Tuesday, May 16, 2017


                The theme of change is constant in our lives.  Hopefully for the better!  Along our morning walking route is a big beech hedge.  As fall turned into winter we watched the leaves all around us in this very lush, green land, turn brown, orange, red or yellow and fall off.  Except the beech hedge.  Its leaves turned brown, and throughout the winter clung stubbornly to the hedge.
We wondered if it was dead.

 But as winter turned into spring and leaves sprung out everywhere, we began to see tiny tips of new green leaves behind the old, dead leaves on the hedge.  Slowly the new leaves pushed the old leaves off and now the hedge is green and beautiful.
As we walked by and watched this process over time, I kept thinking there was a message in it for me.  Was I like the hedge? Resisting change?  Clinging to old ways? Then President Bunnell asked our mission to consider Elder Lawrence’s general conference talk “What Lack I Yet?”.  The message of Stake Conference was “Grow with Us”, an invitation to grow better, bigger and stronger in our gospel testimonies and faith.  
    Now I was sure there was a message for me!  Unable to articulate it clearly, I turned to my dear friend, Judy, a poetess, and “commissioned” her to write a poem expressing the thoughts I was pondering.  She agreed and here is the poem, shared with her permission:

Newness in Christ
By Judy Grigg Hansen

Throughout the frigid days of winter,
beech hedge hoards her brittle leaves,
refusing to release them
like the elm and sycamore.

Are we sometimes like this bush,
professing sorrow while holding onto sin,
although Christ clearly offers
to make us new in Him?

Can we not trust His promises
and be His pleasant plants,
new wine in new bottles,
precious fruit of His own vine?

I love this poem! It is soooo beautiful.  Change is constant, and I am motivated to be not like the beech hedge, holding on to the natural man and to work harder to become “precious fruit of His own vine”. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

It's a privilege....

We have been feeling so privileged to be here serving with these young adults! 

Timo, who is a convert of a year, has just been to the temple and has submitted his mission papers.  His faith and testimony are so strong.  He comes every week to the Den Bosch institute, is a counselor in the Elder’s quorum, and teaches the 12-13 year olds in Sunday School.   We are all excitedly awaiting his mission call!

Noel (from Rotterdam) and Abby (from England) have been faithfully attending the Utrecht Institute class all year.  They just got engaged!!  Abby will be going home in a few weeks for the summer break and we will miss her so much! 
Noel will then attend the Rotterdam Institute class so that makes us happy that he will still be a regular part of our lives.  

Elder Hoornweg is from Capelle aan den Ijssel and is awaiting departure to Greece for his mission.  He has blessed our mission district with his testimony, his enthusiasm to share the gospel, and his friendly, helpful attitude.  He will be a great servant to the people in Greece. 

Esmee (second from the right) is studying to be a dental assistant.  She is very busy but has accepted a calling to be the YSA representative in Den Bosch.  She had just taken this calling and gone to work!  It has been wonderful to move the leadership responsibilities of the YSA group in Den Bosch onto her shoulders. 

Julia (on the right) is in our Utrecht Institute group.  Her testimony and faith are unmatched. Julia is such a joyful person.  She has a never-ending desire to do good and to bless the lives of others.  She spoke in the Sunday morning session of Stake Conference yesterday.  Her wonderful talk inspired us to grow and strengthen our testimonies and our faith.    

As did Ammon (Alma 26), we boast not in our own strength, nor take credit for the wonderful things that are transpiring here, but we glory in the Lord. These young adults, partnering with the Lord, are becoming the future strength and leaders of the Church.  We see that so clearly.  It is indeed a privilege.  

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Celebration #2

May 4th was Doodenherdenking (translated- "death reminder").  It is their Memorial Day.  Most cities and towns around the country hold some sort of memorial service.  We asked Ineka about it and she said she would take us to the service in Zeist.

 We met in the parking lot between our houses with our bikes.  It's just so great to be able to hop on our bikes and ride to the center of town without hassling with traffic and parking! 

We arrived downtown at the big park.  We joined a processional of civic leaders, scouts, military personnel, a drum corp and townspeople on a solemn walk to the park and the WWII memorial.  There was a band at the park and more people.  We’re guessing altogether there were several hundred people. 

 The Burgermeester gave a speech.  I recognized some of the words, “family”, “children”, “grandchildren”, “story”, “peace”, “forgotten” among a few others.  From that I could figure out the general idea of the speech.  He wanted us to remember the sacrifice for peace the military and others made and that it was important for our posterity to remember it. 

The band played as different groups went forward to lay wreaths at the monument.  I loved the band! They played “How Gentle God’s Commands”, “Abide with Me”, “Let Zion in Her Beauty Rise”, and “The Lord My Pasture Will Prepare”.  I’m sure they sing different words but the familiar tunes were comforting and unifying.  


We walked through the park after the service, stopping at the memorial to remember the Jews who were killed in Zeist and another monument to those who lost their lives in the Indonesian war for independence. 

The memorial for the Jews…..“Never again/not ever”.

It was a lovely evening in the park.  It gave us a moment to reflect on what we have in common the world over, a desire for peace and freedom.  We remembered that there is a price for freedom.  And we remembered those who paid the ultimate price.  We are so deeply blessed.   

Let's Celebrate!

                We had some great celebrations in April.  The Dutch get a national holiday every year on the King’s birthday!  It’s called Koningsdag (literally Kings day).  It is marked by the king visiting some town in the Netherlands.  This year it was Tilburg.  Everyone also gets the day off and most amazing is that it is somewhat of a national flea market day!  Every city center from the smallest to the largest blocks off streets and everyone can come sell whatever they want.  We went to Utrecht.

The missionaries were encouraged to put up a booth and offer free church literature as they try to make as many contacts as possible.    It began for us by hauling a church table from Gouda to our house.  We couldn’t quite fit it in our car (oh, how many times I have wanted our Expedition!) but managed to almost get the back door closed. (Joe’s knees were touching the dashboard and the “door open” alarm beeped the entire 40-minute drive home!).   The next morning Jason, the most helpful member of the church in Holland, who also is the only member we know with a full-sized van, picked up all our equipment and drove us to Utrecht.  We parked as close as we could and hauled the table, chairs, signs, books, etc. 4 blocks to our spot.     

Elder Hoornweg, our only Dutch missionary, suggested we put “gratis” on our sign since the Dutch people love a free deal (doesn’t everyone?!), and we added “families can be together forever”. 

This is our finished booth and our district, ready and waiting for potential investigators!   I happened to see these “Holland” t-shirts in the national color of orange for $1.25 so I splurged and got one for each of us.  They are a mighty fine looking group!   

They played music and talked to everyone! 

 Joe got a wonderful opportunity to share the Book of Mormon with some interested young adults.  He was amazing!

We had several miracles.  First was my neighbor Ineka. We talked about the holiday and what we were going to do. She was worried about us being in the crowd and being there all day.  We got up the morning before the holiday to find 2 very light weight, folding aluminum chairs leaning on our front door for us to use!  They were such a blessing!  The woman in the booth next to us looked so tired by 2 PM that we shared a chair with her for a while : ).  

The second miracle was an older man who stopped toward the end of the day.  He had lost his wife and 2 daughters.  He was lonely and our message that families can be together forever caught his eye.  He talked with the missionaries for nearly ½ hour.  We pray that he will be open to the message of the restored gospel.  The missionaries gave away 80-85 copies of the Book of Mormon.  It was a wonderful day of work, people, and amazing missionaries!  (and yes, our car alarm beeped the whole 40 minutes back to Gouda with the table!)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

What's for dinner?

French dip for zone conference....a big hit!  
What’s for dinner? is the most oft repeated refrain around our home.  Each week we feed approximately 30 people between two institute classes and the occasional Family Home Evening group.  The week of zone conference we add lunch for 30-55 missionaries  and the week it’s our Stake’s turn to host the country-wide YSA Sunday service we add another meal for 80.  Then we have the occasional potluck at church, the kind neighbors who invited us to “tea” (to which I will bring cookies) and the times we just need a plate of cookies for someone we’re thinking of or need to thank.  It’s not the numbers you would see at an institute in the States but it’s more than enough to stretch our capabilities! 

Emily will shudder at my organization! 
I’ve finally compiled a menu roster of 8-10 dishes.  I keep track of when I have made a particular dish for the missionaries and the institute kids.  If I need to feed both institutes and the missionaries I try to cook the same thing 3 times that week.  It’s easier than 3 different menus!

For these recipes I know how to substitute the ingredients I can’t find here, know the kids like them, and have adapted the cooking method if necessary.  (My microwave/oven is a poor substitute for a real oven!) Utrecht Institute is held at our home which is a huge blessing!  Cooking dinner and serving it at home is soooo nice.  Institute at Den Bosch poses a small problem in that it is an hour and 15 min. drive on Friday night due to heavy traffic and there is no kitchen in the building with an oven to warm anything.  There is a regular microwave but that won’t reheat pans of lasagna, enchiladas, apple crisp, etc.  We work around that : ).

I have solved some of the ingredient and equipment issues.  I have found real sour cream, skim milk, Crisco, a small, silver cookie sheet that fits in the microwave/oven, a pastry blender and a very large stock pot for soup.  I can now bake 12 cookies at a time without burning the cookies closest to the edge of the pan!  (I baked 16 doz. cookies Monday and it took how many hours???)

I made enchiladas this week for District meeting, 10 missionaries and ourselves.  I needed two pans, but can’t cook them both so I asked my favorite neighbor Ineka if I could bake one pan in her oven.  Albert is the cook at their house and he happily agreed.  He did a perfect job and they looked beautiful! (and tasted wonderful, thanks to Emily for bringing me cans of diced green chilies : )

I get tired of the same things, even when I last served it 7 weeks ago!  I am always on the lookout for something new.  I recently tried two new menu options.

 First, strawberry/rhubarb crisp.  Ineka has a very large community garden plot.  She took me to see it.  It’s gorgeous and worthy of inclusion in Better Homes and Gardens!  She left some rhubarb at my doorstep the other day.  I got brave and decided to try strawberry/rhubarb crisp for dessert last week for Franca’s birthday dinner which I offered to host.  It turned out so delicious!  There was enough rhubarb to make it again so I made it the next day and invited Ineka and Albert over for dessert.  Ineka loved it.  She and Joe ate nearly the whole pan!  She offered to keep me supplied with rhubarb.  I’m anxiously awaiting the next batch.  I can already hear the missionary’s sighs of delight when they get hot strawberry/rhubarb crisp with ice cream at the next zone conference!

The second food experiment was Chicken Pot Pie.   They have delicious, pre-cooked, diced chicken here so it’s not as much work.  I made it for institute.  I baked it in my 15 x 12 cake pan, which barely fits in the microwave/oven. The filling was Marie Calendar worthy and the pie crust was light, flaky and perfect!  Turns out, the Dutch kids in Utrecht weren’t impressed!  They all ate a serving and left the rest.  I had made enough filling for Den Bosch institute on Friday….what to do?  I couldn’t make a pot pie anyway since I can’t get it there warm.  So I thinned down the filling, took it warm in a crock pot, served it over rice and they loved it!  Go figure….

We got a call this week asking us if we could take over the Rotterdam Institute which meets on Thursday.  They need a couple to keep it organized.  They have teachers so we don’t need to teach but dinner??!!!!  I honestly don’t think I can take on another dinner to shop for, cook, haul 1 ½ hours through traffic, serve, clean up and haul home! 

It’s time to call in the cavalry!!  Thank heavens for Relief Society sisters….. : )  

Monday, May 1, 2017

We found our true calling : )

Today just as the joint Priesthood/R.S. meeting in Den Bosch was about to start the primary president came in and made an announcement.  I figured out she was asking if anyone would substitute in the nursery.  Oh yeah!  We jumped up and volunteered.  We had a wonderful morning with 3 darling kids.   It turns out our Dutch is just about right for 2-3 year olds!  Joe figured out a few sentences in Dutch with the help of Google.

I found the nursery manual (in Dutch but I still recognize the lessons!) and Joe copied the picture.  I could read the captions for the lesson and the kids colored. 

Nanie didn’t have a snack but Joe had brought me a ham/cheese sandwich and apple (because I was so l late getting ready for church I didn’t have time to eat : ).  I had eaten a couple bites of the sandwich was all so he gave it to Nanie. That solved the food crisis. She ate all the ham and cheese and everyone had an apple slice : ). 

 Roselyn helped us learn “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” for a singing activity.  Joe had his “happy pills” (as the grandkids call his Skittles) which you know all children need in a stressful moment!   So we were all set and had a wonderful Sabbath morning : )  We decided we will head straight for the nursery when we get home!