Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The tops of bridges have the prettiest views

Nikki'semail from this past week on October 27th.

Mijn familie! Oh how I love all of you!
Well, first things first, we got transfer calls yesterday and I'm going to Zoetermeer! I'll be serving with Zuster Hoff (I've been on exchanges with her--she's awesome..I've also been on exchanges in Zoetermeer)! We were pretty surprised that I'm not staying in Almere, I wish I would've taken more pictures with the members/investigators here. They're replacing us with Elders--there are a lot of Sisters leaving this week and after this transfer, so there will probably be less sister cities in our mission. Anyways, I know it's where the Lord wants me--I'll definitely miss the people here though!
Ok, so this week was pretty great! Sister Lourens, a sweet member from Curicao (definitely spelled that wrong), taught Zr. Packer and I how to make skirts--I made a thicker one for the winter--she's so sweet and told us her conversion story. We have done some service for her, she's awesome. We made dinner for familie Van der Put this week too! We made white chicken chilli--well, what I could remember from the recipe! They loved it, and that family is one of my favorites. We also made dinner for Adrienne and Johan, one of Sister Packer's recipes. Johan is hilarious--he calls us at least once a day with pretty much the exact same things to say every time. We only answer once in a while--listening to his voicemails is really fun.
Michelle was sick this past week, so we didn't get our lesson in with her. But we had offered to drop off some pumpkin soup (Sister Packer made it--so lekker), and one day we were headed out in the direction of her house--Sister Packer felt that we should bring the soup-- and we texted her asking if we could drop off the soup. Right when she responded, she got on the same bus we were on! We got to talk to her and give her the soup, anyways it was a miracle and it was great! We made contact with a lot of inactives this past week, which was really good. We also received a referral from a member for a man named Carlos--he's super friendly!
We had dinner with Familie Seel--they're from MN and will move back to the cities in a year. They're awesome! After dinner with them we went to the baptism of Margreet--she's a girl in our ward that loves us--it was great! There were so many visitors there, which was awesome.
Also, just in case you were wondering, my bike situation is good now. Johan and Adrienne had a bike they were going to give away, and when they heard I had a bad bike they gave it to me! It's a cool nice bike--it folds up so you can bring it on the train with you without having to pay money. They're so nice! They love the missionaries. They call us the Elder Sisters, and they call the Elders Elder Brothers...it's pretty awesome. His voicemails go something like this: "Good evening, met Johan, hoe gaat het? (a mix of Dutch and English but I'll put it in English) Winter is coming, oh yes, winter is coming, and you must eat plenty of potatoes and you must be careful on your bikes. Oh, yes, very careful. I'm so happy that you are here in Almere, and I hope you like your stay here in Almere..."
Well, to answer some of your questions, fall here is really pretty! The trees have been changing colors, and my favorite view is the tops of bridges, because there is always a canal with a row of big trees on each side--and with the different colors, it's breathtaking. I was thinking about that the other day--how the tops of bridges bring my favorite view, but on the other hand, biking up bridges is one of my less favorite things--especially against the wind. But that's how it is in life, the best views come after the harder experiences.
As for biking, we bike quite a lot--the weather was pretty bad this past week, so we used the bus a couple of times, also when we went to places father away we bussed. I like biking most of the time! When it's rainy and windy it's a little less fun, but it's the best mode of transportation here...and it gives me muscular legs ;)
As for Halloween, they don't celebrate it here. Some people have parties to celebrate it because it's a cool American thing, but most people don't celebrate it. Apparently there is a different tradition here, where kids carry a lantern around and knock doors, and they sing a song and get candy. 'm ok without Halloween here, the main things I'll miss are carving pumpkins and making yummy fall treats at home and spending time with you all.
Speaking of missing home, I had an experience this past week that really helped me. I was studying and thinking about the people we're teaching here, and I realized (this may seem like a "duh!" thing, but it was helpful for me) that if I wasn't here, I wouldn't know and love all these people. And when I thought about not knowing them, it made me tear up because I love them all and am so grateful that I know all of these wonderful people. It was an important moment for me and I think about that often now, it helps me when I feel like I need a hug from home or something like that.
Zuster Thomas

"Above all, we are His"-Jean A. Stevens

Nikki's letter from October 20th. Sadly, she still can't get pictures to upload!

Hallo! Ahhh I was so excited to get online and see pictures of sweet Kate--I've been looking forward to it all week! Please give her tons of kisses and hugs for me. She is so beautiful!
This week has been a little chaotic, we did so many awesome things! Before I forget though, there is a video that the Church shared on their Facebook page that you need to watch--it is about a girl in our ward here in Almere! Her name is Madelon and I guess the video shares her conversion story--I haven't seen it yet but you should watch it! She is so friendly and fun, I love talking to her.
So, the week started off with an awesome lesson with Michelle--she said that when/if she receives a confirmation that the Church is true, she will definitely for sure get baptized--so we're just helping her learn and feel the joy that the gospel brings, and help her know how to receive an answer. She is so amazing, and Yarina (Michelle's best friend) is so key in our lessons.
Also, last p-day, Sister Packer, the Elders and I got matching sweaters..they have a gingerbreadman on them and one of his legs is broken off and he is saying "uhoh"..it's really cozy...and Sister Packer and I got matching slippers...I wish I could send pictures! Our Church computer is still broken.
On Wednesday we got to go to the temple!!! Wow I love the temple. The temple here is small, which I love--it reminded me a little of the temple in Minnesota, which was so nice. I felt close to Heavenly Father, and I felt at home in the temple, which has helped me feel more at home here in the Netherlands. It was so good to see people from my MTC group too. It was just an awesome day. After temple conference, Sister Packer went to Zoetermeer and Sister Hoff came with me to Almere! It was kinda stressful to run the city for exchanges, but we got everywhere we needed to go, taught the people we were scheduled to, and we contacted a ton! It was fun!
I also got to go to Belgium on Friday! My MTC group had to go to Brussels for legality things, and it was so awesome! Man, Brussels is GORGEOUS. I really wish I could send pictures of Brussels. We stayed for about an hour before we did our legality things and left, so we got to try some yummy treats and look around a tiny bit. I had a Belgian waffle--ok, SO good...waffle love does a pretty good job too by the way--and Sister Voss and I shared some frites (fries..I could only eat a few, they weren't my thing, but they were pretty good), and we also shared a little bit of Australian ijsje (icecream), which was really yummy...it was an ïndulge"day for food...I think it was definitely worth it though. It was so fun to see everyone from my MTC group!! It felt like a little missionary family reunion.
We had our Jovo (Jonge Volwassene..it means YSA basically) Zumba activity, which was great! Not very many people came, but we got Vanessa (our less active) to come! It was awesome and really fun.
Thank you so much for the care package!!! I was so excited as I looked through it--you packed so many of my favorite things--thank you!! And I LOVE getting letters in the mail, it is so fun! I need to buy stamps--I have letters ready to send home but no stamps yet.
Also, I have exciting news!! Sister Packer will have a 4 hour layover in MN when she flies home!!!!! I will give more details next Monday, but I was thinking if Heather had some time maybe she could drop off a Chipotle burrito or something? We can talk more about it next week. It's pretty cool though!!
I read the title quote today and I love it. We are simply His, and that means everything. Above our weaknesses, shortcomings, faults, mistakes, etc...we are His. He loves us. I just love that. God is so loving and good.
I love you all so much. I am so grateful to have such a loving and supportive family.
Zuster Thomas

God is our loving Heavenly Father

Sorry once again that I am behind on putting her letters on the blog- this is her email from October 13th! Still no pictures are working for her to send!

Mijn familie!!! I hou van jullie!
This week was great--plenty of ups and downs, but overal it was really great.
This past week brought some great teaching appointments. We taught Aimable about the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost, and it was awesome. He likes to come up with analogies--they help him understand more, and honestly, they teach me a lot. He described the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost as a stick for a blind person--it helps them feel where they should go and which path they should take. Also, earlier we were talking about the Book of Mormon, and he said that the Book of Mormon and the Bible are like wearing socks with your shoes--it doesn't quite make sense to go without one of them.
We've been working with Vanessa, an inactive memeber, a lot lately. She broke her tibia and is in a wheelchair at home, so we visited her a couple of times (it was also her birthday this past week). We had really great lessons with her, and she stopped smoking!!!! She said she doesn't even have the desire anymore. What a miracle. It's hard to get her to church with the wheelchair--cars here are generally super small, and the bus is a little tricky for her/the wheelchair--but she wants to come back!
Adriene is doing really well, we taught her the plan of Salvation, and it was really great--she has real and strong testimony--we just need to help her make the steps to getting baptized; she wants to, she just has to work on a few things first.
We had such an amazing lesson on Friday with Michelle--she is a referral from Yarina, who is so awesome. We taught her about God being our loving Heavenly Father, about prophets, Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and Prayer (the first lesson in Preach My Gospel). My companion and I switch off teaching, and one of the things I taught about in this lesson was Joseph Smith, about his prayer and his answer, when God and Jesus Christ came to him. It was a really powerful moment, and I could really feel the Spirit, especially as I recited Joseph Smith's own words describing God and Christ coming to him. Michelle is really open and positive, and we're really excited about her.
Anyways, we also had interview this week with President and his wife--they were really great! They are both so wise and kind, and I learned a lot from them. We also had a Sister's Conference on Saturday--all of the sister missionaries met up at the mission home and we had a great conference! It was really fun to see all of my MTC sisters and to learn from all of the sisters here. Sunday was great! I could understand a lot more of what people were saying in church, and instead of focusing on trying to understand people, I was able to focus more on what they were saying and applying it to me. It was an uplifting fast Sunday! Also, I feel a lot more comfortable with the members. It was so wonderful yesterday to be with the members and chat with them. I love our ward! There is a little girl named Margreet who loves us so much--she is part of a part-member family, and we've been teaching her to prepare her for her baptism--she is so fun!
Also, here's the moment Mom and Dad have been waiting a long time for: THANK YOU for letting me take piano lessons and encouraging me to practice. The missionaries in our ward have been asked to participate in choir, because usually the numbers are really low. Anyways, the choir director asked me to play piano for choir--I have never played piano for a choir before, so I was a little nervous. Then I realized that the song I was about to play was a Dutch song and I had never played it in my life--thank you Sherri Bell for teaching me how to siteread! It was fun, I love being with the members and singing with them.
The weather here is getting colder, and it's been more rainy too. One day, we had to deliver some invitations--we're having a zumba activity for the young single adult women (there are a ton of inactive ysa sisters, so we're trying to reactivate them!)--and also do look-ups, contacting, etc...and it rained all afternoon! It was pretty exhausting but it felt good too.
The title of this email is something I've been thinking about a lot this week. Sister Packer told me that in this mission especially, you really need to know where your testimony stands, because people question it and reject you all the time. So I've been trying to figure out where my testimony stands. And one important part of my testimony is that I know that we have a loving Heavenly Father. He knows us. He loves us. He wants us to come Home to Him. We can come Home to Him through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Ik hou van mijn Redder en mijn Hemelse Vader. Ik weet dat zij van ons houden.
Zuster Thomas

Sunday, October 12, 2014

"Be still and know that I am God"

Nikki's letter from this past week on October 6th! She is still having issues uploading pictures onto the computer she uses so no pictures this week.

Hallo familie!

Well this week has been pretty great! A lot happened, so I'm going to just list some things first:

-I had harring--nastiest thing I have ever eaten. I have a video but it's too big to load I think (and the computers here dont take camera cards!! So sorry!! Anyways, it was really gross. Never ever again.
-We have a new investigator!! Her name is Joyce and she's awesome. She was first introduced to the Church while visiting her sister in America, who's a member. She loves that the members of our Church are so willing to serve. We're hoping to set a baptismal date with her this week!

-There is an amazing family, the Pantophlets, in our ward, and they have us over for dinner every Friday. Brother Pantophlet is one of the best cooks ever. He made bombi I think this past week. So lekker. His daughter, Yurina, is in her twenties, is a lawyer and is a killer member missionary. She brought three friends to conference last night and one of them is a referral. We are teaching her friend this week!

-Sister Packer and I have been really liking hobo dinners lately. Hobo dinners include bread, hummus (we found pumpkin hummus---best thing in the world), avocado, veggies, apples, etc. It's one of our favorite meals. And we think we're pretty funny when we do it.

-Sister Packer had me lead us around one afternoon while we looked up potential investigators and less active members. It was stressful/funny/a good learning experience

-We've been working more with a less active member named Vanessa-she's awesome. She's really spunky and fun. She fell off her bike last week and broke her tibia, so she's in a wheelchair...we visited her at the hospital (hospitals are so weird here) and we made her pancakes and taught her the lesson after she got home from the hospital. It's been a really cool experience meeting with her. She's struggling with smoking, and we had a really good lesson with her about prayer. It was awesome.

-Ok, some things that are really different here: there are no free public restrooms. You have to pay to go most places--it's been an adventure. It's increase my gratitude for free public restrooms in America, just saying. Also, the granola here is amazing. You all would love it! And people here love this thing called Vla--it's basically watery pudding, I don't really like it, but 'people here love it!

-Today is my 2 month mark! fun fact! Sorry, this email is super choppy and random

-I met an Elder from Lacrosse! He knows the Ebberts and Bakers--Elder Robinson. It was really exciting--he's in my district, so I see him every week.

Ok, now I can focus on General Conference. How amazing was that?! It flew by for me, and we didn't get to see theSunday PM session because of the time difference--jammer, but it's ok. For me, the main thing that stood out to me from Conference was that when we face God, focus on what He would have us do and what He thinks of us, everything works out and we will be the happiest we can be. I hadn't even realized it before Conference, but part of my stress was worrying about if other people thought I was a good missionary. The only person's opinion that really matters is God's. Also, I loved the talks about Sacrament meeting--I really want to make Sacrament more of a sacred and special experience. I really loved the Jorg man's talk--he spoke super fast but I loved every word. It reminded me of the quote "the gospel is meant to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."I hope  you all read through your notes over and over again, that's what I've been doing today and it's wonderful.

The scripture I put at the title was one that really helped me this week. I had been feeling down about a lot of things, and when I read that scripture, it really put things into perspective for me. When we get flustered, stressed, discouraged, lonely, etc...we need to be still and know who God is and that He is capable of all things. We must have faith. Anyways, it brought a lot of comfort to me. Also, something else that helped me this week was smiling. We've had to ride the bus more this past week because my bike is not so good--the Elders from our ward are working on it, but I might end up buying one next week, we'll see. Anyways, I would Always get discouraged with myself on the bus, because I wanted to talk to people but I don't feel like I know enough Dutch to have a normal conversation with a stranger on a bus. Then one day, I just started smiling more at people on the bus. And one day, an old man smiled back. It was so nice and it lifted my spirits. Most people are very closed off and don't respond, but smiling at everyone has helped--I know it's super simple, but it helped me. Also just saying little complements to others has helped too. Even though  I can't carry a conversation and smoothly bring in the gospel on the bus yet (it's illegal to just start talking about church things on the bus..and it's weird to just ask someone how they are here, it's apparently too personal), I can still love people.

I love you all so much, thank you for your love and support.
Zuster Thomas

"Trust in the Lord"

So so sorry I haven't been doing very well keeping up with the blog but here is Nikki's letter from September 29th!! She had some difficulties uploading pictures so no pictures from that week!

Well, to be honest, this week was a little trickier for me, but it was still a good week. I went on exchanges and got to go to Zoetermeer with Sister Spencer (aka Josh's future wife...for reals). It was really cool to see an older city--and we went to Bagels and Beans, which is probably my new favorite restaurant--they have bagel sandwhich things, but the bagels are way smaller here and I got one with hummus and tomatoes--yum! Then we had Zone training which was great--I saw Sister Adams! She is in my district so I'll see her once a week while I'm in Almere. I got the package and some letters too--thanks SO much. The comforter has been so nice to have--it smells like home and it's the best. For packages, I don't think there are restrictions on size or anything, if you send it to our apartment, it should be able to fit in the slot if it's about 1.5 inches thick. Also we will be going to the mission home on October 11th for a sisters conference, so I will be able to get packages then too I think.
Anyways, the rest of the week has been interesting because Sister Packer's bike broke...so loots of walking and busrides. We had great lessons with both of our progressing investigators and we got to do some service for a member in our ward. We do a lot of strengthening of ward members here, which is new for me. There are a lot of members who are struggling with their testimonies and other things. We are working with one woman in our ward in particular and it's been a really cool experience. So our two investigators are first Aimable, who is from the Congo and speaks English kind of, and he's really cool. Our other investigator, Adrienne, lives with a less-active member, and her and her husband came to church yesterday!! We've done some contacting and have met with less active/struggling members.
Also, there are some things I forgot to mention that you're probably curious about:
1. I inherited a bike from my companion's previous companion who went home when I came in. The brakes aren't super great, so I'm trying to figure out what to do. It works fine right now though
2. Things that are different here: the toilets, the door-locks for the bathroom, the peanut butter (it's growing on my though..it's pretty good actually), the sinks/showers, in the grocery stores you pick the produce you want then way it yourself and a sticker prints off right there at the scale with the price for your amount of that kind of produce....there are a lot of different things here! People eat with two utensils in their hands--fork in the left hand knife in the right, or spoon in the left and fork on the right...
3. Things I've tried here: stroopwafel (yum!), speculaas (cookie butter pretty much...the speculaas cookies are yummy though), chocolate (um yeah, really good.), ice cream (it's really different here! But it's pretty good) and I think that's pretty much it for sweets. Sister Packer and I are trying to be healthy, so all of these have been spaced out. The members have fed us really yummy food too-I've had Greek food, the best macaroni/groundbeef thing I've ever had, macaroni and cheese, chicken and potatoes, etc.
4. General Conference--we will watch it at the church I think, and the time change makes things messed up a bit. We won't be able to watch the last session because of the time difference, but that's ok I guess because we'll get the magazine later.
Ok, JOSH HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! Are you feeling 22 and singing the Taylor Swift song? Ok, here are some of the things I LOVE about you.
-You are a super hard worker but you are also great at making things fun/funny
-You love Batman
-You helped me prepare for my mission, and the things you taught me have really helped
-You make me want to be a better missionary/person
-You are determined and make time for the most important things
-You served a wonderful mission and I can see how much you loved it and how much you gave to the Lord on your mission. I've learned here that you can come on a mission, serve, and go back home and look like you were a great missionary, but it's all about your individual committment, effort, work, and conversion. I can see that you truly served the Lord on your mission and will continue to do so.
I love you all, I miss you tons. It can be pretty frustrating at times, but Heavenly Father always blesses us. There was one day that I was feeling pretty down, and we were on a bus and a young mom with her new baby got on. We chatted a little, and for some reason it just lifted my spirits. Also, the sunsets here have been so beautiful, and I can't help but think sometimes that Heavenly Father is sharing one of His paintings with me.
The language is ok, so many people speak English here, especially in our ward, so it's really hard. I feel like I speak English most of the time, and I really need to change that. It's an easy habit to slip into, but I'll do better. I really am trying to do my best and to serve the Lord with all that I have and am. I love this work and I love the people here.
I love you all!
Zuster Thomas