Thursday, May 29, 2008

Return to the Netherlands

On December 5th, 2007 we received our mission call to serve in the Netherlands. That is where I had served as a young man. We were so excited about going back there. The missionary department gave us plenty of time to prepare for our departure, since we had a reporting date of April 28th to the MTC. In January we started working with a Dutch language tutor from the MTC, Lorilee Sanders. She would call us three times a week and give us an hour of language training over the phone. We worked on basic rules and sentence structure of Dutch. It was a real adventure, since sometimes we were in our car in Tennessee or other locations when she called. That was the beauty of electronics. The training was very beneficial. By the time we reported to the MTC Kae was quite proficient. On January 12th,2008 we had a little setback when Kae slipped on black ice on our driveway and fell on her back. She fractured a vertebrae in her back and was soon wearing a "turtle shell" brace from her chest to her hips. It was projected that she would have to wear it for 3-4 months, but she was blessed to be able to not have to wear it after only 7 weeks (due to the prayers and faith of so many people praying for missionaries. On April 6th we were completing our service in the Church Conference Center is Salt Lake, during the General Conference. We were able to put on headsets and listen to the proceedings in Dutch. On April 20th we spoke in church (our Farewell). The attendance in sacrament meeting was about double what it normally was. There were so many friends and family present. We both bore testimony in Dutch. After the meeting we had about 150 people visit our home to talk and enjoy refreshments. On April 28th we reported to the Missionary Training Center (MTC). We had a wonderful, busy week being trained. We spent a lot of time studying "Preach My Gospel". In the evening we would have language training from former Dutch missionaries. May 6th was our day of departure. Our daughter Kierstin drove us to the airport. We checked our bags and boarded the plane. The flight had some problems however and the take-off was delayed from 8:30 until 11:00. When we landed in Atlanta, we had 15 minutes to catch our connecting flight. We ran down the corridors to the new gate and found the agents waiting for us, and closing the door behind us. We were soon in the air, but had no idea if our luggage had accompanied us. We arrived in Brussels at 1 am MST, but 9 am European time. We found that our luggage had not been put on the flight. Elder Wortham, a senior elder from the office met us and took us to the mission office. We were soon taken to a hotel where we were able to nap for 4 hours. We then returned to meet with President Paul Woodland. Our arrival in Belgium on May 7th was interesting because our luggage had not made the plane transfer when we did. We had to make do for the first night that we spent in a small hotel in Brussels. We took an afternoon nap and then met with President Paul and Sister Marilyn Woodland in the evening. We spent a brief time in the mission office and then went to dinner  We later had dinner with President Paul Woodland and his wife Marilyn, in a wonderful restaurant in the center of Brussels. On May 8th we woke to our first full day in Europe. We were soon on our way to our assignment in Rotterdam. We had been assigned a mission car, a Renault Cleo.  We had breakfast, finally got our luggage delivered to us, put it in the mission car and headed out. We could not get our GPS device to work, so we relied on old maps to make it towards Rotterdam (our assigned area). We had a mission cell phone and called another senior couple, the Crowthers. They had us exit in Dordrecht and then follow them back onto the freeway to our new apartment in Rotterdam. We were happy to be in our new residence and found it to be very nice. May 9th - We woke up the next day and started getting settled in.  We met the young Elders assigned to Rotterdam, Elder Buck and Elder Spurrier. They are a fine example of the great youth today. We drove into the center of Rotterdam, passing over the magnificent Erasmus bridge. Most of the Centrum was bombed flat during WWII by the Germans. Today there are many unique high rise buildings. We are going to love it here! On May 11th we attended church in the Rotterdam South Ward. We met the great members and felt at home amongst them. One sister, Anna van den Berge, I had known 41 years ago. Her mother had been my landlady in Haarlem. Her daughter, Ronnie Winters (who was 4 then) is also in the Ward with her own family.

We were soon acquainted with other young missionaries and the members. It was strange attending church with mostly Dutch being spoken. Kent loved hearing the Dutch again. It was all so familiar.  We were warmly welcomed into the Ward.  We will love serving with these fine people. 

We had another setback when Kae tripped over the raised threshold of the bathroom door on May 15th. She fell sideways onto the cement floor. (Here they have unsafe thresholds that are 1.5 inches high, supposedly to contain any bathroom water leaks for a short time). She was in so much pain. Somehow I was able to get her to our bed and gave her a blessing. We called Sister Ng (Ing), from the Ward, and she helped us get to the hospital. It was determined that she had broken her pelvis in two places. She was told to use a wheelchair and crutches, and the healing would just take time. She stayed in bed in our apartment for the first three days. The members of the Ward were amazed when she arrived at church in a wheelchair. On the fourth day we returned to the hospital and Kae was told that she needed to get out of the wheelchair as much as possible and use crutches. He said that inactivity of the pelvis could make it freeze up and she wouldn't be able to walk. It was tough, but she did it and her injury did not slow us down much in our work (thanks in part to the prayers and to having a car).  The members were very surprised when we attended church the second Sunday with Kae is a wheelchair.  This will be another challenge for us.  When we notified President Woodland of her accident, she told him, "I am not going home!  I am staying and I will get better soon."  With the help of the young Elders, I gave her a priesthood blessing that first night.  Pres. Woodland also gave her a powerful blessing. 

On May 24th we drove to Valkenburg to meet the other senior couples for the weekend Memorial Day services at the Margraten US Military Cemetery. We enjoyed the other couples very much. There were hundreds of local people, US military personnel and Dutch military present. Kae and I got a front row viewing area because she was in a wheelchair. The ceremony was very impressive and honored the 8,000 US military persons who were buried there after World War II.  The ceremony was impressive.  We enjoyed being with the other senior couples and getting to know them. 

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