Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Week 4 Photos

 Sisters Hartley, Johnson and Ripa and I
 Sisterly love!!! 

 the new Danes, Elders Brady and Bateman and Sister Ripa, and I 
 New Danes are pretty cooooool!

 with my Nebraska-bound friend! 

 An artsy and meditative tulip pic with us zendelingen bound for the Land of the Tulips

 the whole zone! 

  Solo Sister companion roommates

 selfie with the Bulgarians whose 9 weeks are up and they just left!

a lesson which involved our Graphic Design Major teacher drawing our faces on the board and for every sentence we translated correctly into nederlands we got to choose what he'd add, and if we didn't, he chose... 

 Not enough room in departing missionaries' luggage= free scarves for us Dutchies

 Residence Hall fun

 and saying good-bye to our awesome teacher (and first onderzoeker, Robert), Broeder Robinson (he leaves on vacation to Caribbean and won't be back until we've left), he's awesome and we'll miss him! 

 P-day laundry fun!

 Flag pics!

Week 4 - New P-day & schedule, new adventures

Hey family! 
   This week's been great, we got three new Danes, a Solo Sister (those tend to be the coolest (;) and two Elders, and said good-bye to three awesome Swedes and two awesome Norwegians. Our zone is still pretty small- we get three Swedes today which will bring our numbers up to 10, but in a month there'll be about 95 in our zone, woah.

   Teaching Tom a few days ago, he asked me why we really needed to come down to Earth- he doesn't believe that he would've chosen to leave God's presence.. that's his goal in this life, to be WITH God and make it to Heaven, and argued that we could definitely still have learned and progressed while in His presence.. I told him that the purpose of our existence is to progress and become like our Heavenly Father, who has a body (thus we needed to obtain one), and that this Earth is a test where we can prove ourselves worthy and faithful outside of God's presence. After dissecting 2 Nephi 2, I've concluded that God is Happiness, and there wasn't enough opposition in the pre-existence to really know and experience happiness (and thus become like our Heavenly Father). Verse 7, Law of opposition- we are here to be sufficiently educated between good and evil. Also, I think I understand Adam and Eve's transgression better- Heavenly Father could not command His children to leave His presence, so he set up options where they could choose, and knowing the intents of Satan and what was going to happen, He created a plan around that with Jesus Christ, our Savior. I never realized how awesome 2 Nephi 2 was; I always simply associated it with verse 25 scripture mastery until now. That's one of my favorite things about being here at the MTC- always seeing how things fit into the bigger picture. 

   Elder Dallin H. Oaks spoke to us last Tuesday, and yesterday Elder D. Todd Christofferson addressed us! Wow, that means I've gotten to hear from 25% of the twelve apostles in my stay here, so I've been trying to ponder why I needed to be here to hear from each of them. Elder Oaks, in true Supreme Court Justice fashion, laid his talk out like a resolution: numbering off key main points with supporting reasons and opposing views addressed. His 8 guidelines for missionaries were:
1. Physical health (& safety)- nutrition, phys. exercise and well-being; the Lord helps those who help themselves to do what you can to be safe.
2. Instruments in His Hands- have no desire other than to do His will.
3. Prepare yourselves to act in His service- stay clean and worthy of Spirit.
4. Remember who you are (no silly pranks to interfere with work).
5. Work to establish Church- baptisms are incomplete in depicting success; re-activation is key.
6. Teach and testify: proving doctrine merely convinces, not converts (First carefully prepare by learning principles of restored Gospel, and second listen to Holy Ghost's promptings so you can best fit them to needs of each individual investigator).
7. Get commitments (sometimes have to leave less receptive investigators- this seems hard, especially if you've built a great relationship with them).
8. Nurture- conversion is a process that follows through baptism until end of lives. He also talked about being careful not to arrogantly claim that we have the "only true Church," something I've been giving a lot of thought- I think so many religions and lifestyles are motivated by influence of the light of Christ, and I think it's so important to point out how much the people you're teaching can bring to the table and help you, and then help them add to their truths.

    Yesterday, Sister Kathy Christofferson spoke to us first, and shared what her son who served in the Czech Republic calls "the parable of the tram window"- when it's dark and you're looking out the window, it's easy to get caught up in your own reflection (and comforts/ desires/ needs/ worries) and miss the hundreds of people walking around the city behind that window.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson talked about being trustworthy, and being motivated by love of God- something that I've also been thinking about; can you really live in a way that your actions are purely motivated by your love of God- even when being obedient, is it possible to not at least partially obey out of a sense of fear/ duty? He reminded us that we can not reach a point where we become 'exempt from sin,' and brought up the story of David of Israel, which I agree is the saddest story to my heart as well. If a man so worthy of God's trust that God described him as "a man after mine own heart"  could fall to the temptation of adultery which he tried to cover up with murder and lose his exaltation, we especially can't let our guards down and think that we deserve some slack (i.e. for serving a mission).

   On Wednesday, Sister Johnson and I taught the Hooles, the cutest/ coolest/ funniest older native Dutch couple ever (besides the Van der Puts of course (: ) for TRC (where we teach members of the Church- kind of like visiting teaching). I'm not kidding when I say they have a story for every word we say, and while our teachers talked to us afterwards about keeping the conversation on track centered around our lesson, I personally enjoyed their stories about growing up during the war (enduring to the end)/ hiking with their kids in the Alps (prayer experience)/ etc., especially when they totally tie into the lesson. Tomorrow we get to Skype members who live in Netherlands (who I'll hopefully eventually meet!) which I am so excited for.

    As I mentioned, we got a new schedule, which includes 6:15 am service - we got to scrub urinals (that's what I get for making that pic of me and Isabella in the JKB Men's restroom my profile pic for a few weeks)- even though technically missionaries get up at 6:30 am, and I'm still trying to figure out why, even after getting at least twice as much sleep as I did during college, I never quite feel fully rested hah. 

   Yesterday, we had to say good-bye to our teacher Brother Robinson, who we all loved and learned so much from and will definitely miss- wow, I guess this means my time is really ending soon; we get our travel plans in two days! As excited as I am to arrive in the Land of the Tulips and spread a message sweeter and even more satisfying than a Stroopwafel with the people there, I'm grateful to have this next week and half to continue to improve myself as a missionary.

   Thanks so much for your letters/ DearElders/ emails! Wow, flooding, eh? It snowed two days ago (all the Tongan/ Samoan missionaries were so bundled up in scarves/ hats/ gloves!) but is super warm today. Atlanta looks like a blast Dad and Rachel- swing by underground shopping for me at around 8pm!; and so does prancing around middle school in a toga, Josh (;

Elder Riley, any advice for the last week (and a bit) in the MTC? I'm always on the lookout for cool companions of mine (and potential future eternal companions for you) to write to you. Madi, omigosh I love how much fun you're having in Russia, ah so cool and you're awesome for making the most of it, ah when is your trip to Scandinavia!? Tell Elin 'hi'! 
Love you all~ ik houd van jullie! 
Met liefde, 

Zuster Riley (: 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Video from Isabella!

E-mail from Isabella:
So I saw Eliza one last time last week on my last day of work! I went home Friday night so I won't be seeing her again :( it was a real good bye that time! But she bore her testimony in Dutch for me to record and send to you! I hope it works!!

(Thanks, Isabella! Way to make a mom smile. And cry.)


E-mail from the MTC today:
Hoi Momma Bear! Just so you know, I'm getting permission to write you super quickly to let you know that when you don't get pictures/ an email about my week from me today, it's because we got a new schedule and our P-day is now on Wednesday! Love you guys!  Tot Woensdag... Zuster Riley (:  

Monday, April 21, 2014

Week 3 - MTC

Hallo, mijn geliefde familie!

 Hope you guys had a great Easter week and especially Easter Sunday! Have you guys gotten the chance to see the latest youtube sensation,'s "Because of Him"? If not, look it up! It's really good. So, we were pretty spoiled this week when it comes to devotionals... Tuesday night, Elder Neil L. Anderson and his wife spoke to us, and yesterday, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf spoke to us!! 

    Elder Anderson's wife, Kathy Anderson (a tiny FL native with long black hair) told a personal story that made her think "what is it worth to hear the words of the living prophets?" and bore her testimony on the sacred calling of her husband as an apostle of the Lord. Sos. Hartley pointed out how neat it was that she took notes during her husband's talk the whole time, proof that she recognized his sacred calling as an apostle. 

   Elder Anderson talked about knowing the doctrine of Christ so well that it never leaves us, so that we can pierce the souls of those who we are teaching with the power of our message. He asked for volunteers to share passages from the Book of Mormon of sermons testifying of Christ, and one Elder (apparently known as the obnoxious karate Elder wanting to fight all the guys in my zone every night) interrupted an apostle of the Lord to blurt out after sharing a scripture "Hi Elder Gobert in the Columbia MTC I hope you can see me" - we were being broadcasted to worldwide MTCs-  wow, some Elders could learn to think before they speak. His talk was really a wake-up call to know the Book of Mormon better, for example he turned around on the stand and put the MTC presidency and their wives on the spot  when he asked for more great passages about Christ and His Crucifixion and they could only think of ones that had been said-- the one he was looking for was Mosiah 15, Abinadi speaking. 

    Yesterday, President Uchtdorf spoke to us! Our branch presidency was talking to us yesterday about how a member from the first presidency hasn't spoken to the MTC in years, and encouraged us to really ponder why, when for example I got my call in November, I was supposed to be in the MTC this Easter Sunday to hear President Uchtdorf. I was filled with resolve to be a FEARLESS missionary and to reach my full potential, and to remember the distinction that overbearance is boldness without love. He talked about how Christ's resurrection transformed His apostles into dynamic missionaries, and gave a glorious depiction of Peter's transformation after that first Easter Morning, when he realized all that it entailed, and after agonizing over denying Christ, he pleaded for forgiveness and turned around a powerful missionary- from that Easter morn, Peter was a new man, never backing down. He also pointed out that there are usually two reasons why companions get along: either they're both obedient, or both content being disobedient. It's always so powerful to hear a prophet/ seer/ revelator testify that "I know He lives. I know Him. Beyond any question." He addressed us missionaries throughout his talk as "my dear fellow servants," the "extended arm of the Twelve," and fellow "disciples of Christ" which I thought was neat. Also, he quoted the last verse from "How Firm A Foundation" (which happens to be one of my favorite hymns, it reminds me of the Bury St. Edmunds chapel groundbreaking -- 2004 in England) and changed the last hymn to that. He also pointed out how Mary Magdalene was seriously one of the most remarkable people ever- Jesus Christ chose to appear to her first, and she was the first person to ever see a resurrected being. [I guess if your real first name is Mary you must be pretty special ha]. After the morningside, he wound around the congregation and shook as many hands as he could... I was singing in the choir, though, but still saw him pretty close and am glad I sang. Also, sadly his wife wasn't feeling well and couldn't come, and he apologized that we were missing out of 75% of him. Wow, I won't forget this past Easter Sunday!

    As if we hadn't had enough neat speakers, last night we had the MTC administrative director speak to us, and he invited Hong Kong-native, member for a little over a year Elder Laou (speaks Cantonese and Mandarin) to share his testimony, coming from a non-Christian area of the world (with the help of a translator), it was super cool, especially because I'm sure a lot of people I'll be teaching won't have those shared Christian beliefs. I sat next to Sister Mueller, who is half-British and half-German and left today for a mission in Greece, and reminisced with her in German about Diddlmaus and other German childhood things.

    THANKS SO MUCH FOR THE EASTER PACKAGE! Omigosh, I loooooved the pictures, comics, my favorite skirt and BYU hoodie, PHOTO BOOK, pictures/postcards/comics, the Easter eggs filled with walnuts/ (c)raisins/ almonds/ dates... aw, anyone can send a missionary jelly beans for Easter, but it's true love and knowing me if ya send me that, I seriously loved that, yum(: Speaking of which, after eating three meals/ day together for three weeks, I guess some Elders in my zone have noticed how I like my fruit and veggies... they have been struggling with punctuality, and apparently last night they decided on punishments for coming to breakfast late today: no vending machine snacks, no Sunday walk, and they have to eat whatever Zuster Riley gets! Hahaha wow. And I loved the photo book! Thank you so much. Wow we've had some fun trips and good style (..jk) throughout the years. My teachers/ zone were all so intrigued to find out that I had an identical twin, too, but everyone could tell which one I was on the graduation announcement.

    So, I've had four lessons with Tom now, who still thinks that discussing ideas of religion with a young American Mormon could help his relationship with and understanding of God. The most important thing I've learned while teaching Tom is how to listen- I noticed a huge difference when ditching my word-for-word lesson plan and letting Tom steer the conversation, and asking genuine questions followed up by genuine follow-up questions. I also realized in talking to Tom how ironic it is that the modern-day scriptorians who stick only to the Bible are becoming exactly what the Bible they cling to warns against: Sadducees and Pharisees and the like with hardened hearts who rejected prophets and revelation current to their day and accepted only the written law. Of course, I need to learn how to present that idea in a non-offensive way haha.

     Thanks for all the pics/ DearElders/ package/ everything! Love you guys.. Ik houd van jullie! Love,  Zuster Riley 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Running into Isabella (who works at the MTC)

How fun to get this e-mail from Isabella:
Wow! You would not believe this but I saw Eliza at the mtc AGAIN today!! I hope you aren't getting annoyed by all the pictures but from what I hear from Eliza I'm assuming that you totally love them! So here are a few more to add to your Eliza and Isabella collection that I'm sure is piling up pretty quickly :) 

From Eliza:
I guess Isabella already sent you some from her surprise visit, but here are some more! Wow we saw each other 4 times in about 2 weeks haha!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Photos -- Eliza's room in the MTC

 My room and I love the stuff ya send me! 
 Eliza can print out photos that are emailed to her
Eliza's bedroom and roommates
I added my name to our room door, too haha

Week 2 - MTC

Hoi jullie!    
   So my investigator Robert and I had some good discussions, especially when we got onto the topic of the Plan of Salvation and the role Christ plays in the plan (which explains why he is more than simply a nice man.. he is literally our Savior), and he liked discussing the questions of the soul, and was pretty intrigued at my surety that I know where I come from, why I am here, and where I am going. He committed to come to church Sunday, and continued to ask during his daily meditation sessions whether God was there and really was his Father and knew him (his form of praying), so I was kinda disappointed when Robert came to class on Friday dressed as a teacher, with a Broeder Robinson nametag on... but I really like Broeder Robinson as a teacher (he only speaks to us in nederlands, yay), and he stressed how even though we were role playing, the Spirit we felt was not fake, and those discussions really helped him, Broeder Robinson, as a person (and teaching Robert definitely helped my testimony and me as a missionary, too). Tonight I get to teach Broeder Mohrman role playing as his past onderzoeker (investigator) Tom, a 60 yr old Dutchman who volunteers on the high council of the Reformed Nederlands Church which he goes to, and was in the area book for a potential investigator. I really like teaching (especially in Dutch), and it helps me at least as much as it helps the person I am trying to help, which is awesome. 

   On Thursday, we were planning for a scenario teaching Jens, a 26-yr-old raised atheist who is curious about other Churches, and I had one of those awesome moments where the Book of Mormon literally applied to a question I had in my life. I was pondering how to teach Jens and how to approach his relationship with God, and was reading in Alma 18 about how Ammon approaches King Lamoni, and basically modeled my conversation after them.. Jen, Do you believe in God? .. I know not what you mean...Jen, Do you believe in a great spirit or greater force of nature that controls and created the heavens and the Earth?.. etc. I could really picture Ammon and Lamoni as real people having the same real questions and conversations as people today, and I love moments like that because of course if I am so sure that Ammon was a real person, then of course Joseph Smith was a real prophet, and this is really Christ’s Church restored on the Earth, etc. 

   Broeder Klippel and Broeder Mohrman have also been stressing not making the classic missionary discussion mistakes of portraying the theme of "we have the truth and you don’t" by reminding us to focus on the main principle of the Restoration that we know the nature of God and that He still speaks to us today.. answers to questions that nearly everyone has in some form. I like the scripture in Luke 9 verse 50 when Jesus says, " Forbid him not, for he that is not against us is for us," and I would have to say one of the biggest lessons I am learning from teaching, especially Robert, is that we have a lot more in common with our investigators than we think, and they have so many truths to offer and to bring to the table. 

      Yesterday was my first regular Sunday, and our Branch desperately needed a pianist, so I volunteered.. provided I could choose one of the 25 hymns I could play, of course. For our Sunday night devotional, BYU men’s chorus came, and they were so good.. I teared up during the songs about brotherhood.. "He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother," "You Raise Me Up," and "Lean on Me" thinking about the great brothers (siblings) I have. It was especially cool because the husband of the newly wed couple who I caught I ride with to NorCal last Thanksgiving was killing it as their pianist and I got to talk to him after, and Larry from my BYU ward was one of the two speakers who shared his conversion story, and saw me and waved at me as he left. Yesterday also marked the second Sunday in a row of watching on film an awesome past MTC devotional given by Bednar... I really liked his stress on how we as missionaries have to earn the trust of the ward members to give us referrals by being focused, spiritual, and brief while at their houses, because we have work to do... I know we as a family talk about how we appreciate those focused missionaries who realize that while on the Lord’s time, there are more important things to do than play guitar/ cards and eat three helpings of dessert for hours at ward members' houses... so I’ll be doing my best to internalize that for the next 18 months. 

    Something funny is that the Elders in our zone looooove to recite page 33 in the missionary handbook ("do not be alone with, flirt with, or associate in any other inappropriate way with anyone of the opposite sex...") in creepy voices whenever an Elder and Sister seem to be smiling or joking around for too long, whether they know them or not...they're really cool and like our brothers. Sister Hartley and I have a lot in common- both did a semester and a half at BYU, both love running together during gym, same sense of humor... and it's fun to have Sister Johnson, a fellow-Dutch learner, to SYL (speak your language- or should I say 'sprek uw taal') with. 

Also, here"s my testimony in Dutch, I bet you"ll understand more than you think you would! 
       "Ik weet dat God onze hemelse vader is. Hij heeft een lichaam van vlees en bendeeren, hij houdt van ons, en wij zijn zij kenderen. Ik weet dat Jesus Christus onze Verlosser ist. Ik weet dat wij op de aarde zijn, zodat wij onz waardig bewijzen kunnen, om terug te God te keren. Ik weet dat deze Kerk het hergestellde evangelie is. I weet, dat wij met God door bidden communicieren kunnen, en antwoorden krijgen kunnen, indiends wij luisteren. Ik zegge deze dingen in de name Jesus Christus, Amen."

   I love you guys! Thanks so much for the Easter card, I love it, and all the stuff in the mail.. it´s all decorating my room! My comps all got a kick out of the jokes, and stay tuned for some new pen pals thanks to that! 

    Dad, Rachel, Josh, I bet “Lamb of God” was amazing, sad I missed it! Madi, I gave up my first P/day nap time last week and wrote you a super long letter but I think you´ll have to wait until you get home to get it because I don´t trust the Russian mail, ya know! But that is so exciting that you are working on your papers! Ahh! Isaac, have fun in Kyiev... omigosh, I have a bunch of Bubba´s friends from there and from if you see any giant pink shrimp costumes, they´re cool people that you should hit up and talk to haha. Mom, what´s your new book club book? Thanks for keeping up my blog, some college friends said they love it.. and Torri loves her "Toreo" nickname so much haha. 

   Remember: when you help someone else up a mountain, you're helping yourself up, too. Also something Bednar stressed: when you come home (what, it ain't time to think about coming home yet, I just got here haha) return to your families, but never leave the mission field. Happy Easter, He is risen!

Zuster Riley (: 

Photos -- Inside the MTC

Our cute Branch President's counselors' wives! 
 Some TALL computer lab language study

good, long hours in the "Dutchie" classroom!
Sister Moses, who Aunt Mary knows! Sis Moses is so cute, fun, and nice!!! 

Isabella's Baptism

Eliza's best friend at BYU was a non-member from Chicago named Isabella. They both lived in Helaman Halls and had 6 months of crazy adventures together. Just before Eliza left BYU at the end of February, Isabella told Eliza that she had decided to get baptized in April! Isabella's job is working at the MTC as an Investigator for the missionaries to "practice" on! When Eliza told me in March, "Maybe they'll let me leave the MTC and attend Isabella's baptism," I told her that they don't even let people out for funerals and weddings, so I told Eliza not to plan on it...  but here's an amazing story in this week's email!

So, on Thursday Morning right after gym, we have weekly service (cleaning the bathrooms), and as Sisters Hartley and Johnson and I were taking out some bags of trash, an official looking secretary walked briskly toward me, holding a paper upon which was printed my name, info, and picture of my face, and informed me that I needed to follow her right away because the MTC President, President Nally, wanted to speak to me. The whole way over there and the moments waiting outside in suspense, I was bracing myself for being told I was being sent home (no idea why, but that’s the only reason I"d heard of for personal meetings with him, and maybe it was because I was a SOLO Sister which means it looks like I’m always hanging around Elders and ditching my companion), and when he called me in and said, "Sister Riley, I'm sure you know why you’re here" I told him that I actually didn’t, but then he asked me if I knew an Isabella Errigo, and I said of course I did, and was pretty relieved and EXCITED when he told me he had just emailed Isabella’s boss (MTC TRC coordinator) that I would be getting permission to go to her baptism! It worked out pretty nicely because it was in the Bell Tower Chapel between the MTC and the Chapel, so my Solo Comps and I got to go on Saturday! It was sooo neat and I am so glad I got to go and am SO excited for her, I kinda started crying when I saw Isabella, and it was so great to see everyone again! It said on the program that the Invocation would be given by "Eliza Riley".. who dat? Because I only know a "Zuster Riley" haha. 

  with Sos Hartley at Isabella's baptism!

 College friends! 

Chipman 3100 + Elliot 

 Phil Honors friends

 guy friends who I can no longer put my arms around in pics haha! 

  Elliot (future Elder in Uganda- which as Invisible Children Pres. you know I will always have a special place in my heart for the people of that country!)

Ex- roomie!