Part of our NYE package (:
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 (: