May 27, 2013

Dear Stalker: Please Shave. - Week 40

Well Belgium has been rather cold since I've been here, so I'm hoping that means that we'll have a nice and cool summer.

Though Belgium is short of warm weather, the Belge are definitely not lacking in their number of police. Elder Smith and I have been stopped by the police THREE times in the last week. I mean, I know Elder Smith and I are muscular and look menacing with a "Jesus Christ" name tag on our white shirts, but come on. I guess I'm just getting to be good friends with the Brussels law enforcement. Usually, they just ask us questions and take our ID cards and tell us that we're not allowed to ask for money. We got kicked out of a building the second time though.

Meanwhile, we've been getting stalked by a 14 year-old. His name is Sandro and he has a mustache much thicker and more impressive than any normal 14 year-old should have. One day, Elder Smith and I were walking down the street and Sandro came up and stopped us. He told us he was a Jehovah's Witness and was interested in what we did as missionaries. A lady walking nearby overheard what he said and came over to say, "Hey! I'm a Jehovah's Witness too! What congregation are you in?" This new lady kind of boxed us out of our conversation with Sandro, so Elder Smith and I awkwardly walked away.

Then, the next day, on the other side of the city (and Brussels is a very large city), we were walking through a park when Elder Smith got a tap on his shoulder. It was Sandro, just as perky and mustached as the previous time. "Hi guys, I tried to request a missionary visit on your website, but it wouldn't work. Could we set up a time to meet and talk about religion? I'll be doing some proselyting in this park next Saturday. Can you guys come in the afternoon?" "Uhh ... sure, Sandro."

Sandro walked away and Elder Smith and I kept walking down the street, contacting on the way. After about a half hour, we finished up talking to a guy and turned the corner to go to in a different direction. Standing 5 feet away was none other than Sandro, holding an old Portuguese Book of Mormon. "Hi guys, so I found this and I was wondering if I could exchange this book in Portuguese for one in French." "Here you go, Sandro. Just stop following us." I didn't say that second part out loud.

And so it was, and several more days passed until the Saturday where we were scheduled to have our meeting with Sandro. We showed up to the park at the specified time and walked around for a few minutes. Then, in the distance, we saw Sandro running towards us dressed up in a suit. He caught up to us and said, while trying to catch his breath, "Hi guys, so I invited my great-grandpa and a minister from my church to come to our meeting and to talk to you. They'll be here soon." I've talked to Jehovah's Witness church leaders before, so it wasn't something new. I knew their questions and gave the answer before they asked them, so I felt pretty proud of myself. We'll see if we get stalked by *cough* -I mean- if we meet up with Sandro again.

For all you BYU basketball and women's volleyball fans out there, we had dinner with Noah Hartsock and his wife this week. They made us delicious tacos and gave us desserts and American sodas. They're so awesome. Brother Hartsock is on a Belge basketball team in the city of Aalst called the "Aalstars" (see what they did there?).

We also picked up trash on the streets around our church building as part of a ward service project. We got reflective safety vests and extendable trash grabbers and everything. As people saw us picking up trash in front of their houses, they came out to give us boxes of candy as a reward. We made a pretty good haul.

Alright, last event for the week. We got to go to a baptism for an investigator taught by a group of Elders in the other Brussels ward. It was so fun! We got to have all the missionaries together and eat cookies and have a good time watching someone get baptized. I didn't understand it because it was in Spanish, but it was good.

And that's all the news I have for you from the promised land. You'll all have to come over to Belgium one day to see how great it is. Have a great week!

Elder Wilson

(editor's note: Trevor and Elder Smith currently have an investigator with a baptismal date in two weeks, another one who is actively trying to quit smoking so that he can be baptized, another investigator who is looking forward to a baptismal date soon and they are currently teaching a female attorney from Africa who is very interested in the church. It really must be the promised land.) 

Just hangin' out with the Hartsocks 

May 20, 2013

Journey to the Promised Land - Week 39

I'm in Belgium! I'm also typing on an American keyboard, so it's going to take me awhile to re-learn. Slightly bothersome.

Getting to the promised land of Brussels was quite the experience. 

So on Tuesday, I said goodbye to Toul and stayed the night in Nancy with the zone leaders. Elder Reed and I had a train to catch at 8 in the morning to go to Paris, so we finished our bags and waited at the apartment door for the other Elders to come and help us carry our things to the train station. They were late getting ready though, which left Elder Reed and I to get to the train station on our own with all our suitcases. 10 minutes before the train was supposed to leave, we were sprinting through the city with our bags flying everywhere. At one point, while stopping traffic in the middle of the largest street in Nancy, I gave up trying to roll my suitcases and literally started throwing them to Elder Reed to get to the train on time. Sorry, suitcases. Through the station, people noticed we were a bit stressed and half a dozen of them grabbed our bags and helped us load them on the train. We barely made it. Hooray!

In Paris, we got off the metro just in time to see the 40 new missionaries fresh from the MTC walking in a herd toward the Paris chapel. (This is the biggest group yet!) It was quite the sight to see. With so many blues, I got to mother one of them, meaning I took him out to his first contacting session. Since it was his first day, I took him contacting past Notre Dame. We got back, all the blues were assigned to their trainers, and everyone left. (In France we call them blues and not greens.)

My plan was to go up to Brussels with my buddy Elder Dickson, who is training. Before our train, we took his blue to the Eiffel Tower as is tradition and headed back to the train station. This was difficult as well, since it was the three of us with nine full-size suitcases going through the Paris metro. I very nearly rolled down an escalator after all my bags tipped over and slid down. Let's just say that the whole station was staring at me. 

The problem with the metro was that the doors would open, everyone would rush on, and there wouldn't be enough space for our suitcases. By the time we got to the train station, we had to sprint again with all the suitcases to make the train. 60 seconds before it left, we got to the train, but they wouldn't let us on because we didn't have our tickets. The Elders with our tickets were already on the train, and we couldn't get in to retrieve them. With nothing else to do, I started sprinting up and down the platform like a weirdo, hoping they would see us through the window. It worked, they ran out with the tickets, we literally threw our suitcases on the train, and got in as the doors were closing behind us.

But transfers are fun! We sat down, dripping with sweat, and shared stories with the other Elders heading to Brussels over a loaf of banana bread.

I got to Brussels and met my new companion in time to go teach a Spanish and Russian. No, I do not speak either of those languages. I would say something in English which was then translated to Spanish by another Elder which was then translated into Russian by the investigator's friend. Brussels is crazy. I love it though, and I'm having a blast.

Since Brussels has a bunch of foreigners working at all the international buildings, our ward is pretty diverse. Yesterday at church, we had people from Belgium, France, Africa, Germany, Finland, and probably a few other countries. About half of the ward is American, which makes our proselyting area as perfect as any could get. Members all talk to us in English and give us a bunch of American food that no other missionaries can get. They feed us all the time and are willing to help. So, it's like an American ward. Then, we step outside, and we're in Belgium and everyone speaks Dutch and French. Plus, Belge people are nicer than French people. It's the perfect place!

So that's my adventure so far in the promised land. Just speaking French, learning Dutch, riding on metros, and living the missionary life. I'll update you more next week! Love from Belgium!

Elder Wilson

This is right outside our apartment

The dying day of Elder Dunn

May 13, 2013

Just Call Me Catholic - Week 38

Hello all!

So we just got transfer news, and I’m going to BRUSSELS. Going to the land of frites, waffles, chocolate, and all things fantastic. A lot of people call it the promised land of the mission. It’ll be quite the change going from fields and herds of goats to one of the largest cities in Europe with a subway system. I’ll miss Alsace and Lorraine though.

Thanks for video chatting yesterday, family! It was good to see all your bright, shining faces and brilliant smiles, even if you had to get up extra early to talk to me.

This week, we were out tracting in a little village close to Toul, and hardly anyone seemed to be home. As we were standing at a door, we heard someone yell from behind us: "Hey, you!" We turned  around to see who was beckoning our attention. It was two older ladies walking some distance down the road. They continued, "Do you want to come and sing with us? We’re going to choir practice at the Catholic church!" With Elder Meissner having been in the Vienna Boys’ Choir and being an expert singer, he readily responded in the affirmative. If we couldn't convert them by knocking on doors, we were going to convert them with his angelic voice.

So, off to the Catholic church we went. We told the ladies a bit about ourselves and our church on the way, and they were really happy to have us. As we walked into the church, the old ladies of the choir started whispering: "Who invited the Jehovah's Witnesses? Why are they here? They're so young!" Since the old people were whispering at the volume of normal speech, I was able to hear their conversation and respond back, "Nope! We're Latter-day Saints!"

And so it was that we sat down in the choir and started learning to sing the Catholic songs. Choir practice only lasted a half hour, so at the end, Elder Meissner and I offered to sing them a song from OUR hymnbook to thank them for the evening. They were all excited and were in love with us.

Apparently they were a bit too excited, because one of the ladies grabbed me by the shoulders and pulled me down to her level to give me bisous, which are the kisses on the cheeks that French people do. It's against mission rules for Elders to give bisous though, and Elder Meissner realized what was happening faster than I did. As she pulled me down, he jumped over and threw his arm between me and the lady. She was understandably confused, and we explained that we had some extra rules about kissing people.

After successfully backing out of that situation, we invited the whole Catholic choir to come to church with us next Sunday and sing with us in sacrament meeting. Success! Plus, they even took a picture with us at the end. We're going to go tracting there again to find all of our new friends.

For district meeting the next day, we went to a nearby city called Epinal. They're putting in a new set of missionaries on Wednesday, so we had to go and build all the furniture for them. Let's just say that after furnishing the apartment in Toul and in Epinal, I'm ready to work at IKEA.

I'll talk to you all next time from the land of Belgium!

Elder Wilson

The Choir

The District


May 06, 2013

Finger to the Face - Week 37

Hey you kids (another tribute to the 48th),

If the rhyme holds true, we should be getting millions and millions of May flowers, because there sure was a ridiculous amount of April showers.

We visit a less-active member in the branch every week whose house is filled with a thick cloud of cigarette smoke every time we go over. We usually share a scripture or a short spiritual thought and are in and out of the door in 10 minutes, so that we don't smell like cigarette smoke for a few hours afterward. Usually, the member's wife stays in the corner of the room when we come over and watches TV and smokes. She's really old and sits in a wheelchair.

A few weeks ago, however, she decided to wheel herself over and listen to the lesson we were having at the kitchen table. We told her she was welcome to join and made some space in the corner for her to sit next to me. Their little three-legged dog decided to hop over and hang out too. I'm not sure why there are so many of those here.

Since the wife can't hear very well, I'm pretty sure she thinks that other people can't hear her either, so she feels the need to yell all of her sentences. We decided to say a prayer to start the mini-lesson, and she took the opportunity during the prayer to yell questions out to us: "How old are you?! Are you married?! Are you Mormons?! Where are you from?!" And then we said "Amen" to finish the prayer that was only partially heard. We continued on with the lesson and, seeing that she was being partially-mostly-almost-completely ignored, she had to find a way to get our attention. As a last resort, she put down her cigarette, reached out her hand, and slid her finger down my face.

Wait ... what just happened? Yeah, it was as uncomfortable as it sounds.

Well, we'll move on. Later in the week, we called a few old investigators from the missionaries before us, which is always a fun risk. Elder Meissner called up a lady who wasn't too happy to hear his voice. She said something along the lines of, "I told you to stop calling me! Jesus is dead for me." To which Elder Meissner quickly responded, "Yes, you're right. Jesus DID die for you. Would you like us to come and explain to you why?" She didn't find it amusing, and she hung up.

For the last time, we went into a forest and helped our branch president cut and move wood. On the way there, we found a guy on the side of the road whose car had slid into a ditch, and we stopped to help him. We tied a rope between his car and our branch president's car and tried to get it out with no success. Luckily, we're serving in an area where two-thirds of the houses have tractors parked in the garage, so our branch president left to find a bigger vehicle to come and help.

Meanwhile, Elder Meissner and I stayed with the guy we were helping, and he asked us why in the world an American and a German would be wandering around in a forest together in the middle of nowhere in France. A plausible question. We talked to him for a while, then helped him with his wood ... using a big machete-knife-thing to cut off branches. After we got his car out of the ditch, he told us he wants to invite us over for dinner sometime next week. It seems that investigators can even be found in the middle of the forest.

Have a fantastic week! See you in seven.

Elder Wilson