Monday, July 28, 2014

Simeoncourt aka Mormonville

I can't believe that another week has gone by... it went so fast.  This week was a week of soirée familiales (family home evenings)!  We were invited over by the Nivard Senior family (the father is the stake patriarch), the Nivard junior family (the father is the bishop here in Arras), and the Neville family.  And they all live in the the tiny village of Simeoncourt.  Everybody knows them and that they are members.  Haha whenever children misbehave in that village everybody says, "what will the Nivard's think?!"  haha, love it.  Another family, the Rulence's, lives in the neighboring village, and the Sanchez family is moving out into that area next month.  Yep, Pas-de-Callais it:)
I don't really have a super amazing experience to share this week, just a lot of little ones.  And a general feeling of wonder and gratitude.  I just know that every night I came home feeling amazing... I feel so blessed to be a missionary in Arras... my heart is just full.  Everyday I get to see the miracle of the Atonement work in people's lives.  The most stunning examples right now are Philippe and Aline.  Who, when I arrived here didn't even have the desire to pray, are now asking me for more Book of Mormon's to hand out, giving rides to church to other members and just radiating with the light of the gospel.  I get to witness the power of conversion everyday.  This week Murielle took the law of tithing like a champ, and even though her life is far from easy, she has stopped complaining and is filled with hope for the future.  And the Elders amis, a father and his two sons, are getting baptized this Saturday!  They were the first ones at church yesterday, a whole 45 minutes early!  Estelle is reading and loving the Book of Mormon.  Carole and Baptiste are praying and coming to church this week.  Charlotte, who "returned" her Book of Mormon to the library, finally has another one and is going to start reading.  I could go on and on... this work is incredible.
I hope you all have a great week:)
Love, Soeur Hilton

Monday, July 21, 2014

We are made of light

Hey everyone!  I hope you all had a great week.  A big thanks to mom for sending me pictures from the family reunion.  I must say, everybody is looking so grown-up.  I litterally thought Brett had been photoshopped... Is he really that tall?  Or was he standing on some sort of giant rock... haha and all the "little girls" who are just no longer little.  Instead they are beautiful young women!  What happened? Have I really been gone that long? haha.
This week was a little crazy.  Soeur Liabeuf and I have both been kind of sick, thanks to the amazingly unpredictable weather of Nord-Pas-de-Calais.  One day it's super hot and humid, then the next there's a rainstorm.  Our noses and throats just can't take it haha. 
Well, the week started out good.  Bastille Day was this last Monday.  On Tuesday we went up to Bethune to see Murielle and we watched the Restoration DVD.  We had a really good discussion about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon.  She loves the Book of Mormon and the way she talks about it, you can tell that she feels the Spirit when she reads.  She explained it like thoughts just "popping into her mind," and questions just "suddenly clearing up."
Wednesday we headed down to Paris for a zone conference.  The train was suuuuper early 7h47 so we got to take a little tour by Notre Dame.  I love Paris... especially in the morning... it's magic.  Since it was a zone meeting...I got to see Soeur Tupai!!  Seriously, love her.  It's such a blessing that we are still in the same zone.  She's coming up on her half way mark?!?!  I swear that it was just yesterday that she was finished training and we became companions.  So anways, as usual, we were one step ahead of the zone leaders.  Soeur Liabeuf and I fixed a transfer goal to fortify recent converts and less-actives....and guess what the meeting was on?  Recent Converts and Less-actives!
Anyways, Philippe (our recent convert) is doing great this week.  We decided to teach him about missionary work...but we weren't sure if it was the right time.  We felt good about it and planned to do it anyways.  Then the morning of the lesson Aline, his wife, called and asked if we could bring an extra Book of Mormon to the rendez-vous.  She said Philippe wants an extra to keep in the car, just in case somebody wanted to learn about it!  Haha, well that confirmed that we were going to talk about the right subject:)  Our rendez-vous was really good.  And on Sunday Philippe got to pass the sacrament for the first time at church.  I asked him about it and he just said, "each week is just something new, I can't wait for the next step."  And that's how eternity will be, just line upon line, precept upon precept, forever forward and upward...we just have to be willing to trust Heavenly Father's plan.  He's such a great example.  Love it.
Friday was probably the weirdest day of my mission... I attended a WEDDING in Paris.  It was just what you would expect: vintage clothes, vintage car, boating down the Seine (we didn't stay for that part), crazy taxi rides through the heart of Paris.  And everything you wouldn't expect: finding myself face to face with my companion's family, being told that what we are doing is delusional (missionary work), becoming the unofficial photographer, and running through the sweltering Metro to catch our train back to Arras...which we missed by 5 minutes... haha.  epic fail.  Anyways, long story short, we got permission from president to go to Sr. Liabeuf's cousin's wedding.  Her family was not at all happy that we couldn't  stay the whole weekend...they don't understand her choice at all.  I just have to say I'm impressed with her.  She is a pioneer:)  It's a day I'll never forget...crazy.
Then on Saturday we had a rendez-vous with Estelle in the morning.  She's wonderful.  I don't really know what else to say for the moment...just that I love Arras and I never want to leave, how about that?
Then we had one of the neatest experiences ever.  We met this lady last week when we were in St. Pol, her name is Isabelle.  She told us that she and her husband were in the middle of an exciting, fast-paced period of spiritual research and discovery.  So we fixed another time to meet.  We went over at 2:30 and left and 6:00... it was one of the most fascinating discussions I've ever had.  We discussed everything from Einstein's theory of relativity, Buddhism, and the great apostasy, to the Plan of Salvation, the 4th and 5th dimensions, the power of prayer, and eternal progression.  It was incredible.  They are the fulfillment of the Hebrews 11:6 6 But without afaith it is impossible to please him: for he that bcometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a crewarder of them that ddiligently eseek him.
They have searched diligently, and have been richly, richly rewarded.  They shared with us that scientists, philosophers and spiritualits alike are coming to more and more interesting conclusions about the nature of the universe...which line up more and more with the Plan of Salvation.  Heavenly Father really is pouring out his spirit more abundantly in our day.  I was especially touched when Isabelle explained that all matter, at it's very base, is made of light...we are light, we are divine, and we are all connected.  I had heard that before, but it just resonated with me more profoundly this time.  Her words rang with eternal truth.  Since then I've had some interesting "personal revelations" just thinking about the universe and everything.  Just another day in the life, right?  Anyways, they are super cool and really open.  I'm excited to see them again and to be able to discuss more!
Well, I'm just here, bopping about Northern France, going to weddings in Paris, having four hour discussions about spirituality and helping people come unto this real life?
Love you all,
Soeur Lorraine Hilton

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

From the mouths of babes

This week was pretty amazing...seriously the mission just gets more and more beautiful every week.

Seriously, our amis teach us way more than we teach them.  I was particularly touched this week by our little friends Damien and Ophelie.  We've been teaching Damien since I got here.  He is an energetic nine-year-old.  Sometimes it's hard to teach him because he's all over the place and has a short attention span, but then, when you're least expecting it, he'll say something super profound.  Lately we've been trying to get him interested in reading the Book of Mormon, not an easy task...(Congrats mom and dad for helping me be interested in the Book of Mormon when I was young!)  We started out the lesson with the question, "why do you think the Book of Mormon is important?"  And little 6-year old Ophelie, who never participates and doesn't really like praying, immediately responded, "To know Jesus!"  It was pretty powerful coming from such a little girl.  Then we discussed how we can receive a testimony and why it was important to have one...we asked Damien if he had prayed about the Book of Mormon and if he thought it was true... He responded that one evening he had prayed and asked God if the Book of Mormon was true.  Then he described the dream he had that night...that he was in the clouds and that Jesus Christ appeared to him and simply told him that the Book of Mormon was true.  All of us adults kind of just started at each other...  It was pretty amazing.  There we were thinking we were teaching Damien, but he was teaching us.  He has such pure faith.  Anyways, this experience made me think of Luke:

Luke 10:21

  • New Testament
¶In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight. 
God reveals his mysteries to those who will accept them.  Children are so full of faith and so teachable.  We should all try to be more like them.

So last week we fixed a baptismal date with Murielle, remember?  Well, we were pretty nervous to talk to her about the Word of Wisdom and we weren't sure if we should bring it up right away... we felt like we should and so we did.  I was SO impressed with her!  As soon as we told her she just said,"ok, if it's what I got to do, I'll do it!" She has such a desire to follow Christ, she's going to do whatever it takes.  It's not going to be easy...she smokes... a lot.  But she has already started to cut down.  She is amazing!

You may be wondering what happened next with Philippe?  He made the huge step to get baptized, now what?  Well, this week has really showed me that baptism is JUST the gate.  There is so much awaiting Philippe and the Lord has wasted no time putting him to work.   

When we went to see him and Aline this week, he had a huge smile just plastered on his face...he looked like a different person.  We asked him how his scripture reading was going and he told us that he can't stop anymore.  He reads morning, noon, and in the evening.  Seriously, he's on fire.  Haha, he told us how he realized that he's much more emotional lately... he realized this when he started crying during a movie the other day.  He NEVER cries during movies!  haha he said, "I cry all the time now, and it's your fault!"

Anyways, we taught him about the priesthood and he was pretty shocked that he could get it immediately.  But he said "if you say I'm ready, and if it's what the Lord wants, I'm willing."  So after church on Sunday, Philippe was ordained a priest...  And Heavenly Father wasted no time putting him to work.  Literally, just as everyone walked out of the bishop's office after the ordination, we found out that a brother that lives in Douai (where Philippe and Aline live) was sick and nobody was able to take him the sacrament.  "Philippe can do it!  He's a priest now!" said our ward mission leader, frere Leterme.  So just one week after his baptism, Philippe is already serving others with his cool.

So, this week pretty much all the members went to England to go to the temple for the week.  Tomorrow the Sanchez family is getting sealed!  How wonderful:)  and Soeur Koch is finally able to go back to the temple after years of waiting... Makes me excited to be able to go back to the temple soon:)

Well, that's it for this week.  Can't wait to see what will happen in the coming week.   Thank you for your letters and encouragement, it means a lot.  And to those who haven't written recently, don't be shy! Haha here's a less than subtle hint to write me:
Remember, it's

Soeur Lorraine Hilton
22 Rue Doncre
62000 Arras

Can't wait to hear from you ALL.

Soeur Hilton

Monday, July 7, 2014

A "très particulier" baptism

My heart is just FULL TO THE BRIM.  First of all, I am staying in Arras for another six weeks!!!!  Seriously, I am so happy, I love this place, my comp, and all our friends.  Then I only have six more weeks until the end of my mission.  I'm pretty sure I'll be moving for the last transfer... crazy.
Anyways, on to the main event:  PHILIPPE'S BAPTISM.  Everyone kept saying that it was "un baptême particulier."  Meaning "a very special" baptism.  No one could really put their finger on it, but the spirit that was there was...incredible.  I just felt so...full.  Soeur Tupai made the trip from Nogent to be there, Philippe was literally glowing the entire time, almost the entire paroisse showed up to support him, the talks were powerful... there was just an overwhelming feeling of peace, and the joy and approval of a loving Heavenly Father.  I wish I could explain it better.  There are a few things I will never forget:
-- when after twenty-two years of telling missionaries "no, I'm not ready," Philippe walked straight up to me, with a light in his eyes, and said, "Je suis prêt!",
-- the way that Philippe burst out of the water (never seen anything like it, so much energy) -- symbolizing his desire to just take off running in his new life
--playing Soeur Tupai's favorite hymn (the lower lights) on my violin.  I can't believe we were able to see this baptism together
Talk about the walls of Jericho falling down...Philippe is a completely different person.  He and Aline showed up at 9 o'clock Sunday morning (they've never come to all three hours since I've been here), I heard him pray for the first time ever (Frere Leterme asked him during Sunday School, I was so proud of him) and he attended Priesthood for the second time in his life... and just four months ago he was filled with doubts that seemed insurmountable... what a miracle.
His confirmation was beautiful, we definitely saw him wiping away a tear as his wife bore testimony... seriously, I love being a missionary.  These are just joys you can't explain.

Speaking of joys, Murielle also accepted a baptismal date!  We were pretty hesitant about it because we didn't know how she would react, but we decided together to take a leap of faith.  And she said yes!  She had a lot of concerns (like having to go under the water, that the water would be cold etc...) but she said yes.  Her progression lately has been astounding.  I really can trace it back to when she started counting her blessings...Soeur Liabeuf suggested that she start doing that, and it's made a huge difference.  She sees more and more the hand of God in her life, and that he really does love her:)
We found some new friends this week too!  Carole's two sons, Benjamin and Baptiste...they are adorable.  And little Baptiste said the closing prayer last night!
We also met our new mission president and his wife (the Babin's).  They are from Evry (south Paris) and absolutely GENIAL (awesome).  I'm excited to work with them for the last little bit of my mission!  We are going to see miracles for sure.
Well that's it for this week folks, until next time!

Soeur Hilton

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

"Je ne vois plus des barrieres pour mon baptême...Le seul question est, "quand?"" (I don't see anymore barriers to my baptism...the only question is, "when?")

So... I was going along having a normal week in Arras, and then BAM.  Miracle.  Let me elaborate..
Meet Phillipe.  A fifty-something French man.  Reminds me a lot of Dad, actually.  Just in the way he talks (similar sense of humor, really friendly, likes DISCUSSION etc.) and in his interests (lots of PROJECTS, works with renewable energy etc.)  Well, about twenty-two years ago he and his wife Aline met the Mormon missionaries.  Aline instantly knew that the Book of Mormon was true and was baptized.  Phillipe wasn't so sure.  Over the years they had their fair share of trials, and Aline fell away from the church (still had a testimony, just wasn't active).  Missionaries came and went.  When Soeur Tupai and I started to visit them, we thought, "Oh wow, this is going to take awhile."  But we continued visiting them every week.  Small and simple things, people.  Little by little things started to change.  They started praying together, coming to church and growing in faith.  Their faces literally started to get brighter and brighter as the spirit entered into their home.  Then about a month and a half ago, Aline called us and told us that Phillipe wanted to get baptized!  She was shocked. (so were we)  "You know that means you'll have to pay tithing, and have a calling, and go to church every week, right?" she asked.  "I know," he replied, "that's what I want!"  She asked us to pretend that we didn't know that he wanted to get baptized, but to try to lead the conversation there in the next lesson.  Well, it was the first lesson that Soeur Liabeuf and I had together, the very day that I picked her up in Paris.  We talked about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and I invited Phillipe to get baptized.  He got really serious and said, "Every pair of missionaries that has ever taught us has asked me to get baptized, and every time I've said no...but I've been really thinking about it and...I think that it's time... that I get baptised..."  Wow.  The spirit was so strong that night, but when I tried to suggest a date...he got really nervous and said he wasn't ready for that. 
So for the past month we've been hoping and praying that his desire would continue to grow and he wouldn't wait another 22 years to actually get in the font. Then, this last Wednesday, we went to their house for our weekly rendez-vous and only Aline was there... Phillipe had to help his brother move that night.  I was a little disappointed.  Right after the opening prayer, however Phillipe walked through the door.  He sat down and they started talking about how their home teacher, frere Vienne and his family had come over last Sunday and that they had had a GREAT discussion about ordinances, baptism and the priesthood.  I felt impressed to ask Phillipe how he was feeling about baptism lately.  He said, "Well, I don't see anymore barriers to my baptism.. the only question now is, "when?"" (I was freaking out inside, but stayed super cool, like I did this every day of my mission...haha).  I told him, "Frankly, you are ready now, you can get baptised whenever you want."  He replied, "well the month of May seems good to birthday is in May..." It took me a minute to realize he was heart stopped for a second there, haha.  Then he asked, "well, Soeur Hilton, when do you think I should get about right before you leave?  When is the next transfer?  If it's next week I don't know though..."  I told him it was on Wednesday July 9th.  Aline said, "okay, well how about Saturday the 5th?" I was shocked when Phillipe said "why not!" (that's THIS SATURDAY)  I stayed super calm and missionary-like, pulled out a baptismal calendar and we started getting all the details taken care of.  PHILLIPE WASN'T EVEN SUPPOSED TO BE AT THE LESSON AND NOW HE'S GETTING BAPTIZED NEXT SATURDAY.  Seriously, it all flowed so simply and naturally.  Miracles are just that, simple, clear, yet at the same time unbelievable.  This is truly the Lord's work.  I got kind of emotional at the end when Phillipe's only question was "what about my children?" (their kids have made some serious mistakes).  "I want to have an eternal family, what can I do for them?"  I testified that his decision to be baptized and the unity between him and Aline because of it, will only bless their family and that the only thing they can do is to be examples, have faith, and PRAY, "implorez le Seigneur" I said.  Aline said, "yeah, prayer really works Phillipe, do you realize how much I prayed for you over the years?"  wow, what a moment.  Haha, they drove us home and I could tell that this was one of the best day's of Aline's life...she was keeping it together really well, but she immediately started make calls while we were driving.  Soeur Neville started crying on the phone and the Bishop was ecstatic.  Seriously one of the best days of my mission.  And it was my mom's birthday!  Happy birthday Mom!
Other than that, this week has been amazing.  We made three new friends (Ginette, Sandrine and Carole) and taught a ton of lessons.  We invited Murielle and Estelle to get baptised, they were very open, but are going to take time to think about it.  I can be patient... as long as they don't take 20 years!  haha.  But really, those two are progressing rapidly, so receptive...they are beginning to feel the spirit more and more.
Arras is EXPLODING right now.  Thank you blue fire.  This is going to be an awesome week, we will meet the new mission president, there is a ward BBQ, and Phillipe is getting baptized.  Most glorious week six ever, is about to go down.
Well, I love you all so much.  Keep praying for the work!  Prayer can do miracles:)
Soeur Hilton