November 26, 2012

Sorry You Can't Speak Missionary - Week 14

Good afternoon, and I'd like to have a moment of silence for all the families who may have lost a loved one or close relative in the casualties of Walmart Black Friday. I went last year, and I almost didn't make it out alive.

I hope everyone's Thanksgiving was as great as mine was! The zone decided to have Thanksgiving here in Strasbourg, so Elder Dunn and I went to the train station early in the morning and greeted everyone. We all went to the church for district meetings before we sat down for a Thanksgiving dinner in the gym. There's construction going on in the church building, so there were some interesting reactions from the workers when they saw 25 twenty year olds in church clothes speaking English and bringing ridiculous amounts of food to eat. People here generally don't know that Thanksgiving exists, so we explained it to people the week before. French people are generally surprised when we say we're American and they see that we're not obese, so they easily understood why Thanksgiving is so American when we explained we get together and eat as much food as we can. The food was good considering that a bunch of Elders cooked and transported it a quarter of the way across France.

After our meal, we went and played a game of football with the Zone at a nearby park. No one in France really understands football after we try to explain that there's imaginary lines and you have to take turns called downs, so we gathered a little crowd of people walking by trying to understand the game. The few native French missionaries just kind of stood and watched since they had no idea what was going on. Anyway, it was really fun to see reserved and spiritual missionaries go crazy and chase someone down to stop a touchdown. I'd also like to make sure that everyone knows that my team won.

After Thanksgiving, things turned back to normal and we went back to real missionary work the next day. 

On Saturday, we went and did some service for a family in the ward who needed some help maintaining their yard. We went early on Saturday and, miraculously, they trusted four Elders with three chainsaws and a power sander to make their yard look better and chop wood for the winter. We didn't lose any lives or limbs, though Elder Mahieu may have lost a few fingers. 

If Mr. and Mrs. Mahieu read this, I want to assure you that your son is fully intact and that was only a joke.

After we had our fun with the power tools, the family fed us a meal called raclette. I don't know how French people all stay so fit when they eat things like raclette. Basically, for this meal, we were given potatoes to begin with. Then, to prepare the meal, we take thick slices of cheese, top it with big chunks of bacon, put the mixture in a machine that melts the cheese, take it out, pour it over the potatoes, top it with ham and more bacon and cheese, and repeat. We repeated this cycle six or seven times before being given ice cream filled with extra layers of chocolate. I'm surprised missionaries don't gain 100 pounds every transfer. And for whoever lives in Northern Utah, I'm fully planning on buying a raclette machine when I get home, so you're all invited to have some in 2014.

We spent a good chunk of the day doing service for this family, and we ended up only having an hour at the end of the day to find more investigators and to meet our goal of teaching a lesson. Elder Dunn and I had planned to go tracting and knock on some doors, but I felt at the last minute that we should change our plan and talk to people on the street next to our apartment. We walked out of our apartment, turned the corner, and started contacting people. In fact, the very first man we talked to wanted to instantly learn more about the Book of Mormon, so he invited us to sit down on a bench and we taught him a 40 minute lesson right on the spot. We only talked to one person all day, and we still met our goal of teaching a lesson. That's a 100% success rate! We were definitely blessed that night to still meet our goal without any real time to do it.

On Friday, I took a vow to only speak French for as long as I can so I'll hopefully become fluent faster. I can understand most things, so it sometimes creates funny situations. I don't know how, but French people have some kind of superpower that they can know we're American before we even say anything and reveal our accents. It may be because we don't wear scarves every day and don't have pointy French shoes, but I still don't know how it happens. Since they see we're American, they assume we can't understand French as well and that we're tourists. So, they decide to make fun of us and Americans in French and assume we have no idea what they're saying. We play along and act as American as we can, then say something complicated in French to them as we leave. It's funny to see their reactions when they realize we understood everything they said about us. 

We try to do the same thing in English, but it actually works because instead of speaking English, we speak missionary, which is a combination of French, English, Mormon, teenager, and made-up words.

We taught the man who is a Jehovah's Witness this week, and we had to strike a deal with him. He said that the only way we could get him to church is if we go to his church for an hour in exchange. We agreed, so we went to an hour of church with the Jehovah's Witnesses last night. I've felt out of place before, but I felt particularly out of place being an American missionary wearing a name tag with our church's name on it and attending a Jehovah's Witness church in French on the border of Germany. Nevertheless, our Jehovah's Witness is coming to our church next week!

That's all I have for you this week! Things are going well in France, and the Strasbourg Elders have plenty of investigators and people to teach.

You are now allowed to listen to Christmas music, since it's after Thanksgiving.

Talk to you next Monday!

Elder Wilson

The "Artist" from last week's letter

Us having Mexican food at family home evening with the young adults
(editor's note: Gotta love how the hamburger is cooked on a crepe pan ... 
only in France)

Us on a train to Nancy ... I need to take more pictures!