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

Monday, April 23, 2012

Well, the first big news is that we upped the 135 to 143 on bench. Ha. That actually shouldn't be the first big news, but I'm pretty chuffed about it. See the attached picture. I'm getting dangerously close to my body weight, 150. So I guess I'm still kind of skinny? Probably.

This week Elder Argyle went on exchanges and taught the young men of Nantes how to play American football (Elder Argyle is in the Nantes 2 companionship). It was so much fun. They are all use to rugby and not football so each play included at least 5 backward laterals. It's amazing how many rules there are in American football. Trying to tell them about how there is an "imaginary line" where the play starts was just the beginning of our complications. Good times. It was four on four. And... true to the name they gave gave me in high school, "touchdown coburn" pulled in the last catch for the game. Not that impressive though... they were mostly all deacon and teacher age :) Afterwards we had a little barbecue for lunch. The problem was that the young mens leader had forgetten the baguettes at his house so he asked us if we were feeling capable to run and grab them at his house about a mile away. Well as luck would have it, Elder Argyle just happens to be the Utah state track champion in three events, one of which is the mile. He does a mile in 4:13. Soooo, off we went. Fast. We finally got to the apartment building where he decided to sprint up all five stories and I opted for the elevator. I'm way too sensible right? Then it was a mile back with 7 baguettes in our hands. At one point we passed a bar where everyone was looking at us so I raised my baguettes up in the air and incited a cheer from 10 or so drunkards. Anyway. Moral of the story? Elder Arglye really fast. By the way, the ym's president served in Washington DC North mission in like 2006ish. Elder Etourneau, if that rings a bell for Josh. It was good to be with the young men though. They seem to need a lot of pushing to go on missions. Our ward has 4 or 5 potential missionaries that are like around 21 years old and are just sitting on the fence. 

Our best investigator right now is Rhode. She is from Camaroon, but married to a Portugese man and just moved here from Portugal. She has come to church now for about 4 weeks straight, but is having a hard time with how much we use books other than the Bible. Our lessons with her are super intense and we hop for verse to verse through the Bible and Book of Mormon. Mostly from the Bible though. I am surprising myself with how much knowledge I've stored up over my mission and how it all magically seems to come to mind at the right moment. Obivously it isn't me that is  putting the thoughts in my mind, but rather the Holy Ghost :) At first Rhode didn't believe in a life before or after this earth life, but after we shared many scriptures with her, and she searched some on her own, she came to this conclusion: when Christ is on the cross and says " Father, into they hands I commend my spirit," then it is clear that his spirit was going to live on. What's even better is that in french, instead of "commend," it says "re-put" -which implies the notion that His spirit was already with the Father once before, thus giving her the answer that there was also a pre-earth life. We are also teaching her piano because she has always wanted to learn, and she is taking part in ward choir because she is a pretty good singer. So she is doing well. We will see her tonight. 

Jean was ordained a priest yesterday. He understands the sacredness of the priesthood better than anyone I know. He called at 11:15 on Saturday night just to tell us that he had been reading and re-reading the responsibilities of a priest, and that even though it is a huge commitment, he was ready. He is the man. Everything is starting to go right in his life. He got some long searched for work (he does tile), and his family situation has been kind of starting to heal itself. His wife's heart is being softened. We love our Jean SO much. He is just a constant ball of happiness and humble obedience.

I love you infinitely.

ps, the weather here is crazy. Every single day for the last week it has alternated between warm sunshine and torrential down pour every 30 minutes. No bueno!!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Wow, what nice emails I got from everyone this week. You make it hard to not be thankful that I'll see you sooner than later :) So much good is happening. Sometimes you just have to stop, soak it all in, and be thankful. I am so blessed. I could just say that over and over again all day.

So the snowball of missionary work here in Nantes started rolling even faster this week. We are teaching enough that I hardly have the chance to think about home. We have met many new people and seen many miracles, among which was fixing a baptismal date with a new ami named Olivier. Another cool miracle story came out of the dust when we went to pass by a 78 year old lady that had requested a Book of Mormon a few weeks ago. We passed by to see if she had any questions and if we could talk about it. When she opened the door she didn't look like she was doing too well, and she explained to us that a few days earlier she had fallen off a ladder while working out in her garden (she has a very very well kept yard). She had fractured her jaw, gotten stitches on her lip, and a had plethora of other booboos that I didn't understand because of the french. In any case, she wasn't doing well and she kind of let us know it. She was telling us that she couldn't talk to us and to come back maybe in 2 months (I'll be home, right?), when I quickly explained to her that before my mission I had worked for 3 years as a groundskeeper for a large prestigous cemetery in southern Ohio, and that I would be honored if she would let me mow her lawn for her while she was healing from her little tumble. She was like "how much?" I said "free." Then she invited us in, showed us the back yard and flower beds, told us about her fall, and sat us down in the kitchen with glasses of orange juice. We talked about the Book of Mormon, about us, about her, and agreed on returning to explain more about the church and to mow the lawn. So that was a pretty cool experience, but it doesn't stop there. She also gave us the phone number and address of her son (who owns a prettty succesful business) and told us that he would also like a Book of Mormon. So we high-tailed it out to his neighborhood, had a nice little rdv in his rather large house, and him and his wife invited us over for lunch in a couple weeks to talk about the questions they might have after having read some of the book. This guy had like a stuffed fox in his living room. He also gave us orange juice. Hah. It's the thing to do out here.

We also had like a jillion birthday parties this week. First it was mine. Then it was mine again on Tuesday because we had district meeting and the sisters made cake. Then it was mine again on wednesday because that's when I got my package (thanks mom!). Then it was Elder Argyle's and Elder Stephenson's on Saturday so we made a cake for lunch and opened some presents. Then it was there birthday again later that night so made another cake and opened more presents. Then it was basically my birthday again this morning because I took the frilly "Celebrate" banner from my package and ran around the apartment wearing it like a skirt. I think I get it from mom...

I gave Jean a haircut this week. That was sweet. It was my first time cutting african hair. So thick. I've been doing a lot of new stuff lately. After all, I am 21, right?

Congrats to Josh on graduating and being accepted for his PhD. Congrats to Caleb for making it through finals and another week of pre-mariage orginizational stress, congrats to Jordan for scoring on clothes shopping in London and being the best little brother known to man. Yup, those are my brothers... and congrats to mom and dad for making all of us. You guys are sweet.

Love you so much!!!!

Elder Coburn

Monday, April 9, 2012

Dear family,

Well I'm 21. You'd thing that someone would like hit the pause button on life once in a while. But no... Oh well, at least I am old enough to do about anything that life can offer me now. Sweet right? We are going to go to Subway for lunch and then go play frisbee in the park. Elder Burke made me some muffins for breakfast. Elder Murdock drew me some cartoon stuff to illustrate all of our funny companionship moments. Then we all cleaned the apartment and here we are doing a little emailing. Good stuff :) Mom, I haven't gotten the package yet, but it could very well still come today. Thank you in advance :) So guess what you skinny little Benny Boy did this week?! Benched 135. I've been working on that since like freshman year. Mm-mm, good. Now I can fit in with all the "bros" when I go to the gym. Bros like Caleb that have been doing that much weight since they were birthed.

Hmm. So as far as missionary work goes, we only had the most bombin' week since we've been in Nantes. We found a lot of new people through our morning contacting before lunch sessions, and one of them came to church and we will see him for the third time on Tuesday. We are starting to teach this sweet Portugese couple that came to church for the last two weeks, and a few other really cool people. Rebecca from last week couldn't come to church, but she promised us that she will be there next week. We taught more this week than any other week together so far. Like, way more. Maybe it is because I benched 135... hmm.

Remember how Elder Murdock and I were the only two Ohians in the mission? Well this transfer a new missionary came in from Beavercreek!! Elder Anthony Aleccia. Do you know him? I don't remember who he is but we know all the same people. I will see him in a few weeks at interviews. So that is sweet. I guess I will leave the mission with a righteous posterity.

Hmm, what else to say. I don't know. I'm twenty one. That's kind of cool. SO JEALOUS that Mom and Jordan are in London right now. That's what I should've asked for for Christmas. What was I thinking with New York? Duhh Ben?! Just kidding, I am very happy for them to be there. Sounds like they are doing some pretty neat things. Mom, I feel "close" to you too :)

For Easter (La Pâcques in french), the ward did a special little program and read out of the bible for sacrament meeting, with an extra few hymns scattered here and there. It was nice. Dad, to answer your question, I think that French people mainly are thankful for Pacques because they get a day off. The members are pretty reverent and happy for it though. We have good members. The other companionship here is teaching an amazing young adult girl that is going to get baptised in a few weeks. Her name is Audrey and she rocks.

Okay, it's time to go. Thank you for the best 21 years I've ever had. I am way too blessed. My prayer this morning was a lot more sincere than usual- I am so thankful for everything my life has become in the short time that I've been on earth. What a blessing to be here and to be in a family with you. Up to us now, who are so blessed, to bless others with what we have :)

Birthday Boy Benny Boy

Monday, April 2, 2012

Well, what a pleasant week. Pascale had a beautiful baptism up in Lille. We talked on the phone on Sunday night after conference and she sounded so happy. It is amazing for me just to watch her life change. I really didn't do that much for her and neither did any of the other missionaries after me though- Her conversion is a masterpiece of the Spirit. I can't imagine how I, Ben Coburn, could ever make someone's life change as much as hers has. The Spirit is everything. It is the missionary that doesn't ever give up on an investigator and is there to teach them day and night. Elder Godfrey (after being transferred to Paris a week ago) still got to go up and be the one to baptise her and I am grateful for that. I am excited for you guys to meet her, and I am excited to see her again :) She is without doubt one of the most defining people of my mission and even my life.

Back on the home front, Elder Murdock and I have decided to not eat lunch everyday until we have found one new person to teach. This prooved especially challenging on Saturday when we stayed out in the toasty and humid sun until 3 o' clock. We had found several people that we could've rationalized and said counted, but none of them had actually given us there number or fixed a rendez-vous with us. So in my mind there was just this big internal struggle about whether to count it and go in, or stay out in the heat. Luckily though, my daddy didn't teach me to give up so we stayed out. It wasn't 5 minutes after having firmly decided that in my mind that we met Rebecca. She said that she has been looking for a church for the last two months since she has been in Nantes. Since we were the ones to find her, she said she was going to come to our church. So we are going to see her and her 2 month old baby this week :) We are re-learning once again what it means to have faith and be diligent. Blessings all around :)

Also, at general conference this weekend (which rawked) there was a really neat Portugese couple that came in and watched the Sunday morning session. They really liked it, I gave them a Book of Mormon in Portugese and in French, and they said they will be at church next week :) Jean was also at conference with all of the smiley jubilee that is so characterstic of him. He always tells us he loves us. His heart is full of love.

On Saturday and Sunday there was a gigantic market all through the city. So many people everywherrrre. You could hardly walk down the streets they were so crowded. I've seen a lot of markets in France, but this was for sure the biggest. They were selling clothes, food, perfume, glasses, tourist stuff, music, hygeine supplies, technology.... actually they were selling everything.

Okay, I love you! You are great!

Love, Elder Benjamin

ps, I am getting older one week from today :)