In a Frituur (Fry) shop in Brugge (third time there on my mission!) with the Zusters in Zone Antwerpen.
She's sad to leave Turnhout :(
Zuster Castro! On her first day.
Broeder D'Haene with his wife, who is investigating the church.
A sneak preview of Broeder D'Haene's paintings.
First of all, Zuster Castro (which btw the Fidel Castro jokes are proving even more frequent and less original than twin or vegan jokes), my new companion (greenie), is great- she's 22, from Georgia, half Hispanic and speaks fluent Spanish (I'm trying to get her to swap the Spanish word for every Dutch word I teach her.. but so far, ajo = knoflook (garlic) is all that I've retained), and I've learned a lot from her already about listening to people and asking inspired questions, being open and honest, and doing hard things. We hit it off really well, and it's actually a really cool miracle that I am her companion. She told me that even before she got out here, my face always stood out to her from the mission Facebook page and she recognized (and met briefly) Madi at the MTC, and being nervous to come out here, on the plane the Robinsons and my face came to mind. And voila, who does she end up being trained by? Wow, really neat, and no coincidence. Anyways, I miss Zuster Hansen.. I wish I could've just had twins (to train), because it's common knowledge that twins are altijd (always) better. (;
So, keep reading to hear about my moment of fame that is potentially one of the coolest experiences of my mission: So, on Tuesday, Zuster Hansen and I were getting off of our 2.5 hour bus ride back from District Mtg. in Leuven and saw a food truck selling warm drinks at the Turnhout Markt, and because I know Z. Hansen, I asked her if she wanted to swing by and buy her last cup of warme chocomelk in Turnhout. She happily complied, but when we got closer, we saw camera men holding microphones, and were told that they were busy filming something and we started to walk away.. until a cute young girl stopped us, asked us where we were from, and started asking us questions in English (she did a human interest/ public media internship in D.C. last winter and wanted to practice her already flawless English), and after explaining the basics of who we are and what we do, she asked us if we wanted to be on T.V. There's this program that plays after the national evening news on channel één (I've even heard of that channel because it's often playing in the background at peoples' houses) called "Iedereen Beroemt" (“Everyone Glory”) where they pretend to give random people a good cup of coffee/ hot cocoa and then talk to them and hear their stories, unstaged. So a few minutes later we went and talked to the lady on the set for 45 minutes and just testified and explained and laughed in Dutch (often switching to English for my greenie) and it was so amazing because she listened and asked great questions and told us that we were so interesting that she sincerely wishes us good luck and told us at the end that we sparkle. It was seriously SO COOL, just talking about what we do every day but being received so warmly and getting the chance to testify of Jesus Christ and of Heavenly Father's plan for me in front of potentially hundreds (millions?) of Belgians.. it went so smoothly and we gave out 2 cards and 2 Book of Mormons to her and the camera men and the first girl, and she's going to send us the link when it's all ready (which I'll forward to you).. it'll probably air on a Thursday evening in January. They kept zooming in on our nametags and the books it was just so great and such a miracle. So, Zuster Hansen's love for hot cocoa is definitely inspired. (:
Attila came to church today and members were already arranging to carpool with him to a Christmas concert activity in Antwerpen, it's so great having members who fellowship well. We had a great lesson with him on Saturday.. he's been praying every night and found it weird but good, and is reading Elder Ballard's 'Our Search for Happiness' (great read btw). We also talked to his sweet mom who has been through a lot of hard times and who loves her 3 kids - "her diamonds" (Attila is the oldest)- more than anything in the world. Even though Attila’s mom said that nothing in the world could convince her that there is a God, we talked about life and time and families and she will hopefully join us next week. They live in this big house that looks majestic/ haunted from the outside and that gives you fortune-teller/ art gallery/ gypsy vibes on the inside... it's covered in giant, beautiful (and creepy) portraits that his grandma painted.
Isaac is finally getting it through his head that we don't worship/ pray in the name of Joseph Smith, and asks a lot of great questions but then keeps talking before we can answer them... but he keeps saying that he's liking what he's learning and feeling, and prayed for the first time since he was a child yesterday (he's now in is 60s). He's such a good guy, cooking for the Elderly and raising 4 great kids and turning his back on religion because of horrendous and hypocritical things he's seen in the news and in his home country of
but never really turning his back on the belief of a God. We had a great lesson
at Branch Pres. Peeter's home with Tommy about how to recognize true prophets
versus inspired men, and he's doing great- he taught the Gospel Principles
class on the Gathering of Israel (keep in mind that his baptismal date isn't
until 3 Jan. - he's still a non-member), and signed up to feed the
missionaries.. he'll be taking us out to eat! Nigeria
D, a young and always so busy Ghanaian mother finally let us in and gave us her full attention until she got a phone call and bolted downstairs to pick up an electric drill and shooed us out of her house haha it was random. A calmly waltzed into church with his 'fro in a ponytail and still hasn't exactly apologized for coming to church high and disrupting sac. mtg. (but did text us saying he felt like he was being exiled for his exuberant behavior- sweet new Dutch words- when we had the Elders start meeting with him instead of us), but said he's been reading the BoM from the beginning and met with the Elders twice.
Turnhout is so cute and festive.. lights and ribbons and bows and ice-skating and a giant nativity downtown (#heisthegift) ah I love it. Any advice for keeping toes warm from my fellow (
winter veterans? I'm so grateful for all the spiritual moments I've had this
week- epiphanies/ personal revelation during studies, bonding with comp,
testifying when confronted with objections, answering Qs through teaching,
visiting with members. Russia
Oh yesterday we met a homeless guy on the street who used to teach high school gymnastics and still brings food to his ex-wife and dog who said to call him "Guy" who originally told us that he was ongelovig but eventually opened up to having just poured out his soul in desperate prayer an hour ago. He said he can hardly believe what we do, that it's "glorious", because his 20 yr old granddaughter thinks only of her iPhone and living in the moment. It was a neat conversation on the street.
Merry Christmas! Thanks for your love and support!
Zuster Riley (: