Thursday, October 30, 2014

Week 30 - End of transfer 4

 With Roger! He is hilarious. 

With N (in the middle) and Zuster Nelson at her baptismal service. And Z. D, a sweet member from Wijkantwerpen (who is actually the mother of identical twin boys)

Well Mom and Dad, the day has finally come when your 19 yr old daughter announces to you that "I'm having a baby!!"... but, seeing as I'm using mission vernacular, you can be excited for me... I'm training! (in a few days she will have a companion who is brand new, just arrived from the Provo MTC) I'm excited to train, but also a little nervous because I know how easy it is for greenies to be critical of their trainers and expect them to know and do everything perfectly.. but Turnhout is the perfect branch and village to be trained in, and it's going to be a neat experience I'm sure! What do you think is the best attribute a trainer can have to make the trainee's experience smooth and successful?  I'll miss Zuster Aston, we've become great friends and have had a great transfer together.. but, I'm "killing" her on Wednesday! Crazy. Crazy that by Wednesday all 5 of my companions I've had will be home! 

We "accidentally" took the wrong bus to a dinner appt. yesterday aka it was divine intervention because a friendly little 18 yr old Belgian came a sat next to us asking about our nametags and now we have an appt. for the first lesson on Sunday after church (as in, after he comes to church with us). 
Sister Johnson and I had a lesson with Faith, a classy and educated Kenyan Pentacostal preacher/ entrepreneur who is a lot more open to us giving her answers from the Book of Mormon than you would expect from someone who baptizes people herself into her congregation.

We got permission to go to Nadia's baptism in Antwerpen, T heard a lot of things during sacrament meeting and during the service that will help him if he's open, and L and her daughter (another onderzoeker with a bapt. date) unfortunately came too late, but we were still able to have a good lesson with her on the bus ride back. I'm gaining such a testimony of "planting seeds" through this experience with Nadia, and the many investigators we found in Gent who are now proving to be so positive.. a good reminder to talk to everyone and anyone. Nadia is a sweet mother who Zuster Nelson and I found langs de duer while I was on exchanges in Antwerpen, and we've always remembered each other.. she is so cool. 

Wow, I'm so excited for Madi, and am so glad my best friend can experience the growth and joy that comes from serving a full time mission! Love you all, 
Zuster Riley (:

About the recipes I sent her:  Thanks so much!! We still won, we brought 3 desserts (I made your vinegar and baking soda cake and experimented with coconut milk and dark choc. and raspberries)... the prize? A giant (not quite Bertha-sized) stuffed bear that the Elders somehow found.. we had fun carrying it on the 3 hour bus ride home from Leuven haha. 

Zuster Aston loves the plant-based things I whip up which is funny because we are pretty poor (in Belgium, all your money goes towards transportation back to Nederland for conferences! Which does eventually get reimbursed) and don't have tons of food to experiment with.. but I made falafels for her and she said she would be veg for the rest of her life if I cooked for her for every meal haha, wow what a compliment... and now she always just says you make lunch/ dinner, I always want what you have (salads with seasoned beans/ cooked veggies) hah.. but I still don't want her to look back and feel that she was deprived so I always encourage her to buy cheese/ lunch meat/ ice cream... 
but thanks for taking the time to send these recipies! I know you're busy with things like sending Madi off! Wow, so crazy.  (: What's your advice for being a mother.. now that I'm TRAINING! ? 
Veel liefs, 
Z. Riley 
Dessert bake-off (photo by Elder Steenblik) & photo from N's baptism by Zuster Bush (I spy Zuster Riley in the background!)

Week 29 - Photos from Belgium (taken by other missionaries)

Photos from Belgium taken by Elder Henderson, Zuster Bush, Elder Bishop, and Elder Steenblik

 Brussels - with signs in Dutch, French and English!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Week 29 - Photos of The Hague Netherlands Temple and Belgium

Den Haag temple! 
We got married! Just kidding. (This is the Den Haag, not the Amsterdam, temple) 

Zuster Bush! 

So beautiful.

Our district leader and his comp came to work with us,( and a cute ole' lady with shaky hands took this pic thus the cut off head)

Gravensteen castle

Documenting the moment! This was taken walking from Adbel's to Jan's, both great guys and appointments. 

Mary! So fun seeing everyone I love from Gent at Ring Conferentie. (: There were some great speakers at stake conf, and actually one of them, a cute and spunky zuster reminded me of a Belgian version of Sister Hendricks who gave so much love and time to her calling as YW pres. in Niceville.  

Zuster Temmerman! Oh man, I could go on about her.. haha I don't think she realizes how much she's inspired me because she actually lives near Sint-Niklaas and goes to that branch, but she had us over twice when I lived in Gent and tracted with us/ brought us to lots of referral friends/ was basically the best member missionary I've seen. She's actually a FamilySearch missionary right now. She loves learning new languages and memorizing hymns while she cooks/ cleans and is a convert and has a cute daughter and Mom, I feel like you would love her. 

This investigator seems to have waxed proud in his iniquities.. if you know what I mean

I've learned it's important to get on people's levels

We're back in Gent! P day fun. 

Mohammed! SUCH a sweet kid.. a 16 yr old refugee from Mali, loves the gospel.. sadly, he got transferred to a refugee center in Brussels, but happily will continue to be taught and prepared to be baptized on 15 Nov by the Elders there! 

Tim Janssen loves to make creme brulee'!

Week 29 -- Turnhout

Hoi Familie Riley!
   I really enjoyed going to the Den Haag temple, and thought it was so neat to experience in Dutch... this language is becoming sacred to me, after so many spiritual experiences teaching/ testifying/ listening to others in Nederlands (or Vlaams now). We're working with Abdel to set goals/ make a plan to stop smoking so that he can be baptized, and will be meeting with T less (once a week) while still preparing him for baptism. T currently has 8 November as his baptismal date goal, but reading through the doopgesprek (baptismal interview) questions with him, he still couldn't answer a resounding "Ja" to the second one ("Do you believe that the church and gospel of Jesus Christ was restored through the prophet Joseph Smith?".. he still isn't sure that it was completely gone thus needed to be fully restored), but is plowing through the Doctrine and Covenants (without any initial encouragement from us.. we didn't meet with him last week and he'd read through section 19) and coming to church/ stake conference/ fulfilling his two callings dutifully! He's great. I'm learning that you can't always please everyone as a missionary, however.. joint teaches/ members/ mission leaders often have differing advice for how to deal with investigators.. 

   On vrijdag (Friday) I witnessed that love exists, love is real. Namely Familie V. They are the cutest Flemish couple in their 80s.. 60+ yrs of marriage and still serving each other, the adoring look they have on their faces as they listen to the other one talk.. they are considered less-active only because Br. V's health confines him to his chair (Z. V is quite mobile!), and are so cool- she was a 9 yr old girl during WW2 and remembers being very hungry and comes from a family with goodly parents (she told us how them leaving behind the good example they set is so much more valuable to her than any money they could've left behind) and 9 siblings (she also shared a really powerful experience about being baptized in the temple for her father), and Br. V served in the Belgian army (fought in France and on the Spanish border) and was a musician and an auto mechanic and was a top-5 cross country runner and competed internationally when he was younger. They converted as a young couple, have 6 kids, and one is active in the church. They gave me a reaffirmed hope for a happy, loving, selfless, lasting huwelijk (marriage).. sadly, I've seen enough examples of struggling, unhappy marriages on my mission. 

   We had a really cool lesson with Jan, a middle-aged Belgian man who Z. Aston and I found our first day together, and I look forward to meeting with him again. 
   I love you guys! Thanks for the letters/ dearElders.. snail mail is gold on the mission (: 
--Z. Riley 

Real quick Q, alstublieft (please)
Hey, really quick-- we have treat for FHE tonight and are having a bake off for District Mtg so we will be doing some baking today.. if you have time could you please send me some lekker (nice) recipes like your pumpkin bars/ apple cake/ vinegar choc. cake with PB frosting/ muffins/ apple or rhubarb crisp/ raw vegan raspberry tart (that apparently Isabella and Torri and Madi made!)? THANKS (: 

Thanks for your letters/ dearElders! I met the new sisters who LOVED hearing from you in the MTC and were like "so YOU'RE the Zuster Riley.. you exist!" haha. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Week 28 - Turnhout

 Barefoot path in Genk! Reminded me of the one near Stuttgart we went to as a fam with friends years ago.

 Zusters Conferentie! Road trip (: 

Pink and purple twins (sound familiar), Clara and Linda!

Beste Familie, 
   T is on a baptismal date (8 November) which is exciting.. I'm a little bit worried because he still doesn't feel that he has had one direct answer (and feels like he deserves that), but we were able to sort through his fallacious and contradicting reasoning by asking bold questions and we essentially lovingly stumped him with why he wouldn't be baptized, it's the next step to take to progress, here are all of the times you've felt the spirit, etc. We also won't have a lesson for over a week because we are busy and because he needs some time to figure out if this is something he wants enough for himself and is willing to take the steps to get there. We did see him at church yesterday, and he said he's nervous about his doopdatum but otherwise feels good with it, and we assured him that it's normal to feel nervous before a life-changing decision, i.e. I had a "what the heck am I doing with my life" moment before my mission on the plane from Florida to the MTC, but reminded him that it's where he seeks answers and assurance is important, ie the words of God or direct revelation with God through prayer. 

   We also had a cool experience with a new investigator from a few weeks ago, a middle-aged Belgian named Jan, who has been reading and said his first prayer with us and was very open and wants his mom to come to the lesson we set up for this week.

   Testifying to a wealthy, older Belgian man who was twisting my words and putting new words in my mouth, I pumped myself up in my head with Mormon's words to Moroni that I'd just read this week, to "notwithstanding their hardness, let us labor diligently".. and he even ended up taking a Book of Mormon once he understood that we, two young and inexperienced American girls, were not trying to persuade/ convince him of or sell him anything, but were sharing something that has brought us so much joy and perspective and are giving him the means to find out if what we claim is truth is in fact truth and if that can mean something for him. 

   Speaking of applicable scriptures, when I was reading a little bit in Acts last transfer in Gent, I stumbled across Acts 5:41 where the disciples were “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for [Jesus’] name”.. it gave me a whole new feeling about whispers and glares from people scrutinizing my name tag ie on public transportation... that happened a lot more in Gent (and I would not say I am suffering, I love living in and working with the wonderful people of Belgium) but it happened the other day in Antwerpen Centraal and reminded me of that.  

   We had a great Zusters Conferentie at the mission home on Saturday, and I learned a lot about the how and why and what of Priesthood keys and power and authority and about the Abrahamic covenant and the gathering of the House of Israel, and it was so cool because sitting in there with every sister in the mission, I genuinely felt love and respect and positive feelings for each sister in there.. a little bit of what Zion feels like, I'm guessing. I'm sad that there are so many solid and cool sisters who are leaving and who I would love to get to know better, but am impressed already by the awesome new sisters who seem so ready to work hard and have lots of fun. 

   Rachel, you look beautiful in your homecoming pics! Heeeeeeel mooi. Love you all! 

Zuster Riley (: 

Week 28 - photos from Zusters Conference

 Sisters who have served in Gent
Eliza is sitting in front of the door

 Eliza is in the back row (between the door and window on the right)

Thanks to Sister Robinson (getting hugged, front and center, above) for posting so many Zusters Conference photos to the mission blog!