Monday, July 25, 2016

Do I Actually Serve in Gap? - Week 59

This was probably one of the crazier weeks that I've had on my mission because I slept in four different cities on four different days in a row. It’s pretty cool to get out and see different parts of the mission because the south is really different depending on where you go. But one thing is always the same, it’s always really hot. Luckily we were next to the coast and got some of the breeze coming in.

Last Sunday night we headed down to Manosque so that it wouldn't take us 4 hours to go down to Marseille for P-day on Monday We planned on meeting up with all the other missionaries from around. I had been telling people around Gap that we were going to go to Marseille on Monday and every single one of them told me we had to go and visit this certain cathedral. Luckily for us, that’s exactly what we did. You know how on top of temples there is usually the Angel Moroni? Well this cathedral had the Catholic equivalent of a giant gold Mary holding baby Jesus. The cathedral is set up on top of this hill in the middle of the city and so you can see everything around. After touring around for a bit, we got some falafel for lunch and ate it right on the dock in the port there. Later that day we headed back to Vitrolles with the guys from Aix and we all went to Ikea the next morning to buy them some stuff.

I bet it was quite a site seeing six Americans carrying a table and some pillows and blankets, among other things, across a busy city overpass with cars driving right next to us. There are always funny situations you find yourself in as a missionary. But don't worry Mom, we all made it back safely. After taking a bus back up to Aix, we went shopping to buy food for Zone Conference the next day. I have to say, when you have an entire cart full of drinks and chips and you're dressed like Americans, you get some pretty weird looks from people. I just bet that people were wondering why we didn't have any alcohol.

Later that night, we had a 13 person sleepover in the apartment in Aix, preparing for the multi Zone Conference the next morning with everyone from around Nice, Aix and Montpelier. It's so awesome to have a bunch of missionaries together just having fun. It was so great to have the missionaries from Nice there safe and sound, especially after the attack last week. They had some pretty crazy stories to tell. They were directed to stay in their apartment for awhile and not come out so the members in Nice took care of them and brought them food and anything else they needed. The church is a great organization!  

I'm not sure how many of know about our Mission President's wife, Sister Brown, but she's the type of person who is like that stereotypical grandma. She always has candy to give out to everyone and every single Zone Conference she comes up with a game to play. Since it’s the middle of summer, she came up with a game where some missionaries were launching water balloons in the air and some other missionaries had to catch them with a towel. It basically just turned into a massive water balloon fight. But don't worry, it all got tied back into some gospel principles. Later that night we took our 3 hour train ride back up to Gap.

In the morning, we went and installed some fire detectors and CO2 detectors in the empty senior couple apartment here in Gap. We ended up having to bang some nails through the walls to get them in and I'm sure the neighbors were wondering what's up since nobody has lived in that apartment since January.

On Thursday we did our weekly crepe party for all of the members, investigators and basically anyone who wants to come. We had a really solid turnout this time. But I think the highlight of it was when half of them started to argue about French history. One thing that you should know is that once a French person has an idea in their head, they usually don't back down from it for a long time. So there we were, listening to them arguing, with a couple other people who didn't really care just keeping up small talk. That's a little bit of France for ya.

Most of Friday and Saturday was filled with straight knocking a bunch of doors. The fun part was on Saturday afternoon it started raining a lot and so when people would answer the door, I bet it was a pretty funny sight to see a tall American and an Englishman soaking wet in the middle of France knocking on their door.

When we came to church on Sunday, there was a family from the north of France there visiting. Turns out one of the son served in this mission and served in Gap when I was in my first transfer way back when. Through them, we were invited to go eat with an investigator that we teach and that the previous missionary used to teach. It was pretty cool to just sit and talk with an entire French family since that doesn't usually happen.

So that's Manosque, Vitrolles, Aix and Gap that I slept in this week.

That basically wraps up the week. Except one of our investigators told me to say "Hi" for him to my family back home. So here's the greetings of a 70ish year old French man to you guys.

Love you all. Take care!

Elder Blake

See what you can do with a panoramic camera?

Monday, July 18, 2016

Terrorist Attack in Nice - Week 58

I never know how to really start emails every week. I guess just throw down an ice breaker and that’s all you need. 

This week was actually pretty solid. It was the first time in a few weeks that we stuck around in Gap all week long and got some really good work done. Just being a missionary and being a missionary in France and telling people you're American gets some French people to tell you some funny things. This week included someone telling me that John Wayne and Donald Trump go around and shoot people with their Winchesters all the time because that is the American way to do things. You learn new things all the time I guess. 

In every city where there are missionaries, there is usually a restaurant that you have to go to when you're in that city visiting. We hadn't really found that place yet here in Gap but a couple weeks ago this fried chicken place opened up in the middle of the city and when the Manosque guys came up to do 2nd year legality, we decided to try it out with them. Turns out it’s pretty good but right when we were leaving, the owner of the place stopped us and started talking to us and doing the usual thing when someone sees four young dudes in white shirts and ties with Jesus on their name tags speaking English to each other, he stopped and asked us who we are and all that good stuff. We ended up actually teaching him basically a whole lesson and he told us that he started the first mosque here in Gap. He told us the next time that we come in, he'll give us free chicken. Count me in.

The second half of last week, we had the most perfect weather where it was not too hot and there was a nice breeze coming through. Like for those in Utah, you know that one week between winter and summer and it’s perfect weather? That’s how it was. We took advantage of it and spent a lot of time outside knocking some doors around town.

Thursday was Bastille day which is basically the equivalent of the 4th of July in America. A member family asked us to come and help trim all their bushes in the morning and then we had a BBQ afterwards. One of the sons of the family has a dream to be American and live there. He actually just got back from spending a year there doing an internship and brought back a bunch of American things since he likes them a lot better. I have to say I was pretty happy eating burgers with Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce on them. He's also going back in September to marry an American girl so I guess he's just one step closer to reaching that dream of his. 

Later that night, there was a bunch of fireworks that went off across the town from us and our apartment faces the opposite way, so no show for us. At least we saw some fireworks off the windows from across the street. That’s about as good as it got for us. 

I'm sure you all know that that night in Nice they had the attacks right on the beach. The Elders who live in Nice actually live only four blocks away from the spot of the attack and there were members helping out with the fireworks right by where the truck was. Luckily none of them got hurt but it’s been crazy to actually have an attack in my mission boundaries. Though that does make four terrorists attacks so far within the French mission area since I have been out and lots of other French protests, strikes and riots that have affected us. Definitely not something that happens to other missionaries. There will be stories to tell later on. I am extremely grateful for the Lord's protection of his missionaries (as I'm sure my Mom is!)

Besides all of that, it was a pretty normal week of knocking doors and eating French cheeses. Until next time.

Elder BAW

Our version of fireworks thanks to Momma Wilson!

Monday, July 11, 2016

We Should Just Buy a Bus - Week 57

The last time I talked about my life was when I was on my way down to Aix to spend America's birthday with some other Americans. We ended up just going bowling and did some contacting all together that night. There's something cool about having a bunch of missionaries doing work together in a city. We spent the night down in Aix and headed up to Gap the next morning on a bus.

I might have mentioned this before, but on Tuesdays at the church we teach an English class for anyone who wants to come. Sometimes to get people interested in coming, you just tell them that you can come and
speak to two Americans and they get excited about it. Every French person has the dream to go and visit New York City sometime. As part of English class, I decided it would be fitting to have everyone sing the National Anthem. It turned into more of them just reading it but it was still entertaining. There's nothing quite like having French people with their accents read the American National Anthem. I should bring them the Declaration of Independence next time.

The next day we went back down to Aix to get down there in time for district meeting the next day. But that night I had to get one of the guys in Aix to go to the Tabasco store to buy some federal stamps so I can pay for my visa for my second year of legality here in France. You have to pay for your card with stamps so that the government buildings don't deal with money. But the problem was, we had to go to four different stores just to find enough stamps. But we ended up finding enough at least.

After having district meeting and making some American burgers since we didn't have any for 4th of July, we headed back up to Gap for the week. Now if you've been counting at all, that makes almost 12 hours worth of bus rides this week and it was only Thursday. They should probably just buy us a bus to sleep in. That's has basically been my life lately. After finally getting home it was basically time for bed. So after making dinner, we listened to all the horns and yelling that went on after France won their soccer match. At least there's only one game left.

Friday morning I had to go pick up my "titre de sejour" or my legality card for all of those non French speakers out there. Basically it's just this card that says I'm legal to be in France for the next year until I go home. It's a little tradition in the mission that once you get that card, you're considered old in the mission. It kind of hits you a little bit that you're actually getting closer to going home and you're not actually going to stay in France forever. Plus, that card is a pretty cool souvenir for later in life.

Sunday at church, the American family in the ward brought some of their extended family with them who were visiting from America. It's always nice to have some extra Americans around especially when they come from Utah. One of them actually served here when it was the Marseille ward and we found out some info about some people she taught back in the day. I thought it was pretty cool to actually find out about people years down the line.

We spent a good 7 hours at church between meetings and doing genealogy since our Mission President wants all the missionaries to do it every Sunday. After, we finally went home and ate.

But that about wraps it up this week. Take care everyone.

Elder Wilson


Monday, July 4, 2016

America the Beautiful - Week 56

Hey once again. This week was full of more soccer and really hot weather all the time. Last night we were lying in bed about to go to sleep when right at 11 o'clock a bunch of cars starting honking their horns and people were yelling. Looks like France won their game. I'm glad we don't have any traditions like that in America. But something else for you is England played last Tuesday and thet actually lost to Iceland. Aitchison was pretty bitter about it so we got some cookies to lessen the pain for him. But apparently a 1/4 of the whole country of Iceland game out to go to the games. Not bad.

Soldes shopping started back up again. And if any of you remember from last time I talked about it, it's basically Black Friday for a whole month and every week, everything that doesn't get purchased gets marked down even more. One of the nice things about France, too, is that there are a couple clothing stores that sell cool French style clothing only for guys. And there happens to be those same couple stores in every city. And since I have under a year left on my mission, that means I can start buying some clothes for back home right?

Wednesday morning we took a train into Manosque to do an exchange with the guys there for the day. After walking around trying to find some old Amis and unsuccessfully finding a guy named Mamadou, we went to teach one of their Amis who owns this Asian shop that sells all those stereotypical Asian things that you would think of. Apparently she gets old women coming into the shop all the time and they just sit there and complain to her about their lives and so she says she is first a therapist and sometimes she sells things. Luckily she spoke English and so we got to talk about the other people while they were sitting there. Haha. Some situations you get in as a missionary are pretty funny. She ended up making us some herbal tea and giving us some cookies as we sat and talked with her for a bit. And this was real herbal tea. The stuff with leaves still floating in it and everything. Surprisingly I actually liked it.

That next morning, we went down into Aix to have a Zone training with all the other missionaries from around here. Basically in those meetings we just talk about all the new things our mission President wants us to focus on for this transfer and we get to spend time with other missionaries, which is always fun. And in Aix it was really hot. Like I'm "yeah it's kind of hot" like "it's so hot I can't even think" hot. After taking a 3 hour bus trip back up to Gap, with real air conditioning, we basically called it a night.

We ended up being really booked all day Friday which doesn't happen too often here. But some of the highlights are: we have this less active member that we visit who has some problems with his legs and he drives around on a motor scooter all day and can't sit up for long periods of time. Because of that, we had our entire rendez vous with him laying down and him helping him do random things in the middle of our lesson. From getting bones for his dog to putting some of his groceries away. That's a pretty average lesson with him. After we finished up there, we headed out to another Ami who we've taught a few times before. For some reason in the middle of our lesson, he just started talking about these magic crystals that he has and a few stories of when he used them. Like one was he had this dying tree in his front yard and so he but his crystals in the base of it and it came back to life in a week and then he told us how he puts them on his table outside whenever there is bad weather and it makes the weather stop and then my personal favorite was when he said that he holds the crystals and uses his third eye, located in the middle of his forehead, and concentrates really hard so he can see the future. Always some interesting people that you meet on a mission.

Sometimes I wonder how some of these small branches are successful. Just yesterday at church, I was the one who conducted in Sacrament Meeting and I gave the lesson in priesthood. That's 2/3 of church that the missionaries did. I guess that's why there are always missionaries in these branches to help out. At least because I am in the Branch Presidency it didn't seem so awkward.

I'm actually currently sitting on a train going down to Aix again to celebrate the 4th of July with all the other American missionaries. I've got my American flag socks on and I'm ready to do whatever other American things we can think of. Have a great Independence Day and enjoy the fireworks for me.

Glad to be an American,