Monday, June 18, 2012

Behold, I am Elder Coburn, missionary among the français. I seek not for power, but to pull it down. I seek not for for honor of the world, but for the glory of my God, and the freedom and welfare of this country. And thus I close mine blog.
Well, this is it! You know your mission is finishing when everyone sends you emails with titles such as:

Congratulations on a super amazing fanastic mission!!!
Hippity - hoppity
Wait... you are *freaking* coming home?!?!

I guess I'm coming home! First hug is for mom :) And juuuust in case it hasn't been clear or you had forgotten (haha yeah right), I get into Cleveland International at 6:46 pm. But I am coming in off a connection flight from Detroit. After a horrendous four hour layover there. I'm going to die. Good thing I've still got a couple old dollars in my wallet to blow. Am I getting released that night? I guess I'll find out soon enough. Oh man oh man. Everyone has been telling me that the transition at the end of the mission is way harder than the one at the beginning. I obviously have not, as of yet, experienced the one, but I definitely am expecting it to be harder. At the beginning of your mission you can put all your energy and excitement into missionary work and learning which in turn makes you all the happier. But it's kind of blurry as to what you can put your energy and time into when you get back home. You can invest in a percieved "freedom" but I'm willing to bet that most of the time the that's not going to render the same end results feelings on your spirit. Not that it's bad, it's just kind of there. I don't know. I guess the best is to invest (ryhme) on the same foundation as before - Christ. We will soon discover the milkshake of feelings that is coming home.

We finished the transfer on a really good week. A couple new people to teach, and plenty of lessons and appointments to keep us busy. Definitely an above average week. That is a calming feeling and a blessing for me. To be able to be so content with my efforts until the very end. My favorite story from this week is Santiago. He is french/spanish/peruvian. We met him in the tram this week, had two appointments, and then he came to church. He is 43, and just got back to France after living in Columbia for a few years. He is philosopher/writer/reporter type guy. So cool and so nice. He reads the Book of Mormon and prays every morning when he wakes up. We are going to see him on Tuesday night one last time and then I pass him over to the next missionary. It's good to be able to leave a "work of worth" behind to the next missionary. Speaking of the next missionary, it will be Elder Argyle, who replaces me and will be with Elder Dunn. Since my mtc group is so big (there are 20 of us leaving the mission) they had to close some teams. Two out of four of us are leaving Nantes to go home so they just combined the two that are staying here. They are going to have a lot of work and be really busy. Two missionaries for the 6th biggest city in France. Anyhow.

Thank you infinitely for all the emails and letters that you have all sent me for two years. There were so many nights when I would lay in bed re-reading emails off of my camera screen over and over again. On many an occasion it was in your emails that I found the comfort or determination to be a happy missionary. Communication is kind of a gift without price. You can't love someone very well without communicating. Just like faith without works is dead, love without works doesn't make it too far either. So an enormous thank you :)

à bientôt mes chers!

Elder Coburn
Well, this is getting kind of crazy. I can count the days on my fingers. 

I actually have no clue what to say...

Our week was good, but I always just talk about what we did during the week. All in all this week we did a lot of finding and a lot of teaching. It was really good though. Lots of miracles. 

Oh, here is something out of the ordinary. We met a group of ten students from India that were playing cricket and we're totally going to go play with them this week and they are all going to become new investigators and get baptised :) Well, maybe not baptised... not sure yet. We're super stoked. They are all wayyy nice and speak way good english. We talked to most of them about church and God and they are very open about it. We just saw them playing from a ways off, watched them for a while, and then went and started talking to them. One of the senior missionarie sisters in Nantes is super stoked because she served a mission in India. She is going to come with us when we go play with them.

It is raining today. I am wearing my 2 year old gray suit. I will probably bring it home. It has held up pretty well. I don't have my black one anymore. Not for like a year. I don't have too many ties left on my "to wear rack." I feel pretty trunky writing this email. I'm usually only like... 50% trunky, but right now it's at least at 100. 

We ate at a pizza restaurant this morning. Pretty good, but definitely not as good as mom's pizza though. Oh man. Mom, I am going to eat everything you can put in front of me. 

Okay, well I'll have a lot of cool stories n' such but I'll just wait and tell them to you in person.

I LOVE YOU!!!!!!!

Elder Coburn

Monday, June 4, 2012

Phweww!! Finally The reassurance of a happy marriage. All weak I had just been imagining Jessica running away in her wedding dress and hiding away in Mexico or something. Then Caleb was never going to want to talk to a girl again in his life, etc, etc... I must've seen too many movies. Good to know that everything went so well :) Jessica sounds like a winner and I can't wait to meet her. Annnnd, the official count on the Coburn bachelors is down to two. Fifty percent. It's like 4 granny smiths, minus 2 granny smiths, and you're left with 2 granny smiths. Or if you have 4 lions, add a few zebras, then subtract a few zebras and 2 lions and you're left with only two lions. Fierce, ferocious, lions.

I don't know if you guys had ever looked at it like that...

So time is moving really fast now. My tie racks are looking pretty bare. We had a zone conference in Paris this week and I gave my "dying testimony." I didn't want to make it really long so I talked about Christ has increased my capacity to love and to work. I said that during the first year of my mission is when I learned the most about how to love. It was then that my heart was still hurting from "being plucked out and left in Ohio," but that it was Christ who took that heart and enlarged it to fit so many that were desperately in need of love. The second year of my mission is when I learned the most about work, because that is when it actually became hard to do. For the first year I was so high on mission life that it was easy. I could contact and knock doors all day. But when the working got hard is when I learned the most about the working. And I know that it is because of Jesus Christ. He gave me strength to work until my muscles cried for relief, and then he gave me strength to continue. I also got to bear my testimony right after Elder Decker so I said a little bit about receiving our mission calls together and how good it is now to find each other on the other side. And just like Alma, what adds more to my joy, is that we are still "brethren in the Lord." What a cool experience to do the whole thing right beside a really good friend and see the changes in each other. 

The zone conference was really cool because Elder Teixieira of the seventy was there. He is Portugese. We learned a lot about personal change and repentance so that we can get to the "miracle zone." He had it all graphed out, with like the "line of the average missionary" and attitude was one axis, and effort was the other. It was really cool. In large part thanks to this conference, the mission found 115 new amis this week, which as far as I know is the most in one week since I've been here. Pretty cool.

Yesterday was mothers day in France so I'll just go ahead and wish mom a JOYEUSE FETE DES MERES!! Donc, voila quoi. The ward handed out roses for the mothers and then gave us a couple left overs to deliver to our amis. We gave one to Rita and Marvy, and are giving another to Rebecca this afternoon. 

A lot of our amis are kind of stagnating. The challenge for me is to put all the work in on them, knowing full well that I'll be gone here in a couple weeks. I am going to miss doing it though. I know I will. I cried a lot during this last zone conference. There were so many of the most important people there- everyone that I love and have relied on for so long. I was conducting the closing hymn and then made eye contact with Elder Bjerga and couldn't sing anymore. I was pretty pathetic really. I just stood there waving my hand and mouthing the words for like 3 whole verses. On the last verse though I sang as strong and as well as I could. Then it finished and I cried some more, then I went around saying goodbye to everyone and cried some more. I kind of like crying though. It lets me know that I'm alive. For the last who knows how long on my mission I've just felt really un-alive and that my life was in a stand still. So it is good when things change. Michael says it best- "I'm gonna make a change, for once in my life, it's gonna feel real good, gonna make a difference, gonna make it right..." Well, I'm not sure if that is exactly what I was going for. Mainly I just meant to say it's good to cry once in a while.

So I love you, I pray for you, I can't wait to see you. I still haven't counted the days though. 

Elder Coburn

Monday, May 28, 2012

Hellllllo!!!!! I hope that you are all having a wonderful time with the wedding stuff in Arizona. I hope and assume that everything went wonderfully. Things are going well here. It's really hot and I've worked up some lovely tan lines on my arms and neck. This afternoon we are going to play some baskteball with a member, Simon (about to go on his mission), that I've been trash talking ever since I got here. He is probably going to win. I haven't touched a basketball in a long time. We have a cool new ami named Darell that is super into sports and a he came and played soccer and frisbee with us and the young adults. His mom is a member so I have high hopes for him to get baptised. He is supposed to come play basketball with us today too. He is the black one in the picture. 

We set another baptismal date this week. It is with our ami Isabelle, but then neither her nor Rebecca came to church yesterday so we will have to see how things play out. They are both very good amis though.

This week we had a super legit african dinner with a blind member named Pédro. He is from Angola, a portugese speaking country. He used to be a pilot and a general in the military until he went blind in a helicopter accident in 2007. He said he has shook George Bush seniors hand from when he was a general. Cool man with an incredible amount of faith.

We also met a man (a 24 year old recent convert) this week that just got here from Germany (but he is african) and didn't have anywhere to sleep or any money or anything. When we met him he had already slept outside one night. So we spent an afternoon finding him a shelter type place to sleep, making calls to the bishop, and getting him around Nantes. It is a long story, but he is really nice and humble. He came to church and everyone is kind of taking care of him now. When we met him it kind of like "ruined" my day but in a good way. It just once again opened my eyes to how much we have and how much we take for granted. I always seem to have kind of an unavoidable guilt about how good I have it when I meet someone like that. I was really quiet for the rest of the day after we helped him out.

Good. We are going to Paris on thursday for a conference with Elder Teixeira of the seventy. It is going to be four or five hours and I got asked to do have of the translation (from english to french). It will be the second to last time I go to Paris on my mission. The next time will be "Paris P Day" the day before I fly home. Crazy stuff.

I love you! Make sure to send me lots of pictures of the marriage. Have a great week!

Elder Ben

Monday, May 21, 2012

What a wonderful week we have had. It is exactly the kind of week I want to finish my mission on. Hopefully everything continues to go so well and I can savor it all as it comes. 

Elder Dunn and I feel a little bit like President Monson back in his bishop days taking care of widows. We have 5 solid investigators right now and all 5 are young African mothers that have a baby. There is Rebecca, Rita, Sylviane, Jeanne, and Isabelle. With babies Orlainne, Marvelous, Naellia, Mwayai, and one other. They are all miracles for us to be teaching them. Rebecca, from Congo, fixed a baptismal date this week for June 9, and came to church for the second time with baby Orlainne. She is doing well. Jeanne and Isabelle, both from Ivory Coast, are her friends in the Red Cross maternity ward where she stays. They found out that she was getting baptized and basically said "we need to be baptized too!" We saw them for the first time yesterday after church and they are incredible. Isabelle wants to find faith and forgiveness, and Jeanne is already very believing and her eyes sparkle when she talks about Christ. Sylviane is a girl we ported into, has a verrry hyper 2 year old named Naellia, and is Martinique (so I guess she isn't African). We have our 2nd rdv with her tonight at the church, and a member (Audrey - baptized 3 weeks ago) is picking her up and bringing her. Rita is a native english speaker from Nigeria and is a miracle story in and of her self. Her story starts one year ago when I was in Reims. I remember being on the phone with some missionaries from the other mission in the south of France, and they told me they had a referral for our mission in Nantes. So I took down the information and passed it to the Nantes missionaries. That was that. So now one year later I was randomly flipping through one of my old Reims planners when I saw a referral for Nantes. I hadn't seen a teaching record for her or anything in the area book so Elder Murdock and I tried to pass by a couple times but never could catch her home (and by that I mean that we knocked on all the doors in the building except for one because it was playing loud Bob Marley like music and we thought it was the landlords door). So then this week Elder Dunn and I were back there again and knocked on that one last door to find Rita and her baby boy named Marvelous (we call him Marvy for short). She is amazing. She is the kind of person that just glows. Turns out that the "Bob Marley" was African gospel music and that she had never met the missionaries a year ago. I think it was all in the Lord's timing though because one year ago she would've been pregnant and it sounds like it was not the most opportune time for her to accept the gospel. But now there is no question in her mind or ours, that she has been prepared for the gospel. It is amazing how far in ahead God plans things. He knew this would happen before the world was even created. Incredible. So Rita is doing very well. One night she fed us chicken and rice, and then another night she came to the baptism at the church of the bishop's son. So it was a pretty incredible week (four out of the five were found this week). 

So speaking of the bishops son's baptism- it was incredible. The bishop and his wife are from Madagascar. They are the biggest blessing to this ward. They had so much Malgache (Malagasy) family in town for the baptism that I was easily in the minority as a white person. I wish I were Malgache... I'm like obsessed with them. The bishops wife is a caterer and went to towwwn on the food. They made fresh sushi for the first course (out of three) and I just filled up so much on that that I couldn't do the main course or dessert. People from Madagascar are also super into music. During the baptism I did a musical number with the bishop's 12 year old daughter, his wife, and the primary president. It was a medley of primary songs. I played piano and sang the guy parts, the wife and primary president sang the girls parts, and the 12 year old, Francesca, played violin. Me and Francesca are super tight now. She made me a sweet book mark for doing the musical number with them. Then afterwards when everyone was eating (there were about 100 people) the bishop's wife wanted live music for them to listen to, and so she asked me to play something so I scrambled and printed off the words to amazing grace and sung that and played it for everyone (i was miked), and then she asked me to do another something so I printed off the words to come thou fount, figured out the chords really quick, and sung it with a girl (another Malgache) from the ward who sang harmonies. That one turned out like realllly good sounding. It was the funnest evenings ever and Rita and Marvy loved it all. Well... at least Rita did. Marvy kind of just sat there and drooled n' such :)

Well, I'm excited that next time I hear from you guys Caleb will be MARRIED!!!!! Out of control. Have fun at the marriage, and make sure to send me lots of pictures. I'll be waiting patiently :)

Love you!!

Elder Ben

Monday, May 7, 2012

153 to 165 this week. And mom, I'm slightly offended that you think I'm exaggerating :)

Well Elder Murdock is getting transferred and I am resting cozy in Nantes to finish my mission. Elder Murdock is going to Troyes- a really neat city not far from Reims. My new (and last) companion is Elder Dunn. He is from Greeley, Colorado and grew up with Tanner :) So to follow the mission terminology, it is Elder Dunn that is going to "kill" me. 

Rebecca came to church on Sunday which was awesome. We've been praying for her and her baby so much. She really liked it, she said she might be ready for baptism in about a month :) So we will probably fix a date with her this Saturday when we go to see her. She is regaining faith little by little. Jean bore his testimony on Sunday. It was one of those "tear-your-heart-out-I-just-love-this-guy" sort of testimonies. He is such a trooper. He cried when Elder Murdock told him that he is getting transferred. It was so sad. He just got all quiet, then started crying, then kept saying "may God protect you." He treats us like royalty. Audrey (the other équipe's ami) got baptised on Saturday and more than half the ward was there. Audrey is super cool. She is french, 24 yrs old, getting her masters in law... really cool. I was a witness for the baptism, and the first time her dress didn't make it all the way under. I was only pretty sure that that meant we had to redo it, and the other witness wasn't really sure either. So I told them to redo it, and the same thing happened again (remember that like 100 people are watching). So before I asked them to do it again I ran over to the bishop just to make sure and he confirmed that yes, the dress needs to be all the way under. So we did it again, she tucked the dress in between her legs, and the third time was the charm. In french they say "Never two without three." Jamais deux sans trois. It was really cute though and she was happy to have gotten "that much cleaner." 

The ties keep piling up on my "already worn it" rack and all the members and other missionaries keep teasing me about being so close to the end. This week Elder Murdock went up to  Belgium to do some stuff for his legality and so I had a day in Paris with some of the other trainers. Another missionary and I went to the Catacombs of Paris. Underneath Paris they have 6 million skeletons worth of bones that you can walk through. That place is going to get groovy during the resurrection. It really made me think about life. Good thing I know what I know or that would've been a really depressing experience.

Oh, also we've been having problems with our sink clogging up all transfer, so on Saturday we had a member come over to try and work on it, but he couldn't fix it. There was a humungo build up of like sediment 2 or 3 meters down the pipe. After lots of using a snake, and a plunger, I was finally able to stick a garden hose down the pipe and push and push until it was all pushed out the end. It was the most wretched smelling crap ever. So gross. Like if we had left it much longer I am convinced it would've formed a rock down there. But now it works like a charm and I learned a bunch about plumbing. Woohoo!

Cool. Not a whole lot else to talk about here. Sounds like a lot of fun at home with Jessica! I'm excited to do work in the backyard with dad and Jordan this summer. That sounds so good right now. Good job cutting down that tree. Sounds like it took some good brainwork to get it all down. Like a video game, as Dad said. Annnd, Jordan makes a really cute toddler. 

Love you all!


OH MY GOSH. ps. I will be calling you on Sunday. Will you email me as soon as possible and tell me when your church is and when the best time for me to call would be? Then I will email during the week to tell you when I'll call.

Monday, April 30, 2012

It would go against tradition as of late if I didn't start off my email with something to do with that grizzly endeavour we call bench press. Suffice it to say that the bear put up his body weight this week for the first time. One fifty-three baby. 

So today marks the beginning of my tie-countdown. Aka, the Tie-nal Countdown. I wasn't going to do any sort of a countdown till the end of my mission until I realized that I wanted to wear every tie I have at least once more. So 53 ties, 53 days starts today. I chose a rather ugly one today so I could get it out of the way. Needless to say, not all of the ties I go through will make it into my suitcases. 

One night this week I got dared to eat a raw egg. SICK SICK SICK SICK. It was the worst thing I've ever done. It took me three gulps to get that cold snot ball down my throat. Eww. Every time I gagged and almost threw up. It was so much thicker than I was expecting. Sick sick sick. 

Speaking of eggs, Elder Murdock and I got to tour a boulangerie (bakery) last night and there were LOADS of eggs. It was super cool though. There is an inactive member that we just met and started working with that runs a brioche bakery. I don't remember if brioche is eaten in America- it's a delicious fluffy sort of sweet bread. So we met him last week (he hasn't seen missionaries in ages), he invited us over for dinner this week (we ate steaks), and then he took us to go see his boulangerie. He seems pretty successful and sells tons of it. So I guess that was fitting for a beauty and the beast baker to finally step foot inside a french boulangerie :)

This weekend in Nantes there was a big young adult activity and I got to see Michel from Brest!!! I haven't seen him for over a year! What a good feeling to see someone like that and see that they are so strong in the church. He will hit his year-mark as a member here in a few days (remember how he was baptised a few weeks after I left Brest?) So good. We had a good visit over Saturday and Sunday and now he is back in Brest. He is still the same humble happy little Michel. He still remembers the english phrases that Elder Huff and I taught him too :)

Remember a few weeks ago when Elder Murdock and I postponed our lunch for so long and ended up contacting Rebecca? We finally saw her this Saturday. It was a good rendez-vous. She has a 3 month old girl and lives in a single mothers shelter sort of place. A string of recent tragedies has got her really questioning whether of not God is there. She kept asking us how she can find faith again when everything seems so lost. I really struggled answering her question for some reason. It such a real question. We were sitting in a little visiting room with rain pouring outside and I just felt so much compassion for this woman. After reading some scriptures that didn't really satisfy her we ended up just telling her how much we know that God really is there. We will see her again on Saturday and then hopefully she will be able to come to church. 

Rhode is still chugging along as Rhode. We see her and teach her, but she is kind of plateau-ing. She said she will be baptised in August when her son can be here for it, but for the moment she doesn't seem to understand why we want her to be re-baptised. She is having a rough time and a lot of challenges lately. Stuff with her husband, legal complexities after coming for Portugal, etc... Another person to pray for :)

Yesterday there was a baptism at our chapel, for the branch of St. Nazaire. It is a small industrial city out on the coast, and apparently the ocean is still a little cold for baptisms :) The missionaries are in our district and are good friends so it was really nice to go to the baptism. It is the first baptism that branch has had since like 1990 something. Fun tidbit: St.Nazaire constructed submarines during WWII, but now constructs cool stuff like cruise ships. There is a baptism in Nantes this Saturday also for the other companionship. It is a really really cool 24 year french girl named Audrey. The ward loves her to death. She like bakes cakes and stuff for everyone all the time. So cool. 

Back in Lille, Pascale gave her first talk this past Sunday. It was about the Plan of Salvation. She said that she got roaring reviews by all the ward members. She is planning on going to the temple to do baptisms in about 5 weeks :) She is soooooooooo amazing. Amazzzing.

Okay I have to go.

Dang it, one more thing. We had interviews this week. They were my last interviews before my very final one with President right before we get on the plane. I got my temple recommend renewed since it's been two years. I really like President Poznanski. I get along well with him. I'm glad that half of my mission was with him and half with President Staheli. Two giants of men.

Thank you for everything. I love you.

Elder Coburn