Monday, 31 December 2012

A week of travel

The Library is closed today, so I'm chilling in a grungy Internet cafe downtown.  It's filled with phone booths which in turn are filled with African people--who talk really, really loud on the phone.  There aren't many people here today though. These computers are filled with viruses too, so if something slimy makes its way on this email, don't blame me!
Elder Mower and I have to get home by 4 today.  New years eve gets insane here.  Apparently, in the Netherlands it sounds like World War 3 on New Years. I've seen videos of more fireworks blasting over rooftops than you can believe.  They're tamer in Belgium, but still.  Home at 4 is a mission-wide rule.
Ever notice that those finagled ergonomic keyboards always destroy your wrists? Goshdang.
On Christmas day, we went and visited Family Verschuuren. We brought along Syria (or however his name is pronounced) and had a good old time.  There were snacks, Russian and Nepolese accents and Uno to top it off afterwards.  That was just as good a gift as I could ever ask.  Later that selfsame evening, went went to Bishop Dixon's and there I skyped home.  Hello home, good to see everything is going great.
Gee, I've matured?  Psh, wait until you see me off Skype.  Speaking of which, we got to get the life-sized coke cola cardboard phone booth set up in a strategic way for our Nerf-gun battle tonight.  No further questions.
On Boxing day we went as a zone to an old folks home and sang to the people living there.  We visited 3 floors of the place, stopping to see residents along the way.  At one point, an old Dutch lady started talking, repeating at least a dozen times that she had children in America.  3 of them.  Three children in America.  She has them.  I really, really don't like old folks home.  I don't need to go into details why (Papa Joe).  In any case, the staff and bewoners were very grateful that we came.
The same day, I went on exchanges to Antwerpen with the Zone leader  ~ Elder Pitchforth.  I now understand a bit more of ZL life and I don't really like it.  Some other missionaries called us to say they forgot their keys, so we had to drive 50 minutes to go haul them back home in Antwerpen.  In the morning, another 50 minute ride greeted us to bring them back to their city. Another 50 minutes saw us back in Antwerpen.  Still, it was a cool experience.
We talked with Isac, who Elder Frahm (first companion in the field)  always talked about.  He was a miracle--really prepared for batpism.  While we were there, he mentioned his friend had some interest in the church.  Elder Pitchforth suggested we make an appointment some time to discuss with his friend.  Isac nodded and snatched up the phone, dialed it, talked in Twi for a while and then hung up.
"Alright Elders, he wants to meet with us."
Cool, when?
"Right now."
Whoa.  What a missionary.  We swung by and taught a Restoration to Isac's friend and wham, before we knew it, he had a baptismal date set up.  Oh, okay.  Isac is awesome.
As far as our investigators went, we didn't have the most productive week.  We couldn't meet with the Stroobonts, but they came to church.  We couldn't get contact with William either--although we tried almost every day.  Oops.  Next week will be better.
We went to the Genk branch as well.  I've travelled a lot this week.  It took us an hour to get there but man, is it a cool branch.  Really small, but very missionary focused.  Also, I met Paul!  You remember Paul?  He's staying here for the month with a member.  He's trying to get his Visa right now, but it's difficult.  Paul is super awesome.  A child had a magic kit at church, with one of those fake thumbs you stick sneaky stuff into.  Paul tried it on but it wasn't the correct hue for him.  Fun times.
We received an Internet referral as well and met Jean, who lives near the church in Genk.  He's writing a couple books!  One is about God and apparently, he wants to learn what we believe to help him write it.  Hmm. We'll see what happens.  Anyway, I've got a +1 with him because I write books too!
Well, I gotta split like...a...something that splits.
Thanks for the letters and Christmas Love!
Tot volgende jaar,
Elder Burgess

Monday, 24 December 2012

Christmas Cheer

Ooo," says Elder Mower.
Tis the season to be trunky.  Oops, was that out loud?
I can't really remember what happened this week.  Besides the huge amount of Christmas cheer floating all about, this was a pretty average week I suppose.  Our numbers were pretty high, not meaning to boast.  Of course, numbers aren't even close to everything.
Family Stroobonts are simply awesome.  They're getting wet (baptized) for sure.  The ward loves them. Carla Stroobonts is one dang good cook and always feeds us delicious food.  This week, she kept busy trying to replicate delicious (evidently North American) banana bread.  Mmm.
They have some new system for this email, and it's kind of tripping me out.
Anyway, we swung by their house and to our surprise--though they had told us earlier--there were six whole children running about.  Broeder Stroobont's children from his previous marriage were there visiting.  
Thank goodness we planned a fun lesson and were able to keep all the children for the most part entertained.  We folded origami and when I whipped out that little dragon I can make, er'body was blown away.  T'was fun.
We went over to William's as well and tried to have a fun lesson for the children, but it turned out the lesson just going too long.  A bit unfortunate, but he's doing awesome.  I asked how much of the Book of Mormon he had read and he snatched mine up to see.  After shuffling around, he opened to the page.  "Here," said he, "I am here.  Yes, I know it's not far.  I must read more."  I looked: 1 Nephi 22.  Dang.  That's more than people have read their entire investigation process.  William is already growing a testimony.  He feels it and knows it's good.  Unfortunately, they didn't come to the Christmas service.  We have yet to find out why.
Also, we were chilling on a bus and I spotted this guy way at the back.  There was something about him and I wanted to talk to him, but...he was way at the back.  As we were riding, however, he came up to us and said, "Elders.  I am...Melchizedek."  The Melchizedek?  Turns out he's a member from Mongolia.  He came here about two months ago, and had looked for the Church but hadn't been able to find it. Until he met us.  He came to the Christmas party.  Thankfully he speaks Russian as well as Mongolian and we've got about 9 Russian-speaking members (including children).  The guy only speaks a handful of English and even less Dutch.  I wish I could tell you his name's really forgetful and Mongolian.  His conversion story is pretty cool too.  When he was younger, he was getting into drinking and stuff.  One day, his father, who was a member, came by with the missionaries and inviting him to church.  From that point on, he went to church and changed his life for the better.  He says he's going to come to church every week too.  Neat.
I can't really think of much else to say.  It's good to hear about Family Storm.  I still pray for them.  Thanks for the presents too!  Mmm, salted goods and hot chocolate.  Yesterday evening, Elder Mower slipped into bed and while he was lying there, Santa came by and filled up our stockings.  We got oranges and chocolate milk packages and a plethora of things that were already in the apartment.  We opened them up this morning.  At least Elder Mower got a pair of Canadian socks.  Gee, where did Santa get those?
Anydoodle, see you tomorrow!
Tot volgende keer,
Elder Burgess
**It snowed once.  Or twice.  Otherwise, it rained pretty heavily for the last 3 days.  Holy man, I was really, really wet

                                         What happen to Evan's hair....or lack of.  :)
                                             Christmas Zone Conference  ~ December 19

Monday, 17 December 2012

Well, I had two huge bombshells just hit me

I have the choice to leave later on my mission and my dog was just put down.  Sorry if I don't sound too motivated today.
Despite those two things, this week was a whopper!
I think I'll start it with a wild story.  So one evening, Elder Mower and I were planning and we weren't sure what to do the next day.  We live inside Leuven, but most of our investigators live outside of Leuven--it's not as large as I thought.  So we didn't have anybody to visit for a large chunk of the day.  I suggested then, that we pick a street--one that Elder Mower hasn't visited often--and we go towards that street, contacting along the way.  Good, street chosen, day done.  The next day, we made a game out of contacting and contacted the crap out of Leuven.  We talked to a lot of really great people too.  So here comes the wild part.  We approached the street we had chosen, which was actually on a hill, and then slowed down.  Well, here were are...  We thought about turning around when I spotted a cat.  I did that oh-so-well-known cat whistle, the one where you purse your lips.  I had to explain to Elder Mower that the cat whistle will get any cat to at least look at you.  "And it works for horses too."  Bam, the moment I said it, I spotted a wire horse decoration hanging on a house.  Eerie, right?  Claiming it to be a sign, we went and knocked on that door, with no success.  But we continued on that road--in the opposite direction from home, where we were going to go next.  We went down that street, turned a corner and went down another.  Elder Mower contacted a younger fellow and we had a good chat.  His name is Carlo, who has cool hair and is from Ecuador.  Carlo told us he was going to mix some DJ tunes (sweet, right?) so he was busy that moment, but he'd be chilling with his friends that evening, and we were welcome by.
We then went to Familie Stroobont's and their naked cat for a visit.
Once we were back home, we decided to check out Carlo's house.  To our surprise, four students let us right on in.  Honestly, I was expecting to kind of chill there in the corner while they had some sort of student party.  Nope, right away, they let us in, gave us drinks, sat around the table and said, "Well, what are you two doing here?"  Perfect question.  We shared a super powerful restoration lesson that evening, with these young adults hanging on to every word.  After teaching the story of Joseph Smith's vision, I looked up and saw tears in Carlo's eyes.  He felt it, and he felt it hard.  The two young ladies we met are both religious too, which is increasingly rare in Belgium.  It was a super miraculous day.  We did our best and the Lord rewarded us 3 fold.  Carlo and his guy friend both left for Africa to do humanitarian work yesterday, so we won't be seeing them for a while, but we're going to swing by the other two to say hi.  After we gave them all books, they pretty much invited themselves to read it. I love it when people actually want to read the Book of Mormon.
Which reminds me of two more stories.
First, we went back to William and Vanessa's this week.  (Un)fortunately, she hadn't had time to make us some spicy African food, so we missed out on dinner.  William, I'm happy to report, is doing fantastic.  He is super, super searching right now.  He had read Joseph Smith's experience in the front of the book 3 times over, just...awed I suppose.  He wanted to bring it to work even, but couldn't because he's a mechanic and works around grease all day.  At one point, he held up the Book of Mormon and said, "This...this is my life."  Wow!  He's told us repeatedly he hopes that this is the true church, because he agrees with everything we've told him so far.  It's really only a matter of time before he gets that solid answer.  It probably won't even be too long.
Secondly, we were roaming around again and Elder Mower felt prompted to talk to this guy.  He was walking pretty fast, but nevertheless, we started following him.  I almost wrote stalk.  Anyway, we followed him (unbeknownst to me) for a few streets until he finally paused to do up his hood and we could catch up.  His name is Victor and he's from the Cameroon.  We gave a brief explanation of the BoM and right away he said, "Yeah, I'm interested."  Wham, really?  I mean...sure, cool!  We came by the very next day and again shared a powerful first lesson.  He was really touched too.  We gave him a baptismal invitation--which he agreed to--but no actual date.  He was eager to read the Book of Mormon as well.
Wow, look at all these fantastic people!  The Lord has blessed us generously this week.  Thank you so much for all your prayers!
Unfortunately, Kurt Lust doesn't have a date anymore, but he's still on board to meet and read and everything, so who knows.
The Leuven ward is super awesome.  The bishop is actually an American guy--we go there every Sunday for dinner.  Despite not speaking fluent Dutch, he does very well with his calling.  There are also quite a few English-speaking members here too.  There were about...25-30 people there on Sunday, but from what I understand, the higher end of attendance is about 60.  We also cover a branch called Genk.  We need to get out there soon.
The Stroobont's fit right in with the ward too.  Everybody loves their kids and they get along well with everybody in return.  They've actually been attending church for something like 6 months now, so they're pretty much integrated/fellowshiped.
Well, I don't have too much more time this week, sorry.  I'm glad to see that about...2 questions were answered out of six billion at least.
I'll be Skyping on Tuesday, the 25th.  Probably sometime in the evening here, which means 8-ish there. I tried to get a set call time, but couldn't quite.  I'll let you know for sure next week.  Oh, and it'll be in the living room of another family again, sorry.  I talked with them about it, and they're willing to give more privacy by shooing the children upstairs or something.
Looking forward to it.
Tot volgende keer,
Elder Burgess
**I realized I didn't answer any questions about the naked cat.  It really is strange.  Their neighbour actually had this cat, but wasn't taking good care of it.  Naked cats are pretty much just indoor cats.  They'll freeze in the winter and sunburn in the summer.  The neighbour had left it outside in their truck or garage or something, so Sister Stroobont spoke with him about it and the neighbour straight-up gave it to them.  They're expensive to buy too.  Every week, they have to give it a bath or otherwise it'll stink.  As far as I know, naked cats aren't scared of water.  It's a super loving cat though.  It loves to be pet--which feels indescribably strange.  It's like petting a rubber chicken covered in fine peach fuzz.  The cat howls if it's not in the same room too.  If you try to ignore it, it slams its shoulder against the wall.  It's amazing how loud that is too--shakes the entire house.   We couldn't stop laughing after they told us what the banging was coming from the next room.
Anyway, I gotta go.
Oh, also, there's a guy in our ward that reminds me so much of Brett.  Eerie.
I've been trying to get a 4x4x4 Rubik's cube, but they've suddenly disappeared from all the stores.  Just...letting you know.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Maybe not healthy, but at least I am happy

Well, this first week in Belgium has been an interesting one.  I was upset when I had to leave Family Storm, but the Lord definitely cushioned the entrance.  We got to our apartment Wednesday evening, caught a bus out to the middle of I-still-don't-know-where and set 4 baptismal dates.  What?  With a family nonetheless.  This family has been coming to church for the last .....5 months or something?  The mom just got married to a member not too long ago and started coming to church sometime along the way.  Her three boys are ages 13 to 8 and love church.  We asked them why they came and they said, "to learn about Jesus and the Gospel!"  And something about candy, but that doesn't matter.  When we set a date of January 13 (in this transfer) the boys fist-pumped.  They are super prepared.
They also have a naked cat.
Ooo, I've never seen one before.  We heard a strange croak from outside and the mom adorned an embarrassed expression as one of the kids went to open the door.  "Oh no, we have the ugliest cat."  Yeah, okay.  We'll see about--WHOA.  It's a naked cat!  It's covered in a very fine, thin peach fuzz, with a bit more around its tail and some on its nose.  It looks so dang strange.  You know how you pet a cat's back and it scrunches all up.  Holy man, it looks weird on a naked cat.  Wrinkles everywhere.  I can't even properly describe it.  The feeling.  Ooo, the feeling.
Anyway, we're very excited for this family.  Family Stroobont.
On Monday, before I got here, Elder Mower and Elder Goethals set a baptismal date with another guy, Kurt Lust. I've never met him...
Also, On Saturday...  Man, Saturday.  We caught a bus out to the middle of nowhere for an appointment.  Because it was on Saturday, there were pretty much no buses, so we had to lounge around in below zero weather.  Thank goodness I put on pyjama pants underneath my suit pants.  Thank goodness for feet warmer pads as well.  So that was miserable.  But worth it.
We finally got to the appointment.  An African family.  The mother, Vanessa, described, Sister Herring (who's been in a few of my districts) demanding to speak with her.  Super bold, right?  Vanessa tried to get away, saying she needed to catch her train, but Sister Herring held on to her tight.  "You need to hear what we have to say.  There will be another train."  So Vanessa waited and listened and felt something inside.  Then missed her train.  She wrote down her info and gave it to Sister Herring, who gave it to Elder Mower some time ago.
That night, we were surprised to discover, however, that Vanessa is already a member!  She was baptized some years ago while her husband was still in Africa.
We talked to her husband, William as well, who was apprehensive at first because he thought we worshipped Joseph.  We solved that problem in a flash.  Anyway, after talking, he told us he had been praying that God would help him regain his faith, because he had fallen away slowly.  Vanessa too, was praying that God would help her husband come back.  He described himself as being that lost sheep.  He said, "I need a miracle from God.  A miracle to help me come back."  I handed him a Book of Mormon and said, "I've got a miracle right here."  It was so amazing to see that us being there was an answer to their prayers.  We promised and testified like crazy that everything we had to share would bring him back to the fold, as long as he does his part too.  We set a baptismal date with him too, for the 13th of January.  "When you know, will you join the body of Christ and be baptized?"
"If God tells me too, why not?  Why not?"
Absolutely amazing.  They've got 3 children as well, all over 8.  We didn't really get to speak with them, but next time we will.  We're going over for dinner next week.  Elder Mower mentioned he loves spicy African food, so I got to prepare my gut now for all that pepper.
Aaaand then, because we were outside for so long, Elder Mower and I got pretty dang sick.  He was worse off than I was.  Holy man, he was so sick he slept in until 12:30.  Yep, we missed church -  helaas (unfortunately).  There was no way either of us were able to go.  Having us both home was good news for our apartment though.  Not going to lie, it was a pretty trashy place when I got there.  Apparently, they had cleaned it a week earlier, but I'm not so convince.  We blitzed the place and restocked the shelves with delicious fresh produce so now it's looking a lot, lot better.
It's at the top of a 3 or so story building, so we have to walk up this narrow, Belgium staircase to get to the top.  Unfortunately, there's no shed for our bikes, so they have to remain outside in the rain and cold.  We haven't been able to ride bikes in a while because Elder Mower's bike needs repair.  I'm worried it's going to get ruined by the weather, but we'll fix the problem soon.  You don't do as much biking here anyway, because of how huge the area is.  We don't have many investigators inside the city.
Serving with Elder Mower is awesome.  Elder Moscon is still in Turnhout and still the District Leader, so I could speak with him over the phone.  Still kicking it.  I'm not sure if I ever mentioned Caroline in an email, but Elder Klippel and I found her while we were on exchanges one day.  They same day Paul was found too.  Caraline is super awesome and is actually working towards baptism right now!  Paul was deported to Italy unfortunately, so I won't be able to see him while I'm here.  Paul was the guy on the boat, if you remember that story.  He was baptized a while ago.
That's funny that you mentioned Uncle Joey and the tree falling over.  I told Elder Mower that same story.  Uncle Joey reminds me a lot of Jesse. Or...maybe vice versa.  I'll have to send you a picture and you'll know what I mean.  Same stop-being-a-wuss kind of attitude too.
About Dad threatening (was he joking?) to write President Robinson... .please don't.  I can't say I'm perfectly fine with being transferred so much, but I am willing to follow the Lord's will.  When President Burnham (is he still the Stake President?) was going through the missionary application process with me, he always said how I would meet all sorts of characters and people on my mission.  I like to think that was a sort of prophecy.  I have certainly been able to do that--with both non-members and members alike.  Think of how many friends I've made!  I'm fine with being a nomad.  I'm fine with whatever the Lord desires.  Don't worry about it.
I didn't get shoes.  I misunderstood their sale...  What a sale-hound I am.
It's snowed a couple times here.  Big fat snowflakes too--the kind where it's like 9 snowflakes smashed together into a small snowball.  But it just rains later in the day and gets rid of it all.
I almost forgot what Belgium milk tastes like...
Well, that's all for now.  Maybe not healthy, but at least I'm happy.
Tot volgende keer,
Elder Burgess
Kardinaalstraat 22B
Leuven, Belgium

Monday, 3 December 2012

Fantastic news.....and....back to Belgium

I got my birthday packages indeed!  Holy man, thank you so much.  I had something to say to everything I got, but I'm not sure if I can remember it all right now...
Crispix, mmm, Crispix.  Those pyjama bottoms are super cozy.  They are like wearing a kitty around your legs.  I was actually thinking about buying new pyjama bottoms too.  Crazy.  Not sure I get the string...  Also, I seem to detect a theme.  Are you worried about me starving?  I appreciate the little dinner powder packages--and we do use them--but I think I'll be good on them for now, thank you.  Elder Shoe made a super-delicious-birthday-bash-dinner-meal with the Alfredo sauce and it was heerlijk (delicious).  Unfortunately, I was under the weather for my birthday, so it wasn't as great as it could have been, but I still enjoyed it a lot.  I treated myself to a new toothbrush recently and I'm going to go out to get some new shoes today.  They've got a crazy sale right now--buy 1 pair of shoes for 30% off and get another whole pair for free.  Gee, how can I deny such an offer?  Oh...we also bought nerf guns.  Don't worry!  They were also on sale.  We've had some pretty great slayer/zombie battles in our apartment since then.
I'm not sure a balaclava is missionary approved, but I appreciate the gesture.  Holy man was it cold on one day.  I looked out the window in the morning and it was pretty decent weather, especially for the 1st of December.  Gee whiz was it cold that day.  My fingers were thoroughly frozen.  Being silly me, I forgot I had a huge pile of hand warmers and didn't use them until later in the day--long after my fingers had become frozen cheese sticks.  Maar, het vielt wel mee (but it was not so bad).
As far as Family Storm goes...we have FANTASTIC NEWS.  We went to the Storms last Monday and talked about Conference.  They loved it so much and were beaming just talking about it.  Then, Elder Shoe simply said, "You guys belong to this church."  Their reply: "Yeah...we do!" WOW!  They're planning on being baptised on Dec 29th.  Can't you believe that?  We came by that same evening.  It was...a pretty difficult lesson actually.  Maarten Storm is a strong, strong believer in free will and we got in more of a discussion about it than a lesson.  By the end, we more or less figured out his problem and again more or less resolved it.  We've got dinner appointment tonight with them and we're bringing Brother Lyons along, who taught Philosophy for 25 years.  Gee, perfect match!
All this miracles and families makes me sad though...
The curse remains!  Oh, when will it be lifted!  It seems my inevitable fate to only be allowed to stay in one area for just long enough to get attached to everybody--JUST TO LEAVE.  Augh!  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't upset about leaving--especially with a family of 7 preparing to enter the waters.  On the bright side, I'll be with Elder Mower (MTC companion) and I already know Leuven is a beautiful place.  I've visited there twice or so already.  It'll be super awesome because Turnhout is in the district and I'll be able to visit it a few times at least.  Dangit though, I thought for sure this was the time I was going to stay. Niet zo, ik doe het zo (Not so)!
I've also re-discovered how great Brazilian people are. We got a referral from Lani this week and had a dinner with Edeline Moorman, her non-member husband and 2 of their non-member friends.  It was a super fun time with lots of laughing involved.  We made a  good, solid indruk (impression).  It was great.  A good evening to GET YOUR TRANFER CALL.  Blagh!  So upset.
On another note, thank you so much to er'body that sent me letters!  I got a flood of birthday cards (about 20+ cards and quite a few birthday emails) that made everybody jealous---I mean, that made me so happy!  Thanks for the packages too, family and Sam.  I haven't gotten the Thompson package, and probably won't for a while yet...  :(
I'm started to dream pretty frequently in Dutch now too.  It's eerie.  We spoke Dutch for a solid 4 hours yesterday and I impressed myself with how good it was.  As long as your talking about the right subject of course.
Well, I think that's about it than.  I guess next time you hear from me, I'll be back in the land of chocolate, waffles, bad roads and difficult Dutch.
Tot volgende keer,
Elder Burgess

Thanks for doing as I asked.  I really care for my friends.  That's okay that he said no.  In a lesson, we told somebody that no missionary efforts are wasted.  When you try to share the gospel, it isn't for nothing.  Hopefully, the impression has been made.  There's always when I get home too!

Monday, 26 November 2012

This week has been a blurr

Ever have a week that is just a blurr?  Gee, wasn't I sitting here an hour ago?
It makes it super difficult to recall what happened this week.
The new theme for this week was chess.  Can't say it was as exciting as the previous themes.  We've got a couple chessboards (one jerryrigged from the glass cutting board) and had a few games.  I decided I don't want to play chess.  It stresses me out and takes too long.  I am proud to say I won one game though.  No more chess for me.
We've got a new dryer and the old one was whisked away.  You should see the new one, Holy man.  It's super nice and shiny and with all sorts of buttons that light up when you press them.  Do I know how to use it?  No.  Do I know what any of the buttons do?  No.
Poor Dairely has been super sick this week.  We went by just as he was leaving for the hospital to get a shot.  He looked so dang miserable, it was really sad.  On a lighter note, he's doing better now and we actually have an appointment today.
As well, we met with Claudia Höhne.  I can't remember if I told you about her, but she's a German lady who's been living here for 9 years.  She has an injured leg, injured hands and a few other conditions.  She's super golden though.  Really hard to understand with her thick-as-gravy accent, man oh mighty.  We went over there and she had already read 8 chapters in the Book of Mormon!  That's more than most investigators have done!  We gave her a pretty solid Restoration lesson and she felt the Spirit super strong.  At one point, we read Moroni's promise and her eyes went wide.  "Whoa, it says here we have to pray to God to know, in the name of Jesus." Yeah...  "That means Jesus and God are two separate people.  My whole life I've thought that there were one.  Oh, well I guess I learnt something new." Dang, we hardly said anything and she figured out that truth on her own.  The Spirit was speaking to her--it was amazing.  She said she's going to read everyday too.  I have the strong feeling that Claudia is going to benefit greatly from Priesthood blessings.  Just you wait.
I can't remember if this happened last week, but Family van Hulst called it off.  We phoned them and she said she didn't think this is her path because she hadn't felt anything.  Which is super unfortunate, because I think she did feel something and we didn't ever have a real, solid lesson with them to begin with.  Oh well, seed planted.
The Storms, on the other hand, are AWESOME.  They drove 2 hours to come to Stake conference yesterday, and they loved it.  Maartin Storm said the meeting was really personal, and very applicable.  He also loved how after the service, his kids exploded running everywhere, but it was okay, because everyone else's kids did the same.  We've got an appointment with them today pretty soon.  We're going to commit them to baptism by the end of December.  It's pretty quick, but they've got the entire month off, so we're planning on going over there often.  Oh man are we excited!  Pray it all works out!
Rosana, unfortunately, said she doesn't want to meet with us.  She did say, however that she'll continue reading the Book of Mormon, so who knows.
Also, we got an urgent call on Wednesday morning.  Dominique, a less-active member was told she was getting evicted!  Dominique used to be a man......   The majority of Wednesday we helped her move out.  We were there for 7 hours or so, helping her take everything apart and packing it.  It was crazy.  With our help the next day as well, I'm happy to say we managed to get everything packed and away before 12:30, when she was told she needed to be out by.  She's up in Groningen now.
Oh yeah, we had a delicious Turkey dinner to celebrate American Thanksgiving.  It was so dang good.  I stuffed myself silly.  Jesse and Chaim went, which was great.  It was really good for both of them.  Jesse was a bit out of his element--he can't handle crowds too well.  He was jittery and made more snide jokes than usual, but he really enjoyed it.  Chaim was really chipper too, something he needed as well.
I've been thinking a lot about my friends lately.  I thought about Braden and Preston in specific. 
Well, I think that's about everything.  I'll keep a look out for zombies and investigators, don't you worry.
I haven't got my birthday package yet, but thanks everybody for all the birthday letters/cards and love!  It means a lot, really.
en tot volgende keer,
Elder Burgess

                    American Thanksgiving held at Den Haag stake ~  November 22nd

Monday, 19 November 2012

Colds, fire and more zombies

Look at that creative title.  How creative.  Pretty explanatory too.
First of all, WE HAVE A NEW BAPTISMAL DATE.  Last week, we contacted a man as we were walking away from a lookup.  I'm not going to lie, he seemed a bit flauw (weak).  This week we had an appointment with him, this time with Elder Maughan with me on splits.  The lesson started a bit flauw as well, but we were on fire that day.  We had a super good companionship study that morning and we applied it like crazy during that day.  By the end of the lesson, our new friend, Dairely was totally into it.  We paused and asked him "Yo man, what are you thinking?" "Well, I want to know if this is true.  I really do." Wow!  What a cool guy. We had left him a reading assignment a few days earlier and he had even read the entire chapter!  He's a super cool guy.  Totally not flauw at all.  Oh myan, we're pumped to be working with him.  "If you knew this was true, would you be baptized on Dec. 22?"  "Why not?  If it's true, it's true, right?"  Awesome.
As well, we had spoken to another young guy who said we could come by sometime.  We got his address and attempted to look him up--only to discover his address actually doesn't exist.  We picked the street which sounded more correct and headed there.  We belled the prospective door, but nobody answered.  Bummer, right?  But as we were chilling there, a young man leaned over the railing above to smoke.  We contacted that guy and asked if he was interested. "Nee, niet echt." ("no, not really")  "Well, maybe your buddy pal chum inside"?  The question seemed to catch him off-guard, but he went inside and actually came back with his friend.  Again, we explained what we were up to.  The first man's friend, Bart was actually very interested!  He let us in right then and there too.  I've only been let in to complete stranger's houses maybe 3 times ever.  We shared another diggety-down lesson and he was very impressed.  One of his opening remarks was how many churches there are that teach different things, instead of there just being one "Like in the beginning".  Gee, here's why!  He too, was excited to read the Book of Mormon and pray over it.
The shenanigans doesn't stop there.  As we were leaving, we double-checked the board with er'one's names on it.  As we were chilling there, a young woman approached and tried to say something in English, but...failed.  "We spreken wel Nederlands" ("We do speak Dutch"). Basically, she was yet another person who wanted to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it.  She said that she had heard people talk about the spirit so much before, that it's a feeling that washes over you.  She said that she had never felt that in her life, and that she really wanted to.  "When can we come over then," was Elder Shoemaker's response.  She avoided an appointment, but not our promise that if she read and prayed, she would get that feeling.  We'll be swinging back by in a week or so.
We've had a couple run-ins with the van Hulsts (you don't capitalize van in a name unless it's at the beginning of a sentence--I read that in a book), and we got their number.  We're going to get an appointment with them this week.
Well, that's pretty much it for investigators. 
Now the title.
There was another zombie invasion this week.  This time, the Zone Leaders were over staying the night (as they did a four-man blitz with both Almere and us).  The dreaded chainsaw zombie came a-lurking out of his lurk-place and once again Elder Andrews was the first to fall.  With five different people attacking it, it got shot a lot more than the first time and the survivors actually managed to kill it--but not until after it had infected the majority of the others.  Elder Li held out the longest, using his ninja skills and constant yelling to weave in between claws and teeth while battering the beasts.  Eventually, one of the zombies got hold of his torso and he was knocked down where once again a brutal feeding frenzy occurred.
It was really fun.
Also, poor ol' Elder Shoemaker has been struck by round 3 of his sickness.  It returned two days ago, hitting his nose this time.  Once again, we were forced to stay home. 
The dryer has been acting up lately.  It hasn't really been drying anything, more like spinning it around and blowing air everywhere.  "Well, that's what it's supposed to do, right?" Not really.  I put four towels in there to get dry, but after 2 hours of rolling around in there, they were still just as damp.  Dangit.  So I shoved them in for another go.
Because we were home sick, we sat in the living room, Elder Shoemaker writing a letter and me drawing drawings.  Out of nowhere, the smoke alarm went off.  It had gone off once before when the dryer had spit out a bunch of steam, so expecting it to be nothing more than a repeat, I went to investigate.  The kitchen was hazy and the laundry room was filled with thick grey smoke, streaming out of the dryer.  "The dryer's smoking...  IT'S ON FIRE!"  Yep, the dang thing caught fire.  I peered down into the small grate at the bottom and I could see it, a clear flame somewhere at the back.  I quickly ran over and grabbed the fire extinguisher and yanked all those silly safety precautions off.  We unplugged the dryer and washer and sprayed the front, but couldn't get the flames.  After grabbing some tools (and opening the windows, I believe), we yanked the back off of the machine and filled that sucker up with foam.  I've never used a fire extinguisher, it was really exciting.  When we called President later to tell him what happened, Elder Shoemaker said "I think the worst part is that the towels aren't even dry." Dangit.  We opened all the windows, put a few fans here and there and waited outside for the smoke to go away.  The same towels that I was trying to dry were used to sop up the foam stuff from the extinguisher, soiling them to how they were before they were washed.  It was like two steps forwards and three burned back.
We shoved that wrecked machine outside to rot.  We haven't bought a tombstone yet, but the burial is planned for this weekend.  I haven't thought of anything good to say in my eulogy yet.  All I have written down is "goodbye, stupid machine.  You suck."
I almost got sick as well.  Oh no!  Thank goodness it only got me a little bit, and didn't turn into a full-fledged cold.  I'll eat some vitamin C.  I think I'm over it already.
Well, we're off to celebrate American Thanksgiving and to play American football.  America.
Tot volgende keer,
Elder Burgess.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Zombie invasion

I had to write things down this week so I wouldn't forget them.
First of all, we've switched gears again...  Calling repentance does seem a bit...fiery, doesn't it?  Instead,
wij sporen de leden aan om over familie te bidden (we encourage members to have family prayer).  We figured that having the members unified, praying for one righteous cause would be a great help. 
D&C 29:6. 
       Whosoever ye shall ask in faith being united in prayer according to my command, ye shall receive.
 We're focusing more on our Stake goal of 'Finding the One'.  There are still members we need to...encourage to change, but for the most part, we think the members would most benefit this new perspective.  Fire avoided.
Some shenanigans went down this week.  The largest was on Tuesday.  The Assistants to the mission President came to Lelystand and the four of us blitzed it.  We split up (we got stuck on the bikes) and looked up people we thought were important to visit.  We saw some cool experiences, met a German lady (Dutch in a German accent sounds awesome) and ran into some other interesting people.  That evening though, it started to pour.  Holy man was it raining.  Elder Schulte, my temporary companion, has a slight fear of going to fast on a bike.  It just so happened that our look-up was on the other side of the city.  I don't know if I've ever been wetter.  My scalp was wet and I could feel it soaking through my 3 or four layers of clothing.  Man oh man.  It was all for the better though.  We arrived 20 minutes later at the door of the van Hulsts.  Her expression when she opened up was gold.  Something like "Oh no. What are you doing out in the rain?  Get in, get in!" She let us right in and we took off our jackets and shoes and headed upstairs.  Holy moses is the van Hulst's house big.  It's four whole stories.  They're pretty well off.
Anyway, we sat down in front of the fireplace--with a real fire glowing--with a cup of warm chocomel.  I took notice of his bookshelf at once and that sparked a conversation.  His whole wall is devoted to carrying religious books.  All sorts too.  We eventually got talking about the Book of Mormon.  He had read the Plan of Salvation pamphlet we gave him!  It was super cool.
But the best part was that Elder Schulte was testifying like crazy to Mevrouw van Hulst.  Her reply was that she wanted what he had--a knowledge of truth.  She said she's searching for it, and wants a testimony too!  Wow!  It was super awesome.  We left them with a new Book of Mormon (they couldn't find their old one) and they implied that they would read it.
Gee, I don't think I've ever prayed harder in my life...
You remember Melissa?  She's 20, has two giant dogs and is...well.....doesn't have the best lifestyle.  We met her op straat (on the street) and told her to read the book of Mormon.  What's surprising: she actually did!  Whoa.  Weird.  She said she liked it too.  Woo!
Otherwise, I have a few things to report.
I've been working out.  Uh oh!  You better watch out.
CROW TIE!  Holy man diddely.  Coolest tie ever.  I jumped the gun and opened it the minute I got it.  I couldn't help it.  It's so cool.  I wore it that same night.  Hey, I'm wearing it right now!
I forgot to tell you about Lenaya.  Elder Moscon shipped his bike up here because Elder Andrews was having problems with his own racefiets (bike).  We tore the broken head of Lenaya and chucked Elder Andrew's bike's head on instead, making a Frakenfiets.  It works fantastic now.
But the story goes further.  The tape on my racefiets handlebars wore out this week because of rust.  So I took Lenaya's old head, ripped her neck off and traded it for my bike's head.  What we thought was a uselessly bike turned out to be the opposite.  Besides the broken neck, we've used every piece of Lenaya.  She's the gift that keeps on giving.  I don't know where my old, bike, Peppy went.  He's gone somewhere...
And thanks so much to the Cravens!  They sent me a birthday card and some money.  Thank you!
Thanks for the other people that took the time to write me.  It's always great to get letters!  Makes me feel warm and tingly.
I forgot to mention.
Saturday night there was a zombie invasion.  Fair enough, that happens almost every night.  That night was different though.  I threw a scarf around my head as to leave only one eye exposed, then snatched a blanket and threw that over my back.  It was really annoying too, because I had to wait half an hour in my outfit until the other elders were done planning.  Anyway, hunched over, creepy me came shuffling around the corner with a mild yelp of surprise from Elder Andrews.  He assumed the classic zombie reaction and backed away, shooting his pistol--but it wasn't working.  "Gee," he thought, "this is a resistant zombie.  I guess I just have to shoot it more.  Derp."
Elder Pimentel then attempted to snatch me up in a full-nelson, but this zombie was more than either of them expected.  With a growl and the sound of rusty gears, I exploded free of Elder Pimentel's grasp, wielding a chainsaw and bore down on Elder Andrews.  He froze in shear terror (I resembled a certain zombie from Resident evil and the recollection shattered his mind) and was he the first to be mowed down by my unstoppable rage.  Elder Pimentel in the meantime scrambled to make a dragon-tail, the one weakness of zombies.  Elder Shoemaker walked in to find me lurking above Elder Andrew's freshly-disemboweled chunklets, screamed then turned away and ran.  In the pursuit, both Elder Shoe and Elder P got trapped in the narrow entrance to our house.  Lucky for Elder P, the chainsaw zombie preoccupied itself by grinding Elder Shoe to bits, letting Elder Pimentel escape.  The chainsaw horror pursued him back into the main room, where by then, Elder Andrews had risen as the undead and had joined in the fight.  Elder Shoemaker made a gallant attempt to fight the chainsaw zombie, but ultimately, had to flee as well.  One more round around the house found Elder Pimentel in a similar situation, fighting for his life, but this time against two zombies.  Again, he was forced to run.  Unfortunately for him, he hadn't counted on Elder Shoemaker also rising from the dead and he was caught off guard.  Elder Shoemaker delivered the stunning blow and reinforced by Elder Zombieandrews presence, they were able to take him down.  A disgusting feeding frenzy ensued where the two zombies devoured him alive, shortly followed by the chainsaw zombie cutting away his own pieces to feed on.
The sound of rusty gears was actually an electric toothbrush in my pocket and the chainsaw was a padded piece of exercise equipment.  We caught most of it on film too.  Apparently, I'm a really good zombie actor (according to them, not me).
More shenanigans ensued thereafter, but the first was the most exciting.  Elder Andrew's scream was great too.  He wasn't expecting what happened, but he went along with it great.  When I first exploded out of the blanket, Elder Pimentel saw my "chainsaw" and supposed it was a gun.  His first reaction was to make a dragon-tail, which is a certain way of folding a towel into a lethal weapon.  Probably the worst first-reaction ever.  Anyway, that was super fun.
The language is doing fine.  I wouldn't say I'm fluent yet.  We don't talk enough together in Dutch, my comp and I.  If you really do your best to speak your language as much as possible, you really excel.  I can convey about 80-90% of what I want though, so I'm doing alright.  I read the newspaper almost every day in Dutch, and can understand most of it.  If you asked me what an article was about, I could tell you.  I understand almost everything.  I have to force myself to think in Dutch, but all my prayers are in Dutch.  And yes, I even dream in Dutch...
Pray for our families--that they'll be able to feel the Spirit.
Thank you so much for everything!
Tot volgende keer,
Elder Burgess
I treated myself to a Dutch white shirt.  It is awesome.

View Shoe Burgess and Andrews.jpg in slide show
Elder Shoemaker & Andrews
View Zone Den Haag I Amsterdam.jpg in slide show
Van Haag Zone

Monday, 5 November 2012

Switching gears

Officially 1 year op zending (on a mission).  Holy man, can you believe that?  I feel super grey.  Weathered and experienced. We celebrated crossing the "hump" of our missions by buying steaks this week.  We had steaks, fries, broccoli, and delicious apple taart (cake) for lunch to celebrate.  It was so dang delicious.  We discovered there's a cake/pie shop just down the road.  Deadly.
As far as mission life goes, our focus has taking a big turn.  Things are changing in Lelystad.  We sat down with President Hoola and had a solid 2 hour conversation about the state of the Branch.  He told us that he felt that he's going to be someone who changes the Branch, not just presides while it stays the same.  Lelystad has been in a tricky situation for a long time.  Many of the members won't accept callings, making the leadership in the Branch almost non-existence.  This place has been dependant on other wards for decades to fill positions.  President Hoola's image is to have this Branch completely independent of outside assistance in two years' time.  That puts a lot of responsibility on our shoulders as missionaries.  We're switching our focus away from finding new investigators to helping the members we already have.  In feite (fact), many members have been on the same spiritual level for 30 years.  And that doesn't fly.
So now, Elder Shoemaker and I essentially have to call the members to repentance.  Sounds heavy, right?  We've got some ideas planned to help the members make true progress.  It's scary, because we might be pushing people out of their comfort zones.  People don't like that.  But those comfort zones aren't helping the members, and certainly not the Branch.
We've been floundering, both the Branch and the missionaries.  They're connected.  We've been finding a lot of cool people lately, but all of them are difficult or even impossible to meet with.  We haven't seen Sentina in almost two months.  We're switching our gears as far as finding goes to really focus on those people that will truly benefit the Branch, and not just add to the problem.  That means we need to find a fireball family, or somebody with great leadership skills (or something).
I feel slightly overwhelmed with this task, not going to lie.  Frankly, I've never had to call people out before.  I'm a pretty laid-back guy.  Elder Shoemaker is better at being...Dutch, thank goodness.  It's a lot on our plate.
The JoVo (young adults) activity is taking a  more serious turn too.  We're lengthening the activity and adding an activity where everybody participates and learns a gospel principle too.  Bij voorbeeld (for example), the Van Den Berg's did this cool activity where we drew names from a hat and wrote down a consequence for that person.  After reading the golden rule ('do unto others as you would have done unto you'), we had to do the thing we wrote down for the other.  It's fun yet teaches a principle.  Plus, we're going to get the members more involved too, and we're going to see if we can get more people coming.  Should be great.
So there's a big vision here in Lelystad.  It's ready to explode.
We had a few cool experiences this week besides the bombshell.  We were in an area, hunting down a potential investigator, and knocked a few doors.  A lady answered and seemed to light up right away.  She had met missionaries before, 8 years earlier while in Portugal.  They made a super good impression, making it easier for her to talk to us.  Her husband came down too and we shared an easy conversation, laughing all the while (making yet a better impression, booyah) and before we knew it, their three kids were downstairs too!  I was thinking how awesome a family they would be--just the people we're searching for!  This was a day after our chat with President Hoola as well.  They already had a Book of Mormon, but we gave them a Plan of Salvation pamphlet with a promise to return the next week.  He said that he would read it that very evening.  Wow!  There has been lots of praying involved that familie Van Hulst will develop interest.
Also, Elder Shoemaker got kissed!  Whoa, hold up, not on the mouth.  We got flagged by this couple walking on the street, who asked if we were from some help organization.  We said no, but we also helped people.  The woman broke down crying right there, saying how her life had fallen apart about a month ago.  In short, they were super interested and slightly drunk.  He even said that he had prayed ten minutes earlier that they would get helped for their...problems and addictions.  She was so grateful that she hugged Elder Shoemaker!  His expression was great as she leaned in.  She then kissed him on the neck.  She hugged me too (oh no!) but I was a little less stiff about it.
Then, the next day, we went to their house and they totally denied us.  "Geen interesse (not interested)".  DANGIT.  Don't know what that was all about.  Anyway, that sucked.  But! But there was this huge pile of trash chilling in a dumpster thingy and I noticed a crappy bike inside it.  A member had mentioned he needed a new wheel, so I was moved (you could say) to pluck that wheel out of there.  I asked a neighbour, and she gave it the okay, then we asked another neighbour if she had tools.  After asking a third neighbour, he came out with some tools and started helping me remove the wheel.  As we did so, Elder Shoemaker struck up a conversation with the second person we talked to, who turned out to be super awesome.  She accepted a BoM and said that she would open the door whenever we came by.
It seemed like a long process to eventually contact this one person, but the Lord werkt in een andere manier (works in a different way).
We also had dinner with Jesse again.  He is a man with a zillion stories.  He has done and seen it all.  Everytime we talk with him, we learn so much more.  It's amazing.  Aaaaand, he even came to church!  He didn't say it right away, but later we took him mee (also) to Chaim's and had a pow wow.  Jesse told us that he had woken up and just felt messed up and stressed.  He felt like he should go to our church.  Elder Shoemaker even felt as though Jesse would be coming, but disregarded the feeling.  "psh, that's ridiculous." Jesse explained how he felt really relaxed afterwards.  He said it was a place to relax and be surrounded by friends--people that care for you.  He said something else interesting, something I started to notice not too long ago.  People open up to us.  It's amazing.  People just tell us things at the door they wouldn't even tell their mother.  Jesse himself relayed that when he had spoken to us at dinner, he wondered at one point why he was telling all these things to 20 year old strangers.  He's coming along very well--begging to recognize how special our church really is.  I think he'll accept the gospel eventually.
Edeline (the Portugese member we found) came to church with her husband.  We had dinner with them on Saturday too.  They're both super cool.  Anton, her husband said that he married her with the full intent of supporting her.  "You have to accept that when you marry somebody who's religious, you should support them in that.  You shouldn't try to take that away from them, but support it.  That's what you do in a healthy marriage, right?" Wham, you got it.  What a trooper.
That's about all I gotta say about that.
Tot volgende keer,
Elder Burgess
We just got booted out of the library.  Every 1st monday, they do a test with the alarms in case the dikes break.  Apparently, they have to empty the entire library when it happens too.  Fun.
View Zone Den Haag I Amsterdam.jpg in slide show
Van Haag Zone
Elder Shoemaker and Andrews
View Shoe Burgess and Andrews.jpg in slide show
View Elder Spock Burgess.jpg in slide show
Elder "Spock" Burgess

Monday, 29 October 2012

One year older

and closer to being dead (missionary term for one year completed, one year to go).
I can't believe it's been a year already.  It doesn't really feel like it.  We have to think of something exciting to do for "humpday".  Once you go over that hump, I hear it's just a waterslide and before you know it, you're back home.
Holy Moses.  A swimming pool?  That sure exploded out of nowhere.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't super, super stoked.  Sounds like a super cool thing too.  Solar, salty, sweet-ly awesome.  Dang.  Jealous.  Instead we're over here biking in the cold.  It's only about 10 degrees, but the wind and the wet make it feel a lot colder.  Het valt wel mee (it's not that bad).  At least I haven't crashed my bike again...
Where to begin.
Elder Shoemaker had a bit of a verkoudheid this week.  Or in other, English-er words, he had a cold.  He had some accident which smashed his soft-palette in his mouth, so colds get him differently.  In any case, we were home-ridden for a couple days while he recuperated.  It's hard to believe I used to chill around home all day.  I suppose I had a lot more things to distract me when I was home.  We managed to clean the apartment pretty thoroughly though.  It's probably the cleanest it's been in...oh a decade or so.  I literally scraped some grease off of a thing with a knife, and it picked it up like a long black snake.  *shiver* gross.  There's a super bad bug going around right now.  There are many members, investigators and missionaries who are getting it.  Dear ol' Elder Andrews is a bit under the weather too.  I feel just fine.  Top notch.  I've been really tired lately, so I think my body's been fighting it without me knowing.  Good job, body.  The extra hour of sleep from the time change helped.
Despite the coldular setback, we had a few adventures this week.  Edmund came to a baptism in Almere!  Frimpong, an investigator of 12 whole years finally received his answer and was baptised.  It figures that on the same day, the trains WEREN'T RUNNING between here and Lelystad. Gah!  So frustrating.  We called Edmund and told him what was up and he said he'd catch the replacement bus.  Fine and dandy.  40 minutes later, we called and asked where he was.  "Ya ya man, I just got the information.  I'm getting on the bus now." What?!  Ah!  another 40 minutes, he finally arrived and we walked to the church in Almere.  We arrived just on time.  He really enjoyed it though.  Asked some pretty good questions too.
Later the same day, we had to go to Lelystad.  So then we hopped on the bus and started going.  The bus driver apparently didn't know the way though.  He stopped at one point, backed up, went down another road to talk to another bus driver, then reversed and continued on the original road.  Hmm.  After a couple more wrong turns (apparently) a lady stood up and commented that she needed to get to Oostvaarders, to catch the train there.  The bus driver freaked out.  He stood up and started yelling at her in Dutch.  I can't really remember what he was yelling specifically, but holy man does Dutch sound scary when they're worked up.  She threatened to call the police if he continued to attack her, because she had made a slightly-snarky comment.  They both sat down and the bus continued.
Until he took another wrong turn.  Then some black guy--maybe Surinamese--got up and started yelling. The driver stopped the bus and both of them started towards each other.   I was super worried the black man was going to beat the driver up.  Luckily, a few people got in their way before something messy happened.  More yelling ensued and eventually, 10 minutes later or so, the driver got back behind the week, and drove back to centraal station.  Gah.  There, three security guards got on and whisked the guy away.  The driver and the two people who spoke up shook hands and we started our adventure anew.  Thereafter, we shared a cool conversation with the man in front of us, who had been trying to defuse the situation.  Turns out, he was a converted Muslim.  Hmm, never met anybody who converted to Islam.  I guess it does happen.  Either way, it was a good talk.  We were probably meant to get on that bus just to talk to him.
The guy in front of me is listening to music.  He's bobbing around and singing along to his headphones.  There are swears in his music.  It's kind of silly actually.
That same evening, we found the next member of Lelystad!  Literally.  We went over to teach the first lesson, and started by asking her background.  She's the referral from the inactive member, Lenny.  She's Brazilian, she speaks decent Dutch, she's lived here for so and so years, she's a member, she's...  Wait, what?  Yep, she's been a member for 7 years or something now.  She's married to a Dutch man and just got her legality papers, so she's going to be living here permanently.  Little red flags with the Dutch man!  He's actually really cool.  Totally supportive--and they seemed to love each other very much.  He's willing to come to church with her--she wants to start coming every week--and he even said he's going to read in the Book of Mormon to see if it spreekt hem aan (speaks to him).  Cool!  New member ge-found.
Sentina is still sick.  Nothing we can do...
We haven't met with Vicky and Debbie in a while.  They called off our last appointment.  Last I heard, they were planning on reading in the Book of Mormon together and Vicky's eyeball surgery got verplaatst  (moved) to end of November.  Bummer for her. 
Yesterday was pretty fun too.  We did a good job contacting and found a few interesting people.  One man is from Suriname and told us straight up he was drug-addicted and wanted help giving it the boot.  Of course we can help!  I spotted a lady sitting alone on a bench and went over and offered her company, and she ended up leaving happier than before with a Book of Mormon in hand.  She was super funny.
I got your frisbee too by the way. It's hanging in the window.  Ooo, spooky.  Elder Shoe's mom sent us all Holloween goody bags......filled with sweet love from Utah.
As far as what I would like or need for my birthday...
What I would really like is a typewriter.  It would make writing letters and stuff a lot easier and faster. But don't send one.  It would probably just be too big and bulky anyway.  I wish I would have had more insight though--I could have snaked that one you guys gave to Elly.  I remember seeing a 2 dollar one once in a garage sale.  This was before I was a writer.  I said, "Hey, I want to buy that" and you asked "Why?"  Then I didn't.  I'm trying to find one somewhere in a kringloop (pawn store) but I can't.  They're all but extinct.
Yeah, don't send one.  Well, if you can find one that folds into the size of a book or something, I'd be down.  Otherwise, don't stress it.
Also, I'm going to send my pictures home soon.  I want to back them up on my flashdrive first, but don't have a computer to do so.  I'll find a way and do it quick, don't worry.
Scary about Kitty.  She had a fracture? Gee, how long ago?  Where's the puppy supposed to poop?  In the pool?  Where is the trampo-lion supposed to go?  Questions questions.
I've got a birthday wish.  It's obscure.  What are the chances--just give me an estimate--of a crow-tie?  Ooo, gives me shivers.  Well, there's a thought.  Crow-socks are the coolest things ever already, so I suppose I've got everything a man could need already.  Crow tie though?  Mmm.  I actually just bought new socks too.  7 pairs for €7 or something?  So I'm doing alright with socks.
Well, honestly, I can't think of anything.
Let me just say--and I'm not trying to gloat--I'm glad I choose to be happy.  It really is a choice.  We work a lot with people that aren't happy.  Member included.  There's a certain joy to the gospel, but there's also choosing certain aspects of the gospel.  I choose to be happy.  Every day.  Some people don't choose to be happy.  They don't choose to look to those sources of happiness either.  It's very sad really.  I'm glad I choose to follow Jesus.  I'm glad I choose to be positive and optimistic.  I'm joyful every ding dang day with these things.  And loving it.
Choose Jesus.  Choose happiness.  They are, I suppose, one and the same.
Also, I had a crazy dream.
I had another dream where I was home.  We hopped on a train and went home.  It didn't feel right though.  It wasn't where I was supposed to be at that time.  This is where I´m supposed to be.  Despite how diddly-dang much I want to be swimming in that pool.  Dang it.
I made pancakes for breakfast.
Tot volgende keer,
Elder Burgess

Monday, 22 October 2012

The curse has been lifted

......and the long wait is over.  I got my package!  Thank you so much!
Saltiness, sweetness, chocolate love and pictures.  And...what the heck have you done to the yard?  We were all trying to figure it out.  The closest thing I can guess is a swimming pool!  You're not getting a pool, are you?
I'll burst the bubble right now and say that Elder staying!  Wow, looks like the curse is broken.  Unless, of course, I move to a tri-panionship next transfer.  With this gargantuan manifestation comes other anxieties; what will happen next transfer?  Will my curse be entirely broken?  It will either be I leave and he stays (unlikely), I stay and he leaves (breaking the curse), we both stay or we both leave (highly unlikely).  The mysteries of it all.  I don't suppose I have to worry about it for another 6 weeks though, so bam, out of my thoughts.
The Temple was a good experience again.  It's always good to see people and be close to the Lord.  The trains have been super snaky this last week though.  The regular trains we need to catch weren't running, so we had to...overstap (change). We had to...get off and catch another train between stations, making us 40+ minutes late.  They wanted everyone to be at the temple an hour early, so luckily we made it on time.  The trains shafted us on the way home though.  We didn't get home until 8 that evening.  Aha, also to add to the travel-madness, 8 of us had to catch the bus from the temple.  We got to the station in Zoetermeer and had to go to Leiden.  Somebody spotted a sign and said "Well fiddely dee, there's a Leiden bus".  I said "Gee whizz, that's not the bus we caught to get here..." But er'body had already piled on.  Oh, it went to Leiden alright, but after travelling through every tiny city on the way there.  That took another, oh...half an hour or more.  Gah!  Then, to add to the rest of the travel-shenanigans, our bus back to the station took a full half hour, because we had just missed it.  I thoroughly hated all forms of more-than-two-wheeled travel by the end of that day.
Still, good experience.
We also had a special training meeting with President Odens, the Stake President.  Similar to the one in Antwerpen. He introduced a stake missionary/member plan to help the Stake.  The theme in our area is "Finding the One".  To leave the ninety and nine to find the one lost sheep.  It was a very informative training.  He even told us some helpful things about Dutch culture to help us.  Aaaand of course, the wacky train schedule was still in effect, so that snaked a few extra hours, as well as an appointment with Memsky, the coolest Dutch-African rapper you'll even meet.  Bummer.
I got Elder Andrews with a creative prank.  It wasn't so much of a bite you in the butt prank as an adventure.  I hid his action figure (yes, he has an action figure) in a sneaky place, then made a sticky note saying where to look.  In that place was yet another note giving another hint leading to another hint and so forth.  Uiteindelijk, there were about 15 or so steps he had to follow, looking in sneaky places and unravelling ingenious riddles and clues.  He was kind of a stinker about and let Elder Pimentel do it for him.  Elder P enjoyed it though, so it was worth it.
As far as investigators go, we've found a couple, taught a couple.  Sentina is still doodziek (very ill) and is actually getting treatments in the hospital or doctor or that's not going too well.  Hopefully she'll turn around soon.
Vicky made some good progress this week.  We watched a conference talk based on the Book of Mormon.  In feite (fact), it said "Either the BoM is of God, or the Devil" and you've got to read it to find out.  She was really effected by it and even made her own conclusion by the end that she should read it!  Her eyeballs are being operated on soon, so she can't see that well, but she and her daughter are going to read together.  We had to do some expounding during the lesson too, because she's still caught up on some non-important JW doctrine.  We explained what a few versus in the Bible really meant.  They use the last verse of Revelations to claim you can't add or take away from the Bible.  It says the same thing in Deuteronomy.  Revelations was actually written before the Gospel of John and his epistles, but in the Bible at the end because there was no other place before it.  Besides, those versus actually refer to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which the Book of Mormon neither adds nor subtracts from.  Confounded.  In short, she's going to read the Book of Mormon, and that's huge improvement.
Miracle time!  So the week before conference, we talked to this super cool guy on the street named Edmund.  He had a...different way of thinking, but otherwise seemed interested.  We gave him a Book but went on our way.  So then, we contacted another lady named Renferm perhaps a week or two later, who was also very interested.  We got her information and when we talked with her, she mentioned that she had spoken with her husband, who told her he had also met us some time earlier.  Hint hint hint.  When we went over for a lesson, you can probably guess who was waiting there for us.  Edmund.  We contacted them both separately.  Coincidence?  Psh.
Edmund is a super cool guy.  We couldn't teach Renferm because she was busy with the children, but he's down 100% to learn more.  We're taking him to the church on Thursday for a lesson and to Almere on Saturday for a baptism Service (of somebody else).  He made some strange comments about how we can't commit him to do anything, and that if he doesn't want to do something, he won't.  So instead, we invited him to read and pray.  I promised him that if he carried through with our invitations, he would want to go further and learn more.  Aha, got you now!  He asked all the perfect questions too.  He's an awesome guy.
Oh, and we went to an African service.  The music was so loud, I couldn't hear myself think!  It was fun, and the people there have great faith.  I was impressed.  But at the end of each song, they bang the drums and everybody starts yelling.  It took me a while, but I realized they were praying.  The preacher at the front holds the microphone so close to his face and yells "Oh Jesu!" over and over.  They holler at the top of their lungs praises to the Lord, mostly repeating semi-generic things.  There was an interlude between the music where a preacher preached about families.  He talks really loudly into the microphone, ending each sentence--I mean literally each--with Amen or occasionally hallelujah.  The crowd echoes back when he says something that impresses them.  He spoke for about an hour, but I got the entirety of his message after 10 minutes.  The rest was repetition.  I'm sure this sounds really negative, but I enjoyed the experience.  It was good to see so many people (about 35) joined together in song and dance to praise the Lord.  It's just not...reverent.  It was hard to think, let alone feel the subtle whisper of the Spirit.  Still, another thing to go in the journal, right?
Aha, at one point, they put a basket on the front, then started jamming out.  The intention was to go up in front of everybody and put some money in the basket.  We put in a Book of Mormon instead.  Then, everybody went up to shake the preacher's hand.  I quickly wrote on a card "Wij willen graag over Jezus praten!" (we eagerly want to talk about Jesus) and urged Elder Shoemaker to give it to him.  When he shook Preacher's hand, he gave him the card.  The guy gave it a serious long look.  He seemed almost shaken by it.  The rest of the time, he was kind of somber.  I think he was really considering it...
Which reminds me.  We contacted a lady on the train, asking her what there is to do in Almere.  Her reply "The only thing I enjoy is worshipping Jesus." Perfect, you'll love this book, the Book of Mormon.  "Nope, I only worship Jesus, not this Mormon." Perfect!  You'll love this book.  "Nope, there's nothing above the Bible." Perfect, you'll love this book!  She didn't get it.  In the end, Elder Shoemaker said something like, "We're going to leave it here, on the chair in front of you.  If you don't want it, you can just leave it there."  As we got off the train, Elder Shoemaker looked behind--just in time to see her reach out and pick up the book to inspect it.  What a clever move!  Leave it for her, or leave it for somebody else.
It was a great week.  I'm looking forward for another transfer with Elder Shoe.
Tot volgende keer,
Elder Burgess
**You know that Portuguese member I was talking about?  She's having family/marital problems right now and is in great need of divine help.  I can't explain the details, but please pray that everything will work out for her and her family.  Thanks.

View Zone pday playing Football in Amsterdam.jpg in slide show
Zone playing Football in Amsterdam

Monday, 15 October 2012

Where to start?

Answer questions or tell stories?
I'm glad to hear the missionaries back home are hard-working and focused.  Keep up the good work.  As far as being straight-forward, they're not.  We're instructed again and again to challenge people to baptism in the first lesson.  It's important to let them know why we are here and why we are meeting with them.  We're not here to just have a bible discussion, we're inviting people to change their lives and come closer to the Lord.  I've seen too many times when Elders have failed to get this point across and investigators expect nothing more than an interesting chat.  Of course, where you go after that invitation depends on the people.  Some will simply progress faster than others.  That's when you need to take other steps, like inviting them to stuff and helping them befriend members.  Otherwise, invitation during the first appointment should be standard.
So we had a couple great ideas for pranks this week.  But pretty much all my pranks keep getting bamboozled by silly things!  We bought a 2 litre diet coke to do the Coke-Mentos bomb to Elder Andrews--only to discover it wasn't going to work!  You need to shove like 5 Mentos in the Coke bottle before it explodes.  I'm not sure if I can rig such a bomb.  We'll see.  We also tried to make Elder Andrew's drink a stink-mix.  We poured some Dark Chocomel (super thick chocolate milk) into a container, then put a ton of pickle juice, salt, soy sauce and a raw egg into it and swished it all up.  It sat there for 4 days before Elder Andrews finally picked it up.  He put it up to his lips...!  And smelled it.  ARGH!  His sniffer got to it before his mouth did.  Bamboozled.
They got us back though.  We convinced Elder Pimentel that every missionary has to go through a gauntlet--to chug half a container of Chocomel.  He snatched up the Rancidmel and started guzzling that thing, burping and half-gagging.  Something was wrong through, because he finished the whole thing.  To celebrate his triumph, Elder Andrews poured us some real Chocomel--which was actually the Rancidmel.  Luckily, I noticed before I drank it.  Dangit, they turned our prank back on us.
But otherwise this week was pretty standard I suppose.  We swung by Caraline, only to have her husband tell us she wasn't interested anymore.  GAH, Dutch husbands!  They're stinkers.  It's really upsetting, because she (he?) didn't give us a chance to try and improve her life, like we promised.  A bit of a step back, but seed planted.
We had a few rays of sun here and there.  We found somebody screaming for the gospel and we're really excited to work with her.  Her name is Melissa.  We haven't had a chance to really teach her yet, but we brought by a DVD, a Book of Mormon and piece of paper saying how the Gospel could improve her life.  She was somewhat taken aback by our friendliness I think.  We left a good impression, which is very important.  We should be able to meet with her again next week.
Sentina is pretty sick right now.  She has a "longaansteking" which is pneumonia.  There's not much we can do.  I'm still worried whether she's talked with her parents or not.  She alluded that she wants to talk to her parents about being baptized, but not necessarily ask for their permission.  Hopefully, she'll recover quickly.
I'll be getting my package tomorrow.
THANKS FOR THE SOCKS!!  Holy man, crows socks?  Coolest things ever.  I swagged my crow shirt, belt and socks all at the same time, busting out terribly good looks--then decided to fix my bike.  I got a bit of grease on my shirt...
Wow, congratulations for Wesley!  How exciting!  Does he have an estimate to when he'll be leaving yet?  The new announcement is great because it means one less year I'll have to wait to see all my church buds again.  How fun is that?
Word on the street is that Elder Shoemaker will be getting the boot (or...shoe?) and the Almere Elders will both being staying.  Elder Shoemaker says he has a feeling that he'll be leaving.  Plus, it's inevitable.  I've got the Curse.
Ooo, a new development.  My no-bike-crash record was officially smashed.  On certain streets, there are concrete slabs that force the road narrower, also forcing cars to play chicken deciding who goes through first.  On either end of either slab, there are concrete columns, about the width of a volleyball.  So earlier this week, my bike was making a rattle.  I leaned down and started prodding the fender, trying to find the source when suddenly a concrete pole snaked into view.  My first thought was "Oh crap, I'm going to hit that pole!" Then I did.  It was one of those distorted moments.  I saw the pole, hit the pole, then was draped over the pole.  I was bent over that thing, with the blunt end sticking in my gut.  I thought at that point, "I'm stuck on a pole.  Dangit." My bike kind of crashed away and I slumped off the pole, more confused than anything at that point.  Elder Shoemaker said he looked behind and just saw me, gut-first hanging on that stupid pole.  One bruise and no damage to my bike was all that happened.  Pretty weak crash, but a crash all the same.  There goes my record.  Almost made it a year.  I looked afterwards and every concrete column had a smaller metal rod sticking out the top--except the one I sprawled on.  That would have really hurt...  Miracle?  Hmm...
Also, it's interesting to see how the Lord blesses you for just...doing what you're supposed to.  We had a short meeting with an inactive Portuguese lady in the morning.  A few people told us the scheduled meeting with this lady would be unproductive, because of her marital situation (her husband is totally against the church).  However, we decided otherwise and have met with her the last couple weeks.  Anyway, a few appointments followed and between, we rode around, doing our best to talk to people .  We stayed focused, knocked some doors and found a couple cool people.  Later that same night, that same Portuguese lady called and said she had been talking with her friend, who said she wanted to meet with us!  Wha?  We called that friend up and she said she wanted to make an appointment and that she wanted to come to church too.  Whoa.  It's a testament to me that when you do your best, the Lord will fill in the rest.  Ge-rhymed.
Real orange juice is kind of expensive here...
We're going to the Temple tomorrow.  Should be fun.
How to put it... I would be honoured to do Papa Joe's endowment, but if it's already scheduled to go, I don't think it should be put off.  I'm sure they're waiting up there for their sealing.  Waiting another year would be difficult I'm sure.  I'm so happy for them. 
We haven't met with Vickie in a while.  Our appointment last time was cut short.  It's her birthday today.  She is turning 82.
Well, I think that's everything.
Keep up the awesome work back home, all of you.  Thanks for your support!
Tot volgende keer,
Elder "Spock"

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Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Stuff and Fluff.......

.....because I couldn't think of anything else.
So I got pranked again.  This was a good one too.  We are the mail-checkers, so naturally we checked the mail one day and I was stoked to get a letter from Cassie!  We sprinted upstairs, exchanged some words with the other Elders and I opened the letter--to get a big picture snipped from the newspaper.  WHAT?!  AGH!  We had stuck the same thing to Elder Andrew's bulletin board a week earlier.  Those snakes copied Cassie's handwriting, removed a stamp, placing it on a new envelope and shoved it into our mailbox.  Goshdernit.  They got me, got me so good.  I've got a killer prank lined up though.  I'll let you know when it comes to fruition.  I'll have my revenge.
As far as investigators...
Sentina is doing well.  Unfortunately, she was sick this week, so both appointments with her fell through.  She's got a few concerns right now.  Her testimony is strong though--she reads in the Book of Mormon often and even discovered the Liahona (Dutch Ensign).  She mentioned during our lesson in church that she already knew the Book of Mormon is true.  The biggest concern I have right now is that her parents won't agree with this path she's chosen.  It doesn't seem like too much of a problem, but you never know...  She could get stuck in another Isa situation.  Hopefully not.
Caraline is hard to keep in contact with.  It seems she's never home when we call her!  If she's still reading in the Book of Mormon, however, everything should work itself out.  We need to get in contact right away though.  Caraline was one of the four ladies we met when we contacted those two ladies drinking in the street.
Vicky, the 82-year old is super difficult to teach.  She told us at the beginning of the lesson she would never change because she believes in JW beliefs.  She feels the Spirit strongly every time we meet, but is too blinded by the doctrines of the JW church.  She goes off in tangents too, but she's too adorable to chastise and for us to her to get back on topic.  This is her thought process: "Oh yes, that reminds of Autumn.  We used to live on a farm and every Autumn, we'd get all sorts of apples and make pies out of them.  I like pies.  They're so tasty.  We'd also make pumpkin pies.  Do you like pumpkin pies?  I like pumpkin pies.  They must be my favourite kind of pie.  They're so delicious.  I wished they made them all year round.  Do you...?"  AH!  Stop being so adorable and stay on task!  We'll see how things go with her.  She needs to open her mind if we are to progress though.  She feels it in her heart, but her head is not letting her realize it's truth.  Sigh.
That's super cool about all the miracles on your end.  I'm glad Daddy-O has taken the challenge seriously.  I'm also glad to hear about the missionaries swinging by Marissa's.  I hope everything goes well in that regard.  I pray for my family and friends elke dang dag ( every dang day), and that they'll be willing to accept the gospel when it's presented to them.  Keep that in mind.
On Thursday, we scheduled an entire day of just service with Jesse.  We met up at around 11 and when to Zr Knights, a sweet old lady, and help yank out a super deep-rooted bushtree.  After an hour and a half, the thing came free, we ate stampot (stew) and then went over to Broeder Borsboom's house.  Have I told you about him?  He's a hilarious old guy with a crippled foot.  He's got a scooter that's--in his own words--"pimped".  He's pretty much our Harry van de Sande of Lelystad.  We can call him at almost any time of day and bring him on Joint Teach.  He makes delicious Indonesian food too.  Super cool guy.  Oh yeah.  We went to his house with Jesse and cleaned up his front yard too.  After this marathon of service, we finally ate dinner at Jesse's with Chaim there as well.  Jesse is closed about what he believes right now, so the night's discussion was pretty much 2 hours of World of Warcraft talk.  I felt like I was drowning in nerd.  The way he talked about it, you'd think he was the leader of a top-world-class business corporation--instead of a digital guild earning digital and thus useless money.  It was kind  of sad.  Still, it was a great day.
When conference rolled around, it seemed as though everything fell apart.  Saturday evening, we went to go watched the first session of conference, but then our train was 40 minutes late!  It turned out okay because we got some prank ingredients (which were on sale,... yes!) and we talked to a Dutch-born Canadian.  Anyway, then we finally got to Lelystad and Elder Shoemaker crunched my hand taking his bike down from the rack.  Then, I noticed my tire had a flat!  Agh!  AND there was bird poop all over my bike!  Double agh!  We swung by and got some air from a member, then finally showed up almost an hour late to our appointment with President Hoola to watch conference.
Then the next day, the Priesthood session went haywire.  For reasons too complicated for me to explain, the projector system didn't work.  Arg!  So we missed all of priesthood.  Because we left our bikes in Lelystad overnight, Elder Shoemaker and I had to ride our two spare bikes.  One doesn't have working brakes, and the other has no derailer.  That means the chain was dangling down uselessly.  After the chain fell off for the third time, I ditched that sucker by a building and hopped on the baggage rack of Elder Andrew's and we achteropped the rest of the way.  We were stuck with the dangling chain on the way back.
Miracles.  Elder Shoemaker and I had to watched the church for two hours between the afternoon sessions.  About an hour in, he had a feeling that we must go outside and bring somebody back in to watch the last session.  We did a round with nothing but rejection.  BUT as we were heading back, a gaggle of boys called out to us.  "Wat zijn jullie (What are you)?" We told them we were the missionaries, from the church just around the corner.  "Oh, we've never been inside before.  Can we go right now?" Wha?  OF COURSE YOU CAN.  So right then and there, we guided five boys, from ages 11-14 back to the church and four of them (one being Muslim) came inside and watched President Eyring's talk.  It was super, super cool.  The eldest (and loudest) of them asked me at one point, "So, I want to come here every week.  Do I have to bring my parents, or can I just come alone?" That question blew mah mind.  BOTH!  He whispered to his friends at one point that he liked our church, and it was close to his house, so he wanted to attend ours instead."  I would have never expected that the person(s) we were suppose to get would be children!  It's amazing they trusted us to immediately to follow us into a strange building in the first place.  I suppose they, being young, were more receptive and trusting of the Spirit that we hold.  That was a neat experience.
I hope my letter wasn't too short this week. 
Conference was awesome.  There's such a strong Spirit when the Prophet speaks.  He is truly an inspired man.
What do we see when we look out the window?  The top of McDonald's directly below (with a permanent wet-looking spot where Elder Andrew's stained the rocks with fritesolie (fries oil)), a medium-sized square where the occasional oliebol (donut) stand rests, the tall library splitting the concrete into two paths: one leading to the gentle-inclined strip of stores that comprises the centrum (center); the other leading eventually to a nearby lake or inlet with roads and parking in between.  Lights, water, rain.  And people.  There was also a car show this week.  All sorts of old cars and stuff, filling the above-mentioned square.  We took a quick ramble around.  Nice cars--and lots of them too.  Not sure if it was larger than the one in Vernon though...
Well, op=op.
Tot volgende keer,
Elder Burgess