The alarm went off early Friday morning. We had to get up early as we normally do when we’re going into Paris. We got ready and caught our train at seven twenty. Our train pulled into the Gare du Nord station a bit over an hour later. There were several other missionaries there too, most from our zone. After we all got tickets and whatnot for the metros, we headed out to the St Lazare train station.
Once there it wasn’t hard to find the rest of the missionaries. At the far end of the station we could make out a mass of moving dark suits and coats. The group only seemed to get larger as the time passed by. What a sight! It certainly didn’t go unnoticed by everyone else in the station. It’s hard to not notice a group of nearly two hundred missionaries.
When our train arrived, we all flooded it. I’m sure there wasn’t a single car that wasn’t filled with missionaries! It wasn’t long from then when we had gotten off in Versailles and started a march toward the chapel. Those of Versailles were certainly surprised by the parade!
We eventually arrived at the chapel where we met some more missionaries. We had some time to say hello to those we hadn’t seen in a long time and eat our lunches. I didn’t eat, though. I was feeling a bit nervous and my stomach was a bit unsettled. After a while, we were asked to get into the cultural hall. The assistants began lining us up to take a large group photo. As everyone was getting into their places, I was asked to play the piano.
When everyone was in place, the assistants asked that we quiet down. We had a prayer and then they reminded everyone who was sitting (some of the missionaries had to sit on chairs to fit everyone into the photo) that they should stand when an apostle enters the room. They then asked that I continue to play the piano and for everyone to keep the reverence.
As I began playing, something very cool happened. The entire mission began humming to the hymn. The atmosphere changed so dramatically and quickly. It couldn’t go unnoticed. It filled our hearts until they were warm. It was a sound that seemed to come from heaven.
And then everyone stood and I finished playing my hymn and took my place with the group.
In front of us were President and Soeur Poznanski, Elder and Sister Teixeira of the Seventy and Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve. Next to him was his wife. They took their seats and then we quickly took the large photo. They then got up from their seats and started lining up so that us missionaries could go down by row and greet them all.
Elder Andersen stood by me and then asked, “Can someone play the piano while we shake hands?”
Seeing as I was standing right next to him and the piano, and that I had just been the one playing, I raised my hand and started toward the piano bench. Just then, Elder Andersen grabbed my hand and pulled me in toward him.
“We’re shaking hands first!” he said. And so we very briefly shook hands. The next second I was off to the Teixeiras and then President and Soeur Poznanski. It went by so fast! And as I sat on the piano bench and began playing, I realized that I hadn’t even said anything to Elder Andersen! No, “hello,” or “thank you for visiting us,” or anything! I was kind of sad.
So I played the piano as he greeted and talked to everyone else. Then they were finished and I got up from my seat. As I did so, Elder Andersen, Elder Teixeira and President Poznanski got together to take a picture. I didn’t want to get in the way so I just stood off to the side awkwardly. Then they were done and they started toward the stand.
Then, suddenly, Elder Andersen had his arm around me and was leading me to my seat.
“Merci pour votre aide,” he said. Thank you for your help.
I said your welcome and took my seat and the conference started.
We heard from President and Soeur Poznanski first and then one of the area authorities who was also in attendance. Then Elder and Sister Teixeira addressed us.
Elder Teixeira had come only last June. He told us that he was proud of the progress we’ve made in the mission and the many miracles that we’ve seen in the last few months. He said, “The Lord has plans for France. This is a new day. A new day for France. A new day for the French speaking people.”
Then Sister Andersen addressed us. She told us stories and miracles that took place during the time Elder Andersen was the president of the France Bordeaux mission. She stressed and reaffirmed what Elder Teixeira had only just told us. His statement that it was a new day for France was very significant.
And then we heard from Elder Andersen. He told all sorts of funny stories and we all had good laughs. He spoke to us in French in the beginning but we mostly heard from him in English. He said many things but talked mostly about our roles as missionaries and what that meant exactly.
He, having served here as a young missionary and as a mission president said, “It’s not the easiest place to be a missionary.” It reminded me of when I had met him in the MTC and he told me something that President Hinckley had once told him, “If you can build the kingdom in France, you can build it anywhere!”
He said he doesn’t know why France is more difficult than other places. But despite that, he said, “You have been called here by the Lord so you can do it. You can have miracles, you can have baptisms. How big is your faith ? Don’t limit yourself! Believe! We are here in France to baptize people in the true Church. Sometimes you try for so long, but you have to know: they are there! The ones who are ready to be baptized.”
“You cannot measure your mission on the moment. You can’t see your mission as baptismal goals,” he said. He told us that our role was much deeper. He said that our efforts matter. Even if we’re rejected by someone, the fact that we talked to them makes the difference. We don’t always see the fruits of our labors, but they are there.
“Put your eyes on the unseen. We look at things that are unseen.”
It was a great conference. I felt the Spirit and I felt so uplifted by his words. There was so much more that was shared but I can’t possibly share it all here and now. But I loved that day and I love being on a mission. It’s a wonderful thing. And I hope everyone can have the chance to do it someday.
As he finished addressing us, he said something that really touched me. And as he said it, I knew he was talking about us. Had it been any other apostle, I don’t think it would have been the same. Because he, like us, has spent his time working in this country in this language. Although I know this is true wherever you serve.
“Our few months as a missionary in France will be badges of honor. Somehow we will see our influence–how it dotted the horizon.”
Elder Saul Marquez