Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Week 21: This Mission Thing Isn't What I Expected But I Like It

Hello everyone I hope you are ready for yet another installment of the crazy life that is mine as a missionary in Belgium, because it's crazy! Tuesday morning we hopped on a train to Valencienne, a tiny town in northern France, for exchanges.  Soeur Barros and Soeur Didier picked us up in their car. Valencienne is the only sisterville that has a car, their area is huge and they have a lot of tiny towns so the share a car with a set of elders in the next area over. On the way from the train station to their apartment we saw GI Joe. There is a man in Valencienne, known by most of the missionaries as Superman, who walks around in costumes of super heroes. Superman, Batman, and GI Joe are his specialty. He is apparently married and has sometimes been seen in normal clothes. Soeur Barros said we were very lucky to get to see him and that it was his best GI Joe costume yet. All five of us visited a member who lives so far away that she can't really come to church, we read scriptures with her and she fed us cake, she had a charming dog that wouldn't leave me alone of course. But it was good.  Soeur Barros shared a scripture in Alma 38:2-4.  She changed the word son to daughter and put in the woman's name and read it like it was God speaking to her. It was really special. Wednesday we came home, we had about 45 minutes between trains in the city of Lille so we went in search of a bakery because we were in France and Belgian bread is good, but French bread is better. It took us 20 minutes but we finally found one. I bought 2 loaves of 6 grain apricot bread, it was divine, I made french toast for breakfast with it the next day.

Soeurs Williams, Barros, and Turney in Valencienne

We had a meeting with the Branch Mission Leader Wednesday night, we talked about our branch mission plan, I am excited.  I think it is going to be really good. They invited us to stay for dinner, so I got my first taste of African food. Pretty much everything was fried, there was cordon bleu, chicken or beef, fried breaded cheese thingys, frites (french fries), and a string bean bacon onion dish that was also cooked. It was good food, it was just a lot all at once.

Elder Duarte made us Portuguese food for district meeting on Thursday, seafood, rice and Camel Saliva for dessert. The rice was so good, kind of like cioppino with rice in it, I have missed seafood so I was quite happy.  I think every one burned their tongues, because it was really hot.  Soeur Williams was not so excited about the seafood part, she is apparently terrified of fish in any form, even goldfish in little glass bowls. She has never eaten fish in her life because it scares her. She can eat goldfish crackers though, so it is not totally out of control, though I am afraid we gave her a rather hard time of it. Dessert is a little hard to describe, it is literally called camel spit and it looks like camel spit but it is wonderful to eat. It is a pale yellowy color and has the consistency snot, it isn't the sort of thing that wins prizes for presentation. It is made from sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks, I am going to try to get the recipe from Elder Duarte because it was so good.

The lesson in district meeting was on being a consecrated missionary. Elder Christofferson gave a really good talk titled "Reflections on a Consecrated Life" that we talked a lot about. It helped me refocus, and I was excited to go out and work. We had 2 rendez-vous after district meeting, Christiane and Isabelle. We left district meeting with just enough time to get to Christiane's if we caught the 17 bus at the bottom of the hill from the church. Just as we got off the 13, the 17 drove by, we signaled to the bus driver but he just kept on driving, so we were going to be 20 minutes late to Christiane's we decided to call and see if we could move Christiane to later and go see Isabelle sooner, which we did. We had just enough time before the train to Isabelle's that we decided to make cookies because it was Isabelle's birthday. We only had one paper plate, a small Christmas dessert plate that only fit 3 cookies on it. But I figured that since she was blind and lived alone she wouldn't mind the Christmas plate with only three cookies. We just barely caught the train to Visé, and there were quite a few people on the train. The train ride takes about 20 minutes, when we were about 8 minutes from Visé the train stops and the speaker comes on and says there has been an "accidente personne" which I think means someone got hit by the train, and that we couldn't go any further and that we needed to wait in the train and don't try to open the doors. I couldn't really see anything but there were ambulances and police cars and flashing lights. We ended up waiting on the train for about an hour and a half, and then outside the train for another 20 minutes while they brought us a bus to take us to the Visé gare. Because of the accident we didn't have time to go see Isabelle so we had to call her, she was so disappointed and it was her birthday. I felt so bad but after we hung up with her we each ate one of the cookies and that made me feel better. 

The bus ride to Visé and then from Visé to the Liege gare was one of the most exciting and scary of my life. We were packed into the back of the bus, and I only had one of the overhead hand hold loopy things. They are not really that helpful when your bus driver takes hairpin turns at 45 and Soeur England runs into you and you run into the kind old gentleman in the Newsie hat behind you. But we made it out all right in the end with only a couple close to awkward encounters. We managed to get to Christiane's on time and she made us dinner. It is very strange, a lot of times Europeans don't start cooking dinner until you get there so our 90 minute allotment for mangez-vous are taken up by them cooking, which was the case with Christiane. Dinner was interesting, boiled potatoes, canned peas and carrots, canned mushrooms in cream, and sausage cooked in butter, with yogurt for dessert. It tasted alright, but I think I prefer not knowing how things are cooked. Christiane loves to talk so we didn't actually get to the lesson part, and we had to run to catch the bus. At the end of the day we didn't get a lot of missionary work done, but we tried really hard to consecrated missionaries, it just didn't seem to work very well.

Maurice had a really bad week. He is having problems with his parents and school and work. He was really low at the beginning of the week, he called us while we were in Valencienne so we talked to him a bit and did what we could. Then Wednesday we check in to see how he was doing and he asked if we could talk to him about God, which we did. We met him in the park by our house and read parts of D&C 121-123 with him, he said it really helped and gave him the strength to keep going. We talked to the branch president and he said that he could talk to him Friday or Sunday. There was a nationwide transportation strike so he couldn't go on Friday, which means he came to church on Sunday!! It was good, he came for Sunday School and Sacrament meeting, and there were quite a few people who talked with him. After church he talked to President Stumont, when he came out he looked different and he looked a lot better. He said they prayed together and President Stumont gave him some council and that he should come to more Young Adult activities regularly. I am so glad. We were talking with Elder Skousen about it and he said that Maurice has hit the bottom and because of that he is turning to God, I think that he is right and I am so glad. I and so grateful that Maurice trusts us enough that he called us when he felt all alone. This has been a big week for him and I hope it is the turning point that helps him take the step towards baptism. Please pray for him, things are hard for him right now and he needs all the help he can get.

Today we went to the grocery store and bought a bunch of vegetables. All of us were feeling the food we were fed and decided to counter-attack with produce. There is a big old really long set of stairs in downtown Liege, I don't really know what the significance of them are, but we saw them and walked up them and took pictures of them, I don't really know why though. I am glad we did though because the view from the top was awesome. The sun was in the wrong position to get really good pictures but it was amazing to look at. We wandered around the top of the hill and found a little path and a paddock of sheep and goats and an orchard it was so picturesque. 

We also went to Saint-Jacques Cathedrale. It is the most complete cathedral in all of Belgium and has parts dating back to the 1300s of something crazy like that. The pipe organ is blue, which is pretty cool. There was a man there that gave us an impromptu tour, he showed us all kinds of cool things, like the confessional that had hearts carved into the doors, "for confessing your love, bahahaha" and a cool double spiral staircase that twists around each other and doesn't have and supports.  It was pretty cool. I feel so lucky to get to spent time in place like Liege, that I didn't even know existed before 2 months ago. Now I get to have all of these amazing experiences and meet amazing people and learn so much about so many things. I am so very lucky and so very grateful. Thank you for your prays and thoughts and letters. 

Saint-Jacques ceiling via Wikimedia

Saint-Jacques nave via Wikimedia

Soeur Gaelin Turney

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