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