Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Very Belge Thanksgiving

Wow, another week gone already?  And it has really been a splendid week.  Thanksgiving is coming up and the Christmas paper chain is getting alarmingly short and Liège is busy setting up it's annual "Village de Noël" in Centre Ville, complete with an adorable Christmas themed Ferris Wheel.  I'm so excited to spend Christmas in Belgium, It's going to be really magical.

GIGH IS BACK!  She fell off the face of the planet for a few weeks there, but we succeeded in seeing her this last Tuesday night.  We found out that her life has been really difficult lately.  We made some delicious pumpkin scones with her and just talked about life.  We invited her to go to the JA (Young Adult) super weekend in Charleroi and she said yes!  It was so great, we obiviously couldn't go, but she went with Sariah Scheurch (our recently returned mini missionary) and texted us updates every couple hours.  She had an absolute blast and Sariah said she really felt the spirit:)  We are going to go see her tomorrow and hear all about it! there is the American lady named Soeur Fonicello...she was in Liège 2 but just barely moved back to the U.S. (Texas to be exact).  She kept telling us about this family she wanted us to go see, Peter and Nadine, but we weren't having much luck getting a rdv with them.  We had no idea if these people were even believing, or wanted to see missionaries.  Basically we had pretty low expectations for this family.  But then a few weeks ago they showed up after church for Soeur Fonicello's going away party and Nadine started talking to us and invited us over!  Well, last Wednesday was our appointment.  We had no idea what to expect, except that she was feeding us dinner.  Soeur Fonicello had been her cleaning lady, and Nadine had met us once while we were helping Soeur Fonicello we thought maybe Nadine was expecting us to help her clean house?  Really we had no idea.  We were prepared for least we thought we were.  We couldn't have been more surprised by what actually happened....

We stumbled upon a family that is culturally Mormon.  Nadine led us inside, sat us down with her children and basically said, "Teach them!"  She pulled out worksheets she had written based on the "For the Strength of Youth" pamphlet for her children to do with us, told us about how every monday night they have family home evening, and when the kids went off to karate she led us back into her "scrapbooking" room, which was filled with Greg Olsen paintings, mormon ads and ensign magazines...  She is reading the Book of Mormon and has the Relief Society book "Daughters in My Kingdom."  From the way she was talking it is obvious she wants her children to go on missions, literally we could say nothing wrong.  I have never ever felt as good on my mission as I had felt that night!  God really is preparing people.  And members are so powerful.  This is all thanks to Soeur Fonicello!  Nadine even had a "Mormon Mom's" cookbook.  I can't wait to go back and see them again:)  It was really weird, the night before all of this, at Gigh's house, the TV was on for a few minutes and Nadine was on it!  She was in some sort of news story.  It was just really cool because I never watch tv and the one time it was on our soon-to-be investigator was on the cool!

Okay, what else happened this week.  Oh yes, we had "A VERY BELGE THANKSGIVING."  So there is this less-active, Christianne.  She's...well...a little exhuberant... and for months she has been inviting us to have Thanksgiving with her.  It was kind of the last thing we wanted to do.  We wanted to have thanksgiving with the Schuerch's because they are half-American.  Well, last week Christianne asked if we were coming over for Thanksgiving this Thursday, the 21st, we told her that that's not Thanksgiving!  It's a week later on the 28th.  She said she'd already invited a bunch of people. Anyways, It was perfect this way!  So this last Thursday I had my first Belge Thanksgiving.  It was hilarious!  Nobody had any idea what it was actually supposed to be like, or what Thanksgiving was even about.  I think I told the Pilgrim story at least a few times, it was kind of difficult in French, haha.  Christianne tried so hard.  She made EVERYTHING out of pumpkin though!  We had pumpkin soup, pumpkin chunks to go with the turkey? and a pumpkin pie that had onions in it instead of sugar.  Seriously I will never forget that night... I can't wait for our American Thanksgiving this week!  There is no such thing as canned pumpkin out here so Soeur Johns and I bought five giant slices of pumpkin, cut them up, cooked them in the oven and then puréed them.  We are taking desperate measures to get pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving!

Well that's it for this week!  I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with gratitude, family, and delicious (sugary) pumpkin pie!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The "Hug Language"

Wow, has it really been another week?  This one went really fast!  I went ice-skating, ate out at a Mexican food restaurant (didn't know that they even existed out here), and went shopping for p-day today, so I don't have much time to email today.  Sorry if it's kind of short today!

Nothing really exciting happened during the first part of the week, but this weekend we had a "mini-missionaire"...who was it?....wait for it...our best friend SARIAH SCHEURCH!  She is an adorable 18 year-old JA in Liège 2 who speaks perfect French and English (She's half Belge, half American).  She is preparing to go on her own mission next year.  She spent Friday,Saturday and Sunday with us and it was a blast.  We taught her how to "hug."  She was quite over-whelmed with what she calls the "hug language."  You know, side-hugs, hand-hugs, the I-don't-really-like-you hug etc.  It was such a fun weekend!  She found out that she is no longer allergic to apples, so we took pictures of her trying her first granny-smith.  She said it tasted like candy and was seriously the happiest girl I've ever seen.  We pronounced November 16th, "Granny Smith Day" in her honor.  We were sitting on the bus and she said, "look at all these people!  They don't even know!  This is the best day ever!" haha she is hilarious.

We also had some really neat "mini-missionaire miracles."  Yesterday we had nothing to do after church so we started calling people to try and set something up.  It was amazing, people we had never been able to get a hold of answered our calls, or even called us back.  We filled up our entire schedule for this next week! Soeur Schuerch had a really neat experience.  She felt like she needed to call a less-active in our ward.  She kind of ignored the feeling at first, but then just took the phone and called her.  The woman answered the phone and she was crying.  She had just prayed and asked God that someone would call her because she was going through a rough time.  Wow.  Is there a more beautiful experience than being the answer to prayer?

Well that's all the time I have for now.  I wish I had time to tell you about the bus strike, or our bible history lesson from Elder Anderson, or our entire day in Namur with our zone (where we sang and I played my violin), or how the Elders ask us for dating advice whenever we are on the train together, haha.  It was another wonderful week on the mission and this week will be even better!

Also, Soeur Bitter in Rennes wrote this in her email this week.  Do you all remember Sophie, the Chinese student from Rennes?  Here's the update on her, it made me cry:)

"So she went to Germany for a week and a half and unfortunately she lost her phone there haha but we dropped by and she had missed us lots :) Anyway, she told this story of when she was in Germany. She met someone there and they went to lunch together (Sophie is one of the most outgoing people I know). She said that this girl started talking about her life and she told Sophie about her theory of living: "Live today and take no thought for tomorrow". (As missionaries now we're thinking "uh huh....and what did YOU say??" haha) But then Sophie said something amazing. She said she sat back and realized all the blessing that God has given her- A good family and he helped her get to France where she met us, the missionaries. And then we introduced her to diasm and Christianity. She said "In that moment I knew that I was on the right path and I thought of my missionary friends and all that you have taught me". She went on to say that this last week or two has been hard and she hasn't had ANY time to see friends or to hang out. She's in school full time and she works as well. (but she still makes time for us :)). She then said that every once in a while she feels lonely but then she thinks of us and what we told her she can do. So she gets on her knees and PRAYS! She said, "and then, I'm not sad anymore. And what more? I know I should be doing this (praying) more often". She is so incredibly easy to teach. It's actually amazing to me how little we have taught her yet how many amazing spiritual experiences she has had. Teaching people like her make all of this worth it."

Love that girl!  She even sent me a postcard from Berlin that said, "I thank God who gives me so many good lucks."

I have photos from this week, but I don't have time to attach them.  So be excited for next week:)

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Places I Find Myself

This week I found myself...

Apartment shopping in a foreign country -  Watching President Motulet bow to Soeur John's as she downs 14 pieces of pizza  -  BBQing with Iranian's  -  eating soup on aplate  -  sympathizing with Soeur Johns as Christianne plans Soeur Johns wedding with her cousin Christoff  -  practice teaching in the kitchen with two hilarious Elders  -  burning a letter from Soeur John's ex  -  visting a less-active who knows the Queen of Belgium  -  standing in the middle of Brussels' Grand Place, crying because it was so beautiful  -  surrounded by the world's most famous chocolate shops  -  wondering why Brussels has a famous statue of a boy peeing  -  looking at agorgeous building, asking myself what wonders could possibly be inside, and then finding out it was a beer Belge  -  eating the most delicious gauffe in the world (with melted speculoos and strawberries)  -  sitting in the stairwell for an hour on the train ride back to Liege while Soeur Johns was squished in the corner  -  writing a talk for each branch in a dirty, crowded cyper cafe while Arab music blasted in my ears  - finding out during Sacrament Meeting that today was the primary program not my talk...FALSE ALARM  -  missing the bus and getting recruited to hand out flyers for a ball that we can't dance at  -  marching and carrying a lantern in a parade (with fireworks going off in the background) in the small town of Visé, celebrating the fact that the Germans didn't capture the city in WWI or WWII  -  dancing in a circle in the before-mentioned parade singing "VIVE LES FRANCS!"  -  meeting another model, named Sandra, who wants to go to church in Brussels -

My whole mission has been like this, I never know what's really going to happen when I wake up in the morning!  But of all the places that I found myself this week, by far the best wasSaturday night in the Sheurch family's home as their daughter Sariah shared the gospel with her best friend in the whole world, Oceane.  Tears filled Sariah's eyes as we had Oceane read the Young Women's theme.  We talked about how we truly are "daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us and we love Him."  We talked and testified of prayer, how God really does hear and answer, and Oceane shared a beautiful experience she had with prayer.  We are so excited for Sariah to be our mini-missionary this coming weekend and to see Oceane at church :)

Oh and something else super crazy happened this week!!!  This last Friday Soeur Johns and I went to Brussels to do my legality.  We get off the metro and we join up with Elder Smith and Elder Nicholson.  All of a sudden a SWARM of really unfamiliar looking missionaries appeared.  It all happened so fast, and suddenly there was a sister missionary introducing herself to me.  She said her name was "Sister Kohlert."  Seriously the wierdest moment.  I was so confused!  I was thinking to myself, "No way, Sister Kohlert is shorter and lives in Luxembourg!"  Then all the pieces fell together in my dazed brain and I freaked out... Yes... I saw Soeur Kohlert's sister!!  Soeur Kohlert is going to be so jealous.  In Rennes she talked about her sister all the time, how she's just one mission over (Belgium/Netherlands mission) and how the missions overlapped in Brussels and by some miracle maybe they'd see eachother...well it was me who got to see her...whoops! haha it was super cool, especially because they had a refferal for us!  And we actually had one for them.  We didn't know there were sisters in Antwerp and they didn't know there were sisters in Liege!  Also, her companion was Sr Johns Relief Society President at BYU freshman year!  It was seriously so crazy.

So yes, that's my week for you all!  This next week is seriously PACKED.  I'm nervous that we won't be able to fit everything in!

Monday, November 4, 2013

"I'm already a Mormon!"

This week started off with Gigh.  The Shuerch's had us all over for a family night with her Monday night.  It was really fun and Frère Shuerch gave the lesson, on conversion.  Then we ate a delicious pumpkin tart that Sr Johns made. (Her family sent tons of Thanksgiving type food...yumm).  Then on Wednesday we went over to Gigh's with Sariah Shuerch (18 year old who wants to serve a mission) and invited her to get baptized.  She's not ready yet, but really wants to:)  She is a seriously inspiring person.  I feel so honored to know her and share the gospel with her.  As you may have noticed in past posts, she also just says the best things.  Here's this weeks installement of "Gigh quotes"

"Help me to become more converted." (During the closing prayer at the soirée familiale)
"I'm not going to miss it ever again." (To Sariah when she asked her if she was coming to institute)
And the best one..."I'm already a Mormon!" (Said to some Jehovah Witnesses who knocked on her door this week.)

On Tuesday Soeur Johns and I had a really neat experience following the Spirit.  We had plans to go see our recent convert Tuesday night, and so the night before I was thinking about that and how I really wanted to go up early and porte her street.  I didn't know if Soeur Johns would be down, so I decided to bring it up the next day.  The next morning Soeur Johns told me how she wants to start "envisioning the miracles" we want to see that day, for two minutes before we get out of bed.  That morning she had really felt like we needed to porte Joycely's street!  We both had the prompting so we went up early and ported the entire street...and we found a Belge family that we are going back and seeing tomorrow morning...and we also met an African woman who we taught this last Thursday who is legit!  It was such a neat experience... Like it says in PMG, the spirit really can lead us to those who are prepared, and they can be lead to us.  It's funny because we didn't even end up teaching Joycely at her apartment, she ended up wanting to meet us in town instead...pretty funny.

Actually we were even lead to another family by following that prompting.  On thursday we went to Seraing to teach Christianna and decided to porte her street too.  We knocked on a door and an Italian man said that he was going to Germany in 10 minutes but we could come teach his family anytime!  So cool!

So, this last week I experienced...HALLOWEEN IN BELGIUM.  And let me just was kind of disappointing.  Well, Soeur Johns and I had a blast, but people really don't celebrate it here.  On Halloween I dressed up as Soeur Johns, and she dressed up as me.  We had way to much fun with it.  Haha it was funny because when we ported/contacted I had to introduce myself as Soeur Johns.  During our rdv with Christianna I realized it would probably be confusing if our names changed for the next rdv.  So part-way through, when she wasn't looking we switched our tags back...I don't think she noticed.  Christianna is awesome by the way.  She has some serious faith in God.  She told us how she walked all the way from Greece to Turkey in the snow, because someone had stolen her passport and money and how God saved her life...amazing.

Then we went to the Foire for a little while Halloween night.  There was a few people dressed up...but not that many.  I really think Halloween is just an American thing.

That Friday though the JA's (young adults) had a Halloween party.  We went dressed as "pre-soeurs" (or your stereotypical sister missionary from 15 years ago).  Soeur Johns wore this amazing blouse with shoulder pads, and I put my hair in a pioneer braid...again, we had way to much fun with that.  The party was super fun!  They had a haunted house in the "cave" that was absolutely terrifying.  I had a massive headache after from screaming so much.  Seriously so frightening.

Oh and also, Friday morning we went to Brussels to get a new chip for our phone from the Wright couple.  They took us out to get Belgian hot chocolate... heaven.  They are such a funny couple.  Love them.

On Sunday Soeur Johns and I were at the church ALL DAY.  And the building was freezing.  There was a going away party for Sr Fonicello and her friends Peter and Nadine showed up!  They are a beautiful family with 4 children.  She has been wanting us to go see them for months, but we had never gotten the chance to ask if they even wanted the missionaries to come over.  But then at the end of the dinner, Nadine came up and started chatting with us.  It was the perfect opportunity for us to set something up.  I was so nervous though.  I was shocked when she suggested exchanging numbers.  I then asked if she'd like to us come visit sometime and she was down.  So cool!  They are an awesome family.  It think she's Italian and Peter is Swedish.  And their family and the Branch President's family became best friends yesterday...wonderful.
The ZL's had a rdv in the afternoon, so we got stuck staying at the church to fill up the font for Romeo's baptism.  It was fine, we turned the heat way up in the JA room and watched Johnny Lingo (that movie is ridiculous by the way). haha.  Then Romeo showed up and he was soooo happy.  He was acting like a 5 year old on Christmas.  I was so proud of him!  The Liege 2 Elder's ami came to the baptism, and asked "can I do that next week?"  This guy is awesome.  He is from Morocco and had a dream where a little boy came up to him and told him the Book of Mormon was true.  He showed up at church a few weeks ago and now the Elders are teaching him!  He speaks Arabic and a little French.  Elder Anderson speaks some Hebrew, so he's trying to learn Arabic now.  They do most of the teaching with google translate.  How cool is that?

Anyways the baptism was awesome, I was recruited to play the intermede musicale again.  So fun.  I am really glad I brought my violin with me.  Some of the most powerful spiritual experiences have been with it.  Like earlier this week I had the feeling I should bring it with me.  We ended up running into some former amis on the street.  They invited us in for a few minutes and told us how the husband is battling cancer.  I played my violin and we all cried...It was beautiful...  I'm going to be playing at a missionary conference in a few weeks and at stake conference at the end of the month.  I'm not the best at the violin...but it's amazing how the spirit can work through music.

We also had a really fun time after the baptism just chatting with everyone.  Some how the subject got on how much Soeur Johns can eat.  Name any food challenge and she's done it.  It came out that she had eaten 66 slices of pizza in one sitting.  The Branch President couldn't get over that one! hahah he said, in English, "I AM SHOCKING" (meaning I'm shocked). hahaha

Seriously, the mission is the best.  This week was sooo fun, and we also saw so many miracles.  I have a testimony that the happier the missionaries are, the faster the work progresses:)

Talk to you all next week!