Well I've now been in France for just over two months, which means that I've been in Strasbourg for the same amount of time as I was in the MTC. Yeesh, I was in there for forever. Time has flown by here though.
We went to Paris this week for a combined zone conference with President and Sister Poznanski and the Assistants for a training. Luckily for us, the training involved watching a movie; and it wasn't even the Restoration or Joy to the World! They showed us most of the movie Iron Will and made it a big metaphor to missionary work. Throughout the training, they paused the movie and gave us all Christmas presents that symbolized different parts of the story. Then, at the end, Sister Poznanski gave us all little Arc de Triomphes with a quote from Napoleon talking to his soldiers: "Vous ne rentrerez dans vos foyers que sous des arcs de triomphe." You will not return to your homes except under arcs of triumph.
After the conference, the senior missionaries serving in Paris made us all a Christmas meal and we did a white elephant exchange. It was supposed to have a spiritual significance, and Elders naturally got creative. Some of the presents ranged from a giant rock, a Catholic candle, or a picture an Elder printed of himself and framed in tinfoil. I'm still working on figuring out the spiritual meaning for that one, but I'm sure it's there somewhere. Unfortunately, we stayed a bit too long at the Paris chapel before we realized what time it was. As soon as we remembered our train time back to Strasbourg, we quite literally ran through Paris and the metro to get to the train station on time. Not exactly an easy task with the metro being full to capacity. Basically, to get into the metro cars, Elder Dunn and I had to kind of jump into the crowds and shove our way in before the doors closed on our bags. Not exactly the most comfortable of public transportation rides. We barely made it on the train though, and we even got on the right one this time! Unlike last week.
Since we sprinted through Paris, Elder Dunn and I were thirsty and I was willing to spend any amount of money to get a bottle of water. Luckily for us, France considers the constant availability of alcohol to be a civil right, so every train running through France is handily equipped with a large bar. As we walked into the train car, we found out that the Sisters serving in Colmar had the same idea, and they too were enjoying their 4 euro water. So, the four of us ended up spending our time out of Paris in the bar. Drinking only water, of course. Expensive water that tasted worse than tap water, that is.
Yesterday, I gave a talk in Sacrament meeting. I'm not sure who chose to have the missionary who started learning French four months ago speak in front of the ward, but I was able to talk for 15 minutes in recognizable French. See? Miracles DO happen! At the end of the meeting, the Bishop called up Elder Dunn and I and the ward gave us Christmas presents. They're so nice! We don't get to open them until tomorrow on Christmas, but we think they probably gave us some copies of the Book of Mormon. That would be great, because then we could add them to our collection of the 150 other copies in our apartment.
Just kidding, we actually have no idea what they gave us.
After church, we met somebody who came to Sacrament meeting for the first time. We ended up having a lesson with him, and he's already read the entire Book of Mormon and just decided to come to church on his own. What a great guy! We also taught a man who just came from the Congo. He said he's been searching for a church to join, and he feels like God directed him to talk to us on the street. He asked for a copy of the Book of Mormon so he could read it and just before informing us that he would be attending church as soon as possible, he asked us when was the soonest we could meet with him. Finally, we ended the day with a lesson with an Middle-Eastern woman. After teaching her the Plan of Salvation, she told us through tears about how her entire family was killed, leaving her alone to move to a foreign country and learn a new language. We're lucky to associate with some awesome people.
We will be going to a family's house for Christmas tomorrow and they are going to let us use their computer to Skype with our families. This family has a son who's on a mission in Canada, and he left a few weeks after me. We actually knew each other in the MTC. While I was in the MTC, I searched for as many native French speakers as I could find, which ended up being about a dozen. So I met this missionary's cousin, who was a sister missionary and was in the MTC at the same time as he was. She introduced me to him, and they're both from Strasbourg. I forgot about what city they were from until I saw their pictures on the bulletin boards in the church building. It was a real full-circle moment. Since this family has a son on a mission, they've been really nice to us and give us rides places, even though the mom is in a wheelchair from a recent surgery. They help us in the hope that someone does the same for their son.