Monday, 31 December 2012

A week of travel

The Library is closed today, so I'm chilling in a grungy Internet cafe downtown.  It's filled with phone booths which in turn are filled with African people--who talk really, really loud on the phone.  There aren't many people here today though. These computers are filled with viruses too, so if something slimy makes its way on this email, don't blame me!
Elder Mower and I have to get home by 4 today.  New years eve gets insane here.  Apparently, in the Netherlands it sounds like World War 3 on New Years. I've seen videos of more fireworks blasting over rooftops than you can believe.  They're tamer in Belgium, but still.  Home at 4 is a mission-wide rule.
Ever notice that those finagled ergonomic keyboards always destroy your wrists? Goshdang.
On Christmas day, we went and visited Family Verschuuren. We brought along Syria (or however his name is pronounced) and had a good old time.  There were snacks, Russian and Nepolese accents and Uno to top it off afterwards.  That was just as good a gift as I could ever ask.  Later that selfsame evening, went went to Bishop Dixon's and there I skyped home.  Hello home, good to see everything is going great.
Gee, I've matured?  Psh, wait until you see me off Skype.  Speaking of which, we got to get the life-sized coke cola cardboard phone booth set up in a strategic way for our Nerf-gun battle tonight.  No further questions.
On Boxing day we went as a zone to an old folks home and sang to the people living there.  We visited 3 floors of the place, stopping to see residents along the way.  At one point, an old Dutch lady started talking, repeating at least a dozen times that she had children in America.  3 of them.  Three children in America.  She has them.  I really, really don't like old folks home.  I don't need to go into details why (Papa Joe).  In any case, the staff and bewoners were very grateful that we came.
The same day, I went on exchanges to Antwerpen with the Zone leader  ~ Elder Pitchforth.  I now understand a bit more of ZL life and I don't really like it.  Some other missionaries called us to say they forgot their keys, so we had to drive 50 minutes to go haul them back home in Antwerpen.  In the morning, another 50 minute ride greeted us to bring them back to their city. Another 50 minutes saw us back in Antwerpen.  Still, it was a cool experience.
We talked with Isac, who Elder Frahm (first companion in the field)  always talked about.  He was a miracle--really prepared for batpism.  While we were there, he mentioned his friend had some interest in the church.  Elder Pitchforth suggested we make an appointment some time to discuss with his friend.  Isac nodded and snatched up the phone, dialed it, talked in Twi for a while and then hung up.
"Alright Elders, he wants to meet with us."
Cool, when?
"Right now."
Whoa.  What a missionary.  We swung by and taught a Restoration to Isac's friend and wham, before we knew it, he had a baptismal date set up.  Oh, okay.  Isac is awesome.
As far as our investigators went, we didn't have the most productive week.  We couldn't meet with the Stroobonts, but they came to church.  We couldn't get contact with William either--although we tried almost every day.  Oops.  Next week will be better.
We went to the Genk branch as well.  I've travelled a lot this week.  It took us an hour to get there but man, is it a cool branch.  Really small, but very missionary focused.  Also, I met Paul!  You remember Paul?  He's staying here for the month with a member.  He's trying to get his Visa right now, but it's difficult.  Paul is super awesome.  A child had a magic kit at church, with one of those fake thumbs you stick sneaky stuff into.  Paul tried it on but it wasn't the correct hue for him.  Fun times.
We received an Internet referral as well and met Jean, who lives near the church in Genk.  He's writing a couple books!  One is about God and apparently, he wants to learn what we believe to help him write it.  Hmm. We'll see what happens.  Anyway, I've got a +1 with him because I write books too!
Well, I gotta split like...a...something that splits.
Thanks for the letters and Christmas Love!
Tot volgende jaar,
Elder Burgess

Monday, 24 December 2012

Christmas Cheer

Ooo," says Elder Mower.
Tis the season to be trunky.  Oops, was that out loud?
I can't really remember what happened this week.  Besides the huge amount of Christmas cheer floating all about, this was a pretty average week I suppose.  Our numbers were pretty high, not meaning to boast.  Of course, numbers aren't even close to everything.
Family Stroobonts are simply awesome.  They're getting wet (baptized) for sure.  The ward loves them. Carla Stroobonts is one dang good cook and always feeds us delicious food.  This week, she kept busy trying to replicate delicious (evidently North American) banana bread.  Mmm.
They have some new system for this email, and it's kind of tripping me out.
Anyway, we swung by their house and to our surprise--though they had told us earlier--there were six whole children running about.  Broeder Stroobont's children from his previous marriage were there visiting.  
Thank goodness we planned a fun lesson and were able to keep all the children for the most part entertained.  We folded origami and when I whipped out that little dragon I can make, er'body was blown away.  T'was fun.
We went over to William's as well and tried to have a fun lesson for the children, but it turned out the lesson just going too long.  A bit unfortunate, but he's doing awesome.  I asked how much of the Book of Mormon he had read and he snatched mine up to see.  After shuffling around, he opened to the page.  "Here," said he, "I am here.  Yes, I know it's not far.  I must read more."  I looked: 1 Nephi 22.  Dang.  That's more than people have read their entire investigation process.  William is already growing a testimony.  He feels it and knows it's good.  Unfortunately, they didn't come to the Christmas service.  We have yet to find out why.
Also, we were chilling on a bus and I spotted this guy way at the back.  There was something about him and I wanted to talk to him, but...he was way at the back.  As we were riding, however, he came up to us and said, "Elders.  I am...Melchizedek."  The Melchizedek?  Turns out he's a member from Mongolia.  He came here about two months ago, and had looked for the Church but hadn't been able to find it. Until he met us.  He came to the Christmas party.  Thankfully he speaks Russian as well as Mongolian and we've got about 9 Russian-speaking members (including children).  The guy only speaks a handful of English and even less Dutch.  I wish I could tell you his name's really forgetful and Mongolian.  His conversion story is pretty cool too.  When he was younger, he was getting into drinking and stuff.  One day, his father, who was a member, came by with the missionaries and inviting him to church.  From that point on, he went to church and changed his life for the better.  He says he's going to come to church every week too.  Neat.
I can't really think of much else to say.  It's good to hear about Family Storm.  I still pray for them.  Thanks for the presents too!  Mmm, salted goods and hot chocolate.  Yesterday evening, Elder Mower slipped into bed and while he was lying there, Santa came by and filled up our stockings.  We got oranges and chocolate milk packages and a plethora of things that were already in the apartment.  We opened them up this morning.  At least Elder Mower got a pair of Canadian socks.  Gee, where did Santa get those?
Anydoodle, see you tomorrow!
Tot volgende keer,
Elder Burgess
**It snowed once.  Or twice.  Otherwise, it rained pretty heavily for the last 3 days.  Holy man, I was really, really wet

                                         What happen to Evan's hair....or lack of.  :)
                                             Christmas Zone Conference  ~ December 19

Monday, 17 December 2012

Well, I had two huge bombshells just hit me

I have the choice to leave later on my mission and my dog was just put down.  Sorry if I don't sound too motivated today.
Despite those two things, this week was a whopper!
I think I'll start it with a wild story.  So one evening, Elder Mower and I were planning and we weren't sure what to do the next day.  We live inside Leuven, but most of our investigators live outside of Leuven--it's not as large as I thought.  So we didn't have anybody to visit for a large chunk of the day.  I suggested then, that we pick a street--one that Elder Mower hasn't visited often--and we go towards that street, contacting along the way.  Good, street chosen, day done.  The next day, we made a game out of contacting and contacted the crap out of Leuven.  We talked to a lot of really great people too.  So here comes the wild part.  We approached the street we had chosen, which was actually on a hill, and then slowed down.  Well, here were are...  We thought about turning around when I spotted a cat.  I did that oh-so-well-known cat whistle, the one where you purse your lips.  I had to explain to Elder Mower that the cat whistle will get any cat to at least look at you.  "And it works for horses too."  Bam, the moment I said it, I spotted a wire horse decoration hanging on a house.  Eerie, right?  Claiming it to be a sign, we went and knocked on that door, with no success.  But we continued on that road--in the opposite direction from home, where we were going to go next.  We went down that street, turned a corner and went down another.  Elder Mower contacted a younger fellow and we had a good chat.  His name is Carlo, who has cool hair and is from Ecuador.  Carlo told us he was going to mix some DJ tunes (sweet, right?) so he was busy that moment, but he'd be chilling with his friends that evening, and we were welcome by.
We then went to Familie Stroobont's and their naked cat for a visit.
Once we were back home, we decided to check out Carlo's house.  To our surprise, four students let us right on in.  Honestly, I was expecting to kind of chill there in the corner while they had some sort of student party.  Nope, right away, they let us in, gave us drinks, sat around the table and said, "Well, what are you two doing here?"  Perfect question.  We shared a super powerful restoration lesson that evening, with these young adults hanging on to every word.  After teaching the story of Joseph Smith's vision, I looked up and saw tears in Carlo's eyes.  He felt it, and he felt it hard.  The two young ladies we met are both religious too, which is increasingly rare in Belgium.  It was a super miraculous day.  We did our best and the Lord rewarded us 3 fold.  Carlo and his guy friend both left for Africa to do humanitarian work yesterday, so we won't be seeing them for a while, but we're going to swing by the other two to say hi.  After we gave them all books, they pretty much invited themselves to read it. I love it when people actually want to read the Book of Mormon.
Which reminds me of two more stories.
First, we went back to William and Vanessa's this week.  (Un)fortunately, she hadn't had time to make us some spicy African food, so we missed out on dinner.  William, I'm happy to report, is doing fantastic.  He is super, super searching right now.  He had read Joseph Smith's experience in the front of the book 3 times over, just...awed I suppose.  He wanted to bring it to work even, but couldn't because he's a mechanic and works around grease all day.  At one point, he held up the Book of Mormon and said, "This...this is my life."  Wow!  He's told us repeatedly he hopes that this is the true church, because he agrees with everything we've told him so far.  It's really only a matter of time before he gets that solid answer.  It probably won't even be too long.
Secondly, we were roaming around again and Elder Mower felt prompted to talk to this guy.  He was walking pretty fast, but nevertheless, we started following him.  I almost wrote stalk.  Anyway, we followed him (unbeknownst to me) for a few streets until he finally paused to do up his hood and we could catch up.  His name is Victor and he's from the Cameroon.  We gave a brief explanation of the BoM and right away he said, "Yeah, I'm interested."  Wham, really?  I mean...sure, cool!  We came by the very next day and again shared a powerful first lesson.  He was really touched too.  We gave him a baptismal invitation--which he agreed to--but no actual date.  He was eager to read the Book of Mormon as well.
Wow, look at all these fantastic people!  The Lord has blessed us generously this week.  Thank you so much for all your prayers!
Unfortunately, Kurt Lust doesn't have a date anymore, but he's still on board to meet and read and everything, so who knows.
The Leuven ward is super awesome.  The bishop is actually an American guy--we go there every Sunday for dinner.  Despite not speaking fluent Dutch, he does very well with his calling.  There are also quite a few English-speaking members here too.  There were about...25-30 people there on Sunday, but from what I understand, the higher end of attendance is about 60.  We also cover a branch called Genk.  We need to get out there soon.
The Stroobont's fit right in with the ward too.  Everybody loves their kids and they get along well with everybody in return.  They've actually been attending church for something like 6 months now, so they're pretty much integrated/fellowshiped.
Well, I don't have too much more time this week, sorry.  I'm glad to see that about...2 questions were answered out of six billion at least.
I'll be Skyping on Tuesday, the 25th.  Probably sometime in the evening here, which means 8-ish there. I tried to get a set call time, but couldn't quite.  I'll let you know for sure next week.  Oh, and it'll be in the living room of another family again, sorry.  I talked with them about it, and they're willing to give more privacy by shooing the children upstairs or something.
Looking forward to it.
Tot volgende keer,
Elder Burgess
**I realized I didn't answer any questions about the naked cat.  It really is strange.  Their neighbour actually had this cat, but wasn't taking good care of it.  Naked cats are pretty much just indoor cats.  They'll freeze in the winter and sunburn in the summer.  The neighbour had left it outside in their truck or garage or something, so Sister Stroobont spoke with him about it and the neighbour straight-up gave it to them.  They're expensive to buy too.  Every week, they have to give it a bath or otherwise it'll stink.  As far as I know, naked cats aren't scared of water.  It's a super loving cat though.  It loves to be pet--which feels indescribably strange.  It's like petting a rubber chicken covered in fine peach fuzz.  The cat howls if it's not in the same room too.  If you try to ignore it, it slams its shoulder against the wall.  It's amazing how loud that is too--shakes the entire house.   We couldn't stop laughing after they told us what the banging was coming from the next room.
Anyway, I gotta go.
Oh, also, there's a guy in our ward that reminds me so much of Brett.  Eerie.
I've been trying to get a 4x4x4 Rubik's cube, but they've suddenly disappeared from all the stores.  Just...letting you know.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Maybe not healthy, but at least I am happy

Well, this first week in Belgium has been an interesting one.  I was upset when I had to leave Family Storm, but the Lord definitely cushioned the entrance.  We got to our apartment Wednesday evening, caught a bus out to the middle of I-still-don't-know-where and set 4 baptismal dates.  What?  With a family nonetheless.  This family has been coming to church for the last .....5 months or something?  The mom just got married to a member not too long ago and started coming to church sometime along the way.  Her three boys are ages 13 to 8 and love church.  We asked them why they came and they said, "to learn about Jesus and the Gospel!"  And something about candy, but that doesn't matter.  When we set a date of January 13 (in this transfer) the boys fist-pumped.  They are super prepared.
They also have a naked cat.
Ooo, I've never seen one before.  We heard a strange croak from outside and the mom adorned an embarrassed expression as one of the kids went to open the door.  "Oh no, we have the ugliest cat."  Yeah, okay.  We'll see about--WHOA.  It's a naked cat!  It's covered in a very fine, thin peach fuzz, with a bit more around its tail and some on its nose.  It looks so dang strange.  You know how you pet a cat's back and it scrunches all up.  Holy man, it looks weird on a naked cat.  Wrinkles everywhere.  I can't even properly describe it.  The feeling.  Ooo, the feeling.
Anyway, we're very excited for this family.  Family Stroobont.
On Monday, before I got here, Elder Mower and Elder Goethals set a baptismal date with another guy, Kurt Lust. I've never met him...
Also, On Saturday...  Man, Saturday.  We caught a bus out to the middle of nowhere for an appointment.  Because it was on Saturday, there were pretty much no buses, so we had to lounge around in below zero weather.  Thank goodness I put on pyjama pants underneath my suit pants.  Thank goodness for feet warmer pads as well.  So that was miserable.  But worth it.
We finally got to the appointment.  An African family.  The mother, Vanessa, described, Sister Herring (who's been in a few of my districts) demanding to speak with her.  Super bold, right?  Vanessa tried to get away, saying she needed to catch her train, but Sister Herring held on to her tight.  "You need to hear what we have to say.  There will be another train."  So Vanessa waited and listened and felt something inside.  Then missed her train.  She wrote down her info and gave it to Sister Herring, who gave it to Elder Mower some time ago.
That night, we were surprised to discover, however, that Vanessa is already a member!  She was baptized some years ago while her husband was still in Africa.
We talked to her husband, William as well, who was apprehensive at first because he thought we worshipped Joseph.  We solved that problem in a flash.  Anyway, after talking, he told us he had been praying that God would help him regain his faith, because he had fallen away slowly.  Vanessa too, was praying that God would help her husband come back.  He described himself as being that lost sheep.  He said, "I need a miracle from God.  A miracle to help me come back."  I handed him a Book of Mormon and said, "I've got a miracle right here."  It was so amazing to see that us being there was an answer to their prayers.  We promised and testified like crazy that everything we had to share would bring him back to the fold, as long as he does his part too.  We set a baptismal date with him too, for the 13th of January.  "When you know, will you join the body of Christ and be baptized?"
"If God tells me too, why not?  Why not?"
Absolutely amazing.  They've got 3 children as well, all over 8.  We didn't really get to speak with them, but next time we will.  We're going over for dinner next week.  Elder Mower mentioned he loves spicy African food, so I got to prepare my gut now for all that pepper.
Aaaand then, because we were outside for so long, Elder Mower and I got pretty dang sick.  He was worse off than I was.  Holy man, he was so sick he slept in until 12:30.  Yep, we missed church -  helaas (unfortunately).  There was no way either of us were able to go.  Having us both home was good news for our apartment though.  Not going to lie, it was a pretty trashy place when I got there.  Apparently, they had cleaned it a week earlier, but I'm not so convince.  We blitzed the place and restocked the shelves with delicious fresh produce so now it's looking a lot, lot better.
It's at the top of a 3 or so story building, so we have to walk up this narrow, Belgium staircase to get to the top.  Unfortunately, there's no shed for our bikes, so they have to remain outside in the rain and cold.  We haven't been able to ride bikes in a while because Elder Mower's bike needs repair.  I'm worried it's going to get ruined by the weather, but we'll fix the problem soon.  You don't do as much biking here anyway, because of how huge the area is.  We don't have many investigators inside the city.
Serving with Elder Mower is awesome.  Elder Moscon is still in Turnhout and still the District Leader, so I could speak with him over the phone.  Still kicking it.  I'm not sure if I ever mentioned Caroline in an email, but Elder Klippel and I found her while we were on exchanges one day.  They same day Paul was found too.  Caraline is super awesome and is actually working towards baptism right now!  Paul was deported to Italy unfortunately, so I won't be able to see him while I'm here.  Paul was the guy on the boat, if you remember that story.  He was baptized a while ago.
That's funny that you mentioned Uncle Joey and the tree falling over.  I told Elder Mower that same story.  Uncle Joey reminds me a lot of Jesse. Or...maybe vice versa.  I'll have to send you a picture and you'll know what I mean.  Same stop-being-a-wuss kind of attitude too.
About Dad threatening (was he joking?) to write President Robinson... .please don't.  I can't say I'm perfectly fine with being transferred so much, but I am willing to follow the Lord's will.  When President Burnham (is he still the Stake President?) was going through the missionary application process with me, he always said how I would meet all sorts of characters and people on my mission.  I like to think that was a sort of prophecy.  I have certainly been able to do that--with both non-members and members alike.  Think of how many friends I've made!  I'm fine with being a nomad.  I'm fine with whatever the Lord desires.  Don't worry about it.
I didn't get shoes.  I misunderstood their sale...  What a sale-hound I am.
It's snowed a couple times here.  Big fat snowflakes too--the kind where it's like 9 snowflakes smashed together into a small snowball.  But it just rains later in the day and gets rid of it all.
I almost forgot what Belgium milk tastes like...
Well, that's all for now.  Maybe not healthy, but at least I'm happy.
Tot volgende keer,
Elder Burgess
Kardinaalstraat 22B
Leuven, Belgium

Monday, 3 December 2012

Fantastic news.....and....back to Belgium

I got my birthday packages indeed!  Holy man, thank you so much.  I had something to say to everything I got, but I'm not sure if I can remember it all right now...
Crispix, mmm, Crispix.  Those pyjama bottoms are super cozy.  They are like wearing a kitty around your legs.  I was actually thinking about buying new pyjama bottoms too.  Crazy.  Not sure I get the string...  Also, I seem to detect a theme.  Are you worried about me starving?  I appreciate the little dinner powder packages--and we do use them--but I think I'll be good on them for now, thank you.  Elder Shoe made a super-delicious-birthday-bash-dinner-meal with the Alfredo sauce and it was heerlijk (delicious).  Unfortunately, I was under the weather for my birthday, so it wasn't as great as it could have been, but I still enjoyed it a lot.  I treated myself to a new toothbrush recently and I'm going to go out to get some new shoes today.  They've got a crazy sale right now--buy 1 pair of shoes for 30% off and get another whole pair for free.  Gee, how can I deny such an offer?  Oh...we also bought nerf guns.  Don't worry!  They were also on sale.  We've had some pretty great slayer/zombie battles in our apartment since then.
I'm not sure a balaclava is missionary approved, but I appreciate the gesture.  Holy man was it cold on one day.  I looked out the window in the morning and it was pretty decent weather, especially for the 1st of December.  Gee whiz was it cold that day.  My fingers were thoroughly frozen.  Being silly me, I forgot I had a huge pile of hand warmers and didn't use them until later in the day--long after my fingers had become frozen cheese sticks.  Maar, het vielt wel mee (but it was not so bad).
As far as Family Storm goes...we have FANTASTIC NEWS.  We went to the Storms last Monday and talked about Conference.  They loved it so much and were beaming just talking about it.  Then, Elder Shoe simply said, "You guys belong to this church."  Their reply: "Yeah...we do!" WOW!  They're planning on being baptised on Dec 29th.  Can't you believe that?  We came by that same evening.  It was...a pretty difficult lesson actually.  Maarten Storm is a strong, strong believer in free will and we got in more of a discussion about it than a lesson.  By the end, we more or less figured out his problem and again more or less resolved it.  We've got dinner appointment tonight with them and we're bringing Brother Lyons along, who taught Philosophy for 25 years.  Gee, perfect match!
All this miracles and families makes me sad though...
The curse remains!  Oh, when will it be lifted!  It seems my inevitable fate to only be allowed to stay in one area for just long enough to get attached to everybody--JUST TO LEAVE.  Augh!  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't upset about leaving--especially with a family of 7 preparing to enter the waters.  On the bright side, I'll be with Elder Mower (MTC companion) and I already know Leuven is a beautiful place.  I've visited there twice or so already.  It'll be super awesome because Turnhout is in the district and I'll be able to visit it a few times at least.  Dangit though, I thought for sure this was the time I was going to stay. Niet zo, ik doe het zo (Not so)!
I've also re-discovered how great Brazilian people are. We got a referral from Lani this week and had a dinner with Edeline Moorman, her non-member husband and 2 of their non-member friends.  It was a super fun time with lots of laughing involved.  We made a  good, solid indruk (impression).  It was great.  A good evening to GET YOUR TRANFER CALL.  Blagh!  So upset.
On another note, thank you so much to er'body that sent me letters!  I got a flood of birthday cards (about 20+ cards and quite a few birthday emails) that made everybody jealous---I mean, that made me so happy!  Thanks for the packages too, family and Sam.  I haven't gotten the Thompson package, and probably won't for a while yet...  :(
I'm started to dream pretty frequently in Dutch now too.  It's eerie.  We spoke Dutch for a solid 4 hours yesterday and I impressed myself with how good it was.  As long as your talking about the right subject of course.
Well, I think that's about it than.  I guess next time you hear from me, I'll be back in the land of chocolate, waffles, bad roads and difficult Dutch.
Tot volgende keer,
Elder Burgess

Thanks for doing as I asked.  I really care for my friends.  That's okay that he said no.  In a lesson, we told somebody that no missionary efforts are wasted.  When you try to share the gospel, it isn't for nothing.  Hopefully, the impression has been made.  There's always when I get home too!