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!

Our Senior Couple BFF’s : )

One of the fun parts of serving a senior couple mission is getting to know the other senior couples.  We get together about every 4 months to relax and visit.  Right now we have a pretty big group : )  Our mission is so blessed!


For this activity we met at the Kastel De Haar near Utrecht.  It’s gorgeous and still in use by the owners.  There are acres and acres of gardens, a deer park, maze, eating places, a man-made river/lake and of course the humongous castle! 

Afterward we gathered at our house for a barbeque. We live in the middle of the Netherlands and have a home, as opposed to an apartment, so we offered to host the barbeque.  Even though we are centrally located the Olivers and Jongejans still have a 3-hour drive to get here. 

We practiced barbequing kabobs for a month before the dinner.  The missionaries really appreciated our practice!  I don’t know why we took a picture of me here….Joe did all the barbequing : )

It was a wonderful day of rest, relaxation and friendship.  Each of these couples have made sacrifices to serve this mission.  We have felt strengthened by their examples of faith and dedication to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to serving others. 

 l. to r.
The Jongejans in Groningen, us, the Brauwers in Rotterdam, the Gouts in Groningen, the Olivers in Mekelen, Belgium, the Van Der Puts in the mission presidency, the Goebels in the mission office, the Reeves in the mission office, President and Sister Bunnell, and the Fletchers in Eindhoven.  (and we still miss the Hills so much!)

Thursday, August 10, 2017

“Walking with Christ”- Young Single Adult Camp August 2017

YSA camp is a highlight of the summer.  The summer holiday is about 6 weeks in Europe, from mid-July to the end of August.  There are YSA camps all over Europe during that time.  The biggest of them all, Festinord, was held in Sweden this year, with 750 young adults attending.  Ours, with YSA’s from four stakes, Rotterdam, Den Haag, Apeldoorn, and Antwerpe,  had about 115.  It was Monday-Saturday.  It is sooooo much work….and we don’t have to do any of it! 

The young adults do it all. They are so very impressive and capable!   You can’t see all of the committee in this picture but from l. to r.
Joey- handled all the sound equipment we needed, Sjoerd and Noel- all the activities, Jessica-workshops, Gail and Nik-co-chairs, Sister and Brother Gout, area YSA advisors, and Brother Noot-presenter of workshops.

The general schedule every day was breakfast, workshops for 2 hours, lunch, games/service/activities, dinner, more presentations/activities, snacks and bed. 

The camp started off Monday afternoon with Elder Johnson, the Europe Area President and his wife coming to talk to the youth.  They drove from Frankfurt, talked, and drove home the same day.  This tells me that these young adults, the future leaders of the church, are so very important and deserve our best efforts.

We made new friends : )

Pamela, Laura and Felicia

Tian, Yenny and Fifi

Sherida and Amy


We played, studied and worked. 


And of course danced!  It was a disney themed dance with some great costumes.


We served where we could.  (it was so nice not to be in charge of all the food that we were more than happy to chop carrots and peel potatoes!)

The cooks are amazing. They made delicious meals.  (and no one uses paper plates, etc. here.  They always use dishes and wash…soooo much work!) 

We love Femke, Daphne and Ida.  They went the extra mile and surprised us with an apple tart to celebrate our 1-year mission mark on Aug.  1 : )

Sometimes we get discouraged and wonder if we are doing any good….we wonder if our and our family’s sacrifice has purpose and meaning.  There are still lots of young single adults who don’t participate in the gospel and of course those who haven’t even heard the message of the restored gospel.  Then we look at this mighty group of faithful young adults.  And we remember that someone didn’t get them all to come….someone invited one, who invited another and another.  We remember that the pattern of heaven is “face to face” ministering.  We remember that “no effort is wasted” (PMG pg. 170).  We were lifted by pondering the theme “Walk with Christ”  all week.  And we feel renewed in our commitment to love, nurture, teach and strengthen one by one the young adults and young missionaries who cross our path as we serve here in the Belgium/Netherlands Mission.  It is a blessing to be here : )

The world isn’t flat….even in the Netherlands

We know the earth is round, but in the Netherlands it seems very flat!  We love being able to bike here and there without having to pedal up and down.  Sister Lucero and Sister Lechtenberg have joined the Utrecht Missionary district.  We love these sisters!  They have reminded us that we need balance in our life by inviting us to join them on p-day.  We’ve had some great adventures! 

We decided to bike to Henschotemeer, a lake about 13 kilometers (8 miles) from our house.  It is east of us past the little town of Driebergen. (translated means “three mountains.  Really?  There aren’t any mountains in the Netherlands :) We had 3 bikes but needed a fourth so we first rode to Driebergen to the train station. Sister Lechtenberg pedaled Sister Lucero on the back of my bike. Sister Lucero rented an OV bike.  These are yellow and blue bikes found at every train station that can be rented for about 3 Euro/day. 

With an occasional stop to check the map book we made it to the lake in about an hour.  Ineka had warned me that there was a big hill to climb on the way to the lake.  Sure enough, there was.  It wasn’t like the “hills” in Utah, but a long, slow, incline that I just barely made using all my gears!  The sisters of course, pedaled steadily up the hill without even changing gears! 


The lake was stunning!  We were totally surprised to find something like this in the middle of the Netherlands.  The water was clear, there was a perfect sandy beach all the way around the lake and picnic tables & bathrooms.  Surrounded by forest, it was wonderful on a warm, sunny day. 

The elders met us there for a picnic and we enjoyed walking in the warm sand. 

When it was time to go home we decided to take a different route and make a loop south and back to the train station.  We knew it was a little longer but secretly I hoped it would avoid the other two “mountains”! 

Well, it didn’t. I found out it’s not called “three mountains” for nothing!  We biked up two long, slow climbs.  Both times I had to get off and push my bike!  It was humiliating : )   We ended up biking a total of 36 kilometers (22 miles!)  So I didn’t feel so bad about my performance after all : ) 

A selfie of the 4 of us….and two of our favorite sisters and bestie companions!

We decided we would definitely head out into the countryside again….but will look for somewhere the earth is flat!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Grace and Cooking

             Our amazing district leader, Elder Mancer, is inspired!  He asked us to do a 5-minute presentation at district meeting on stress reduction.  Did you know there is an entire booklet for missionaries titled “Adjusting to Missionary Life” that is all about types of stress you can feel on a mission and how to manage it?  (We didn’t!).   Little did he know how important this little assignment was for me.  
 As I studied the booklet I decided that cooking was my biggest stress (big surprise to no one!) and that it fell under the category of “intellectual” stress : )  For the missionaries this refers mostly to the stress of learning a new language.  For me it was needing to learn the language of cooking here in the Netherlands.  This included 1) no one-stop shopping…which store has what;  2) stocking up since  most everything is in very small quantities; 3) fresh

food goes bad fast; 4) converting imperial measurements to metric; 5) figuring out substitutions for our American recipes; 6) the inadequate oven; and 7) dealing with a refrigerator only big enough to hold the makings of one large meal…..frequent shopping.   I thought back to the first few months we were here and remembered going to bed on Sunday nights and lying awake nearly the whole night worrying about the food we were responsible for in the coming week! 
Over the last 11 months I have learned this new language.  Without realizing it I had used the tools in the booklet to adjust to my missionary life.  I use the very important “weekly planning session” (Preach My Gospel pg. 147).   I use the concept of the “missionary daily planner” in my own way.  I don’t go to bed on Sunday night without writing down all the menus I need for the coming week, along with the necessary shopping lists.   And now I sleep on Sunday nights!

I have learned to ask for help (Sister Hill has gone home to Utah but she still lets me call her.  And I can always depend on Emily for great ideas!).   
                A few days after our little presentation in District Meeting I stood in the kitchen, making my own cream of chicken soup so I could then make green chili chicken enchiladas to take to Den Bosch institute.  At that moment, I realized I was feeling happy, competent, and content. 

                A week or so later I gave a lesson on grace in one of our institute classes.  We discussed what grace means, and drew a diagram illustrating what the Savior does for us, what we need to do to receive grace, and the blessings of grace.   We read in D&C 50:40 that increased knowledge is a specific blessing of grace.   In that moment, as I studied the diagram we had drawn, the Spirit testified to me that I had indeed received His grace.  I know cooking isn’t a necessary skill for exaltation : ) but it is so very important to me on our mission.  And He knew, and after all I could do, He made up the difference helping me gain the knowledge I needed to succeed with our assignments.  I love Hebrews 4:16….
“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”   I testify that we can “find grace to help” when we need it.  I have.

Time flies when you’re having fun...The after event report!

 This is what eleven days of our life look like: The “after event” report : ) 

Wednesday: Zone conference… lunch for 53.  So good to see the missionaries that have been in our district and to work with the Van Der Put's and the new senior couple, the Jongejans, to serve lunch.

Thursday: Rotterdam Institute… bring dessert

Friday: Den Bosch institute, dinner & lesson for 5 YSA’s and 3 adults.

 Saturday; missionaries for dinner

Sunday: nothing : )

Monday:  Hiked the Dom Tower in Utrecht.  It is the tallest church bell tower in the Netherlands….469 steps to the tippy top!  Great views and amazing huge bells.

Our elderly neighbor, Nescha, had hip replacement surgery, took dinner, (much to their amazement… “we don’t do that in the Netherlands”.  I told her we do it in America and convinced them it was a good idea!  Sweet, sweet couple.

Tuesday; 4th of July BBQ after district meeting.  We sang the Star Spangled banner in honor of the occasion and "God Save The Queen" for Elder Mancer (from England : )

Wednesday:   We helped the Van Der Puts clean and set up and apartment for sisters missionaries.....

Followed by dinner and lesson for Utrecht Institute.

 Thursday:   Rotterdam institute, lesson & dessert


Friday:  Den Bosch institute, dinner & lesson

Saturday:   Young adult kayaking the Utrecht Centrum canal and BBQ at our house.  We had 2 YSA’s come : ( But those two had a wonderful time!  : )

Somewhere in this 11 days Joe spent half a day with the Elders on an exchange and we took a road trip to Almere and Amersfoort to deliver fans to two sister apartments.  

And so it goes, week after week.   It’s good to be busy and feel useful.  We LOVE these young adults and missionaries.   We have just over 6 months left…….and we are eager to keep up the pace!