Monday, January 26, 2015

Week 43 - Transfer 7

Contacting this cool guy

Goeie dag beste Familie!
Good week this week, but short email this week because I don't have much time! And I just took up time and space apologizing for not having time haha whoops. (; Anyways, wow yesterday was cool.. we went to Ermon's place after church (and he'd come to church again, and to the seminary activity with his son on Friday night) and he casually asked me what exactly he has to do to be baptized as we were chatting and I whipped out the baptismal calendar (that we were planning on introducing to him) and we set a date for 28 February.. but, turns out his "wife" is technically his girlfriend so we'll have to talk to him about that, but it was so neat to see him express this desire.. he is awesome and loves these concepts of finding out for one's self/ doing things out of one's own free will.

And then Kathleen surprised us and was at church and she is seriously so awesome and made cute scripture cases for her (beautifully marked-up btw) scriptures out of jeans and is totally going to have to teach me how to do that and she is just so cool and I was so so happy to see her! She is a miracle.

Also, Z. Castro is awesome and we were sitting on the bus across from this 25yr old lady reading a book and Z. Castro said something along the lines of "hey, you like to read? Want a free book?" and then whispered to me to make the BoM sound good and we ended up having a really good discussion with her about why certain things happen in this life (she works with mentally handicapped) and Z. Castro was so great and sharing scrips and we'll swing by and visit Laura again this week!

Also, Z. Castro's bike got stolen last week but a sweet member Zuster Dhondt gave us her old one which we went to pick up so it all worked out, the members are so great here! By the way wow Zuster Dhondt has a cool story- she used to be a Catholic nun until she was about 40! Also, we couldn't take the bike back on the bus, so I got a long run again finally which felt so good.

So, the street musicians totally invited us over to their yurt to exchange beliefs and we had an appt. set up but then they felt that God didn't want us to meet (after we asked if the zone leaders, who would be working with us that day, could accompany us) and I was honestly pretty disappointed because that seemed so neat and interesting, but everything happens for a reason because we went to a Frituur\ cafe for lunch and the owner there was so cool and sat down and talked to us and was originally Iranian but grew up in Belgium and had his class clown/stand up comedian act on point because wow he was hilarious and quick on his feet but anyways he sat down and chatted with us for an hour because no customers and he likes to philosophize over these things (ie why do pictures of Adam and Eve show them having belly buttons if they weren't born) and he told us that he'd "coincidentally" found a Book of Mormon in his cupboard a mere hour beforehand (signed by Zuster Clement and Anjewierden) and we left it with him and gave him a chapter that he would find interesting. Love you all!
Veel liefs, 
Zuster Riley (: 

 Decorating Tommy's door! We were so sneaky... not. (: 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Week 42 - End of Transfer 6

Gent for P-day.. Gravensteen round 2! 
Where's the Scarlet Pimpernel when you need him? 

Fam. Vansteenbergen! 

Hé hé hé Familie! So I am staying in Turnhout for a FOURTH transfer! Which I am totally happy about because I love this place and the people.. And I'm staying with Zuster Castro which is the first time I'll be staying with a comp for 2 transfers! 

So this week we went to Br. Caers, a former member (actually branch president apparently)- the one who stopped us in Carrefour 2 months ago and we've swung by a few times and he's come to church a few times off and on- and it was a good talk, but was sad because he associates the church with fear and stress because his ex-wife forced him to go for a long time.. we have actually run into 2 other former members this week on the street, one who was active for 15 years and loves the church and members but had to stop coming 2 years ago because his family would disown him if he kept associating himself with us, and an ex- member who didn't go into full detail. We also swung by Mvr. Kockx, an inactive older lady who likes to knit sweaters and play the accordion more than she likes to come to church when it is cold. Attila is doing well and asking good questions about Law of Chastity/ Sabbath and came to Institute in Antwerpen with us and got a lot of D&C info thrown at him but enjoyed it and is excited about how much more he has to learn from us. Ermon came to church and said it felt like home, and wants his 12 yr old son to start coming to the Friday night seminary activities to make some good friends.

We met with Kathleen this morning- Zuster Janssen came, too- and had a great talk about Heavenly Father's plan for families. I sure am grateful for the knowledge that Heavenly Father has a plan for me, and that there is so much more than this temporary earth-life.

Zuster Jones and I had some interesting, long discussions with older Belgian men on the street, and I love the feeling of having answers and insights that shed some light on concerns and objections that people have carried around their whole lives (and often eventually given up hope that they can be answered). Onze lieve Mia, our cute 80 yr old neighbor, is getting kicked out of her house to a resthome within the next few weeks, and is not able to bring her beloved dog Bertje with her, really sad. Fijne verjaardag to Isabella Errigo and Rachel Riley! Love you guys! Here's to another wonderful 6 weeks of miracles in Zion- er, Turnhout!
Zuster Riley (: 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Week 41 - Turnhout

Train! Haha get it because training 

The grass is always greener?.. "I move to Florida" with Z. Castro and Young! 
Turnhout through the seasons. <3

 The cute and yummy cafe where Tommy took us! These pics don't help to refute the claim that all missionaries do is eat hahaha
One of the many delicious courses (all veggies here) ! 
With the chef himself! 
In his "office"
Nike meets Belgium = done right
Our new street musician friends! Very talented.

Hé Familie Riley!
So last week there were these really cool free-spirited street musicians who we stopped to listen to for a second and I took a video and left a coin and a card with our number/a note thanking them for the music on the back.. and guess who called us but a few hours later? Turns out they are also Christians and think it's really cool that we are young and energetic about our beliefs and they live on the outskirts of a nearby dorpje in a yurt (tent) and read the Torah and are very curious about exchanging beliefs- specifically curious about the Book of Mormon. I'm excited and interested!

We had a good lesson about the PoS with Isaac on Saturday (he says this'll be a slow process, but if we're patient with his "inquisitive" self, he likes the peace he is feeling, and his new family at church), and on Sunday afternoon he cooked us an about 7-course meal! Really good seasonings and veggies and yum.

Ermon's family is so great and Ermon wants to read the BoM from cover to cover and Pres. and Zuster Peeters came and hit it off with them and gave a really informative and visual description of the BoM which really helped them. I love Ermon's family, they are such good people! 

Tommy took us out to eat at a delicious cafe (he found out it was my birthday recently!) in Rijkevorsel and we had a good lesson/ discussion about the gift of the Holy Ghost, being a kind person versus doing kind things, changing behavior, motivations for obedience, and more, he's great. Love you guys!
Fijne week!

Zuster VanRijlie (: 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Week 40 - New Year's Day in Turnhout

Part of our NYE package (: 

Prachtig! (Beautiful!)

The house we needed to get to was across this ditch..  Thanks goodness for this bridge! Oh, the things we survive to visit people... haha (: 
Zuster Castro, she's the cutest. (:

The Rommelmarkt! We swung by here Sunday morning an hour before church to meet up with a cute older lady who Zuster Castro won over last week, and it is so cool- a gold mine for both trinkets and cool new people to talk to! 

For Isaac and Mom.. I spy a certain board game in the bottom right corner

So there's this neighborhood/ housing complex with a few (now former-) investigators that the Sisters call "Sketchtown"

Happy New Year! Zalig 2015! I'm doing great. So, I've been thinking (I know, crazy- must be this new 20-yr old brain or something(: ). Something that has occupied my thoughts as a missionary more than I would've guessed is worrying about what other members/ missionaries think of me... but I've concluded that really there's only one opinion that I should be concerned about, namely Heavenly Father's, so just jump in and appreciate everyone else and love them with your whole heart (which isn't hard considering how great the people in this mission/ country are). Just like a good politician, you can't please everyone as a missionary- i.e. some members may think Sisters are too airheady/ bubbly/ shallow, while others might perceive us as too robotic/ untactful/ down-to-business, and to a lot of my fellow missionaries I'm just known as that vegan Sister who got 10 stitches and has an identical twin... but spending so much time thinking about my image is selfish, and there's just no time for those inwardly-turned thoughts when I have inspiration for relationships with investigators/ members/ companions/ etc. to turn into. 

Which of course brings us to a whole 'nother mission-long quest of how to know that God is pleased with what I have to offer and that I'm fulfilling my duty/ potential/ my will is aligned with His (any thoughts on that?). So, Tommy (who, for the record, I referred to as a 'chatterbox' with the most friendly of intentions (: - I really like my conversations with him because he's so easy to talk to, not to mention his sense of humor that you guys would really appreciate!) was baptized on Saturday (starting off the new year right (; ), and while listening to the reverence and excitement with which speakers spoke of taking this big step of baptism symbolizing spiritual rebirth, I found myself reflecting on how differently I would (and should!) view the ordinance of taking the sacrament if I really realized how equally cleansing taking the sacrament each week is. 

So, the Gemeente Turnhout members take good care of us missionaries- the awesome Familie VanGijsel (who we just love and they make us feel so loved) gave us a 'New Year's Eve survival package' complete with homemade kale chips/ Apfelschoerle/ sweet potato brownies (Madi you would've loved them too) and a confetti cannon (which we actually have yet to use (; ), and Tommy gave us delicious Belgian chocolate among other thoughtful gifts and our dedicated and nice branch mission leader, Stefaan (who has uncannily Americanized English btw!) left a giant box (anonymously labelled "orphan inside") with all of our favorite goodies inside before Christmas. 

The inspiring and cute and sweet Zuster Young (from NC, played college soccer as goalie so had some fun stories) came on exchanges for the day and we taught 4 lessons in <6 hours (probably as many as we'd taught so far that week- we'd been inside a lot i.e. on NYE vanaf 16u) and an especially cool one was Marieke, who I'd talked to briefly on the door a month ago, and she told us we could come in for 10 minutes max to "wish her a happy new year," but after an hour of questions/ stories/ concerns/ musings on her part and listening/ testifying/ explaining/ relating on our part, we had to go to our next appt. But she was super cool... and so much for that 10 minutes (:. So wow, miracles do happen. But they happen on account of our faith (see Moroni 7:37), and GemeenteTurnhout demonstrated faith (belief and action) by fasting during the Maand van Wonderen. 

For example, we swung by Kathleen's, and met her nice husband and two of her three adorable kids, and I really hope I didn't shove to much information about the Restoration/ Book of Mormon at once at her... she was just so cool and curious and ready. She told us how she's always felt that there's something higher guiding her along, and I just want her to know that that power is a loving Heavenly Father who put her in contact with two representatives of the church that leads back to him, because He loves her and wants her to be happy. And this gospel will make her and her family happier than she even knows. Turns out she'd seen us around town and follows a youtube series of an LDS family in Idaho and after googling 'Boek van Mormon' and 'Turnhout,' my blog popped up, through which she found Mom's email address. So I really can't complain, Mom, about you putting what I write home/ pics of my face all over the internet if they lead such cool truth-seekers like Kathleen to us. (: 

So, last week during studies I had the following thought reading around Alma 17:1-5 : missions may not seem especially extraordinary in the eyes of the world, compared to other hard or admirable pastimes... but the reason we speak of them with such reverence is because of the sensitive sacredness of what we are doing (and talking about) as missionaries: helping souls utilize the Atonement to not only be saved but exalted. For everything positive and hopeful all sources back to that great and eternal sacrifice performed by our perfect and loving Exemplar and Savior. By the world's standards, it's easy to diminish and even scorn the importance, beauty, and awe of full-time missionary-work -- but if we understand our calling as seen within the eternal perspective, we will realize the tremendous privilege and responsibility of our calling, and the beautiful message of hope (applicable to all) that we are sharing. 

So, last week on the 30 min. bus ride to Hoogstraten to look up a referral and less-active (neither of which were home, which makes me all the more certain that Mimi was why we felt we should go there), I met a soul-mate: Mimi, a classy and intelligent and sweet older (originally Dutch) lady who sat down next to me on the bus, saw our nametags, and said, "oh! I know you guys! I've seen your beautiful white temple in SLC (where the tour guide was so nice she even gave me free books)!" and we basically talked about everything under the sun on the way there and 2 hours later on the way back (we were "coincidentally"- by which I mean not accidentally- on the same bus back to Turnhout).. temples vs. church bldg.s, baptisms for the dead, universal constants, cultural differences, marriage, NGOs, eternal families, the spirit world, etc... she was so nice and smart and basically got me pumped up about life and dreams and wanted us to come by to speak with her more, but was leaving to her winter house in Spain the following day (possible P-day trip? (; ) but if I'm still here in March...!

Love you all! Welcome to the mission field Madi, glad the pioneer trek was fun Rachel and Dad, that the dating scene/ BYU is treating you well Isaac, glad the little treats made their way to Mom and Josh and you all. 
Fijne week verder, 
Zuster Riley (: