Friday, January 27, 2012

And The Work Goes On...

January 23, 2012

Best news of the week: Diamondo is doing SO much better! He and Sara are really on the up swing now. YAY!!! We finally got to see them again on Tuesday. So...the drama. Sara decided to go out with her ex fiance. Diamondo said he just felt sick about the idea and did everything he could to talk her out of it. But Sara, having known this guy for eight years was insistent that nothing bad would happen. But unfortunately she was wrong. This guy lost it and started beating her up in public. Sara was screaming for the police, but despite all the people around them, no one did anything more than watch. Finally two teenagers pulled over as they were driving past and got him to stop. She ended up in the hospital for a couple of days. Understandably she was super shaken up. Diamondo was as well of course, but even more than some creep doing that to his daughter, he was majorly bothered by the fact that this guy is a member of the Church. (Diamondo really struggles with hypocrites. Like...a lot.) To make matters worse, he was also the guy that introduced Sara to the church and baptized her. So both of them were struggling a bit to separate their feelings for him and their feelings for the Church. 

When Diamondo came to the baptism, he talked to the bishop afterwards and let him know what happened. The bishop then told Sara yesterday at church, that he's talked to the bishop of her ex's ward and they'll be taking care of things.  

They seemed to be doing so much better at Church. We had amis' class after sacrament meeting. Diamondo was sitting next to me. It was so cute, every time he answered a question he turned to me and just grinned from ear-to-ear. He even bore his testimony to everyone else in the room of the changing effect the Holy Ghost has had on him. After Church, at Sara's request we took the zone leaders over to their house to give her a blessing. He was just so proud of himself. =) He told the elders about how much he loves cCurch. "At first I was really shy and I wouldn't talk to anyone or share my thoughts. But now, you saw in that class, I answer questions, and I ask questions. Reading, praying and going to church have really changed me, but going to Church especially." To which I responded, "That's why it's so important to go to Church. It makes all the difference." He smiled and said, "I know! (then pointing at Sara) Every week. Okay? Every single week from now on." ha ha I just love Diamondo.

I'm not sure if I've told you about two of our other amis. They are the mother and daughter from Congo. The mother's brother-in-law is a member in London. Well, we saw them for the second time this past week. We taught them the Plan of Salvation. About half way through the rendez-vous, I felt really pushed to talk to them about baptism. So we got very blunt with them and asked them if they wanted it, what they thought of it, etc. I promised them that if they prayed to know if the Book of Mormon is true and if Joseph Smith was really called of God to restore the gospel, they would have the desire to be baptized. To which Chantall, the mother, said, "I don't need to pray about that. I already have. I know that it's all true." Then her 16 year old daughter said she felt exactly the same way. It was incredible. They do have some concerns as to why they would need to be baptized a second time though. We talked about that for a while, explain how the restoration ties into that. In the end, we just asked them to pray to know if it's something God wants them to do. They are two of the sweetest people I've met out here. They are just happy and loving from the second you meet them. It's incredible to hear their story and see how well God has prepared them for this. =) 

Most stressful day of my week...I had an appointment in Lille to renew my French legality on Thursday. Our train was supposed to leave at 12:18 getting me to Lille with about an hour to get to the prefecture. We ate lunch in the gare so that we could be there early -giving us plenty of time to catch the train. (I get really stressed about not missing trains.) We waited and waited and waited for them to announce the platform for our train...but they never did. I asked multiple people if I was just being dumb and couldn't find it (worded in a slightly more tactful manner though ha ha.) Everyone I talked to though, agreed with us. This train was nowhere to be found. Finally I found someone who knew what they were talking about, told us were to go and we took of running. We got to the platform with just enough time to watch the train roll away. Perfect...after a very stressful thirty-or so-minutes of trying to work things out and find another way down to Lille that would get us there in time, along with a 22 euro ticket upgrade: success! =) We made it to Lille with just enough time to meet up with the elders who gave us our metro tickets, and then we walked into the prefecture right at 2:30 (the time of my appointment.) Yay! The worst part is, after all that stress, if I finish my mission in Louise, then my French legality doesn't matter anyway ha ha. Oh well, it keeps the mission office happier. So, at least it's finally out of the way after our having made three serperate trips down there.  

I've got to run. Sorry this is a short one. I love you and I'll talk to you soon. =)



Monday, January 16, 2012

We have a countertop and lights=)

January 16, 2012

This might well have been the longest week of my entire mission. But the good news is, we are finally moved in!

I know that I told you last Monday that we'd be switching apartments after I emailed you. But with a couple things having come up, and Sister Ingraham being sick enough that I didn't want to drag her all over the city, we spent the night in our old apartment. Packing up that night and the next morning, we took our luggage to district meeting and then the elders who used to live there helped us home with everything.

So...finally, we were mostly moved in -having just left a few odds and ends in the Louise apartment. However, having Sister Ingraham still being sick, moving was not exactly the kind of physical stress that her body needed. So, she's been pretty out of it the past couple of days. It was semi perfect timing though because we had a man coming to check our heating and for him to do so, we weren't allowed to leave the apartment between noon and five pm, giving Sister Ingraham plenty of time to just sleep and I got to basically rebuild the apartment. The electricity in the bathroom has been out for about a transfer. There should be six working lights in there, but instead we had extension cords running through the hall and a small desk lamp lighting the room. The vacuum stopped working the day before we moved in. The electricity for the washer and dryer...also out. The kitchen sink was plugged with a moldy bucket catching the water below the pipes. And the dishwasher wouldn't drain or start. Yeah... It's a beautiful apartment in an adorable neighborhood. It's just that the interior needed a bit of time and work. So I more that appreciated being "forced" into having the time to get it all in working order. I was exhausted by the end of the day, but we now have two of six lights working in the bathroom (we just need the zone leaders to buy new bulbs to replace the ones that had burned out.) A working vacuum. A working dishwasher, dryer, and washing machine. And a drain able sink minus the moldy bucket! =)

We love the apartment. And all the elder's surprises that they left for us to find. ;) I.E. root beer flavored hard candy in the freezer. Apparently eating it cold is like drinking it out of a can. Balloons all over our study room. Water balloons in the sink in the bathroom. Regular and water balloons in the freezer. Tortillas in the microwave. And toys on our desks -complete with a smurf giving a blessing. ha ha As I said, we love the apartment. It's incredible! It's by far the biggest one I've ever lived in with the most amazing kitchen I've had. Not only do we have a counter, but we've got granite counter tops, a dishwasher, french doors, a water closet, etc and a rubber scrapper (you'd be surprised, it's a rare commodity to come by.) I was floored when I saw the apartment for the first time. The elders were right. They totally have been covering up the best kept secret in the mission. We are SO not complaining. I hate moving, but now that we're moved in, I'll happily stay. =)

With all the moving, Sister Ingraham being sick, Sister Murray and I needing to go to Lille to renew our French legality and...everything else, it's been a long, weird week. And after having gone through boarder control twice in two weeks, all I can say is I never want to be an alien again. Being a resident is just so much easier. ha ha

But despite everything we were able to still get in a bit of real missionary life. Sister Murray and I taught a Romanian girl Thursday afternoon after getting back from Lille. We were a bit stunned. Seriously, we have NO problems in our lives. She's 22 years old. She has a 5 year old and an 18 month old boy with chronic bronchitis. Her husband has Hepatitis B, as do her in-laws who also live with them. He father died when she was 10 years old, and when her mother got remarried shortly after, her new step father wouldn't let Paula nor her three siblings live with him. So she's basically been begging ever since then. She's been in Belgium for six years and despite constantly trying to get her visa, they won't grant it to her. So now having lost her job, running out of money - not being able to pay rent anymore, they may be kicked out of their apartment tomorrow. She's terrified that if that happens, being on the street, the cops with deport her. But her sons were both born here. So they would be put in an orphanage. Yeah...and that's just the tip of the ice berg or her story. It's really sad. She's incredible. And she loves the church. She's been reading the Book of Mormon and came to church for the first time yesterday. Before the meetings had even started, having just sat down for sacrament meeting, she leaned over to me with tears in her eyes, amazed at "how kind everyone is here. It really feels like a family. Like, I don't know how to describe it, like, they care about me." By the end of the first hour she again leaned over to me and said, "I don't understand this. I love it here. I've never felt like this in my church. I just feel...good here." The second hour was a class for all the amis. The teacher taught about the Plan of Salvation. And even got into the fact that we believe Satan is God's son and was in the preexistence with us (generally not something we teach right of the bat to investigators.) While Paula had a few questions about that, by the end of the hour all she could say was that "for some reason, I just...believe it. I believe everything she said." Paula is SO ready, but in such a hard situation that we have no idea when she'll actually be able to be baptized. She the walking proof that your spiritual needs can't be met until your temporal needs are taken care of. Luckily, not matter what happens over these next few days for her, the Church is global and no matter where she ends up, she'll be able to find it again. Personally, I've decided that I hate feeling like there's nothing more I can do that pray for some of these people. Sometimes waiting upon the Lord is one of my biggest weaknesses, I think. I just want to be able to pray for them and then go out and fix everything for them and make her life easy. But...I just don't have that power. Oh well. I know the Lord will take care of her. She just needs to keep trusting Him to do so.

As I said though, Sister Murray and I left that rendez-vous feeling so blessed. This girl is younger than both of us and has a life like that. We have nothing to complain about. We really are more blessed than I think we realize.

There's the sum total of our week. As I said, it's been a bit different. I'm just happy that we should be getting back into the flow of normalcy again.

I hope you had a great week. I love you!


Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year 2012

So I have been severely neglajent in posting Kim's e-mails on her blog, with all of the Holiday activities.  So suffice it to say, things have been very busy for her and the time is swiftly passing.  We were able to SKYPE on Christmas day for three fabulous hours.  She is doing well and is now serving in Belgium.  Here is her latest e-mail as of today.

Happy New Year!

What a week! I am so tired and it's not yet over. 

It was SO good to talk to you last week! =) It's was just a great week over all. Last Monday morning, we went over to the Strombeek sisters apartment and had lunch with them. So having basically spent all weekend with them, we thought we would quickly be getting back into our normal routine and only see them (maybe) once a week. Wrong. Due to problems with their apartment, they had to spend the night with us. We got a call from them late Monday night and they were escorted by our zone leaders to our apartment around 10:50ish. 

They have been living with us ever since. I love that apartment. It's cute. And it's perfect for the two of us. However, it for sure was not built to house four of us ha ha. So it's been a bit cramped. Sister Smith has been sleeping on the floor between mine and Sister Ingraham's beds; our kitchen table has become their desk; and luggage has been strewn about across our floor. However, it really has been fun to be back in a four man set up again, despite the less than perfect size of the apartment. 

With all of that drama, it was a bit crazy knocking out our exchanges for the transfer. But we got that taken care of (finally!) on Wednesday. It was a bit of a surprise to tell Sister Bell that we'd actually be going home to the Strombeek soeurs as well. ha ha But what are exchanges without at least a couple surprises tossed in. 

Since that adventure wasn't exciting enough, our water heater, which also heats the entire apartment, turned into Shamu, screaming like a Killer Whale, and stopped working. So we've been heating our apartment by turning the oven on full blast and leaving it open. We've also been boiling water every morning to try and shower in non-arctic waters. It is quite the sight to see these pots and pans of boiling water in the bathtub with two of us washing the hair of one of the others while she is sitting on the floor, towel around her neck, leaning her head over the rim of the tub ha ha. Like I said: adventure.

AND transfer news. Sister Ingraham and I are staying together in Louise. However not to break my tradition of having something new every transfer, we're moving. Yup. Since I love packing SO SO SO much (especially with all the added Christmas stuff,) we're moving. It's complicated to explain all of the details, but because of the issue with the sister's apartment, they are moving into ours and we're moving into the elder's apartment that they just moved out of this morning. The problem with the sisters has been discussed by president and the assistants and they let everyone know where they'd be moving to. (Three companionship is total would have to move.) But in the beginning, Sister Ingraham and I weren't supposed to be moving. Sister Smith was packing up this morning using my suitcases since hers were full, and -since we don't live very far away- she could use them and return them later. Right when she finished and zipped them shut, Elder Gubbay called and told me that we would be moving as well. Great...So the Strombeek soeurs went to their apartment to clean it up for the elders while we packed as quickly as we could (the senior couple had offered to use their car to help everyone get around today.) We didn't get much of a start on packing our stuff before Sister and Elder Hall came by, but at least something is over there already. In the mean time, I was also dealing with the repairman that finally made it to the apartment to fix the water situation. After the Hall's came, we went to the sister's old apartment to help them clear everything out (and they can't go over there alone.) It was SO weird turning off the lights, walking out of that apartment, and locking the door behind us knowing that we'll never go back. Sister Smith said she felt like it was the "Friends" finale and we all needed to set our keys on the table and walk out. I love that apartment. It holds SO many wonderful memories from my first transfer and this last one. But...├ža va. It's not a big deal, we just felt like we were saying goodbye to one of our best friends. (As dumb as that sounds.) After taking care of that, we ate lunch, drop of the last bits of their stuff in our old apartment we're here. Still needing to pack and move, we all needed an email break before moving some more. But it may not have been the best idea because as soon as we sat down, we all started falling asleep. I said, I'm tired. ha ha Luckily we've got incredible elders who are being so sweet and helpful with this whole situation. So we should have all the help we need for the rest of the night. It's just going to be a long one. And it doesn't help that Sister Ingraham got sick last night. Of all days to come down with a cold...

On a more normal mission related subject: Diamondo. We saw him on Saturday. We had a quick lesson about the sacrament and our reasons for going to church and then made sure that he and his daughter were ready to start the stop smoking program the next day (yesterday.) They were. =) And they seemed really pumped about it. But we got worried yesterday when we didn't see them at church. So I called Sara and asked if she still wanted the elders to give the two of them a blessing. She said she did, so we passed by with two of the elders after church. When we walked into the room, something just felt...different. They gave them both really lovely blessings, but something was still off. So even though the elders were ready to leave, the two of us just sat their for a moment or two...then Diamondo and Sara started talking. They were struggling. Diamondo, who is one of the happiest people I know, broke down. He's talked to us a lot about how his wife died when she was 35, but always in just a factual way. But yesterday...he was missing her. Apparently holidays were her thing. She loved them. She would cook all day, have decorations everywhere, and she was the glue that brought and held everyone together. He told us that even today, he misses her and can't understand why she had to die leaving him with four young children. At the time, he questioned God's existence, but has changed and "come to peace" with what happened, even if it is still hard. He and Sara just sat and cried and hugged each other. The four of us (the two of us plus the elders) shared a couple scriptures with them, bore our testimonies to them and just...listened. The most incredible part was that in the end, I knew Diamondo's wife was sitting by his side. It was practically like I could see her. It's such an incredible blessing to know that we are never alone. There is always someone who loves us by our side supporting us through the very most difficult moments. I just love that. 

In addition to that, I've fallen in love with priesthood blessings all over again. After witnessing five in four days, it's just incredible. The spirit that comes when these young men place their hands and these people's heads is just...beyond words. I love those moments where you can't question how much Heavenly Father loves you. =) I said, it's been a crazy week. I can't even begin to give you all the details, but I hope you get the picture. 

So I'm staying in Brussels. In a different apartment (the elders that moved out were heartbroken to leave it. That should be a good sign. ;) We have yet to see it. But we'll be there soon-ish...I hope.)

I would tell you more, but I just don't have the mental energy right at this moment. Just know, life is busy but good. =) It'll be that much better when all of this craziness is out of the way and be can go back to normal life again. 

I love you. Have a wonderful week!