March 31, 2014

Mostly Naked Killer - Week 84

Happy spring! And may April Fools' day commence. We started off early by putting salt in toothbrushes and by freezing a giant spider we found into an ice cube. It's a good thing we're all on a mission together and don't have cars or internet, otherwise one of us would probably die by doing something stupid.

Well, our investigators from Mauritius Island got baptized this week! Adil and Ashna. No more last-minute hospital trips for them. Instead, we took Adil to a family home evening with us on Monday and ate a bunch of pizza with one of the families in the ward. We had another lesson with him later in the week to solidify everything, then had the service on Saturday. Of course, we took some more Polaroid pictures with Oliverson's camera right before.

Right after the baptism, we had a ward activity with a spring theme. Every family was given a color that they had to dress up in, so I was sporting a red tie, red pants, and a red jacket. Even in an informal little party, we still had fancy things like little tarts, raw salmon slices, and homemade bread.

Thursday was an exchange day with Elders in Calais, a city right on the coast facing England. We were going to wake up early to run to the ocean in hopes of seeing the UK, but we called an audible and decided we were too tired. Besides that moment of weakness, we worked hard to find some people. I spent the day with Elder Baldwin from Georgia, and we contacted a nice French mom pushing a double stroller that gave us her address to pass by later. In the evening, we walked along some houses by the shore and knocked on doors the rest of the night.

Halfway through the first street, we knocked on a door, and the man inside pulled back the curtain to see who was there. He got a bit of a disgusted look on his face, which was actually unwarranted since he was the one wearing nothing but a pair of boxers. He wasn't in the best shape of his life either, but that's beside the point. He wanted us to yell through the window to tell him what we wanted, so I did what I usually do in such a situation: I mouthed a few sentences to him through the window in hopes he would open up it. He obviously couldn't hear what I was trying to say, so he threw open the door and gestured for us to come in.

Well, we walked in and sat down right as Captain Underpants decided to feed his goldfish. By "feed his goldfish," I actually mean feed his goldfish TO a tank full of piranhas. He got so caught up in teaching us a colorful vocabulary and telling us about his complicated religious beliefs that he dropped the glass cup full of future victims, and the fish, water, and broken glass went all over the floor. We decided to teach him all about the Book of Mormon and about missionaries as he was sweeping up the mess underneath the table, crawling between our legs, throwing dead fish in the tank, and serving us Coca Cola. He may not have agreed to be baptized, but he may or may not be accountable anyway. 

After getting out of the goldfish massacre house, Elder Baldwin and I laughed to ourselves, kept knocking on doors, then stumbled upon an old German beach bunker at the end of the street on the shore. We decided to storm the place, see if there was anything inside, then got back to knocking.

We got back home from Calais on Friday morning, then ended up going to Belgium twice over the weekend. A good number of members in our ward live in Belgium, so we went up to teach a lesson to a sweet unbaptized little child and then to an older lady who fed us some dinner and Belgian chocolates.

Other than that, Elder Oliverson and I have just been having a grand ol' time putting flyers in mailboxes, talking to people, and teaching up a storm.

There's the latest for you! This week is going to be crazy with trips to Paris, Valenciennes and Belgium as well as General Conference to top off the week. Hopefully we'll fit in a lesson or two in between there.


Elder Wilson

March 24, 2014

Apostasy Part II? - Week 83

We're back! It was pretty fun to be able to go up to Brussels again and to see that big blue mission van parked outside the chapel. President drove it up from Paris to take Elder Christofferson around, so we were reunited again. We stayed the night with 10 other missionaries in one of the Brussels apartments, so it was just a big missionary slumber party. 

And so it was that we were able to go listen to Elder Christofferson and have a big Zone Conference. The assistants introduced some new finding methods focused on Easter that involve placing hundreds of flyers in mailboxes and then passing by later. Elder Oliverson and I gave a training afterwards, which included force feeding Soeur Cameron 20 marshmallows until she started choking. I'm sure it was fun for her too, though. Thanks for being a good sport.

After that, Elder Oliverson, Elder Dussere, Elder Price and I made our way to the car to start the road trip back to Paris. We ran into President on the way out, and he offered to trade cars with us so we could all ride in the big van. Remembering that the van has an auxiliary cord for an iPod, we traded cars without thinking and set off on our way listening to EFY 2011 down the highway. By the time we reached the Brussels city limits, we remembered why we were driving to Paris in the first place; we were supposed to trade cars with the Elders in Nivelles. Unfortunately, the car we were supposed to trade was in President's hands and halfway to Paris already. We called up President to tell him he would have to make the side trip for us and went to McDonald's to eat some burgers in shame. Not really though; we were forgiven the next day.

We got back in town to Lille on Friday after a sleepover with the assistants in Paris and made it to a mega, four hour long Ward Council meeting. During the four hours, we had a big pizza party together and we all brainstormed ideas on how to improve the missionary efforts in the ward. At a point when we got stuck and out of solutions, someone turned to the group and shouted, "We're just going to create our OWN church!" That'll solve all the problems. Those are the most fun Ward Council meetings I've ever attended. 

We had three baptisms planned for Saturday, so we spent the day on Friday going around the city with Elder Walton so he could interview all the investigators. All the talks, prayers and food were planned for the service the next day, until we got a call from one of the investigators an hour and a half before the baptism. He and his daughter were going to be baptized, but the daughter's little baby got really sick and they had to go to the hospital at the last minute. One of the members went with them and our three-person baptism turned into a single person baptism. Quite a few people came though, and it turned out being great. We're going to have a second baptismal service for the last two this next Saturday. Pray for no more emergency hospital trips!

"J" DID get baptized though, and he got confirmed yesterday in a nice white shirt and tie. He's from east Africa and studying English at the university in Lille. Super cool.

Luckily for me, some of Elder Oliverson's friends from home came and visited on Saturday. They came to the baptism, then took us out to lunch right afterwards at a fancy restaurant. I got some goose liver, smoked duck, crepes and a salad. Thank you Bushman family! You're fantastic. Also, thanks mamma Oliverson for sending food and root beer milk.

A good clip from the highlight reel of the week happened right before the baptism on Saturday as we were scrambling to see who was going to sing a musical number. Someone walked into the church and asked for a Book of Mormon. He said that for a long time, he's been wondering why there aren't any more prophets on the Earth. Some crazy guy on the street told him recently that Mormons believe in prophets, so he did some research and showed up at our building. He was a little cautious because of the whole "cult" reputation, so he didn't want to set anything up with us. We invited him to come to church the next day ... and he came! He enjoyed sacrament meeting, and we got to talk to him for awhile during the second hour. He says he's going to go read the Book of Mormon then come back. 

Talk to you next week!

Elder Wilson

March 17, 2014

Inspired Apostate Holiday? - Week 82


We got a call from Sister Prince this week asking us to do some car switching. We'll be driving up to Brussels in a few hours, then staying the night with the Elders up there. Long live Belgium! Elder Christofferson is visiting Brussels, and we get to be included in the few and the proud who get to go listen to him speak to us. The Paris missionaries normally get all the benefits, but now it's Belgium's time to shine. Lucky for us, we're on the border of Belgium and get to be included. A special conference means that Elder Oliverson and I got to be the ones to organize the logistics for finding tickets and places to stay for the 24 missionaries in the zone who are spread over northern France, so here's to hoping that everything works out.

After the conference, Elder Oliverson and I are planning to drive back to Paris, drop off the car at the mission home, and take a train back to Lille in time for lessons and meetings. But that's for next week's email!

This week, we've been finding and teaching some cool people. It's a joke in the mission that there's a holiday on Thursday every week where we try to contact as many college-aged girls as possible, but no one actually participates. All the same, Elder Oliverson and I decided to celebrate by walking around the university in Lille on Thursday, and we actually ended up finding a handful of really cool, hip, prepared college kids. We taught one of them this morning for the first time, and he's from Malaysia. He told us today that he's already been to church, and almost all of his family is LDS and goes to school in Utah. Ahh yeah. We'll be seeing him again soon. 

Some of my less-favorite college-aged kids are the ones who drink alcohol and terrorize the streets at night. Those street youths do the darndest things. We had one or two get angry at us this week while we were going home because we looked in their general direction and were wearing name tags, but lucky for us, they're all too drunk to actually do anything. They just settle for lots of yelling and punching the wall. Don't hurt your fist on the concrete, kid.

We had our investigator from Mauritius Island teach us how to make hot sauce, so Elders Oliverson, Walton, Shaver and I went to the Chinese store and bought enough peppers to make us cry at every meal for the next six weeks. The investigator and his daughter were going to get baptized this next Saturday, but since they're having difficulties with staying legal, we'll see if it'll happen here or in a different part of France. Regardless, we're having another one of our investigators be baptized on Saturday, so someone is joining the ward either way. He's from Africa and studying English literature, so he has a fun accent.

We have an area seventy in our ward, so he's a pretty nice resource to have when we need to give difficult answers to the investigators at church. We've been getting a number of referrals from members since I've been here, which is a phenomenon that hasn't happened for me yet. It's like they're doing half the work for us, or probably more than half when you count in our boss ward mission leader.  

To Belgium we go. Have a swell week.

Elder Wilson

March 10, 2014

This is My Email. - Week 81

Well, life is back to normal! Back to finding investigators, talking to drunk men who let us in their houses, being fed by random African families, and back to fending for myself instead of being taken care of by senior couples. Elder Oliverson makes fun of me saying that my "heart is still in Versailles" because my replacements keep calling to ask for advice and things like how to start the car. Hey; it's not my fault they developed a partial dependency after I was there for half a year!

So by the time I wrote the last email, it was late in the day and I still had to pack all my suitcases before morning. We figured we had enough time to get started, but then scheduled a lesson with some recent converts and had to meet all the new missionaries at the train station and take them to the hotel. Suddenly, it was 9 at night and I was basically just starting to pack all my bags. I eventually fit half of everything I owned in my three bulging suitcases, then shoved more in an over sized military backpack, side bag, and grocery bag. Basically, I needed a team of three to get all my stuff through the metro the next day. Luckily, I had Elder Christensen, Elder Nielsen and the Princes to take all my stuff through the metro. 

In Paris, I met up with Elder Oliverson and Soeur Rhondeau showed us how to get to a hipster shawarma/falafel place next to the church. Let's just say, that's all I've really been wanting to eat for the last few days, but pasta it is! We snapped a few Polaroid shots in the courtyard of the church, then said goodbye to Soeur Rhondeau and Soeur Hill FOREVER. Not forever; just a while. They DIED and ditched us for a plane back home. Our sisters are dead. Gone and in the grave. That's the sure sign of being an old missionary: our sisters have gone home already. May they rest in peace.

After that, we herded up all the 10 or so people going up to Lille from Paris, and took all the bags through the metro to get on the train. No casualties this time, but we had to enlist the help of a half dozen people to carry everything through.

Well, Villeneuve D'Ascq in Lille is pretty legendary in the mission for being the ward who is the most involved and enthusiastic about missionary work. We showed up to the city on Wednesday night and went straight to ward council meeting. Basically, it was a session of, "How can we get your investigators baptized and in the ward as easily and quickly as possible?" So awesome. The bishop walked up to us on Sunday and said, "Wow, there are a lot of investigators here! We need to make sure that they're all invited over to members' houses this week so they come back next week."

Friday, Elder Oliverson and I went back to Paris for mission leadership council and spent a good chunk of the day in meetings. Lille is only a 45 minute train ride on a TGV going 300 km/hour, so it's pretty nice that it can be just a little day trip.

For the weekend, we ground our boots to the pavement and went out to find and teach people. We have some pretty cool investigators and families we're teaching, and we're set to have at least two of them baptized in the coming weeks. We were able to contact some sweet people as well, but let's be honest: most of them went to the Sisters. Elder Oliverson gets fake angry when we give another investigator to them, but he'll get over it. It's pretty funny.

As for the apartment, it's SO fun. Let's see. Three missionaries as old as dirt and a newborn blue. It's me with Elder Oliverson who has been around me since the MTC, Elder Walton who is going home in three months and has hung out with me in Paris for the last six months, and Elder Shaver, a brand new Elder who just got here from Canada. Elder Oliverson, Elder Walton and I just reminisce about crazy people we know and crazy things that have happened to us all the time. Elder Shaver probably just sits and thinks, "Is this what I'm going to be like in a year and a half?" Yep, with any luck!

And, well, here we are! Just living the big city life and speaking French with all my friends. Have a great day.

Elder Wilson

March 04, 2014

Classy Parties and Metal Pigs - Week 80

This week was i-n-s-a-n-e. It included three countries, a baptism, a sudden need to speak German, and almost losing 14 missionaries. BUT, first of all, this is transfer week yet again, and I'll be leaving the office. Sad. Instead, I'll be taking a train tomorrow to serve in the Villeneuve D'Ascq ward in Lille. It's the third largest city in the mission, right after Paris and Brussels. I'll be companions with none other than the infamous Elder Oliverson from my MTC district, and we'll be leading a Zone together up there. Watch out, northern France. 

Anyway, back to last Monday. After writing emails, Elder Dussere, Elder Price, Elder Christensen and I decided that we were overdue for a trip to the sushi buffet. We ran into President on the way out, invited him to come with us, and he said something along the lines of, "Of course I'd like to come! Good luck convincing Sister Poznanski though." Well, we went over to the house, used our expert persuasion skills and ended up having unlimited sushi with the Poznanskis. As missionaries, we take it upon ourselves to teach the French that for Americans, our goal at buffets is to successfully eat them out of business. Ironically, the Frenchie Elder Dussere ate the most. 

Following, we challenged Elder Prince to another bi-transferly game of boules at the boulodrome. Again, Dussere the king of Marseilles smoked us, but it was a lot of fun. 

Wednesday, we pulled out of Paris in late morning as the advance team headed to Luxembourg to close down the Elders' apartment. We drove up through the Champagne region and passed all the vineyards, up through Belgium, then over to Luxembourg, the grand duchy itself. We covered three countries in 45 minutes, which was pretty cool. The Trifecta! At one point, we got off the freeway to fill up with gas and saw something in the distance on top of a hill. As we got closer, we realized that it was a giant metal sculpture of a boar. Wasn't quite expecting it, but I suppose I won't complain either. I'll send a picture so you believe me. It was huge and took some guy 11 years to build.

Luxembourg is a cool city/country. It was a fortress originally, and it's located on the top of a group of really steep hills with sets of famous bridges connecting the different parts of the city. We walked into the apartment late on Wednesday night and started taking down furniture on Thursday morning until the Princes came to meet us. There were two or three square yards of the wall in the bedroom covered in black mold, so Elder Prince sent us out to pick up chemicals, masks and enough paint and rollers to repaint the whole apartment. 

We searched on the GPS and found the only home improvement store in the area. It ended up being a German store, so I couldn't understand any of the signs or anything that anyone was saying. I didn't really know what to do to find what we needed, but we had luckily brought Elder Watts with us as an afterthought. He's one of the Luxembourg Elders, and as we were wandering around the store he just walked right up to one of the workers and spewed off in fluent German. I had no idea, but we found out that it just so happened that we had brought along one of the only two missionaries in the mission that speaks German. My jaw was hanging on the ground in a "I didn't know you could do that!" sort of face, but we found everything we needed. 

After spending three days re-doing the apartment, disposing of some couches on the street and sprinting out of a Chinese buffet to deliver bags to the Sisters a few minutes before their train left, we packed up the van full of furniture and mattresses in the classic tetris-style and got out of there. We drove with the Princes through Metz and Champagne again, stopped in Compiegne to drop things off, ate some pastries, and made it back to Paris with enough time to sleep in our own beds in Le Vesinet. 

Saturday was a great day. We drove up to the city of Rouen to furnish another apartment before transfers. The city has a really nice cathedral and is famous for being the city that burned Joan of Arc at the stake. We basically just dropped everything off in the living room, then turned back around to make it back in time for Robin's baptism. Seriously, he's so, so cool. On Sunday, he went around the ward inviting people to come and assigning talks, and made a bunch of food with his nonmember parents for afterwards. He just knows everything already, and he's waiting for his girlfriend to get back from her mission so they can get married in the temple. 

After the baptism, we went over to a member family's house, who are some of the nicest and greatest people I've met. I felt pretty classy as a went to an exclusive party with a bunch of French people with suits in the middle of Versailles. 'Tis the life. We binged on tiny eclairs, macarons and quiches. 

Monday, we were in Rouen for the day again, and we ended up getting back really late. President called my replacement, Elder Nielsen, to come in two days early so I can train him on the office and logistics work, and the Versailles Sisters kindly stayed with him for an hour and a half while we were driving back.

Today was the day to go pick up all the new missionaries at the airport, so we drove the van up to Charles de Gaulle as usual. We casually walked over to the arrival screens and, after scanning three or four or ten times, weren't able to find the arriving flight from Salt Lake. We asked the information desk if anything had happened, and the lady at the counter told us that the flight was cancelled. At that point, we went into a minor code red and ran around the airport trying to find out when, where, and if the 14 missionaries from the MTC would be coming in. Other people told us that the flight was cancelled, and we went over to the Delta desk to figure out what was going on. 

Luckily, after six months of going in the airport once or twice a week, I've made friends with some of the Delta workers. We always have a nice chat with Benedicte about the church. Our good friend Karim was there this morning, and he made a phone call for us, only to find out that the flight wasn't actually cancelled. We decided to take his word and waited for all the blues, which luckily ended up coming through. 

Again, I drove the van back to the church in central Paris, we unloaded, then left the blues to eat some KFC with the senior couples in the YSA room of the building. As I was talking with Elder Prince over a big bucket of hot wings, I got kind of sad when I realized that this was probably my last office assignment until I get transferred to Lille. I've had so much fun here and have loved hanging out with and learning from the senior couples and the Poznanskis. I feel like I've been Elder Prince's companion for 6 months since we're with him every single day. President or the Assistants must have said something in the conference call announcements that goes out to the mission, because we've been bombarded for the last few days by texts to our phone from everyone in the mission thanking us for what we do. I'm gonna miss it. Now, here we go on to something new.

Talk to you from the metropolis of Lille!

Elder Wilson