Serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in northern France, southern Belgium and Luxembourg.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Some weeks are just uneventful

Hey guys! This week was honestly pretty uneventful. It's not that I'm having too tough of a time or anything, it's just that some weeks aren't full of remarkable experiences. Roger was confirmed yesterday which was obviously the highlight. The soeurs in our branch should be having a baptism this Saturday so that's cool too. We've had a few good street contacts and even another guy who contacted us (that's happened 4 or 5 times in my one transfer in Liège, which is more than
in my four transfers in Antony), but we haven't gotten to see any of them yet because this time of year is super busy for everyone. 

So yesterday I had my first mangez-vous in Belgium, chez a not-too-poor family who fed us well. Except the first course was an awful mix of just straight up melon and fruits with a bit of cheese and jambon cru layered in. And I ate the whole plate. The first forkful I got this super strong gag reflex, and then the second forkful was a less-strong gag reflex, and then by the end it was gone (but I still hated it). I ate way slower than everyone and used like two whole glasses of their calorie-free Sprite but I did it. And then I was rewarded with a delicious lasagna, and even the dessert was blessedly fruit- and chocolate-free. It was like a flan had a beautiful baby with rice pudding. Yeah. 

My beautiful comp
The difference between planners at the beginning of a transfer and the end.

District pics!
That's all for this week! 
Love you all!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Back in white

Hey all!

So the bad news of this week is that the second iPad they ordered for me also got stolen before getting to me...along with any mail that any of you sent to me in the last 6 weeks. C'est la vie. But I'm not that sad because the good news far outweighs the bad!

The good news is the baptism of our investigator, Roger! This man was so prepared. He was found before I got here, when the missionaries went to the residence of his friend, and he just walked down the stairs with the Book of Mormon in his hand and joined the discussion. Turns out he was taught in Congo, already knew it was true, just never got to be baptized before coming to Belgium. 

Small story to finish: we left the apartment and walked a couple minutes before I realized I had forgotten to put on my nametag. So we went back and got it and that somehow put us in the perfect position to be contacted by a guy in the street. He asked us to pray with him, gave us his number to set up a rendez-vous, and then left. Uh...ok! Sure! We taught him the Restoration in the chapel. He told us after the lesson that during the First Vision, he felt something, "like the feeling you get when you win a race." He felt like he had finally gotten something, like he had found what he'd been striving for. We're seeing him again tomorrow.

That's all for this week! Stay tuned for the next episode. Love you all!

The chapel in Brussels

 Just Liège
We found a dog in a window.
It looks like what would happen if the lion really did lie with the lamb.

My companion and the zone leaders decorated my bed while I was in the other room.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The day I lost my favourite pen (among other stuff)

Anyone who's ever lived with me, or around me, knew this would happen. Let me tell you the story.

This week after district meeting, we were going home on the bus when we found a gigantic wallet on the seat next to us. It didn't belong to anyone on the bus. We found an ID and some phone numbers and we started calling the numbers to see if any of them were him. Anyway, what ended up happening was that I walked off the bus with the wallet in my hand...and left my whole shoulder bag on the bus as it drove away. That bag contained both my passports, our apartment keys, my debit card, about 80 Euros cash, my planner, my Book of Life...and even my favourite pen. All of them gone in an instant. It was a weight off my shoulder, but not in a good way.

We looked everywhere. We stayed for hours and checked every bus 13 as it passed by. We checked the lost and found, the bus headquarters...everywhere. That bag (and basically my whole identity) was gone.

It's amazing how much more fervent your prayers get when you realize exactly how much you need the help of God. This time, I couldn't convince myself I could do it on my own. Lot even a little bit. I couldn't pretend my efforts alone would make any difference. I was finally 100% beyond hope, and for the first time in too long, I turned the situation completely over to God. I begged Him to change the heart of whoever had my bag and prompt them to return it to the lost and found. 

As I was on my knees begging for our Heavenly Father to somehow get that person to want to return it, a profound impression came. I remembered the wallet, sitting over there on my desk. And a thought came to my mind: Somebody out there has been praying for his wallet to be given back, and you haven't answered his prayer.

So finally, we started putting in some effort to get this guy his wallet back. I won't go into the details, but it took hours of searching, writing, phone calls, a visit, etc. After doing everything we could, we went back to the lost and found this very morning...and voila. There was the bag. The only thing missing was the cash. Someone had my bag, stole the money, and then felt like he should return it to a place I could find it. And find it I did. It even still had my favourite pen.

Take whatever lessons you want from that experience. For me, suffice it to say that God is good.

Love you all!

Elder Stanford

Monday, August 10, 2015

The dopest investigator?

I'll get right to it. So we're walking down the street, looking for people to teach, doing missionary stuff, the usual. Then this guy sitting on these steps gets our attention as we walk by and starts talking to us. Within 2 minutes, he's given us his number and set a rendez-vous for the next day. Uhh...ok! Yeah we can do that! The one thing he says is, "Text me before you ring my doorbell because so many people are ringing that I usually just don't answer." Uhh...ok. Yeah we can do that.
So we get to this guy's house the next day and he's not there. We call him and he picks up and tells us he'll be home in a couple minutes. So we wait there and we see him walking in the distance, but on like 3 separate occasions he stops to talk to someone before finally making it to us. He walks up and Elder Orton's like "You know everyone don't you?" And then he tells us, yeah, he's actually this hip hop artist whose music videos have apparently been on TV in France and Africa. Uhh...ok! We get up to his apartment and he shows us a couple of his videos and then proceeds to tell us that he used to investigate the Church, and it gave him discipline and values and he did well. He wants that again in his life. He said he knows that everything that the missionaries taught him three years ago is true and he wants to get baptized! Ok yeah, we can do that! So we're starting from the beginning with him. He's so chill though. Honestly one of the most receptive guys I've ever taught. And guess where he's from...Congo. Seriously, send me on a mission to Congo.

If you guys want to see a video of our new investigator, find the YouTube chain "2noble". (Am I allowed to advertise like this?) Then imagine me and another white kid sitting in his apartment teaching him about Jesus. It may not be like the time two missionaries tracted into Liam Neeson, but it's as close as I've gotten so far.

Here are some things that have happened to me in Belgium so far. Ready go!
- Remember how I was scared about becoming fat in Paris? Hah! If I were on a quest for fatness, Liège would be where I would go. Everyone in Paris is skinny except the tourists. Here, they have these fries that are fried in some special ultra-unhealthy fat that's apparently illegal in many places but that makes it taste super good. Then they dump that into a baguette with a deep-fried meat of your choice and add two layers of sauce and call it good. Even the pigeons here are greasier than French ones. Time to start running in the mornings again.
- An investigator who speaks very little English (and even worse French) offered to give us his son when his family arrives from Eritrea. And we were like...your son? We don't want him! After a few minutes we found out he meant "daughter." Which didn't really make it better, because he was still offering his 11-year-old African daughter for marriage. We politely declined.
- A man sitting at a bar asked us to sign his shirt with a sharpie. We politely accepted.
- A new investigator saw the sister missionaries and then told us over the phone that he saw our wives. -_-
- On Saturday morning, we saw some teenagers outside our apartment who had been up all night. We called an ambulance for the girl who was passed out due to substance abuse, because the other ones were not in the proper state of mind to realize she needed help. (I debated whether or not to tell this one, but at least now you see a little bit of some people's lives without the Gospel.)

- We were contacted by a beautiful daughter of God trying to get us to donate to save some pandas. Later, the zone leaders were contacted by the same girl, and then they ended up teaching her at the chapel. They win this round.
- Everyone in Liège has an adorable dog with them and I want to cuddle them all. There is also a big college close to us with many of our sisters in the Lord attending it. I don't know whether the cute dogs or the cute girls are more distracting to the missionaries, but voila.
Until next week! Loves!
Elder Stanford


Monday, August 3, 2015

Church on a bus, being bold and Scripture advice

Hey everyone!

This week went by super fast. Not much to report—the man who had the baptismal date when I got here is still going strong. His name is Roger and he was found and committed to baptism due to the hard work of Elder Orton and Elder Wheatley last transfer. There is another man named Hugo who we’ve committed to a baptismal date of August 29th, but we may need to work a few things out with that soon, so stay tuned!

Couple of experiences this week: 

1.     While we were on the bus, a lady came up to us and asked us about what we believe (which, for those of you who have never been on missions, is an absolute dream). We started talking but only got about two seconds in when another lady came up and said “You guys believe in Jesus, right? The one who died on the cross?” Which we confirmed, and she just said like, “That…that is real faith. Because Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and you can only be saved through Him. And you guys…He will save you.” And she just kept going, there on that bus with everyone listening. And the first lady was agreeing, and then a third lady from somewhere else in the bus just started saying “Exactly. Amen.” And in the middle of it all were two 20-year-old North Americans just standing speechless, wondering if they had just accidentally started an Evangelist church service on a bus.
2.     I (re)learned that it’s okay to be bold with people. As we were out contacting people in the street, I walked up to two young men, one of whom was smoking. I started talking and they didn’t seem too interested (and as a missionary you can almost always immediately detect interest levels) so I decided to change styles a bit. I just told them “I’m a missionary for my church, and I’d love to help you quit smoking.” That approach kind of shocked them, and my companion, and me. But they both gave us their numbers for a rendez-vous this week!

And now, some advice about what scriptures to read depending on your objective! This is based off of a whole four transfers of being a missionary, with no outside authority whatsoever to back it up, so it’s obviously super legit.

  • If you want to prove intellectually that the Church is true, read the New Testament.
  • If you want to prove spiritually that the Church is true (plus grow nearer to God), your best bet is the Book of Mormon.
  • If you want to prove that the Church is true based on what’s going on in the world today, read the teachings of modern prophets. If you look, you'll find stuff that was and is incredibly prophetic.
  • If you want to deepen your understanding of the Savior, plus have your mind blown and re-blown with every chapter, read “Jesus the Christ” by Talmage.
  • If you don’t feel you’ve gone deep enough and you want to confirm by deep doctrine that the Church is true, read the Old Testament along with the Pearl of Great Price and the Doctrine & Covenants. (Disclaimer: I haven’t done very much of this yet.)
  • If you want to realize exactly how little you actually know about eternal things, read the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
  • Lastly, if you want a good laugh, read Song of Solomon aloud in a Morgan Freeman voice to the person sitting next to you.

Love you all! Be good!

Elder Stanford

PS Because I forgot to do this when I left Antony, I would like to do a special tribute to my beautiful blue ville. It is the form of a collection of sneaky pictures of the shoes of a ward member, the one and only Frère Tchim.