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

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