all the cookies, orange juice, and snickers bars we can. Fact: that is the typical French meal. A is from Tunisia. S is from Caen. A self identifies as all religions and S as Christian. The girlfriend of their son (they insisted on showing us many pictures of him- he seems like a nice young man) was there for a few minutes too. We talk more with A, veering the conversation enthusiastically wherever he likes. Eventually we get on religion and ask if we can share a spiritual message with them. Turns out these nice people have been meeting with the missionaries for 30+ years. They had all the saved photos to prove it. So we start sharing a message about how God is our Heavenly Father and some other eternal truths like that. I am mid testimony. I am baring my soul to these people when I happen to sniff once. I think nothing of it and continue on. S leaves and quickly returns carrying a knife and something. I'm trying to focus on making eye contact with A so I'm not really sure what she's doing. I am terribly confused though. So I'm talking, speaking about how my beliefs have helped me in my life, looking A square in the eyes, when suddenly S places some mysterious white powder on my hand. I glance up and she says a verb I don't know which I can only assume translates to "snort" given the example she is showing me. I have never been more confused! My testimony was cut short by white powder and this lovely couple telling me to snort it. Turns out it was just mint and it was supposed to clear out my sniffly nose. But man. For a moment there I thought our lesson was interrupted by a friendly, but mostly unwanted, cocaine offer.

We continue to teach our russian speaking investigator.  He is very cool, and his interest is sincere, but the language barrier is a real challenge.  He's come to church a couple of times, when his work schedule lets him, and from what we can tell he's progressing, although it can be hard to gauge comprehension.  We had one Skype lesson with the Russian elders, but he told us that it wasn't actually any better than listening to us.

I mentioned in my short email last week that we went to Bayeux.  Bayeux was super cool. It feels like a medieval town from a storybook. They had a waterwheel and everything feels old and the cathedral looms on the horizon. Not to mention the tapestry. A 1000 year old hand sewn record of William the Conquerer. That defied description. Man it was so cool. Then we  moved on, and fast forwarded 1000 years to another pivotal war cataloged by a museum, when we went to the British Memorial Cemetery. To know that where I was that day in Bayeux was the location of these two world changing events was wild. WWII felt much closer, more real, important, and big. The museum had photos from the WWII era, and seeing the town I sleep in (Caen) in ruins via photos was pretty weird.

I recall hearing once hearing a comedian talk about a funny Chinese proverb which essentially was about "farting next to a waterfall." I think the point of the proverb is to refer to an act that no one notices or cares about.  At times, it seems like there is work we do as missionaries, and a lot of life in general, that would fit into this category.  It might seem like the things we do, even when we are trying our best for a good purpose, don't get noticed or make a difference.  But that is not really the case.  At the WWII British Memorial Cemetery there was a neatly kept green field of thousands of tombstones. It was sad and moving. Many of those who sacrificed their lives were not even 20 years old. Many graves were unidentified. "Known only to God" as their inscriptions said. I was sure at times sometimes these people might have felt like they were not doing anything, like they weren't accomplishing anything, that their role was not important, or that their lives might not have mattered. Then I went and read the guestbook. People from everywhere saying thank you for your efforts, thank you for your sacrifices. The small, seemingly unnoticed or unappreciated actions of individuals can spread so far. Can ripple down through generations and generations. They way we treat friends, family, and strangers can cause huge changes down the roads. By small and simple things, great things are brought to pass. Mothers must feel like this all the time I imagine! Parenthood at times might well seem like one huge, long, and expensive exercise in futility, or at least, uncertainty. We have no idea how powerful our tiny little actions may be. I'd encourage everyone to keep up the things that may feel meaningless or small or unnoticed.  No effort is truly wasted when it comes to doing good for people.

Again I apologize for the lack of a longer email the previous week. It's been a little bit crazy and hectic over here across the pond.  I still appreciate all of you! You do not know the full measure of how each one of you has changed me.

With great love,

Class III Wizard,

Elder Hacker

Like a boss.
Alex eating lunch at Zone Conference (photo courtesy of the mission facebook page)

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