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!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Everyday life

Saturday was a typical day.  We had Sister Lucero, Sister Lechtenberg and Ineka and Albert for dinner.  We cleaned house, grocery shopped, prepared kabobs to barbeque and made 2 strawberry/rhubarb crisps…one for dessert last night and one for the linger longer after church today. 

Shopping is part of nearly every day. 

Saturday I pedaled off with my shopping bags and raincoat (just in case : )  I passed the big park in Zeist Centrum and saw they were having a huge arts and crafts fair.  Usually we don’t have time to stop but Saturday I did.  It was fun to wander and look.  It wasn’t the normal Saturday Market stuff that is in the centrum of every town on the weekends.  It was high end, high quality handmade crafts.  As I wandered the sun started to peek through the clouds and it warmed up a bit.  I really enjoyed that little bit of sun, the music, the aroma of the food trucks and the crowd.

As I left the park, suddenly it began to pour!  I pulled up my hood, put on my helmet and pedaled to the grocery store. 

The store was 6 minutes away.  By the time I got there my skirt was soaked but not the rest of me, thanks to my trusty raincoat! 

 I have a nice gel seat cover on my bike so I decided to sacrifice a grocery bag to try to keep it dry while I shopped : )   

By the time I came out of Jumbos it had turned to a drizzle and by the time I was finished at Albert Heijns the sun was shining!  You’re never sure just what the weather will be like so you’d better be prepared!  It’s part of everyday life : )

Friday, August 11, 2017

Bicycles Built for Two

One day Sister Lucero and Sister Lechtenberg had a great idea….”do you want to rent tandem bikes with us?”  Of course, with us, the answer is always YES!  We have done it twice now.  We have decided if you want to have fun, grab a bike and go!

There is a large bike rental store at the Utrecht Central train station.  This young man has helped us both times….even getting the bikes down the stair ramp and printing a map for us!  (We are not very good missionaries….we can’t remember his name!) 

Our first outing we biked from Utrecht central southeast to Bunnik, 18 kilometers round trip (11 miles). We stopped at one of the fresh fruit stands for strawberries to eat with the cookies I brought.

l. to r. S. Lechtenberg, S. Lucero, E. Jeanfreau, E. Mancer, E. Lewis, Joe eating strawberries.

Then on to Fort bij Vechten to explore.  The fort was closed on Monday, as are many businesses and tourist spots in the country, but we walked around and enjoyed the warm, sunny day.

As you can imagine, in a country with more bikes than cars, the country is covered with bike paths.  Some are major bike routes that crisscross the country and many are connectors that follow almost all the rest of the roads/streets.  There is a signing system.  Here is a bike “road sign”.   We were looking for route 37.  The bike “road signs” are green numbers in a green circle and the bike “street signs” are printed in red with a little bike on them.  We didn’t get lost this time but we have on occasion! 


On the way home we stopped for frites, one of my favorite snacks here!

Our Bunnik bike group : )

 Our second tandem bike trip we headed northwest out of Utrecht to the Kastel de Haar.  It was a 26 kilometer round trip (16 miles) but thankfully flat!  We had transfers so E. Mancer & E. Jeanfreau were no longer with us but E. Watson had joined us. 



We decided the kastel tour was too expensive (16 euro/ticket) so we paid 5 euro to visit the grounds.

We visited the deer park.  They are little deer but with huge racks! 


           We got lost in the maze : )

And dubbed us some knights in God’s Army : )   Great p-day companions and amazing missionaries..... We love them so much!