Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Our First Zone Conference

Our first zone conference was held in Amersfoort on January 14th.  This is Elder Beckstrand with President Brubaker, the Belgium/Netherlands Mission President.

Two of our favorite sisters - they've become almost part of our family.  Sister Cranford (on the left) has been sick for about 6 months.  She has bravely run the gauntlet of doctors here and has finally agreed to go home where she can hopefully get the medical attention she needs.  If you look closely at her eyes you can see the pain she deals with daily.

This zone conference combined the Rotterdam Zone with the Appeldorn Zone.  Consequently, some of these elders and sisters were new to us.  They really are characters - just like they appear here.  Just because you're a missionary doesn't mean you have to be serious all of the time - right guys?

In this photo the senior couples have been added.  Elder and Sister Anderson are the senior couple over the Center for Single Adults in Rotterdam.  (Elder and Sister Beckstrand are the trainees in the middle) and Sister and Elder Van Komen are the senior couple over the Center for Single Adults in Groningen.   We enjoy getting together and sharing ideas and discussing challenges that the centers have.

These lovely people are President and Sister Brubaker.  Their home residence is Salt Lake City, but they served for a year and a half in France as Public Affairs Representatives before accepting the call to serve in the Belgium/Netherlands Mission.  They are very dedicated and spiritual leaders of the mission. 

Here we are with President and Sister Brubaker added.

Our district provided a special musical number "If the Savior Stood Beside Me".  We warmed up by running through the song together before joining the others.  The missionaries are:  Sister Harrington, Sister Cranford, Elder Beckstrand, Elder Frahm (our district leader), Elder Benson, Elder Andrews, and Elder Hanks.

The President's message dealt with finding people to teach.  I had never heard of 'apple' finding and 'chalk' finding.  These were only a few of the creative ideas the missionaries used to interest passers-by in hearing a quick gospel message.  All in all, this first conference was an enjoyable time of learning, sharing, and getting pumped up for renewed missionary effort.

Following zone conference on Friday we went to The Hague Temple on Saturday to assist the Groningen Young Adults do baptisms for the dead.  The temple is small, but it is very lovely.  We enjoyed our time in the baptismal with the Young Adults, then we went through a session - in Dutch, no less.

This is the temple from the front.  We were able to return the following Tuesday with the Dordrecht Branch for a special endowment session.  Elder Beckstrand was set apart as an ordinance worker in this temple, and was put to work later in the session.  He was a little nervous doing it in Dutch, but he came through with flying colors! (A direct quote by the temple president, President Van Rhy.)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Visit Inside a Windmill

We  traveled to a suburb of Rotterdam where a windmill called "The 4 Winds" is located.  It is a working mill owned by the Kluit family.  At this mill they produce flour, mixes for pancakes, muffins, cookies, etc., plus homemade jams and other delicious products.  It was a busy little shop - people were coming in to make purchases all the time we were there. 

This is the outside rail of the windmill, one story up from the main shop.  Sister Kluit (in the apron) was nice enough to take the Andersons and Elder Beckstrand and I on a tour of the windmill.

Following our tour we went into the living quarters of the matriarch of the Kluit family.  Sister Kluit was a member of the church when Elder Beckstrand served his first mission in The Netherlands.  She remembered him and the Mormonse Vier.  He had a very enjoyable time talking about mutual acquaintances and how the church has changed since he was here in the 1960's.  Sister Kluit was amazingly alert!  Her mind was as sharp as a twenty year old's.   She didn't speak any English, so I occasionally needed a quick translation on the side.  She invited us to come back for lunch sometime soon.

Her small apartment was on the main floor of the windmill.  In the living room she had many antique treasures.  This china hutch contained beautiful delft china pieces as well as pictures of her loved ones.  Elder Beckstrand knew Brother Kluit (in the picture on the right) as a young missionary.

The view outside her living room window was absolutely breathtaking!  The river is very close, and we could see small boats  going up and down it as we visited with Sister Kluit.

I couldn't resist getting a picture of this very, very old sewing machine.  Now this is a genuine antique!

More beautiful delft china.  The genuine article is quite pricey, but only found in The Netherlands.

The following day we took a walk through the centrum (downtown area) of Dordrecht.  We learned that this city has the oldest charter in Holland - being the first city to be officially recognized in 1220.  It was established in the 12th century because of its sea trade in wine and timber.  It then developed into a lively mercantile city.   It seemed strange to me that this city had access to ocean trade, being quite a ways from the coast, but at that time the rivers and ocean inlets came right into the city.  Much land reclamation in The Netherlands has changed the original landscape beyond recognition.
 This is a beautiful garden on the outskirts of the centrum

We enjoyed watching a city crew repair a section of the street with bricks in downtown Dordrecht.  They still find this kind of roadway very durable in the excessively wet climate here.

The architecture of the buildings in the old section of town is so beautiful.  It was a wet, cold day, but we loved being here for the first time.  We want to come back when it is warmer and we can spend more time.

Some of the buildings have dates on them.  It was common to see 1600 numbers on the buildings.  Our ancestors were just arriving in America during that century.  We really don't know about 'old' in our country.  The Dutch have done an admirable job of preserving this lovely old buildings.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Visit to Amsterdam

A request came from the mission office to go to Almere and inventory the contents of the storage units the mission rents up there.  The contents included  furniture and appliances that have been used in missionary apartments that have been closed in the past year.  We drove up Wednesday morning, January 5th, and wrote down everything that was stored in both of the units. It involved a lot of unstacking and restacking in order to uncover everything. We saw some useable items, but a lot of it was junk.  We'll need to get the mission van up here and haul some of this stuff away....soon.

These are the senior couples that helped with this assignment.  From the left:  Sister Anderson, Sister Pankratz, Sister Van Komen, Elder Pankratz, Elder Anderson, Sister Beckstrand, and Elder Van Komen.  Elder Beckstrand elected to be behind the camera for this photo.
After we finished the inventory we enjoyed lunch together at La Place, then we spent the afternoon with the Pankratz at their apartment in nearby Amsterdam.  They are the senior couple over the Amsterdam Center whom we will probably replace when they go home in April.  In the evening we attended their JoVo dinner and institute night.  The young people had already started to decorate for the dance they were hosting on Friday, January 7th.  It was supposed to be a New Year's Dance, but it was postponed because of the bad weather.

Friday, January 7th we were back in Amsterdam for the JoVo dance.  It was well-attended by about 120 young people from all over Holland.  They dressed up in their best bib and tucker for the occasion.

The refresments were plentiful and tasted as good as they looked!  These young ladies were helping in the kitchen between dances, and had prepared some of the delectable goodies.

They erected a canopy for the refreshment tables.  It had greenery and Christmas lights to set it off.  

By 10:00 pm the dance floor was full.  It took a while for the kids to begin dancing, but after a few broke the ice, others began to join them.  The music was DEAFENING, so we were grateful to be able to go into the kitchen to escape the cacophony!

The desserts above were decorated with cookies and then sparklers were set into the center.  At midnight they were set ablaze and carried into the dance to the amazement and enjoyment of everyone. 

The cobblestone roads add a quaint character to this country that is very charming.  We found out they can be VERY slick when the rain freezes on them, however.  I took this shot  just outside the Amsterdam church.

I'm amazed how many people they can stack into these multi-level apartments.  This country has one of the highest population densities in the European area.  The birth rate is dropping, however, and there is now a negative population ratio - more people die in a year than are replaced with births.  In the long run, this will put a huge burden on the young people in the work force who will have to support the growing number of elderly people. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

Windmills, Windmills Everywhere

We went looking for Elder Beckstrand's 1962 apartment in Schiedam and saw the windmill that ranks in the Guinness Book of World Records as the tallest windmill in the world.  This windmill actually was rebuilt around 1980 because the original was badly damaged in a fire.   It was beautiful - and HUGE.
Sadly, the apartment building where Elder Beckstand lived was no longer there.  He remembered the address exactly, but the building was no longer at that address.  It made him quite sad to see that it was gone.

This is the area in Schiedam where he originally lived.  A large canal runs through the middle of the neighborhood.

Our next stop was at Kinderdijk, which is an area that has a total of 19 windmills (pinpointed on the above map).  They were not as tall, but they were plentiful!  Windmills in every direction you looked.

Although it was a cold winter day, the sky was a beautiful bright blue and really set off the windmills as they posed for their picture to be taken.

The purpose of the large number in a concentrated area was for drainage of water from the surrounding agricultural area.  The windmills pumped the water from the fields and poured it out into the canals.  This allowed the farmers to use the land for their crops.  It was an impressive sight!

Five more in this direction.

Some cute Chinese girls on Christmas break from college volunteered to take this picture of us beside the windmills. 

Another nice, fat one.

The area around the base of this windmill was beautifully landscaped and had several cute out-buildings.  There was definitely someone living there.

Yes, we're happy to be here.  And in case you think there isn't really any missionary work going on, keep reading.

In the evening we went to Rotterdam to witness the baptism of two young men.  This boy (second from the left) is Young Adult Age (ah-hah!) and will be joining our center here in Rotterdam.  He is originally from Portugal and doesn't speak English or Dutch.  This will present somewhat of a communication challenge.

The fellow on the far right was the other convert who was baptized.  He is older, so we won't be working directly with him.  The two missionaries in the center taught them.  Elder Owens (second from the left) is our Zone Leader, and a great young man from Burley Idaho.  He and Elder Robinson are assigned to the Rotterdam Center for Young Adults so we interact with them on a regular basis.  They are great missionaries.  And the work goes on.....

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Our first Christmas in Holland was quite unique.  We began the day with a church service of caroling and reading the Christmas story from the bible.  Even though it was a Saturday, people here go to church on Christmas..... That seems appropriate considering whose birth we celebrate.
Following church we returned to our apartment for a short while, then picked up the sister missionaries and went to the van Wermeskerkens (and I thought my name was long) who are members in the Dordrecht Branch.   Their home was beautifully decorated and this lovely tree met us as we came into the house.

Sister van Wermeskerken is a lovely, Dutch lady who is currently the public affairs director for the Western European area.   She is an organizer!  Everything was so beautifully prepared and dinner was a real treat.  I had never seen little individual cooking appliances like she had on the table.  Each guest had his or her own pan to cook whatever meat and vegetables he or she desired.  We could choose between beef, chicken, and shrimp with mushrooms, onions, peppers, pineapple, etc. to add to the mix.  What a delightful way to choose your own menu!

On the right are Elder and Sister Anderson, who are the Senior Couple for the Rotterdam Center for Young Adults.  All the "senior" guests sat at this table, and the young elders and sisters were seated at the one in the back. 

Sister Garvin is pouring some kind of sauce into her creation.  Each guest could flavor their food with cream, curry, seafood cocktail sauce, or whatever they wished.  It was delicious!  I especially liked the shrimp with pineapples, but also enjoyed chicken chunks with green peppers and mushrooms and pineapple.  Mmmmm...

It was fun to see the young elders and sisters enjoying each other's company and having such a fun time.  I'm sure they're homesick this time of year.  They all got to call home today, however, and they look forward to that for months.  We have only been here 2 weeks today, so even though we miss our family, it isn't as hard for us as for some of them who have been here much longer.

   On Sunday, December 26th we went to church in the morning and then we drove up to Mordrech, which is a bedroom community of Rotterdam.  We had been invited, along with the Andersons, to dinner at President de Jonge's, who is the Stake President of the Rotterdam Stake.   The first thing we did after arriving was to walk up to a live nativity that was being held at the Catholic Church just a few blocks from his home.  This sign says "Live Nativity" 1st and 2nd Christmas Day.  In Holland the 1st Christmas Day (December 25th) is followed by a 2nd Christmas Day or Boxer Day (December 26th), which is also celebrated with friends and family.
President de Jonge has four boys, ages 2, 4, 7, and 8.  They rode three-deep on a sleigh that President de Jonge pulled.  The snow has melted on the streets but is still packed on the sidewalks.  The two year old wanted to help his papa pull the other boys on their sleigh instead of riding the whole way on the little red one in back.

When we arrived at the nativity site we found Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus in a small shed behind the church.  I thought it was fun to see baby Jesus sucking on a binky!  I didn't know they had them back then.

The animals were 'live' also, with this mother ewe showing off her brand new offspring from the day before.  The boys especially enjoyed the animals.

The donkey on which they made the journey to Bethlehem was in the stall next to the sheep.  He was tired after his long trip, but he posed for this photo just for me.

Mary and Joseph and the Baby Jesus

On the way back to the house David couldn't resist taking advantage of this short hill for a solo sleigh ride.  We returned to the house and enjoyed a feast prepared by Sister de Jonge, who was born in Centerville, Utah.  She was a delight to visit with because she had all the scoop on where to find various ingredients for our American recipes here in Holland.  She gave Sister Anderson and I lots of tips on where to shop, what to look for, and how to alter our recipes so that they work with the coarser flour that is available here.  We enjoyed a delicious ham dinner with sweet potato casserole, salad, homemade rolls, and pumpkin and coconut cream pie for dessert.  It was a very enjoyable afternoon.