Monday, January 31, 2011

exchanges and tacos and amourous africans.

This week was different than usual... My first exchange was on Tuesday! We did our exchanges with the évry soeurs (évry is about a half an hour outside paris), Soeurs Pobst and Turney. It was so fun to get to see an MTC soeur again! They arrived in Liège around lunchtime, so first thing we took them to get a Liège gaufre. That's what everyone wants to do when they come here :) after that, we split up, which was weird. Soeur Pobst is really nice, and I learned a lot from her, but she's just not Soeur England. It was weird how much of a difference it makes. It's so amazing how the Lord knows exactly where I need to be and who I need to be with. Every aspect of missionary work is just so inspired.

Soeur Pobst and I went to see Isabelle, a less-active blind lady in our branch. She lives alone; her husband passed away some years ago. Whenever we're there, we cook, we wash her hair, mend her clothes, etc. She is a sweet old lady and she is now active!

On Wednesday night we had a "mangez-vous" with Rita. She is just so sweet and warm. Usually she cooks dinner for us, but this time we made dinner for her... tacos! she LOVED them. hispanic food is basically non-existent here, so it was really a treat for her. We taught her how to make tortillas and she was just mesmerized. It was really cute. :)
Rita is less-active. When she comes, it's usually just for sacrament meeting. She comes to soirée familiale on Mondays and english class on Fridays. So, we talked to her about the importance of relief society. It was a great lesson- the spirit was very strong. We read exerpts from Julie B. Beck's talk she gave in the 2010 Relief Society meeting about the history of Relief Society. The spirit just kept building and building, and then she said, "I need to go to Relief Society on sunday." It's so amazing to watch the spirit speak to someone.

We went to see Célia on Saturday afternoon. Have I told you about her? She is just darling. She's 11 years old and was just baptized in April. Her dad is a member, her mom isn't. We've been teaching her the recent convert lessons and she just does so good. She always has her little Livre de Mormon and a picture of President Monson out and ready on the kitchen table when we come over for our lessons. We let her pick the hymn we sing together, and she picks "O Little Town of Bethlehem" every week. So cute :)

On our way to the bus stop after Célia's, this African guy walked straight up to me and said, "You're really beautiful." I was sort of taken aback, but I finally managed to say thanks as we started walking again. He yelled after me, "can I make your aquaintance?" Hah. Oh, the life of a sister missionary. Every week in district meeting, the elders always say, "so, Sisters, what happened to you this week?" The men here are crazy! We always have at least one story like that to tell them every week.

On Sunday we had a little surprise... Amadou came to church with us! He was Soeur England's first baptism. He just moved from Brussels to Germany and since Liège is only a half an hour from the Germany border, he came to visit us :) We LOVE him. He's 27 and originally from Niger. He looks like he's straight out of the 70's! He's tall and lanky with an ever-so-slight 'fro and a mustache. He's always dressed up in a pinstriped suit, colorful tie, and pointy shoes. He is just hilarious.

After church, he came with us to have lunch with Sidonie. She fed us SO much food. I thought I was going to die. Or explode. She always cooks enough food to feed a small army. She had some family there too- two twenty-something guys. One of them, Patrick, was asking me what I'm studying in school. I told him Literature, and he said, "you look like someone who likes to read. you wear glasses and you're really calm." Hah. High compliment! :) THEN. He got out the camera and started taking pictures of everyone. He went around taking a picture of each person, then when he got to me, he said, "Why do my hands start shaking when I point the camera at you?" he kept taking pictures of me (eventually I just stopped looking at the camera. I was so uncomfortable. yuck.) and calling me his "star". Super creepy. When we left, I stuck out my hand for a handshake. He took my hand, then pulled me in for a bise. Ew! Soeur England had told me that will happen a LOT. After I pryed my hand out of his, he said, "I think I'm going to cry." Um okay. Needless to say, I couldn't wait to get out of there.

We have a new family we're going to start teaching! Bright, Eunice, and their 1 yr. old daughter Brianna. They're from Ghana, which means they're English speaking! It's going to be SO weird to teach in English. I'll let you know how that goes. They are so sweet and, so far, really receptive to the gospel. Pray it works out!

As we were riding on the bus today, I thought back to one particular night a few weeks  ago. We were heading home after a long day on a mostly empty bus. Soeur England and I were chatting about something or another when a cute little african family got on. Their little girl, about 9 years old, bounced into the seat opposite us. She was handicapped and absolutely adorable. We found out pretty quickly she couldn't talk, so instead I reached out my hands to her. She was a little unsure at first, but soon enough her little laugh was ringing throughout the bus as we played little hand games together. Her eyes were sparkling as she smiled at me. She was absolutely radiating the light of Christ. She had such a special spirit about her. We got off the bus and she smiled at me from the window as I waved goodbye.

It's incredible to me how I can just feel the Savior's love for the people I meet here. Some of them have no idea how much they are loved. I wish I could just instantly transmit what I'm feeling from my heart to theirs. But, they have to choose to accept that love or not. Isn't it just so cool how it all works?

I love being a missionary.
and you know what else? I love you too. All of you! I have the best family and friends a girl could ever have. I'm so very lucky and happy and blessed. Thank you for your support! Keep those letters coming.

soeur williams

ps - the following email came from Lindsay a few days ago telling us of the first "transfer" - though she didn't get transferred...

HI! We just got the transfer email. I'm staying in Liège with Soeur England! There's a little twist though.... We're getting ANOTHER sister with us. We'll be in a threesome! That should be interesting. Ask Katie if she was ever in a threesome. The third sister is Soeur Turney... we were in the MTC together. We're SO excited! This is Soeur England's last transfer though, so after that it will be me and Soeur Turney as co-comanions here. In our third transfer. kind of scary! But I'm sure it will be great. So I will for sure be in Liège for this transfer and one more. Can't wait!

Monday, January 24, 2011

10 little things that make me terribly happy: liege edition.

10 little things that make me terribly happy: liège edition.
1. oranges are sold with the leaves still on them.
2. all the old men wear BIG glasses with thick black rims.
3. lots of old, skinny houses squished right next to each other.
4. brightly colored doors with the knob right in the middle.
5. cobblestone streets with moss growing in the cracks.
6. 80-something ladies with fur coats and fuschia lipstick.
7. the statue of mary that is all white except for her blue sash.
8. the smell of gaufres in the air
9. when it rains, it RAINS. a lot.
10. the lovely view from our apartment

bonjour, famille. how are things? i hope you're not freezing over there like we are here!

it was a good week this week... We had interviews on tuesday! President and Soeur Staheli came to Liège with the Assistants. I finally got to meet our zone! It was SO much fun. We all gathered at the Liège chapel around 11. we had a training by the assistants and President Staheli.... He is an amazing man. As soon as he got up to speak to us, everyone straightened up in their seats and held their pens at the ready. He truly is inspired. We love him! President Staheli's steps to goal setting:
pretty simple, isn't it? President also said the faith of the missionaries moves the mission. It always goes back to faith. It's so amazing how everything connects in the gospel! After our training, Elder Duarte made us Portuguese food for lunch. I forget what it's called, but it was really good. I thought of Richard as I ate it... It had lima beans in it :) after that, we each took our turn with President and Soeur Staheli! I loved it. He asked me if I want to stay another transfer in Liège and I said YES, please. I'd be so sad if I had to leave! He said as far as he is concerned, he'd be happy to let me stay. But it's not really up to him. :) We'll have to see what the Lord has in store for me! Since it's Soeur England's last transfer we have a pretty good chance of staying together in Liège. The transfer email comes out on Saturday, so i'll let you know!

On saturday we had a rendez-vous with Mike. His girlfriend and her family are in our branch. He comes to church every week and he's reading the book of mormon from start to finish! he's awesome. But he says he's still "waiting for an answer". We talked with him about recognizing the Holy Ghost. We're going to challenge him to baptism this week! He is so ready. He just needs to do it! It's so exciting to see someone getting closer and closer to Christ. I love missionary work.

Church on Sunday was kind of funny. At the beginning of sacrament meeing, the guy got up and said, "does anyone have any bread for the sacrament? the person who was assigned to bring it didn't show up." then a little mommy ran up to the front with a tupperware full of animal crackers. So, we had animal crackers instead of bread! it was funny.

Speaking of our branch, please say a prayer for our sweet branch president, President Stoumont. He is in the hospital right now. I'm not exactly sure what's wrong with him, but he has lost almost 20 pounds in two weeks and he was already skinny to begin with. I hope he gets better soon, we need him!

favorite hymn of the week: brightly beams our father's mercy.
brightly beams our father's mercy
from his lighthouse evermore,
but to us He gives the keeping
of the lights along the shore.
Let the lower lights be burning;
send a gleam across the wave.
some poor fainting, struggling seaman
you may rescue, you may save.

I love all of you! Thank you so much for all of your prayers, letters, love, and support.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Stake Conference in Brussels

Bonjour, ma famille!

This week has definitely been a week of firsts: we got hit on, followed around by two drunk guys, were made fun of on the street, got yelled at by a crazy man on the bus who thought we were TJs (Jehovah's Witnesses) sent from the devil, and asked to go clubbing by a guy with a fresh slash on his cheek from a knife fight. Seriously! Europe sure can be crazy sometimes. It was a good week though, despite all the weird stuff.

On tuesday we had a "mangez-vous" (dinner appointment) with Rita, a less active member. She made spaghetti for us and oh MY goodness it was heaven. They seriously know their pasta here. Rita comes to church, though not every week, and she reads her scriptures and prays. But she has been stuck on the Isaiah chapters in 2 Nephi for 18 years!!!! For reals! So, we talked about prayer and scripture study. She came to church on sunday, so hopefully we can start her back up again.

On thursday we went to see Soeur Koka, another less active. Her dad passed away three months ago and it has been REALLY hard for her. She basically just sleeps all day. We talked about it with her and I shared some of my experiences and talked about the Atonement and how we can find joy in life after the loss of a loved one. It was a really hard lesson to teach- i almost lost it like five times. But the spirit kept me strong, and I think we were able to get through to her: she said she's going to try to come to church!

Remember Beauty? Oh my goodness he is just our favorite. His faith and his enthusiasm for the gospel are just amazing. We had a lesson with him this past week and at the beginning we asked him if he had any questions about temples. We had given him the "Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple" pamphlet the last week in English because he wanted to practice his English. He pulled it out of his backpack and explained he had been studying it every night before bed and looking up all the words he didn't know in the dictionary. He opened the pamphlet and showed us all the sections he had highlighted because he felt the spirit when he read them. How sweet is that? We just melted. He's just so humble and so eager to learn everything he can about the gospel. He is such a great example. He is going to receive the Aaronic Priesthood on sunday! We are thrilled for him. I'll try and get a picture with him this week so you can see. We also taught him about Patriarchal Blessings and he is going straight to President Stoumont's office after church to talk to him about getting one :) It is so great to see him embrace the church. We love Beauty!

Yesterday was Stake Conference in Brussels. It was so much fun... there were around 14 missionaries there! I got to meet a lot of my zone. President and Soeur Staheli were there too... They each gave a little talk. The Stake President is actually an American... He has been living in Brussels for like 20 years working for nato. The meeting was half in english, half in french, which was weird. I'm used to french! There were a lot of really solid, awesome members there. I hope I get to serve there sometime! I didn't get to see much of "Bruxelles" at all. We were in a hurry to get home for a rendez-vous. Bummer.

Sunday night we had dinner with the zone leaders at Sidonie's apartment. It was the tiniest apartment I have ever seen. It was one room, a little smaller than my room at home. There was a bed on the floor and two armchairs facing each other with a little square side table squished between them. There was a stove and a microwave against the opposite wall. That's about it! It was kind of crowded with five of us in there. The elders sat on the armchairs and Soeur England and I sat on the bed, and we all crowded around the little table. It was kind of hard to eat for Soeur England and I, since our knees were higher than our plates :) it was SO much fun though. We just love Elder Weber and Elder Duarte. And it was my first time eating African food! It was really good. I ate lots of weird vegetables I had never even heard of! And you eat it all with your fingers. She kept saying things like, "In Africa we don't have forks. You must eat with your hands!" Kind of hard with red sauce. :) We had fresh fruit for dessert. It was great.... a LOT of food though. Man, they like to pile it on. And you have to eat it all so you don't offend them! We thought we were going to explode by the end. There were four courses, and she sent us each home with a bag of bananas. She's just awesome. We are going over there again in two weeks for "fou fou" (i don't know if i spelled it right) I'll let you know how that one goes!

The work is still going great! I love all of you so very much. Thank you toujours for your support. :)

Love from Liège.

soeur williams

Monday, January 10, 2011

rain + eiffel tower = heaven!

Oh, my goodness. I have to start right off the bat this week with my Paris story :)

It was probably one of the best days of my LIFE. we woke up at 5:15 (that part wasn't so great) so we could make the 6:40 train. I slept for the entire three hour train ride to Paris, of course. :)

We met the Paris Lillas soeurs, Soeur Clark and Soeur Rowley, at the gare. It was SO fun to get to see Soeur Rowley again! We decided to go get paninis for lunch at Soeur England's favorite place. They were so GOOD. I had told Soeur England beforehand about all my little-girl dreams about Paris and she was SO excited to be the one to get to show me around. We took the metro, got off, walked a block or so, and then Soeur England said, "are you ready?" i said, "for what?" and then we turned a corner and there it was: The Eiffel Tower! And then it started raining. Oh my goodness it was heaven. I could NOT believe it. And (you are SO going to laugh at me) i started crying right when i saw it. I'm just so lucky! Every day i wake up in Belgium and I have to make sure I'm not dreaming. And going to paris too.... that's just the cherry on top of the world's best cupcake.

After lunch we went to take care of Soeur England's legality, which took about an hour and a half. We left the place and went to Notre Dame, which was gorgeous. It's so HUGE, especially from the inside. The ceilings are like a million feet tall. I love loved all the stained glass windows. We then went to a Patisserie, which was delicious. My first pastry since getting here! (Belgium isn't known for their pastries... Just waffles)

We went to the Paris church/institute/visitor's center to say hi to the senior missionaries. It's so pretty- it has it's own cobblestone courtyard! I hope I get to serve in Paris soon. After that, we passed by the Bastille, got back on the train, back to Liège. It was a lovely, lovely day.

As far as amis go, we had a rendez-vous (lesson) with Maurice this week. Remember him? We had NO idea what to expect from him, since the last time was so weird. And he didn't show up for church on sunday, so our hope for him was starting to dwindle.
THEN, he walked in the door. The spirit flooded in with him and he was just beaming. I could tell right then he had kept his commitment to read the Book of Mormon and pray. We weren't surprised when we asked him if he had and he said YES :) The lesson went fantastically well. We talked about the priesthood and the organization of the church. We did an object lesson with a cup pyramid to show how Christ organized His church when he was on the earth, how the apostasy came about, and the Restoration. It shows how the church now is exactly the same as it was when Jesus was on the earth, except now we have a prophet instead of the Lord himself. We explained how the Lord is still very much the leader of His church through revelation. Maurice asked really good questions and he accepted everything we taught him and agreed to pray about it.

I'm so excited to watch him progress. I still can't believe the massive change in his countenance from last time to this time. when we got home, Soeur England and I were still talking about it and still so so happy about his progress. We're teaching him again tonight and we're going to try to fix a date for baptism! we seriously can't wait. Missionary work is almost indescribable. There is so much joy, so much love, so much of everything I almost can't contain it all. It is just the most amazing experience.

Church yesterday was really good. We had TWO of our inactives show up, and another ami came too! we were so excited. In sacrament meeting, they asked me to come up and present myself. I was a little scared, but I said a silent prayer and went up there and did my best. I don't even remember half of what I said. After the meeting, a member came up to me and said, "what is your secret?? you speak French like missionaries who have been here for a year!" Talk about a compliment! It was so nice of him, but I know I still have a long way to go with the language. I'm improving little by little, with the help of the spirit. A member once said that French is the language of love, but English is the language of emotion. I have found that to be true; it is definitely harder to express myself in French, but I love it all the same.

I love everything about this work! It truly is a daily miracle, being a missionary. Thank you so much everyone for  your support and love. Don't forget to write :)


the little mish in belgium

Monday, January 3, 2011

Bonne Année!

Linds, with her companion, Soeur England and Soeur Staehli
with Pres. and Sis. Staehli
her "Plan of Salvation" chart... in true Lindsay fashion!
the most artistic "goal chart" in the mission!
 this is the view from her desk...
looking out the floor-to-ceiling windows:)

Bonjour! Oh wow, it has been quite the week. I'll start with Tuesday... that's when I taught my first official lesson! Oh my gosh i was so excited. We taught a less-active member, Christianne. She kind of looks like Sabrina with her short black hair and full eyebrows. She was really talkative! she helped us with our pronunciation and we helped her a little bit with english. we taught her about prayer and scripture study- she prays, but she doesn't read her book of mormon. we committed her to start reading it, just a few verses a day. baby steps :) i hope we can get through to her. overall the lesson went very well. I spoke French- more than i thought i would. The lesson was pretty equally split between Soeur England and I talking-wise. I feel like I'm doing pretty good with the language, but there's definitely room to improve- there always is :)
In the MTC, we had someone come speak from the mission department and he told us to "master your mission language". that is my goal. I want to always be studying, practicing, and speaking the entire time i'm here. I have verb conjugations taped to the shower wall, tense charts above the table, i ask natives for help, and i always keep a little booklet with me to write all the words I don't know. I read from my french scriptures daily. Scott and Katie (and anyone else who reads this who had to learn a language on their mission) do you have any advice for me? anything else i can do?
Thursday was so good. a little weird too. It was Soeur England's birthday, so that was really fun. we brought a chocolate cake to district meeting and i gave her a little drawing of her favorite scripture. district meeting was a blast, as always. man, those elders are funny.
after district meeting we met Beauty (pronounced bow (as in bow tie) tee) at the church for a lesson. He just got baptized in november and he is just the sweetest, most humble and faithful man you'll ever meet. He's from the Congo but he's here in liège for school. He's studying to be a dentist- he wants to do an "operation smile" type thing in poor countries after he gets his degree. He's taking final exams right now for some really hard math classes. We could tell he was a little worried about them, but he just kept smiling and said, "God will not let me down." we talked with him about temples. His mom passed away some time ago, so he was very excited to learn she can be baptized through someone else at the temple and eventually be sealed to her. I loved telling him about the blessings we can receive from the temple, like eternal families, and watching his smile get wider and wider. It was like a little boy on Christmas morning.  He's just the best- we LOVE him.
After we finished with Beauty, we went outside and waited at the bus stop. all of a sudden, this huge coca-cola truck, strung with christmas lights and blasting christmas music, pulled up and stopped right next to us. the truck was driven by santa, who honked the horn as two coca-cola elves (girls dressed in little fur-trimmed coca-cola skirts and santa hats) burst open the double doors of the back of the truck. they pranced over to us, gave us each a gift back full of coke products, chimed "happy holidays!", and were on their way. it was so weird.... we were in this quiet little neighborhood right across the street from the church. I've never seen anything like it.
we got on the bus, which was super crowded (standing room only... we were like sardines in there) soeur england and i were crammed right next to the door, just riding along, when this girl about my age standing next to me yelled, "i need to get off the bus!" the bus driver didn't hear her. all of a sudden, she fainted on us! soeur england and i and a few others caught her. We helped her stand up and stay standing until the bus stopped. we helped her to a bench... she could barely even talk. She was white as a sheet, almost gray even. It was freaky. Oh, the life of a missionary. Like I said, it was kind of a weird day.
Later that evening we went back to the church to teach Maurice. He is from Cameroon and he's very.... dramatic. We asked him how he was doing at the beginning of the lesson and he launched into this huge story about how he feels like he's living a dream... like his body was there talking to us but his spirit was somewhere else. We weren't quite sure how to respond to that. He then went on to say he feels like he has lost his faith, so we abandoned the lesson we had originally prepared and just went from there. He said his life was hard and he feels like God has abandoned him. I felt impressed to share the scripture in Doctrine and Covenants when Joseph Smith was in Liberty Jail. I had him read the "all these things shall give thee experience and shall be for thy good" verse. when he read the scripture aloud, it was like a theatrical dramatic reading. It was like Laurence Olivier or something. He said that whenever he had a hard time he would remember those words. At the end, we asked him to pray and read his scriptures every day. We then asked him if there was anything in specific he would like us to mention in our prayers. He gave us quite a lengthy list of things like, "sometimes my chest hurts a little bit", "i can't bend my right ring finger", and "pray for me to find a club to play football with". He was very sweet to us, but it was just a little off. Soeur England has taught him before and she was weirded out too. Hopefully he'll be more "with it" next time.
Our New Years was very calm. Well, sort of. The Belgians, they're not so calm on New Years Eve. P day started at 6 in the evening for us -we had to be in our apartment at 6 instead of 9 because of all the wild partying that goes on in the streets.  Not very safe for a couple of American girls trying to preach the gospel. So, we got home early, made cinnamon pancakes, read our scriptures, played scattergories, and went to bed at our usual time. an hour and a half later, we were startled awake by people absolutely screaming "BONNE ANNEE!!!!!" as firework after firework went off for like a half an hour. It sounded like continual machine guns. It was NUTS. we just lay there, staring at the ceiling. 
New years day was a p day too, which was nice. :) I was so so excited all day long to go to church the next day. Our church starts at 9. we had relief society first, and of course, i was asked to play the piano. :)
i have never been kissed so much in my entire life!! In France they kiss you on each cheek, right? they call it the "bise". (bisou in french means kiss) In Belgium they just kiss one cheek. We have mission rules about bise-ing... elders aren't allowed to do it at all, and sisters can only bise other women. So in relief society, all the little ladies were grabbing me left and right and bise-ing me. Everyone was so warm, welcoming, and friendly. All the Belge are that way, members especially. They all tried to speak a little english to me, which was cute.
Sacrament meeting was last. it was fast and testimony meeting and i really wanted to get up, but it was a continuous stream of people up until the very end and i didn't want to take up anybody's time. I'm sure i'll get called up to talk next week :) our branch president's name is Président Stoumont. He is in his late 50s, tall and skinny with graying blonde hair. He has kind eyes and a sweet smile. He came up to us after the meeting and said " 'appy new year!" with a sheepish grin. he switched to french after that and oh, i just love him already. i'm excited to work with him.
When we got home from church (we were there for about 4 and a half hours because of all the bise-ing and chatting) we looked for new leads in the area book. we had found an older lady that the elders had met last year and passed to the sisters. Soeur England called her a few days before and she had said, "your words mean nothing to me. if you want to talk to me, come to my house." we decided to go to try and find her.  After a 40 minute bus ride, we arrived at her apartment. We knocked on the door, and no one answered. disappointed, we started to leave her a note. Then, she yelled from the inside, "Qui est la??" ("who's there?") we beamed at each other and told her we're the missionaries. She cracked the door open, glaring at us. she glanced at our tags and her expression completely changed. "mormons? i love the mormons!" she said. she thanked us for stopping by, but said she didn't feel well and couldn't talk right then. We asked if we could come back next week. She agreed and we pulled out our planners to arrange a time. Then she said, "well, it is really cold outside. perhaps you can come in for just two minutes." an hour and a half later, we were inching towards the door as she just kept talking and talking. She told us we were like her children now and we could come teach her anytime we want. She kissed us on the cheek like five times and told us to always remember our prayers. It was so cute! we love her. Her name is Razia. She's in her late 60s, never been married, no children. she was born in Rwanda to a Muslim father and a Hindu mother. She is fluent in 8 languages, but her best one is Swahili, so we're going to get her a Book of Mormon in Swahili. She converted to Catholocism like 30 years ago because she didn't like how Muslim women are treated. We're going to teach her in a week and i can't wait. I'll let you know how it goes :)
This mission is kind of tricky proselyting-wise. We're not allowed to talk to Muslims, which makes contacting really hard because there are TONS of muslims here, and sometimes it's hard to tell if they're muslim or not. We're not allowed to talk to them because in years past, muslims have been taught and baptized and then they return to their home country and are executed or just disappear. If we start talking to someone and find out they are a muslim, we are supposed to end the conversation as quickly and politely as possible and be on our way. It's really sad. And like i said, it makes things a little tricky.
i LOVE my mission though! being a missionary is just the best. I wish everyone could experience this. I'm so happy and so SO very blessed.
favorite scripture of the week:
"...for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand. O then, is not this real?" -alma 32:34-35
It is SO real. we are so blessed to have the knowledge that we have! share it with everyone :)

i love all of you! thank you so much for your love and support. I'm excited already to email you next week... i can tell you all about Paris! (we're going there for the day on thursday to work on some visa stuff)
don't forget to write :)


the little mish

mmm... a belgian waffle dipped in chocolate, anyone??