Monday, September 21, 2015

Week 77 - Groningen

Friesland countryside  

Zuster Manning, my sweet and hardworkin´ ZTL!  
Peter got baptized yesterday!   

Oviedo and Hanneke, cool Dutch YSA couple!

This is my last email that isn´t my last email!
Heyyy Familie!
Ah, P was baptized yesterday! It was a great service right after church and it´s been so cool to see how far he´s come these past 6 weeks. We biked the 45 ish minutes to church with him and he was all ready to go in a suit and a little nervous but felt ready and excited. He even invited a friend, J, who is someone I´d contacted/ run into three times before LAST summer with Zuster Koulen (we had mixed feelings about him ha), what are the odds that he´d be the same J who P was friends with and inviting to his baptism? 

I gave a talk in sacrament meeting yesterday and made sure to throw in a few super Dutch sayings while I can  (members seem to find it amusing when we use local idioms in our obvious American accents), but unfortunately not as many people came as we invited (always a nice reason to specifically invite everyone to church ha). 

On Friday, we got let in with C, a kind and sincere older Dutchman who´d been given a BoM on the door a few weeks ago and said we could always come by and see if he had time to chat. Well, we were in luck because he let us in with a super cool YSA Oviedo (the original plan was to go with Oviedo to J´s lesson, but she had to cancel last minute), and we got to know him and share the message of the Restoration with him. He has very strong faith in a loving Heavenly Father thanks to two near death experiences.. once in the Navy, once in a car accident.. and agreed to read and pray about the Book of Mormon, but definitely feels like he already has strong faith and good morals, so we tried to validate all that he does have (which is indeed a lot) and offer more light and truth.. it was a cool turn of events that evening and I´m looking forward to going back to visit him. 

This past week was a mission wide ``hands to serve week`` where we were encouraged to participate in a service project every day, so you could say we´re quite the weeding pros now. That included weeding the baptismal monument (my second time there) and 4 of us biked the 10 km out there which was fine going there in the beautiful Friesian countryside, but coming back we got caught up in a crazy wind and rainstorm and almost lost our companions.. but, we ended up still getting back to the train station in the middle of nowhere which took us back to Groningen with enough time to barely make it to V and G's, our new investigators (mother and daughter) who cooked us delicious Colombian food and are so sweet and open. 

I stayed at Hotel Leeuwaarden (their apt. is super nice) with Zuster Manning, and it was great.. we had a cool conversation with a super sweet and Fries older lady, J, who is very happy and active in her Lighthouse church but was delighted to pray with us on the street and said she could see the light in our eyes. G is heart breaking.. she was this super positive young Dutch mom who answered the door with her son when we were swinging by looking for Bob (who apparently just moved), and said that she didn´t have much time to talk now, but after assuring her that we weren´t JWs (she´d had a negative experience meeting with them in the past) she invited us over next Thursday at 11 to drink and eat something together and share more about our beliefs with her. She said she´s been feeling that the second coming is a lot closer than we realize and has been feeling the need to spend more time reading in the Bible and going to church. Zuster Manning and I were so excited of course, and it was disappointing to get a text from her the next morning cancelling the appt. and politely saying that she decided she doesn't want any visits from people from the Mormon church.. I´m not sure what the sisters in Leeuwaarden will do with her, but I really hope she gives this another chance because you could tell she was searching and open (she straight up told us ``ik sta open voor nieuwe dingen`` ("I am open to new things") ).

We visited Gordon, a relative of Bishop Bletterman´s who I´d met with a few times last summer, and we had a nice lesson with his inactive mother about the Word of Wisdom.. we'd planned on teaching him that, and it was perfectly applicable because Gordon´s lost a lot of weight by stopping eating carbs and sugar and his mom is very against eating preservatives or after 6pm for that matter so they agreed with the principles of health that we taught and Gordon said a very nice prayer at the end of our lesson. That´s one of my favorite parts of missionary work: hearing investigators offer a heartfelt prayer out loud at the end of a lesson.
We have a zone training in Apeldoorn and zusters conference in Leidschendam this week, so we´ll be road tripping all over! Tomorrow we´re going to the public piano at Groningen hoofdstation with awesome members Harm and Baukje (they have a band called Harm´s Fork and have written the coolest versions of the 13th and 6th articles of faith that they sneakily have their non Christian band perform at festivals all over the country) with the Elders who also enjoy singing and we´ll try to find some more people to talk to that way.
Sending lots of love vanuit Groningen!
Zuster Riley (:

With Karin, a single lady (baptized a few years back) who is a seamstress by profession and has a cat as well as lots of neat facts about the Dutch language, culture, and history, who feeds all of us missionaries every week.

V and G !

Harm and Baukje!! They´re so great.

Olieballen season already?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Week 76 - Groningen

Transformation Tuesday from my pre mission pics haha?

Z. Karlson!



Hey family!
Wow, P has been putting us through an emotional roller coaster this week.. He's been struggling with overcoming addictions but ended up passing his baptismal interview (the district leader felt very strongly that he is ready and that the desire is there) but stood us up when we swung by his house to pick him up for church yesterday morning but we still ended up seeing him last night when we swung by and he seems to be doing pretty well so we'll see how the appt.s this week go- he wants to be baptized next Sunday...! Ah so much happened and ah everyone here seems to be so positive and wants to be baptized but all have boyfriends and so much happened this week but the awesome Romigs are taking us to Gietshoorn (the "Venice of the North") and we have to go so hopefully I can send more tomorrow! Love you all((((: have a great week! Are you getting excited to come here!? Wish us luck esp. with Peter ah we´ll see him tonight and it´ll be pretty deciding..
Zuster Riley (:  

At the Markt with Swapna and Shea´s friends (from Spain, Poland, Spain, S. Korea), so fun, I love them all, and Swapna had fun getting to know them, too!

Giethoorn with the Romigs yesterday! SO BEAUTIFUL as you are about to see from the pictures. I really wish you could experience it, it was so peaceful and magical and breathtaking and quaint and fairy tale like and Dutch.

Service at Fam. De Jonge

Former Den Haag zone missionaries!

At the Pannekoekenschip with Shea last P day.. Shea is this super cool Arizona native YSA who is studying Psychology here for a year and is super friendly & fun, and hooking it up with the referrals aka her international roommates who we went to the Markt with and who are pretty interested in learning more about our beliefs (ie M, from Poland, is coming to church in 2 weeks.. she´s an active Roman Catholic and had tons of deep questions about our views on repentance and confession, and also really wants to get together and make pierogies.. haha now that I´m the expert thanks to S in Den Haag (; ). Shea´s a really good example to me of a member missionary who naturally talks to others about the gospel because it´s a part of who she is and it makes her happy.

 Cooking with Z. Jaramillo.. she worked at her mom´s Surinamese restaurant in Aruba so knows all kinds of Caribbean secrets in the kitchen / Squeezing into an elevator with the district (District Mtg was at the Romig´s appt. with the beautiful view)
Beautiful statue, eh?

We went over to J´s and basically had a tea party and got to know her while she bore her testimony of the truthfulness of the Restoration and how this church/ gospel has come into her life at the perfect time and answers questions her evangelical childhood church didn´t. She´s praying about a baptismal date, but I don´t think she realizes how ready she is.. she´s so busy though, it´s really hard to meet with her now that school has started, but she is so good! And German. (:


Familie Sprott! With some of the 8 kids. (:

Authentic Indian food with E, S, and M! They are so great, and it seems to be our thing this transfer to accidentally have new investigators offer to cook for us (tonight 17 yo new investigator who we taught last week V´s mom who is from Colombia is cooking for us. Ah V and G are so cool.. G has some questions about the necessity of rebaptism but had heard the story of Joseph Smith before and believes it and wanted to make sure V understood it, and V said a really sweet prayer thanking Heavenly Father for the new things she was able to learn). But back to E and S.. the food was delicious (and everything was eaten with our hands, even the daal soup and rice with isn´t pictured.. ha it´s awesome and totally opposite than the Dutch fork and knife always in each hand!) and it was neat learning more about Hindu temples and prayer and sharing our own beliefs on these topics and S and I have so much in common ie we love being cheapskate barterers at the Markt and smelling spices and ask people what their favorite fruit is as typical first get to know you question. E was pleasantly surprised with how open and comfortable everyone was at church in comparison with his experiences at church when he was younger, and they´ll hopefully come again.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Week 75 - Groningen

Windmill in Ten Boer 
My beautiful collega! 

Cute dorpje 

Goeie dag Familieeeeee! 
   One of the best parts about serving in Groningen is the fact that it's a student city with a strong YSA program and we've been meeting lots of cool young people.. Tuesday was exchanges here with Zuster Jaramillo (she's this Aruban bundle of joy and we had so much fun together teaching Dutch college kids and trying to figure out bussing in Groningen for the day and cooking - she said she's been wanting to try "Zuster Riley's lentils" that she's heard so much about haha - and jamming out with her on the piano in the apt. with her on the recorder)..
   So about those lessons with the Dutch college kids: first, we went over and had a really neat lesson about the Restoration with L, a beautiful, classy 25 year old Criminal Law student (one of those really cool people that it's pretty flattering that she took the time and interest to learn more about a religion from two drenched foreigners in skirts and nametags who showed up on her doorstep last week and made an appt.) and turns out her parents are casual Christians but about 4 years ago she decided she didn't believe in God because she grew up reading the Bible and praying but never had a life-changing spiritual experience.. she was impressed with how passionately we believed in God and His plan for us, and how we encourage asking questions and finding out for one's self. She told us how in her experience up until now, regular church-goers blindly believe and don't take the time to think and really question certain ideas, and we shared personal experiences struggling to develop faith and also showed her the link to Koen's article in the University Newsletter about him, a (former) atheist and (current) Philosophy student, converting to Mormonism. The fact that she made the appt. and gave us her full attention and participation and willingly took the Book of Mormon is a good indicator that she at least hopes there are sources with answers to her questions.. that source is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. She doesn't necessarily feel the need to meet again, but I still feel good about our meeting her. 

We went next door to an appt. with our investigator, J (that's actually how we found L last week- she lives in #28C, J in #28A..), and L ran out to catch us on the steps of J's condo to return the folded up progress record that I had left in the cover of the BoM we'd just given her.. the progress record was filled out with all types of names and phone numbers and addresses of investigators (I was filling it out earlier for wijkraad that night) and I am so grateful that L flipped open and stumbled upon it and returned it asap.. I can only imagine how bad that could've been had she read it and gotten weirded out that we record so much info or something.. whew, my bad. 

   Ah but J is amazing! She is German (!) and friendly and engaged to a German guy living a few hours away right now across the border and studying International Communications and just enough hipster and has such a neat story with coming in contact with the church- basically, she was raised in an evangelical church but always had the question, "why would God stop sending prophets/ speaking to His children? It just doesn't make sense with my image of God" and after a little research, Mormonism seemed like a good church to investigate, so she self-referred herself a few months ago and loves her triple combination and the teachings of the church and feels that this is right.. she agreed to pray about a baptismal date (but still does want to read more of the BoM/ feel like she understands enough) and is seriously so prepared! 

   On Thursday morning we went to get our haircut (at a place I bartered down a few euros, haha I guess all our trips to the Haagse Markt taught me some tricks (;.. ha the lady doing my hair was pretty appalled that I hadn't been in to get a trim since November though, oops ) and while Z. Karlson was getting her hair done, a young co-owner/ barber (originally from Suriname but raised here except for living in New Jersey for a year when he was 11) and I started talking and a haircut of my comp later and we had a dinner appt. and lesson set up for that Sunday night! Super cool.. and you can imagine our disappointment when he had to cancel because of a family gathering in Amsterdam.. but he does want to reschedule at least! 

This week it seems that the disappointments/ things falling through have been hitting me harder than they should (ie B's scooter breaking so he couldn't make it to Institute, or the people arranged to bring our investigator P V to Stake Conference last min not being able to take him so he didn't come, etc.) but those really are so few in comparison to all of the cool appt.s we've had lately, and I was thinking about it, and in each instance the person was cancelling but still wants to reschedule.. speaking of cool appt.s, E (not Alden, we heard his name wrong) who came to church with his son and Indian gf last week) met us at a super cute ijssalon downtown and we had a neat lesson sharing religious ideas.. he's adopted a lot of Hindu ideas such as multiple gods, and really liked our welcoming church (vs. his cold Protestant church he went to as a kid) and is going to read 2 Nephi 2 and Alma 32 by tomorrow (our dinner appt. at their house, so excited!). 

We also had a reaaally neat RaD with D and her husband at Q (member who was inactive when I was here last time) and P K's house (non-member who now comes to church and is listening to the BoM on the way to work- vs. his friendly disinterest last time!).. D is reformed Christian but loved the message of the Restoration and said "so basically, Mormonism envelops all other [Christian] religions- they all have parts of it" and wants to come to church (I pulled the "I only have until the end of the month" so she's coming this week (:) and wow is just really cool.. nice Dutch couple with 3 kids they adopted from Haiti. And it's so cool how we met a few weeks ago.. at G's BBQ (I'm telling you, that place was amazing for finding.. and we have another appt. with V, a 17yo girl we met there, this Wednesday!)- she was the photographer and we started chatting, and she mentioned that a former co-worker, P, was married to a member of our church, and we set up this appt! One of the best parts was that P was helping explain things (he's been coming to church regularly with their kids ever since Q decided she wants to be active again). 

   We got home from Apeldoorn zone conference at 2am on Saturday (went with the train).. haven't been out that late since world cup last summer, it was weird and we're all a little tired ha!
   We also deep cleaned P's house and threw out his ash trays and bought grapefruit juice and cinnamon mouthwash and hung up uplifting posters to help him stop smoking. 
Ah as you can see it was a great week. Wet, but I'll miss the pouring rain because it's part of this beautiful country. 

 VEEL LIEFS!!!!!!!!!!
Zuster Riley (: 

Canal view 

Road trip with the Elders to Apeldoorn for Ringconferentie 

Playing at the station with Z. Jaramillo ha