Hello everyone! Just another average week here in little, small-town Belgium. The week started off on a fun note with our barefoot path (bloedevoedepad) adventure in Zutendaal. It had a number of cool views, muddy paths, and all sorts of terrain. You'll just have to look at pictures or something online if you want a better idea.
The following afternoon was pretty normal. I had been waiting to take the "36 bus" to Putersplein, a big neighborhood loaded with doors to be knocked. It sits in between Genk and Hasselt, our two main cities, and for the most part can be overlooked because only one bus travels there. After a fair amount of knocking, a very pregnant lady opened the door with her hand resting on her belly. After a brief conversation, we discovered she was getting induced that day! To no avail, we eventually returned back home to ready for our evening adventure of traveling to Geel. Our whole district stayed over at the Geel apartment (aside from the sisters, of course) because we had to arrive at the Turnhout church building early that morning for interviews with President. I'll just say that there wasn't too much excitement. But funny pranks were pulled; all eight of us raided the Elder's poor apartment, and we even had a little ping pong going. One thing I really liked: one Elder put some bacon in the frying pan with cherry Coke and fried the two together. The sugar in the coke caramelized as the bacon sizzled, which made for a tasty combination of sweet but savory bacon. I highly recommend it, especially because of its simplicity. But anyway, the following morning was swell, with a very insightful district meeting as President pulled people in and out for interviews. I liked one thing that was shared during the meeting: an Elder expounded upon the fact that people have holes in their souls, and they don't know how to fill them. They try the endless cycle of carnal pleasure, but we all know that really only widens the gap between lasting happiness. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ can satisfy the heart's real desire. Some people question the need for religion, but it all filters down to the fact that we need a remission of our sins and only through Jesus Christ can we receive it.
This past weekend was "Genk goes America." All sorts of American flags were hanging up, there were sales promotions, "real" American burgers, an American muscle car and everything. I myself found it very funny. So many people hate on America but I think a lot of Europeans have at least a tiny amount of American pride, and I find that interesting. You would never see Belgium flags flying around America ever. The longer I'm in Europe, the more convinced I am at how awesome America is.
This past Saturday was a hard one. The morning just didn't get off on the right note, and it was pretty gloomy-looking outside. We had a number of things planned for the day, and I was at least hopeful for that. We had a lesson planned, and I had only ever been to this person's house by car with a member so I wasn't certain as to which bus to take. I remembered or at least I thought I remembered passing the apartment when we took the 45 bus to Masseik, a city far from Genk. So we went on a whim, took a little risk, and went on the 45 bus. To my surprise the bus immediately headed for the freeway and with nothing more we could do, we watched as we furthered ourselves from the appointment. We ended up having to cancel it of course, and then I started to fight battles of pessimism for the dumb mistake I had made. Do you want to know what made the difference? The weather didn't just magically let up, we didn't see some miracle happen and have an inspired contact with someone. No, the difference came in keeping a simple prayer in my heart. I prayed that I could just free my mind of the burden of negativity. And low and behold, the day gradually progressed better and better, not because extraordinary things appeared, but because of simple faith and understanding of what God desires of me. That's one thing we also teach investigators, that they can "pray always," and I invite others to do the same.
This Sunday we had an interesting experience, too. Our branch president came in with a friend during sacrament meeting. He spoke English, and Elder Clement quickly became busy translating for him. (Have I had to translate for others? Yes. It's not as bad as you'd think). Anyway, after the service we talked to him, and it turns out he's a BYU professor. He had just arrived in Brussels that morning and has been doing studies all over the place, including Jerusalem. I think it may be part of some church calling, but I'm not sure. He teaches the Book of Mormon and the New Testament, I believe, and he's incredibly insightful. He was curious about learning the basics of Dutch. His last name is Woods, by the way, if anyone knows him. So, yeah – it was just cool to meet an American that was Mormon for once, aside from missionaries.
This past P-day was great, but I'll have more details next week. We have a busy week coming up with Temple Conference in Den Haag and Stake Conference in Brussels. Hope everyone's week goes well. Happy B-day, Calvin – shout out to you!
Love you guys,
Elder Eli Andrew
(PHOTO CAPTION: This past weekend was "Genk goes America.")