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