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