Friday, March 14, 2014

h o m e c o m i n g

Soeur Rhondeau 
will be speaking about her mission
this Sunday, March 16th

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

Please email

e.rhondeau (at) gmail (dot) com

for details if you'd like to attend.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Monday, March 3, 2014


Dear family,
At the beginning of last week I kept on thinking about how great it would be if the last week of my mission could be a summary week of some sorts. You know, everything I have felt or experienced or seen the past year and a half all condensed in one week. That of course is impossible, as time itself is what makes these experiences what they are. That being said, this week was a hilarious and beautiful mix of the realities and the joy of being a missionary. Not the least of which was being stuck on a bus for two hours and two of us getting extremely car sick and laying across the seats on the bumpy road. Or getting stranded in a random ville with no transportation back to Blois for five hours (luckily for us there were castle ruins we got to explore while waiting). Or sitting in testimony meeting on Sunday and hearing Paula stand up and testify of the love of God and how it has changed her while her children are sticking stickers on my face. Or the African woman at the bus stop this morning who saw our name tags and proclaimed her love for God to us and to everyone at the stop, with her beautiful African dress and wide eyed children at her sides. Or the elevator in the Zup that smells like it has been there for a million years and feels like it has been there that long too. Now somehow even that seems strangely beautiful and sentimental.
All of these people and places are what have made up the last year and a half of my life and I will be forever grateful that God let me come and learn from them and with them, through the good and the hard and the happy and the painful.
Someone asked me what I have learned on my mission this week. How do you answer that?! I thought of this scripture:

11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. 12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.Phillipians 4:11-13

I think that sums it up as well as my Blois library hour computer time permits what I have learned. To be full, but to also suffer need; to understand that Christ is there for us in ALL of these moments, and through Him we can do all things. We can do all things! Life isn't supposed to be easy, it is supposed to be full in order to make us whole.  I have seen this promise of strength carry me through this adventure here in France, and the evidence of it has been made real to me as I watch the lives of my amis here become stronger through Christ. I know that His church is restored here on earth and it is a beautiful thing to be able to share it with others. And I am really eternally thankful for it all and you all who have helped me here.
I love this mission and France and you! I cannot WAIIIT to see you this week. Must be off.
à tout de suite (!)
Soeur Olivia Rhondeau

Monday, February 24, 2014

Bonjour tout le monde! 

I have officially been a missionary for 18 months. Can you believe it? 

It was a good good week. 

Paula was confirmed in church yesterday. I didn't hear any of it because Aiman was going craaaaazy during sacrament meeting and putting stickers all over my face and sticking his pet rock in my eyes, but it apparently was a very beautiful blessing! When she talked about the moments when she feels the spirit she said she just feels as though she could run and dance and she just wants to share her joy with everyone! And she does! Well, minus the running and dancing thing. She shares the gospel with everyyyoonne. Rockstar missionary. Her friend in Tours is getting baptized. Déja. It has changed her so much that she can't imagine not wanting to share it with others. 

Sweet Valbona was invited to a member's house for family night and we talked about faith. For someone who is so new to the Gospel she is just so open and receptive to the spirit. We talked about faith and how we don't need to KNOW all. We just have to start out with desire and belief. She has been reading the Book of Mormon every day and when we asked her how it made her feel she said 

"I feel myself. I feel strong." 

Somehow everything she says in her broken English is more profound than a million words. 

I kind of feel like Valbona today. I can't find my words and I am not sure how to express myself and how I feel about it being the last week of my mission. But I do know that my mission has made me more  myself; and it has made me strong(er). And it is the most wonderful thing to see that in others as well. 

Defranchi left us for Taiwan this week. Sad to see her go, but happy to welcome Soeur Doyle back into the équipe — now we are trois

There were lots of other adventures this week — but I am afraid my time at the Blois library is coming to a close and they are kicking me off the computers. 

I love you and I know that this gospel makes us strong and helps us to know who we really are: children of God. 

A très bientot!


Monday, February 17, 2014

all things are become new.



Many people may think that Valentine's Day as a missionary is the most uneventful holiday of the year for girls who are often mistaken by strangers on the bus as 'bonne soeurs' (aka NUNS). But my-oh-my this week was filled with more love than any other Valentine's week I have had before. Because sharing God's love is just fun. This week Lefrandt and I went a little crazy and made a million heart sugar cookies and handed them out, with a scripture that sort of became the theme of the week: 

Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. Corinthians 2:9

I saw and heard and felt the love of God through so many experiences this week. We met with Valbona again this week and she talked about how all week long she has just wanted to come back to the church so that she can have that feeling again. We told her that she can have the spirit with her often, not just at church. We gave her the Book of Mormon and invited her to read it and to pray to know if it was true. She said "Well I already know it is true. I would not feel this way if it was not." She has the most sincere desire to seek truth and knowledge. Then this morning she called us and said, "I started read the book. It is a good book!" So adorable. 

Paula was baptized yesterday and it was one of the most beautiful days I have experienced this past year and a half. A rainbow came out (not even kidding), the whole branch showed up, and it was just beautiful. After she came out of the font she hugged us and through tears said "I am new, I am new!"  She stood up and bore her testimony at the end of the baptism and said:

"I left my country a long long time ago. Since then I have always been searching for a home. Today is the first day I feel at home. Today I have found my family." 

And she is home and she has found her family. God really does prepare beautiful things for us. Sometimes we can't see them or hear them or understand them, but that is because they are too wonderful to even comprehend. Just a few months ago Paula was a woman we met on the road who said that she wasn't sure if God was there. Et voila! He is there and we are never too far away for Him to find us. After the baptism Valbona came up to us and said "I would like to do this too." We assured her that could definitely happen. 

We can become new. All of us. 

"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."

Speaking of becoming new... some habits just don't go away. Remember that one time I left the camera in the taxi the very first day we got to New Zealand? Yeah. Remember that time I left Paula's baptismal clothes in Blois and I realized while we were already in the train heading for Tours? Mmmhmm. Some things don't change. Thank heavens for amazing members who save the day and search their closets for white dresses. A phone and a baptism dress. In the space of two weeks.  There is still hope for me right? 

I love you from Blois to the moon. Have a happy week. 



morning run on the loire.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Dear family, 

Sorry for the day late email! We have had a good, crazy week. 

Paula is officially preparing to be baptized this weekend and our lessons with her have been lovely. This week we talked about the Word of Wisdom and she gasped over the no coffee thing, but then was quiet for about 3 seconds and said, "That's easy. I quit smoking a year ago, so this will be fine. No problem." She so readily accepts change. She said what she has loved most in getting to know God and making changes in her life is that it is free. We search and search and search for things to fill us and make us whole and better, often things that are material or fleeting or empty. My favorite quote of the lesson was this:

"It is free and it makes you free." 

I think that is perhaps the most concise and beautiful way I have heard someone sum up the gospel on my mission. It comes with a personal price of work and change, but the change makes us free and liberates us from the things that bind us. There is such a visible change in her. She announced to us and some members in the ward that she is going to serve a mission someday, too :) 

Paula lives in a hotel for the moment, and in the hotel there are a lot of refugees or immigrants that come and go. Paula is the angel of the hotel and takes care of ALL of them. Translates when she can, takes them to meetings with their social workers, helps them around town, and also introduces them to the missionaries. Which we love :) 

One such friend is a woman from Albania named Valbona. Paula brought her to our rdv this week so that we could speak to her in English. She has been in France for two weeks and doesn't speak a lick of French. She speaks English very well though, so we were able to translate somethings and then teach her. Everytime I meet someone who has a hard life I think "Wow, that's it. That is the hardest story I have heard yet." And then I meet someone like Valbona. Once again, moms are the unsung heroes of the world. She is here with her little six-year-old son and he is so adorable and she is just doing her best to be happy and strong. As we taught her about prayer she listened so eagerly and intently. At the end of the lesson she pointed to her heart and said "I feel something here; I don't know what it is, but I feel something." She said that she prays, and we asked how she feels when she prays: "Better." 

On Sunday she came to church and Soeur Lefrandt translated for her and when they said the opening prayer she turned to her, pointed to her heart and said "I am crying! Why?" During the lesson something was said about priesthood blessings and she asked if she could have one after sacrament meeting. There was someone visiting the branch who spoke English (miracle) and he gave her the sweetest blessing of comfort. After the blessing she was in tears and Paula came in and just hugged her and held her. It was so beautiful to see her helping others already with the gospel and with the innate love that she already has. It made me think of our baptismal covenants and this scripture: 

 8 ... and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
 9 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—
 10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?

I love that we covenant to bear each others' burdens and comfort those in need and be a witness of God. I am amazed at all of the witnesses of God I have seen on my mission. They are everywhere and they are so good and kind and true.  I also love that He asks us to do these things so that He can pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon us. 

It is free and it makes us free. And it just makes sense. 

Another highlight of the week was Aiman praying at the beginning of our rdv. Still prays about cars, and is really hoping to get a blue one. I love it. 

I love you and miss you and hope you have a wonderful week!