August 26, 2013

Drinking From the Carton and Almost Selling Makeup - Week 53

SOO the Neuhaus Belgian chocolate factory.

After wandering around on the outskirts of the city, Elder Wood, Elder Adams, Elder Oliverson and I finally saw the factory in the distance. We skipped lunch that day so we could eat disgusting amounts of chocolate, and we all packed a water bottle to cleanse our mouths and enjoy the chocolate more. Elder Adams decided not to mess around and just brought a liter of milk in his bag. What a man.

We walked through the parking lot in the heat of the summer, then approached the automatic sliding doors. As we moved closer and triggered the sensors, the doors rushed open and we were met with a wall of cold air, only to reveal a room full of expensive chocolate. They were displayed in open boxes so we didn't even have to mess with unwrapping anything. Most of the chocolate cost over 1 US dollar per bite. After doing the math, we probably ate a few hundred euros worth of chocolate between the four of us. It went a little like this:

"Oh, this one is good ... hey, this one too ... I'm pretty sure I just broke the Word of Wisdom with that one ... wow, this one is REALLY good ... a grapefruit chocolate? How did they even THINK of that? ... This one is extra expensive. I have to eat multiple. Hey Elder Oliverson, come eat some extra expensive ones made from flowers." 

(in the distance) "Hey guys! This one has alcohol in it as well! It was good, though."

"Yeah, these ones over here are all full of coffee. Watch out."

Meanwhile, I turn my head to see Elder Adams in the corner of the store trying to drink straight out of the 1 liter milk carton without being seen ... unsuccessfully.

Anyway, enough of that. We just went home and collapsed on the ground for the rest of P-Day. Meanwhile, we've been smelling like ganache and truffles for the whole week.

After a district meeting centered on applying the principles of Quidditch to missionary work, Elder Ensign and I went on an exchange in Nivelles, a small city outside of Brussels. The Nivelles Elders have a car, but we couldn't use it for the day since Elder Ensign's companion is the designated driver. Thus, we spent the hours walking and walking and walking around the city. I normally would have complained, but it was just the first 'step' (sorry, awful pun. Ha.) towards losing a few of the calories put on from Monday. I got to have a baptismal interview with their awesome investigator named Albert, who's a super smart doctor. He's cool.

On our trek back home, we passed a man and a group of three girls on the other side of the street. As we were about to walk around the corner, he called out to us and beckoned us over. We walked over to the group, and he started asking a few questions about our missions. 

"Alright, I understand you're volunteers, but how would you like to work on the side? You can try to sell your religion to one person, then to the next person, you can sell some makeup!"

"Uh, we can't really do that." Apparently the three girls were there to help him sell.

"Look, boys. I have hundreds of people working under me to sell makeup, and we're making millions in every country except the US and England. I basically don't have to do any work; I'm just raking in the money. You can even sell over the internet and Facebook to your family and friends! In a year, you can be a wealthy as me."

No thanks, sir. We would like no part of your pyramid scheme. Here's our card though.

And the next day was my year mark! Halfway done with my mission. What the...?! I came home from the exchange to a halfway package sent by mother. It was fantastic. It was themed, of course, and the four of us crowded around and unpacked the box to see what was inside. Fun.

This is an extra long email. I'll now pause to give you time to go get a drink, take a break, or do whatever necessary. No, seriously.
Okay, good. Let's continue.

Saturday was an exciting day as well. Elder Wood and I knocked on one door, and it was answered by a Muslim man who let us in. As is the plan for when Muslim people let us in (although it hasn't ever happened before), Elder Wood and I offered to pray with him: he prays in his Muslim way, and then we pray for him in our Christian way. It worked a little too well, and he spent 40 minutes showing and explaining every detail about how a Muslim person prays. It was really interesting, but we had to leave before long. We prayed with him, said goodbye, and walked out the door to one of the heaviest rain storms I've ever seen. The roads were flooded with water and we were soaked rather quickly.

We got home to hear a great story from the other Elders. 

They went to a Christian conference with one of their investigators about the end of the world. It was in a fancy hotel in the middle of Brussels, and upon flashing their invitation, the security guard let them in and seated them. They said there were hundreds of people there, with exactly two white people: them. They were given drinks and treated like kings. During an intermission, people flocked to talk to them, including the preachers in charge of the event. The head honchos came up and said, "We're really honored to have you here. Would you two like to go up at the end and say something?"

Wait ... like, that only happens in stories from missionaries in the 1800's, right? NOPE. Unfortunately, they were on their way out and had to decline, but I think they regretted their opportunity to talk to a few hundred African Christians about the end of the world.

And thus another week is in the books. I keep expecting my weeks to be uneventful, but somehow things keep turning up.

Slytherin is currently in the lead. We'll catch up.

Elder Wilson

Pre chocolate tour

Post chocolate tour

Elder Davis' birthday

August 19, 2013

Team Hufflepuff and the Closest to Hawaii I'll Ever Get - Week 52 (half way done!)

We took advantage of the hot weather last P-day. Hot weather equals cheap European cardigans. Mmm.

ANYWAY, it was a fun week, but it was pretty tough. We worked hard and didn't end up teaching very many people, but we had a good time anyway. We were fortunate enough to have some bright spots sprinkled in the week.

First was Tuesday, which felt like a little mini-vacation because Elder Wood had to do some legality paperwork for Belgium with the rest of his MTC group. We met all the other missionaries and the senior couple coming off a train from Paris at the Brussels train station, then got to spend the afternoon with them since we had to go with them to the prefecture. We went and ate lunch at a little sandwich café downtown, had some waffles (of course) and went to the Grand Palace in the middle of the city. Missionary friends are just so fun to hang out with ... maybe just because they all speak the same native language. 

A few days later was the weekly district meeting, which normally isn't too noteworthy, but it was extra entertaining this time. Because I am District Leader, I decided to make a theme for the district this transfer, with the theme being Harry Potter. Yeah, we're not exactly allowed to watch the movies or read the books, but we still had some fun with it. Elder Wood and I spent the first half of the week scouring the park across the street from our apartment to find some good-sized sticks. On Wednesday night, I spent a while carving down all the sticks we got into wands, then gave them to everyone in the district. After we were officially wizards with our wands, each companionship was assigned to a house via the sorting hat. So, the whole transfer, we'll be doing challenges throughout the weeks and answering questions to win house points for our companionship. Hufflepuff for the win!

On Sunday morning at 6:40, our phone started ringing. It was still early enough that no one had yet broken the "talking barrier," and everyone was sitting exhausted in chairs or on the floor. I was a little annoyed to see who would call us at such a time, but I answered the phone to hear an enthusiastic voice shout, 

"Hello! Are these the missionaries in Brussels? How are you doing this morning?"

"Uh ... fine (I was too tired to think of a more creative response)."

"What's your name Elder? Where are you from? Did you just wake up a few minutes ago?"

"Elder Wilson. Utah. And ... yes (still too tired to think)."

At this point, I was sure it was a Tahitian missionary. He was happy at 6:30 in the morning, he had an islander accent, and he was switching between English and French.

"So, uh ... what can I do for you?" At this point, I was coming to my senses.

"The name's Jim, and you can call me Jimmy. I'm calling you right now from the beautiful island of Hawaii, and I'm a student at BYU-Hawaii. My girlfriend lives in Brussels right now, and she's not a member of the church. I'd like you to give her a call and meet up with her."

So a little background. I've only gotten two real referrals from members: one on my very first day on a mission in Strasbourg with my trainer, and this one. It was rather miraculous. The sad part of the story is that the girlfriend lives out of our area so we had to pass the number on to the other Elders, but it was still a nice experience to have. Three cheers for Jimmy!

To close up the week, we had a lesson with an African family we've been teaching for a while. We gave them a call to make sure the lesson was still possible, and they told us they were in the park and wanted to meet us there. We walked over to the park to find the parents and children all riding bikes together as they watched the sunset. Elder Wood and I gathered them up, and they crowded around as we shared a scripture with them. It seemed like a good picture-perfect moment to close up the week, and they're all just so nice and fun and I want the parents to get married so they can be baptized.

We're going to a Belgian chocolate factory today where they have all-you-can-eat unlimited free samples, so if you don't hear from me next week, it's because I'm in the hospital from a heart attack.

Have a healthier day today than I am.

Long live Hufflepuff,

Elder Wilson

August 12, 2013

Close, But No Cigar - Week 51

Here's a birthday shout-out to Elder Davis, who lives in the apartment with me and turned the big 2-0 yesterday. Elder Wood and I made him a birthday cake on Saturday night and attacked him with glow sticks and finger lights as we presented it to him when he got home. It was a good time.

SO as you can see from the pictures that mother will undoubtedly attach to the email (hint hint, mother), Elder Wood and I went to the Atomium last week for P-day. Basically, it's a big famous monument thing shaped like an iron atom that was built in the 1950's. It's kind of like the Eiffel Tower of Belgium. We got to go inside all the tubes and spheres, and they had exhibits and flashing lights going through the whole thing. Also, the fastest elevator in Europe took us up to the top. After, we went to Mini-Europe, which is a little amusement park thing with all the monuments of Europe ... only miniature. It's kind of like we went on a trip through every major city on the continent in an hour.

Anyway, back to life and the real world outside of Mini-Europe. We went and taught the family from Tonga again. They're the best. We walked into their apartment, and they fed us half of an apple pie as an hors d'oeuvre. Sure, Elder Wood and I may have regretted the calories, but it was delicious. 

The next day was transfer day, which didn't really affect us much because the four of us in the apartment all stayed together. Well, it shouldn't have affected us much. We went to the train station with the expectation of babysitting Elder Ensign for the day while he waited for his new companion to come from Paris. When we walked in the central part of the station, however, we were greeted by a dozen missionaries who were all waiting for their companions too, and we had the privilege of figuring out what to do with them since we were the only Brussels Elders present. It all worked out though.

Later that day, we got a phone call from the Leuven Elders, who are the Dutch speakers in the Netherlands mission up north that we sometimes give referrals to. I picked up the phone, and it was none other than Elder Thueson, a friend from high school who's in the Netherlands mission. "Elder Wilson! I can't believe it's you! I'm in Brussels to do Belgium legality right now! We'll be at the train station in an hour, is there any way we could meet up?" It just-so-happened that we had to be in the train station in an hour to drop off Elder Ensign, so we were in luck.

We got to the station and called back Elder Thueson.

"Hey! I'm here in front of a restaurant called Panos!"
"Wait ... so am I! But I don't see you ..."
"What do you mean?"

Well, we eventually figured out that we were both at the train station in Brussels, but we were at two different train stations. Bummer. We were so close to having a really cool picture together. Maybe next time.

In other news, we were knocking on doors and a white, normal, sane Belgian guy answered the door. He told us something we've never really heard before from someone like him: "Yeah, come in! I'm interested in having you answer my questions!" We taught him about the Book of Mormon, then taught about the Plan of Salvation a few days later. After we were done with the second lesson, he said something like, "Wow! Finally! You're the first religion I've heard of who has an intelligent idea of the plan of God! It's ... genius! Honey, come over here and take a look at this!" 

He called over his wife and started explaining the entire Plan of Salvation to her in a couple of minutes. "Yeah ... mmhmm ... that makes sense .... yes, I see ...." Long story short, we'll be over on Tuesday to answer questions. Wohoo!

And that's the latest and greatest in the land up north. 

Do a good turn daily.

Elder Wilson

August 05, 2013

Stalked at a Concert - Week 50

I'll be staying in Brussels again this transfer! Not much is changing for me. I guess we already have a winning combination.

I'm not really sure what happened this week, but we literally ran out of food by Friday. All we had left was rice and noodles, so on Friday night, we ate some rice and soy sauce for dinner. We had a little pow wow in the kitchen on Saturday night to figure out how we were going to survive until Monday, when we all realized that it would be Fast Sunday the next day and we didn't actually have to eat anything. It was probably the happiest we had all been to find out it was the first Sunday of the month. Not to worry though, we're going shopping this week.

Anyway, it's been a week filled with exchanges, meaning I had three different companions over the course of three days. On the first exchange, Elder Player and I passed by the house of a family that told us we could come back later. As we were standing on their porch, they happened to pull in the driveway. Of course. I got excited because the last time that happened I got let in to teach a lesson. Instead, the wife came out of the car and started chatting to us in Dutch. For those not familiar with my language abilities, I don't speak Dutch and she didn't speak French or English, so we ended up standing there awkwardly yelling at each other in different languages until her husband came around. He didn't let us in either, but we found a cool family from Chicago a few minutes later that told us to come back.

Meanwhile, Elder Wood found a guy named Flo Rida for us to teach this week. I haven't met him yet, but my guess is that he isn't the same one.

Has anyone heard of Robbie Williams? None of us have, but apparently Belgium has. There was a big Robbie Williams concert in Brussels this week, and we had to walk around the stadium to get to a metro station. We heard the concert for 15 minutes or so as we were walking, and we also sort of got stalked by two girls who were on the same bus with us on the way to the concert. We lost 'em though; don't worry.

On the way back to the apartment last Monday night, a guy behind us yelled at us to stop. He caught up to us and asked if we were the Mormons. After we confirmed that we were, he asked if he could have a Book of Mormon. He continued by saying that he was originally from Rwanda and was consistently meeting with the missionaries in Belgium 20 years ago when he got deported back to Africa. He lost his Book of Mormon in the move and was recently able to make it back to Europe. He was excited when he saw us and for the opportunity to come back into contact with the church. He lives in Amsterdam though, so we took his number and passed it to the Elders in the other mission.

We've been running every morning around the park across the street, and there's a very large green parakeet population that apparently started from pet birds that escaped. There's thousands and thousands of them that live up in the trees, and every day is a risk of running under the foliage without getting hit with falling chunks of digested bird waste. I guess it adds some excitement to the mornings.

Two months ago, Elder Smith and I went to teach someone named 'B'. He's an older guy, but he didn't respond to calls or texts after the first appointment, so we kind of stopped trying to schedule lessons with him. Then, this Saturday, Elder Wood and I got a call from 'B' asking us to come right away and help him. When we showed up, he was smoking and pretty depressed that his life was awful and he didn't know what to do. We told him we wanted to help, and invited him to church to start to turn his life around. He responded to the invitation with a flimsy "Maybe I'll be there, if God wills it." Interpretation: "I'll probably be too tired tomorrow morning, but we'll see." After that, Elder Wood responded with, "No. We will be here in front of your door at 11:30 and you ARE coming to church with us." "Okay, I'll be ready."

He came to church the next day and it was fast and testimony meeting. Our hearts skipped a few beats when he decided to get up and speak to the ward. It turned out alright though, and he said something like, "My life is pretty bad right now, but I really like it here. I think I've found my sanctuary and the place to find answers to my questions." Right you are.

Stay classy,

Elder Wilson