Saturday, December 27, 2008

Missionary Couples Dinner & Zone Christmas Meeting

Christmas Eve Program & Jim's Saturday Baptism

The Joys of Our Christmas Week in the Netherlands

What a great time of the year for all of us, but especially for my wife and I as we serve the Dutch people in Rotterdam. We have had a wonderful week filled with blessings. We began the week with a special sacrament meeting at church. We enjoyed the special talks and songs. After the meeting we all went into the recreation hall and sat down for a light lunch that included Christmas goodies. On Monday we hosted the other five Senior Missionary Couples from the Dutch side and our Mission President (Paul Woodland and his wife Marilyn), for a special pre-Christmas Dinner. It was great to be with them and share our common bonds. We enjoyed a wonderful meal of delicious foods that all contributed. That night we went to Dan Croese's home (an older member couple) for a nice Dutch meal (potatoes, meat, and beans). Then on Tuesday we had a District/Zone meeting in the Rotterdam North church. It was great to be with these special missionaries and to share in good food and fun. That night my wife and I went to a member family's home (Charles Croese) with our two elders for a great turkey dinner. Wednesday night we attended a special Christmas program at our church. We listened to a great speaker talk about the significance of the gold, frankincense, and myrrh that were brought to the Christ child. A harpist shared some beautiful music with the congregation before we all enjoyed hot chocolate, punch, cookies, holiday bread, etc. On Christmas Day our elders, my wife and I went to a single member's home and enjoyed a special lunch that included turkey. That afternoon the four of us went to another member's home and enjoyed turkey, duck, rice, and other good food. That evening we got to call most of our children and grandchildren and enjoyed talking with and seeing some of them on the webcam. We missed them greatly but were grateful that we were here doing an important work. Thursday, the 26th, was the Second Day of Christmas here. All stores were closed again and people did more visiting and eating. Sister S. and I were invited to the home of another couple in the Ward, who serve as Ward Missionaries. We had an enjoyable meal with them, which they called a "gormetta meal". Basically there was a hot plate grill in the middle of the table and many plates of things that could be cooked set on the table. We each put rolled up pieces of various meats on to cook. We also had small pannakoeken skillets that we could use. There were also vegetables and fruit that we could add to our plates. It took us about an hour to eat the wonderful meal. That brings us to Saturday, went a wonderful week was culminated by having two baptisms this evening. First we had the first convert baptism in R'dam South that has taken place since we arrived here. We were thrilled for the elders and for our friend Jim. Many Ward members attended the nice event. We then drove to Spijkenisse for the baptism of Verginia. We had a small part in teaching both of these new members. Our hearts are full as we rejoice in these new converts. Our mission will end the year with a record number of baptisms. We hope that all of you also had an enjoyable Christmas week filled with thoughts of family and Christ, and that you will all share this great message with friends and family who may not be members of this church.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Activities at the Gouda Church

Christmas by Candlelight at the Gouda Church

On Tuesday, the 16th of December, the city of Gouda held its annual Christmas by Candlelight night. It was a special event where all of the street lights on the main "walking street" were turned off and candles were lit. There were bands on the street and a ceremony was held at the city square. On the route back towards the train station hundreds of people had to walk past a corner where two of our missionaries were standing. The elders had a sign that said, "free warm chocolate milk". They talked with people and invited them to turn left and visit our church. Many people did that and many others accepted a DVD gift of Joy to the World. In front of the church were two sister missionaries directing people inside. Inside the church people were able to drink warm chocolate milk, eat cookies, visit and listen to caroling. About 70 people came in off the street and joined in the activity. There were many young students who came in and joined in on the singing. Visitors enjoyed the warm, cheerie atmosphere. Many great impressions were made and many more DVD's were given out. At the end of the night about 240 were given out. It was a fun night that was very productive as a missionary contact tool.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sinterklaas & Christmas in the Netherlands

Here is the Netherlands, as in much of the world, Christ seems to have been forgotten in the celebration of this season that bears his name. The world throws a big party for his birthday, but Christ is not invited to come. That seems very wrong to us. One of the other senior couples shared these thoughts with us: "---but the sad thing is that the real meaning of Christmas seems to be lost. There was a survey taken last year and 60% of the population of the Netherlands had no idea of the real meaning of Christmas. This is a sad commentary of the state of faith in the people here. It reminds me of the scripture in 2 Nephi 2: 8, "Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah…" At least they separate much of the gift giving by having Sinterklaas come on Dec. 5th. The night before the children will put their shoes near the fireplace or a heater. They will have a carrot and some hay for the white horse that Sinterklaas rides. The next morning the carrot, and hay are gone and a small present and some candy is left. Then on the night of the 5th, there will be a knock at the door and the parents and children will open the door to find a bag full of presents that has been left by the good holy saint. Dec. 25th and 26th are days of celebration and feasting, with very little religious importance. There are always the Christians who do remember the true meaning of Christmas. Next week the citizens of Gouda will be going on a walking tour of churches, including ours. They will visit the various churches and at our building there will be displays and a free DVD, "Joy to the World". We look forward to this special season, and wish you all much happiness. We have three baptisms scheduled here in our Ward on December 27th. They will be a great conclusion to the better part of the holiday.

Sinterklaas, Zwarte Piet & Christmas

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving Activities in Nederland

Thanksgiving Day was very special here in the Netherlands (Nederland). Our Zone was invited by a new member to enjoy a Thanksgiving Dinner at his restaurant. The owner, John Willem, prepared the turkey, potatoes, soup, salad, and the servers. The Senior Couple Sisters made fruit & jello salad, sweet potatoes, and pies. We had an enjoyable time eating while we visited. There were several new Elders present as we had transfers this past week. Elder Drake is our new District Leader here (you see him standing with a scarf on). [Blog pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them]. After the meal, the senior missionary couples drove to Rotterdam to visit the Pilgrim Fathers Church, where the Pilgrims that landed on Plymouth Rock in America departed from. Those Pilgrims started out in England and came to Holland to escape religious persecution. They spent 11 years mostly in Leiden, Holland. They decided to immigrate to America and came to this church in Delfhaven (Rotterdam) before they departed on the Speedwell for England. Back in England they boarded the Mayflower, having to double up because the Speedwell was not able to accompany them.

Then on Saturday we had another Thanksgiving Dinner for the Young Adults in the stake. We had a nice meal there also, with even more turkey. We are going to be spending a lot more time with the Young Adults (Jonge Volwassenen or Yo Vohs). We are truly into the holiday season here with Sinter Klaas Day coming up on Dec. 5th.

Thanksgiving Day in Nederland

Young Adult Thanksgiving Dinner

A Real "Tieing" Experience

The life of a missionary is never dull, sometimes they have unique experiences. Last week we gave an investigator, Quincy, a tie. He gratefully accepted it and then asked, "How do you tie that thing on?" The next 10 minutes was a real comedy as we watched Elders Tilleman and Berry, and Quincy go through the gyrations of getting the tie tied. We are looking forward to his baptism in the next several weeks.

Elders Helping Quincy Tie a Necktie

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Gouda: the city, cheese & Woerden

We have mentioned Dutch cheese before, this time we will highlight Gouda cheese. It comes from the city of that name, which is about 20 miles from Rotterdam. The 1 million cows in the area were mentioned in last weeks blog. They provide the milk for the great cheese and other products that come from a 20 mile radius from Gouda. The first picture below shows the old city center in Gouda. The buildings are very quaint and beautiful. Many of them have been restored. There are some walking streets in Gouda and the neighboring city of Woerden where we found this Gouda cheese store. Even in the fall the front of the store is open to the public. The cheese "wheels" are readily seen. There are many varieties of cheese and it is hard to select which ones to buy.

The smaller city of Woerden has an ancient history, it goes back to about 300 A.D. an the Roman occupation. My wife and I are standing in front of a mural of the old Roman village that existed on the site of this parking garage that we are standing in. We were able to see the outline of the old walls of the Roman fortress. We were told that when they excavated for the garage they found the remains of an old Roman ship, tools, weapons and other implements.

It is visits to places like these that help us get a better perspective of the people who live here. It helps us appreciate the native Dutch and the foreigners who come here for a better life. We teach many ethnic and cultural groups here. At present we are assisting the young elders in teaching a Dutch woman, and a Belgian man. Then there is the part member family from Portugal, and several people from Curacao. This morning we attended the baptism of two people, one was Dutch and the other from Uganda. We are looking forward to another baptism this coming Saturday. Also, we will be having a Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant which is owned by a man who was baptized this morning. The field is white and is being harvested.

Gouda City Center

Gouda Cheese Store: the real deal

Elder & Zuster S. at Woerden Roman Historical Site

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sea Level Water Gauge near Moordrecht

Noord Tunnel by Alblasserdam

Missionaries in Rotterdam Zone

Water: Friend & Foe in Holland

The Netherlands is referred to as the low countries by the sea. The story of Hans Brinker is the tale of the young boy who stuck his thumb in the dike and prevented the sea from flooding the country. It is typical of the continual struggle of the small Netherlands against the mighty sea. I saw the statue of Hans 42 years ago. Today the monuments are made to illustrate the lowest point of ground below sea level. We visited that spot and took a picture to show you that our car and Zuster Servoss are at a point that is 17 feet 2 inches below sea level. Over 27% of this country lies below sea level. The top of blue scale on this marker, is at sea level.
The hundreds of miles of dikes, the sea walls, and many pumps control the water, and allow this area and much more to be used by the Dutch. However, much of it is not so far below sea level. Dikes are a real engineering marvel and are basically reinforced earthen banks covered with grass. They are regularly inspected and maintained.

It is also common here to not only have bridges cross over the rivers and canals, but to also have tunnels cross under them. The other photo shows the entry into a large tunnel that has 3 lanes of traffic. You are able to drive through them at 60 mph. This tunnel crosses under the Maas River (which includes the water from the Rhine River). It is 7/10 of a mile long. The Maas Tunnel that connects the two halves of Rotterdam is about 1 mile long. Also, it is a common site to have a canal pass through a low area with the canal being elevated much higher and held back by strong dikes. They allow barges and small ships to traverse the rivers and canals deep into Germany, and Belgium. It is amazing to see how much cargo is moved along the canals and rivers. Rotterdam is the world's second largest sea port, eventhough it is over 20 miles from the open sea.

So, water is also a friend to the Dutch and the frequent rains keep everything green year round. It rains no more than 6% of the time, which averages out to less than 90minutes a day There is plenty of water to drink, water crops, help the pasture lands grow grass, and allow the 3 million cows in the country to produce great tasting milk and cheese. What a great place to live and to serve. Which brings us to our last point, and that is the waters of baptism. We are impressed with the younger missionaries and their diligent efforts. Last week in our mission, there were 11 baptisms and 22 are scheduled for this week. Rotterdam will be among those counted in the next several weeks. The work goes forth and we invite each of you to do your part to better understand the gospel and also to share it.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Klompen: Wood Pile, Blocks, Shoe Racks, Swans

Wooden Shoes

Most of the world is familiar with wooden shoes, but did you know that in Holland (the Netherlands) they are called klompen (klohm pen)? Other people call them clogs. Last weekend we had the opportunity to visit a klompen factory, museum, and showroom. It was very interesting and we'd like to share a bit of trivia concerning the making of klompen: They date back about 800 years. Old klompen are hard to find since the used ones were usually burned in the stove or fireplace. Klompen are still worn by some of the farmers and people in small villages. They have have changed very little over the centuries. With today's modern technology, the inner and outer sides of a pair can be finished in about 2 minutes. Master craftsman can finish a pair in about 2 hours, using the older techniques. They are usually made from poplar and willow trees. The average tree makes about 75 pairs of shoes. Wooden shoes are a simple idea and a creative way to make comfortable shoes inexpensively out of two blocks of wood.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Groningen LDS Ward Chapel

Canal in Dokkum with Old Sailing Ship

Elder & Zuster Servoss at Akkerwoude Baptismal Site

Weekend in Friesland- Back in Time

This past weekend was an opportunity for us to travel to the northern most part of our mission to an area called Friesland. We wanted to visit another missionary couple, Elder & Zuster Kirkman in Leeuwarden. They live on the 7th floor of a new apartment building, with a wonderful view of a shipping canal below. They wanted to share some of the unique sites of the area with us. We were able to visit the old village of Dokkum with its beautiful old buildings. Then we visited the site where the first convert baptism in the Netherlands took place in a place called Broek bij Akkerwoude. There is a monument there that was built in 1936 to mark the spot where Gerrit and Bouwdina Van de Woude were baptized in the canal on October 1,1861. I had visited the site in 1967, and I am happy to say that it looks even better today (new fence). The same windmill and canal are in the background. We then went to the oldest working planetarium in the world, the Eise Eisinga Planetarium in Franeker. It was amazing to see what Eise built in 1781 in the ceiling of his living room. It is a working model, to scale, that has the planets rotating about the sun and so on. It still keeps near perfect time.

On a spiritual note we were able to attend two Sacrament Meetings, one in the Leeuwarden Branch and the other in the Groningen Ward. I had served in Groningen for 5 months during my mission 41 years ago. It was great to be back there. I got up to bear my testimony and the bishop (not knowing who I was) asked me if I needed a translator. I assured him that I could do it myself. Then I proceeded to give my testimony. Most of the congregation had no idea who I was, or where I came from. They now meet in a very nice chapel with a large membership. I was able to meet Brother De Jonge, & Bro. Dallinga, whom I knew back then. Brother De Jonge has 10 children who are all active in the church. One son, Jelmer, is our Stake President here in Rotterdam. We drove past the place where I had lived, and even though neighboring buildings had been replaced, my apartment was still there. It was great to be back in Groningen, it was truly a step back in time for me.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Dragon Fruit

Dragon Fruit, The Ten Virgins, & Investigators

We found a very interesting mystery fruit at the open market. It is called Dragon Fruit. We have no idea where it comes from, but it was so unique we wanted to share a picture and description of it with you. If anyone knows where it comes from or more details we would happy to get a comment on our blog or an email. It looks like some kind of a miniature dragon with scales and a tail. The inside is a lot like Kiwi, but does not have as much flavor. Any way we just thought it was unique - maybe it is from Africa or some island nation.

Yesterday was a special Enrichment Day for the Stake Relief Society (Zusters Hulp Vereniging). Zuster Servoss spent about six hours at our Ward building with dozens of other sisters from the Stake. They had a special musical presentation of the Ten Virgins story (which describes the ten different characters in the story). We saw the full program last month here. The songs are all in English and the dialogue in Dutch. It is very inspirational. There were also other talks based on the same theme. Preparing spiritually was the real underlying theme. Elder Crowther and I spent some time back at our apartment. It gave Elder Servoss some time to study and relax a bit. He also spent some quality time with his journal writing.

Today we were pleased to have five investigators at church. One of them was a total surprise, since she was an investigator three years ago and we were not aware of her. The work is going forth and there are some very good people in the teaching pool. We are blessed to be able to joint teach with the young elders on some of the lessons. After church we drove 60 miles to Amsterdam and had lunch with a friend of our son Lance. Ron is here on a training assignment with his company for two weeks. It was great to meet him and have lunch. He is not LDS, but told us that he attended the General Priesthood session three weeks ago in the SLC Conference Center and was impressed. He had the pictures to prove it. He is very nice and said he is reading in the Book of Mormon. We then drove another 25 miles to Almere to attend the Parenting skills class again.

So, we are at the end of our first six months now - and really wonder what happened to the time. We look forward to the next twelve months and the miracles it will bring. We love our friends and family and appreciate your prayers in behalf of the missionary efforts in The Netherlands and Belgium, and worldwide.

Elders Bell, Gish, Carey, & Burke

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Old & the New

Last Sunday we drove to Almere to attend the first of six classes in the Parenting Course. We are being trained to teach it here in Rotterdam. The course actually started here and has been around the mission. It was a nice 70 mile drive to the north. At the class we met a brother John Van Vliet, who used to be a home teacher to the Steenstra family that we helped join the church in Haarlem in 1966. He had even played basketball with Alex and Robyn Steenstra. It was interesting to make the connection with him. We look forward to more conversations with him, and learning more about teaching the course.

Last Tuesday we had another District Meeting in our apartment. It was the first time for Elder Bell, since he arrived in our mission last week. He is from Rexburg, Idaho. As with most of the young missionaries we are amazed at the good Dutch that he already speaks. We were also blessed with the presence of our Zone Leaders, Elders Carey and Burke.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Rotterdam District & Fall Leaves

Tuesday was our last District Meeting with of this group of missionaries. Wednesday was transfer day and Elder Borgholthaus moved on to Essen and Elder Bell arrived from Rexburg, Idaho (look for him in a future picture). We really enjoy our association with all of the missionaries. They have been instrumental in teaching many people and baptizing several. They continually inspire us. They are from left to right, Elders Tilleman, Borgholthaus, Gish, & Berry, Sisters Servoss, Knoelk, & Baxter. The middle picture shows the size of a maple leaf (we told you that the trees really grow big here). Then you see a view of the fall leaves from our apartment window (which view is behind the group).

Fall in Rotterdam

Joys of Teaching in the Netherlands

Another week has flown by and we are now approaching the six month mark of our mission. Every week is filled with varying activities. The week started by going on a joint teach with the elders to a man who is from Ethiopia. He speaks English and has been investigating for about a year. He enjoys having the lessons but just will not put forth the effort to gain a strong testimony. On Monday we took a member, who was a missionary here last year, with us to teach a young couple who are less active. The next day we were asked by the sisters in Gouda to join them for dinner and a joint teach with another man who is also from Ethiopia. We had some interesting African food (it was hot and spicy) and enjoyed the discussion with him (it was also in English). On Thursday we went to dinner at a member's home and then went to the Rotterdam North Ward to attend and support the Institute class. My wife had to fend for herself with the Dutch as I was asked to translate for a Spanish speaking young woman from Ecuador. The class members loved the oatmeal, raisin, chocolate chip cookies that Zuster Servoss had baked. They are great young people. Then on Saturday we went on a joint teach to a small village about 15 miles away. The elders had met Cebia at the train station in Rotterdam. She is from Columbia and was very receptive. Her sister was there visiting. Cebia speaks Dutch and Spanish. Her sister speaks Spanish and English. So, the lesson on the Book of Mormon and the restoration was taught in Dutch, with pauses for English translation and a chance to read verses in Spanish. Cebia had tears in her eyes as she heard about Christ visiting her forefathers in America. The spirit was so strong there. We have invited her and her sister to come to our apartment for another discussion this Wednesday. The work here is so amazing. To end out the week we drove 70 miles to Almere to attend a Parenting Workshop. We will be attending for the next 5 weeks and then will be prepared to teach it in the Rotterdam area.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sisters Matos & Kriser, Servosses & Kirkmans

Gouda: Cheese, Floor & Baptism

You have all heard of Gouda cheese, well it comes from a city here in the Netherlands by the name of Gouda (pronounced like gow-dah). You saw the pictures of Sisters Matos & Kriser while they were painting a wall, well we returned to their apartment on Wednesday with another senior couple, the Kirkmans. Elder Kirkman & Elder Servoss installed a new laminate floor. The sisters all worked on painting the door frames. These pictures show the result of our efforts. On Friday night we returned for the baptism of Shu Hang (one of the sister's investigators). It was a great baptism. Se was baptized by Raymond Ng from Rotterdam. He and his family have been mentioned on our previous blogs.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Elder & Zuster Servoss at Kinderdijk in August

General Conference Watching in Holland

We were able to view all sessions of Conference here via computer or by visiting the Stake Center. We went to the Stake Center on Sunday morning at 11 am (3 am in Utah) to view the recorded Priesthood session from the night before. Some of the sisters went to the Relief Society room and visited during that time. At 2 pm we were able to watch the Sat. afternoon session, also recorded. We had watched both Sat. sessions over our computer in our apartment, (at 6 pm we watched the 10 am session, and at 10 pm we watched the 2 pm session), but went to the Stake Center for the repeat because we had an investigator with us. Then instead of staying up until 10 pm Sunday to watch the last session, we watched it on Monday morning. We were also able to view the special on the Panama Temple. We viewed some on and other things on It is so amazing that we have those options. Today as part of the District Meeting we were able to play the talk about reactivation by the Seventy from Peru. What an amazing church we have and what great inspired messages were shared with the world. Another side note was our joy at hearing about the 5 new temples, especially the ones to be built near Kansas City and Rome. The brethren always choose the best locations. We look forward to the announced sites. We learned so much from the talks and can't wait to get our Ensign next month. We will also get the Liahona in Dutch. We hope that you all had the chance to watch the sessions and recommend checking out the sites mentioned if you missed any.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

We Are All Here to Serve

This month and certainly this week has been a time of service for many of us missionaries. There have been so many opportunities to serve other members, investigators and other missionaries as well. 1. The short story, from our perspective, is that we have been able to help another Senior Couple (Elder & Zuster Kirkman) install new laminate flooring in the apartment of Elders Burke & Carey here in Rotterdam. Then the elders put in the floor trim. That was the 4th floor that Elder & Zuster Kirkman had installed, and the miracle was that all the materials were donated. 2. Next Zuster Servoss and I moved on to the apartment of Zusters Matos & Kriser in Gouda. We obtained the paint and they painted the kitchen, while we removed the old linoleum floor covering. This week we will return with the Kirkmans to install another laminate floor (still using donated material). 3. Last Wednesday Elders Tilleman & Berry and I went to the apartment of a new investigator to help her move. We drug and hauled 9 very large boxes to the lower level storage area. We had to traverse 91 stairs each way. Then we took smaller boxes down. After 2 hours we were finally able to sit down with her and give her a lesson on the restoration and the Book of Mormon. The next day Elders Gish & Borgholthaus joined us to help Martha clean up for another 2 hours. The next day Martha and her two children flew back to Curacao to live with family. 4. Then yesterday Elders Tilleman & Berry and Elder & Zuster Servoss went to a member's home and removed some fir trees from her "achter tuin" (back yard garden). We used some small saws with 10 inch blades, and branch loppers. Once the trees were down it was necessary to cut up the pieces, so they would fit into the garbage can and bags. The largest branches, bags and garbage can had to all be taken around to the front of her home (part of a 4 plex). The various service activities bless everyone and give us all a better opportunity to get to know these people.

Service: Sisters Painting their Apartment & Elders Cutting Trees

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Temple Day with the District: Elders Tilleman & Berry on the right.

Another Bike Miracle, Cookies & Seminary Day

This has been a great week. Here is a quick summary. 1. Yesterday the young elders called us to report that Elder Berry had just experienced a collision between his bicycle and a car. He flew onto the hood of the car and then hit the ground. He did manage to walk away from it with a few bruises and soreness. They reported that he really was fine, the car was fine, and the bike had minor damage. He was really protected we feel. 2. The elders had spent their entire prep day, Thursday, baking cookies. They baked 300 cookies and we helped transport them to the church today. At the end of sacrament meeting, Elder Tilleman went to the mic and announced that they had a sweet gift for everyone in the foyer. As the people filed into the foyer they were handed a plate of cookies (6 - 8 0n each). The members were very surprised and pleased and all had smiles and expressed their thanks. The cookies not only looked good, but tasted good too. The elders called it "operation love".
3. Yesterday was also a busy day for Zuster S and myself. We spent most of the day helping about 200 seminary students from throughout the whole mission. They were having their Super Saturday. Here seminary is taught largely in homes at about 6:30 am. There are small groups of 4-10 who are taught by one of the parents usually. The day was the kick-off for the year. We were impressed with all of the fine youth who attended. There were some who are Americans and are living here with their families. The day for the youth lasted from 1 pm to 11 pm, ending with a dance. We understand that the dance was especially nice and that many more than usual actually danced. The adventures just continue here and we love it.