June 24, 2013

Flan Sucking and Napoleon Bonaparte - Week 44

Hey there!

You've made it to the beginning of transfer 7 of my mission! I'll be staying in Brussels again with a companion named Elder Wood. Elder Smith is off to train a blue missionary in the city of Reims in France, so it looks like his time in the promised land has come to a close.

Along with Elder Wood, I'll be welcoming another companionship of Elders into our area. One of them just finished his third transfer, and one is a brand-new missionary just coming out of the MTC. Basically, I'm only in my seventh transfer, but I'm currently older in the mission than the other three Elders coming to my apartment COMBINED. Huh? Also, I'm the only one out of the four of us that knows anything about Brussels. What an adventure.

On Tuesday of this week, Elder Smith had to go to France to do legality, so I was left with two other Brussels Elders for the day. We met up with the Brussels senior couple in the morning to unload all of the furniture for our new apartment. Fortunately, it was pouring rain, so all the new furniture was nice and clean for us to use. I needed a second shower as well. After we finished up unloading, the three of us headed over to a member's house to help her move out of her apartment. Basically, by the early afternoon, we were physically exhausted and decided to reward ourselves with ice cream cones. Here's a shout-out to Elder Gutelius for buying me two scoops of almond milk ice cream. You're the best.

Apparently we had some self-control issues this week, because as four other Brussels Elders and I were eating fried chicken later that night, an ice cream truck poked around the corner and stopped a few meters in front of us. We got some ice cream, for the second time in one day. It was only a euro, okay?! For the record, that was the first time I've ever purchased ice cream of any kind since I've been on my mission.

The day after (that would be a Wednesday), I went on exchanges in the metropolis of Nivelles. It's a pretty quaint little place with a huge monastery/cathedral in the middle of the city. Not having any lessons scheduled, we took the Chevy Cruze to a city in the area to do some tracting. It was the famous city of Waterloo, where Napoleon lost his final battle. They have a big monument with a lion statue in Waterloo to commemorate the battle, which was a pretty cool thing to see. I'll shoot you some pictures.

The next day (Thursday. See? You're catching on.), Elder Smith and I went to the Brussels legality building to help all the young missionaries get their Belgium legality done. Well, I say 'young missionaries,' but I just did mine two transfers ago. Again, it was raining (welcome to Belgium, everyone), and we had a grand time ushering people through the metro between the legality building and the train station.

There's a missionary tradition of doing something called a flan suck. Basically, we get cheap flan desserts that come in little cups, put them on a plate, and see how fast we can suck them up and swallow them whole. Yes, you can shake your heads, because it's stupid. I'll have you know, however, that I'm also very good at it and earned some respect at district meeting this week with my flan sucking skills.

Add in two ward barbecues and a bunch of IKEA furniture building (again. ha.), and you pretty much have our week. Oh, and we even had some time to teach people in between, too. We've still got a lot to do before the three other missionaries come in two days, so we'll see if we can get it all done.

Here's a second shout-out for the week. This one goes to Anne, Elder Smith's girlfriend. Thanks for sending us all those Kool-aid packs all transfer. Good choice on the dinosaur socks too.

Have a brilliant week, everyone.

Elder Wilson

The number of transfers we have been out

My District

The Brussels Zone

Sister Stanford is "dying" this transfer

Single adults and new converts in Brussels

June 17, 2013

Regardless, I Still Don't Think South Park was Inspired. - Week 43

Hey all,

In our ward, three of the four recent converts were baptized thanks to the South Park episode that features Mormons and Joseph Smith. Basically, someone saw the episode, decided to do a school project on Mormons, went on mormon.org and scheduled a meeting with the missionaries to get information for the project. One thing led to another, and now a few months later he, his brother and his girlfriend are all baptized members of the church! It's a tiny bit ironic, but I suppose the Lord works in mysterious ways. 

This last week, we were rushing home to get in on time when we walked passed two guys walking the opposite direction. A few seconds later, they stopped and one called out two us: "Hey! Stop! I want to talk to you!" Slightly taken aback, we of course turned around to see what was up. He was like, "Are you guys REAL Mormons? Like with Joseph Smith looking in the hat to translate a book and everything?" Elder Smith thought for a moment and replied, "You've heard about Joseph Smith and a hat? You've seen the South Park episode, haven't you." 

"Yeah, that was a good one!" 

"Well, would you like to learn more about us and our church?"

-brief pause for suspense-

"Actually, yeah, I would! That really interests me a lot! Could you come over to my apartment tomorrow afternoon?"

And so it was that 'R' became interested in the church. He didn't end up being home when we checked his apartment, but we aren't letting him go that easy. Hooray for South Park! In no way is this email an endorsement of the show, but Elder Smith suggested that we keep a copy of the Mormonism episode to show to investigators or people on the street. Hey, apparently it works!

On Monday, Elder Smith and I had some extra time on P-day, so we decided to go to a Leonardo Da Vinci exposition in downtown Brussels. They made life-size models of most of his ideas and inventions, and it was pretty cool. Halfway through the gallery, we ran into a member girl from Utah who was visiting friends in Belgium. It's a small world!

The next day, while on exchanges, my companion-for-the-day Elder Simoes and I accidentally got stuck deep in Dutch-speaking Belgium for a few hours while waiting for a dinner appointment. So, we decided to start knocking on doors. For the record, neither of us know how to speak Dutch, so we felt like brand-new missionaries again, not being able to understand anything. We were able to communicate with over half of the people since most Europeans seem to be bilingual, but we still became proficient in explaining our purpose using hand signals and pointing to things.

Remember 'T', one of the guys that we found last week? Well, we had a lesson with him this week, and he decided to bring two of his friends. What a pleasant surprise. One of them was really talkative, and it was a bit of a challenge to get the lesson moving along. As soon as we got to the Joseph Smith story though, everyone was quiet and focused on what we were saying. That's something that Elder Smith and I have noticed recently: we can have people be off-the-wall or super talkative or not paying attention, but as soon as we talk about the first vision, everyone gets silent and listens. It's kind of like a secret weapon.

To celebrate Father's Day yesterday, Elder Smith and I were invited over to an American family's home for a barbecue. I felt like I was back in the United States. So, dad, happy Father's Day, and thanks for the excuse to celebrate!

I tried some Brussels sprouts in Brussels recently. They're still gross and still taste the same. For all you Brussels sprouts enthusiasts out there, you're welcome. I just saved you a plane ticket to Brussels and back.

Those are all the goings-on in Bruxelles as of late. I'm still on my quest to find the best fries/frites in Belgium, and I think I may have found the place. So, if anyone is planning a trip to Europe and wants to try the best frites in the world, let me know, and I'll happily be your tour guide (if you take me along on the rest of your trip all-expenses paid, of course).


Elder Wilson

June 10, 2013

I'm Not the President, But I Can Make a Basketball Team. - Week 42

Let's jump right into it!

Last week for P-Day, we got all the missionaries together for volleyball at our church building, and that was a lot of fun. Our chapel is one of the two in the entire mission that have a gym inside, so we get to take advantage of our resources. Our team won, just so everyone knows.

Right after that, we went out contacting and talked to a cool guy named 'T' from Cameroon. He said he wanted to come to church, so we swapped phone numbers and said we would keep in contact. An hour or two after that, as we were going home, we got a phone call from 'T'. He said he didn't want to wait until Sunday and that he wanted us to show him our church building the next day. We happily accepted his request and showed him around.

On the way back home from seeing 'T', we ran into some problems. Actually, we ran into a problem, with that problem being a very devout catholic man. He came up to us in the metro and greeted us as "brothers in Jesus." He then started yelling at us about how we're liars, pawns of Satan, and whatnot. It's not that big of a deal, but it was just a little awkward with him following us through the metro. I can normally reason with people like him, but he was way past understanding anything we told him. He finally stopped following us, but in the meantime, I entertained myself by running through scenarios on how I would lose him should he decide to follow us all the way home. I eventually decided on walking out of the train until the doors started closing, then 'bumping' him back into the train as the doors closed between us. It worked out in my head.

Yesterday, as we were again contacting through Brussels, we had a drunk Italian Greek man from Belgium stop us and start asking us questions. As he was debating with me on American gun rights, a second man came up and said: "Hey! Could you pray for me? I have a really important interview tomorrow." Elder Smith and I looked at each other to decide how to tackle the situation, then we split up. Elder Smith explained to the prayer guy that we could do "much more that just pray for you," while I continued trying to explain to the Italian Greek that I'm not personally able to withdraw all the American troops from Iraq overnight. Sorry, I'm not the President.

A few minutes into the double-teaming tactic, I turned around to see the prayer guy and my companion running away towards a tram with Elder Smith motioning for me to follow. I told the Italian Greek to stop drinking so much beer and quickly ran across 7 lanes of Brussels traffic to catch the tram with my companion and the prayer guy. I had no idea what was going on. I soon found out that the prayer guy was named 'D', and we were going to teach him in the tram on the way to the hospital where he works. One thing led to another, and bam! We have another lesson scheduled and he wants to come to church. Life is good.

We found another guy this week named 'B', which puts the total up to three. All three of them are around 24 and are good at basketball. In fact, 'D's' older brother plays basketball professionally in Brussels. All three are coming to play with us at the church next Saturday, and they're bringing friends. We're going to have the best church ball team ever!

There's your weekly excitement from the promised land. Enjoy life and I'll see you later.

Elder Wilson

June 03, 2013

Eye Candy - Week 41

Dear Everyone,

The subject of the email is less inappropriate than you think. We'll get there.

I kind of felt like I was living in Africa this week, and here are the reasons why:

So last Monday, five other Brussels Elders and I went on a hunt through the city for some African shops so that we could buy some boubous together. Boubous are basically big African robes with tribal patterns everywhere, and it's sort of a tradition to buy a boubou or two before we finish our missions. We eventually found some good ones, and they still smell like dried fish from the African shop. Just adds to the authenticity, right? We'll be playing some boubou basketball sometime soon.

Speaking of dried fish smell, we went to an African family's house on Saturday for dinner, and we ate some fish. It wasn't just normal fish though, because we sat down, looked at our plates, and found that our plates were looking back. We ate fish heads and vegetables for dinner. AND, I'm proud to say that I ate everything on the plate. What I thought were caterpillars actually turned out to be tree pods, so that was slightly less exciting. For the record, I ate the tree things while thinking they were caterpillars. As for the fish, we got to crack the heads open to pull out the eyes, and I even ate those. Thus the subject of the email. Mmm. It's like I'm on Man vs Wild. Not really though, because I take metros filled with homeless men playing the accordion.

To get to an appointment, Elder Smith and I had to take a bus out of Brussels to a Dutch village about a half hour north. We got off the bus three stops early though, so we had to wander through the city with no idea where to go, and without being able to understand any of the Dutch street signs or any of the words that the people were saying. I felt like a new missionary again. Sorry, new missionaries. After taking six wrong turns and a half hour of walking, we found the house we were looking for ... but only because they happened to see us walk by and pounded on the window to get our attention. We felt cool saying "Hello" in Dutch to everyone we passed on our way through the city though.

Our investigator that was supposed to get baptized next Sunday kind of disappeared, so that was a little disappointing. We'll see what we can do to fix the situation.

Besides that, we've just been contacting and tracting around Brussels like normal and talking to people all day. Everyone in the city seems to be too busy with end of year exams to talk to or meet with the missionaries, but hopefully things will pick back up in a week or two when they've all finished.

And with that, I bid you all farewell. Until next week!

Elder Wilson