August 06, 2014

The Airport Homecoming

Today was a GREAT day! After 715 days and only being able to talk on the phone or Skype 4 times in those 2 years, it was the best feeling to have Trevor back home. Having the family all together again is the best! Here are a few shots of our airport scene. And yes, I was that mom that had the large banner, balloon bouquet and 20 American and French flags to hand out to everyone. Five missionaries came home from France today and we had the entire International Terminal to ourselves, all the friends and family. It was a small terminal and there were lots of people so these are crowded photos, but priceless!

I ran so fast to hug him that the poor photographer (Alan) could not keep up with me. I just couldn't wait!

August 05, 2014

He's Almost Home!

Trevor will be landing in 5 hours, a little after 1:00 pm MDT. Here is a photo of his real time flight:

I'm sure none of you are as excited as me, his mom, so thanks for indulging me. And yes, once again, this mother stayed up all night watching the little plane cross the Atlantic, but this time, I get to be at the receiving end! These next photos are from dinner at the mission home last night, courtesy of President and Sister Babin. I think he has grown a few inches!

The countdown is on! More homecoming photos to follow ... 

July 28, 2014

As it Begins. - Week 101

Well boys, this is the end of the line. 

"Do you remember the taste of strawberries, Sam?"

For the last few months, people have been asking, "Does it feel like it's been two years?" I think it depends on which direction I look. It's definitely been two years since I've been with my family at home, but it also seems like I should still have some time left. Six months ago, I started worrying whether or not I had learned everything I was supposed to learn or done everything I was supposed to do. Now, I feel like I've done what I came here for and it's time to go home.

There's still seven days left, and it's packed full of people to see and things to do. It was really, really tough to see "B" this week. We couldn't get ahold of her until around Friday, and Elder Rodriguez and I basically gave up hope one night. Our thoughts were centered around, "Well, she'll get baptized soon, but not next week." After a few minutes of silence and some calculations, I turned to him and said, "No. This IS happening. We need to get over there and talk to her. She wants to be baptized."

We called her when we got home, and she answered for the first time, where she explained that her son has been in the hospital again for the last four and a half days, and she stayed with him 24/7. We went over the next night and had a little chat about her baptism. We told her that in order for her to be baptized next Sunday, we have things left to teach and an interview to do. We told her that delaying the baptism by a week or two was still an option if she didn't want to cram in a few lessons, but she was pretty adamant: "No. I'm getting baptized next Sunday." 

It shouldn't be a problem if all goes according to plan, and we'll be seeing her nearly every day this week to put things into place. The ward really stepped up, and a bunch of Relief Society sisters are helping as well. Members asked if they could drive us to lessons, and others took her to help her pick out baptismal clothes. They asked everyone to pray for her throughout the week as well.

I feel like this last week is a challenge specially tailored for me. It's time to use everything I've learned in 24 months and prove that I'm capable of doing it. This is going to be one stressful week.

To sum up the past seven days, we knocked on a bunch of doors, got some pho at an Asian restaurant for Elder Price's birthday, and I went on an exchange in Charleroi (affectionately referred to as "Gotham City" thanks to it's appearance.)

We're going to be leaving early Monday morning to take a train to Paris and have our "Paris P-day," where all the dying missionaries get to hang out and do whatever they want in Paris. Elders Price, Oliverson, Barr and I are planning to hang out together for the day, and thus everything ends as it begins. I remember walking into the MTC to meet those three in August 2012 with Barr as my new companion. Since, we've flown to San Fran together, lived through the MTC together, were trained together, Price and I have lived together, Oliverson and I were companions and baptized together, and now we're dying together.

Next Monday, we're going to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower again, grab some lunch with Elder Dussere, maybe stop by the Arc de Triomphe, and see a few people from Versailles. Then, we'll have an interview with President Babin on Monday night, sleep in the mission home, and wake up early Tuesday morning to take the RER train to the airport.

This is the start of all the "lasts"-- last P-day, last time doing emails, last district meeting, last train ride, last missionary pasta (hallelujah), last, last. Here's the last time I sign off.

Goodbye, France. Goodbye, Belgium. You have quirks, but you sure are great.

See you next week,

Elder Wilson

July 21, 2014

Serial Killer and an Attempted Kidnapping - Week 100

We received a letter in the mail this week. It had no return address, so we don't know who it's from. Inside was a serial killer note that said "YOU'RE NEXT" in magazine clippings. Ha. 'Cuz we're dying. We're trying to figure out who sent it so we can return the favor.

Elder Rodriguez and I have been tracting the same little city on the outskirts of Namur for the last transfer, so we're there almost every night. There's also an ice cream man that passes through the same little city every single night, so we see each other a handful of times a week. He's our best friend now, and he always stops to say hello to us or bows at the driver's seat and gives us a friendly honk. I'm just holding out until the day he decides to give us free ice cream.

Speaking of eastern European friends in cars, we've got some other friends from Albania. Remember when we got invited in and offered wine by an Albanian dude a few weeks ago? We've seen him driving around the city a few times, and he always slams on the breaks to roll down the window and gives us a fist bump. He always has friends in the car so he introduces us as the American Mormons.  We saw him again on Saturday as we were walking out of our apartment, but this time, he yelled out to us and motioned for us to get in his car. We figured we had nothing to lose, so we hopped in and enjoyed the air conditioning.

After he introduced us again to his friend and showed us some cool Albanian music, we were curious what was happening and asked, "So, uh ... where are you guys going, anyway?" They responded with, 

"Oh, nowhere really. We just drive around and look at all the girls walking through the city. They look better in the summertime, you know. What about you two? Where were you going?"  

"Well ... we weren't going anywhere either. We were just going to walk around and talk to those girls walking on the street ... but about the gospel." We had them drop us off after a few minutes, and we got on with our day.

We had another zone conference with President Babin, which was fun. They like to use a lot of videos and music, so it's kind of like listening to EFY speakers, but learning cooler stuff. As is custom at all zone conferences, they had the departing missionaries give their "dying testimonies," which included Elder Price and me. We've been seeing missionaries give dying testimonies since the first month in the mission when I was back in Strasbourg with my trainer, and it's kind of important. Throughout our entire missions, we always see people going home and wonder what we're going to say for our own dying testimonies. Now that day has already come and passed for us.

It was Elder Price's birthday on Saturday, and we went to a member's house to eat dinner. We celebrated his birthday and my 3/4 birthday, since I'm 20 and 9 months old. I only ate 3/4 of a cake as a result. We tried going to get Pho at an Asian restaurant the next day, but it was closed for summer vacation. Lame.

Today is a national holiday in Belgium, and a big military parade just marched past in front of the internet café. Pretty cool.

We also did more service for the lady that owns the sickle and taught our African family on Saturday. We taught "S" before that, who is the 77 year old lady whose father was a member of the church. Her 11 year old granddaughter has been there for the lessons recently, so we're teaching them both. I don't know what's cool in America, but all the European elementary school kids wear little rubber band woven bracelets all the time recently. It's turned into a type of trophy for missionaries to be given one of the bracelets by a little kid, and when we taught the granddaughter, she pulled out a loom and started making the little bracelets. Elder Rodriguez and I held our breath to see if she would give one to us, but we had to leave before she finished. We're gonna score next time for sure.

We finished up the week by teaching one of our African families, but the lesson turned into him explaining the intricacies of chemical bombs for a half hour. You see, he is a chemist. We went home last night and crawled into bed after the sun zapped all of our energy and enjoyed the peace and quiet for three minutes until a huge rock concert started right outside our window. We enjoyed falling asleep to French singers singing songs by The Police and Green Day, until a gigantic fireworks show started over the river out our window. It was equivalent to a 4th of July fireworks show, and we climbed out onto the scaffolding outside our window and enjoyed it for a little while.

It's been difficult to keep in steady contact this week with "B" since she's in the process of moving, but we're still trying to make the baptism happen on August 3rd. We called in a favor from the Elders of Charleroi who are helping us teach her tonight, so it's a team effort.

And thus we find ourselves in an internet shop on an overcast day in Namur. Next week is going to be my -LAST- email home ever, so I'll put in some extra effort to do some good things this week. Stay tuned. Adieu.

Elder Wilson