PHOTO CAPTION: Here’re the four of us with a Belgium bus driver. She was super nice, and we had a nice conversation with her while returning from a dinner appointment. (L-R, Elder Nye, Elder Andrew, Elder Clemet, bus driver, and Elder Elkins)
Hello, fellow Americans! Well, I'm not sure what to say about the last two weeks. For the most part things zipped along as usual, but there were a few bumps these past few days. I can't believe this is happening but, yes, I am actually excited for General Conference*. During last April's address I sat and wondered if Conference would actually really get me prepared during the mission, and it sure does. Plus, it feels a little extra special. I'm here in Europe and the times are totally messed up. We'll be watching the opening Saturday session in the evening and we'll actually have to watch some on p-day to finish it up. I've been a little nervous about it, because it's not playing in our branch so we have to ask members to watch it with them or possibly go all the way to Brussels or Antwerpen to watch. But no worries, all will be well when the time comes.
I meant to share this in the previous letter but Elder Nye and I had a very rare experience a week or so ago. After finishing a lesson with an investigator in Herk-De-Stad, we both walked over and sat down at the bus stop. A few Muslim guys were waiting there, too, but we didn't think anything of it. But at one point, one came over to us and curiously asked us who we are and what we do. He turned out to be a very nice guy, and our conversation continued on the bus. Elder Nye sat in front of me, and I sat behind (he likes the leg room if there's enough space on the bus; I don't blame him) as our Muslim guy kept talking to us across from Elder Nye. After a minute or so I noticed this 20-ish-year-old Belgium guy with headphones and an attitude looking at me. He glanced at the name tag as every person usually does, so I took it off so he could look at it. He held it and then looked at me and said, "You really believe that?" I replied, "Well, yes, of course," in English, a little surprised. What happened next was a whirlwind of fury and questions. This Belgium guy just started throwing out all sorts of challenging questions at us. At this point my companion had turned around and started to respond to him. I gladly would have answered his questions, but my companion took the helm. It was really great, actually. Every question he asked my companion had a simple answer that turned into a very basic principle in the first three lessons of “Preach My Gospel.” This wasn't a rare situation perhaps for me, but my companion said nothing ever happens like that up in the Netherlands. That experience testified to me how simple the gospel doctrine is and how important.
Ah yes, I have one more experience to share, also from the past two days or so. As my companion and I were walking home from Genk station to our apartment, a short, jittery older man did a sort of half jog across the street. He called us over and we confusedly stopped and waited for him. He came over and started telling he'd been trying to get a hold of the missionaries for days or someone from church. He'd been staying at a hotel across the street and is a member of the church from Canada but wanted to meet with us the next day. Fast forward to the next day at about 11 a.m., and I'm on an exchange with Elder Clemet out and about doing a look-up. Phone rings and a Dutch woman from some help desk in Hasselt is calling us. Clemet talks to her, and our Canadian friend gets on the line. He has a bit of a complicated situation. Stolen wallet with his credit cards and train ticket to Paris for his flight home. He says he has his passport with the plane ticket inside but no way to get money. His family said they'd wire him some but it was too early in Canada and the banks weren't open. Confused and a little concerned we decide to call our branch president. He sternly responds, "Nope. I will not do it. We get too many people needing 62E for some emergency. Don't care if they're a member or not. Good day, Elder." Then our phone dies so we can't do anything anyway. At this point, I'm a little sorry for the guy, but it feels like it could all be fake, but in my head I contemplated just talking with him the day before and he seemed pretty genuine then. Fast forward to that evening: Elder Clemet and I are riding our bikes when Elder Clemet turns and looks at me and says, "Did you see that?!" I didn't see it but he informed me of exactly what he saw. We had just ridden past a bar, and there he was, our little Canadian friend, sitting at a bar smoking a cigarette with a bottle of beer. I couldn't believe I fell for it, and I couldn’t believe he lied to us like that. I learned one lesson from that day for sure, you can't trust everyone.
I have bad news and good news. I'll start with the bad, because the good news would only be possible with the bad. Friday, I spent a good chunk of the day doing legality stuff and the entire day my eyes were super irritated and watering, as was my nose. I took out my contacts that evening and went straight to bed, my eyes still totally in pain, but more specifically my right eye. I woke up that morning and it hurt more than ever. I showed my companions and they were all pretty grossed out and identified it as pink eye. I then looked at it one more time and decided to call Sister Robinson. I talked with her, described my symptoms and it sounded exactly like pink eye to her (she's a nurse formally, by the way). At this point, very disappointed and annoyed, I went to my studies. I pushed through the day. Sister Robinson told me to buy green tea in the meantime and to drop that into my eye to give some temporary relief. After about 24 hours and the occasional drop of nasty tea in my eye I went from constant pain to almost completely healed. It was wonderful. I wish I could have called up Grandpa Andrew in the states; that was the first thing that came to mind, actually. Whether it actually was pink eye or not, I don't know. But I feel blessed because I went out and did the work anyway, and I believe the Lord blessed me because of it.
I'll end this letter with Friday's experience. Elder Steenblik and I traveled again to Brussels for legality stuff. The office Elders didn't want to take us anywhere fun, so after legality it happened to work out that we had about an hour of free time. We walked the city, discovering awesome buildings and just having a good time. It was my first real Brussels experience, and I had a great time. When I was in the MTC (Mission Training Center) I never would have thought I'd be half way around the world strolling the streets of Brussels with Elder Steenblik.
The work is coming along great here in Genk! Yeah, it's hard sometimes, but the longer I'm out here the more I realize how powerful a mission really is. Love you guys – hope you have a great week back in the U.S.!
*General Conference is a semiannual gathering of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), held every April and October at the LDS Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. During each conference, members of the church gather in a series of two-hour sessions to listen to sermons from church leaders and inspiring music. It consists of six sessions, one exclusively for female members of the church and one for male priesthood holders. While originating from Salt Lake City, General Conference is considered an international event for the church. The sessions are broadcast worldwide in many languages, primarily through local and international media outlets, and over the Internet.
PHOTO CAPTION: Taken last month in Brussels on a walk with Elder Steenblik. (Editor’s note: Elder Andrew finds God in Brussels?)