The move to St. Nazaire was…. tiring. Very tiring. We got up early and headed out. On the way to the train station the wheels on one of my suitcases died. So we had to drag it along. And then when we got to Paris… we still dragged it along. And we went through the dreaded Montparnasse train station. Thankfully, some elders in Paris were able to help me out there so we were able to take a shortcut. And then I hopped on a train alone to Nantes and met my companion there. Then we took another train and voila. St. Nazaire!
My companion’s named Elder Fuller from Nebraska. He likes to work, so that’s good. I’ve already learned several things in the last few days from him–things I can start doing to be an even better missionary.
The ville itself is a lot different from the other places I’ve been to. First off, we’re right on the coast. We live a few minutes from the beach. I haven’t seen it too much but I got a good look the other day as a member drove us past it. It’s kind of weird to think that those waters are what separate me from America–the same waters that the people of the old world dreamed of crossing one day, and then eventually did. Since St. Nazaire is right on the coast, there’s some boats. They build giant cruise ships here! And airbuses.
The weird thing is that pretty much the entire ville is just residential zones. It’s just a giant cluster of neighborhoods. Lots of porting here. And lots of retired people.
So it’s quite the change from all the others I’ve been to! It’s a branch here, not a ward. I guess baptisms have been kind of slow the last few years here. But when I got here, the elders had just fixed a baptismal date with an old eternal investigator. Legit! That’ll be on the twenty-second of December.
The coolest part is that the elders, the night before I got here, found an eighteen-year-old girl and taught her briefly. They set up another rendez-vous and we got to see her Saturday night. That night we ended up teaching her the Joseph Smith story. We had some members there who testified and shared their conversion stories.
The Spirit’s presence was strong. She told us that she’s been looking for a new religion for a very long time. She’s grown up in another church and as she got older, she felt that it was missing something. Now, in the rendez-vous, she said she was feeling something she couldn’t deny. We invited her to church the next day and she came! And she felt the Spirit there too (despite the protests of some very… very… very loud babies). We met with her afterwards and talked more about her experience. And there, we asked her if she wanted to be baptized.
“I’m not going to hesitate to say yes,” she said.
And so we fixed the date for the twelfth of January! She is legit. And the members really took to her. One family invited her over for dinner at their house Wednesday night. We’ll be there too. It’s great to see members get excited about missionary work and it really, really helps.
So there’s our miracle story for the week! It’s experiences like those that remind me why I’m on a mission and why this gospel is true. The feelings of the Spirit are more than just silly mind tricks and the life and mission of Christ is more than just a fairytale. It is so very true, and I know it.
Speaking of the Spirit, I think I forgot to mention this. We started teaching an investigator back when I was in Mantes this last summer. For years he’d been studying with another church but wouldn’t be baptized because he couldn’t get over a few points of doctrine. He started talking to one of his friends who is a member. She referred him to us. Well, Elder Andrus and I had taught him for several months. Sometimes in our lessons, he’d ask questions about some doctrinal differences between us and the other church he had been studying with for years. He couldn’t get past a few of our own doctrines. We told him to pray about it.
Months went by, and he wouldn’t come to church. I left and I went to Valenciennes. Elder Andrus and his companion continued to visit him. Elder Andrus’ last Sunday in Mantes was the day that this investigator finally drove out to church. Apparently he cried and cried through the whole thing! He couldn’t deny the Spirit. He was baptized a couple weeks ago.
Elder Saul Marquez