Monday, August 26, 2013

1 Nephi 2:15, when their eyes change and they understand and HALLO MIJN GEWELDIGE


Oh my goodness, it feels like just yesterday that I was able to hear from you wonderful people, and now it is Monday again? I can't believe how fast time flies!!! I feel like it certainly goes by way too fast!! I have seen one of my favorite missionary friends go home this week. I never thought that my trainer would ever go home. She is too cool to just be a normal person again!! but the fact that her time came has kind of slapped me in the face. Oh my goodness you guys.....I really don't have very much time left!!! I have refocused my efforts this week and I am going to use every moment that I have to be able to serve the Lord with all of my heart, might, mind and strength!!

We have had a wonderful week!!! The work for us here in Turnhout has finally picked up!!! I love my time here when I am able to teach people and watch them grow in the gospel. That is actually my favorite part. And more specifically, being able to teach and watch my investigators eyes light up as they are able to feel the Spirit and recognize the truth that they had been taught in the premortal exsistence. It is the most beautiful thing, and when their eyes change and they understand, there is nothing that will keep them from learning more!!

We have an investigator named Isaac. He is the coolest guy I have ever met!! It has been such a blessing to have found him and have the opportunity to be able to teach him. He does not have a Christian background, but over the last three weeks we have seen a difference in him. He started praying everyday and he told us just today actually, that he knows that God exists. Oh my goodness. I just love it so much!! He is progressing and preparing to be baptized in October!! He spends time with us almost everyday because he is so excited to learn!! The members love him and tomorrow, we are bringing him over to the fourth member's home to have dinner. The members here are really starting to understand how to do missionary work!! I just love it!! It actually reminds me of something that I read in my studies this morning in 3 Nephi 11. This is when Christ appears unto the people and the people hear a voice three times. Every time that they hear it though, it describes this,' and it did pierce their hearts'. That is what the gospel does, it does that for those who are not ready and those who are ready. There is something different about the people who have accepted Christ into their lives and those who have not. The investigators and members who are willing to let the gospel and the things that Christ has asked us to do as His disciples, then we are able to feel this piercing in our hearts. We are able to feel the effects of the gospel and actually develop a desire to want to do things, want to change, want to be missionaries, want to become the children of God that He expects us to be.

We had another Zone Training this week. I love Zone Trainings. Actually, I kind of have a love/hate relationship with them because everytime I go, I feel like everything that is said and done is done specifically for me. So, I always come away built up and having learned a lot about the missionary I can become, but feel bad for all of the rest of the people that have to sit through everything that I need to hear. I guess that is a little bit of being pierced by the Spirit. It doesn't matter what is said because everyone can receive the inspiration that they need.

But they talked a lot about developing faith to be able to baptize once a month. I am not going to lie, after being out here for a while and not being able to see very many of the people that I have taught make the decision to come unto Christ, I have come to the conclusion that I am just here to make an influence. But that isn't true. The Lord has a mandate, that we go into the world and baptize in His name. I am not going to lie, I have not had the faith to know what or how to do that. After this conference, though, Zuster Clement and I sat down and made a plan. We set a goal and made a plan to be able to accomplish our goal. I have already seen the blessings that the Lord has given to us from working together toward the same goal, but it is also His will. He wants these people to accept His gospel!! We want to do His will and we are working our butts off for it!! It's going to be a faith builder....I can already tell!!

We have been working super hard this week and it paid off. Well, actually the investigators that we are working with are actually beginning to make decisions to do things like come to church!!! We had three investigators at church this week!! One of which we didn't think would actually come. I love it when people make decisions and come to do things that we ask them, well that the Lord asks of them, and they are able to see the blessings that come to them in their lives. Two of them loved chruch so much that they have decided to come to all three hours next week!! The Spirit there in the church building is always super powerful and people can automatically feel a difference. I love being able to remember that the same thing happens to me, especially when I pay attention to my feelings. Don't foret to listen to the Spirit!! It's like super important, but I feel like it is the most forgotten thing in the world!!

Ok, last thing. The coolest thing that I learned this week was in Sacrament Meeting. The speaker decided to choose the shortest scripture in the Book of Mormon and speak about it. So he choose, 1 nephi 2:15. Yes, he spoke about that nephi's father lived in a tent. But the coolest thing that he said about it was that obviously, lehi's estate in Jerusalem was huge, and beautiful. People were jealous of him. He loved his house and I am sure that it was a very hard decision for him to just get up and leave, but he made the DECISION to live differently that the normal man. He choose to follow the Lord and live in a tent. If we live in a tent, we are willing to go and do the Lord's will. If we live in a tent, we are not worried about worldly things. If we live in a tent, we are able to serve the Lord in the way that He needs us to because we are always ready to go. Living in a tent is something that we spiritually need to do. We need to make the decision to be different than everyone else. We need to choose to become the servant of the Lord that He needs us to be and stick to our decision, don't think about the house that you have back in Jerusalem, it isn't important. I just ask myself, have I completely moved out of my spiritual house in Jerusalem into the tent? Or do i still have possessions that I am not willing to give up? Good question, huh?

I love all of you so very much!!!

I hope that you all have a good week and enjoy reading the Book of Mormon!!! I am excited to hear all about what you learn!!

Love you and miss you!!

Zuster Israelsen

Megan's Challenge, Branch Picnic, Haircut and 3 Investigators at Church


Oh my goodness, I can't even tell you all how much I really, really miss you right now!! with everyone going off to school and doing such crazy cool stuff, it makes me feel a little left out!! Don't have too much fun without me ok? I promise that some day I will come back and we can have adventures together!!

This week....we traveled a lot. I feel like every time that I have a cute little greenie, we end up spending the first two transfers just traveling to all of their legal appointments. I remember only having to go to Brussels once, but apparently they have changed their process and you have to go like three times to be able to get your identity card and everything else that is necessary to be legal here in the land of the tulips/flanderen. I spent a lot of time on the train, reading the Book of Mormon and trying to memorize more scriptures in Dutchfind that is the only way I get any better...and also speaking in dutch all companion doesn't really like that one as much) Anyway, have i ever told you how much I love the Book of Mormon? I love it so much!!! It helps me everyday to be able to continue forward in this work. What a wonderful opportunity I have to be able to share it with people everyday here in my mission!! Even if they don't want it in their lives at the moment, I am able to give them the opportunity to utilize their agency. I don't think that i ever sent this in an e-mail....but I did write it to Jake and Michael. I have extended a Book of Mormon challenge to everyone in my family and friend circle. I have about 7 ish months left out here...that is plenty of time to read through a Book of Mormon. Essentially the challenge is to
1. Get a clean copy of the book of Mormon
2. Read through Chapter 6 in Preach my Gospel
3. Select a Christ-like attribute that you want to learn more about or develop more.
4; Read the Book of Mormon with specific focus on that attribute.

I promise that if you do that, then you will learn more than you have ever done in a read through of a Book of Mormon and by following the examples of the prophets therein, you will become more like Christ and just want to read a new book of mormon for every attribute. I better get an e-mail or letter letting me know that the challenge is accepted. And if anyone is cool enough to read it in Dutch....they get a free Chipotle on me when I get home....wait....I may be paying for myself....darn it

Anyway, this week I got to attend my first branch council of my mission. I know that sounds weird, I thought that the missionaries were always invited to those things too.....until I came here....and it is not always the case. It was a beautiful experience though. We were able to talk about each of our investigators and the branch is super willing to help us out!! That is a huge change than in any other area I have been in. We have investigators being invited to members houses left and right and they are loving it!! the members are loving it too because they are also able to help out with the missionary work and are able to see that it isn't hard to make a difference!!

After that amazing council....We had a branch picnic. We went on a 5k hike with everyone,and our investigator came. It was funny, because no one wanted to give the missionaries a ride, so we had to find it by ourselves. I am pretty sure that we walked for triple the amount that we were supposed to that day, just to get to the hike, then we had to walk all of the way back to the bus stop...that was a party. But is all worked out. This branch just loves this guy!! He is a hoot and gets along with everyone. I also think it makes a difference because he is actually interested in everything that is going on. He helps everyone, he asks all sorts of questions and he is just a personable guy. Every missionary that has met him thinks that he is amazing....the only problem that he is from a country that practices muslim and if he is baptized, then he can never return to his home country. So he is doing his best to learn everything so that he feels like he can make a real decision!! He is the coolest guy!! I am so grateful that we were actually able to find him because he lightens up our weeks, especially when we are going around really hard everyday, trying to find more people and no one wants to listen. It is always nice to know that you have at least one friendly face!!

We have had a few really amazing appointments with members this week!! We met with Familie Van Steenbergen. Oh man, do I love them!! It made me feel like I was back at Utah State living with grandma and grandpa. Brother Van Steenbergen even tried to offer me a mysterious brew-like substance that he drinks every evening....I think that grandpa is secretly getting information to the people out here...Because it is creepy how much they are like him. But it was just a really pleasant evening and they are the cutest little Belgian people I have ever met!!

Yesterday, I was lucky that I was able to survive. We had church!!!! And 3 investigators came!!! Oh my goodness!!! It was such a beautiful thing!! It was kind of sad though....because two of them speak i couldn't translate for them...but is was still good!!

But the part that I was lucky to live through comes next. We had an appoitment with an investigator from iran and he wanted to make us Iranian food. Of course, I was not going to turn that down...the only problem that he thinks that I am a man who weighs 450 pounds and can eat a took sheer will power to get through that meal and eat everything that he gave me. I thought that was the end of my misery....until....we went to our next appointment with an African familie....well...apparently everyone thinks that we are starving...Because we were fed fufu. I don't think you understand fufu. It fills your stomach in about three seconds and then you still have to eat the rest of the bowl... I almost died....I have no idea how I made it without offending anyone yesterday....I may or may not still be having problems....I don't think that I have eaten anything today yet...

I got a hair cut today...that is alway scary...and I think that it may have been cut a little bit too short...but it is still good!! I will send you all pictures next week. All I have to say mom, is that we need to make sure and have an appointment all set up for when I come home so that I can order a good hair cut in english...not is flemmish or dutch(there is a HUGE difference!)

I love you all so much! I miss you!! I think that it is getting harder to be away as the time goes on....I think that is sometimes because we can get discouraged as missionaries, but then I just get a Belgian waffle or a donor and suddenly I can keep going for another few days!! Oh, I also had to buy new shoes others were destroyed....and I was getting soaked feet whenever it rained...which is almost everyday!!!

Be safe!! Don't have too much fun at school!! Let me know how everything goes!! Jake, don't forget to for yourself can be hard sometimes!!

I love you all and miss you tons!!!

Keep smiling!!

Zuster Israelsen

P.S. Don't forget to let me know if you accept the challenge or not. I would love to be able to follow up and learn from everyones study!!


Monday, August 12, 2013

Begijnhof, Rocks, Portuguese and First Investigator Comes to Church!

I love you guys so much and I am always so jealous when I get emails from everyone telling me about their exciting lives!!  This week has been....interesting but good!!

First off, on Monday we went with the Elders to the Begijnhof here in turnhout. The explaination I read was in Dutch...but to translate.  It is an old community that is built by women.  Women who were widowed or who decided not to marry, and they are known to be some of the most well kept up neighborhoods in Europe.  It was pretty cool to see, and there are a lot of old people who live there now.  But they are required to keep everything in as original condition as possible!!  It was pretty fun and I also think that it was the quietest neighborhood I have been in since I have been here....CRAZY!!! So....that was P-Day.

On Tuesday, we had district meeting.  I love district meeting because it is a time when you get to meet with missionaries who are going through a lot of the same struggles as you and you get to build each other up and have some fun together for a couple of hours!!  This week we focused a lot on Obedience and Forgiveness.  Elder Ombach shared a story with us that he learned when he was a little guy.  

There was a man, who went around and he collected rockes.  but not pretty rocks like diamonds or rubies, just normal, gross, ugly rocks.  Every time that he saw something bad, or negative, he would put in a new ugly rock in his pocket.  Eventually, his entire house was filled with filth and no one wanted to be there.  He then asked us,"are our houses, or brains, just like this man's?  Do we only look for the bad in people, or situations?   Or do we collect the pretty rocks that everyone wants to have?"  

I think that sometimes we all need a reminder to look for the good in everything that happens to us.  Life is too crappy just to be focused on the bad, when we could focus on the good.  Have a glass that is half full and not half empty!!  It makes a huge difference!!  Try it!!  Write it down for a week and see the change that happens!!  I can testify that it works!!

So.....remember how I have said for months that my mission call should not have only said to prepare to share the gospel in the Dutch language, but that they forgot all of the rest of the languages on the planet?  Well....that proved true again this week.  We came across a Portuguese family when we were knocking doors and they let us right in because they recognized our name tags...Well...not a single one of them spoke Dutch.  You would think,"Oh, that's ok....we still have English as an option, right?"  Lies....It isn't true!!  We tried really hard to communicate with them, and made an appointment for Saturday night.  But then...we remembered that we didn't know of anyone who spoke Portuguese...PROBLEM!!!  

So...the next day, we went to look up a less-active that the Relief Society President gave to us....and guess what?  She is from Brazil!!!  I don't think that there is a better way to invite someone to return to church, than by asking them to come on a joint teach with we havebeen able to teach her and also the Brazilian family....and I have learned a little bit of Portuguese on the way.  Nos somos missionarias de igresja Jesu Cristo dos santos dos ultimos dias!!!

We also had a wonderful day on Thursday!!  We had our first correlation meeting and we had a dinner appointment with the Branch Mission leader's family that evening!!  The Van Der Waards are super cool!!  One of their sons reminds me a lot of Jake....that makes me miss him even more and I can't believe that he is going off to college this week!!  

Anyway.....We have finally found investigators....but we have a huge problem....all of them are chain smokers.  Heck, I am starting to smell like a chain smoker because we keep going to appointments with them...I promise, I am not becoming an addict!!  

I got to go to Antwerpen on exchanges this week!!!  Yes!!!  I got to hang out with Siser Kohlert!!  We had a great day with an amazing lesson with a less-active sister.  She is struggling with her testimony, and I have had similar experiences in my life.  The spirit was so strong in that lesson!!!  I love lessons like that, where like it says in DC 50, both the teacher and the pupil are uplifted!!  We also got to make smores in the Antwerpen apartment with their gas stove!!  

At church yesterday, we had our first investigator come to church!!!!  It was a beautiful day and the branch was super excited and very welcoming!!!  That just proves to me that the branch is ready to grow and that we just need to get to the point that we are working together and then the work will get going like a wild-fire!!  

I miss all of you very much!!  I love you and think about you every single day!!!  Please stay safe.  Jake, don't do anything too crazy at college!!  

I will do my best to stay safe and happy!!!  Keep putting the pretty rocks into your sack!!

Zuster Israelsen

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Van Gijsel familie knows how to do missionary work!! Sometimes its hard to keep going.

Hey there my Wonderful Family!!

First off, HAPPY BIRTHDAY ELIZABETH!!!  I hope that you were able to get my card on time....I never know with the mail systems out here if it will actually get there or if you didn't get it...just wait a few days and it will bet there!!

AND thank you to all of the amazing Israelsens who took the time to write me a letter at the family reunion!!  It means a lot to be able to get support from home!!  I really missed being at the reunion this year, so I was so grateful for a taste of family!!  THANK YOU!! 

And Mom, I got the package of clothes!!  They fit super well and I am so grateful to have them!!  With the heat and the long days everything is beginning to fall apart!!  Thank you so much!!

On Tuesday, we did a lot of finding.  Like, the entire day.  We talked to 60 plus people on the one interested.  Story of my life.  But our dinner appointment was super cool!!  We went over to the VanGijsel home for Broeder VanGijsels birthday.  We thought that it was just going to be another dinner appointment with some cake or something at the end.  But it was NOT!!!  The Van Gijsels invited their family, who are not members and a few less-actives that live close to them that they are pretty close too.  And they invited up sisters over at the same time!!!  The Van Gijsel familie knows how to do missionary work!!  That was the most productive and fun dinner appointment I have ever been to.  The coolest part was talking to Zuster Van Gijsel afterward.  She said,"it's been hard for us to figure out a way to do missionary work because it is hard for us to get up and actually talk to our friends and family because we don't want to have confrontation.  But tonight was so cool, because you sisters didn't even have to do anything.  All you did was stand there with your nametags and they started asking you the questions!!"  I have to admit, that was really cool!!  And Broeder Van Gijsel requested a hymn for his birthday present from the sisters so that was a super cool spiritual moment as well.  That is how missionary work is done, take note family.  I expect ya'll to at least invite a friend over when you have the missionaries!!  That is the way to work as a team because it is fun, easy and everyone learns more about everyone else!!

Sometimes, I am not going to lie, it is hard to keep going when it seems like everyone is just saying no.  It's been hard opening two cities right in a row.  We have had very few teaching appointments, actually, we spend 95 percent of our day outside trying to talk to people on the street and look-up less actives who never want us to come in.  It's tough.  I have asked myself,"Why in the world am I still going outside all day everyday and working hard when it doesn't seem to be working?"  It really is a testimony tryer I think.  I haven't felt right lately.  I am not exactly sure why, but I haven't.  So this week, for fast, all I wanted was for Heavenly Father to let me know that I was in the right place.  Sometimes I wasn't sure what my desires were or why I was trying so hard.  And the only thing I felt/heard was,"You know it's true"  To be honest with you, I was a little disappointed, I wanted to feel something super strong that like I have been able to feel in the past.  But what I have found out this week is that the Lord only gives you what you need to keep going on.  After that experience, I have a new drive to keep going.  I have a lot of goals that I want to complete before my mission draws to a close, and that seems to be happening way faster than it should, but I have renewed purpose.  I challenge you all, that if you ever feel the same way, if you ever feel like maybe you aren't feeling the spirit or you don't know why you are doing what you are doing, to get on your knees and just ask.  I can promise you that the Lord will answer.  You will get the answer that you need to keep moving forward at that moment.  What is beautiful about the gospel is that it works at all points in your life.  ALL OF THEM!!  It doesn't just have a one time use.  You are allowed to have doubts, but it is what you do with your doubts and what you choose to do to solve them that matters.  That is when the Lord will bless you!!  

We had another cool miracle this week.  Again, on a long day of finding, we were looking up a less active who didn't want to let us in that day for a reason I don't know.  But we were walking away from her house and a guy from across the street yelled out,"Sisters!!!"  I have to admit, I was a little scared.  Out here in Europe missionaries rarely run into members or friendly faces....and if they are friendly, they are usually I was scared.  Turns out, it was a member!!!  Weird, I know.  Anyway, he began to tell us his conversion story and everything right there on the street.  He has just received his endowment and is loving life.  But the coolest part is what we found out right after that.  He invited us in to meet his family.  He has four kids and a wife, all of which are not members of the church!!  That is missionary work!!  They are from Ghana and I love them so much!!  The kids love music so we had a connection right off the bat!!  The mom has not been open to talking to the missionaries for years, I am not sure why, but she is now.  
We have a fufu appointment with them this next week!!  I haven't had fufu since the Ampems in Dordrecht so I am super excited and I hope that we can continue to teach this cute little family!!  

I love Zone Trainings, we focused a lot this time on our personal baptisimal covenant.  It is more effective to invite someone else to baptism if you actually have a testimony of it yourself.  I love the challenge Elder Andrews gave us.  And I would like to extend it to you too!!  He asked us to think about one specific part of our baptisimal covenant that we love and cherish.  One specific part that we can share the blessings that we have found from it.  I know that my baptisimal covenant has given me direction and purpose in my life.  Direction and purpose toward eternal life, where I can be with my family forever, where I can continue to progress, a direction and purpose to become more like Christ!!  That is what is important to me and it has helped me to stay on righteous paths my entire life!!  What has your baptisimal covenant done for you?

This week has been interesting.  We didn't have a washing machine for about a week and a half and no time to be able to go to a laundromat to do laundry....I finally had to call and beg,  literally beg for them to bring us a new washer to our apartment!!  But, now I am able to have clean clothes and smell nice, unlike all of the Europeans.  At Zone Training this week they talked a lot about embracing the maybe I should stop that....Ok, that is never going to happen!!  I wouldn't be able to live with myself!! 

I love you all!!  I miss you a lot and I hope that you all have a fabulous week getting ready for crazy school stuff!!  

Love you!!
Zuster Israelsen