Okay, interesting week. If I had to describe it in one word I’d say, ‘Sunny.’ I think this past week was the one last hurrah you get for summer, one last warm week. And it was nice. It’s overcast so much that any sun is warm and pleasant. Let me jump right in with today’s (Sunday, 9/7) activities. It was my first fast Sunday in the land and let me just say, missionary work and fasting do not mix well. For the most part I was fine, but by our 5 p.m. dinner appointment I was really growling. Testimony meeting in our small branch is really unique. There’re only so many people (15-20), so you basically know you will be sharing your testimony.
Later that afternoon, we looked up a few potentials and while we were walking down a busy stretch of road, a lady pulled over and called us over. She seemed relatively harmless, looked about 40 years old, and only had a bit of an accent. This is how our conversation went:
Woman: I know who you guys are.
Elder Claflin: Yeah, we’re missionaries from our church.
Woman: No, I know what you guys do, and when you go back you should rethink this.
Elder Claflin and I: “Umm...”
Woman: “Millions of people have died under the church; you think I’m joking?!”
It totally caught Elder Claflin off guard, and he smiled in just a confused way. She then pulled over again quickly when she saw him give a confused smile and cussed us out and raced off. She was just a crazy lady who was being very vague and weird, but these experiences scare me a little. I wasn’t scared during the event, but afterwards I just became aware of all the people around me and yeah.
But we had a tender mercy. After a delicious dinner appointment with the Knoops family, we came back and ended up talking in the apartment for a little while. It was just an awkward time of evening where we needed to proselyte for an hour more. So, we went on a whim and looked up a church headquarters referral that we had tried about six times previously to contact. The person ended up being home, invited us in, and we taught him a RAD (restoration lesson with baptismal invitation) and he accepted a doop datuum (baptismal date). It was super random and just a blessing. People are just coming out of nowhere here. Just between our two companionships in Genk, we have five baptismal dates, which is awesome. Shows me what kind of work can get done here. I love it. Super cool things here.
I’m learning a lot about myself on this mission. I’m seeing that the mission makes all your personality flaws very obvious. My family knows this best, but I can be very nitpicky and stubborn. I’ll give someone a death stare if they take more cereal than I want them to – stupid stuff like that. I’ve been praying a lot about that. I want that to change. And it’s so cool because I know the Lord knows the desires of my heart, and I can see the results and change He’s bringing to me. What a blessing it is to be here. So much has changed since June 25th. I have a love for the scriptures, I’m trusting in the Lord, I can speak Dutch for heaven’s sake! It’s super cool. But what I’ve also learned is that going on a mission does not change you. It gives you the opportunity to change. We will still always have our agency to choose. Home life and even high school seem like a distant dream. I’ve barely been out for two months, but it feels like I’ve been living missionary life forever. The other missionaries think that’s funny, because I’ve really only just begun.
I also wanted to share what happened to the other Genk Elders the other day. They had a really great lesson with a new investigator, and it went really well. He accepted a baptismal date, and everything just went perfect you could say. On the bus coming home, Elder Clemet put his feet up on the seat just because of how good he was feeling and the evening’s success. He and his companion were the only two on the bus when the bus driver pulled over. He walked back to Elder Elkins and Clemet and asked for (demanded, more like) Elder Clemet’s bus pass. The bus driver went back up to the front and started doing some work on his computer. Confused, Elder Clemet went up to the front and asked him what was going on. The bus driver responded that he was getting a 70 Euro fine for being a “disruption.” They went back and forth about it, but the bus driver didn’t give in. Hopefully, it can be overturned.
Fast forward a few days, and it is Wednesday (9/10) as I write here. I didn’t get the motivation to finish this letter till now so I’m doing a week and half’s worth of letters you could say. The highlight of these past couple of days were exchanges. The zone leaders from Antwerpen came, and Claflin and I switched companions for a day. Elder Bosco and I went in their car and headed off to a busy day of lessons in Antwerpen. It was a fine day. And something I recently learned about Elder Bosco is that his Dad was a BYU quarterback and won the only BYU National Championship, which is really cool. His dad was also quarterback for the Packers for a few years! Super crazy! Elder Bosco isn’t a football player himself, but he has a bigger build and is just a super fun guy. We ended up staying up till 11:30 the other night just crackin’ jokes and talking in the Antwerpen apartment. I told him about our family and how we were some of the “pioneers” of the first Green Bay branch and stuff. I’m really interested to know if he went to the branch in Green Bay or if Grandpa Andrew or someone has met him. It was such a relief to be able to take a car the whole day. The inconvenience being at the mercy of public transportation gets a little annoying. We could use a car in Genk – we would be so much more time efficient.
Nothing much new has happened here. The weather is getting crisp and the leaves are starting to fall. It has that cool autumn feeling that reminds me so much of cross country. This is my trainer’s favorite time of year, and he has me almost convinced that it really is the best season. Oh! Saw something interesting today. As we were walking to an appointment in Genk, I saw a man carrying a blow torch with a guy behind him lugging a canister of oil, torching the sidewalk up. Upon further inspection we noticed they were burning weeds. Also, have to add: I love the coins in Europe. Just having one and two Euro coins makes everything just work nicer. When I think of the silly quarter and how pointless it is becoming and the inconvenience, I just want to “face palm.”
Thanks for the awesome letters Mom and Dad. All the Elders in the apartment are jealous of just how awesome they are. All is good in Genk, transfers are next week but I think the four of us will most likely stay, but who knows! Excited for the Ballard conference tomorrow. Should be great! Hope things are bright and dandy in the States. Love you guys!
P.S. (FROM SUBSEQUENT 9/15 EMAILS):
I’m staying in Genk for another transfer. Transfer calls were last night. But my trainer is leaving, sadly. This Wednesday. There are four meeting places where missionaries meet up: Antwerpen, Leiden, and a few others. It'll be a change for sure, but I'm ready to take charge over Genk. The other two elders are staying, which is nice – Elder Clement and Elder Elkins. Both great missionaries. Clement spent a year in Germany for foreign exchange, so he speaks German and his accent is great. Elkins is the district leader and also a great guy. Comes from Kaysville, Utah and has great teaching skills and knowledge. Oh – Elder Clement gave me a haircut, by the way. Don't have a picture right now, but it actually turned out great. And my Dutch, it’s coming real good. I can understand an entire three-hour church service almost perfectly, and I can understand my investigators pretty well, too. My vocab is steadily increasing; I just have to get a good accent going so I don't sound too American. It just sounds like I worry a lot in my emails, but it’s not a big deal. My Dutch will be better than everyone else's if I keep up the way I study – hah!