Monday, January 27, 2014

So you know that stereotype...?

Well people, the work here in Liege is blowing up!  Especially in Liege 2.  They are really pulling their act together and setting some very high goals for this year.  Things are already off to a great start with the baptism and confirmation of Ismael this last week!  The branch's goal for new converts this year is eighteen... love it.  We can definitely make it happen!

As I've said before...Liege has a history.  There are pages and pages of inactive members on the branch lists and our area books are practically exploding with fiches.  It is pretty fascinating to read through them and wonder what happened to all these people.  Did they make a unwise choice, did someone offend them, or did they just get lost?  On my mission I've just loved hearing stories.  People fascinate me.  Every person that we pass by has a story.  Some are just tragic, others are inspiring.  But what is always true is that it is NEVER too late.  Not for anyone.  

Anyways, so what I'm getting at is simply that there are a lot of inactive and less active members here.  This week was a very "sister missionary week" as Soeur Walker likes to put it.  According to her that means COOKIES and LESS-ACTIVES.  We can throw playing the violin in there too :)  So yes the stereotype is true, sister missionaries bake cookies and teach less actives... at least this week.  It isn't the dreamland that it sounds like though!  It's much harder work than finding new people.  Here we are dealing with broken hearts, anger against God, member conflicts etc.  But really, it's what Liege needs, what's the point of spending all of our time finding new people, if we can't keep the one's we already have?  

It is looong work though.  And the results don't come very rapidly.  Let me share an experience with you though... So, for a while we've been hearing about a John Tomeselli.  A returned missionary, son of the 2nd Counselor in the Branch Presidency...inactive for years.  He lives wayyyyy far away.  Well, I was, naturally, fascinated by the mystery of it all.  So Soeur Walker and I grabbed my violin and made the trek out to Boirs (near the frontier with the Netherlands).  Members warned us that we were wasting our time.  But we prayed with a member family that lives near John and asked them to continue praying while we went over.  We knocked on the door and Sonia, John's wife answered.  She was about to close the door on us, saying she never wanted to come back to church, but we said, "that's not why we are here!  We just wanted to meet you and play you some music."  She let us in and we had a delightful conversation and we even prayed together.  It's sad that people think missionaries just want to force them to come church, that's not the case at all.  We just want them to be happy, and we want to show them how to find that happiness.  Good missionaries care about the PEOPLE.  That's what it is all and forgiveness.

She said that the "porte est ouverte" (the door is open) anytime we wanted to come over.  John even showed up at the end.  It was cool to meet the famous John Tomesselli:)  Well, Sonia let it slip that her birthday was the next saturday, so like good sister missionaries we made some chocolate chip cookies and made the long trek again.  It took forever and we were totally freezing, and another lesson had just fallen through right before hand...and body was home!  It felt like a huge waste of 4 or 5 hours...but we just slipped the cookies through the mail slot and went on our way...  We felt like failures, but then that night, after a really difficult health moment on my part, a ray of sunshine burst into view in the form of a text.  It was Sonia!  She was absolutely delighted to get our cookies and "beautiful" birthday card, she wants to see us again soon!

Anyways, that's just an illustration of how the week went, a very sister missionary week, full of cookies and miracles:)

Oh one more note:  I AM SO IMPRESSED with Katie.  She and her friend Caroline, two little ten year olds, came to church by themselves this week.  That is just inspiring.  They are bright, introspective young things.  We had a little lesson with them afterwards and they brought in the spirit so strongly... I couldn't help but think of what the faith of a 14 year old boy a couple hundred years ago did... they've got it and it's amazing to see...

Well, there were many other belles choses from this week but it look like I'm out of time. Enjoy the pictures of the dream apartment!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Those is my moms! (January 20)

Heeeellllllooooo!  So this week is transfer week.  I was so heartsick because we are seeing MIRACLES here in Liege and I didn't want to have to leave.  Buuuut I AM STAYING HERE ANOTHER TRANSFER.  That's right people six months in my favorite Belgian town.  I'm as happy as a clam.  Maybe happier:)

Well, there are a lot of people that we've been teaching that I don't think I've ever even written about, so today...let me introduce you to my dear friends...

Aurica and Katie:  Soeur Walker found their fiche in the former amis section at the beginning of the transfer.  We were able to get a hold of them and start meeting with them.  Aurica is a single mother from Romania.  Katie is her ten-year-old daughter who was born in America.  It is Aurica's dream to move back there so Katie can have more opportunities.  I think that is Aurica's big interest in the church and the missionaries -- it's connection to America.  But Katie...WOW... I have never met a child quite like her.  She knows so much about Jesus Christ and the Bible in general.  She went to primary yesterday and the primary teaching was "etonné" (shocked) by how intelligent she was and the sheer volume of questions she posed.  We went over yesterday evening because Aurica wanted us to help Katie study for her English test and Katie just bombarded us with all sorts of questions about the Plan of was astounding.  Haha we were practicing some English, the difference between this, that, these and those, and giving different examples of each, and Katie said "Those is my moms!"  We gently corrected her, "No, THAT is your mom."  And she said, "Mais non, il y a Mère Celeste aussi!" (but, no, there is Heavenly Mother too!)  What kind of deep doctrine did they get into in Primary? haha I loved it.  Katie was pretty upset when we had to leave and couldn't finish answering her questions, she said, "I guess I won't know all the answers until I'm dead!" haha adorable...but kind of morbid.  I love kids.

Rita Hublet:  Or as I like to call her, Rita from Remicourt, or Remicourt Rita.  So I don't know how it is in other missions, but out here in the wilds of Belgium headquarter referrals are few and far between.  I think I've gotten a grand total of four on my entire mission.  And for the most part they've been impossible to contact etc.  So Rita was a headquarter referral that Soeur Johns and I received back in...October I think.  We went all the way out to Remicourt (middle of nowhere) to find her and she wasn't home.  Then we called and she was in the hospital etc etc.  Long story short we finally had a rdv with her about a week ago.  She. is. one of a kind.  Wow she's an amazing woman.  She looks like she walked right out of the 1960's, hair, make-up tous que vous voulez.  She is 60 but looks like she's in her 40's (maybe it's the make-up.  She is absolutely delightful and very very happy all the time.  I loved her immediately, especially when she invited us into her living room and I asked myself if I just stepped into India or something.  Apparently she really likes India, although she's never been... Anyways I've decided that referrals are the best!  She is so eager to learn and asks the best questions.  We gave her a Book of Mormon the first time and had a really good discussion about faith.  The spirit was so strong.  The strongest point was when she, after talking with us very excitedly about the church, BoM etc, suddenly got very quiet and asked if she could ask us one more question..."Is you late for someone like me?"  I immediately felt an outpouring of God's love for this woman.  She's obviously been through a lot in her life (health and family problems), but she has continued to search the whole time.  I testified that it is never, ever too late.  That is the CORE of the gospel message.  God is there, waiting with open arms, our unchanging, loving Heavenly Father.  We saw her again a few days later and she kept saying how her reading is going very slowly, but at the end we found that in just a few days she'd almost finished 1 Nephi!  She's amazing!

There are so many others!  I wish I had more time to tell you about all of them, but I guess it will have to wait until next week.  I'll introduce you to some more of my friends:-)  I love how in french we call them "amis" (friends) and not "investigators."  Because these people really truly are my friends!

Well, missionary work here is kind of exploding.  Especially in Liege 2 (our smaller branch, so, yay!)  We had about 6 people come to church yesterday. And the Elders baptized Ismael.  Gigh and Christianna were there and they loved it!  They are both excited for their baptisms someday :) For Christianna that's the 15th of March and for Gigh she just knows that it's soon. ALSO awesome news from Rennes!  My dear Sofie (remember her? the Chinese student?) was baptized this last Saturday.  I am so proud of her, she is going to be an awesome church member.  She said that her plan is to get married in the temple have lots of children and send them all on missions!  Amazing.

Well, we have a super packed week lined up, so glad it's transfer week and we don't have district meeting!  More lessons!  2014 is off to a great start, here in Liege, and in the whole mission.  There were like a billion baptisms last week.  Also, I'm super happy I get to stay in the dream apartment for six more glorious weeks heehee.  Also, can you say birthday in Liege!  Sariah told my I couldn't get transfered because she'd already planned my birthday party:)  Didn't know she had so much influence over President Poz, haha je rigole.

Until next week!

The Fourth Watch (January 13th)

john 14
24 But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.
 25 And ain the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.
So I'm pretty sure that I just lived a miracle...

People -- God. is. there.  He loves each one of us.  And in the midst of our hardest trials, when the wind is contrary and we feeling like we are drowning, gasping to breath in an waved-tossed sea...somehow through Him, we find strength we didn't know we had, Strength to fight against the storm and come out stronger than we could ever imagine.

I don't want to go into details about what happened this week, but a lot of "waves," a storm that had been brewing for awhile, suddenly engulfed me all at once.  It left me weak, broken and with almost no desire to go on.  (We'll just leave it by saying I had some health issues).  But then this last Thursday at zone conference my mission president pulled me aside, he said, "Soeur Hilton, I almost didn't make the trip up to Belgium today because Soeur Pozananski couldn't come...but I felt that I needed to be here...and now I know that I needed to be here for you."  He said, "God has worked a miracle with your mother and he can do the same for you, you just need to have faith."

I'm still processing what happened next.  That evening, I found strength that wasn't my own and I've never seen so much quality missionary work take place in the shorter half of a week.  Soeur Walker and I's statistics for the week were more than either she or I had ever achieved on our missions...they were higher than many missionaries ever see in this mission.  And what was behind those numbers was some of the most beautiful experiences of my life... The Lord carried me this last week.  I showed forth a small tiny particle of faith, because that was all I could muster...and God took what I gave and in turn he gave me a week I will never forget. 

-telling a beautiful family that they can live together forever--looking Rita in the eyes and assuring her that it is never too late--helping three single mother's not feel so lonely--bringing the spirit with my violin--holding Gigh as she cried--Assuring Soeur De Wale that she will see her husband again-- and many many more beautiful things!  

This is my week in a scripture D&C 133

58 To aprepare the bweak for those things which are coming on the earth, and for the Lord’s errand in the day when the weak shall cconfound the dwise, and the little one become a estrongfnation, and two shall put their tens of thousands to gflight.
 59 And by the weak things of the earth the Lord shall athrash the nations by the power of his Spirit.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

This is my Real Life (January 1st)

So:  I just spent my first Christmas away from Belgium's self proclaimed "Cité de Noël"... good ol' Liège.  It was quite the experience!

On Christmas Eve we went to Kelly's house in the afternoon to celebrate with her and her kids.  We cooked together and I got to play Santa Claus and set out the presents for her kids.  It was soooo cute to watch them open their gifts!  Then that evening I was treated to some Belgian Christmas Eve specialties....Foie gras, caviar, and....wait for it...all you can eat escargot!  And those were only the apetizers!  The main dish was turkey with pineapple gravy...sounds weird but was incredibly delicious.  And then a Bouche de Noël for dessert! I just felt so loved that night, the Baret family is the greatest.  I got some huge hugs from Mama Baret and lots of Belgian chocolate...and shredded wheat (random I know, but sort of awesome at the same time).

CHRISTMAS DAY was wonderful!  I got to sleep innnnnn.  I still woke up at 6:30 though and had to force myself back to sleep.  I made it to 7:45 and then the attraction of opening Christmas presents was too much.  THANK YOU everyone for the lovely gifts!  Scott---Pentago is awesome.  Also thank you to the Hendershots for the surprise package full of goodies!  That was so nice:-) 

Around noon we got the the Scheurch's house and had raclette for lunch!  Raclette is where you have a double-deckered grill, you melt cheese on the bottom and cook meat and veggies on the top, grab a baguette and voila, a delicious Christmas meal!  Then we had our second Bouche de Noêl for dessert.  We also got to watch a Disney movie--Kung Fu Panda.  I forgot how funny that one is.

Then... I got to SKYPE my family!  It was great seeing you all.  Of course I remembered about a million other things I'd have liked to tell/ask you about when I hung up...They'll just have to wait until Mother's Day:)

And even with all the festivities we still managed to get a lot of work done.  Christophe said his first prayer, Christianna said she wants to be baptized, and Gigh put up an album of pictures on facebook from the Young Adult Weekend in Charleroi entitled "THIS IS MY REAL LIFE." (don't worry, I wasn't on facebook, Sariah told me about this).  So yes my friends, the work goes forth in Liège!

Okay, almost forgot, I need to finish Kelly's story!  Where did I leave off...oh yes, the first Mormons she met were U.S. soldiers in Iraq.  She then moved to France and was trying to get into the UK.  Her husband (at this point she had remarried and had two new children) had a bad accident and they had to move to Belgium for medical care.  While in Belgium she started doing some deep reflection and realized she wanted her children to be brought up in a good religion.  She researched many religions and one day she remembered the Mormons. (It took her awhile because she kept on searching the internet for LSD instead of LDS, haha).  I don't remember exactly how it happened, but she ended up finding and requesting the missionaries.  They didn't come for three years!  This last summer is when the Elders gave her a call.  She took the discussions and wasn't sure if she should get baptized because she "didn't have faith."  But she decided to join the church for her children.  This is where I meet Kelly -- kind of disillusioned with the church and not sure if God is even there.  Then over the next few months I got to see God work a miracle...stay tuned for the rest of the story next week!

I wish you all the best for the new year!  I can't believe that it is already 2014.  Let's make it the best yet!