Thursday, December 19, 2013

Singing to old french people, being a stalker for a little bit and avoiding bizing old men

Dear Family and Friends,
This week went by fast.
 We have eaten a lot of chocolate and nuts and dried fruit. (French people eat that a lot during christmas, that and sea food and that wierd ground up meat stuff and cheese and meat and soup etc. There are all these stands around Centre-ville that toast chesnuts and I've been wanting to try them since forever because they smell heavenly, but I didn't want to buy a whole package because I probably wouldn't eat it all and people say that they don't taste as good as they smell. You can see the big dilema( how do you spell that?) I had. Luckily, I asked a guy we contacted what he was eating and it just so happened to be roasted chesnuts and he let us try some. They were pretty good, I'm glad I finally got to try them. It made me very happy. This week we were on the bus feeling especially exhausted when I look out the window and ask Is that Kéjain? There he was crossing the street. it had been hard trying to meet up with him again so it really suprised me that he was right there. So I sprint to the front of the bus and jump off at the stop, I pull my companion behind me as we are sneaking behind our ami (after we caught up to him) trying to figure out how to talk to him without seeming creepy (which we were) I did feel like a stalker for a bit. Eventually we just walked up to him said hi, he jumped a little and said I was just about to respond to your text and how did you find me. We ended up having a lesson on the bench right next us and it turned out great. We also saw jacqueline this week, who is already in love with the Book of Mormon, which is great and the ward loves her. We also contacted this 100 old guy who wanted to talk about american politics and ended our contact with a suprise biz on the cheek. He moved fast, so far I've been able to avoid the bizes of men. I feel like I've lost a tournament or something, I was hoping to last my whole mission without that happening. Oh well, he wasn't creepy at all at least. We also had the ward christmas party, where the ward gave us huge boxes of food to take home. and we also sang at some old folks home. It was fun to sing in french and we sang white christmas in english. It was funny to hear the members try and sing the words.
I gotta run
I send pictures next week and info for skyping
Dieu vous aime
Soeur russell

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tango invites, missed trains, and another transfer in Aix

Dear family and friends,
I'm staying in Aix with Soeur Bowman! It feels kinda weird to not be changing things up, but I'm excited to see what its like to stay in one place more than one transfer. And I'm happy to be with Soeur Bowman for another transfer, she is great. :) This week I had an exchange with the sister from Toulon, so in the morning, I got on a train with Soeur Bowman to drop her off in Toulon with Soeur Kupfer to be her companion for the day. And we arrived just in time to see the that I was supposed to return on drive away, with the other sister on it by herself. So I spent some time in toulon and got on the next train an hour later. So that was a weird experience, being in my old ville in a trio and then on a train by myself. The rest of the exchange went great though. The rest of this week was a lot of contacting. Right before going into the church, we had a great conversation with a man who used to be a famous soccer player who tried teaching us spanish and french and said he could teach us and all the other missionaries how to tango in the church parking lot. We'll see what happens with that.
This week, we met with one of our recent converts who is the sweetest women I have ever met and she is such a great example of someone who has embraced the gospel and became a better person because of it. The gospel really helps us in every way, in every aspect of our lives. I've definitely seen that on my mission.
I gotta go mais je vous aime et que Dieu vous benis!
à la semaine prochaine
Soeur Russel

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

weird miracle fountains, I love chocolate cake and being drafted into solos

Dear Family and friends,
This week has been really cool because all of a sudden, we have been able to meet with amis that we have been trying to see all transfer and we found a golden ami just a couple days ago. We were finally able to meet with an old ami named antionette, who came to the Elder's baptism and also church this week. And were able to meet up with an older lady named Jacqueline, who  wants us over all time and wants to help us plant wheat (its a french tradition) and is just a cute person all together. This week we also got to go to the Zone leader's Amis' baptisms. Two of them got baptized and throughout the entire meeting, everyone had a huge smile on their face and I could not keep from smiling, There was such a feeling of happiness in the room. Right afterwards, Soeur Bowman and I were contacting and we stopped at a crosswalk, waiting for the light to turn red and a guy pulled up on his bike next to us. I gave him a smile and he smiled back and then the light turned and he rode off. I could hear Soeur Bowman next to me saying over and over " I want to talk to him, I want to talk to him" and we happened to see him one minute later looking at a new statue. Both of us instantly felt we had to talk to him, so we went and stood awkwardly in front of the statue with him, trying to figure a way to start up a conversation. Thankfully he started it first, by explaining to us what the statue  meant. It was a really wierd statue. It had a few dates on the pedastal and it had half of a cougar on top who had water coming out of his mouth and there is a thing on the pedastal that sometimes is on fire and the cougar is hollow and it has a man upside down inside of it. Its a wierd statue. And he said its in memorial for some war and how it is always remembered in the cougars heart or something like that. He read it off of a sign. We kept talking and we invited him to church and he came and we are seeing him later this week! His name is kéjain and he is chinese and he asks the best questions ever. So we are really excited to teach him. 
my english is slowly getting worse and worse I have found. Especially today, I was trying to read something out loud in english ans I was replacing words with french words and giving things accents were there aren't supposed to be any. And I don't even Have an excuse because my french is by no means astounding. oh well. I got your package mommy and we loved the little christmas tree, its already decorated with the lights. This week we had thanksgiving dinner with some members at a restaurant and we had a thanksgiving lunch with yummy pie and homemade stew at our apartment with the other sisters. We loved the stew so much that we are making it again this week. I forgot my camera so I can't send any pictures mais la prochain foi. for the dinner with the members, we went to a restaurant where the server actually ended up being our neighbor and we had some of the best chocolate cake ever. It was great. We were there with two other elders and a member couple. the wife is american and her husband is from Belgium, but speaks perfect english and he is hilarious, between the six of us we were laughing all throughout dinner. 
Lately the ward has been volunteering me to sing at things. Sometimes I'm not even paying attention when they volunteer me, but next thing I know, I being told when we will be rehearsing this song or this thing. Its funny because there are other people in the ward that sing as good if not better than me. And it will be sad if I have to leave next week, because I won't be able to do all those things for them. Next time I'm writing, I'll be letting you know if I stay or not.
I gotta run, but I love you all and so does God!
Toute est possible avec dieu!
Soeur Russell

Happy late birthday to Zach and Happy early Thanksgiving!

Dear family and friends,
So has Zachy asked anybody out yet? Let me know when he does. This week, we didn't have very many lessons, but we did a singing streetboard for the music night that was on thursday, and made a lot of cookies for the music night. On thursday, we were helping everyone prepare for the activity, when suddenly, the elders in charge of it, came up to me. they are elders who want to become broadway stars and concert pianests and such, so we were all pretty excited to hear it as well. But apparently a couple of members were supposed to be a part of it and they didn't show up, so they asked me to be in a duet. So we ran through it once, and luckily I was just singing the melody, called it good and later, I got to sing in the soirée en musique in front of all the ward and their friends. I thought it was just ok, but now the ward is asking me to sing in retirement homes with them and to sing at the ward christmas activity. If I'm still here next transfer. But the rest of the activity was great. The elders did a great job. Poor things though, this is the eighth time they have done it and the elder who sings probably has the most sore throat ever. Other than that, we contacted a lot and had a crepe night with a french family. It was funny because half of the family spoke english as well as french, so every once in a while, a family member would launch into english, and half of the family members would join in with fluid english and the others would alternate between spitting out every english word they know and telling the rest of the family to speak in french. One of the family members is our dmp and he served in england. So he has a kinda english accent from his mission, a kinda american accent from the missionaries he served with and currently works with and of course, a french accent. We taught on the way home what the phrase rev' your engine meant. He wanted to talk about drag racing. That is so cool how many awesome things are going on in the Powell ward. This is definitely God's work and he knows what he is doing.
This week, we have really enjoyed eating lots of soup and hot bread and hot chocolate. This week we are going to try and make a pot au feu, a pot of fire, which is basically a really yummy stew. We will see how that will turn out. :) But we are very happy to have eletricity.
I love you all Happy thanksgiving!
Dieu nous aime plus que nous pouvons comprendre! Il vous aime!
Je vous aime aussi!
Soeur Russell

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Our electricity is back on!

Dear family and friends,
This last week, we have been going between our apartment and the other sister's apartment a lot, and this very morning we got electricity turned on. So we did a lot of shopping today and got a bunch of stuff to cook and to put in the fridge.  yummy :)
The reason I'm writing on tuesday and not monday is because yesterday we had zone conference (which was awesome) and interveiws with president. So our p-day was moved to today. This week, we have found a few potentials to start working on, one of which called us from a card we handed out (I've never had somebody call from a pass a long card) and another one that a member at church towed over to us for us to get her address. This week we also have been working on hyping up the ward and people we meet about musical night we will be having this thursday. Some elders this transfer have been assigned to do a tour of the mission, doing a music night so members and nonmembers can come. Apparently, these elders are supposed to be really good (like concert pianist level good) at music, so I am really excited to go. We got to teach some less actives and recent converts as well. One Less active is an old asian lady who isn't able to come to church because of her health. She is so cute because she will randomly launch into prayers in the middle of the lesson and says amen after every sentence so the only way you she is finished is if she says in the name of jesus christ of latter day saints amen. But she does it so calmly that it never interuptes the lesson. Those lessons always feel so calm, at time we will be sitting there saying nothing for like two minutes, but it feels really natural. And she doesn't talk a lot so the lessons never drag. She is great. I also had an exchange with the sister training leaders this week in Montpellier. They are great. I don't know how they work so hard all the time. In our ward we have this one member, who is amazing, we were stuck waiting at the church for a while, so this old lady stayed with us and told me to stop cracking my knuckles or she would write my mom and investigated the creepy sounds coming from the elevator with us and even did a little dance for us in order to emphasize something. We were laughing the whole time. I'm so glad that my french is at the point that I could understand all the funny things she said. Right now the elders are ussually teaching the english classes because mostly men come to them. Its a bit cold here, especially when there is wind (it can get really windy here) but it not like the north for sure) This week during zone conference, the stake president said something I really liked. It sounds cooler in French especially with his really low and dramatic voice but it means, carry the thoughts in your heart that will pick up your spirit. We are not perfect, but that does not mean we should degrade ourselves. God is on our side. With him, we are the strongest. No man on this earth is stronger, more powerful than the one that walks with God. 
I love you all
Je vous aime Beaucoup!!!!!
Soeur Russell

gypsy clans, tasteless fish deaths, and ripping up cardboard

Dear family and friends,
 this week, I got inivited to join a gypsy clan!!!!!!!! The story goes like this. Soeur Bowman and I were just finishing up our nutella crepes (that we were having for dinner, we don't do that every day, I promise) on a bench in front of the gorgeous aix fountain, and while I was telling a really exciting story about whitewater rafting, a man walked past, remarked that we spoke english, and asked to speak some english with us in a heavy accent. We find out that he is from greece and I dont remember his name (soeur Bowman and I have nicknamed him esmeraldo) but he started off by asking us about the missionary program and how it works, We explain a bit and try to steer the conversation in a missionary direction with some religous questions. That worked for like 2 minutes and then next thing you know he is telling us about how he lives at a tent down by the river, he doesn't work, he doesn't have any money, but he wants to start a community of gypsies here in aix. He then tried to convince us that we would save more money by becoming gypsies as well. He told us that every two days, he can make a phone call to a certain number, requesting food and telling them where he is and fifteen minutes later, a bus will appear and give him enough food for two days. He didn't go into any detail into who does this or why, but he called that number right there and then a started ordering food for both him and us.  So we excused ourselves and got away, even though we were really curious as to whether a bus really does come. Sounds like secret combinations to me. As missionaries, we really go through some of the strangest situations. This one was really a first for me.
This week we got to see a bunch of members and less actives and new converts. One of the new converts we saw is named Andre. He is an older french man, who loves the church. he loves it more than elvis, which is a lot( he has elvis pictures all over his apartment) He gives all the sister missionaries that teach him nicknames ( the last two sisters were his blonde and pitbull) He hasn't picked a nickname for Soeur Bowman yet but he picked one for me. I actually don't know what it is he said but it started with a B or C and it has something to do with singing. Him and the other recent convert that we are teaching are great. They love the gospel. The other is named Suzanne. She got baptized just a few weeks ago even though she is  afraid of water and she got to go to the temple to do baptisms just a after her baptism.  We had laguage study the other day with a sister over hot chocolate and we were trying to practice teaching The gospel  and one moment we were talking about the holy ghost and next thing I know  the member starts talking about food in asia. And apparently there is a pool somewhere in china or japan that has more fish than water and for some reason they don't have a taste so they add lots of tomato sauce to add flovor to their products and lots of people die. Either I didn't understand part of the conversation or what she was saying made no sense.
We have been able to meet a lot of really cool people lately while contacting. Not all of them were interested but we had some really quality contacts. We have few potentials that we are really excited about. Also this week, we got to teach two diferent amis. Stephen and Abdoulaye. Stephen is interesting, I dont know what to think of him yet. Abdoulaye is muslim, but he is really interested in learning more about the gospel, he has already done some reading out of the book of mormon which is awesome.
We still haven't gotten any electricity, but everything else is going fine. We have finally started ripping up the huge mound of cardboard in the corner of our living room that was left over from unpacking stuff. We have to rip it all up to take to the recycling so we spend a good amount of time every night ripping up cardboard.  Its pretty fun though. I like the thin cardboard because I can rip through it really fast and I feel really strong. Our neighbors must think we are really wierd with the ripping sound going on every night. :)
Je vous aime tous!
Et n'oubliez pas que Dieu vous aime aussi!
Il est la pour nous et Il veut que nous avons la joie dans cette vie!
à bientot!
Soeur Russell

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Canned beans and corn and green beans and lots of contacting and an amazing ward

Dear family and friends,
 It is so exciting to hear about people's new mission calls and that amazing family getting baptized in powell. The Lord is pouring out miracles. It so exciting to be a part of it.
 Aix is gorgeous and the ward here is spectacular. We have eight missionaries in total in the ward and all of the members, especially the bishop, have a huge desire to be a part of missionary work. We so far have only had a lesson with a less active, and a lot a lot of contacting, but this next week, we already have a lot of lessons planned with less actives, recent converts, and non members. So we are really excited for that. 
My companion, Soeur Bowman, is a little trooper, this last week took a lot of energy. What with the large amounts of straight contacting each day, lack of electricity and only canned food, she just keeps moving forward. She has awesome french, which helps me because I have a lot to work on, especially grammer wise. And she is really funny. So this will be a great transfer. :)  I haven't gotten to try much food here yet besides a burrito and a crepe and absurd amounts of canned food, but I looking forward for when I will be able to eat some of the food here. It is supposed to be pretty famous.
Well gotta go. (sorry for the short letter)
God loves you!!!!!!!
Je vous aime tous!!!!!
Soeur Russell

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Aix en Provence

Dear Family and friends,
As you can probably guess from the title of my email, I got moved to another ville! Aix is definitely one of the prettiest places I have ever been to. I am here opening another equipe with Sister Bowman, who is on her third transfer. The funny thing is that she is Soeur Moderstinzki's last companion and the one that she trained. Soeur Bowman comes straight from St Etiennne and she happens to be put with the only other sister missionary who has ever been there as well. She is great. She is sweet, likes naps during lunch (like me), and already knows a huge amount of french from her studies.  We are in a new apartment ( fun fact: I have been in more totally new apartments on my mission that older apartments:) ) and our electricity is currently not working so we have dinner and get dressed by flashlight. Because we don't have electricity, we have only been eating canned foods and fruits and vegtables that don't need to be refridgerated. And chips and nutella sandwiches. So we don't suffer too much. The apartment is great, we live next to one of the biggest and nicest parks I have ever seen and Aix is gorgeous.
Soeur Kupfer is still in Toulon with a new companion. Before I left Toulon, We got to teach a lesson with a man named Gilbert. Before we taught him, we thought his name was Gilibert ( I don't know why) so we would call him jilly bear. I still can't help but call him that. He is very special. He is totally harmless and he is not handicapped or crazy. He is just peculiar. He wears a tight fitting brown tuxedo every day (the same one everyday) and wears a sailors heat and sunglasses constantly and has a fanny pack all the time and wears high heeled men's boots. He loves talking about music, nature, america, prayer, and the second coming and he loves God. He is really excited for the second coming. I actually really enjoyed that lesson. It was one of a kind and Soeur Kupfer will get to teach him again next week.
It was funny, I just did an exchange in Aix at the beginning of this week. I didn't move too far away from Toulon and I already have been to a lot of areas in Aix. I gotta go soon, but I love you all. Have faith in God, trust Him! He knows what He is doing, even if we don't. I'm so excited to help the people of Aix. Missionary work is so important!
Dieu vous aime!
Je vous aime!
à la prochain semaine!
Soeur Russell

Friday, October 25, 2013

Nice, folding clothes and long train rides

Dear family and friends,
At the beginning of the transfer, Soeur Kupfer and I made the goal that we had to get a service project in once a week. This week, we were cutting it close, and we were worried that we wouldn't find any service to do. Then, we passed the church to check something and found that the RS needed help folding clothes that they were going to donate to charity and we got to help them. A really cool and unexpected experience. Its kinda wierd though. I never expected I would be folding clothes as service so ofetn in france. I didn't have to vaccum cat hair off of these ones though.  This week, we also did an exchange. Soeur Kupfer stayed in Toulon with a sister from Nice and I headed with another sister to Nice. The train ride was supposed to take 4 hours but ended up taking 6 hours, thanks to some heavy rain. We finally got there at midnight. But the next day was really cool. Everyone says that Nice is gorgeous and I had already been there a couple times for conferences. It didn't look much cooler than the rest of France then, but I hadn't seen the right parts. This last time I got to see roman ruins and darling squares out of movies and huge buildings and a castle in the distance. France really is beautiful. And so it just about everyplace, depending on how you look at it.
Ok, the internet cafe person is saying that they are randomly closing, so gotta go. Really quick, All of our amis are doing great and so is Soeur Kupfer. I love you all!
Je vous aime!
L'evangile est vrai!!!!!!
Soeur Russell

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

pizza by the sea, little islands and flamingoes

Dear family and friends,
This week, we had a great lesson with a guy named Tony, made cookies for the ward lunch (french people will endlessly thank you and love you if you make american cookies for them), went to pass less actives on a little island where the locals knew the names and houses and spouses and careers and maiden names of the people we were looking for, but not the name of the major street that they lived on, (which was the street that we were standing on when we asked them), got a marriage proposal from a old muslim guy missing a leg who zooms around in an automatic wheelchair (he was very disapointed when I told him that Ohio is not next to California, but still asked to marry me comme-meme), did a lot of contacting, went to a double tumbollo ( I think that is how it is spelt) for p-day, ate pizza by the sea, walked around an island for a few hours, had an awesome zone conference, ran into the muslim guy in his wheelchair again, he said he was catholic this time though, who proposed again (he is very persuasive, told me if that we got married, we could have children who were the children of children of God. He seemed pretty certain that this thinking would win me over), ate some good cheese, ate some not so good cheese. So, a pretty good week
Never forget that God loves us all and will empower us to complete His commands. He sees us as what we will become and will help us reach that point.
Love you all!!!!! God is always there for us!!!
Je vous aime!
Soeur Russell

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

More octopi, general conferences and a fun miracle

Dear Family and Friends,
Right after my last email, Soeur Kupfer and I went to eat at a gigantic chinese fast food place and after went to the nicest Mcdonalds (the french call it Macdo) I have ever been to for ice cream cones. That in addition to visiting some cathdrals made it a pretty good pday. Thursday was the 6 month mark of my mission. Its hard to beleive that I've completed a third of my mission already. The weeks  fly and the days are long on a mission. On thursday, we taught english class while baking ( and burning some of them) cookies. Only one woman came to english class, but she spoke english very well. So we just sat in our chairs listening to her describe her travels around the world with lots of detail, all in english. On Friday, we had exchanges with the Sister Training Leaders, which is always really exciting. We found some potential amis that day. One of them was a cool miracle.
 We were street boarding at some point (streetboarding is just contacting with a board display set up) In all that day we contacted 234 people (meaning we talked to 234 people about the gospel). One man I contacted, I started off talking about genealogy. He seemed interested about the church website and asked me what I was doing here. I told him we are here for proselyting and for service like our English class. He became extremely interested in our free english class, amazed that he wouldn't have to pay to attend. I gave him our card and he left promising to come to genealogy class and english class. He then came back 5 minutes later and cheerfully said, I already called the geneology class and they said they would find a spot for me. He then walked off with a smile on his face. Then 5 more minutes later he returned and asked me, pointing at the picture on the passalong card, where can I get this book? The picture was of a Book of Mormon. I smiled, said I had one right now in my bag and that he could have it. He smiled hugely and gave me his number to meet again later for a lesson. That is an example of a prepared person. Someone who only needs an invitation to become part of the fold of God. How many of those people pass by us everyday? How many are our friends or neighbors or that person we just barely met? If you had put that man in a line with 5 other people  I saw that day, I would not be able to point out which one was ready, prepared. I just had to invite the 5 others first before I found him.
 On saturday, we got to watch one session of General conference. And then on Sunday we watched two more and we watched the last one this morning. Our leaders are so inspired and their messages are powerful. I hope their words strengthened you as much as it strengthened me.
 This morning, for lunch, we went to a farmers market and bought some octupus stir fry over rice and some french pastries. The fun meals I get to eat here in France.
I love you all!
God loves you!
Give Him a place in your life!
Je vous aime!
Soeur Russell

Monday, September 30, 2013

Octopus balloons and shes and random acts of service opportunities and cathedrals and pirates and bounty gelato

Dear Friends and Family, 
First off, Toulon has been wild this week. It was the Voilles de Toulon this weekend. We've been seeing posters for it ever since we first came here but I definitely did not expect it to be so big.  It happens only once every four years and downtown Toulon goes all out for it. The bay was filled with all kinds of ships. Pirate ships, yatchs, navel ships, a couple submarines, sail boats, barges, and cruise ships and Gigantic older full sail ships like in the movies. So that was a pretty sight. The streets were packed with tourists, the smell of yummy food was everywhere and anything and everything was being sold on the streets. People on stilts were walking around, having fun with tourists, school bands were playing on the streets, people were playing bagpipes and flutes and drums, big concerts in different squares, a man walking across a giant tightrope, people dressed up as pirates and aaaaarhhing all over the place, and sailor stripes and hats everywhere. They had this one presentation thing that was very french. These big white human like creatures, made out of clothe and paper mache and holding lights and with people on top controling them, were walking through the streets. Apparently they are called Elles, or in English, Shes. Yeah, apparently they are supposed to be symbolic of hope, but if it hadn't been during the day when I first saw them, they would have been a little scary and wierd. That's French culture for ya. They are very proud of how artistic everything is, even if they don't even know what it is. Just as long as it is French. French people are very interesting like that. They will complain sometimes about french politics or the school systems or things like that, but they almost seem to brag about it too. I love the French people so much. They make me smile for so many different reasons. On saturday night, we heard that there was going to be a parade thingy, so Soeur Kupfer and I went out to where the parade would be during our dinner time. They had this marine creatures that they inflated up and were controling with ropes and were pbasically having them swim through the streets and later did a little performance with. They had an octupus the size of a building whose arms would bonk people on the head or poke the other animals and the had a giant whale and some fish and a big shrimp and sea horses and some jelly fish and clams.
This week, we have gone on the boat bus twice, which felt a little wierd and exciting at the same time. The second time, some sea water came flying up and totally soaked me and Soeur Kupfer. What a strange experience that was. But we got to pass some less actives in an area that we don't go to very often, because it is farther away. And we got some delicious bounty gelato for dinner and saw some gorgeous veiws. It feels so cool to be walking down a street with the wind coming right off of the sea and blowing past you and the waves practically crashing on the road and palm trees and sand on the other side of the sidewalk. And there are so many fruit trees here. We have a lime and two pomegranites at our apartment that we have just picked right off of an unclaimed tree we have found. It feels like we should be on vacation here and not a mission sometimes. 
This morning we got to visit a couple cathedrals and we visited a really cool one that had these stone carvings that were intertwined with a wooden base to make a full artistic piece. It was very dynamic. We really have some of the coolest p-days here in France. This week we were able to some random acts of service. We helped a ward member with an english presentation that she had to do for the callege she works at and helped a random lady on the street who had her leg broken recently and she couldn't get around her house, and we helped a american mormon tourist find her way to the church and get her bags to the gare. So some cool experiences. We also taught a young family this week, who are awesome. The wife wants to work towards baptism, which we are really excited about and the husband is so nice. They are great.
I love you all! That crazy that you ran in S Mods mother, Mommy! We wondered if you two or if our dads would run into each other at university things at some point.
Dieu vous aime!
Moi aussi!
Soeur Russell

Monday, September 23, 2013

Leaks, bus stops and boats (what a boring title!)

Dear family and friends,
What a great week. Soeur Kupfer is about the hardest worker I have ever met. She has almost a fear of bus stops because she might not be productive while we wait for the bus. She is so sweet and constantly trying to become a better missionary. She is going to be a great companion and Toulon is so lucky to have her. This week has been a lot of riding buses and contacting and looking for houses and calling people. One really cool thing this week was that we found an awesome new ami. Her name is Madame Volpi. She is an older woman, who talks a lot but Is so fun to listen to. She has a huge amount of faith, but wasn't able to practice it when she was little and doesn't now how to start practicing it. Her son doesn't really want to see her, which is heart wrenching because you can tell that she loves him and his children more than anything else. She later started listing off people that could use a visit and love of God in their lives. We gave her a book of mormon and she thanked us serveral times for bringing her such an important book and she was looking for a new book to read as well. The ward here is awesome. they haven't had sisters here in about 20 years and some the members have never even seen a sister missionary before. So we are so spolied here. The just shower us with attention and help and, as we are discovering, refferals. Toulon is very pretty. Hot. But pretty. I can't imagine what it must be like to serve here in the summer. We've gotten to see the water a few times and apparently, our sector in the mission is the only sector where the missionaries are allowed to go on a boat because it is apparently faster to go by boat to some areas rather than by bus. So I get to go on a boat. :) 
Every week, the mission sends out a news letter of the investigators that got engaged to baptism and really cool miracles. And it always makes me really excited to see Carcassonne and St Etienne on there really often. Right before I came Carcassonne, there were almost no investigators and not many people had any expectations of the sector. But now it is just overflowing with miracles.  And St Etienne is booming as well. Its so cool to have been a part of that. 
Some not so fun news is that our moving into our apartment, may have caused a leak in all of the other apartments in our building. (I dont know how that works, but thats what our neighbors say) It started in the apartment below us and then went to the one below that and recently started in the next. Now we need to make calls to a bunch of people in french and in english and try and figure out how to fix it. 
So Zach is learning how to drive manuel? Yikes. I never fully learned how to drive a stick. Tell him congrats on his new car. 
Well, gotta go!
 I love you all! 
God loves you!
Je vous aime
Soeur Russel

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Toulon, sneaky cats and 5 flights of stairs

Dear family and friends,
As you have probably already guessed from the late email, I got transferred again! I have now been in at least one more ville then my trainer, who is home now. I am currently in Toulon, a gorgeous city by the sea. I really am getting the grand tour on my mission. Castles, Alps, Mordern Art museums, beaches. My new companion's name is Soeur Kupfer. She was actually in my MTC district. :) She is so funny and hard working.  So this transfer will be great. They are just barely putting sisters here, so we get a new apartment and a very excited ward. It was very sad leaving Gex though. All four sisters from Gex were leaving (they are going to put elders in there) and we said a lot of sad goodbyes and we sang a song in Sacrament meeting (we got some people to come to church because of it, who usually didn't). One of our last days in Gex, I was getting ready for the day, in our bedroom, with the door closed, when I look over and see a cat standing in the middle of the room, just looking at me. I start laughing, open the door, chase the cat out and looked at the very suprised faces of the other sisters as the watched a cat run out of our house. I still have no idea how it got into the house, let alone our bedroom.
We arrived in Toulon yesterday and the other elders in Toulon and the office elders ( this is the second time the office elders have come to help me personally on a tranfer day, I feel so privilaged) helped us get all 6 of our bags and almost all of our new furniture up 5 flights of stairs. Without an elevator. And then we spent the rest of the evening putting together ikea tables and chairs and cabinets and beds and desks and such. Despite the huge amount of stairs, I love our new apartment. Toulon is so beautiful and I am so excited to get to know the members.
Thank you for all of your emails,
I loved your email mommy, I laughed for a long time :)
God is our support and loves us so much!
je vous aime!
Soeur Russel

Monday, September 9, 2013

Gex, France Soeurs

Tessie's companion, Soeur Loder, is in the scarf and pink sweater in the middle.  The other two soeurs, Christensen and Roberts, also share the apartment.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Carcassonne Soeurs and Bishop

Soeur Russell et Soeur Luthi

Kittens, editing and people on motorcycles

Ma cher famille et mes amis
Three of our investigators committed to baptism this week! We still have a lot of work to do for them, but we are very excited for them. Its probably been interesting for that family this week, because their cat died right after having four kittens, which they have to feed at all hours and they are now committed to baptism.  Also this week, we did like 18 hours of service ( which included weeding, ironing, washing dishes, taping boxes, vaccuming inside of cupboards, killing spiders, wiping windows, throwing away stuff, editing autobiographies, sorting gardening supplies, vaccuming cat hair off of clothes, rolling sleeping bags, eating cookies and large amounts of pizza, carrying boxes, sorting clothing by size,raking soil, rolling rugs, listening to stories, etc.), We had an awesome Zone Conference, we had an exchange with the sister-training-leaders and had a huge and delicous italien dinner. The highlights of this week were definitely exchanges and zone conference. During Zone conference, we had an awesome lunch and awesome lessons and I got an interveiw with president. The interveiw was so great, I haven't had one since I first came in and it was nice to see how aware President Roney is of each missionary and that he knows the situations he sends them into. He and Sister Roney are great, especially since there are so many missionaries to keep track of now. And then exchanges were great too because my temporary companion was a italian girl who is on her last transfer. She is mission famous for contacting anything and everything. On our exchange, she contacted like five people on motorcycles from the other side of our car window and she would flag down cars to talk to them. It would be really creepy, if she didn't do it in such a loving manner. She would start a contact, and the person will be practically running away from us, and next thing you know, the other person is crying and asking us to come over and share with her the gospel. She is great. :) There is so much I want to work on to be a better missionary now. I gotta go, I love you all. Dieu vous aime!
Soeur Russell

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Ferrets and Breaking Mirrors and Vinegar

Dear Family and Friends,
Right after I finished my emails last week, Soeur Christensen and I started heading to a car wash. We both noticed the car was acting strangely, so we drove back to the office, a member took the car to a repairshop, and we got a ride back to our apartment by a another member. Since we didn't have a car, and the nearest town is a 30 minutes walk away, we stayed at the apartment for our pday. It was pretty nice, I took a 4 hour nap and watched a video about the life of Thomas S Monson. All in all a good pday. Then another member picked us up and dropped us off at the office, where our rental car was waiting. I will send a picture eventually, but for now, I will just descripe it. It was a little two door sports car, highlighter yellow and with words taking up both sides of the car, saying LOUEZ MOI! ( Rent me!) We got a lot of stares this week as we were driving. On wednesday, we got our car back and found out that ferrets had been climbing around in the car and chewing on the tubes. The workers didn't find any actual ferrets in it while they were working on the car ( I kinda wished that happened though, that would have been really funny, to have some ferret attack you while you were working on a car) but they found ferret bite marks on a lot of the tubes. So that was why it was driving wierd. But now it is driving great. Hopefully the ferrets don't come back. Now time for a lice update. After a lot of showers, and combing, they are all pretty much gone. We will double check in a week, but I think they are gone. Poor S Christensen has been so worried, she didn't have very many, but she still went out and bought this expensive shampoo and has the other sisters check her hair constantly. As long as they leave, I'm not too concerned about it. I think I was more upset about washing my hair with vinegar ( I still cringe) than having bugs living in my hair. But they are gone. :) And I don't have to wash my hair with vinegar. :D  (Mom's note - I would MUCH rather have to wash my hair with vinegar than have lice!  But to each their own, I guess...)
Also this week, we went to this really cool store that sells the extras from other stores for really cheap prices. We bought some mirrors (because sisters apartments always need more mirrors) and put them on our wall. They had these adhesive things to put them on with and we lined all the eight little square mirrors on a wall to make a full length mirror, admired our handiwork and went to bed. That night, at about 2 am, two of the mirrors fell off the wall and broke with a giant crash. All of us woke up scared to death, but too tired to leave our beds. We glanced in the other room, saw that a mirror broke and decided to clean it up in the morning. Right after I fell back to sleep, three more fell with a louder crash, and woke me up again. After that, I couldn't go back to sleep, but I was too tired to get out of bed. So I watched from my bed as mirror after mirror fell. And in the morning, we tiredly cleaned it all up.  8 x 7 is 56 right? I currently have 56 years of bad luck.
This has been a strange week, a lot of wierd things happened, but a lot of good things happened too. We got to serve three different members, I got to teach three amis that I haven't taught yet and I got to eat at three member's houses. And each of those members gave me chocolate bars before we left. We are constantly eating chocolate here that people give us. I'm definitely not complaining though. Bring on the swiss chocolate!
What an amazing chance I have to be here, not just because of the chocolate and the gorgeous veiws and crazy stories, but miracles follow missionaries around like nothing else. I'm constantly seeing little miracles everywhere. God loves us and wants to bless us, we just have to let him;
I love you all! Make somebody smile today! God loves you!
Je vous aime!
Soeur Russell

Sunday, August 25, 2013

More fun bug stories

Dear family and friends,
This week has been pretty interesting. The work has been moving a little slowly, but that is because it is vacation month in France, so the entire country has closed down their shops and such and are off doing nonportequoi (I love that word) in other places besides here. But weather has been fantastic, I haven't needed to drive yet and the ward is amazing. One fun thing that happened this week is, while we were driving back to the apartment (it was dark at that point), we were driving on a little road with cornfields on either side and the headlight suddenly illuminated this figure. It was a tall guy covered in reflector gear, wearing an oversized biking helmet and carrying a giant pitchfork. He was just standing at the side of the road, staring forwards. We saw him for just one second and then we drove past. Very interesting and creepy. At another point this week, we were going door to door/porting ( gotta love the french missionary lingo) and we were about to knock on this one door and suddenly we heard sombody say, Coocoo. French people say that all the time but it scared us half to death seeing at it was coming from a dark corner of the garden. it was just an nice old lady, but we were a little jumpy for a while after that. But she offered us a drink and we sat in her garden for a while and chatted. Just having a quick glass of lemonade in this gazebo covered in roses in a french village in the middle of the mountains. Just your everyday kind of thing. :)
By our apartment, there is a ski lift that goes up the mountain behind us, but we can never go on it because it only runs on Saturdays and our pday is on monday. But, one day, while we were looking for houses to port, we took a wrong turn and found ourselves at the top of the ski lift, in a little village, overlooking this gorgeous valley. It was absurdly green and you could hear the bells from the cows they had roaming the sides of the mountain. We now know where we are going for next pday. I know, every week I talk about how gorgeous it is here, but you would be talking about it constantly too, I promise.
But we discovered something not so pretty just yesterday. I have lice. I do not recommend it. We think that I got it while I was in St Etienne, because my head was itching then and it has been since. But I never considered that it would be lice or rather I didnt want to consider it. Then yesterday, I was sitting studying, when after scratching my head, I looked at my hand and found a bug that I didnt recgonize hanging on for dear life to my finger. I stared at it for a little bit, then called the sisters over and they stared at it together for a bit and then we looked at my hair. We came to the conclusion, that I might have lice. We then called the mission president's wife, who described what it looks like and what to do and we came to the conclusion that I probably have lice. And then we went to a member's house, whose children had lice at some point and she looked at my hair and said, yep thats lice.  And my companion has some too. The member gave us her lice comb and told us to use vinegar to wash our hair and to wash all our clothes ans sheets. Which we have been working on since then. So a pretty wacky mission experience. And I know how to get rid of lice now. I never expected to learn that on my mission. I'm so glad that I am not freaked out by bugs. That would be hard.
So a pretty exciting week.
I'm pretty excited for a nap today.
I love you all! God loves you! Despite lice, I am so grateful for the chance to be here serving the Lord! Any thing is possible with faith in the Lord! Trust Him!
Je vous aime!!
Soeur Russell

Monday, August 12, 2013

Fat cats and absurd amounts of lasagna (sounds like a Garfield comic book)

My dear family and friends,
This place is gorgeous. I can't even describe it, it is so beautiful. I just need to bring everyone here later and then you would see how amazing it is, but for now, just imagine the alps one direction, green mountains the other, and flower covered cottages and trees and lakes and sunflower and hay feilds in between. Amazing. Hard for contacting, but gorgeous. Everytime I walk out the door, I just think, yeah, I live here. See that village full of cottages and flowers? yeah, I'm porting that. So cool. I feel like I have seen such variety on my mission. Carcassonne was pretty and had a giant castle, St Etienne was modern city and here is gorgeous with mountains and villages out of postcards. Anyways, this week, I watched a mission video about how to drive in France and S Christensen has told me stuff about driving stick and demonstrated a little (most of it didnt make sense and Ill probably make her repeat it 6 times or so). So this week, at some point, I'll probably actually get behind the wheel. I'll be sure to tell you how that goes. Also this week, about eight flies were in our apartment and we got to watch S Loder swat them. It was actually really exciting. It felt almost like I was watching an action movie. She would barely miss one and it would fly away and then we would all sit in our chairs looking around trying to find it again. And then one of us would see one and everyone would watch as S loder tried to sneak up on it. It was great. We live in the basement of a members house (they are awesome) and they have three cats. One has gray stripes and whenever she sees you, will practically roll over trying to get away from you and then if you succeed in petting her, will sit on your shoe until you nudge her away. Another one is black and naps on top of the lawn mower almost all day. Sometimes we will leave at around luch and then come back for dinner and she will still be there just napping. The last one is this fat gray one, who apparently gets even fatter during the summer. Its kinda hard to imagine what she would be like fatter. This week we got to attend a french wedding (we were allowed to because of the amount of nonmembers there and it was a chance to do service) which was beautiful. It was cool because some people were wearing top hats and carrying fancy canes. I was suprised to not find anyone wearing a monocle. Yesterday, we had church where I anounced over the pulpit that I am from Iowa. I corrected myself, but I've had tons of members tease me about it already. This ward is huge. Im not used to being in such a gigantic ward in France. And so many of them speak English. The family that lives above us are Italian, so they speak italian, french and english fluently and some spanish. How cool are they? We had lunch at their house yesterday, where we had the best lasagna ever. It was so good, so I ate a lot. Then an hour later, we went to another members house for dinner and we had....... lasagna. By that time, I had eaten so much that I felt ready to burst. Then they placed this giant peice of lasagna in front of me and I could actually feel myself starting to tear up, how in the world was I supposed to fit that into my already full body? After a lot of pain and cutting lasagna and moving it around to make it look like less, I ate enough to not offend anyone. But it was definitely one of the hardest things I had ever done in my life. Do not eat lasagna twice in one day. The other sisters would agree with me.
Well I gotta go. Im glad that everyone is having fun on vacation and I love hearing about how everyone is doing. Lately, I've been asking people for their conversion stories, so please send me letters or emails about how you gained your testimony. I love hearing about those. I love you all so much. God loves everyone and expects big things from each person. Be worthy of his trust. Trust God in everything you do. Je vous aime!!!
Soeur Russell

McDonald's in Geneva and other fun adventures

My dear family and friends,
You may have realized this from my late email but............ I got transfered again! I'm currently writing you from the tiny but gorgeous village of Gex. It is right next to the swiss border and geneva is just 25 minutes away by car. Which is the other news, we have a car. Luckily, I probably won't ever need to drive it because my current companion knows how to drive stick and I don't. Which is the other news. I have new companion named Soeur Christensen. She and I are staying in a member's basement with two other sisters, Soeur Loder (who came in the same time as me) and Soeur Roberts. It is absolutely stunning here, every single building I see is postcard worthy and there are flowers and mountains and green everywhere.  It was very sad leaving St Etienne, but I am very excited to be here. It was sad to leave our progressing amis and it was especially sad to say goodbye to the elders there and Soeur Modersitzki. We got so much work done  but still had so much fun. The elder there that was our district leader is leaving to be district leader someplace else and his junior companion is going to get a blue companion, be district leader and be whitewashing in a middle of nowhere town. Crazy. Soeur Mod will get a blue companion too, which is awesome, she will do such a great job. I love her so much and I already miss her. Its her birthday today too, but we celebrated together before I left. Yesterday, I took a train to Lyon, then took a train to Geneve and was met there by two of the sisters. Soeur Loder didnt come in until four hours later, so we ate Mcdonalds, (which was the least expensive place to eat, but was still ridiculously expensive) and wandered around Geneva. It was the wierdest feeling, I was half asleep and it was burning outside, but here I was in Geneva, wandering around and staring at that famous fountain and the mountains. My brain wasnt really connecting everything, but, it was really cool. Thats one thing I love about being a missionary here, without even planning it or going out of your way, you get the coolest experiences. I feel like I should in a movie sometimes. You know the stories about the young women visiting in Europe learning more about the world and about themselves all within a beautiful setting. Thats me. So back to yesterday, we then got Soeur Loder and Juice (the drink not the person) and drove across the border and back to the apartment and visited some members and then went to sleep. Today we did studies, some contacting, helped one of the members prepare for her wedding later this week and now we are doing emails. We did contacting in downtown Gex and it is like a fairytale village, it is so darling. ( I dont think I have ever used that word in an email, it felt wierd writing it) I am so glad everyone is having fun on their trip. Take me again when you come back. :)  I love you all! God loves you! Have faith in Him, that he can help you!
Je vous aime!
Soeur Russel

Figure eights and giant cucumbers

Dear family and friends,
 The work here is busy. We will be trying to find people and, during the day, it feels like there isnt pretty much anyone interested in our message and then, at the end of the day we look back and realize we actually found three or four people that day. I think there is this idea that france doesnt have any convert baptisms, but we are definitely finding people. We have so many amis Im always scared that I will be forgetting one of them. (its hard to imagine what that must feel like in Brazil missions and such) We only have two preogressing amis, but we have about 8 newer amis. One of our new amis is named Max and I want to see him and Daniel talk to each other. They would probably love each other. We have only been able to have 2 short lessons with him, but they were great. He is African, about 6"2 and huge, is married with two kids, has the biggest smile ever and he loves to laugh. He speaks english, so we always talk in english and we just laugh and laugh. We are realy hoping to get a longer lesson with him this week. We are also teaching an older cambodian man named Michel Lim. He is awesome and he has an awesome miracle story. His father died during the communist problems they had in cambodia and he and the rest of his family got seperated. After that, he would pray every night that he would find his family. His mom went all over the US showing everyone his photo and asking if they recgonized him. and one day somebody saw his photo and knew him and they were able to reunited, how cool is that? The rest of our investigators we are trying to help them start progressing. But we are busy, busy. 
Its been really cool to see both this transfer and last transfer, because we started with no amis both transfers and ended the transfer with many. It is so cool to be part of that process. 
Ive had a request for me to write what my schedule is usually like, alors. We usually wake up at 6:20 and go over to the park right across from us to work. S Mod will run up this hilly thing, run down, run over to some trees, sprint down the sidewalk and repeat. A lot of running. In the middle of the park, there are four trees in a line that I will run/walk around. (not as much running) I usually do a figure eight around them and, sometimes to mix it up, ill do a circle. Pretty exciting huh? then we have breakfast and personal study and companionship study and then language study and then the twelve weeks program for all those newer missionaries ( all those studies take about 4 hours) and then we have lunch and then we have lesson/ contacting/ passing less actives/ street boarding with the elders/ etc. and somewhere in there we have dinner and then we have planning and then I usually got straight to sleep after that. the schedule sometimes varies but it is usually the same. This week we had district meeting and we probably have one of the most unusual districts in the mission. We have our district leader and his companion, us ( two blues), a trio of sisters, ( two of which are blue), our zone leaders, a missionary couple and the assistants. So our district meeting was pretty spiritually charged with awesomeness. 
Food wise, we dont eat out too often, but sometimes we will get a pastry or baguette. At home, we eat lots and lots of vegtables with couscous, rice, pasta, meat, bread. We have cereal and PBJ and chips and banannas. So, not too different from I ate before. Just with more french baguettes. And lately, cucumber. One of the members gave us a cucumber the size of a small dog. Its like a foot and a half long and as thick as Avery. 
This friday will be transfer calls, so my next email might be from someplace new or with a new companion. (which would be a little sad because S Mod and St Etienne are both awesome.
Je vous aime!
Soeur Russell

Monday, July 22, 2013

I have lots to catch up on

Dear family and friends,
I have more time to write this week, thankfully. I am so glad Zach had a good time at EFY! Those are some of my favorite memories. I can be such a spirit filled week if you allow it. Where are you going on vacation? Wherever it is, have lots of fun and eat good food and if it was really awesome, take me there when I come back.
This week has been exciting. The most surreal part was one morning earlier this week. I was making myself breakfast, when I glace at the floor and see a white speck. on closer inspection, the white speck began to wriggle. I called over Soeur M and after examining the living thing on floor, we came to the conclusion that it was a maggot. yes, a maggot on the living room floor. After flushing that one down the toilet, we found another one and another and etc. We went around picking up maggots wriggling across our floors with paper towels for about an hour until we couldnt find any more. They were coming from the trash can, so we threw that away and we havent seen any since. What a strange morning.
Last week, we also got an ami with a baptismal date. Her name is Louise and, if anyone needs and deserves the gospel in her life, its her. She has gone through anything and everything bad a person can go through and, after learning a lttle bit about the gospel, she has dove straight into it. She loves The Book of Mormon and Church. She has a really complicated situation, so we have a lot to sort out before she gets baptized, but she is so excited for it. We also are teaching a few african women and have a lot of potentials that we need to meet with this week.
It was interesting to hear what everyone did for the fourth of July. On the fourth we had a zone conference, so all the missionaries were celebrating together with a couple of patriotic songs and decorations, but otherwise, of course, the french people didnt blink an eye. But we were looking forward the 14 of July, the independence day of France. But apparently, they do a big a big celebration in Paris and a couple other cities, but not St Etienne. We had a Dominos pizza with the Elders, and that night pulled our chairs out onto the balcony to watch some fireworks. We saw like two fireworks pop out from random people celebrating, otherwise, it was like a ghost town. But I did take a moment to apreciate the situation. I was sitting on a balcony in France, clipping my nails by the light of the Dominos across the street, waiting for Fireworks. I can safely say, I have never pictured that setting my entire life.
One really awesome miracle that happened, was that, the first week, while we were trying to visit a member, who wasnt there, we had extra time. So after a little prayer for guidance, we decided to visit a less active on our list who lived nearby. We knew nothing about her, since we had just arrived, but we hopped on a bus, found the address for us and gave us directions, then we walked to this picturesque area tucked away in the hills. We rang the doorbell to her home and the gorgeous lady let us in with a big smile. We had a quick spiritual thought about faith in our broken  french that she participated beautifully in and she shared part of her sweet testimony. Towards the end of the lesson, we found out that she is the ex wife of our ward mission leader and she is currently living with a man. We invited her to church and hurried off for our meeting with our ward mission leader. We were kinda worried it would be a little awkward talking about her with our WML but he was glad we met with her, but didnt seem too confident that she would come to church. The next sunday, she came, and she has come every sunday since. A later time SM and her companion for the day visited with her again, and she started crying and saying how much she loves the church  and how the first time we visited her, we asked about how she found faith in the church, and she knows she has faith and she needs to be growing it and has been coming since to church then because of that and she is trying to decide whether or not she should leave her boyfriend so she can be active. How inspired was our first visit? If we had known she was the exwife of our WML, we may have not visited her or acted the same around her, but we didnt know, we followed a prompting and now she is changing her life for the better. How amazing! The church is true! I know it!
Je vous aime!
Soeur Russell

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I don't have any time to write

I literally have about 5 minutes to write. So before I forget, I have a letter to be sent to Grammy and Poppas house, so they will hear from me soon. So until they get my letter, I love them lots. (and the rest of my family and friends) And I did get the necklaces, which I loved and Isaac got baptized in Carcassonne this week, (I didnt see it though :( ) We have an ami with a baptismal date in St Etienne now, more later, and we have two new amis. A lot happened this week, and I really wish I had more time to write. Last transfer I thought we were really busy, it is really wasnt that busy when compared to this transfer. But we are busy doing the work of God, which is all that really matters. Scripture of the week is 2 nephi 31:20. The gospel really makes life better in every single way. And I get to see the change it makes in peoples lives constantly here. Micah, do something exciting, you deserve it, Daniel, good luck with your searching and interviews, sadly French hasnt come as quickly for me, but its coming, Jennifer, hope the primary kids havent injured you yet, Zach, read the scriptures! they are awesome, Mommy, I think I played a version of that game before and I remember I loved it, we will have to play it when I get back, and tell me how that melt place is, Daddy, I love your letters and I would love to find those ski instructors and show off my french skills, Im not sure they would remember me though.
I love you all!
Soeur Russell

Monday, July 8, 2013


Family and Friends,
We finally have Amis/ invetisgators. The Elders in St Etienne passed one to us
and she is very interested in what we have to say. And then a wife of a member who reads the Book of Mormon on a regular basis but is planning on getting baptised soon because she is from a very Italian Catholic Family. (She is also sicilan, but she didnt recgonize Micah's name sadly) She is spectacular. She made us some yummy pizza.
So this week, somebody finally fed us frog legs. Ive been waiting for that to happen for the past two months. It doesnt really taste like anything. But I got to eat Frog legs! Not everybody gets to do that on their mission.
In St Etienne, we are constantly busy. There is so much to do and we are barely able to fit a part of it in everyday. Its kinda funny, we will work so hard, that in the mornings Ill wake up still exhausted and I usually end up spend a few minutes trying to remeber what to do next in the mornings. Its usually not until my stomach starts growling that Im like, Oh, right, breakfast is in the mornings. And then I spend a few minutes trying to remember what I usually have for breakfast. But it is so cool to see what is going on in St Etienne. The Ward is still excited out of their minds that we are here and Soeur Moderstzki and I have grown so much. She is so sweet and she looks like a model so we are always getting random guys stopping us and asking her for a date. Ive never had to give the stink eye to so many people before, Im not used to doing it and I didnt expect to be doing at as a missionary. Im getting pretty good at it though. :) Expect me to be proficent by the time I come back.
We had a mangez-vous the other night at a members house. They were such a beautiful and wholesome family and they had the best dog ever. Apparently, they were looking for a dog for the family and after looking at hundreds of puppies, the father picked their current dog. It is one of the ugliest dogs Ive ever seen. She is an extremely chubby english bulldog, who always has her tongue stinking out, not panting, just sticking out. She likes run around the apartment, but she is so chubby, that when she tries to stop, her momentum carries her forward still so she ends up rolling. she also seems like she has mild narcolepsy so she woould randomly fall asleep at the wierdest times and places. And she likes licking leather.
So during our spiritual thought, she was scrambling and rolling and sleeping and licking peoples shoes all within a 3 minute period of time. Everyone just laughed and laughed. The father of the family is extremely proud of her and picked her up to show off every ugly part of her. He kept saying over and over, very proudly, "Elle est pas belle." (she is ugly) As we were leaving, the father decided he was going to take her on a walk. She doesnt like walks, so it just means he drags her everywhere. He was really proud of that too.
He almost makes me want to get an english bulldog. :)
I love you all!
God is really there and loves all his children!
Je vous aime!
Soeur Russell

Thursday, July 4, 2013

St. Etienne

124 Rue Bergson  Immeuble ce Neptune 42000 St Etienne FR (my new address)
Dear family and friends,
I miss normal keyboards :( These ones have the a in the corner of the keyboard which is really strange and other letters in wierd places. So Im constantly typing things like Ze hqd q RDV zith thqt Fq,ily. Or I ;iss peqnut butter. I am constantly reveiwing what Ive typed.
The Phelipe Family (the brazilian family) in Carcassonne have a Baptism date!!!!! I literally found out ten miutes ago when I was looking at the mission news letter. They will be such great members, Im sure. There are going to be three baptisms at least in Carcassonne! Carcassonne hasnt had that many baptisms within a that small amount of time for like ever. I am so excited!
St Etienne is awesome too, but very different from my last ville. For one, it is a lot bigger. There are three different tram lines and there are constantly things to do. I expected opeing a new equipe would mean finding a lot of people ( contacting, going door to door), but we are constantly busy here and have a hard time fitting finding in. All the members want to meet with us and there are so many less actives to visit and things to work on for the sector and apartment. But somehow, we have still managed to find people in the few seconds we have been able to run around contacting. The Lord really provides a way to accomplish his work. This week we are meeting with a lot of people (potential investigators, members, inactives) so we will be busy.
So now, Ill back track a bit, all the way to transfer calls. That day is kind of funny because whenever the phone goes off, the entire apartment kinda runs around like headless chickens, whether it is the president or not. At one point one of the sisters (who shall go unnamed) even slipped and fell after hearing the phone go off. (ok, it was me and the call wasnt even from president) But the calls are always extremely short, because there are so many of us to call. I was the last one to talk to him (when he finally called ( I didnt slip that time)) and I was on the phone with him for like an entire minute. Afterwards the sisters all looked at me and asked what he was saying to me that we talked so long. We talked for so long because I made repeat the name of the ville 3 times. And even then, I thought it was a different ville. A call to Soeur Moderstinski confirmed that.Then a sad sunday of saying goodbyes later, I was put on a train with 3 bags by myself. It felt extremely wierd to be sitting on train by myself. The only other people there were the driver and some random guy. It was very wierd to not have another woman nearby. But after a layover, where I had to get all of my bags off the train, The train with Soeur Mod pulled in. She helped me pull my bags onto the next train and headed to our next layover in Lyon. In Lyon, There were a bunch of missionaries helping others get onto their trains and such. Of course all of them asked us where we were being transfered to. Before when I had told people St Etienne, they would just say they had never heard of it. But while we were in Lyon, Each person would get excited and say, Youre The opening equipe! Everyone is so excited that we are here.
Once we arrived in St Etienne, we expected someone to greet us, but after waiting for a while nobody showed up, so we borrowed somebodys phone and called the office elders. Apparently, somebody should have given us keys and a phone while we were in Lyon. ( I think everybody was a little confused about what was going on, it was a crazy tranfer day) So the office elders drove all the way up here to give us keys and our phone and help us find our apartment. During that 2 hour time, This nice man came up and talked to us and we ended up having a lesson. So the Elders arrived right at the end of our lesson and came back and told all of Lyon that we had found an investigator within our first hour of being here. That will be a hard reputation to keep up with.
But St Etienne is so amazing, the ward is so supportive and excited we are here. We have a lot of young sisters in the ward who either want to go on a mission or already went on one. They are all so helpful.
Earlier this week we had blues conference. (A conference for all the second transfers) It was so great to see all of the people from the MTC again. At one point, some missionaries were asked to participate in role playing some contacts and they asked one sister from my MTC district to do it. In the MTC she had a hard time with french, because it was completely new to her, and she did that contact perfectly. Our entire old district was jumping excitedly afterwards. It was so cool to see how everybody had changed.
That was also the last time Ill see SFC on my mission, this is her last transfer. Sad. :(
I love you all!!!! I still have a lot more to write so until next week.
Miracles come after Faith!
Trust God!
He loves you!
love, Soeur Russell

A New Ville

Dear family and friends,
Sorry I didnt write earlier. I couldnt yesterday because I was on trains for most of the day going to my new Ville. And now I am currently writing you from St Etienne. :) Im here with another 2nd transfer named Soeur Modersitzki and we are opening a new equipe. We have two elders in St Etienne too, but we are the first Sisters here in 10 years. We have a new apartment with a very pretty veiw, and the ward is already treating us like princesses. Somebody even brought us breakfast this morning. We are so excited to be here. Its going to be a lot of work because we are working from the ground up, but we have already got huge things planned for the sector. And my new companion is amazing. We were in the MTC together and so I already knew her a bit and she is awesome. She has studied french before, so we havent been struggling too much with that yet. 
It was really exciting to hear all the changes going on with missionary work. Missionary work is being revolutionized and it is so cool to be a part of it. I dont have much time to write today. Thank You for all your letters! Its a little scary that Zach is driving, hes not really that old is he?  To Zach, driving gets better after you get your license (not skill wise but experience wise (well kinda both)). I remember I didnt like driving at all until I got my license. Daniel, Im glad you still get to use your creole, and Im glad work is turning out so well. I love hearing Jennifers stories about primary. Micah, I have no idea what you were talking about in your last letter, the parts about the art, but Have fun visiting Ohio, and make sure to inform me about your career decisions. Mommy and Daddy, I love you! 
I gotta go, Ill make sure to write more next week. 
The gospel is true!
It brings so much light into the lives of everyone!
Je vous aime!
Soeur Russell

Monday, June 17, 2013

In Carcassonne

4 Carcassonne Soeurs and Elder Phelps (They're teaching his grandfather)

Zone Conference, Mexican Food, and Exchanges

My dear family and friends,
What an interesting week. So Monday, the most memorable thing that happened was that we listened to the old lady that lives downstairs rant for an hour. I didnt understand most of it, but I could tell she was mad at the new people that moved in, ( probably because she started hollering up the stairs at one point) and she thought we were nice. ( because she would calm down when she would mention the missionaries) She has an intense french accent and speaks absurdly fast, so I can't understand  most of what she says. So I spent an hour politely listening to an old lady yell in some language that wasnt really the same language I learned. But it was worth it because she seemed really grateful afterwards. Tuesday, we spent 6 hours on trains to get to a town next to Aixes en provence, where we are having our conference and spent the night in an apartment usually inhabited by two elders with 12 sisters. The next morning was interesting getting ready. We went to the church building for our tri-zone conference with Elder Richards and it was really awesome. I wish I could tell you everything he said, but that would take four hours so believe me when I say it was awesome. It was so great to see some the missionaries from the MTC again. We had some fun story telling and we got to talk to Elder Phelps, whose grandpa we are teaching. He was so excited and told us he would be praying for us every night. I am really looking forward to the moment when his grandpa finally opens up.
That night we went to a mexican place that is really only famous among the missionaries because it might be one of the only places with mexican food in France. The other sisters were just about crying with joy. And it was pretty good. The next day, we spent another six hours on trains to get back to Carcassonne. Not much else happened. On friday, I went on exchange to Toulouse. Toulouse is absurdly bigger than Carcassonne. So it was interesting to always be on Metros and buses and trains instead of walking. The Sister I was with is so awesome. Her name is Soeur Bayles and she has an obsession with seafood. We had long conversations about seafood on that transfer. I have probably never talked about seafood so much in my life. So it was a fun transfer. Before we went to an appointment, we had huge subway sandwichs and arrived with bulging bellies to a really spunky young woman who made us an African meal. It was yummy, but difficult to walk afterwards. But that appointment was great. Another young african woman came and we spent most of the time laughing. I love africans, I can understand most of what they say.
Saturday, I came back to Carcassonne and started another exchange with Soeur Hulme. It was interesting because I see her everyday, but we have never had the oppurtunity to talk, just the two of us. She is so easy to get along with and to like. We were still on exchanges on Sunday which was interesting. Both companionships did spiritual thoughts in different auxilary meetings and S Hulme and I taught Sundayy school on the Word of wisdom ( I learned some fun vocab for that) and then all four of us gave five minute talks in sacrament meeting and then we went to a meeting about the culture night this next week. The ward is really getting to know us, whether they want to or not. ( most of them want to, they are very nice)
And that night we watched a drunk man lay in the middle of the road and until the paramedics came and he argued with them until the police came and arrested him. Before that though, we thought he might be dead. That was intersting to watch.
This next week will be very interesting too, so expect another big email. And next week I'll know whats happening next transfer. Exciting!
I love you all!
God answers all you prayers!!! And miracles really do happen, I see them constantly! ( Look up Miracle in the bible dictionary, its very interesting)
Je vous aime!!!!!
Soeur Russell

Monday, June 10, 2013

Weird Statues

Cher Famille et amis
This week, Isaac chose a baptism date!!!!!! I wasn't there for it, I was on exchange. But it is so exciting. He just took to the gospel like a duck does to water. Like butter to toast. Like a teenage girl to chocolate. He is just awesome. During church, in class, one of the eternal amis here in carcassonne went off about how we need to be skeptical of everything, even the word of God. As soon as he was done, Isaac and said, God is is perfect, duh. Like I said the gospel and him are like Minnie and Micky mouse. Wang is leaving for China this week. She will be back in a few months, but S FC will be done by then and I probably wont be here. But we will make she gets contacted as soon as she gets back. Last week we did the entire Plan of Salvation with her and she kept saying, its clear, it makes sense. Her and Isaac take every gospel  and soak it in, its so cool. She prayed for the first time in our lesson last week. How would feel to have never prayed before and finally to communicate with your heavenly father for the first time? Afterwards she said she felt a great peace. I hope I get to see her again before the end of my mission.
Last week we started teaching 4 new amis! One is a man named Eric and the other three are a young family. Eric is interested and he believes in a universal power, but he is hung up on the idea that God has a physical body. We are having another lesson with him this week. The family is from Brazil and they have a little nine year-old boy. They are so kind and speak french very well. One cool thing is that, last lesson we had with them, we taught with our ward mission leader, Sensei. The family was looking for a place for karate lessons and sensei happens to be a championship karate instructor. Too cool.
Carcassonne has been booming, SFC and I went from having 0 progressing amis at the begining of the transfer to having six. There hasn't been six amis for at least 4 transfers, if not more. And this week we contacted 352 people, which is huge for Carcassonne. That also hasn't happened for a while. S Luthi and S Hulme though contacted 700 people this week. That is unheard of for Carcassonne. So Carcassonne is exploding with gospel awsomeness.
We had two mangez-vous this week. The first one was with an older couple who the husband isnt a memeber but the wife is. their grandson is even currently serving in this mission. We are hoping that will touch the grandfathers heart a little. they are bothe very nice ane they fed us a lot of food and sent us home with sausage, babybell cheese, and two giant jars of nutella. Yum. We had lunch yesterday with two members of the ward. They are both mildmannered and getting married this month. The both go to a mental clinic as well. So, yes. I did have lunch with two offically insane people. But they are very mild and lunch turned out well. It was just a little awkward.
In answer to Zach's question, the coolest building I have seen in france has got to be the Chateau. It is really just huge and makes for a pretty veiw out of our window. We are planning on going back there today. Fun! But I have also seen some weird artwork here too. The other day, by the bridge, we saw the top half of a giant man  resting on the ground woven out of sticks. and there were two giant hands next too it. It kinda looked like a man made of sticks was drowning in the grass. Lately they have put the arms onto the man and made him bigger and put a heart woven out of red sticks inside of him. We will be passing by the statue today when we head to the castle, so I'll get to see what they have done next.
A pigeon ran into my head today. It was one the strangest sensations I have ever had and I would rather not experience it again. I think the bird was fine but I found a feather in my hair later. I don't recommend it. Just in case you wanted to try to have a bird fly into your cheek.
I can't beleive this transfer is almost over. I'm feeling a little nervous about next transfer because, I will almost certainly be put with someone who has as much experience as me with the language and so on, because anyone with more experince will be training. I can't even contact without S FC's help and I will need to be able to teach lessons and make phone calls in French. I'm hoping for gift of tongues big time for the upcoming weeks. My French has been getting a lot better, but I still have a long ways to go. But the Lord wouldn't send me to do this if I wasn't able to.
This week we will be having a huge conference for the missionaries this week because an area seventy will be coming to speak to us. So I'm looking forward to a great week.
I love you all!
God loves you!!
Thank for your letters!
Don't let birds run into your head!
Je vous aime!!!!
Soeur Russell

Monday, June 3, 2013

Carcassonne address

Here's Soeur Russell's address while she serves in Carcassonne:

Soeur Russell
49, rue Marceau Perrutel
F-11000 Carcassonne

Pinnochio, African Peppers, and Pigs in a Blanket 6/3/13

Family and friends,
Carcassonne is actually warm and not rainy today! I actually got people apologizing to me while contacting for the weather. I didn't mind it too much. Ohio has a lot of rain too, so I'm used to it. But its nice to see the sun.
 All the sisters say thank you for the hairties mommy :) (including me)
The other day, while we were contacting, we came across a man doing recycling. We talked a little bit about how he is buddist and loves everyone and loves that we are sharing our religon, while his hands were cavered in broken glass from recycling and suddenly he turns to me and says I look like Pinnochio. Beleive it or not, I have never had that compliment before. ( I'm taking it as a compliment)
My french, especially my comprehension is getting better everyday. everyonce and a while we will talk to someone with a really thick french accent and I have a really hard time understanding them, but I can ussually understand an idea of want someone is meaning to say. My speaking french is moving a little more slowly. The other day we were teaching a couple of members, I asked a question and I glanced up the members confused faces, glanced at my compaions confused face and thought about how confused my face must look like because I couldn't even make sense of what I just said or even meant to say and I glance at one of the other sisters and we just laughed. Later she told me it it was the first time that she couldn't guess what a missionary was trying to say. thank fully that has only happened once and it can only get better.
We just got done and hour ago teaching a lesson with a chinese girl named Linken. She is one of the sweetest and cutest people I have ever met. right from the moment we met her, she treated us like we were friends. I can't wait to teach her again.
We had our first Mangez-vous this week. ( a meal at a members house) We had pigs in a blanket. really. It was really good and fancy pigs in a blanket, but it made me smile when they brought it out. They used fancy sausage and put goat cheese inside the flakey pastery they used. So still very french some how. The sisters in my apartment have been putting those african peppers in everything. So my tongue is currently about ready to fall off. But it makes them happy and its funny to see them all smiling with tears streaming down their faces as they eat.
We have a beautiful veiw from our apartment. A lot of our windows give a nice veiw of the castle and if you stand on you tiptoes at one window, you can sometimes see the mountains. Its all very pretty. We were cleaning the apartment today and we had the windows open because S Fairchild is allergic to cleaning supplies and suddenly, our picture of Jesus flies out the window. we had to sprint down four stairs  and run around the street in our pajammas trying to catch the picture. We made a funny sight but thankfully the street never has many people or cars on it.
I love the gospel! I know its true more and more everyday.
I love you all! Go hug someone today!
Miss you!
Je vous aime!
Soeur Russell

Monday, May 27, 2013

More Stuff About Carcassonne

Ma Cher Famille et amis,
To Mommy, in france, mothers day was yesterday (fete de mere), so happy mother's day! We gave some flowers and cookies and a card to an old lady that lives downstairs from us and she spoke so fast that I didn't understand a single word she said except that Seour Fairchild was going to get married as soon as she got home. I don't know how we got to that point in the conversationm but it was funny.
 In Carcassonne, we are seeing all sorts of miracles. Like, while we were in Lyon, our only progressing investigator dropped us, so Soeur FC sent out a mass text to all the numbers on her phone, asking if they would like to meet the missionaries. A family responded ( we are meeting with them this week) and a guy named Isaac. Isaac told us later that he was actually in Lyon too when he got the text ( he just happened to check his phone that he no longer uses on that day) but he didn't call until a few days after, and we set up a lesson. He came out in the rain to have a lesson in the park (the rain wasn't that bad but still that's impressive) he loved the lesson, asked to come to church before we could ask him and is praying about a baptismal date. And that's just the first lesson! He came to church with us yesterday and he loved it. Soeur Fairchild said she noticed him crying at one point during one of the hymns. He is a golden investigator. He is from Africa and thankfully, his french is a lot easier to understand than most people's. 
That is just one of the miracles. Because our text was sucessful, the other two sisters in Carcassonne tried it and one of the numbers ended up being the number for someone else's phone than the person they meant to text ( it was supposed to be this ex-convict person who used to be an investigator, but it turned out to be some lady) that lady wasn't interested, but she called back and gave the numbers of someone she thought would be and unbeleivably the other lady was. Too cool.
Soeur Fairchild is actually a miracle. Its a miracle that she is alive. She was pronounced dead when she was born anfd has had an unbeleivable anmount of near death experiences since. ( like being struck by lightning, land slides, fires). She is also allergic to a lot of crazy things. Some of them are more normal ( like she is allergic to eggs and avocados) but she is also allergic to certain smells like a lot of perfumes and such. If we walk past a perfume store, she has to sprint past it and we don't put any perfume in our apartment. I've never met anybody who has that, but I don't mind it at all. It's kinda fun to sprint past perfumeries, or whatever they are called. She is one of the oldest sister missionaries in our mission and will be going home in two months, so she is quite experinced when it comes to missionary work. 
For my birthday we went to the castle, visited some shop, made cupcakes ( thank you Mommy) and had lots of fun.  The castle is huge and gorgeous. We haven't even visited the actually castle part of it, just the area inside the walls. So it is huge. Carcassonne is gorgeous. And I'm excited to get to know the ward more. We love our bishop to death. Daddy, I'm sure you already do this but, be extra nice to your missionaries. We appreciate our bishop so much. He is so nice and spiritually in tune.
Now, sorry to everyone who has written me and hasn't gotten a response yet. I actually wrote a ton of letters right before we left the MTC, but I couldn't get to a mailbox before we left and I still need to get stamps here. But expect them soon! 
If emailing me is convenient, please do. Us missionaries love every bit of news, advice, love that we get.
I love you all!
The gospel is true! God loves you!
Sorry any typing mistakes!
Soeur Russell