Monday, September 26, 2011

Elder Fitch: P-Day Service Project in Montauban

mark is the good-looking guy on the left. his companion is in the middle. and their friend, jeanpierre is on the right. they spent p-day putting new tiles on jeanpierre's roof right there behind them.

Sister Fitch: September 26, 2011

So, there were a couple particular highlights this week.  One of which was the Relief Society General Broadcast. SO GOOD.  If you didn't watch it, WATCH IT.  If you are male, you should watch it too.  You can watch it online, or read it online.  It was so good.  The Relief Society presidency was stellar, absolutely stellar.  But Elder Uchtdorf...he is my favorite for a reason.  He talked about forget-me-not flowers, and their small but lovely nature, and their five petals.  He talked about five things that we should forget-not.  I absolutely loved it, I absolutely needed it.  I can't wait for the rest of conference. 

So, this week we had Nicole's baptism.  It was lovely.  She had TONS of support from the ward (it helped that we had it right before institute) and it was great.  The whole ward loves her (and William too).  When she came up out of the water, she let out a gasp/shout for joy.  She went into the dressing room and before changing or going for a towel or anything, she fell to her knees and prayed and prayed.  It was a really tender moment.  Nicole is incredible.  She is STRONG.  She is LOVED.  She is a member!!!  Now that they're baptized, and the ward is taking them under its wing, I feel a little...lost!  The other people we are teaching are struggling.  It'll be an interesting couple of weeks while we try to boost them up and find others to teach. 

Lots of emotional and physical exhaustion, but things like the broadcast, the Book of Mormon, and just knowing what a GREAT family I have help me get that energy back.  Over and over.  So thank you.  President called me a "seasoned missionary" in his letter to me this week.  I'm not so sure about that, but it was nice to hear that rather than "greenie" all the time from everyone else.  I'm having a hard time remembering what exactly happened earlier this week because I started a new planner and can't look back in it to remind me...well, I love you!  Thanks for your support, it really is what keeps me moving forward.  I love you all. 
Avec amour,

Elder Fitch: September 26, 2011

Well it's been another fun filled week here in Montauban!
We had another exchange this week with our zone leaders. This time, however, i was with the zone leader that is not so intense, meaning I wasn't sore afterwards. His name is elder Balero from Arkansas. He is a convert and actually already has his teaching degree in music education. He told me his story, and all I can say is that he was prepared, he was looking and he found what he was looking for. He is an incredible missionary with a very strong testimony. He came on a mission to share that, even though none of his family supports him or understand why he's doing what he's doing. I learned a lot from him.
Thursday we had district meeting in Toulouse, which is always fun. Our mission president came to that meeting because he is currently touring the mission and is inspecting ever apartment to either be consecrated or condemned. He came to Montauban later that afternoon and needless to say our apartment was condemned to the depths. Yet not really for any of the obvious reasons. The main reason was because we were up four big flights of wooden stairs. Not very fire safe. The incredibly small size of the place overall, cockroaches, angry neighbor portuguese lady, the bloody fight, the bar, and the complete lack of security were only icing on the cake of condemnation. Heck I really don't care the reason, I'm just glad we can start looking for a new apartment! So we've been looking into that a bit already.
Saturday I taught my first "first" lesson in English since coming to France, and only my second time inenglish ever (we taught it once in the mtc). The "first" lesson is everything from who God is through the apostasy to Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. It was really pretty awkward and funny. It was strange, because I had to think it in French first and translate it into English in my mind and then speak. Both of us had a hard time and we kept slipping back into French. Very interesting experience when you can't speak your own language. But it was a super awesome rdv anyway! Despite our English deficiency. This rdv was with a guy we met who is from Fiji and is currently playing rugby for a city a little ways away from Montauban. So yep another islander rugby player. He is super cool and actually met missionaries back in Fiji and has an aunt that is a member. His name is Isaac and is super awesome and really wants to be baptized. It will be a little slow going just because he lives a ways away and with his training and game schedule it's difficult for us to see him and for him to be able to come to church.
Today we did service for Jeanpierres parents in laying a whole lot of tile on their roof. It was pretty sweet and I really like their property, it's a little bit out of town in the "forest". Really pretty.
That's about it this week, we didn't have anyone come to church unfortunately. Thanks for all your prayers, the effects are always evident to me and what I'm doing. Thank you.
I love you guys! Families are the best.
Love Mark

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Elder Fitch: September 19, 2011

Yet another week has come and it has gone.
Tuesday night to Wendesday night I was on an exchange in Toulouse. It was really good for me actually. The Elder I was with is a little bit...comment on dit..... special? ya, ya he's a little bit special. The problem is is that he acts wierd because he like to act wierd. He is capable of normality, I've seen it. He just chooses to be wierd, that's all. He gets really awkward, like socially awkward I mean. He'll talk with a really exagerated american accent. None of this would I really care about if he would be normal when we are trying to talk to people, but no. He just says wierd things to people, I don't know, that part was a little frustrating. The good part for me was we did have a few rendez vous and he didn't say a whole ton, or he'd say something wierd. So lets just say I got a very good teaching practice. It really was a good experience and plus I got to stay at the same apartment that my companion from the MTC lives right now. Yup good ol Elder Turley. He is still my favorite companion, well at least with hind sight. Toulouse is very big, alot bigger than Im used to. It moves really fast and theres TONS of people everywhere. It's definitely a change from lil ol Montauban, still even from Nimes.
Oh ya and This black lady yelled at me for about ten minutes cause eveytime I proved what she was saying was wrong and asking her to support what she was saying and couldn't, so she got really upset, and eventually walked away with steem coming out of her ears. We don't ever start things like that, she came up to us trash talking us and the church and stuff, But I'm going to defend what I represent. Im going to say thats one point for the Lord, hehe He'll always win. Even though sometimes it's better just to walk away first from those people, I kind of like it, because I really just find the words I need to say as they are coming out of my mouth. That is spiritual help, I know that because I know I am not that intelligent.
We ate at this guys house on thursday night. His name is Kiri and he is a rugby player from Samoa. He is a member but his wife isn't, they are so nice and so generous towards us. Eating there I realized why I wasn't called to an Island mission. I would die....from eating too much. I'm already not a big eater and they just make so much food and expect you to eat it ALL. We don't want to be impolite so...we keep eating. Holy cow, I think I ate enough to feed a family of four for a whole day, breakfast lunch and dinner. I'd get so fat serving in the islands. Its good for me here because there are alot of islanders, so I get to enjoy the people, but I don't have to eat so much.
Saturday we had a really good rendez vous. It was actually a second meeting. This guy, whose name is Ismael, I actually contacted when I was on the exchange with my zone leader, ya know when i was sore for a week after, yeah that one. Anyway this is his story, he is from the Ivory coast. He grew up there in very very bad conditions. It became so bad that he got on a boat with 27 other people that was headed for Europe. On the way 23 of the 28 people died. He was one of the 5 that survived. He started out in Holand, but didn't have much luck there so he made his way down to France where he could at least speak the language. When I first met him he had no work no place to stay, he just would sleep outside. Let me tell you, he hs such an incredible attitude. He has lived alot a very horrible things, not once did I hear him say something negative. He was very open about his situation and would say it how it was, but he is always positive. He now has a job and is working to save up so he can get a place to stay. In his troubles he turned to God instead of away, and that has made all the difference, thats why he agreed to meet us in the first place, because he had kept his faith. I look at him, whose lived a life full of misery and death but can still be happy, and I look and these people I meet everyday who haven't been through a fraction of what he has and they've turned from God in anger. All they have to say is how horrible there life is and they complain about their whole life story and theyre miserable. We are here in this life to be happy. Lets be happy, even in our hard times, its just better, for everyone. Lets be positive.
Sunday was pretty good! We had two amis that came. One we weren't expecting at all, so we were very happy she came. It was really good for them and they really like it which was good because church here can be a little crazy and or intense sometimes.
Oh Yeah! we had a fight in our appartment building last monday night. It was a couple floors down in the middle of the night. We didn't know that thats what had happen until some people that were investigating knocked on our door at lunch time the next day to ask us what we had heard or if we knew. then it was interesting going down to get out. There was blood all over. Smeared on the walls, even puddles and smears on the floor. kinda nasty, cool huh?
So things are still going good here. Still very little. Still not a lot of people. Still hard. Still moving forward. Still lovin it.
I love you all plus que je peux vous dire.
Elder Fitch

Sister Fitch: September 19, 2011

Hello all :)
This week was kind of crazy, but really great.  On Thursday I had my first baptism!  It was quite the experience.  It was so fun to see this young man take such a huge step.  It was interesting to see the difference in him and his countenance and that of a girl we taught the next day, who firmly believes that we have absolutely no responsibility to do anything other than accept Christ as our Savior.  What she is missing is what it actually means to "accept" Christ.  Anyway, I could rant about that for a while, but suffice it to say, I don't know that we will be teaching her for very long.  You can't teach a person how to return to live with God again if they think they've already sealed the deal. Anyway, one of our investigators, Nicole from Barundi, came to the baptism.  She's been reluctant to be baptized any time soon, but has wanted to do it eventually.  After being at the baptism and feeling the power of it all, she could barely speak.  She told us afterwards that she HAD to be baptized, and soon.  She didn't want to wait anymore.  So, we have another baptism this Friday!  Super exciting.  The only downside to all of these baptisms is that it means we don't have as many investigators to teach...BUT we will have lots of recent convert lessons!  All is well. 
We did splits on Tuesday, which was a lot of fun.  The new missionary and I were together in the YSA and Sister Palmer went with the other senior companion (they were MTC comps) to the family ward.  It was a lot of fun.  I was senior companion for a day!  It was fun to have the reins a bit.  It helped me see that I do indeed know what I am doing, and while there is still SO very much to learn, I can do this.  It was exciting.  Oh yeah, our mission president's wife came to Ottowa for our baptism!  It was fun, she spent most of the day with us, first at the soup kitchen we work in then at the baptism. 
We met a catholic missionary on the bus the other day, and he invited us over for brunch on Sunday.  We went, and there were about twelve other people there, too.  They all are involved in the catholic missionary effort or school system or other programs.  Since there were SO many people there, we didn't really teach a lesson, we just engaged in conversation and it was really interesting.  I am discovering that I am not very articulate.  Or aggressive (one g?).  I know what I believe and how I feel, but vocalizing it, especially in a large group where everyone has LOTS to say and is so much better at saying it, I didn't come off as sounding very intelligent.  That's okay, though.  The gospel is simple, so I shouldn't have to feel like I have to be eloquent or persuasive.  Bear simple, strong testimony.  That's my job.  And there have been many people that were "slow of speech" that did lots of good, so I just need to be patient with myself and figure out my teaching style better.  My companion did a semester in Jerusalem and other such things and is really scripture-smart, so I keep feeling like I have to keep up and teach like she does.  Nope.  I just need to teach like myself.  Learning and adapting always, of course, but I really need to quit feeling like my progress and effectiveness is related to those around me.  Anyway, I must go now.  I love, love, love you all.  Sometimes its hard to be a missionary.  ALWAYS its wonderful.
Avec amour,

Sister Fitch: September 12, 2011

Kind of a crazy week!
We got lost on the bus system for an entire day this week.  In two days we had...ONE lesson.  It was kind of rough.  We had a really good finish to the week and recovered pretty well, but the first few days of the week were definately a struggle.  I'm getting so much better at bus contacting--people are even starting to contact US.  Its a lot of fun.  Being on foot, we meet SO many more people.  And are getting in good exercise. 
One of my favorite parts of missionary work is less active work.  I LOVE it.  We have been seeing one inactive return missionary who is always coming to us to set up "appointments," we never have to go to him.  It's fun, we usually just end up going for a walk.  We walked along the canal the other day, and it was a lot of fun.  He is great, and he said himself that it is inevitable that he will be coming back to church in the future.  We'll see how soon it is, but he knows it.  Love it. 
So, our Chinese investigator William scared us pretty bad this week.  We had a couple of our investigators freak out a little and drop their baptismal date, so when William called and said he had something he needed to say to us, but  it would be better face to face, we panicked.  So, we set up an appointment with him at nine thirty in the morning--something we NEVER do, because we have studies all morning.  We get there, all worked up and bracing ourselves for the worst...and he says "Who is the Messiah?"  Whhhhewww.  Yeah, he was just reading in the Book of Mormon, and didn't know who that was.  We had a good lesson, talked about his baptism (which is THIS THURSDAY!!), and all was well. 
This week was "Frosh" week, which I take it is the same as "Rush" so contacting was...rough.  We surprisingly got several potentials, but we'll see what comes of it.  We even got invited to a kegger.  Sweeeet!  Sorry this is short, but people are trying to leave to go downtown and my companion wants to leave and so I've got to wrap it up. 
It's been a tough week.  Good, but tough. Learning lots, being tested, and loving being a missionary.  I love you all so so so much.  YOU are what keeps me going every day.  I love you, I'm thankful for each of you.  Much love,
p.s. sweet sixteen INDEED.

Elder Fitch: September 12, 2011

So it not being the first week of the transfer things really seemed to go a lot faster this week.
We had a cool experience with our recent convert Auguste. He has had a litttle bit of a hard time lately. He owns an auto school, and it just so happened that we were walking by at the perfect time. He invited us in and asked if we had anything we could share with him. Imediately a scripture I had read that mornig popped into my head, so i went looking for it, however i couldn't remember the exact reference. I kept feeling like it was John 14 something. Elder kirkpatrick turned there to try and help me and he happened to look on the next page in John 15 and found a completely different scripture than i was thinking but he shared it and it was EXACTLY what Auguste needed to hear. He was really suprised. Later when we were back home i looked up the scripture i was thinking and it wasn't anywhere near John 14. That was team tag spirit work. One point for the Lord. No but seriously it was really cool.
We were able to meet with our new amis Stephanie a couple times. She is really cool and really nice, but it is very slow moving with her. She is very supersticious about things, and has a way of changing the topic. She did come to church yesterday and she had a really good experience. I don't know what religions or churches shes been to before but she lwas suprised to hear people say they are really "believing". That they came to church because they believed in God. So its interesting but its moving so that is what matters.
There was yet another holiday this weeked. It is called the 400 coup. The history behind it is after the Protestants had taken over the city the catholics were pretty put out so they layed siege to Montauban. And apperently it took them 400 canon shots to retake Montauban. So voila. just another excuse to party. anyway it was like a mini Feria like thereas in Nimes. They brought in all kinds of little carnival rides and things and activities and of course plenty of stands to buy beer. This party raged well into the wee hours of the mornig friday, saturday, and suday. We live right next to centreville so it was very loud. One thing that was cool though was saturday night they had a firework show. and the launching point was literally right at our building. They launched them right off a bridge that is right below us. It was a pretty good show, but the intense part was the noise! it was SO loud! and it just echoed off of all the buildings and amplified it. It was pretty sweet.
Sunday of course you all know it was September 11th. I was suprised to see how world wide that really was. There has been all kinds of things going on about it. Apperently there has been tv specials running all week and we see news paper and magazines all over the place. Of course the opinions differ. Some think it was just a dumb excuse for Bush to start a war and how evil The United States is, but for the most part people look at it here just how we look at it, a tragic disaster that took the lives of innocent people. A lot of our contacts have turned to that subject, especially when they realize we're Americans. It's hard to believe its already been ten years. I remember that day, i remember exactly what i was doing and how i felt, as im sure everyone of you do. In and of itself it holds deep meaning for us, but at the same time it is a reminder of everyone that have lost or given their lives so that we can have and so that we can keep the many blessings we have and take for granted. I hope we all can remember that and remember to thank God for what we have, for who we have in our lives. ok im done, let me just step down off my soap box here. ok bon there we go.
Well everythingse is going pretty good, this week i bet will go fast too. We have an exchange tomarrow and i will be working in Toulouse, which will be a nice break from good ol Montauban seeing as how i haven't worked in another city for about two months. so that will be fun!
COol well i love you all and i hope you have a wonderful week filled with sunshine and flowers. I LOVE YOU ALL!
Elder Fitch

Elder Fitch: September 5, 2011

Salut tout Le monde!

Well the first week of the new transfer is over, and it feels like it's been about a month since last Pday. Not quite sure why this week felt so long, but it's done now.
We started working with a new amis named Stephanie. We contacted her in the street the week before and we were able to meet a few times this week. She very agnostic. She's not really sure if God exists or not but she wants to know. She wants to find out so she is pretty open. She's very superstitious about spirits and things like that, that's really her only proof that God might be there. It's going good but very slowly for right now, which is totally fine. I'm just grateful we have another person to work with. We're praying the work will pick up more with school being back in session now,so we'll see how that goes.
We had another good day at the red cross. That's pretty fun, and it's really really good practice for my casual French speaking practice.
We helped a family move in. They live eight flights up a building. It took us two very full mornings, plus another evening. Needless to say that I am very tired of going up and down stairs. BUT they are a very nice family and are a great addition to the branch.
Well that's about it for the week! Nothing TOO out of the ordinary. Cept for that we have a new amis!!
Love you all! God be with you!

Sister Fitch: September 5, 2011

RE: Where does one buy chill pills?
Hello all!  It's been an interesting week.  Here goes it:
So, it was transfer week, just like for Mark!  And just like Mark, it was a loooooong week.  The new sisters came and are working hard in Riverside (the family ward that used to be ours).  It's a real challenge because they don't know the area and have been getting lost every day.  It's hard--Ottowa isn't like Toronto or Montreal, but its still a pretty big city and easy to get lost.  Most of the time I have no idea where we are.  Oh well!  Since we don't have a car any more (Riverside got it) we're getting really good at the buses.  And we're walking lots, so that's good.  I love to walk. 
The first half of the week, besides transfers, was pretty typical.  Then, Thursday came.  Oh man.  It started out fine, we had zone study, had lunch as a zone, and then we headed off for the Ottowa Mission where we do our service every week.  When we got there we had a text from one of our investigators.  He's a middle aged man in Riverside, and he's been doing really well.  He's had a rough few years and suffers from depression.  We got a text from him, and it was a goodbye--a suicidal goodbye.  It was a horrible hour or two.  Sister Palmer had the phone so after we tried calling our investigator, we called our Stake President to see what to do.  He said call 911, so we did.  Everything turned out okay--the police went to his house and we really don't know many details except that he didn't follow through and he's mad at us for calling the police.  Better mad than dead.  I haven't been that afraid in a long time.  It was a funny kind of afraid, though--being on a mission has helped me realize to a much deeper level how involved God is in this work and in our lives, and so I knew that He knew what was going on.  I was trembling and nauseated and not having much fun.  The young woman who runs the show at the mission let me stay in back instead of being right on the line (handing people their food and such) so that I could chill out.  I was cutting bagels, but my mind wasn't really on it, so I managed to cut my finger open.  Not badly, but enough that they gave me a different job that didn't involve knives.  We get to do service with our district leader and his companion, and they are awesome.  We see them four times a week--church, p-day, district study, and service.  So, we're good friends.  My district leader made me tell him stories to get my mind off of things, and it worked like a charm.  We left and the only remaining negative emotion was that I was MAD at our investigator for scaring me so bad.  Mostly I'm over it now, though :)
So, then we had a lesson to go to with one of our committeds.  We found out that she's concerned about Polygamy.  Not polygamy itself, but the fact that it wasn't okay, then it was, then it wasn't again.  We explained it--that God doesn't change, the world does, and society, and God knows what we need when we need it and the prophet acts as God commands.  But, I'm not sure it really answered her concerns.  Our members who we teach her with are great, but I think she felt out numbered.  She said she "tentatively decided NOT to be baptized."  But, she's not sure yet.  Pray for her.  Then, our xbox boy who we got back in contact with, tried to drop us again.  We convinced him to let us see him again, but I don't know--I'm trying to have the faith to not be afraid.  Fear and Faith are opposites.  But I can't help but worry about him and the others.  This week I have been getting really frustrated with the fact that people don't understand how precious the gospel is, and how it answers every question and gives us the peace and faith to not worry about questions to which there just are no answers for right now. 
SO. The wind was taken out of my sails a bit this week, BUT.  But, I have learned many important lessons.  The stress has kind of helped me bring out my personality and remember things I like and don't like.  This sounds silly, but bear with me, it was important. FOOD.  I remembered this week how much I like food.  LOVE food.  And rather than just settling for what everyone else is eating (or just my comp since its usually her I eat with...) I'm going to eat things I LOVE to eat.  I am going to treat myself to that--I like it, its me, so I'm going to do it.  Sometimes I try too hard to fit in.  Things are still great with my comp--I realized something kind of funny about myself, that I don't like much and am going to work on, but I realized that I tend to mirror people and their attitudes when I first meet them, and then have to kind of wriggle out of that and be myself again later.  So, we still get along really well, but we are definately different.  It's fun being myself.  I like it.  The mission is funny in that it shows you very plainly your weaknesses and attitudes you need to change and where you need to grow your faith--but during the whole process, you feel absolutely adored by God.  Little miracles, tender mercies (like catching buses you should have missed or members doing kind things for us) and peaceful feelings help you to see that YOU are special.  That God loves YOU. 
I had an interesting dream last night--I didn't think too much of it until this morning when I was saying my prayers.  I dreamed about my cousin, Stephanie.  (for anyone besides the fam thats reading the blog, she died some time ago when she was about my age.)  I never was REALLY close to her, but I always looked up to her and thought she was the most beautiful, wonderful person.  Her SMILE is what I remember most.  So, in my dream, Steph showed up at my house.  She just walked in, like it was natural for her to be there, and it felt natural for me too.  "Hey, Steph!" I said.  She smiled her smile, and gave me a big, big hug.  She took me by my shoulders and looked me in the eye and told me I was beautiful.  The way she said it, though, I knew she was talking about my soul, not my face.  I really didn't think much about it, until I was praying.  Maybe I am just making silly connections in my brain, or maybe it was Heavenly Father teaching me, but I thought about her, and Grandma Bean, Grandpa Fitch, Uncle Steve--everyone who has gone before.  I always felt like there must be a legion of angels for each missionary, but I wondered if that Legion is really my family members and friends.  It was a really nice thought.  Really comforting. Really encouraging. 
The week was crazy--we had dinner with eleven drunk Chinese people, saw MosAika (youtube it) and other things like running for buses and such.  But, it was good.  I love knowing that we are all loved by God.  It helps.  Lots.  Well, I think this is sufficiently long.  I LOVE you all, thanks for your support and your letters.  You're the greatest.  Without you, I wouldn't be here, and I wouldn't be learning and growing like I am. Thank you :)
Much love,