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

July 14, 2014

Plastic, Waffles, Party Bus, Muscles - Week 99

It's been raining almost nonstop every day this week in Belgium, but I managed to keep my feet moderately dry thanks to a large roll of plastic wrap I found in the kitchen.

(editor's note: look at following pictures. Guess it's time to come home!)

It was transfer week, but since none of us got transferred, we didn't have much contact with the world outside of Namur. We usually have district meeting or conference exchanges or something to keep us informed, but we stayed in our little bubble the whole time. Since it was raining, there weren't many people on the streets, so we spent most of the week knocking on doors. 

As we were out in a neighborhood last week, we saw a 77 year old lady working in her front yard and decided to talk to her. We walked out from behind her bushes and probably almost killed her because we scared her so bad. Once she regained her senses, she told us that we could come back another day and talk to her. 

We went back the second time this week and had an interesting rendez-vous. After she realized that we were Mormons, she told a story about her father, who passed away decades ago. He went to a concentration camp in Germany during World War II for five years and came back home after the war was over. He then joined the LDS church in Namur and was at one point in the branch presidency, but his wife didn't want him teaching their children about the church. She said her father baptized her when she was 9, but she never went to church a single time. Consequently, she also knows absolutely nothing about any of the doctrine, and we started at square one with the Book of Mormon. Her eyes are so bad that she can hardly read, but she said she tried to read the Book of Mormon until she got a headache and couldn't continue.

At the end of the second lesson, she brought out a big plate of homemade waffles, which served as confirmation that she is, in fact, Belgian. They were pretty darn good, so I asked her for the recipe and started writing it down. "First, you take a liter of milk, 10 eggs, two vanilla packets, and a cup of coffee ..." at which point, Elder Rodriguez and I stopped chewing and slowly looked at each other from across the table. No wonder why they were so good. That must be why more Belgians don't join the church: they just can't give up waffles to keep the word of wisdom. Just kidding. I had her repeat the ingredients, and the recipe doesn't actually call for coffee. She made a mistake the first time.

Wednesday night, we decided to go out to a village to knock on doors. We walked over to the bus station in the center of town and had 10 minutes before the bus came. Standing right next to us was a group of blonde 20 year old girls that may or may not have been tipsy. They had a radio and were having a dance party while they waited for the bus. Elder Rodriguez leaned over and said, "I really hope they're taking a different bus." Three buses came and left, and of course they didn't take any of them. Our bus pulled up, we got on, then the group of girls jumped on behind us. The bus pulled away from the station and we just laughed at the dance party going on in front of us on the seats and the music from the little portable speakers. Some other 20ish year old dudes got on at the next stop, at which point the bus driver decided to join in. He plugged in his iPod and blasted some party music over the bus speakers, gaining claps and cries of satisfaction from all the youth on the bus. Party bus! That was fun.

We talked to a huge muscle bound guy at his door while we were tracting a neighborhood last night, and after he gave us some hardcore rejection, I said, "Just one more question. What do you do to work out?" He responded with, "It's all about four times a week at the gym, a good diet, some protein, and praises to the Almighty Lord!" Well, we counted that we usually say somewhere around 30 prayers a day, so we must be getting huge muscles.

Well, to wrap it up, "B" is doing really well. We taught her with the bishop this week, and talked about putting off her baptism until August 3rd to give more time. She thought she would be ready before then, so it turned into a game of the bishop and the missionaries persuading her to wait an extra two weeks to be baptized. To be honest, that's a first for me on my mission. She's sweet.

That's all I've got for you today. Happy Bastille day.

Elder Wilson

First pair

Second pair. These are my "GOOD" shoes

July 07, 2014

Maybe You Should Have Hired Piano Professionals - Week 98

Time for the final transfer decisions! No shockers. Everything is staying exactly the same, actually. That means Elder Rodriguez will be killing me, and Elder Hansen is killing Elder Price. None of us really wanted to leave, so it's good news. 

Tuesday night was the big Belgium/USA game. Walking home that night, we noticed that a big screen was set up right in front of our apartment. There were hundreds and hundreds of people there by the time the game started at 10:00 pm, so we sat on the roof and listened for a half hour. We couldn't see the screen, so every time the Belgian fans got sad, we started cheering and vice versa. We rationalized that it could be proper to pray for the US to win since eliminating Belgium would make the missionary work easier. Apparently we had no faith, because we woke up the next morning with voicemail messages from members: "ELDERS! YOU LOOSE THE GAAAAME! AHHHHH!" 

Swallowing our pride, we went on to do a good amount of service the rest of the week for the Belgians in the community. We helped some members paint a few rooms for a chunk of the day on Thursday, and we did a good job if I do say so myself. That's what six months of taking care of apartments in the mission office will get you. We even got to wear cool spacesuits.

Saturday, we drove over to Charleroi with the in-laws of some members to help move a piano. It took a little while to drive there, then it took all of 5 minutes to get the piano inside a trailer. We drove the half hour back to Namur and were literally 30 feet from the house when the piano tipped and fell on it's back. We stopped and loaded it into the house, at which point we lifted the cover and tapped the keys to see if it still worked. No notes. We all gathered around in a defeated little pow wow, at which point I reached in, un-jammed a piece of wood, and the piano started working just fine. Maybe piano repair isn't such a bad career either.

After the piano move, we went to the Bishop's house to eat with them and talk about missionary work in the ward. It was also the day of the Belgium/Argentina World Cup game, so the Bishop took out a makeup stick and painted our cheeks to show Belgium pride. It was the stipulation if we wanted a ride home. 

Tuesday morning was a "welcome" conference in Brussels with the newly-arrived President and Sister Babin. They're really cool, and I'm sad I won't be around too long to see what they do with the mission. I'll only get to see them a total of three times.

We taught a cool guy from Africa named "R" this week. He's 21 years old, grew up as an orphan, and came to Belgium a few months ago to learn French. He wants to become a computer engineer so he can go back and donate money to the orphanage that raised him. In the meantime, he only is given 7 euros of extra money a week, and he scrimped and saved to have the 4 euros necessary to buy the bus ticket to get to our lesson. He read a few chapters in the Book of Mormon and thought it was worth the sacrifice to learn more about it.

We showed up to church yesterday with no investigators there for either team of missionaries. Kind of a bummer, but it's not exactly the first time it's happened. Then, for the third hour of church, one of our investigator couples came in with their three children. I had forgotten that I invited them to sacrament meeting over the phone six days before. Some people asked if they were already members, to which the father responded, "No, we're not, but we might be soon."

I mentioned last week that we fixed a baptismal date for later in July with "B". Well, it was a bit difficult this week to find a time when we were both available, so we're going to have to push it back a few weeks. If all goes well, we and the other companionship should be seeing baptisms the day before Elder Price and I leave to go home. Cross your fingers!

See you kids soon. Have a good one.

Elder Wilson

Right outside our window

It's like "Where's Waldo?"


A pretty common train occurrence

June 30, 2014

So You Think You Can Dance - Week 97

Out with the old and in with the new. President and Soeur Poznanski are dead dead dead dead in Angers. They've officially kicked the bucket. I sure am going to miss them. They have been fantastic! President Babin and his wife came in on Friday, and we'll get to meet them tomorrow at another conference in Brussels.

Meanwhile, the members at the church might want the Elders to be dead as well, since Belgium and the United States are playing in the World Cup tomorrow night. The members were spittin' some fire at church yesterday. "If the Americans win on Tuesday, we're not talking anymore." "You've eaten your last meal in OUR household." "If you guys win the match, you're all coming over to my house for a barbecue. I figure I'm not taking much of a chance though." You guys are joking, right? Right? The primary kids got particularly fierce and really enjoyed taunting us. We responded by drawing a big Uncle Sam and American flag on the chalkboard, which is probably an example of why Europeans think American pride is obnoxious. Oh, and the Sunday meetings were good too.

Elder Price and I got to hang out and work together while our companions went to Brussels to exchange their drivers' licenses. We got to eat at a member family's house for lunch, and they gave us a huge bag full of hundreds of cherries they picked from a tree. Good thing too, because we ran out of food at the end of the week and ended up having two meals of 100% cherries. We eventually ran out of cherries too, and on Sunday night, upon seeing our options in the fridge, Elder Price and I resolved to eating five onions for dinner.

We got a phone call on Friday morning from an older lady who needed help upkeeping her yard, so we suited up and headed over. She had two lawn mowers, but one ran out of gasoline and the other was electric powered, and the cord couldn't reach across the yard. So, Price and I were faced with the task of figuring out how our lawn-mower-less selves could cut the grass. We eventually found a big, old sickle in the lady's basement, and we got to work reaping all the long grass with the giant blade. It was probably 50% service and 50% fun. 

On Saturday, Elder Rodriguez and I were out on the other side of the city trying to visit a less active when it started pouring rain like nobody's business. We had no choice but to run through the torrent for the 20 minutes required to get home, and we were soaked through after a few minutes. While we were speed walking the last leg of the flight home, an old lady saw us from a parking lot and chased us down. She apparently didn't care about getting soaked, because she came over and told us about how she used to be taught by the missionaries and went to church a number of times. She didn't want to be taught again, but thought to take the time and talk to us. 

Right after the lady stopped and talked to us, we walked passed a crazy dude dancing in the rain in the middle of the street. He had some leg-armor looking thing in his left hand and a weird hat on his head. He saw the two Mormons walking passed, and decided to jump in front of us and dance (or "wiggle and spasm" would be more appropriate) in front of us so we couldn't get passed. Somehow, all the insane people know the missionaries and they're the only ones besides members who call us "Elder," and he was no exception. He shook our hands with his right hand, at which point we both noticed he was holding a big kitchen knife. He kept dancing, made a joke, and then ran away. Whatever dude.

At the end of the email last week, I mentioned "B", the ex-wife of a less-active member. Elder Price and I taught her again this week and ended up scheduling a baptismal date with her for later in the month of July. All was going well with her, until yesterday when she didn't come to church. Elder Rodriguez and I were admittedly disappointed she wasn't there and didn't answer our phone call, so we decided to give her some time. Yesterday night, while we were out knocking on doors in a little city, "B" called us to tell us that her little son has been in the hospital for the last couple of days due to a sudden lung problem, which was why she wasn't able to come. As far as excuses go, that's a pretty valid one. However, now she's back on track. Score!

Cross your fingers. We sang the Star Spangled Banner this morning for good luck. USA! USA! USA!

Elder Wilson

(a new camera means more photos. Yay!)

The view from our apartment

The Citadelle de Namur seen from our window

Lawn mowing anyone!

Look what I found! Splashy's twin! (Trevor's car at home is nicknamed Splashy)

June 23, 2014

Apocalypse - Week 96


Stupid World Cup. It's really cool, and I'm glad to be in Europe for it, but it's crazy.

Elder Hansen and I were on exchange on Tuesday night and, after finding that we were locked out of the apartment, had to skip eating dinner and took a bus out to knock on doors instead. The people were nice, but the response 98% of the time was, "I'm watching the world cup." Once, we heard everyone in the neighborhood simultaneously scream and I thought, "Looks like Belgium just scored another goal."

Elder Hansen and I took the bus back to the middle of the city and just happened to get there right as the game ended, with Belgium beating Algeria. What happened in the city after the victory isn't easy to describe. Everyone got in their cars, covered the cars in flags, drove into the city and stopped on all the streets and sidewalks. Thousands of cars full of people all were honking their horns for hours, and we had to take off our nametags as we speedwalked to the apartment. On one street, I walked passed a tow truck blaring it's horn, then looked behind to see two cars with a bunch of girls and shirtless dudes dancing on top with beer and flags. The guys all jumped off the cars, then I turned around to see girls throwing red smoke bombs from the cab of a truck, next to a group of people rolling on the ground in a big puddle of broken glass and alcohol. In a nearby city, my old companion, Elder Wood, got jumped by a bunch of shirtless dudes who forced him and his companion down and painted Belgium colors on their faces. This is the first time in twelve years that Belgium has played in the World Cup, so yeah, they are a little excited. 

There was another game last night, and since we weren't invited to a member's house for dinner, Elder Rodriguez and I outsmarted them by doing weekly planning instead. We took a good number of pictures of the crowds from our window as well. Elder Rodriguez wanted to show his pride, so he took my American flag and yelled as he waved it out the window for everyone to see.

Speaking of Elder Rodriguez, everyone thinks he's from South America. "Where are you from?" ME: "The United States." "And you? You must be from Mexico or something with a name like Rodriguez." HIM: "Uh, no. I'm a quarter Korean, actually." He changes up his story every time. Anyway.

The Argentinian and I were calmly teaching a lesson to a nice lady in the park on Thursday. There was a lake in front of us, we were under a tree, and birds were singing. As we started talking about the Book of Mormon, a dozen street youth came from behind with their boombox and started blasting dubstep on the bench four feet away from us. I flipped open to a scripture as they started partaking of the two crates of beer they brought with them, and the poor lady couldn't hear what we were saying very well. I guess we were done anyway.

That night, my Peruvian companion and I were knocking on doors and had just gotten rejected by a dude from Morocco. Someone driving by in their car saw us, stopped, and began mildly making fun of us. I walked up to his car window and started talking to him. When we mentioned we were from America, he stopped and said something like, "What? America? Dude, that's sweet. I live down there on the right. Meet me there and I'll give you something to drink and we can hang out." After declining an offer of wine, we chatted for awhile until we had to go home. Now we're Facebook friends.

Saturday, we went and passed by an old couple who said we could come back a few weeks ago. They were ridiculously nice, and loved me and my companion from Ecuador. They had the missionaries over a few times a number of years ago, but didn't remember too much of what we believed. Right after I reminded him about Joseph Smith, he started spouting complicated doctrine from the Plan of Salvation and the Atonement that he liked from our church. I was really confused why he knew all of what he was describing, and we later found out that he has a copy of Jesus the Christ by James E. Talmage that he regularly reads. They invited us to come and watch the World Cup whenever we wanted, gave us cookies and juice, offered to feed us dinner, and even drove us home. They're sweet.

Two more things. Hang in there. Feel free to take a break.

Monday night, Elder Rodriguez and I walked to the train station to look at times for zone conference the next day. I walked into the building, then turned around to see that my companion had disappeared. I went back outside to find that a man standing in front of the door had stopped him after seeing our nametags and wanted us to teach him about our church. As we started talking with him, a second lady came up and said, "Hey, I'm interested in what you're doing here. Could you meet me another time and explain a bit?" Then, she noticed that we were already talking to the first guy, so she said, "Oh, you're already talking to them?" He replied, "Yeah, they're sweet, right?! I want to know what they're here for!" I split and talked to the lady while Elder Rodriguez explained to the man that he doesn't, in fact, come from Venezuela. If only that happened every day.

The last shoutout goes to "B", the ex-wife of a less active member that we taught once. She showed up to church on her own with her little son last Sunday, saying that she just "felt like she needs the church to be a part of her life now." She was already taught almost all the lessons a few years ago, but apparently wasn't that interested. Elder Rodriguez and I taught her with a member on Wednesday, and it went super well. She walked a half hour with a stroller to come to church yesterday, and we're going to teach her again in a few days. The members are excited that she's doing so well.

And there you have it! The World Cup debut, the book is blue, the church is true. See you soon.

Elder Wilson

Belgium Boys

European Union building in Brussels

June 16, 2014

No, Lady. YOU Do It the Second Time. - Week 95

The name of the game this week was service, service, service. We're technically supposed to have a few service hours a week, but our mission usually has a hard time finding people who will let us help them. This week was an exception, and we jumped on all the chances we got. 

It all started last Monday evening, when Elder Rodriguez and I tried going to FHE at the church. We walked out of the apartment to find nice weather, then turned the corner to wait at the bus stop. After three or four minutes, Hurricane Katrina hit Namur and a wave of rain swept through the city. We found a doorway to stand in and partially protect us, and we laughed at all the people who were trying to run home soaking wet. The streets started to flood and cars had to start driving at walking speed with their hazard lights on. We missed the bus because of the rain, so we ended up walking to the church and air dried during FHE. 

Because of the nice flooding in the region, we received a call the next morning from an older lady in the ward, who asked us for help since her entire basement flooded and everything inside got soaked. So, after district meeting, the four of us suited up and headed over to her house to do some cleanup. We spent a few hours bringing everything out of a corner room in the basement and drying the water until all the moisture was gone. We started patting each other on the back after a job well done, when the lady came up from behind and dumped a big bucket full of water and chemicals onto the nicely dried ground. She explained that she wanted everything clean as well, so we got back to it, did everything a second time, and were rewarded with a nice meal. 

After we finished and put everything back, the lady told us that if we didn't come back the next day to do the rest of the basement, everything would be ruined. We agreed to do the rest, and came back the next day.

Friday morning rolled around with a phone call from another member family asking for help moving. It just so happens that moving is our specialty, so we suited up for the third time and helped out. After three days of lifting heavy things for multiple hours, our arms have gotten huge! Watch out.  

Sunday happened to be ward council, so a bunch of extra people came to church and the missionaries were asked to make some authentic American brownies for the meal afterwards. We couldn't find all the ingredients we needed but we made some dang good brownies considering the meager circumstances.

A few weeks before I got to Namur, Elder Rodriguez and his old companion, Elder Smith, were interviewed by the newspaper and were followed around for a chunk of the day. Thanks to the article that came out soon afterward, people will often say things like, "Hey! I saw you in the newspaper! I'm not interested, but I really respect what you guys do. Right on." Last night was no exception, and a sweet guy ran out of his yard as he was gardening to talk to us. He told us all about how cool Salt Lake City is and the genealogy archives. I'll never cease to be surprised by how many Europeans have been to Salt Lake and Utah. It's like their vacation consists of New York, Las Vegas, temple square, then national parks in Utah. In a single night back in Strasbourg, we talked to two families who had been to the visitor's center in St George.

In between service and meetings we also contacted and knocked on doors, but all we've got for now are a bunch of potentials. We'll call them up and see what we can do. 

Bye bye

Elder Wilson

(here are some photos from Trevor's last area of Lille sent to him by his old companion, Elder Tai. He will be securing a new camera this week. Yay!) 

June 09, 2014

Greetings From the Low Budget Internet Shop - Week 94

We declared war this week.

We walked into our apartment one afternoon to find dozens of huge flies swarming around the kitchen and living room. Apparently this has been a problem before, because we also found an electric, battery-powered fly killing racket in the corner. We took turns and went to work, making a big pile of burnt dead flies on the table. The same thing happened the next time we walked in, and the next. And the next. We cleaned the whole place, but they're somehow getting in through the windows. Are we in the jungles of Africa? 

But Namur really is a nice place, apart from the heat and the rain this week.

We had a big zone meeting on Tuesday, so we got to take another train and see a new city. It has probably the coolest train station I've ever seen. Your assignment is now to type in "Liège train station" under Google images and see what it looks like. Go ahead, I'll give you some time right now. I'll wait.


Still here. While we're still on the subject of train rides, we took another one to Brussels on Saturday afternoon for stake conference. It was fun seeing all the Brussels sights and the people I knew in the ward from when I was there a year ago. We stayed the night with some Elders in Brussels, then went back to the church the next morning for a broadcasted meeting from Switzerland. Elder Anderson and President Uchtdorf spoke, which was fun to hear. It was at least more fun than sitting on the return train next to a passionate couple. 

Thursday, we were invited to eat at a member's house, and they were nice enough to drive us the 1/2 hour to get there. In the car, I found out that the husband is a professionally trained chef that started a catering company which has now become the biggest one in the country. He cooked us a fantastic steak meal while his wife was enjoying her private equestrian lessons behind the stables next to the indoor swimming pool, spa, and training gym. Missionary work is pretty tough sometimes.

Really though. It is. Besides the highlights I've given you, Elder Rodriguez and I have been trying to find new investigators from morning until night every day. The days are full of contacting in the city during the day and tracting at night. We've been finding a decent number of people who say we can teach them, but we haven't been able to get ahold of them on the phone or schedule anything with them. "I'm working the weekdays," "I'll just call you," "Wait to call me until July," and "Sorry, I can't make it today" were all common phrases this week. We got really tired one day after tracting for a few hours, so we took an ice cream break. It was dang good ice cream.

Friday, we were supposed to have a meeting at the church with a member of the bishopric at 6. After waiting for him for 20 minutes, we called and found out that he actually wasn't coming until 7. The church building is in the middle of absolutely nowhere and is surrounded by fields, but we decided to go out for a half hour and see if we can find someone anyway.  We hadn't gone any further than 10 steps out of the building before we ran into a couple who had driven to the church to find out the hours. We chatted with them for a bit, and they ended up asking for a Book of Mormon and expressed a desire to come to church. They would have found a dark and locked church building without any hours posted had we not left at the wrong time. Good stuff!

The cherry on top of the week came last night after we got in bed. Like I said before, our window has a great view of the river, the castle on the hill, and a good chunk of the city. Right after 10:30, a huge city firework show started outside our window, as did a lightning storm in the distance. It was cool to watch fireworks on the left, a lit-up castle on the right, and streaks of lightning right in the middle, all reflected on the river. I'm sure my Provo apartment will be equally well placed.

Our mission president is leaving at the end of the month, so we have some cool "goodbye" conferences coming up soon, quickly followed by a "welcome" conference with the new president. It'll be an exciting two months!

Elder Wilson

June 02, 2014

Interception by Satan - Week 93

Hola, world. Happy June to everyone.

Since we only had one and half days between the transfer email and transfer day, Tuesday was a mad packing day for Elder Walton and me. We hung out and sifted through our clothes and bags while trying to say goodbye to as many people as we could. We got to go to the Cabys' house for dinner Tuesday night. They both got home from missions within the past year, so they told us everything we need to know for the end-of-mission time. They're sweet.

Wally and I woke up early on Wednesday morning to get all ready to go, then we dropped him off at the train station to go to his final resting place. As usual, some Soeurs were late for the train, so after seeing them sprinting down the platform with all their suitcases, we threw them on the train, then went back to the apartment for mine. Transfer day sure requires some heavy lifting.

I had a train ride to Brussels without any problems, and the Brussels Elders had already told me they would be at the train station to pick me up. I kind of assumed they would be at the platform to help with luggage, but after waiting for a few minutes alone, I decided to try to make it on my own. The unfortunate part was that I way miscalculated on the space I had for packing and ended up shuffling across the station with three large suitcases, a side bag, a large plastic bag full of things, a full-sized military backpack, and an umbrella. Oops. I talked to some cool Americans on the way, but I eventually found everyone else sitting around the station.

I waited for Elder Price in Brussels for three hours or so, then we hopped on a train to Namur. Between his bags and mine, we took up almost an entire train car. Once we got to Namur, we walked through the city and were pleasantly surprised. It's pretty cool looking, there are always tons of people walking around, there's a university, and we live across the street from a big 15th century citadel/castle we see from our window. We ran up to the top of the walls one morning for exercises and almost died. 

There wasn't too much going on in Namur as far as investigators go, so the name of the game this week was finding, finding, finding. There hasn't been a baptism here all year and President told Price and I that our job is to step things up. We spent most of our time walking around and talking to people. We got a good number of potentials, but the coolest guy we found was a college kid named "Q". We went and knocked some houses in a really nice neighborhood, and he answered the door. He ended up talking to us for twenty minutes or so in his front yard and was really liking everything. He thought we were super cool and promised to read the Book of Mormon, wanted to watch the Joseph Smith movie, and planned to come to church. He invited us into his garage hangout to talk some more, but as we were on our way out, his dad came in. "Q" quickly said, "uh ... hey, dad. I just met these cool Americans and invited them in for just a second." It was clear he knew his dad wouldn't approve. The dad asked a few questions, then saw that we had given him a Book of Mormon. He didn't like that very much, so he took the book from his son's hands, gave it back to us, and basically kicked us out. And that's Satan with an interception. It was a bummer, but we're hoping he'll seek out the church some other way.

Let's see. Other than that, we shut down some 18 year old girls that really wanted to talk to the cool American boys and I got kissed on the hand by a grown man on the street who wanted to thank me for coming on a mission to his country. Too bad it wasn't the other way around, right? Joking. Our ward threw a party after church on Sunday to end the fast, and we all got some more Belgian fries in a cone for lunch today. Looks like we'll have to run up the castle to work that off again.

There you have it. RIP Trey Walton.

Elder Wilson

(editor's note: Trevor told me today that his camera broke in February which is why he has not been sending any pictures. I was wondering why. Too bad because he had a nice camera and he sent pretty great photos. He is trying to remedy that and hopefully we will have more photos soon!)

May 26, 2014

Gambling and Gnomes - Week 92

Happy Memorial Day. Another great day to be a citizen of the United States of America. 

Transfer time, transfer time, transfer time! And the news is in. I'm out of Villeneuve D'Ascq and heading up to Namur come Wednesday morning. It's a medium sized city in Belgium, so I'm back up to the cold north ... just in time for summer. My companion is named Elder Rodriguez, and I'll be living in an apartment with Elder Price again. Par-tay. I went there a few times when I was in the office, and the city is nice enough. 

Since I'm being moved with only one and a half transfers left, time is going to fly by. Elder Walton is already in limbo and waiting for his plane to take off in T-minus 3 days, so he's what we call the walking dead. He's already started the official giveaway pile in the apartment, and I've already nabbed a cool watch. I'm gonna need to find a new running buddy.

In other news, we actually did some missionary work this week as well. Like normal. We went out with the bishop on Tuesday night to find a part-member family, and we had to spend some time hunting down the address. We came to a big gate and an intercom with 25 or so apartment numbers. Bishop: "Well, we have no idea which one is his. I guess we'll have to pick a random one. If I get this right, you both owe me 2 euros." Riiiing. No answer. Me: "Well, my turn. If I get this right, you're buying us ice cream tonight." Riiiing. No answer. We snuck through the gate behind a car coming in, then found out that Bishop actually was right on his first try. He's been spreading the news that he won and I owe him money, but he won't take the dang 2 euros. Even though they weren't home, we got a call from a recent convert asking if he could see us and the bishop at the church right away. Talk about the right place at the right time.

We taught a lesson about service to our 9 year old investigator in Belgium this week. At the end of the lesson, we asked him what he would do to serve. He suggested that his service would be inviting us to his house to clean out his basement and take things to the dump. We couldn't reject after just teaching a lesson about service, so we went back the next day in normal clothes to help clean up. The day was ultra-packed, so we had to plan out our buses, trains, metros, cars and walking time down to the minute. I had it all planned out perfectly, until one of the buses decided to take the day off and not circulate for the day. Those dang strikes will get ya every time. We had to take a hit and cancel our rendez-vous.

We didn't have too much to do the following day, so we decided to go up to a neighborhood to do some tracting. The usual. Getting off the bus, we always cross the street to go left, but I had the distinct thought to go right that time. After starting down the street, a lady in an electric wheelchair rolled up to us with a hairless dog. As I was learning what a hairless dog feels like, the lady explained that she's a member, but hasn't been to church in 15 years or so. She was really nice and is letting us come back soon to have some lessons with her. 

Right after saying goodbye to her, the next two people we contacted gave us their phone numbers, and one of them let us teach him right there on a park bench. We had to turn around to go home by that time, and while waiting at the bus stop, a lady came up to talk to us. She had talked with the missionaries a year or two ago, but hasn't had contact since then. We've been over to teach her family two times since then, and they're all awesome. Going right was definitely a good choice!

Other than that, we taught some Muslim dudes we found at the university, had a good lesson with "H" and "D", and found a scary house protected by at least 200 garden gnomes. TWO HUNDRED. Elder Tai has a sense of humor and decided to knock on it, but luckily, no one was home.

Don't let the gnomes get you.

Elder Wilson

May 19, 2014

Manga Should Be Standard MTC Training - Week 91

Ni hao, wo she Wei Shen Jung Lao.

We usually do some pretty Asian things with Elder Tai being the other half of the companionship, but this week was especially noteworthy.

Thursday morning, we were out contacting by the university as usual. Elder Tai found a Chinese dude in the metro that let us (by "us" I mean Elder Tai) teach him about prayer for 20 minutes. Of course, I threw in my token phrases of, "I'm his companion!" or "I don't speak Chinese. I'm a missionary. I like noodles" as they were required. Upon leaving the metro, we got a long distance snipe shot at a Japanese girl and speed walked until we contacted her. After getting her phone number, we turned around to go the other direction and ended up behind a group of Taiwanese students. Elder Tai couldn't pass up the opportunity, so he contacted them all and they replied with, "Well, do you want to come eat lunch with us and we could talk some more?" Much obliged.

And so it was that I ended up at a collegiate cafeteria munching on a sandwich and chilling with hip French students. The line was unusually long due to a cafeteria strike, but I was able to pay the student rate and got an invite at the exclusive Asian table as the specially allowed Caucasian friend. I couldn't really add too much to the conversation since you can only say, "I like noodles" so many times without people wondering why I was actually eating a sandwich. They were nice though.

Anyway, the next night, we went with a member to have dinner with two of his nonmember friends. They've all known each other for decades, and they all share the same obsession for manga/anime from the 70's and 80's. It just so happens that Elder Tai knows all about Asian manga as well, so they all had a blast talking about their favorite episodes. They would eventually feel bad and turn to me to ask, "So ... what's your favorite manga, Elder Wilson?" "Well, uh, I guess I watched Pokémon when I was like seven like everyone else." "Oh. That's cool." "Yeah, I suppose so."

After I got back into my element, I went on an exchange with the one and only Elder Shaver. We call him Shaved Ice as a rapper nickname, or Screen Shaver if you prefer the techie lingo. We had a grand ol' time contacting in Roubaix and finding another French student who was relatively interested.

Saturday was a stake High Priest activity, and they all did splits with the missionaries. We got special permission to bring in all the Elders within an hour and a half or so of Lille, and we ended up having 25 companionships of Elders and High Priests to go contacting and visit less actives. Elder Oliverson and Elder Barr got to come up from Amiens, but they missed their return train and had to sleep over at our apartment for the night. It was super fun.

In other news, we also got to go to St Omer for a baptismal interview, which also happens to be the smallest city in the mission. The place is famous for its beer factory, and the whole city smelled like hops from the brewery as we drove around in the car. We also found out this week that "J" has been living with his girlfriend, so the baptism thing is at a standstill. He knows that everything is true and wanted to be baptized, but moving out might be too hard for him to accept.

Have a good week! Hopefully you've got some nice weather on the other side of the pond. It's been basically perfect over here. À lundi.

Elder Wilson

May 12, 2014

Fête Des Mères - Week 90

Hi mom! I just talked to you for over an hour yesterday, so I don't know if I have too much to say. Sushi night was good, and we came home with a ton of fresh salmon that we didn't end up eating. Not bad! It just so happens that we love salmon.

(editor's note: Trevor and his companion had dinner on Sunday at the bishop's home, along with two other young couples, so it was a house full of vibrant children and we could hear all of them during our Skype call! He and his companion made sushi rolls for everyone. He said he is getting pretty good.)

Well, I guess I could start off with last Thursday. Elder Price came in from Versailles to do an exchange with me in Lille, and we had an awesome time. He came to Lille when he was a little sophomore in high school and stayed with a family for three weeks. He hadn't seen them since, so when we found out he was coming to Lille for a day, we decided to go pay the family a visit. They lived in a NICE area, and they were super sweet. They let us in, gave us drinks and chocolate, and talked to us for a while about memories of Elder Price as a 16 year-old. 

Saturday was a packed day, and we started off by helping some members move. We've helped three families move in the last five weeks ... I've never done so much service in my whole mission, but it's fun. It started pouring rain right when we started, which was kind of a bummer for the people who were moving. We may have gotten mud and water all over their new house and their furniture, but we got everything moved in good time. Right after that was a ward baptism, followed by a barbecue. The downpour stopped right before the barbecue though, so we cooked and ate a variety of meats in some pretty nice weather. 

We went to Belgium again to teach our favorite 9 year-old, "M". It's funny to see exactly how defined the cultural border is between Belgium and France. We could knock on a door three blocks from the border of Belgium, and people will all still say French words in the French way. If we were to take a three minute bus across the border and knock on another door in Belgium, the people would talk just as all Belge people do. If only all the rain from Belgium would respect the border and not creep into Lille and dump on us. It's rained for three weeks straight and remember my wore out shoes? Well, both pairs of my shoes have cracks in them. I don't like wet feet

And that's what I've got for you this week! It's official: now I really am an old missionary. I've already had my last birthday, last general conference, last Christmas, and now my last Skype call.

Later, skater

Elder Wilson

May 05, 2014

Heel Toe Express - Week 89

WELL, I got my trunky papers from the mission today, asking me to coordinate with the mission office about my departure date. Euh ... am I old enough for this? I still have people to baptize! 

At least I'm not as old as Elder Walton. He's going home in three weeks. I had an exchange with him this week, and we had SO much fun. We were together on Thursday, which happened to be a nationwide "no working" day for everyone who lives in France. Everyone had the day off with, of course, the exception of the missionaries and the seasoned bakers who make the blessed baguettes that are so necessary for daily living. Unfortunately, "everyone" DOES mean that there were no metros, buses, or trams in the agglomerate of Lille, meaning that we took the good ol' heel-toe express instead. 

And so it was that Walton and I set out for the day without the intention of walking back to the apartment until the evening. We unfortunately don't live in our area, so we had to walk through some of the less-desirable neighborhoods of Lille to get to the church building. I'm not sure why so many people were completely drunk at 10 in the morning and wandering around the streets, but I stopped asking questions a long time ago. We stopped in a restaurant to eat unlimited fries for 5 euros for lunch (yeah, it was the only place open), and made it out to our destination by early afternoon.

While deep in the clutches of Villeneuve D'Ascq en route to our rendez-vous, it started pouring rain without warning. Elder Walton and I took cover under a tree on the side of the road while I was lamenting over the fact that I had worn my dry weather shoes. One of my pairs of shoes has cracks on the bottoms that are working their way up the sides of the shoes. I guess my heels and toes have been going TOO express. Proof that I actually work. After all attempts at superglue and silicone filling repairs had failed, I reasoned that I just would stop wearing them in the rain and save my secondary pair for wet weather. Luckily, I particularly enjoy filling my shoes with water before I walk for two hours back to the apartment, so Walton and I were in heaven.

Well eventually, Elder Walton and I made it back to the apartment after talking to more people and being yelled at extensively by a weirdo on a bike. He saw us, rode over and called out, 

"Hey! Could you tell me about Joseph Smith?"

-"Well, I'm pretty sure you already know about him if you're asking the question."

"No! I don't know anything. Never even heard of him."

-"Are you sure? I think you're lying to us."

"I don't lie, man! You really think he prayed in a forest and saw an angel?"

-"Ahh, so you WERE lying to us. You DO know about Joseph Smith."

"Look, you guys just need to get it straight that everyone is from Africa, and has been from the beginning. You, me, everyone."

He started yelling nonsense after that, but maybe you get the picture.

Well, other than that, we had an awesome FHE with a young member family who invited "H", "D" and their daughter over for dinner. We got worried when they still weren't there after 40 minutes, but they just got the time wrong, and everything was good. They came to church on Sunday too.

We had interview sessions with President for the Lille zone this week, which means that Elder Tai and I got to give another training and feed everyone whatever we wanted. We ordered pizza and got some other sides, but everyone totally forgot about all the eclairs we bought. We ended up coming home with 15 eclairs and weren't even able to finish them all.

We had a lesson with a recent convert last night, and he says he's going to want to go on a mission next year if he's able to do well enough this semester in school. He watches conference talks every night and reads from the "Holy Book of Mormon" all the time. What a stud.

And there you have it! As always, you're officially up to date on the goings-ons of mission life. Talk to you on Sunday, mom.

Elder Wilson

April 28, 2014

I'm a Bouncer at a Club, and I'm a Mormon - Week 88

I'm baaaaaack! Back at the internet café on computer 16 running XP with middle eastern men yelling outside.

Well, mother informs me that I've got less than 100 days left, which is a ton compared to Walton's few weeks. We've been waking up early to go running so we can both improve our boyish figures and have a nice little chat every morning. We found a huge public ropes course thing one morning, which we definitely took advantage of. The sign says that the course is for ages 6 and up, but that thing has got to be at least 25 feet high. I just wouldn't let MY 6 year old go on that thing.

Well, Sunday was a fantastic day at church, and we had four (count 'em ... FOUR) investigators come. The first was "J", who's progressing towards possibly being baptized by the end of May. After that came "H" and "D" with their daughter, the perfect little French family that we're teaching. We're going to teach them at a member family's house on Friday. A fourth guy that Oliverson and I taught a month ago and haven't seen since snuck in the back at the beginning of the meeting unnoticed, and everyone was looking. We have some sweet people.

Earlier in the week, "J" came with us to a member family's house for a sushi night. Elder Tai and I scouted out the Chinese store a few days before, bought everything we needed, and prepared the rice and seaweed. We rolled and cut out a big platter of the stuff, then had a really great lesson afterward. We ate enough to be in a rice coma until the following morning, when all four of us Elders got on a train to help out a member family with a move. They live in a NICE place on the outside of Lille, and we worked at tossing all their furniture out the window. We basically covered everything in bubble wrap and dropped it down to people below, who threw it into the truck. We were a pretty efficient bunch.

Wednesday was a zone conference of sorts with the 22 missionaries of the Lille zone, and we all met up at the church. The training mostly involved smashing people's hands with cans of beans to prove a point. Coincidentally, a man in our ward was also filming a fake sacrament meeting that same day for a French church video, so we had to awkwardly have the conference while being as quiet as possible. We got locked in the room a few times while they were shooting scenes in the hallway, but it turned out alright. The guy who's directing it originally asked if I could be an English bouncer at a breakdance club (hey, I look like one, okay?), but I had to turn him down because of the filming times. The other Elders are even teaching two security guards who could have taught me how to rough people up, but oh well.

Elder Tai and I passed by an old investigator from the area book this week. He's really nice and is apparently living off the money he made by being a soccer player for some French professional team. Whether he actually played professional ball or not, we went bowling today and all I've gotta say is that I have some serious potential as a professional bowler. I almost scored 100 in a single game, so watch out.

Whelp, time to get out of here. Thanks for listening in on my life, and I hope you all have a fantastic week.

Elder Wilson