Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Week 34 - Turnhout

Hoi Familie Riley! 
Remember A who I've mentioned a lot because he's so smart and has progressed so much and who is working towards a baptismal date and who we've had really spiritual lessons with (but who is also crazy)? Well, turns out cigarettes aren't the only thing he'll have to stop smoking... he broke our hearts Sunday by coming to church so HIGH. I'm sure it sounds funny now, but when he was yelling out during President Peeter's talk and dancing during the intermediate hymn and fidgeting and mumbling and poking the kid is front of him it was pretty disappointing, not to mention embarrassing and disrespectful.

Zuster H is still on fire and I love that she loves contacting because it makes it so fun, and she cracks people up by how well she's mastered neder-engels already.. the other day, she told members that "ik eet iedereen!" (“I eat everyone!”) when she meant "ik eet alles!" (“I eat everything!”) haha the people love her, I love her!  Op Vrijdag (on Friday) a 91 year old lady named Julia let us in, and turns out she used to be a Catholic nun! She was so sweet and so Christian (and so old and alone! She told us we were the first people she'd seen all day)..

Zuster H and I are old lady magnets; that same night a cute older couple let us in and showed us pictures for an hour of their family on a road trip throughout the U.S... we kept trying to tie it into our beautiful message about eternal families, but the sweet lady seemed more excited to have two American girls give her their attention and to practice her English with us...
We also went over to Familie Vansteenbergen, the cute elderly members who I raved about a few emails ago, and I always feel the spirit so strongly in their house- they have so many cool stories and life experiences about the war/ being in a band/ running for the Belgian national team/ raising 6 kids/ having 9 siblings/ converting to the church/ Belgian traditions and holidays/ etc. and I could just talk to them all day! When Zuster Vansteenbergen talks about her hardworking, humble parents, she always says "als je goeie ouders hebt, ben je de rijkste persoon in de wereld," (“if you have good parents, you are the richest person in the world”) which is so true. 
We had another lesson with Attila, the German Javo (they call young adults Javos instead of Jovos in BE?) who is really open and cool, and we taught him the Plan of Salvation. We talked to Larissa about the abuse of faith/ religion, and Zuster H and I had a 2 hour companionship study (sorry taal (language)) exploring D&C 76, and talked with Tommy about questions and continuous learning.

We dropped R because after asking R what he's learned from meeting with the Sisters for a year, he told us that he believes that Joseph Smith's experience and the Book of Mormon is true, but our church has become corrupted with homosexuality and witchcraft and no longer has the priesthood.. honestly, they were some of the least convincing arguments I've come across, but it was still a little sad.. but if he comes to Church for the first time, we'd love to talk to him there- he really is a nice guy. But, we had a really cool lesson with Loris, a sweet new investigator from the Dom. Republic
Happy Thanksgiving! Love you!
Veel liefs, 
Zuster Riley 

Protest in Turnhout
Lights in Turnhout!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Week 33 - Turnhout

Goeie morgen Familie Riley,
well, Leandro and Herman and Attile and abdel and Raphael and his kids didn't come to church as promised.. but Larissa, Tommy and Isaac did, and at least most of the no-shows texted us to let us know they couldn't make it. Haha it's funny how excited we get about receiving texts from investigators cancelling or postponing appt.s... just the fact that they remember and realize the importance means so much, and I appreciate that they're taking this seriously enough to let us know... all 4 of our baptismal dates have either passed or been postponed.. Abdel's is for 6 December (Sinterklaas) and isn't too realistic seeing as he isn't really making the effort to completely stop smoking... Jobe disappeared for a month after he'd been on fire and doing so well (which apparently is a pattern he's been through three times before) and Larissa's still waiting for the legal stuff to be worked out with the Rechtbank so she can separate form her abusive boyfriend and keep her house and kids so her date is for 17 Januay but other than that she is so ready to be baptized and comes to church every week with her kids.

And this is exciting: so, Tommy was on date for 8 November, but a few weeks ago we had a good discussion about not procrastinating something out of fear but also not rushing into something you don't feel ready for, and he said he'd come up with a new realistic doopdatum that he feels good about and tell us on Sunday... yesterday at church we talked briefly but didn't have time to ask him, so we called him in the evening, and he said he'd indeed chosen a date that he feels good about- 3 January! This is sooo exciting, because Tommy has been seriously investigating since February, has read through the entire BoM with the study guide, comes to church every week and fulfills his 2 unofficial calling faithfully, knows the doctrine better than many members... but he can only progress so far until he makes this covenant with Heavenly Father to reap even more blessings. Reading through Doctrine and Covenants and Talmages's "The Great Apostasy" is helping him to understand the reality of the apostasy/ necessity of the Restoration, and it was cool because a few weeks ago, he told me that what I said about him having felt the Spirit so many times and pointing out specific examples helped him a lot. That was during a lesson where he argued that you don't grow/ develop faith in something.. you either have it or you don't. It's like a light switch that you either have on or off. Which we said we could understand, but you can always flip more lights on in new rooms/ lamps in those rooms, and then I said, "Tommy, I think your light switch of faith in this restored gospel is switched on but it's so bright that you're squinting (your eyes are shut) so you don't recognize it. And then pointed out the reasons he reads/ meets with us (ie more light and knowledge) as being the spirit...

Contacting at night (especially langs de deur) is something I'll have to get used to; it's cold and because it's so dark people try to make us feel like it's way later than it is.. and sometimes it's scary but those are experiences I'll tell when I'm safely home haha.. and getting the door slammed/ hung up on bel-ups mid-testimony (in response to a question they asked) still stings... people act so repulsed/ disgusted by us sometimes without bothering to find out who we are/ what we're doing.. we were looking up an old potential in the cute and classy nearby dorpje of Vosselaar, and a house down the street must've seen us coming and turned off all the lights, closed all the shutters (and there were a lot of windows) and we could hear someone bolting the door..

Leandro, a new Surinams investigator, shared a really cool spiritual experience, but then lifted up a big bag of weed chilling on the table and said he still has things he knows he needs to work on... Zuster H thought that was so funny because weed is still totally illegal in parts of the U.S... The other morning I had this shower epiphany where I decided that I will get over myself and be a consecrated missionary and eat non-vegan food when served to me and not tell people the next place I'm transferred.. even though members are really accepting and accommodating (and everyone's vegetarian here anyways.. and we're lucky if we get one dinner appt./ week) I should still put everything on the altar of sacrifice.. so I'll let you know if the day comes when I have meat for the first time in 7+ years (I know, missions are scary) haha.. 

Also, the other week (Zuster H's 3rd day in the land actually) we swung by the church and Zuster H asked if we could go inside and sit in the chapel for a few mins because she hadn't been feeling the spirit as much lately. We were talking and she told me how she missed the MTC with its spirit radiating in every room and face, and her feeling of confidence and sense of belonging, and happiness and stresslessness (is that a word? holy ness) there. I made the following analogy: the MTC preparing us for the mission field is like the premortal life preparing us for earth life. We may've wondered at times on earth why we would've chosen to leave God's presence to come to this scary, corrupt, fallen world, but just like we can only learn so much/ progress to a certain point in the MTC, we needed to come to earth to become sufficiently educated between good and evil and to learn and grow and to have joy. When I think of the most powerful, joyous emotions I've experienced as a missionary, I picture the people and moments in Groningen, Gent and Turnhout. It's easy to see looking back why someone would choose to leave the secure but stunted bliss of MTC life. And what makes the MTC so great? The knowledge that everything we're learning, studying and developing will be to help us soon in the 'real life' aka mission field! 

I love you all, happy Thanksgiving and Sinterklaas and ah I love Kersttijd (Yule)
Veel liefs, 

Zuster Riley (: 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Week 32 - Photos from Belgium

On our way to Larissa's in Gierle, a 90 minute round trip op fiets (on bike)
Exploring the Belgian countryside in the dorpje of Arendonk, after meeting August Meeuns our new Belgian Opa and potential investigator, on our way to look up Jasper Smets, a self-referral from mormon.org (he wasn't home this time we went).

Antwerpen Centraal Station
Antwerpen Centraal!
Our coats
Sometimes planning is easier not on a chair.. 
(photo on the right, above) I'm still working getting warm boots so when we stopped by the church to print off a talk, this happened 
Is this real life? So pretty. This is our street we live on, and the same full moon that shone down on the street you live on. 

It starts getting dark at 5pm here, and apparently eventually gets dark at 4pm..But check out this cool picture of Zuster H at the grote markt 
(2 mins from our house). 

Week 32 - Turnhout

Hoi Familie Riley! 
Let me begin with a miracle that happened on Thursday. Zuster Jones came to work with me in Turnhout for a few hours because both of our new missionary companions had to go to Brussels for legality (turns out they were there during the protest against the new government- 100,000 people.. pretty crazy and kinda scary), and we were looking up potentials from months ago. We met Atiele, a German 21-year-old business marketing student who also speaks perfect English (he studied at private English schools in Spain growing up) and Vlaams.. he'd been given a BoM but misplaced it, but was curious, so we taught him a doorstep lesson explaining the BoM and covering some points of the Restoration and prayed with him and set up another appt. A few days later we had a really cool Restoration lesson, he'd read Alma 32 and is really open and curious to believing in a God, and he said his first prayer. He's a good guy and says he doesn't drink/ smoke and has a lot of similar ideas as us. I'm really excited for our next lesson with him.

We also had a really cool miracle on the bus coming back from Leuven.. Zuster H was sitting in the row in front of me, and passed me a note asking if this was a good sentence to ask/ was the Dutch right to start a conversation with the man next to her etc., but then the man next to her got off, and the man next to me started laughing- he watched the whole thing. We ended up talking to the man next to me, Raphael, for almost 2 hours.. he's on his 7th week of no alcohol, he has 2 young kids, is very spiritually minded (he backpacked to Italy when he was 16 to have some time to himself to answer some deep questions) and has a lot of similar ideas about the PoS.

We had a good lesson with Greet and Emilie V, the sweet laurel in our ward, but I still get the feeling that Greet likes our company more than our message and commitments. We didn't set up another appt. with Herman, a Catholic Surinamer, because he straight up told us he would never ever get rebaptized/ meets with us to preach the Law of Moses. Abdel is still hilarious and smart but crazy.. he danced aerobics to Brit pop for us yesterday..

Isaac, a sweet Nigerian, came to church for the first time in 25 years because he said I was so persistent.. but assured me that if I was annoying he wouldn't have come. I really like him, his Belgian wife died when she was 40 from breast cancer and he has 4 really successful kids and he works making food for the elderly and his concerns with organized religion are very understandable.. we had a really cool lesson with him. Zuster H had her first real dinner appointment at sweet Familie Nwafor, who'd been fasting for missionary work that day and come on joint teach. Great week, I love you all! Know that I am having the time of my life and doing my best to make the most of every moment of the Lord's time, it's the best thing I could be doing and I love teaching the gospel as a full-time job.
Zuster Riley (: 

Antwerpen (Photo credit: Sister Heilner)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Week 31 - Beginning of Transfer 5 (and companion 5)

Cute Fam. Vandenberg made sushi and decorated for Zuster Aston's last dinner appt. in the land
Overnachten in Antwerpen.. these 3 sisters in the front are now home!

My BEAUTIFUL greenie! Her first stroopwafel!
Zuster H! And a Belgian sunset. 

Zuster N! She is a dietician and married to an African and the sweest ZHV pres. and joint teach and Zuster B's aunt. 

Old district! 
Zone P-day


Hoi familie, 
I love greenie fire - I feel like I'm in Groningen all over again with this contagious feeling of fresh and new excitement about the work. Zuster Hansen is a go-getter, talking to everyone and anyone and insisting on speaking Dutch with me all the time. She's a natural and I'm learning so much from her already.  She found 8 potential investigators in our first two days together, and we've been looking up a lot of promising potentials, and it feels good to be weeding through our current investigators and finding new, sincere investigators.  T is going to start reading Talmage's "The Great Apostasy" and we're hoping that something will click with understanding the necessity of the Restoration. We had 5 investigators in church, including Abdel who is working on stopping smoking in order to be baptized by 6 December. Jasmine, a sweet 16 yr old Belgian girl who ordered a family history pamphlet from the Facebook campaign, proved to be very curious about our message and invited us to come back next week and explain the Book of Mormon.

We went to Herentels to look up Mr. L, a referral, and met two older Flemish women who lived in some type of old shop (the inside was medieval library/ museum- like) who commended us for so boldly and valiantly proclaiming our faith, and gave us candy and coke for the road, and something about the whole situation felt like an interesting dream. We also gave a card to a teen barely wearing any clothes and intoxicated out of her mind, and it made me sad because I wonder what her hopes/ dreams/ fears are. We stopped by Livinyan, a girl who we'd given a Romanian BoM, and were able to talk to her and her friend. We also had a cool lesson after church with Michael, and he prayed for the first time ever.  J is still disappeared and his baptismal date has passed, except for the fact that we saw him on Z. Aston's last night when we were on the bus and he was waving furiously through the window at us.. so we got out at the next stop and she was able to say goodbye and he was able to tell us a less convincing stroy about why he hasn't been answering his phone..but we haven't been able to get a hold of him since.

November truly is going to be a maand van wonderen (month of miracles). In fact, our branch has a calendar where everyone is encouraged to sign up for a day this month to fast (it doesn't have to be food, it can be another sacrifice i.e. TV) for missionary work, and we call and tell them the miracles that happened that day.. I encourage you all to choose a day to fast for the missionary work in Turnhout! (: 

Glad you had a happy halloween.. they had a few decorations in shops and apparently halloween-themed parties, but no trick or treating.. guess what we dressed up as this year? (: Love you all!!!!
Veel liefs, 

Zuster Riley 

 photo from Elder Elkins 

From the mission blog: Zuster Riley meeting Zuster H for the first time, at the mission home in Leiden

It's always fun to find Eliza mentioned on other Belgium missionaries' blogs. Found her on Zuster Bush's blog:
 Last P-day I got a black eye. Woot woot. We played soccer and Frisbee for zone p-day and me and Sister Riley smacked heads!  A few hours later I noticed a black eye. My first one! haha.