Monday, December 29, 2014

Black Ice is dangerous

Nikki's email from December 29!

Sorry, but this email will be pretty short this week--I may or may not have fallen off of my bike after hitting a patch of black ice...I actually don't remember it very well, but my companion is a witness of the event. I'm alive and went to the doctors on Saturday--I'll be resting for a couple days, and my companion is taking really good care of me. The members are ridiculously good to us. We've gotten a ton of phone calls from members telling us to give them a call if we need anything--they are so so willing to help and we've already had people bring us tons of food--we'll be good for a while I think! It really touches my heart how loving and generous the people here are.
Well, Ashil is getting baptized this Saturday! He is so excited and so are we! It's such a blessing to see the joy and excitement in his face.
It was so wonderful to videochat with all of you! I loved seeing all of you and hearing your voices.

Sorry to be so short but I can't write much more. Love you all!

He is the Gift

Nikki's letter from December 22!

"I saw Michelle and Yarina at the concert last night!!!! I taught Michelle in Almere"

"I may have opened my christmas package....THANK YOU!!!! I haven't opened anything yet, but it was perfect!!!!"

Hey everyone!
I'm so excited to skype with you this week! I don't have much time to email today, so I'll try to get as much as I can.

First of all, is it better to do google hangout? There will be two other missionaries skyping at the same house as me on Christmas, and I don't know my skype username info, but I'm pretty sure I know my gmail username things...or if you could create a skype username and email me the info that would work too.

So..first of all, HAPPY BIRTHDAY HEATHER! I'll be able to wish you a happy birthday via skype, but either way, I hope you have a great day and get spoiled :)

Well, it's been an interesting week--it's all turned out well though! We had a couple of great lessons with Wouter--we talked about trials and why we go through them and what we can learn from them. We also watched Joy to the World with him--it's such a beautiful film, he loved it and is going to show his nieces and nephews. We also showed him yesterday and Sister Faa accidentally made one of his ancestors part of her family tree...haha, it was pretty funny.

Sister Faa is awesome--I love being her companion. We have fun together and work hard together.

We set a baptismal date with Angela! She was so excited--she's been ready for this for so long, but she took the leap of faith and is hoping that she'll feel ready for January 10th. I just love her a ton--she just couldn't stop smiling during our whole lesson with her. She has such a beautiful way of expressing her beliefs.

I've been pretty sick this past week, but I've been getting through it alright--whenever I go to teach a lesson or meet with members, etc., it's almost like I forget that I'm sick--Heavenly Father has been really helping me to do His work.

There were some fun Christmas activities this past week--yesterday was the stake concert and I ended up singing three songs--What Child is This, Far Far Away in Judea's planes and Savior Redeemer--they all went well and the rest of the program was beautiful. I loved singing with all of the people here that I love so much. Music brings a special spirit with it, and it was just a really wonderful night.

I am so grateful for this time of year--Christmas is my favorite holiday--I love the special spirit of Christmas, and I love sharing the wonderful truth that Christ came to earth, that He lived, suffered and died for us, and that He lives. I know that He loves us, and I know that He understands us and can heal us.

I love you all! Merry Christmas
Zuster Thomas

Christlike love is the greatest need we have on this earth

Nikki's email from December 15th!
"Elfride and her girls (she also has a little son)"

"Me and Zuster Faa!"
"Zuster Uljee--oh how I love this woman.  We helped her set up her Christmas decorations and she has the SAME nativity from Jerusalem that we have--the one that we set up together every year. (pictured below)"


"Look who lives in our building!"

"Zuster Van der Scheer!!!! My Dutch grandma--she has us over every Friday for dinner.  I LOVE HER SO MUCH"

"Oh yeah, we went to Delft last p-day! It was super beautiful--we climbed this huge old church ( to the top of the tower) and we got some delt blauw things (which are coming to you in the mail :) )"

First of all, HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM. I hope it was wonderful! I sent you a letter with all the things I love about you, but I'll send you an email with some more :)
Also, CHRISTMAS! I get to see you all! We will be going to Familie Kaaijk's house to skype--we will be going there at 4, then we will set stuff up and skype at 4:30 PM my time? I think that's 9:30 AM your time--if  you could send me your skype username that would be great. I'm so excited to see all of you!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Well, this week was pretty great! I'm training Zuster Faasavalu, who I met on facebook a little before I started my mission. She is from Utah and we're doing great! She just graduated high school this past spring and came with a huge group of new missionaries. There is another Zuster in her group that I knew from BYU--Zuster Goodman--we had a class together and we became good friends through that.
First of all, Ehrari's son, Ashu, is getting baptized!!!!! January 3rd! I'm so excited. They came to English lessons this past Wednesday (I taught it! It was kinda funny to teach Dutch people English). He told his Mom when they were walking into the church "Whenever I come here I feel like I'm coming home." We taught him about the Restoration and invited him to be baptized--he totally understands what baptism means, and he is really excited to make that promise with God and to receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost with him always. He wanted to schedule it really soon--so we have to get through all the lessons before then--but we are so excited for him. He is so sweet and so sincere--he reads in the children's Book of Mormon every day and asks really good questions. We're hoping to set a baptismal goal date with Ehrari soon--she doesn't feel ready yet, but she wants to be baptized!
We got to go to the temple with Wouter this past Tuesday--it was his first time! It was wonderful, I love feeling the Spirit in the temple. We had a great lesson with Wouter later in the week--he is so wonderful, he has really grown so much and is so much happier.
We had Stake Conference this past weekend, and the Stake presidency was changed--our Bishop from Zoetermeer is the second counselor, so we'll be getting a new bishop! We got a ride with the Muntigas--a sweet older woman and her son. They are so kind! I got to see a lot of people from Almere at Stake Conference--it was wonderful.
Last night we had dinner at the Brouwers --a really nice young married couple in our ward--with some of their family members and the Elders. I'm singing a Christmas song with Zuster Brouwer for the church's Christmas program (I'm also singing in Zone training this week and twice in the Stake Christmas program--it'll be so fun!) so we practiced then. After dinner we had our first lesson with Jan, who told us that he thinks Christ uses his body to do things on the earth--it was interesting. I was a little frazzled, but I did my best and in the end the Spirit was there, especially when we gave him a tour of the church--I was able to show him all the paintings in the building, and the baptismal font, and I was able to explain and testify of important things that I believe and know to be true. It was definitely something I'll never forget.
It's been a great week working with the members, I really feel like I've formed really good friendships here with the members and with the investigators. I love these people so much--my heart is so full. I'm so grateful that Heavenly Father has put these people in my path, and that we're able to learn from and love each other. There are people here that I know I met before this life--I can't really explain the feeling, but we just click.

Elfride, a less active member, is so wonderful--she's been coming to church and bringing her kids! Jimmy and Jetti are so great--they always feed us when we go there, and I really click well with Jetti, it's really fun to be with and teach them. Lucie and I have gotten to know eachother better and I really love her--she's so calm and loving to her children. Wouter is so amazing--it's been a privilege to see him grow closer to our Savior, and he has become such a better and happier person because of it. He sometimes calls just to chat and ask some questions about church or the scriptures, and it's great. Souad is really opening up and she really loves having us over. Zuster Uljee is like my awesome South African grandma--she's so kind and wise. Marleny (a less active from Peru) is really kind and humble, and her son Rumi is going to start meeting with us! And the members in the ward are so wonderful--I could go on for a long time about each member I've gotten to know--they are amazing.
I am so grateful for the blessing I have of being a full time missionary for the Lord. As I have been introducing my "greenie" to the area and the people, I have realized more of how blessed I am to know these people and to teach them the gospel of Jesus Christ. I was thinking about a quote from Elder Holland--I think I got it right (I put it as the title)--today, about how Christlike love is the greatest need we have on this earth--and it's true. As I love people and try to treat them as Christ would, it makes everything better--it makes life better. We are here to feel God's love and to share God's love by loving others and helping them know how much God loves them. And I love that.
Sorry this was such a long email--I sure love you all!
Zuster Thomas

these are the songs I'm singing the next couple weeks:
zone training: he'll carry you
stake christmas program: savior redeemer, ere zijn God (dutch christmas song)
ward christmas program: star carol
I'm excited! Also, the stake christmas program is in haarlem--which was where stake conference was too--it's where they filmed a lot of best 2 years. I got to go in the church that they used in the movie! it was cool! also I was in the train station they used for the movie too! Super fun

He will never let you fall

Nikki's email from December 8th!

"My broken bike was still outside Zuster Van der Scheer's from last week--I guess nobody wanted it! You can kind of see how messed up the front tire is"

"Zuster Van der Scheer's--she has so many books, and she has a lot of really cool church books--she's just the best, I'll try and get a picture with her soon"
"Familie Kaaijk! (we were on exchanges--Zuster Otteson was with me)"

"Last p-day we went to a Christmas tree place--they had tons of little villages with Christmas lights and such--it was awesome"

"one of the little villages from the Christmas tree store"


"I don't know if you can really see it, but that's one of my bruises from the accident.  I think it looks a lot worse in person, but my soccer player self just thinks it's an awesome bruise."

Goede dag familie! Oh how I love all of you--thank you for your emails and for the letters you've sent in the mail--I loooove it, it lifts my spirits. 

SO, we got transfer calls last night--I'm staying in Zoetermeer and training!!! I'm really excited! And I'm really glad to be staying here. I'm really getting to know and love the people here, and I'm really grateful I get to spend Christmas here.

This week was great, it was Sinterklaus this past week, so everyone here was super excited for all things Sinterklaus--you should google it, it's a really fun holiday. Some of the traditions are:
-kids can leave their shoes out and Sinterklaus will fill them with treats
-lots of presents, and the present are often wrapped in paper mache (how do you spell that? I can't spell English words anymore....oh no)
-chocolate letters and kruidnoten are two really common treats for Sinterklaus...and they're delicious

We celebrated Sinterklaus with Zuster Van der Scheer (Dutch grandma)--it was really fun, we had dinner, played a game and gave eachother gifts--she's the best. 

This week was awesome with the people we're working with. Wouter is on fire--he received the Aaronic priesthood and had his interview for his temple recommend--he will probably be going to the ward temple night on Tuesday! 

Angela is doing really great, she came to church with us yesterday, and she is awesome--we had a really good lesson with her this past week--she's really open and kind...and also really busy. 

We had dinner with Familie Kaaijk, Wouter, and the Elders this past week, and it was really fun. Familie Kaaijk is awesome--Rens, the dad, is a convert of about a year, and his wife is from Ecuador!! (I told her about you, Josh--she is from the Gui Acylll (I have no idea how to spell that) area, but she was excited to hear about you) and they have a daughter that is really fun--she's about 14. I've somehow become the baker here--when I walked into Familie Kaaijk's house, Veronica (the wife) said 'Sister Thomas, do you have any dessert recipes you can make?' It was kinda funny--they had no measuring utensils, eggs, brown sugar, I made peanut butter was an experiment, but it turned out ok!

Jimmy and Jetti have been taking lessons with the missionaries for a long time, and this past week we had a really good lesson with them, and their 18 year old son sat in for the lesson. They are so sweet, and they always try to feed us or give us something to take home for later. Jetti and I click really well--we both really like cooking/baking and we just get along really well-- and they love having us over.

Ehrari is one of our new investigators, and she is AMAZING. We taught her about the gospel this past week, and she said "do I need to schedule an appointment for that?" Her son has been reading every day in the children's version of the Book of Mormon and loves it--and she really wants to be baptized, but she said she needs a little time. She said that the only reason she didn't come to church last week was because her son couldn't come, and he wouldn't let her go without him. They came yesterday and she brought both her sons (10 and 4 years old). They loved it! Ehrari loved how peaceful and nice everything was--and guess what--she fasted. In our lesson with her this past Friday we explained that this Sunday would be a little different because people would be fasting, and we taught her about fasting. She said she wanted to do it too--she is so amazing. We've become really good friends.

We got to go to a baptism in Den Haag this past week and it was so special. I love going to baptismal services--it really strengthens my testimony of the gospel and of the importance of baptism. 

We've been working with two less actives in particular for the past couple of weeks--Elfride and Zuster Uljee--and things are going really well with both of them. Ahhh I just love these people so much!!! Elfride has been coming to church and we've had some really good lessons with her. Zuster Uljee is going to come to some of the Christmas activities--I'm singing in one of the programs for the ward, so she will come to that. This past week we've been dropping off little bags with sinterklaus snoepjes (treats) and little cards with the Christmas activies on them--it's been a great way to contact less actives. 

Oh how I love this work--I love sharing my testimony with people, helping them understand how personal God is, how loving He is, and helping them see the path that He wants them to follow. This past transfer I've really learned more about my relationship with my Heavenly Father--I've learned that He will never let me fall. He will let me struggle, He will let me stay in the refiner's fire for a little, but He is always aware of me, and He will never let me fall. When I go into lessons, He gives me the words to say. When I don't know what the best use of our time would be, He guides my thoughts. When I'm preparing for a lesson, He shows me the best way to teach it. When I feel down, He brings someone or something to lift me up. 

I love all of you, and I love this time of year. It snowed a little bit this past week! I was so excited. I love everything about Christmas time, it brings people together and directs our thoughts to the true gift of Christmas--Jesus Christ. 

I love you all so so much,
Zuster Thomas

Sunday, December 7, 2014

It's about the people

Here is Nikki's email from November 24th!
"Me in Belgium"

"it was a double doopdienst-the Elders in our ward's investigator Michael also got baptized. I said the closing prayer by the way--the talks were so good and everything went well!!"

"The Romigs--they had our district over for Thanksgiving today! They come to every district meeting--I met them in the MTC! They're amazing"

Hey everyone! Sorry I didn't email earlier--we had turkey bowl today in Den Haag--we played football and had a lot of fun--then the Senior couple had us over for a Thanksgiving dinner--it was so nice! But it took a while to get back--we biked like crazy to get to the church to email before our appointment tonight. 

Well, first of all, Wouter is baptized!!!!!!!! It was such an amazing experience. I seriously can't remember feeling so happy. He was a little nervous because there were a lot of people who showed up, so he said to me "you're going to stay close by me, right?" Also, the other day when we had an appointment with him, I was asking about his cows and if he had a favorite cow, and somehow he ended up calling me his favorite cow--it was really funny--anyways, he said "and I get to sit next to my favorite cow!" He is so sweet, and my heart is still so full. 

The rest of the week was crazy, hard, and a growing experience. It was my first week taking over the city with my mini missionary, and it's been really exhausting and hard. But I've relied a TON on prayer and the spiritual promptings that I've received. God really loves us. 

I got to go to Belgium again this past week to get my visa--I got to see Sister Watts and Whittington and it was great. I had to go to Gouda afterwards to pick up Heidi (Sister Westland) and while we were waiting for sister Westland and Sister Whittington's companion to be done with an appointment, we got a fresh Goudse stroopwafel--SO GOOD. Gouda is really cute.

Well, I'm gonna start sending pictures now, but I love you all and I am so thankful for you all. I'm learning each day how real the gospel is, how true the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is, and how important each person is in the eyes of God.

Zuster Thomas

It's about the people

Sorry I've gotten behind at posting these again! Here is Nikki's email from November 17th!


"Zwarte Pete"

Hallo! How's it going?
Well, this week was a lot better. Zuster Westland, our mini missionary, is pretty much a Dutch fairy--she is so cheery and quirky and Dutch. She is really good at lifting people's spirits. Zuster Hoff is actually going to the Office today to go home, so it'll be me and Zuster Westland until the end of the transfer!
Well, Wouter is getting baptized this coming week! We're so excited!!! We also helped him with his cows last week--it was awesome! I'll send pictures. We had two great lessons with him this past week too, and he's excited to be baptized!
Mos, a recent convert, made us his special spaghetti, and he gave us all TONS of spaghetti, I could only eat about half of my plate, it was nuts. He is a really sweet man from Iran, he really loves people and the gospel. And Irene, one of our investigators, came along. She is doing well and came to church yesterday!
We met with a less active woman from Peru the other day, and her 10 year old son came into the room and said he wants to get the lessons and be baptized!! It was really cool. She also has a really cute 3 year old daughter.
Our other investigators are doing well, Irek came to church yesterday and we made dinner with him and the Elders last night. We met with a woman named Ehrari and talked with her about the Book of Mormon and what we believe in, and she is really interested to learn more! Her son also wants to learn more.
We meet with a less active woman and her daughters once a week usually, and yesterday when we met with them we helped them set a baptismal date for her 8 year old daughter, Samantha! We've been teaching her lessons because her mom wanted her to be ready to be baptized.
We saw Sinter Klaus!!!! There was a little parade in the centrum, and so we went and gave out cards and talked to people, then took a few pictures of the parade. It was really fun! They had zwarte petes everywhere too.
This week I really learned a lot. I learned to love people more--even strangers, and that everything I'm doing is about the people around me--to help them come closer to Jesus Christ. And I love it.
Zuster Thomas

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

You can grow without rain

Nikki's email from this week on November 10th. She sent lots of pictures this week!  There are quite a few pictures that she sent from her last area (Almere) in Almere since she couldn't send pictures while she was there! The rest are from her new area (Zoetermeer).

"Temple conference"

"Belgium! I have a belgian waffle (two was to bring back to my companion)"
"Belgium! (sorry these are so random!)"

"from Almere-Yarina (awesome member missionary-Michelle's best friend) with the Elders and Sister Packer"
"Almere-this sweet woman taught us how to make skirts,she's awesome"

"Almere-Margreet's baptism!"
"Almere--Margreet's family--her mom is from Brazil (she was baptized there and talked about how the missionary who baptized her is in the Sao Paulo area and is inactive-I tolder her that I knew someone serving in the area and she gave me his info and I gave it to Elder Lowe! We'll see what happens!)"

"Almere-the Bishop from Almere and his family--so nice"
"Almere--Sister Van der Put--she is so wonderful"

"Almere--Chaya and Rubin--LOVE them. Chaya was so good to us"
"Almere--the girl on the left is our mini-missionary. This was from when we went on splits with these two girls"

"Almere--matching sweaters. Awesome"
"Johan! My bike."
"Zoetermeer--this past week we went to Den Haag for a "splits avond".  We split up with a member from Den Haag and looked up inactives.  This woman is so cool!  We walked all over Den Haag and she's wonderful."

"Zoetermeer--me in Nederland!"


Well, we found out what will be happening once Sister Hoff leaves! We're getting a "mini-missionary" today and she will be staying here until the end of the transfer, so she'll stay with me as my companion once Sister Hoff leaves. It's a girl named Heidi, who I knew in Almere! It'll be pretty interesting, I'm nervous but excited about the new adventure.

Well, this week was pretty hard, but totally filled with tender mercies and miracles. First off, we went to Bagels and Beans last p-day (love that place), and we had dinner at Familie Rahman Van Eeden. They are a really nice family in our ward. We were just starting dinner and Sister Rahman Van Eeden mentioned that she served in Temple Square. I asked her if she knew Sister Cheney, and she did! And it gets cooler--remember that woman I emailed a few months ago--the woman who Sister Cheney gave me the email address for? Sister Rahman Van Eeden is that same woman!!! It was so cool, she is really kind and sent a picture of us to Sister Cheney. 

Things with our investigators went pretty well this past week--they all just need to pray!!! We are hoping/thinking that Wouter will keep his baptismal date. Irek told us that he prayed about the Book of Mormon and felt really good! And he prayed for us in our lesson, which hadn't happened before. It was simple, in broken English, but it it was wonderful. 

One of our investigators, Jimmy, made us peanut soup with his wife the other day. It was so fun! I got the recipe from his wife and we talked about cooking and recipes and such, and we also got to talk with them about prayer, which was really cool. Their son came in during dinner (the missionaries haven't met with him before) and he started asking us all of these really great questions, like what the Bible means to us and why bad things happen to good people, etc. It was a really cool experience! 

We did exchanges this past week and Sister Frederickson (I met her at BYU, she wasn't in my group in the MTC though) came to Zoetermeer with me! It was so fun and so nice to work with her. 

The day after exchanges, I planned out our day with some lookups I felt like we should do. It was a miracle because all of the people were home! We made 7 appointments for this coming week and it was just wonderful.

Like I said earlier, this week was really hard--from all the I've written so far it probably doesn't seem like a hard week, but it was. I won't go into too much detail, but there have been a lot of discouraging moments. I asked the Elders in our ward for a preisthood blessing, and I am so grateful that I did. It brought comfort to me and helped strenghten me. 

The title for this week was a thought I had this morning--it's pretty appropriate for this mission area too because it rains so much...but anyways, even though this week was filled with "rain"/hard things, I saw a lot of growth in myself and I saw a lot of tender mercies from Heavenly Father, helping me know that He loves me and that I'm doing what He wants me to.

I love you all and I pray for you every day.
Zuster Thomas

Prayer is powerful, and prayer is needed

Nikki's email from November 3rd.  Sorry I am still behind, but we finally have pictures from her! These are her pictures from the last several weeks since she couldn't get the pictures to send before. The captions in the quotations are the captions she sent in her email :)
"Sister's Conference with Sister Packer"

"Random selfie.."
"at the Pantophlet's in Almere--they fed us every Friday (btw the Elders did service for them right after dinner...thus the normal clothes."
"Sister Hoff and I (her new companion) at the Trunk or Treat activity" 

"Beautiful Zoetermeer" (her new area where she is)
"Our beautiful church building!"

"Irek at the Halloween Institute--this was the first time he's ever carved a pumpkin! He loved it."
"Sister Hoff and Irek with their pumpkins"

"at wouter's farm"

"at wouter's farm"
"I made pumpkin bread! It was lekker"
"My first fresh stroopwaffle!! Yum"

Hallo familie! Hoe is it?
Well, this week was full of lots of new things.

So, for the last couple of days in Almere:
Sister Packer and I went on splits with two older young women in Almere, which was really cool, I was with a sweet girl named Victoria, and we found a potential investigator while knocking doors! Sister Packer and I also said goodbye to a few members--the members weren't too happy with Sisters leaving Almere (they replaced us with Elders, so Almere has 4 Elders now). We had dinner our last night with familie Herrebrugh (the Mother is from Minnesota!).
Transfer day was a little nuts, it was sad to say bye to Sister Packer, but I'm excited for her and all the new adventures in her path. Also, on transfer day I tried this amazing drink from Starbucks--the pumpkin spice latte without coffee--they just made it with milk--it was amazing, you have to try it in America! Also I saw Sister Fleming!! And Elder Cook, who was in my MTC group but didn't get his visa at first--he was in Reno and met Sister Eberhard! Anyways, Sister Hoff and I eventually got back to Zoetermeer, I unpacked, and we went to the Ward's trunk or treat activity! It was so fun--I was really grateful I got to go. And we saw the temple on our way home! I love having the temple here, it's so comforting to bike past it and just know that it's close by.

And I love Sister Hoff. She extended, so she's just here until the 19th of November, so I have no idea what they'll do with me after she leaves. She's wonderful though, we have a lot of fun together. She's from Colorado and is hilarious and really good at contacting.
Also, one of the ward missionaries here does yoga every Thursday morning--she does it for free and it's a great way for members to invite non-member friends and for us to get to know them without there being too much pressure. I love yoga! It's so great. Also, on Thursday night there was a Halloween institute, and it was awesome.
We've done a lot of work here the past few days in Zoetermeer--we're finding a lot of potential investigators and our investigators are doing really well. Wouter, one the people we're teaching, is a farmer--he has tons of cows. We got to sample some raw milk (that's the translation from Dutch...basically it's fresh from the cow milk) and had a great lesson with him. We set a baptismal date with him and we're really hoping it all works out!
We're also teaching a man named Irek, who is from Poland--he is so interesting and really great. He's been working on stopping one bad thing a week (with things like smoking and drugs). He had told the Sisters previously that he couldn't give up drinking because it was such a big part of his culture, but the other day, he told us that he had just stopped drinking. It was amazing. He went to institute with us the other day and he had a great time. A funny quote from him from our lesson on Friday came after I bore testimony about Christ and how He understands us perfectly...he said "Nice guy, Jesus.'' It was really funny with his Polish accent.
Also, I found my new Dutch Grandma.....haha, just kidding...kind of. We had dinner at Sister Van de Scheer's house on Friday (she feeds us every friday). She had Frankie Sinatra playing in the background, and she has tons of books--especially church books. She lets us read while she finishes cooking, and she is just super classy and lovely.
I LOVE YOU ALL!!! My subject title is really something I learned more about this week. It was really hard adjusting to everything and saying goodbye to so many people, but as I prayed, I was given energy, motivation, peace, comfort, love and guidance. Also, we've been working with our investigators, trying to help them see the importance of prayer. It is oh so needed, and Heavenly Father wants to hear from us so much.
Zuster Thomas