Monday, August 25, 2014

Week 21 - Belgium

Beste Fam,
Z. Stevens and I (and I'm sure we're not alone) both feel that Gent is too large of an area to have remained a branch for so long and are excited to be finding so many potential investigators who are ready to receive the restored gospel. For example, we met a friendly 20 yr old foetbal player from the Ivory Coast, Raimon, who we talked to briefly in the park, and then left him with a card (with our info on the back) and an invitation to join us at church the next day (and he said he would come). He was not the first person we'd had such a conversation with this week, but he was the first one to call us at 9am on Sunday from the station (and he lives an hour away) where he said he'd meet us to come to church. We might've seemed a little surprised, and he said that of course, learning more about God and Jesus Christ was something important to him and he wants to meet with us and see what we can teach him. He seemed to really enjoy church, and hopefully there wasn't too much of a language barrier (while he speaks French, Spanish, Arabic and 3 African dialects, he is still learning English and Dutch- he's only been here 6 months- and has a hard time understanding American and Flemish accents, respectively).

I also gained a testimony of re-gaining a testimony- that is, reading, fasting, praying and pondering to re-apply Moroni's promise (the one that every day we encourage investigators to use) to strengthen and evaluate my testimony of the Book of Mormon as an inspired book that strengthens my relationship with Christ, answers questions of the soul, and proves that the fulness of the gospel is restored on Earth. I encourage you to do the same.

Also, a disclaimer on all the photos I'm about to send.. don't let my few hours as a tourist in Brugge (for P day) and Brussels (for legality paperwork) skew your image of me toiling away in the vineyard. (:

Fijne week verder!
Z. Riley 

I love getting mail from you. If you have a sec, I'd love to read some of Isaac's early letters home/ more from Dad's mission. Have fun in Haiti!

Z. Riley

Cute Slovak kids gave me princess hair

Week 21 - photos from Brussel and Brugge, Belgium


Belgium pride!

Manniken-pis statue (I won't translate that phrase for you)

Z. Fredrickson! (I told Eliza to keep an eye out for her; she is the neighbor of an elder who was serving in our ward here.)

They build houses vertically here haha

Posing with another Zuster's wafel... (since she doesn't eat them)


Souvenir from a bird in Brugge

Monday, August 18, 2014

Week 20 - Gent

Hoi familie!
This week has taught me a lot, and I've experienced a range of emotions. Some funny things were: a young Belgian teenage girl at a bus stop overheard me saying that I am from America and grabbed my arm and asked if she could touch me and said she's always wanted to go there; after explaining about and giving out a BoM to middle-aged Mr. Witz (means joke in German) he planted a kiss on my cheek instead of shaking my hand (apparently that's a lot more common here than, say, Niceville, Florida); Z. Schwab and I (on exchanges) were running late to our next appt.= literally, we ran barefoot across a neighborhood in Antwerpen to make it there on time.

That night, Z. Schwab and I met this miracle young Dutchman (he actually looks exactly like the blonde kind of bad guy from Saratov Approach) new onderzoeker, Egbert, sitting on a bench outside of the station- we were supposed to be meeting someone who never ended up showing, which was okay because we ended up having an hour lesson on a bench with Egbert. He's obviously been prepared throughout his life for the gospel including multiple running into missionaries all over Europe, and had come up with lots of similar ideas on his own, and was so cool.

Yesterday, we taught an hour-long doorstep lesson (actually more like lessons 1 and 2) to Ruth and it was really neat teaching/ bearing testimony and answering her questions.. even though she still has an attitude of being wary from searching and switching churches for so long and some things sound too good to be true and she is skeptical of the Book of Mormon because BoM prophets aren't mentioned by name in the Bible and knows she wouldn't have chosen to come to this crazy world if she existed before and had the choice, etc.

It turns out we got bad info from two very promising potentials which of course was disappointing, but they know how to get a hold of us if they need to. A cool tradition that the sisters in the mission do is to write down a "wonder" and a "grapje" (“joke”, according to Google Translate) every night in our planners, and it's neat taking a minute to recognize the daily miracles and Lord's hand in our lives- I encourage you to write down a wonder and a grapje every night this week. I'm going to attach some pictures of this beautiful city now! Love you!

Zuster Riley

Week 20 photos

 Antwerpen with Zuster Schwab

 Just hanging with a professional chef from Benin! Ignore my face.

 Sometimes we teach stiffnecked men with hardened hearts

 We climbed the Beltoren-- here's the inside and the view. Parts of it were built in the 1300s.

 Can you spot the city castle?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Week 19 - Transfer 3 - Gent, Belgium

downtown Gent

Familie Riley, groetjes vanuit Gent.

You know you're in Belgium when you feel like you're in Disneyland (but better because REAL life with all the adorable old, cute, colorful buildings); no one bats an eyelid if the bus comes late/ train doesn't show at all; there's a postcard-worthy historic church or cathedral on every corner; you catch a whiff of the famous 'Belgian Funk' scent every once in a while (we're not talking fresh Belgian waffles either); people say 'salutjes' instead of 'doeg' or 'doei' for 'see ya'; there are apparently lots of different cafés that serve the world's best Belgian frites (and all different brands haha); there's a 6:1 Ghanaian: Belgian ratio of people we're teaching; there are beautiful surrounding dorpje (village) neighborhoods with huge and freshly painted and cute cobblestone cottages with lush, fruit-tree-filled yards; branch members sometimes have really cool E.U. or U.S. Embassy jobs; you run into hills and cornfields instead of windmills and canals; you smell fresh pastries mixed with cigarette smoke and exhaust; everything is labeled in nederlands and francais; you try not to laugh because missionaries weren't exaggerating at how different Flemish sounds from Dutch; graffiti is an art here; everyone speaks and understands French and English in addition to vlaams (Flemish); biking/ bussing an hour to a dinner appt. is close; you live in the same appt. building as the Elders, a 5 min. walk from the church and a front window view of Ikea; for every 'ongelovige' (non-religious) person in Groningen that we contacted, there's an inactive Catholic here. I love it.

There definitely is a different vibe in Gent compared to Groningen.. a lot more time spent finding and getting stood up for appointments than the rushing to and from consistent appointments with progressers that filled our weeks during the golden days in Groningen.. but it's a small price to pay for serving in this beautiful city whose downtown makes Disneyland look drab. I feel like I should be taking my passport on my daily world tour of contacting.. we've met with people from Turkey, Somalia, the Philippines, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Crimea, Nigeria.. I love the diversity! It was disappointing having one of our most positive progressing investigators be forced to drop us because her husband didn't like what he read about our Church on the internet, but I'm very inspired by the strong branch members and earnest truth-seekers I've met here already.

Zuster Stevens is from Colorado Springs, but doesn't think she knows our Riley cousins.. but she is super calm and sincere and a hard worker and is great.

We're going to the centruum today and I can't wait, we took the tram through it and I felt like I was on vacation. I hope I can remember my petit peu de French.. there's no shortage of people to practice it with here, that's for sure.
Love you all, and salutjes!

Zuster (Soeur?) Riley

The 0.0% beer was disgusting, pretty disappointing for all the hype.. but people don't drink it for the taste I guess.

Week 19 - Last pictures from Groningen

us achter roping because Zr. Wood's back tire went flat, but then mine went flat after achter roping.. our last day in Groningen was full of surprises
Ran into this in Groningen, thinking of you Madi!!!!

Kimberly and typical Groningen college kids

Here are some pics of me saying bye to Kimberly and Marleen and Groningen

 Familie R and Familie G!

The morning after our last sleepover before sister B left:  Zr. K lives life on the edge, and mini missionaries aren't used to waking up at 6.30 after 2 or 3 weeks I guess haha 

Pics from Zone Conference, from the mission blog

From Zr. Wood: this man K was baptized about 2 months ago. He studies philosophy and has still struggled with the idea of god having a body, but this past week he had a breakthrough and received revelation through a dream, doctrine and covenants, and quantum mechanics to finally discover that god indeed has a body :) most mind blowing lesson ever