Monday, December 19, 2016

Crunchy Peanut Butter is Best - Week 80

Pretty busy today so this is going to be a relatively short one, just some highlights of the week.

On Thursday this last week, we went to Lyon with about 75% of the mission to have a Zone Conference with one of the members of the Europe Area Presidency, Elder Sabin. Usually with missionary conferences like this, we have a general meeting for about 2 hours then have lunch and then have another 2 hours of the conference with the guest speaker. But usually they're a little shorter when important people like Elder Sabin come to them. I was expecting pretty much the same thing this time because you know how those General Authorities are, busy. Turned out I was wrong and Elder Sabin ended up talking to us for close to 3 hours. Yeah that’s about the same amount you spent in church in a given week. And I don't know how he did it but he kept it really interesting (at least for me, some other people dozed off a little) the whole time by telling stories about his life and different lessons he learned. At the end of the whole thing, he let some missionaries ask him some questions. Luckily I was one of them. I asked him if he could give advice to himself when he was our age, after all the successful business ventures he's had and being a general authority and all, what would it be. He told us that he wished he took the scriptures more seriously. He gave some really interesting insight about it afterwards and said that someone once asked him what he can attribute his success in business to and he said the Book of Mormon. Basically it was one of those you had to be there kind of thing but I thought it was really interesting and insightful. General Authorities are the coolest.

On Saturday we had a ward party where every auxiliary, i.e. Primary, Relief Society, etc. did a little skit/song thing. The Priesthood took the easy way out and just stood up front and sang a couple of hymns of course. My comp and I found ourselves at the table with all the other English speakers and we got to enjoy our entire night in English. My comp was pretty grateful since his French is still coming along. 

Funny little experience for the week. Today we were doing our grocery shopping at the store and this elderly lady came up behind us right when we were checking out and she was holding three decent sized bags and so I decided to help her with them. See mom, I did listen to you. She pulled out this little jar of Skippy Peanut Butter from one of the bags and I commented how it’s hard to find real peanut butter here in France and that it's usually expensive. I was really impressed because she even knew there was a difference between crunchy and creamy peanut butter. She preferred crunchy of course. Like a normal French person, she said to us the few English words she knew and said she had seen our plaques (name tags) before. Anyways, I didn't think much of it afterwards and we wished her a Merry Christmas as we were leaving. We'd probably then walked 20 feet or so when she yelled to us and tried to run (more of a shuffle) over to us and handed us the peanut butter and said, "This for Christmas. Happy Christmas!" and then she turned back to pay for her stuff. I love nice people.

This week is going to be a little crazy since we'll be between five different cities and doing exchanges and zone training but at least we'll be spending Christmas and Christmas Eve with some English speakers.

Talk to you guys on Christmas!

Love you!

Elder Wilson

Monday, December 12, 2016

Remember Me? Elder Wilson? - Weeks 75, 76, 77, 78 and 79

Well I thought I would actually update you guys as to what I have been doing lately. Sorry it’s been a while.

We had a baptism this week for the Bishop’s daughter and so  Elder Bott and I volunteered to clean out the font because it doesn’t get used often and rust gets built up and turns the water red. That’s what happens when you're in an old country like France where everything is still built out of concrete and the pipes haven't been changed in a long time. We successfully cleanined that out with whatever stuff we could find in the cleaning closet at the church. The baptism was great! Little kids getting baptized is always the coolest.

That night we were invited over to a member’s house. She is Canadian and they only speak English at home so that’s a nice change and they just sent off their oldest son on a mission not too long ago so every time we are over there, they update us on all the funny stuff that happens to him. She was especially proud of how she bought him an Avengers blanket for Christmas and how the other missionaries want it. But apparently they're one of the families in France like the Causses and Babins who just know a bunch of General Authorities and Members of the Twelve. Soeur Tavella was Elder Anderson's secretary when he was the mission president in Bordeaux so they have some close ties.

We had some new missionaries come in from Lyon to live with us here in Valence and we had to pick them up from the train station of course to show them how to get to the apartment. The only problem was they got sent to the wrong train station and so we had to take a 20-minute bus ride out there to wait for them. It wouldn’t have been too bad but we were already in an outer city when we were told when they were coming in. Long story short, we got over to the station in time but their train was an hour late so I ended up beating Bott in foosball for awhile. Thanks, France, for conveniently having foosball tables for us to play with while we are waiting.

Thursday we went to this city called Romans, which apparently is the shoe capital of France and a couple members work there and they teach people how to make shoes. Our ward mission leader lives there also. I think I already mentioned this but he plays professional rugby here and is super cool. He ended up telling us some of his life story and how he ended up here and I explained to him how football works. Fair trade off I guess.

The super cool American family (where we had Thanksgiving), well the mom is American and everyone but the dad speaks English, invited us to come down to their place on Friday night because they were going to be having a Christmas party with some members and a bunch of their neighbors who aren't members. We got down there a little early to do a little bit of service for them and help get everything ready and it ended up being really cool because we talked to a lot of the non-members there and explained who we are what we do as missionaries. Don't worry it wasn't just like a random Christmas party that we went to. We still did missionary work.

After church on Sunday, that same half-ish American family invited a bunch of members down to their house to go caroling and to have dinner on Sunday night (after having already made us food to eat for lunch). There was a lot of miscommunication that went on so my comp and I got stranded in Valence (they live like a 40-minute drive south) 20 minutes before it started but luckily some people missed some exits on the freeway and so we were able to take a later train and get there and still sing. Now we are going to go back this week and knock on all those doors to see if anybody is interested in meeting with us.

Yesterday this guy came in the church right before church started and right when I saw him I knew he was an American. Turns out he's a BYU Professor who was a missionary here 25 years ago back when it was a little branch and now it’s a ward with its own chapel. We ended up talking to him for a little bit and he wanted to help us teach some people but since we had p-day today it didn't work out. But what did happen was this morning, Elder Bott and I went on a hike up to this ruined chateau, Château de Crussol, and no joke, 5 seconds after we started walking up the hill, this same American BYU professor turned up and gave us a ride to the top. Apparently he had just done that same hike and was on his way back down. This hike started in the middle of this small city a little distance outside of Valence and there he was! What are the odds? Pretty cool.

Excited to talk to my family next week on Christmas!

Love you all,

Elder Wilson

Zone Conference


Working at the food pantry

Hike to the Château de Crussol


Monday, November 7, 2016

American Chapels and Die - Weeks 72, 73 and 74

Okay, so it's been awhile since the last time I wrote an update. Some pretty exciting things have been happening and because of this, I haven't had a ton of time to write. First of all, I am in a new city. I have been transferred to Valence, a city just south of Lyon. I am opening a new companionship, that means my companion and I will both be brand new to Valence, not replacing previous missionaries. It is a little challenging because we will be starting from nothing and we will have to find new people with no previous contacts or connections. Also, I have a new bleu again so I get to train one more time. His name is Elder Bott and he is from Salt Lake. Another Utah boy. Good deal! It should be fun. My zone has the AP's in it so there will be lots of trips to Lyon and hanging around in the mission office. I am going to miss Gap though and the awesome people that I met there these past 6 months. I had some really great and memorable experiences. 

But the most important thing that has happened is that the Saturday before I left Gap, I was able to baptize Julie, a remarkable young lady that has been interested in the gospel for quite awhile and has had the lessons with several sets of missionaries. She is the only member in her family and she has been researching the church for about a year and I had the amazing opportunity to baptize her. It was pretty awesome and something I will never forget. Julie and her mom even came to the train station at 7:00 am the morning I left Gap for Valence just to say goodbye. It was pretty cool.

Now on to Valence. Fun fact for the day. Every city in France has a certain name for if you grew up there. Instead of being, say, just a Texan, you get a special name for your city. Valenciennois is actually the one for Valence. 

When you first open a new companionship somewhere, you basically start with nobody to teach and so you have to be creative to find new people because nobody really wants to talk to people in the streets for 8 hours a day. Luckily though, this week the guys from Chambéry called and said they had someone call them and wanted to meet with them. Turns out he actually lives in Valence and so they hooked us up with his number. Before we even had time to call him, he actually gave us a call wanting to meet. That usually doesn't happen too often. But we fixed a rendez vous for later in the day. 

We met up with him at the church because luckily, our church is pretty close to the center of town. Turns out he speaks English better then French and so that made Elder Bott happy to be able to actually talk with him. We just ended up sharing the story of the Restoration with him but after we got done talking he was telling us how he's been in France for a year and when he initially decided to come here he wasn't sure why he chose France. He just told us it felt right. Then after meeting with us and talking, he said he thinks he knows why he ended up in France. Pretty cool little experience for the week. 

We went to Grenoble this week for a district meeting, they had a member who just got back from his mission from Italy come and talk and he told us what worked for him and what ideas and things that he used in his mission. It's really interesting to see what things work in other missions that we can use. 

I took Elder Bott out porting (tracting) for his first time on the mission. If you think of the idea from other people's point of view, you have two young kids from another country going around and knocking on people's doors to try and talk about Jesus with them. Not always the most effective way to go about this. But whatever we can do to find people who are interested. One of the people we talked to was a Jehovah's Witness. While we were talking, she just kept quoting scriptures from the Bible as if it was just a normal thing to quote the Bible while talking. It's always fun talking to them because they try to nicely convert us as well.  

On Saturday all four of us here in Valence decided to go out to this small ville called Die (D-ee) for a few hours. Die is a small town up in the mountains and it turns out it basically just has a lot of older people living there. Interesting name. We knocked on this one lady's door and she came out and asked how much money we wanted. We told her we weren't here to collect money and we started explaining who we were and all that stuff and as soon as she asked if we were the "good brethren" and we said no, she just left to go inside. I guess our dinner isn't on her tonight. 

Because of Stake Conference in Lyon last week, we went to church for the first time in Valence this week. I have already taught Gospel Principles and next week I teach Priesthood. How is this possible? Surprisingly, about half of the members seem to speak decent English and they were happy to have two new missionaries in the ward. Since the other two Elders are British, there are always jokes that get thrown around from the members. And it also turns out that some people in the ward are good friends with some general leaders in the church. Maybe I can get some stories out of them one day. The chapel here is also only about a year old and so everything is basically brand new. It's one of the only churches I've seen here in France that actually looks like an American one. This week is also full of  visits to members who want to feed us and so Elder Bott should get a nice taste of some real French food this week. 

That's about it for this week. Take care.

Love, Blake 

Julie, the newest member of the church in France.

Julie's family

After the baptism

Stake Conference

My new comp, Elder Bott. Yes, we are the odd couple, at least in height.

Monday, October 17, 2016

American Families are the Best! - Weeks 70 and 71

Well sorry about last week. I honestly just didn't get around to doing a weekly email so here's me trying to do two weeks at once, again. 

If you remember a few weeks back, a member gave us a 30 pound box of apples so we spent last Monday going around visiting all the members and less actives and anyone else we could think of around Gap to try and share the apples. We actually got to spend a few minutes with every single one of these apple recipients. A few people we actually had been trying to see but it's been really hard to set an appointment with them. Guys, you just have to randomly show up with something to give them and they like you. 

There is an American family who lives up in the mountains right outside a ski resort. We've been trying to go and visit them too for a while and finally were able to. They have this tradition that whenever they have missionaries over to their house, they make Mexican food. So we had a nice dinner of enchiladas together. They also stocked us up with American mac and cheese. Plus all the time at church, they always pull out some American candy to share. 

Thursday night we took a train to Avignon, that one city with the Popes' Palace in it, to spend the night so we could make it over to Nimes the next morning for a multi-Zone Conference. We were taking a bus the next morning to get to our train and we got stuck in traffic on the way there so we just decided to leave the bus and start booking it to the train. I would imagine it's a pretty funny sight to see eight young dudes in suits running towards the train station. We actually ended up not even catching the train but at least we got some crepes for breakfast.

Apparently Nimes is a really famous city in Roman history. There is a Colosseum there that is the best kept one in the world and they still use it for concerts and bull fighting events and stuff. As part of the conference, President Brown bought tickets for everyone to go inside for a bit. If you're ever in the area, definitely somewhere to go and see. After spending the night in Nimes with my old comp Elder Aitchison, we got up early to catch our train back to Gap where we had a full day of rendez vous around the city. We were running around all day! Busy is good.

At church last week, the Branch President blessed his new baby and so there were a lot of families there since all of his family came up for it. I have to say, it was nice having almost twice the amount of regular people at church and there is something about children running around that makes it feel like a real ward.

This was the first week in awhile that I actually stayed in Gap all week long. Pretty sure it is the first time in a couple of months. But because of that, we decided to take advantage of it and get a lot of work done in the area. We visited a member who is 90 years old next month. When we got there, she had baked us a cake and showed us all the pictures of her family and told us everything she could remember about her trips to Utah. People love to tell us whenever they've been to America. We were talking to this guy last week and he said he was going out to Utah to go skiing next month. And he was like "Yeah I'm going to, you know, where all the Mormons are from." Not realizing we were actually Mormons. 

This last Friday we went to see the American family again and they picked us up in this car that apparently used to be a French firetruck. Complete with couches in the back of it. Definitely have to add that onto the list: Something I Need to Get Sometime in My Life. But they literally took us on a 30 minute drive straight up a mountain. Pretty good stuff.

And if anyone sees Trevor around this week, wish him a late happy birthday. I'm only two days late though. Happy Birthday, kid! 

Well that about wraps up the weeks. I hope you all have a great week. Love you all.



In the French Firetruck


The American Family

Monday, October 3, 2016

Apple Country - Weeks 68 and 69

Well this week's email is basically just going to be a long list of bullet points of things that happened in the last two weeks. If you want any further explanation, feel free to email me and you'll get a response in 7 to 21 business days. 

All the way back to September 19th-
  • We gave a less active member a blessing because he is getting surgery and giving blessings in French are still different but it’s a lot easier when you're not actually the one who is saying the words.
  • We went out to our Branch President's house to do some service for him and we cleaned out his pool and I mowed his lawn with one of those lawn mowers without a motor that you would find in the corner of your grandparent’s garage.
  • Later that day we took a train down to Manosque because we had to go all the way up to Avignon the next morning. 
  • To get to Avignon on time we got up at 4 a.m. Yup That’s a 4.
  • Luckily we got there early so we were able to look around the city and there is this huge palace that a Pope built. The city has a long of history with the Catholic Church. I'm sure Google can help you out with some more information because sadly, I was unable to gather a lot of info because of lack of time.
  • After the meeting we drove back to Gap with the Senior Couple, Elder and Sister Walker, and we drove through the French countryside and bought some salted caramel ice cream cones. Those things are way underrated.
  • Friday night we took another train down to Manosque to help the Elders there move the next day.
  • I discovered that throwing pillows and mattresses from the 4th floor of an apartment is a lot more effective then carrying them down the stairs. All the neighbors enjoyed the Americans be effective movers.
  • Last Monday the Manosque guys came up to Gap and spent the day with us for P-day because we were going to do an exchange the next day.
  • As part of the exchange I went with the older missionary from Manosque and we sent the two younger guys together. They're combined missionary experience in the field was 10 weeks.
  • On Tuesday we knocked on a bunch of doors together and for both of the new guys it was their first time knocking doors. Basically if you just use the fall back plan of saying you're new in France and don't know French, the people you meet will talk to you and practice for a bit. 
  • Wednesday we went out to the Branch President's house again and this time we took apart his whole trampoline and set it up in a different part of his yard. He has this thing where he really likes to practice English with us and what makes it funnier is he has a super French accent with it but actually speaks really good English. 
  • I also happened to bring some Pop Rock candy with me, sent from Momma Wilson, and since they have five kids, I let them experience some American Candy. Surprisingly they loved that stuff. Definitely a good idea to give to people not from America.
  • Apparently Gap is known as apple country and so when you drive anywhere outside of the city, there are apple orchards everywhere. 
  • We went out the outskirts of Gap to this city called Embrun. You should definitely look that one up on Google. It's a city on the shore of a lake with a huge mountain right next to it. Beautiful. We did some service with six other members and we cleared out this member’s yard that was probably 3/4 of an acre with grass that was waist high. Using all the trimmers and lawn mowers we could, we cleared it out in like 5 hours.
  • Later that night, the Manosque guys came up and we had a district meeting with the Walkers in their apartment based on the talk by Sheri Dew called "You Were Born to Lead, You Were Born for Glory." It's a BYU speech. Go look it up for a good read. And then they made us some French dip sandwiches. Seemed pretty fitting.
  • We watched General Conference in the office at the church and on Sunday some members came and made us some sandwiches and brought a huge 30ish pound box of apples that they picked from their neighbor’s apple orchard and wanted us to deliver the apples to all the members around. I have to say, freshly picked apples are pretty good. 

Well that about does it for this summary of the couple of weeks. Take care everyone.


Elder Wilson


 Training time

Enjoying some Pop Rocks

Monday, September 19, 2016

Buckle Up for a Long One - Weeks 66 and 67

Well howdy y'all. I guess having a companion from Texas will make me you do that kind of thing. But since I have to get through two week’s worth of stuff, this will basically be a summary of everything that happened. Let’s throw it all the way back to September 6th. Which happens to be my Dad's birthday. Look at that. 

After having a rather uneventful P-day that Monday, we were invited to go out to lunch to get some Indian food by the American family in our branch. The whole thing is pretty funny because they had texted us the week before asking who the missionaries even were since they had been in another city for the last 2 months. It's still us! We actually had gone to that same Indian food restaurant with them a while ago and so, after texting back and forth a bit, I jokingly asked if they ended up eating more curry after our last lunch and they said they were actually going to go there the next week and invited us along. After eating and talking for a bit, they grabbed a menu again and were going to order more food for dinner to take with them and then they asked if we wanted anything so we didn't have to cook dinner. We tried to get out of it a little bit since they already bought lunch but we ended up walking out with dinner AND they gave us American mac and cheese and Reese's candy. Just in case anyone doesn't know, those items are almost impossible to find in France. You have to love Americans who know what the good stuff is. 

Thursday night we headed to Manosque for an exchange and so we could get our transfer calls together with the Elders down there. We woke up on Friday morning and we had to go over to the new apartment that they are going to move into so the French agency could check it out and then we ended up just sitting in an empty apartment waiting for President to call to tell us what’s happening next transfer. I learned I'll be staying in Gap for another transfer and Aitchison is going to Nimes, a city not too far away and he gets to be with another Brit so he is pretty excited to get his accent back. Also, I will be getting a new companion fresh off the plane and I will now be District Leader. Trainer, DL, the only counselor in the Branch Presidency and I am the Executive Secretary. It should make for a good time. It was a little bit of a weird feeling knowing that after almost 5 months together, Aithchison and I would be in different places. Gotta love that Brit. For the rest of the day we helped the Manosque guys with some rendezvous and taught a couple of their amis. Later that night, their ward had an activity planned to play indoor soccer but somehow we ended up outside and since the town is in the middle of the desert kind of, we were literally getting eaten by mosquitos for a few hours. I woke up the next morning with bites everywhere. One of the members counted and I ended up with like 70 or so bites. 

We got back to Gap the next day and Aitchison packed up all of his stuff for part of the day and it was his request that we went to this fried chicken restaurant in town. We had become friends with everyone who works there and whenever they see us in the city, they come and talk to us. While we were in line to order our food, the people in front of us ordered chicken strips and they were told that they didn't have any left so when we got up to the front, we just ordered a bucket of wings. When the food was brought out to us, the owner said they had made some strips just for us and gave us some extras and also gave us a discount. Another one of the workers came and talked to us for a while and gave us some free ice cream. Well I guess being a missionary has its perks. But it was really interesting because he had talked to us about how a few years ago he had leukemia and through his whole recovery process, his thought process changed. I would imagine being on the edge of death would do that to you but it changed him to make him want to go and do good and not to judge others and help others a lot. It just made me think about how it was really similar to how the gospel teaches. I'm glad I haven't had to have an experience like that in life and I've just been able to learn it from the gospel. 

After church on Sunday we had to hustle over to the train station, since we live so far from everything else, we had to go down the night before to catch our trains in the morning for transfers. 

Monday morning, I took a train to Lyon to spend the next few days there waiting for the new missionaries to come from America. I got there in the morning and I split my time between helping to get people to the office who were going home and helping out in the office to aid other people catch trains at the station. I was able to fit in eating some Burger King and then I was able to hang out with a lot of other missionaries at the institute building in Lyon. There's something special about just being with a bunch of missionaries for a while. 

Tuesday morning, we got up and headed over to the institute again just to eat and then, since there was almost thirty missionaries together with not much to do for a few hours, what do we do? Go contacting around the whole city for the afternoon of course! We ended up in this really cool park in the city where there is a zoo in the middle of it. We all met back up at the institute building and had a conference of how to help and train new missionaries. 

I'm not really sure how other missions are but here whenever new missionaries come in, it's almost like a second mission call opening. We hid in the basement of the chapel while they were all upstairs being taught some stuff about the mission and then after a little while, we all went up and sat on one side of the chapel. The new people all get called up one by one and get a letter that they read off that says where their first area is and who will be their companion. It’s a pretty cool thing that they do. My new companion if named Elder Pistole straight out of Texas. And you know he's actually from Texas because when people ask where he's from he doesn't say the United States, he says Texas. Every French person dreams of going to Texas. They think that is the stereotypical USA experience. But we'll have fun together and get some work going in Gap. Then we had to get everyone over to the institute building to set up their new iPads and since I was one of the only people who knew how to get around Lyon, they had me take half of the missionaries. Now have you ever seen when a shepherd takes care of his sheep and they all follow him around? Basically the same idea here going on buses and through the metro. But once we got there, the office guys had given everything out and they were trying to help everyone set up their iPads. Well I'm good friends with one of them and had done the iPads stuff before so once they remembered that, they were basically like, "Okay Elder Wilson is in charge and if you have any problems setting up your iPad, ask him." It was pretty fun running around for the next hour trying to explain things in a few different languages. After, we headed back to the apartment in Lyon and called it a night. 

The next morning, we had to get all the new missionaries to the office to do French legality. Just picture the same thing as before with me in the front trying to get everyone together but luckily, there wasn't as many. After getting all of that done, my comp and I took a train back down to Gap and he got to unpack a little bit before the Walkers took us out to dinner so they could meet the new missionary and just figure out some other things with us. 

The next morning, we actually got to do real missionary work for a change. We went and visited a few members and less actives and did some contacting for my comp's first real experience in France. I was trying to remember what it was like when I first got to France and I just remember being lost because of the accents and trying to understand as much as I could. He's probably doing better than I was so he should be great. 

The next morning, the Walkers took us to Marseille so I could attend the Stake Priesthood Ledership meeting and so we could all go to the adult session of Stake Conference. Since the Walkers realize we live in France and they want us to take every opportunity to enjoy the French experience, they wanted to go down a little early and look around and take some pictures and eat lunch right on the sea coast. I mean I couldn't tell a nice old couple no so we went along with them and had a nice time. 

I'm not sure how many of you know that my brother went on his mission to Paris a few years ago and one of his favorite companions actually lives in my mission and so before I left, he told me that I had to find this companion of his sometime during my mission. Well there I was sitting in Stake Conference with basically only the name of this guy because I honestly had no idea what he looked like and there was this younger guy conducting the music on the stand. Well for some reason he just stuck out to me and it made me think of my brother's mission companion but for a second I thought it would be weird to go and just ask his name but then I realized I'm a missionary and literally do that all day long. So after all the meetings, I went up to him and asked him if he served in the Paris mission. He said no but his brother did and he said his brother was in the back. So I went and found him and showed him my plaque (name tag) and asked if it reminded him of anyone and of course he asked if the other Elder Wilson was my brother. It was pretty cool finding his old companion and talking for a bit. I can check that one off the list now. 

The next morning, we went to this conference center for the actual Stake Conference and I got to see some old mission friends that I haven't seen in a while and got to catch up for a bit. The General Authority that was there was Alan Phillips who is a newly called Seventy from just last April and let me tell you, I put a bet on him that he'll be an apostle one day. He was unreal good. Especially since he's from England and had to get everything translated so he could only say half of what he wanted. Afterward, we headed back up to Gap with the Walkers and that pretty much wraps up the week. 

Love y'all. Have a great week. 

Elder Wilson

The last photo with Aitchison. So sad : (  Man am I going to miss him.

 Meeting up with old friends

 All the trainers waiting for our bleus

 Cruising around Lyon

 Elder Pistole, my new companion, heading back to Gap

 Hangin' in Marseille

 The Mediterranean

The Stake Conference group

The office guys back together 

THE Elder Dussere 

Throw back to 3 years ago and Trevor with Elder Dussere