Sunday, June 21, 2009

Battlefield Pictures (tank, monument,& hillsides)

WWII Battle of the Ardennes (Battle of the Bulge)

To celebrate and remember the feedom that we enjoy today, my wife and I took a trip on June 6th, 2009 to the former battlefields in Belgium where the Battles of the Ardennes were fought. We visited Bastogne with another American couple, Dave & Karen Pond. Bastogne was the city where the most intense fighting was and the place where the heroic American soldiers defied great odds and won a tremendous victory.

On June 6th, 1944 the Allied Forces landed at Normandy, beginning the liberation of France, and Belgium, and the defeat of the German army. The Allied commanders had determined that the winter conditions and the difficult terrain of the Ardennes hills of Belgium would deter the enemy from making an attack in that region. They decided to weaken the defensive forces there and concentrate on other areas.

However, the Germans saw a great opportunity to launch a counter offensive and attempt to break-through to re-seize the port of Antwerp. It started on December 16th, 1944 in the cold and fog. The attackers had about 250,000 men, 600 tanks and assault guns, and 1,900 big guns and howitizers. The American forces had about 80,000 men in the area. The attack was a complete surprise and the defenses were broken through in many places. But resistance was organized and the Americans fought back bravely. They were heavily out numbered and the German Panzer tanks seemed unstoppable. The battles were tremendous and there were many lives lost on both sides. On Dec. 22nd, the German General von Luttwitz sent a letter to the American General McAuliffe demanding the surrender of the Americans. That is when Gen. McAuliffe gave the famous response, "Nuts". The fierce fighting continued and it was not until the 26th that reinforcements arrived under General Patton. Thousands of American troops arrived to rescue the city and defeat the Germans. The Battle of the Ardennes is considered the greatest American battle of the 2nd World War. There were over 80,000 American casualties. It was the final decisive battle that really turned the tide of war, which finally ended in May, 1945.

We were grateful that we had the opportunity to experience some history. Dave Pond and I are both retired military, so we saw the battlefields with our knowledge of tactics and military planning. Dave and I walked through some of the woods where the fighting had taken place and found some of the old foxholes that had been used. We are so thankful for all of those who fought and died there to help preserve the freedom of the world.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Dutch Mission Conference

On Tuesday the 16th of June we had the last Zone Conference with our current mission President, Paul Woodland and his wife Marilyn. It was a rare conference of all of the Dutch speaking part of our mission. We had a group picture taken, which you see above this article. (If you click on the picture it will become larger. Also look for a zoom button, so it is easier to see.) It is amazing to us to know that there are almost the same number of French speaking missionaries who will also be having a conference on another day. The two languagues are what make this mission unique. Our mission president is fluent in French and has learned quite a bit of Dutch too. He is a great leader and we will miss him and his wife very much.

At the conference we heard the farewell testimonies of 12 missionaries who are leaving next week to return home. They had such wonderful testimonies that they shared with us. We heard the story of a man named Shum, who was praying about the Book of Mormon in the day time. At the end of his prayer he opened his eyes and the room was filled with bright sunshine and he felt a wonderful warm feeling. He knew then that the book was the word of God, and that Joseph Smith was a prophet. He was baptized and is now enjoying his membership in the church. The spirit was so strong during the meeting. We heard several of the missionaires talk about struggles that they had had at one point in their mission, and of the joy that they experienced with a change of attitude and heart. It was also wonderful to see how the Elders hug each other. The sisters also hug each other. It is so great to see the love and genuine concern that the entire group has for others. There were also some members present to help with some training. They played the role of investigators being met on the street. It was a wonderful day, and one that will be remembered for a long time to come. We love being a part of this great work.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Our Karaoke Group

Rotterdam Karaoke Night

At the same time that the baptismal (in the following story) was happening in the South Ward, the Young Adults (JoVo's) were holding a Karaoke night at the North Ward building. After the baptism of her friend, we took Elizan with us to the North Ward to join in on the singing. We did not arrive until just before 9 pm, and were finally able to convince the YA's at 10:45 that the fun evening had to end. We enjoyed participating with the room full of young people in singing many songs of the 70's and 80's. They sang some Beatles, Simon & Garfunkle, and many more. Although they had been going for almost two hours when we arrived, they were very happy to continue on. The singing was mostly in English, but there was also some Dutch, Spanish, and even a Korean song. Mike and Dragon, our Chinese friends, were also singing (eventhough they did not know many of the songs). It is good that Karaoke singing involves watching a video with the words texted on the screen, and the participants singing along using a microphone. It was a great activity and one that will be repeated I am sure.

Elders Wood & Duran, Jean & Janelle

A Wonderful Baptism

Friday night our part of the city of Rotterdam was blessed with another baptism. Jean Pawiroredjo was baptized after a fairly short instruction period by Elders , Duran and Wood. It was a very nice occasion seeing this beautiful lady enter into the waters of baptism. Jean is from Suriname originally. She is a single mother to Janelle, who is six. Janelle really reminds us of our grandaughter with the same name. We have heard from the Primary that this Janelle recently learned the baptism song, and then proceeded to help the younger children learn it. Our Primary is very excited to have another child join them, since they normally have fewer than ten who attend. Jean was introduced to the church by a co-worker, Elizan, who was not ashamed to share her beliefs with a fellow employee. There was such a great spirit present at the baptismal service. The kingdom keeps moving forward.