Monday, November 28, 2016

A Baptism and the Best Week Yet! (Update #18)

Christmas season has officially begun and I am LOVING it!! Here's a
little glimpse of what our crazy week looked like in numbers:

FIVE days left until we receive transfer calls!! We think/ hope/ pray
that we're going to stay here in Val de Saône for one more transfer
together but we never's really really rare for someone
to stay 3 transfers with the same companion, especially with their on verra! (we'll see). Let me just take this opportunity
to say how much I LOVE and adore Soeur Kelley. She has taught me so
much about how to be a missionary and speak French, but more
importantly, how to apply the gospel and love people. How to enjoy
life and love being a missionary. I love her so much (and if I do say
so myself, I think we make a pretty awesome team). Not sure how I'm ever
going to be able to have another companion!! (Also, she does all the
dishes. Tout le temps.)
FOUR Thanksgiving dinners. This is not a joke. I came to France where
nobody celebrates Thanksgiving and we had 4 Thanksgivings. One with
all the missionaries at zone conference, one "word of wisdom"
Thanksgiving (vegan) with an American family from the Ecully ward and
all their missionaries, one on Thanksgiving Day with the Smurthwaites
(awesome American family in our ward) and their French friends, and the
last one on Saturday with another family from the Ecully ward, all the
missionaries and 50 other people from their school/ ward/ our ward. It
was CRAZY!! We've never been fed so much and never felt so full (of
food and gratitude). Love being at these members houses with their
friends, both American and French, members and non-members and just
enjoying food and talking about life and the gospel and what we're
grateful for. I love how despite our differences in language, culture,
and beliefs, we can all come together and be united in our gratitude
(and with delicious food to eat). I miss my family more than ever, but
I also am starting to feel more and more at home here in France.
There's a lot to be grateful for this year💕

THREE times we accidentally broke the rules this week. Once when the
cake wasn't done in time so I had to stay up 15 mins late to get it
out of the oven. Once when Soeur Kelley didn't help me back me out of a
parking spot because it was pouring rain and she was carrying the cake
for Cani's baptism. And the grand crown of disobedience: we were on our
way to the famille B's house on Sunday for family home evening
when suddenly our car dings: "warning, low fuel." We had no gas and 2
hours of driving ahead of us. Our options: keep going on faith and let
Christ make up for the lack of gas, cancel the rendezvous and mayyyybe
make it home with our gas, OR be the worst missionaries in the world
and fill up our gas tank on a Sunday. And yes, we took the final
option and stopped and filled up our tank on the sabbath day. And
proceeded to say a lot of prayers. hahaha
(Disclaimer: these are definitely not the first or only times I've
accidentally (and very occasionally knowingly) broken little white
handbook rules, I just thought they were worth sharing this week. I
have a strong testimony that exact obedience brings miracles.
Obedience is how we show God we put him first. It's how He knows He
can trust us. Every week I make goals to be more obedient... BUT,
(clearly) I'm far from perfect. And I think that's the beautiful thing
about the gospel, Christ doesn't expect us to be perfect, he just
needs us to do our best. I think the point of this whole rant is just
to remember that obedience is so so important, but also that I think
we're all still figuring out the whole obedience thing. And that's the
whole reason we're on the earth, we're here to learn and to do our
best to live the way Christ wants us to and the way Christ showed us
to live. Missionaries aren't perfect and I am definitely far from
perfect, all we can do is try our best.)

TWO desserts I  made, one apple pie for Thanksgiving and one ombré cake
for Cani's baptism. Haven't quite gotten there on making pies like my
mom but I think every year I get a little closer...

ONE BAPTISM!!! Cani's baptism was beautiful and spiritual and
anticlimactic all at the same time. Since long before my mission I've
imagined this day. The day when someone I'VE taught chose to make
promises with God. The day they entered in on their own personal
journey to come unto Christ. The day of their baptism. Then for the
last 3 weeks we've been planning all the details, we've been helping
Cani prepare, we've been finding people to give talks, to do the
baptism, designing and printing the programs, making a cake.
I think I was expecting a big moment where it all crashed down on me,
but that moment never came. Cani's baptism was the summation of a lot
of little moments and a constant spirit that I will never forget, but
the "aha, miracle moment" never came. 

And I think that's for a couple reasons:
1. Cani was well prepared before we ever even met him. It wasn't "our"
baptism, Cani literally came to us. He showed up at stake conference
and said "I'm ready." God prepared Cani. All we had to do was love him
and teach him a couple of principles. You don't realize how true it is
that the Holy Ghost is the only thing that convert someone until you
see it happen firsthand.
2. Cani's journey to come unto Christ started long before his baptism
and it's going to continue long after his baptism. This was just a
step on his path to the temple to be sealed with his family, and
eventually to return to live with our father in Heaven. Albeit, an
important step, but just a step nonetheless.
3. Our whole experience with Cani has been such a miracle. Such an
evidence that God not only exists, but that He is aware of each of His
children, and He will guide us and teach us if we let Him. We didn't
need to have an "aha" moment because the last 4 weeks with him have
been an "aha" experience that has taught me so much about the gospel
and how it works.
While THE moment never came, here are a couple of the beautiful
from Cani's baptism that I want to remember forever:

1. Right after he came out of the water he and Frère J (our
bishop who baptized him) just stood there with their eyes closed and
their hands clasped for a minute. He was just soaking in the spirit
and the significance of that moment in his life.

2. Cani just calls us "Goold and Kelley" and always tells everyone
we're his spiritual meres (mothers). I love it so much and I love Cani so much and the day we have to leave will be a sad day.

3. When Cani was being confirmed,  the Spirit hit me like a wall. It
felt like I was receiving the Holy Ghost right along with Cani. It
made me think about how I've already received the gift of the Holy
Ghost and can have that feeling with me all the time and made me so
excited for Cani and how he can have that gift now too.  

4. Seeing all of Cani's friends and family that came to support him
(mostly church members). While I'll be sad when I have to leave, I
never worry about Cani because he has really found a family at church,
the ward has loved and accepted him. In his own words "he's been fed
and now he's ready to help feed others" Cani is such a powerhouse.

This week has been one of the best of my mission and I'm so excited
that Christmas season is officially starting!!! I love you all.

Avec tout mon amour,
Soeur Cami Goold

PS we went to see the famille "J" (mentioned in last week's letter) this week and brought little
gratitude boxes for the 2 little girls to put things they're grateful
for inside. They seemed okay, but they still have a long ways to go as
a family. Keep them in your prayers.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Hope (Update #17)

Bonjour à tous!

On Wednesday we were at the house of the Famille Cuche with Cani and Frere Cuche gave Soeur Kelley and I paintings he made us for Christmas. This man is SO talented. Best present ever!!!

Anyway, the painting depicts faith, hope, and charity. He explained that faith is the seed that's sprouting, charity is the tree of life (pure love of God), but he had to think about how to depict hope. He ultimately decided on white flowers, because flowers can eventually become fruit. It's not the fruit yet, we can't taste it. But we can smell it. and if we keep watering it, one day it will be a grand tree full of fruit. Hope is what keeps us going in times of trial. In times when we maybe can't quite taste the fruit.

This week I've been thinking a lot about hope and what that means in this crazy world where we live. I'm going to attempt to tell a story despite the fact that I don't think there are any words that can accurately express how heart wrenching and humbling this experience was.

First, a little background information: before the rendezvous Sœur Kelley and I were really struggling to figure out what to teach. Nothing felt right. Our Preach My Gospel studies were failing us and our minds were blank. After lots of praying and thinking, we decided to simply teach that God is our Heavenly Father and that he loves us unconditionally and perfectly. I've never felt the spirit so strongly in lesson planning before, and we entered the lesson with a specific song, activity and video to share.

There is not space or time to list the miraculous circumstances that placed us in Bourg-en-Bresse with the famille "J" on Saturday morning, but we were there. This little family is made up of a father and his two daughters. The dad is loving and protective, just doing his best to support his girls and be a good dad despite the fact that he's a little clueless in raising 2 girls all alone. The older daughter is 10 years old. She has wild, dark hair that frames piercing blue eyes. She's pretty quiet and extremely sensitive. The younger daughter is 8 years old with bouncy, curly locks to match her personality. She's a cute little spitfire who never stops chatting or moving (kind of difficult when trying to teach a lesson hahah). The mom of these two precious girls abandoned them.

At the beginning we just sat and talked with this struggling dad. I cannot even begin to comprehend his heartache and trials as a single father, let alone relate them here. Needless to say, their family is broken and it's all he can do to keep his daughters safe and alive. They need more emotional support and affection. They need a mom.

We start the lesson as planned with the song "je suis enfant de Dieu." The spirit is instantly there. Afterwards we start the activity. We have everyone write 5 things that describe them on a sticky note. We each go around and share one thing we wrote on our list. We then explained that while all these things are true and important, the most important thing that describes us is "child of God." We talked about what it means that the very God who created the whole universe knows us personally and loves us. That He loves us not for what we do, but for who we are. Because we are his children.

The 10 year old was silently sitting in the corner writing her list during this part of the lesson. After a good 10 minutes she silently comes over and joins us in the circle. We ask her to read one of her descriptive words. The words that followed out of this sweet child's mouth broke my heart. "I am very sensible. I am a girl who wishes she didn't exist. I am a girl who does not know who she is. I am 10 years old. I am a girl who has nothing except sadness." She proceeded to explain her hardships, her utter lack of self worth, and ultimately her attempt to take her own life. At 10 years old.

With tears in my eyes I wrapped my arms around her stiff form and did my very best to tell her that she is important. That we love her, her dad and sister love her, and most importantly, that God loves her. That it doesn't matter what she can do, it matters who she is. We ripped up her depressing sticky note, threw it on the floor and then wrote her a new one. This one reads "CHILD OF GOD. Daughter, sister, friend, beautiful, smart, strong." We made her promise to hang it on the mirror and read it twice every day. By the end of our talk I watched her blue eyes fill with hope. Maybe not happiness, not yet, but with hope that she can be happy. That maybe this life isn't as bad as it sometimes seems. That there is a reason to keep living. That we can focus on the good to overcome the bad. We plan on going out and visiting them at least once a week from now on.

This work is so much bigger than us. It's so much bigger than me. God knows his children. He knows every name that has slipped through the cracks on our ward list. He knows every child who thinks they are suffering all alone. And He will guide us to them if all we do is try to listen and not get in the way. We needed to be there in that little flat on that cold November morning. and we needed to plan that exact lesson, with that exact activity, otherwise we may have never known what was weighing down this fragile little girl.

The problem is anything but solved. This family is far from healed, but now that we know they're there, we can go back and help them in every way we can. These little girls were not forgotten by their Heavenly Father, and they will never be forgotten by us. It's a very intricate situation and there's really nothing you can do to help this family, but if you could send some prayers their way that would be much appreciated. Prayer works.

The moral of the story is that there is always hope. Sometimes politics, war, evil,  and depression feels really big. Sometimes these things fill our vision. But if we turn our vision to Christ, we cannot fall. Peter could walk on water UNTIL he looked away from Christ. As soon as he turned away and took in the winds and the waves all around him he started to sink. Lets keep our sights on what's important. Let's all try to focus on the little white flowers of hope instead of the waves and storms. Lets keep our vision on Christ.

Also, This was kind of an extreme situation, but we have no idea the impact of our words on the people around us. For better or for worse. This father was doing his best, but his daughter genuinely believed he didn't love her. She felt that everyone at school hated her. I don't think I've ever realized the huge influence the way we treat other people has on them. The second greatest commandment is to LOVE our neighbor. I definitely have some work to do, and I think we could all be a little better at keeping this commandment. At building those around us up without fear that it might bring them higher than us. Loving openly and unconditionally. Telling the people we love that we love them.

Lastly, Sometimes I wonder why I'm having a better time with French than some others. Don't get me wrong, I make TONS of mistakes and have sooo far to go. Many tears have been shed over this language. BUT, it is clear that God is adding his power to my efforts. Now I see why. Sitting on the squeaky bed in that little apartment, I NEEDED to be able to understand and respond to this poor little girl's words. The gift of tongues is real. It's not free or easy, but it's very real. And it's not coming because I want to learn French, it's coming because I NEED to be able to speak French to share the joy and hope of the gospel with the people God has called me to serve.

Sorry for the heavy emotional rant, but moving on to some lighter events of the week:

Happy things!!

Cani is getting baptized THIS SATURDAY!
His interview was yesterday and everything went great. I know there will be opposition, but he's really just so ready, I feel like he's already a member. We have an ongoing joke that every time we teach him, he ends up teaching us. The other day I was trying to explain the word of wisdom and he just says "the way I see it, our body is like a temple and we need to keep it pure" (we hadn't mentioned the temple analogy at all). My mouth just dropped and I said "oui c'est exactement ça, je pense vous comprenez mieux que moi" so basically Cani is the absolute best and I love that he's not just our Ami de l'eglise, he's my Ami. (See picture I drew for him hahah)
Miracle with his wife!! Wasn't at all supportive, but on Sunday she agreed to come to the baptism :))) literally danced around when we heard the news.


It's been a great week. I'm so full of gratitude for my family, my Heavenly Father, and my Savior Jesus Christ  for this indescribably beautiful opportunity I have to be amongst the people of France sharing the joy and hope of the message of the gospel. Our influence may be small, but "this work is a work of love and not statistics." I love France, I love the French people, I love French food and I love the French language (or I'm trying to anyway hahah). And I love all of you!! 

Thank you for all you do to be examples for those around you and for me. Thank you for your prayers and support.

Happy Thanksgiving!! Joyeuse fête de donner les mercis!! (That's terrible French and not a real thing, I just thought it was funny)

Avec tout mon amour,

Soeur Cami Goold

Monday, November 14, 2016

Je suis heureuse d'être heureuse (update #16)

Bonjour tout le monde!!
The title is a quote taken from the testimony of a recent convert, David. His testimonies are always colorful and a sometimes a little worrisome, but this line has become a new motto of mine. "I'm happy to be happy!" Amen! And last time he recited some catholic prayer to Mary so this was definitely an improvement :) he's awesome. Et je suis heureuse d'être heureuse!
So this week has been DOPE. Our mission has really been focusing on working with members this transfer. One of the number goals this encompasses is teaching lessons with members present. 2 weeks ago Soeur Kelley and I set a goal that was more than triple anything we'd ever done up to that point. We didn't know exactly how we were going to do it, but we worked and prayed a lot the last two weeks and we met our goal!! And there's no way we would have come even close if it were left to only the things we planned. God gave us paths to walk and people to teach and members to teach with. I love this way of doing missionary work because it builds our relationships with our ward and our Amis, and it integrates our Amis into the ward.
Us with Soeur "M" before she moved away
Before my mission and even in the MTC I really struggled with the numbers. "It's not about the numbers" and I would always get annoyed with how much they stressed setting number goals and "key indicators." Well, I sit here today with a new testimony of number goals. Without this goal to teach lessons with members, we would not have had Soeur Smurthwaite at our lesson with Cani, she wouldn't have been there to help him overcome his fear of his wife not accepting his baptism, and he might not be getting baptized the 26th of November. It's not about the numbers, it's about the people. It's about Cani, it's about the famille "B", it's about the members of the Val de Saône ward. At the end of this week, I'm not happy because we taught a bucketload of lessons with members, I'm happy because grâce à those lessons, we've built stronger relationships with countless people, our Amis have progressed more than ever before, and we feel motivated to keep working our butts off. Anyway, missionary rant over.

4 of the cool lessons we taught this week:

Famille "B"(wife was an inactive member and dad is catholic). There was insane traffic and we were driving with the "N" couple because they don't have a car. It took us 3 hours to make the 1 hour journey. I would make that trek 100 more times for the "B" family. We made them a family parcours au temple poster and we gave it to them (shown below).
Showing each of their individual paths to be able to go to the temple and be sealed for eternity as a family.

 With the N's we testified of eternal families and the love of God for their family. The dad claims he's not interested, but he always says "you teach good things" and he always joins us for lessons now. He's going to come around one day. Today in church Soeur "B" gave the opening prayer and this was her third Sunday in a row at church. 
Lesson with Cani and Soeur "S". Together at the church we addressed Cani's questions and concerns about being baptized. Having Soeur S's testimony and French to help us was invaluable. At the end we asked him how he was feeling about it and he replied "est-ce qu'il y a une raison de faire attendre?" To which we of course replied no. He will be baptized November 26 at 10 am. It was announced in priesthood yesterday. He's really starting to make friends and become integrated into the ward and it makes me so happy to watch.

Felix taught with Diogene (both from the Congo). Felix is an ancient Ami who is super busy so we don't get to teach him very often, I've only ever met him once at the beginning of last transfer. We planned on just teaching a good solid rétab, but as we started talking to him it became clear that we needed to teach the atonement. Soeur Kelley and I didn't even need to look at each other to be on the same page with this change. We talked about Christ and his atonement and shared Alma 7:11. Diogene is so cool. He's 20 and a convert of about 3 years, shared his powerful testimony and experiences with the enabling power of the atonement. I don't know that Felix will suddenly decide to start coming to church and meeting with us again, but I know that the spirit was there and he felt it.
We stopped by the house of one of our bishopric members to leave cookies and talk about the ward. He wasn't there, but we had an amazing conversation with his wife and her mom. During which we found out that her mom is not a member. Her exact words were "pas encore." (Not yet). We talked a little about her questions and concerns with the church and bore testimony of how the church has changed our lives. Because we took the time to get to know her first, she really trusted us and said she wants to get together again sometime. 
Other moments this week:
- Soeur Kelley and I have laughed to the point of tears multiple times this week and I can't even remember why. Sorry, I'll try to be better in the future.
- In a lesson Cani asked us "how can I share the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ with my children in Africa?" SO COOL. He's. It even baptized yet and he already is being a missionary. Cani is literally awesome.
- Cani always tells everyone we meet that Soeur Kelley and I are his "meres spirituelle" (spiritual moms) hahaha. I love it.
- a homeless kid who always begs on the street near one of our Amis tried to give us a coke and when we ignored him he left it outside of the door so it was waiting for us when we came out of our lesson...okay.
- FRANCE IS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACE IN THE WORLD. Sometimes I forget how cool it is that I get to live here and I want to just always appreciate it.
When I got my mission call to the France Lyon mission I knew it was where I was supposed to go, but I was excited to see why. This week I feel like I'm starting to see why. Sitting in lessons with Cani, with the famille "B", with Stella, I see why I need to be right here, right now. And I think they're teaching me more than I'm teaching them.

Je vous aime avec tout mon cœur!!
Soeur Cami Goold

a gift we made for someone's birthday
A sidewalk chalk  message for the birthday girl

They have these  little "Mairies" (courthouse) in every town.  This one with the French flag shutters struck us as particularly cute!  

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Analogy of the Cake (Update #15)

Bonjour bonjour!! Well this week officially marks 3 months en tant que missionnaire et tout va bien! I cannot believe how fast time is already going by.

#mishspiration  (The Analogy of the Cake)
"Behold I say unto you, Nay; for it is by faith that amiracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men"

This week we've started to see a lot of the fruit of our labors...and by that I mean we've been working really hard the last 7 weeks to get the work going in Val de Saône and this week we've seen A TON of huge miracles. The funny thing is, that most of these miracles came totally independently of the work we've been doing. 

It's so obvious that God has His plan and His own timeline and we just have to do what we can in the moment to be His hands. It's almost like us and God are baking a cake together. He has the recipe and he's telling us what to do one step, one ingredient at a time. He has a picture of the final product, he's tasted it before. But all he gives us is one tiny little step at a time. we cannot even begin to comprehend how beautiful and delicious the cake will be at the end. We just have to trust him when he's telling us to add a 1/2 teaspoon of salt, to talk to a random person on the side of the street, to make cookies for a neighbor. Because if we never did the little things, we would never get to taste the cake.

ANYWAY, long and potentially confusing analogy aside, what I'm trying to say is that God has a plan for us. He knows our faith and he knows our potential. He has greater things in mind for us than we can possibly imagine. If you don't believe that yet, keep doing the little things. Keep following the petit steps one by one, reading the scriptures, praying with faith, seeking the spirit, and one day you WILL taste the cake. 

Sorry, guess even as a missionary I can never truly leave behind the #cupcakesbycami mentality hahah.

Here are a couple of the faith building, humbling miracles we've seen this week:

At the end of our rendezvous with the famille "B" (partial member family) and the "N"'s (new Tahitian couple in our ward) we sang the song "Love at Home". We had just testified and talked about how God blesses our families and can help us be together forever. The husband (catholic) never really participates and claims not to be interested, but throughout every rendezvous he inches closer and closer until finally he's joined us in the circle. As we were singing the closing song I watched his face light up as he looked around the circle at his wife and two daughters singing.   The gospel is changing his wife and daughter as they return to church and it's changing him to see that change. This is why I came on a mission. These celestial moments where I can literally see the light of the gospel changing people's lives.
Baby and 11-year-old sweethearts  from the "B" family.   She said that the baby is her "best friend" and the "cutest little thing alive"!   The 11-year-old likes for Soeur Goold to braid her hair. 

Rendezvous with "L" this week. She's preparing to go the temple. She testified of Christ and the truthfulness of our church. As we talked I could literally SEE the difference in her between now and when we first met her trapped in that little elevator. She was carrying her burden all alone, she was full of fear, she wasn't happy. As she gradually comes back to Christ her face is lighter, she is happier, she is remembering what it means to share her burdens with the Savior and turn to him. The gospel works. I don't know exactly how, but it works.

"C" This is the man who miraculously showed up at stake conference this week. After teaching him 2 more times it has become so clear that God has been preparing this man for the last 46 years, and now he is ready. He told us he was ready to become part of our church and he wants to stay in our church for the rest of his life. His baptismal date is November 26. As missionaries we cannot convince anyone with our teaching to join the church, they're either ready or they aren't. It's so humbling to see that this really is Gods work. He knows "C", he knew that Soeurs Long and Hendrickson would contact him on the bus, He helped him find his way to stake conference, and now He is helping us show "C" the path to the temple. This is His work, we are just trying to be His hands.

Message for all of you: 
Friends, family, loved ones: God is real. He loves you. He has a plan for you. Faith isn't easy, but it is so worth it. I am seeing little seeds of faith grow and change people's lives. I'm seeing the light and joy that only Christ can bring fill their eyes. I'm seeing that change in myself. If you find yourself not knowing where to turn in life, turn to God. He's always a safe place to place our bets.
"Ask and he shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you"

My personal goal this week:
Being motivated by faith and not fear.
Not fear of being a bad missionary, fear of not living up to my potential, fear of disappointing my family, fear of not following God. While these fears aren't necessarily bad things, I'd rather be motivated by faith.
Faith that God has a plan for me and the people here, and that he will show me the way. Faith that Jesus Christ is our Savior and that every single person I talk to can benefit from the message. Faith that if I do my best in every moment, God will make up for my weaknesses.
In the simple words of the savior: "fear not, only believe" (ne crainds pas, crois seulement)

I love you. Je vous aime beaucoup.
Soeur Cami Goold.

Other happenings:  

More pics with the "B" family

This picture was taken at an art museum in Lyon.   Her and Soeur Kelley taught two lessons to the workers there and Cami got asked out by both of them.   

Soeur Goold is the new driver for the companionship and was very proud of her parallel parking job.  Apparently her Virginia driver's license has some kind of reciprocity with France and she can get a French driver's license soon.   

Some kind of missionary meeting.  She didn't say what or where it was. 

I also have a video of her eating a chicken foot, but I can't figure out how to share it yet.   I'll keep working on that and potentially include it next week.  :)