Monday, August 31, 2015

Week 74 - Groningen

Sleepover in Amsterdam before zone conference!

We went to Koen's beautiful childhood village of Norg in the province of Drenthe with Marjan and Koen (both super cool newer members) and hiked in the beautiful nature and had dinner with his Dad (who taught me a bunch of cool new Dutch idioms) and saw some hunebedden (megaliths). We took lots of pictures on Koen's phone, so stay tuned for some more eventually.

I met Emalina, a super sweet mom from KOSOVO.. we were looking up a potential who lived on #33 of one of two streets and she wasn't the potential, but she was so nice and friendly and we totally bonded over the fact that I have a twin sister who lived in Prishtine and she wrote a note in Albanian to send to Madi, sooo cool. (:  

Zuster Hansen!  

Hoi Familieeee! 

Wow, what a week, so much happened.. for example, Thursday was probably one of the busiest days of my mission, rushing from appt. to appt. and eating on the go and swinging by cookies to investigators/ less-actives who lived in the neighborhood and every lesson going through (!) and collapsing into bed at the end of the day completely exhausted, just how I like it ha.. 

so I mentioned teaching a second Amir who wasn't the original potential investigator young Iranian student, and this first Amir also told us the address of his uncle who lives in our neighborhood, but when we went to swing by an Arabic BvM for his uncle last week, a friendly young Dutch guy (definitely not Amir's uncle) answered the door and made an appt. We had such a cool RaD with him (hij heet Bryce, trouwens) and his dog in the sunshine sitting in his front yard, and he wants to come to Institute this Thursday and even asked if he could bring a friend! He is seriously so open and interested in developing faith, even though he's grown up totally nonreligious, and Z. Karlson and I bounced off of each other teaching the points of the Restoration and it went a lot smoother than, for example, J, a young mom who lives a few doors down who we taught a very rushed first lesson to (she had to leave soon to pick some kids up from school and had forgotten agreeing to meet but was super nice and still let us in).. J doesn't feel the need to meet anymore but is grateful for us coming by because it reminded her to pray and read in her Bible more. 

I was pretty disappointed that neither of our baptismal dates - P nor J- came to church as planned and promised, BUT G, and A and his girlfriend S and their adorable baby, Max, all came and stayed for the potluck and loved it. A is this super nice young Dad who I met briefly at G's BBQ, and then we ran into him downtown (near his work- he's a sound engineer) and recognized each other and we're meeting up to teach him at an ijssalon on Thursday. He'd mentioned that his (Indian) gf would be interested in coming to church, so when we texted him about the potluck, they said they'd be there. They are so sincere and friendly and easy to talk to and seemed to really enjoy sacrament meeting, and he had a lot of questions and observations about how it compared to his Protestant upbringing. The story of how they met is pretty great- S was getting her MBA in Bombay and jokingly made a fake FB account of a blonde girl in Zwolle and somehow added him and after he realized she wasn't Dutch, he still liked her personality and when she revealed her identity they decided to meet up in person and the rest is history! Apparently she's an amazing vegetarian cook and is having us over next week to teach us some secrets. (; When I saw and briefly met A at Gillian's BBQ, my first thought was that he looked like an apostle from the Bible video and really felt like I needed to talk to him some more for some reason, but he disappeared.. so pretty cool that we ran into him again downtown!

There's some construction going on near a bridge and fietspad that we have to cross to get to the city, and I had the brilliant idea to take a shortcut.. that was accidentally via the freeway with no bike paths to be seen, so next thing we knew we were hopping medians with honking, angry Audis and BMWs whizzing past.. I just hid my face in my cone of shame aka helmet (nah I'm really fine with helmets by now, it feels cozy and safe and who am I trying to kid, we stick out and look peculiar anyways).. but oops, my bad haha it was funny. (;
Good luck in Provo/ Albania/ Niceville en waar dan ook! 
Veel liefs, 
Z. Riley (:  

District meeting (thanks for the photo, Elder and Sister Romig!)

We had a lesson right here with Amir (this nice older man from Iraq who grew up Catholic and is so nice but there's definitely a language barrier with his limited Dutch and English and our limited aka nonexistent Arabic).. I actually was trying to call a potential, also named Amir, who we met on the bus on our first day of the transfer- a young Iranian student, but ended up calling this Amir from the phone who had met with sisters a few months ago and wanted to meet.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Week 73 - First week of her last Transfer!

New Babylon

All packed up..   /  I'll miss ya, Zoetermeer!  

With D, M, and B- they are so sweet and heard I was leaving so invited me over to say bye/ give me a little gift/ sip some tea & nibble some cake.. 
... but haha I had to snap a picture of this, only in Nederland: Diane was giving us a tour of her house and when we got to the moestuin she showed me the onion, beet, and other plants (her husband's) growing there.

Saying bye -- no, see you later-- to these lovelies!!! 

Z. Lemz

With P! 
L, L, M

We climbed the Haagse Toren and ate there for a netjes last district lunch, and we brought Alexandra, an awesome investigator of ours. (:  

Deja vu?
Hoi Familie,
Groetjes uit Groningen- I feel so blessed to be back, it's been a sweet reunion seeing everyone again.. my first night we had a lesson with J, the mother from Curacao who we worked a lot with last summer (I guarantee I wrote home about her and her daughter in those emails home ha) but who has been really flaky with the sisters lately, whose name popped into my head as soon as I heard I was coming to Groningen.. basically, we've had two really cool lessons since then (her husband, F, joined in on one- he's never done that before) and she's talked to her boss so she can come to church this Sunday and is working towards being baptized on 26 September! AH that would be so amazing to be able to witness that.. she still has questions and doesn't feel like she has quite gotten an answer, but is realizing what this gospel could mean to her and her family (ie temple sealing, Priesthood authority) and that it's time to take some action. 

On Thursday we went to Institute and it was really neat- K and M were there, and they are so spiritually self-reliant and love the gospel and along with M, this amazing recent convert (beautiful, smart, and sweet 26 yo Dutch school teacher [teaches religion, actually] who ordered a DVD and BoM half a year ago out of curiosity and the rest is history) are running the JoVo scene up here (along with E. and Z. Romig of course who I get to serve with here as well as Den Haag!), they are so good. 

Church was so great, I love the people here. It's handy because whenever we have down time, I seem to remember a less-active/ potential we worked with in the area, and we've had some cool instances getting let in (ie M who hasn't been to the church in a while because she can't stand an older Dutch lady in this ward but was happy to see us again and for the spirit we brought, or BH who wants to cook for us again and have another lesson at his cool parents' house- very kind and hospitable Dutch family).. but in addition to seeing people I loved 16 months ago, I'm excited about these cool new people.. P, an older Dutch man who is working on weaning off of drugs and is very nice and friends with recent convert S, came to church in a suit, and we met a really cute young mom named J who we set up an appt. with next week.. 

yes, every other smell and sight and feeling when biking around the city either gives me deja vu and I look around for Zuster Meier/ Wood/ Koulen (&Broekzitter!), or just overwhelms me with a vivid flashback of a specific conversation/ lesson/ inside joke/ contact last summer, it's pretty trippy.. but I'm not going to live in the past, reminiscing on those golden days in Groningen, because there are more NEW golden memories to make these next 6 weeks with Zuster K. (: I know that everything good, beautiful, satisfying, true, honest, uplifting, and worthwhile in this life traces back to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that's something that interests and affects everyone. I'm so grateful for this knowledge of restored truth and Heavenly Father's plan and answers.. it makes me happy, and I want to share this happiness with those around me and see if it can mean something to them.
Tot volgende week!
Veel liefs,
Zuster "Smiley" (how Broeder Gout welcomed me back in sac. mtg. yesterday, aw!!)

(when I come to Netherlands to pick her up) I will be wearing nametag and skirt and I think getting up and studying, yay we'll get to do that together Zuster Riley Sr. hehehe and 6:30 am is nothing compared to seminary.. except jet lag oops..(: Love you and know that Groningen is taking good care of me and don't worry, I don't have time to be trunky, too many cool people to meet and teach and bond with and serve. (; I sure am excited to see you, though- and can't wait to show you a glimpse of everywhere/ everyone!
Liefs, Z. Riley (:

 Heeyy Zuster Karlson (:  
LOVE this beautiful place! 
Taking a sec to plan
This cool festival set up in Noordeplantsoen park.. love this cool college city (downtown Austin, TX vibes) 

Haha our investigator -in the white shirt with a mic-, G (from Curacao in the Dutch Antilles), organized a neighborhood multicultural BBQ and soccer tournament and asked us to present something and sing as guest speakers during lunch.. so we traded off explaining some basic Restoration points to 50+ wiggly kids (and their parents/ aunts/ uncles/ etc. listening in) and then sang/ danced with the Elders to "Volg de Profeet," then sealed the deal by showing "Dankzij Hem" on a big screen.. we undoubtedly looked ridiculous singing, but some kids joined in on the chorus (we had a big poster and tried to make it interactive) and they all loved an Elder's dance moves, and I met 5 really solid people throughout the event who gave me their info and want to meet, so I'd count it as a success! 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Week 72 - End of Transfer 11

Visiting District Hilversum /  Haha Elders giving haircuts at district meeting.. 

Celina and Willemina!!  /  Ah this is Sylvia, I love her so much! We met her on the street in Zoetermeer but she actually just moved to Den Haag so the sisters there will start teaching her and her bf. She is from Poland and speaks 7 languages and is so sweet and smart and we made pierogis together (remember eating those together in Poland, Mom?) and she came to yoga a few weeks ago even though she is 7 months pregnant haha and came to church and thought it was great.  

Full circle
Dear fam, 
So we got the transfer call last night (at Celina and Willemina's house, probably one of the best appointments of my mission- which I'll tell about in a sec), and we were both pretty curious as to what would happen.. I got released as STL, and am going to GRONINGEN (aka my baby city, where I started my mission and served May through July 2014) for my last transfer! With Sister Carlson, who I don't know super well (but will soon (;)- she's been out as long as Madi I think. Pretty special to get to start and end in the same place.. I guess my work's not through there. I can definitely think of a few people I want to look up, ie Jenny and Kimberley who we worked a lot with but are not meeting with missionaries anymore. 

Okay, so last night we ate delicious vegetarian Dominican Repub food made by the kind and hospitable and hilarious Mvr. Bos, and had the best time bonding with her two sweet and beautiful identical twin daughters, Celina and Willemina (they turn 17 next month), and had the coolest lesson drawing out and teaching them Heavenly Father's plan of happiness for us. They loved it and asked so many good questions and want to know more and read more and are so prepared and amazing and are making leaving Zoetermeer all the harder! It was our second actual lesson- we met Celina walking to the nearby winkelcentrum in late June and Zuster Nyakoh stopped Celina and we talked to her and ended up giving her a Book of Mormon and exchanging numbers. Celina said that she was Christian and goes to church every Sunday at a nearby Christian church and was interested in another book of scripture testifying of Christ and we set up a lunch date to picnic and talk at a park in front of our apt. (turns out she lives in our same apt. bldg.). The picnic got rescheduled a few times (though never went through), but we kept running into Celina and met her sister and they were always so friendly and cute, and then we got Celina to come to yoga with us a few weeks ago (rode over to the church on the back of Z. Lemich's bike) and we got there early and gave her a tour of the church and she had some questions and invited us over last week, where we met her mom and got to know them briefly and explained what we do (her mom- grew up Catholic in the DR- very sweet and open and gezellig and has great values). They had all these questions about what happens after this life and we told them we could teach them and draw it out so we made an appt., and their mom insisted on feeding us dinner then as well. Ah I love them so much! We all hit it off so well and they plan on having us over lots more and are coming to church on Sunday (!!), and Celina and Willemina even came grocery shopping with us this morning just to hang out. (: Yesterday during the lesson, Willemina kept reading farther in the PoS pamphlet and made sure we left it behind, and Mvr. Bos kept reading ahead in the BoM when we'd share scriptures and got goosebumps and teary-eyed when we watched Because of Him (first in Spanish, then in Dutch). Wow, they are so cool, and we both just feel so at home and loved in their home.
I sure will miss Zoetermeer- Zuster Lemich and the Wassenaar ward members and the leden in Wijkzoetermeer and the yoga buddies and our friendly neighbors and the people we've found and are teaching and the appt. buildings everywhere and the beautiful canal-side bike paths and the new church building and the TEMPLE and tramming to Den Haag all the time, ah it's become sacred ground to me. 

I'll miss this nice new investigator Ton de Groot, too- Zuster Hopkin (back in Zoetermeer! For exchanges from DH) and I had a really cool lesson with him last week outside on a bench next to the Lidl (local supermarket) and a pond and some friendly Hindustaans men taking a smoke break- he's 43 and is in a wheelchair and has begeleidsters (mentors) who check up on him every evening, who we found when we were going to look up another potential, and when he didn't answer, we decided to ring up some others while we were there. I saw the last name "de Groot" and said "onze boodschap is van grote belang, so let's try him!" and he let us in and made an appt. to talk more. He's Catholic but very open and was so cute and excited about the many similarities with what he and we believed, and was so touched that we took the time and interest to get to know him, and said that he felt that we were already becoming good friends. He even gave us two referrals (his sister's family and some friends, both people who are rich and successful and could use this message of Christlike love- they don't give him the time of day because he's physically handicapped).. he's down to come to church and would be open to getting baptized if he found out this was true, but the biggest obstacles are some friends and his mentors who are very skeptical of our motives and all cautioned him to avoid us, but he thought we were friendly and was curious and lonely, so went through with the appt. anyways. We're (well, not me.. Sisters Lemich and Mashburn) will be going over Wednesday night to introduce themselves to the mentor and hopefully clear up some misconceptions. 

Besides Charlita, no one came to church- despite many promising "probably"s. On Friday we talked with a contentious young Dutch guy who is bitter at the world and convinced that there is no God and nothing after this life who was taking a smoking break on his balcony and really wanted tangible proof that God exists.. in some ways, though, he reminded me of a super strong RC here who apparently had similar questions and originally investigated the church to prove his gf wrong.. so you never know how the Spirit can touch someone! 

Ah this place is so great, I love the people here in Zoetermeer, and can't wait to hear about the fruits of our finding and teaching efforts- I'm also excited for the adventure and miracles waiting for me up north, and sure love this missionary work, message, and lifestyle. 
Fijne week en veel liefs! 
Zuster Riley (: 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Week 71 - Zoetermeer


With the Elders Davis and Stanger

Helmets with Baby Koko!  

Say "cheese"!  
Cheese lady

With Alexandra- look what she got in the mail! (a wedding announcement from Eliza's trainer!)

We love Familie Palacio! Sooo sweet and loving to the missionaries. Zuster Palacio is Russian and served a mission in Kyiev Ukraine and Broeder Palacio is a convert from Brazil and they have the cutest crazy little son named Lucas who ran out of the picture

With the Springers! The super cool senior couple who helped build the temple and are so amazing. They introduced us to their cute older friends today who live near the temple and "take care of Moroni" (they have a perfect view of him out of their window, and have kept contact with the Springers for 12 years sending Christmas cards back and forth) and we're going to hopefully visit them some more, and Broeder Springer found us two new potentials when they took us out to grab something to eat, ha ie to the waiter "hey, you see these two girls? Ever heard of the mormons? Wanna meet with them and talk?"

Delft round 2.. so beautiful! Two members from Den Haag gave us a tour today, super cool.  
Cute cafes

Haha "MTC Zoetermeer"

Dear Familie,
I'm doing well and had a great week. Don't have much time, but a few pictures is worth a few thousand words, right? (;
Love you all!
Liefs, Zuster Riley (: