Tuesday, May 26, 2009

US Military Cemetery & Valkenburg

For the second year in row the senior missionaries from our mission made the trip to Valkenburg and the US Military Cemetery in nearby Margraten. We traveled about 100 miles to reach the "mountaineous" part of the Netherlands. The high point there is 900 feet above sea level. We enjoyed visiting a groto beneath the city of Valkenburg, which was first used by the Romans to get building blocks of soft stone. During WWII it was used as a bomb shelter by the Dutch. Thousands of people lived there for a time during the war. In the afternoon my wife and I drove 15 miles to Maastricht to get the wreath for the ceremony on Sunday at the cemetery. While we were in the city we visited the St. Servaas church again. We had been there last year. This year we were able to tour inside the church. It was amazing to see the old church. In the year 384 Bishop Servaas, who had been the Catholic Bishop of Maastricht, died. He was such a great man that years later they built a church in his honor and then he was also "sainted", becoming Saint Servaas (or in Latin, St. Servatius). We don't think that there is any family connection, but we have not been able to make a conclusion yet. It was very interesting visiting the old cathedral.

Later in the afternoon we met the other couples back in Valkenburg and went to a restaurant with an eating area outside, along the walking street. We enjoyed a great meal and great company. It was nice to exchange mission experieces with the others. Each of us has a little different assignment. Elder & Zuster Dabel serve in Den Helder, where he is in the Branch Presidency. Elder & Zuster Salden serve in the Hilversum & Amsterdam areas doing member support and procelyting. Elder & Zuster Spek serve in Antwerp also doing member support and procelyting. Elder & Sister Phair are serving in Brussels. They speak French and work with the Outreach/Young Adult Program. My wife and I do member support and also work with the Outreach/Young Adult Program and procelying here in Rotterdam. After dinner we returned to our hotel and sat out on the deck, which overlooked the green hills and part of the city. After a night's sleep, we enjoyed a wonderful Sunday morning buffet breakfast in the hotel diningroom.

We then drove 15 minutes to the city of Heelen to attend church. We held our own services in the Relief Society room. We had the sacrament and shared testimonies. It was the last opportunity for our Mission President, Paul Woodland, to conduct this meeting, since he will be released in 6 weeks. We will miss him and his wife Marilyn very much. Next it was on to the military cemetery. The cemetery at Margraten is the home to over 8,000 American and some Canadian soldiers who lost their lives during the Second World War. It was very humbling as we looked out over the thousands of white crosses, and contemplated the sacrifices that those soldiers had made on our behalf. Thousands were on hand for a commerative ceremony that had dignitaries from many countries, cities and organizations being escorted forward to place a wreath to honor the dead. Pres. Woodland had that honor representing the LDS Church. It was a great day to reflect on the freedom that we all enjoy. We should all cherish that freedom and be thankful to those who have made it possible.

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