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!)