Friday, November 3, 2017

Signs of the Times

As we leave our neighborhood, there are two, beautiful, tree-lined streets that we frequently drive or bike along.  It was October this year before we began seeing the leaves turn yellow and orange.   We came home one day to see that our backyard “trees on a frame” had been pruned back to bare limbs in preparation for winter.

 On Nov. 1 I turned the calendar page and taped last month’s picture up with the other 14 pictures.


And lastly, we received a travel request form for our trip home when our mission is over.

 I realized that this was the second Fall we had witnessed in the Netherlands.  My thoughts jumped straight from there to “we’ve already been here over a year!”  and that we have only three of our 18 months left to serve.   Our travel request form asked for the date we will be leaving.  February 1, 2018 we wrote.  Our time here is quickly coming to an end.

As with all wonderful experiences, we approach the end of it with feelings of sadness for leaving and excitement to be home.  (this is what makes them wonderful, right?!)

We will miss these very impressive young missionaries with whom we serve.

We will miss the amazing young single adults we have the privilege to serve.

We will miss the Oostveen’s, our dear friends who have cared for us, served us, loved us and made us a part of their family. 

But we look forward with great excitement to being home with these people (plus Calvin, not yet arrived in this picture :) ! 

Our family is nearest and dearest to us.  Their encouragement and support has made it possible for us to fulfil our life dream of serving a senior couple mission.  Mom has been there with all her enthusiasm and support, cheering us on and being with our kids and grandchildren in our absence.  It will be so great to put our arms around all of them!

We will continue to serve these last three months with all our hearts, might, mind and strength, and at the same time try to contain our excitement to see our family!   

Saturday, October 21, 2017

When you’re sick and far away from home

          One of the most stressful events of our mission was Joe being sick.  It started with a cold on Aug. 21.  He felt bad for a few days then began to feel better.  A week and a half later he was progressively getting sicker again.  He had flu-like symptoms along with a constant productive cough.  We decided to see a doctor.  Here it is easy to see a G.P.  We call and usually get in the same day.  Joe had no fever, clear lungs, no sore throat and clear ears, just a bad cough, all over body aches and extreme fatigue. The doctor said he just had a virus and to wait it out but he would do a blood test for infection.  Then, since we don’t have the universal health insurance here, the doctor says it will be 27.60 euros, takes out his wallet, pockets the cash and prints us a receipt!   Two and a half weeks with a virus seemed a long time to us but the medical community here is very conservative in treatment, i.e. have an ear infection? It will just clear itself up with time, no treatment needed even if your eardrum bursts.
                The next day the doctor’s office called in some alarm and said Joe’s infection levels were very elevated, they thought he had pneumonia and needed an antibiotic.  That weekend Joe was so very sick; fever, clammy skin, coughing, body aches, feet swelling, and high insulin needs.  Amoxicillin for five days was the drug of choice here.  The senior couple brethren gave Joe a blessing.  I tried to exercise my faith and not worry but wasn’t very successful.  I was frightened.
                In 3 days Joe began to feel better.  We breathed a sigh of relief.  He was still coughing, had very little energy and his chest still hurt but seemed to be on the mend. 
                A week after finishing the Amoxicillin he began to get worse again.  I had been worried that 5 days of antibiotics weren’t enough and it wasn’t.  We made another trip to the doctor.  He now had a low-grade fever and his lungs weren’t clear.  We went for another blood test and also a chest x-ray, and got another prescription. This time he got Doxycycline for 7 days. The chest x-ray clearly showed pneumonia. 
                By this time Joe had been sick for a month.  I was frustrated with the conservative treatment and worried the antibiotic was still inadequate.  President and Sister Bunnell showed up at our house to check on Joe.  (President Bunnell was a pediatric physician assistant in his previous life!)  He checked Joe over and said everything looked fine.  We obtained the chest x-ray which was then sent to Frankfurt to the Area Medical Director.  He concurred that it was definitely pneumonia, that hopefully the Doxycycline would cure it, but if not, recommended another antibiotic which is the drug of choice in the USA for pneumonia. 
                A week later Joe was clearly on the mend again.   We prayed that he would get completely well this time.  He wasn’t coughing, but was exhausted all the time and had lost 20 pounds. 
                It has taken another two weeks for Joe to be up all day without needing several rests/naps.  Six and a half weeks after it all began, Joe is feeling good and back to work. 
                Although medical care in the Netherlands is modern and available, it’s enough different that it was very stressful to deal with.  What if we needed to go to the emergency room?  Where is that?  How do we get treatment we deem adequate?  Communicating is harder because we don’t speak Dutch.  Thank heavens they speak some English!  For that we are so grateful! 
                 It has been a learning experience.  We are even more grateful for good health, and for loved ones, friends and missionaries who prayed earnestly for him.  We are grateful for Sister Esther Fletcher who told us she had put his name on the temple prayer roll.  She is a sweet, kind, caring soul with Down’s Syndrome who is serving a mission here with her parents.  Our dear friends, the Oostveens, came over to check on us and Jan loaned us his stethoscope and pulse oximeter (he works on an ambulance crew : ) so I could monitor  Joe’s illness.  We learned patience as we took several weeks off from our mission work.  That is so hard!!!  We learned to find different ways to approach our missionary work while he was recovering so we could still serve.  (When Nephi’s steel bow broke he found a different way.  He made a wooden bow and arrows.  Not as good as steel but kept them from starving. He created a “work around”).  We couldn’t do all the usual work in the usual way but we managed to find ways to do the core work of our mission calling.  We learned more about praying with real intent.  And we learned to say “thy will be done” as we prayed for healing….. and perhaps that is the most important lesson of all. 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Institute is Once Again in Session

                During the summer break (mostly August) we didn’t have institute class.  It was so great to have it begin again in September!
We have dinner and institute for the Utrecht Ward YSA’s at our house on Wednesday’s.  We are so happy to have Abbie back from England!  Our usual students are Abbie, Noel, Romy, Sander and Julia.   We met a YSA girl in Veenendaal when we were driving the missionaries around to look up referrals.  She now comes to our Wednesday class.  We pick her up and take her back to the Dreibergen train station so it is reasonable for her to come.  Chiara is a great addition to our class.  Abbie and Noel bike 35-40 mins. to get to our house.  Julia, Sander and Romy have an hour or more bus/train/bike ride to come.  It is a real sacrifice for them to come.  They inspire us!   

At YSA camp in August we met kids from Lelystad.  We discovered they don’t have institute : (  Since we live about the same distance from Lelystad as from Rotterdam or Den Bosch, we decided to see if we could help.  We went to church in Lelystad one Sunday in August and met the Branch President.  It was decided we could teach institute there on Thursdays.  Yea!!!  So, we do dessert and lessons on Thursdays.  This is an active group.  Some come from Almere and The Hague.  We’ve met a less active girl through the missionaries and she has started coming.  We are loving Lelystad!

Our group in Den Bosch has lost some kids.  Timo has left on a mission.  (Wonderful!)  Jeremy has gone to Germany to study, and Stephanie is in the USA.  To our regulars,  Daniel, Esmee’ and Amber, we have added a YW from the ward, Marie-Louise, and Stephanie is still with us via Facetime!  Hooray for technology!  She can’t have dinner with us but we’re grateful to have her for the lesson : )

We always invite the missionaries.  Their enthusiasm adds strength and depth to our classes. 

It's great to have institute again.  Spending the evening with these young adults is the highlight of our mission.  No matter how tired we are, how bad the traffic is, or how late it is, we always arrive home feeling invigorated and so happy.  I’m not sure who is blessed the most from these evenings, but I think we are!  

The Luxury of Learning

One of the very best things about our mission has been the opportunity to study and learn.  With our lives dedicated to a single purpose we have been able to carve out significant time for learning. 

                Our Mission leadership has challenged us to read the Book of Mormon. Each time they gave us a different focus.  Once, we read it and marked all the references to Jesus Christ (did you know He is referred to by more than 100 different titles?!).   Next, we were asked to read the Book of Mormon marking all the references to faith and the Holy Ghost.  We are now reading it marking all the references to repentance, baptism and love.  Each time we were looking at this precious book of scripture through a different lens gaining new insights.
                 In the MTC we learned to “scripture block” as we read.  This method of study has been informative.  It has focused our thoughts and broadened our understanding. 
                Elder Russel M. Nelson challenged the Young Single Adults to read and mark all the references to Jesus Christ in the topical guide. (did you know there are 17 ½ pages and 55 topics related to Jesus Christ?!).  We bought a brand-new set of the Standard Works for this study and have begun.  It has been a humbling experience. 
   It has been a great blessing to teach Institute.  We have been teaching the Cornerstone courses.  

These courses study gospel doctrines and concepts using all the standard works and the words of the prophets.  Studying this way has deepened our learning and understanding, building on years of studying the scriptures in a sequential, linear manner.  

      Then there are the temporal learning opportunities.  We spent months learning Dutch (an effort that was less successful than we had hoped but still helpful.  We can read some signs, some packaging at the grocery store, the important information in the ward newsletter, and understand a little occasionally!).  If pressed we can even bless the food and say a simple prayer : ).

Our temporal learning has largely been learning to cook for large groups (enough said :), and last but not least, learning to play the ukulele!  Sister Lucero left me her ukulele last transfer so I have been learning to play it.  Just wait kids….Grandma has a new trick to share with you when she gets home!!

                The time for study and learning that a mission provides has been a such a blessing.  Our knowledge, understanding and testimonies have grown and deepened.  We are grateful for our Savior, Jesus Christ and the gospel plan of which He is the central figure.  We pray that as a result of our study, learning and teaching, those we serve have felt their testimonies grow and strengthen.  That’s why we came. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Are You on a Mission or a Vacation?

This is the question Russ asked us when we were chatting and mentioned we had been exploring more of the Netherlands!  Almost everyone here takes a vacation between mid-July and the end of August.  The school six-week holiday is staggered by 2 weeks depending on where you live in the country.  But just about everyone has 4 weeks off at the same time. That means the YSA’s are also on holiday……so no institute for about 4 weeks. 

The missionaries take no breaks so our assignments with them carry on as usual.  We had district meeting, zone conference/lunch for 52 with Elder Sabin of the Europe Area Presidency,


 joint teaches with Elder Lewis and Elder Watson and Paul……

  and of course, fun P-day activities like biking or hosting the zone (24) for lunch and games on zone p-day!   Anything we do with the missionaries makes us so happy and brightens our day.  We love these missionaries!

  It was a sunny day for a barbeque : )

Just chilling and playing games.  


 A few weeks ago, we had no commitments between Tuesday 1 PM and Thursday at 7:30 PM so we decided to head north and explore the island of Texel. 
Because the ferry leaves from Den Helder we took Elder Jeanfreau and Elder Ballard to dinner at The Subway shop.  It was so fun to see them.  We have missed Elder Jeanfreau!  And it was great to get to know Elder Ballard. 

We rode the ferry across the channel, a short 14-minute ride.  The island is about 15.5 miles long and 5 miles wide.  


 We were able to get an attic room at the last minute which turned out to be super luxurious in the little dorp of Den Hoorn.

We visited a working windmill that was grinding wheat and bought some fresh ground spelt flour.


We had lunch at the beach where Joe did his usual first day vacation activity which is lay down and nap wherever it’s semi-flat : )


We hiked to the top of the light house on the north shore.

 We managed to squeeze in a couple of maritime museums.  (ever wondered what you can find on the bottom of the ocean that qualifies as flotsam and jetsam? We can tell you!)  Plus we visited Ecomare, a seal/porpoise  refuge.

We visited a large dairy that was an ice cream laboratory and had delicious ice cream and inspected the stinky dairy : )  

We enjoyed driving around the country side, out of the hustle and bustle of the cities!

Of course, I found the best chocolate shop on the island!  It was really delicious: )

And lastly we had a yummy dinner at a house-turned- restaurant as we watched the sun set over quiet farmland. 

It was a refreshing 48 hours of R&R…and to answer Russ’ question, we are definitely still laboring in the Belgium/Netherlands Mission! 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Thoughts on Sacrifice

Last week we had zone conference.  Elder Sabin of the Europe Area Presidency was presiding.  One of the subjects he touched on was sacrifice.  It got me thinking.  What is a sacrifice?  I first turned to the Bible Dictionary and found this:

 “Sacrifices were thus instructive as well as worshipful. They were accompanied by prayer, devotion, and dedication, and represented an acknowledgment on the part of the individual of his duty toward God, and also a thankfulness to the Lord for his life and blessings upon the earth”. 

This is a good description of our decision to serve a senior couple mission.  We came because of our desire to do our part, and to return to God in a very small way all the blessings we have received.  Our mission has been a learning experience for us, requiring much prayer along with work. 

But, someone always says, everything we have been given is the Lord’s so it’s not a sacrifice to give back.  Hmmm…but it feels like a sacrifice: )   I thought about our Savior.  His single focus was to fulfill his assignment, which was to sacrifice His life for us. If we want to be like Him, I think we must also sacrifice.   

So, what do we sacrifice by going to the Netherlands for 18 months to serve the Young Single Adults?  For me, it’s time with our family.  Watching them grow, seeing them learn new skills, and sharing new life experiences with them are the things I miss.  We often hear “when you serve, your family will be blessed”.  My dear friend told me that doesn’t mean a life of ease for them.  And she was right.  There have been issues with health, employment, family, housing, vehicles, and did I say health?!  It’s not that I think if I were there I could fix all the problems….but I could support, encourage, listen, and help them where ever possible.  I could be there for them.

So where are the blessings in the sacrifice?  They are in the extra patience, love, kindness, and service our kids are giving to one another in their efforts to fill the gap left by our leaving.  This brings us much joy! The blessings are in the growth they are all experiencing.  Mom is a big part of this love and support.  We all say “Grandma Cusick is amazing”!  and she is.  Her unconditional love and encouragement is legendary and an example for us all.

 And the blessing is in all they do for us so we can be here, doing what we want to be doing, serving the Young Single Adults in the Belgium/Netherlands Mission for 18 months. 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Drive Thru

Is there anything more American than a drive thru?  Fast food, banking, pharmacy, groceries?  Well, we heard there was a drive thru windmill and of course we had to see it!  It’s in Wijk bij Duurstede, 19 kilometers (11.8 miles) southeast of Zeist.  We went with Sister Lucero and Sister Lechtenberg, our favorite biking companions!  

We saw some beautiful rural Dutch country.

 We shared the narrow country lane with bikes of all sorts and large farm equipment.

The prize at the end of the road was the windmill.  Amazing and totally worth the nearly 24-mile round trip ride!


 I think the sisters were jumping with joy when we arrived! : )

Of course, a bike trip wouldn’t be complete without a short break at the ice cream shop!