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.