Monday, 30 January 2012

What I've learned this week

I've decided to start these h'emails off with a good ol' "what I've learned" section, right at the beginning.
What I've learned this week:
Wearing warmer gloves is very important.
It does actually snow here
the Dutch word for fart (which I've already forgotten)

Anywho, another week gone in the Netherlands.  We visited the Turkenburgs earlier in the week.  They're super interesting.  He's a convert of a few years and she's a member since...ever?  Not sure.  But the two met through an on line video game called Ebony (aha, video games are good for something!), and he moved to Texas to marry her.  Now they live just north of Leiden I believe.  We had a visit with them and the moment I entered their house, I was awed.  They've got swords and dragons everywhere.  No jokes.  Swords and axes on the walls, dragon statue thingies on the shelves and whatnot.  I suddenly really like the Turkenburgs.
Things are going GREAT with Antoine, holy man!  It was either the day of or a day later, but we COMMITTED HIM TO BAPTISM.  Woo!  Yep.  We went over with the intention of sharing the Plan of Salvation, but when we discovered he hadn't read from the book of Mormon like we had invited him to last time, Elder Frahm turned to me (when Antoine was upstairs fetching somethings) and said "We gotta read from the BOM with him."  Wham.  When Antoine came back down, Elder Frahm suggested we read...a chapter somewhere in 2 Nephi with him.  We read the chapter together, which discusses the reason why Christ was baptized.  Then, Elder Frahm straight-up committed him to baptism.  Whoa.  Divine inspiration all the way.  I'm positive he was lead by the Spirit that night to share that alternative lesson.  Atoine totally gets it though.  When we asked if he would be baptized, he totally agreed, because "I was baptized when I was a baby, but I was too little!  I think it has to be my choice."  Wuh-bam, you got it.
But yeah, we're meeting 3 times a week with him and it's going great!  He totally understands everything we teach and his testimony of the Book of Mormon grows with each visit.  Though, we ran into a speed bump last lesson.  Apparently, he wants to go down to Africa and start his own church.  urch!  Um, excuse me?  Do...what now?  He gets that being baptized means becoming a member of our church and that he will only go to our church, but he still wants to start his own down in Burundi.  We're thinking maybe something was lost in the translation, so we're going to find somebody who speaks French to come along with us next lesson.  I'm positive things will get worked out.
Otherwise, things are going somewhat slow admittedly.  With me being so fresh, I think about home alot.  Home is so great, what can I say?  And with Elder Frahm so close to going home...  Let's just say there's a lot of home-thinking going on.  I'm not quite settled yet, I don't think.  With some time, I'll be fine.
Yeah, that whole picture ordeal.  I took a look at my pictures and a lot of them are a bit unfocused.  I'm going to try switching some settings on my camera, but otherwise, I've got an extra memory card.  Still, I'll send it back to you when I get your letter.  Whoops.
Yesterday we went to the Stichter family to celebrate Australia day.  It was awesome.  There must have been 4 or 5 families there, all crammed into a tiny Dutch house--with at least a dozen children too!  It was a great time to get to know people though.  Plus there were a couple non-members there too.  The food was delicious; there were meat pies and shepherd's pie and potato salad and tonnes of desert.  And these narsty little sammiches with Vegemite in them.  Yuck.  Vegemite is a lot like marmite, which is essentially just...yeast paste or something.  BLECK.  Tasted like...bitter...mixed with butt.  I took a bite before I realised what it was.  Apparently, my expression was almost as sour as the sammich.  So now the impression Sister Stichter has of me is that I hate Vegemite.  Hey, fine by me.
So it's snowing right now.  This morning we woke up to see the world covered in a sprinkling of snow.  Yep.  Time to start wearing warmer gloves.  Oh, and two buttons fell of Papa Joe's coat.  Elder Frahm, being a living Swiss-army knife of talents, was able to sew one of them back on (as well as the third, which had almost fallen off), but one of the buttons is lost.  Darn.  I'll have to find a replacement.
.....aaand onto the answer part of the email.
Our branch meets at 10:00 and ends at 1:00.  The next meeting starts at 1:30, so we have some time to say goodbye to those leaving and hallo to those coming in.  I find it interesting talking to the members concerning how they found themselves situated in the Netherlands.  Almost universally, it's because of work.  A lot of fathers work for international companies and were offered positions in the Netherlands.  Because of that, our branch is almost always changing.  In ten years, it's likely that almost every member of the branch will be gone--moved back to North America most likely.  Even since Elder Frahm was here last, several families have moved out of the ward.
We've had a few dinner appointments with families--three or four, not too many.  But we're expecting to have a lot more in the following few weeks.  Brother...Irving? set us up a dinner appointment calender.  YES!  We've got eight or so dinner appointments in the future.  Being fed rocks.
Aha, what's so interesting about my bike?  It's just a 5 speed bike, nothing too special.  Blue and red.  It seems determined to make me hate it--it's gears don't work anymore, it's had a flat tire, etc etc--I love it's guts.  We ride our bikes almost everywhere.  Sometimes we take the bus when it's cold or we have to go especially far away, but otherwise, we fiets it up h'everywhere.  You ride bikes all year round--in the rain, in the snow, in the dark, on the road and without helmets to boot.  It's the Netherlands!  Half the mission rules concerning bikes don't apply to us.  Don't worry though, it's the law that we have lights on our bikes at night.
Apparently, neither does the rule that says "don't live near water features".  It's in there somewhere.  We live in a little 3 story townhouse.  Our backyard is pretty much a canal.  It's unavoidable here to live near the water.
As far as my Dutch isn't really.  I hardly get any practise.  What with being in an English branch and all.  People speak fast to boot.  We had a afspraak met een onderzoeker just the other day and she spoke so fast.  I contributed diddely to the lesson because I couldn't keep up.  Elder Frahm mentioned afterwards that he didn't force me into saying anything because he thought as much.  Gee.  I'm hoping I'll either get transferred soon or they'll switch the Office Elders and us so that we're in the Dutch ward.  That'd be nice.  I feel like I'm getting behind in that regard.
Anyway, I've pushed my emailing limit again.  Darn all your questions!
Tot volgende keer,
en ik houd van jullie!
Elder Burgess

Monday, 23 January 2012

A gazillion answers to a gazillion questions!!

Oh myan, I just discovered that you can read other people's emails and write your reply at the SAME TIME.  Technology.  Should make it easier to reply to the swarm of questions you asked me.
Blam, I hope you're enjoying the flood of pictures I sent.  Be careful of the strange ones.  Like I said, I'm not quecking.  Quecking?  wow.  I'm not checking what I'm sending.  So...have fun in that regard.
But, as requested, here is a standard day.
Wake up at 6:30, (pretend to) exercise until 7
7, eat breakfast, shower
8, personal study
9, companionship study
10, language study
then, typically (depending on the day), we either go tracting--knocking on doors or talking to people in the streets--look ups (visiting or phoning potential or former investigators or less-active members), or visit with our investigators.
Anyway from 12 until 2-ish, we have lunch and then another companionship study (because we're doing a 12 week training program).
Then, from then until dinner, we basically do the same.  Street finding, door finding, look ups, lessons with our investigators, ect.
Usually around 6, we eat dinner.
Then hopefully, our evening is filled with appointments, otherwise we usually try to do look ups.
9 is our curfew.  Scadoodle back to the apartment, unless we have a late appointment, in which case, our curfew is 9:30.  Lights out at 10:30.
Living with the office elders is pretty fun I guess.  We don't get to see much of them though.  Didn't I already talk about this?  They eat lunch and dinner at the office, leave early in the morning and only come home at curfew time--often late as well.  Still, it's fun to be bunking with them
President Brubaker is a great guy.  I've been seeing a lot of him lately...  He's super friendly and easy to be around and stuff.  Gee, there's so much to write today!  Anyway, we had a district meeting.  Can't really remember what happened.  We talked about our goals for the year (40 or so baptisms) and ate some delicious food.  Aha, this morning, I was wearing my Zombies shirt, getting ready to kick back and enjoy the morning, when Elder Jones called: "Wear your proselyting clothes.  Gotta go, bye."  What the heck?  Oh well.  So I got changed and about...5 minutes later, President Brubaker knocked on the door.  Gulp.
Buuut all he wanted was to watch us do our companionship study.  And film us as well.  Yeah, okay.  It's a little to say?...tauter with President sitting there, holding a camera.  Apparently, they're going to use the film for a zone meeting or something down the road.  Aha, right...
Ah, so our ward.  Well, actually it's a branch.  Leiden/Wassenaar has always had one pair of Elders--the office elders--but decided that a second pair would be a good idea.  This way, Wassenaar has its own set of Elders and more finding work can be done, because the office Elders don't get much time to do so in a week.  Our branch is a small one.  Perhaps, oh, 50 members?  Half of that number must be children.  Seriously, our branch is very young.  Lots of children.  No problem in that though.  Everybody is super friendly and they all seem like very strong members.  I'm excited to work with them--which in itself is difficult.  With such a small branch, it's hard to get members to come along with us when we teach.  I don't think we've actually had a joint-teach yet.  Oh well.
Shopping, to answer another question, usually costs us around 40 euros, which is very good.  It helps that we have the office elders shopping as well.  Elder Frahm likes to cook Bami a lot, which is a noodle dish which he serves with peanut sauce.  It's really good.  We eat a lot of pasta and bread, but I try to eat yogutruruhnt once and a while and orange as well.  DANGIT, I forgot to buy oranges today.
This email unexciting.  Darn all your questions!  No, I'm joking.  I wasn't sure what to write about anyway.
As far as the weather, it's very dynamic here.  You should see the clouds, holay, they move at a zillion miles per hour, I swear.  It's always windy, but sometimes it really gusts like crazy.  It rains quite frequently as well and coupled with the wind, it's impossible to stay dry.  Umbrellas are not an option a lot of the time because of the wind actually.  I've seen a lot of broken ones on the side of the road.  Papa Joe's coat does well to keep out the rain though.
It's not too cold here though.  Apparently, this winter is very mild.  We haven't had any snow and it's only been under freezing for about...3 days last week.  It's not hard to tell when it's in the negatives--the canals start freezing over.
Oh, my bike.  So I told you about the gears and the seat?  Well, the handlebars also were loose.  Had to fix those.  Then, Saturday, my back tire sprung a leak.  Dagnabbit!  We had to walk it home from the centrum.  It's all good now.
Don't worry, I'm staying plenty warm.  Papa Joe's jacket is a bit on the thin side, but I usually wear a sweater underneath by suit jacket, so I'm pretty cozy.  I've also got a few scarves donated by some swell chaps back home as well as warm gloves.  My feetsies get cold, but that's nothing to cry about.  Something to cry about however, is the fact that probably 30 percent of my socks now have holes in them.  Hmm...
I think I've gone way overtime...
Anyway thanks to everyone again for their letters!  I'm reading all of them, don't worry!  It's great to hear from home.
Due to interesting circumstances, I'm in the office today and have had plenty of time to write.  Later, however, I might not have so much time to, so...  I'll answer as many questions as I can.
Love being here, but miss you all!
Sincerely, Elder Burgess

Monday, 16 January 2012

email #2 from the Nederland

Wham, don't hate me for saying it but holy man, do I miss you guys.  Sometimes I'll do something, or say something, smell something or something makes a strange noise.  Then I am reminded about my friends and family and all the crazy adventures we had an I am slightly sad.  Well, sad?  Not so much.  More like...  Hmm.....  miss-ful?  Yep.  I miss you guys.
But hey, pictures!  I finally have a way to send them.  Not much of the Netherlands so much (so busy!)  But I'll improve that, don't you worry.
Life here in the Netherlands is going great!  I love it here, it feels like home already!  Elder Frahm and I get along pretty well.  He's a happy guy and a great cook, so there's nothing to complain about.  I usually do the dishes afterwards so I don't feel guilty about him doing most of the work in the kitchen.  There's one thing I got to say right now: our apartment is freezing!  Most of the time.  Our water heater thingy is malfunctioning--it turns off after about 15 minutes--and because all the radiators in the house are warmed by the water heater...  It's awesome when you're taking a shower and the hot water suddenly turns off.  Fun times.  But we had a guy come look at it today (forced us inside for 3 hours while we waited for him) and he's going to replace it or fix it or something.  Can't wait for that!
As far as the work goes, we received 3 or so new investigators this week.  I'm not sure who've I've mentioned before, but we're now meeting with Sarah, Antoine, Steven and...2 other people I met just yesterday.  Antoine we found by accident as we were searching for another guy.  Turns out Antoine now lives where said otherguy used to live.  He's interested in hearing from us, but I'm not sure how much he's getting in.  He's a very distracted fellow--very concerned with his home country, Burundi.  I'm very hopeful that we'll be able to go a long way with him.
We also met with this guy named Hanz Franzen.  We met him last Saturday to deliver a Book of Mormon he ordered on line.  When we met, he said something like he wanted to reconstruct our faith or something.  We were expecting a bible bash with him when we met him on Saturday, but it turned out to be quite an interesting meeting.  Turns out he's actually very interested in our faith because he wants to start an organization to help people.  The premise of this organization is to help people who recently had a member of their family die (or other crisis).  His organization--as he explained--meets with these people and delegates them to other groups or religions so they can receive comfort.  His interest with us was to learn what we believe and if we would be interested in taking part in his organization.  So we told him how the Book of Mormon came to be and he promised to read it and pray about it.  Wham, that simple.  He wants to meet with us again in a lofty 3 months or so.  Ah!  Hopefully I'll still be around.  He gave us pie.
Buuut yeah.  I'm not sure if I told you, but my bike seat was super wobbly.  So I bought a new one--problem solved!  But now my gears are slipping like crazy.  What did Elder Frahm say?  'Congratulations, you just bought yourself 2 years of bike problems!'  Hmm, indeed.
Finding is still a difficult thing for Elder Frahm and I.  He's having a difficult time re-adjusting to it and I'm having trouble with EVERYTHING bout it.  I wished I had Dad's uncanny ability to walk up to any human being on earth and spark a lofty conversation.  It's sometimes difficult with people here.  Dutch people are extremely against religion.  A lot of people have straight-up said no when we've asked if we could ask a simple question.  Many people just blow us by.  I don't mind, really.  What's one rejection in the long run anyway?  Not like I'll see them again likely anyway.  It's just...hard to get motivated to talk to strangers, especially with Dutch like mine.  I think--and hope--I've improved. 
Most of our investigators--in fact, I think all currently--are actually from countries in Africa.  The Netherlands is very multicultural and people from Africa are usually more open to religion.  (Dad would love it here. I talk to people from different ethnicity almost every day!).  I really love religious people as well.  I think I mentioned this last time, but they're so friendly.  Whenever we discover a person who already attends church, they always wish us the best of luck.  I really appreciate them.  I think it's completely fine if somebody rejects us if they already go to another church.  If it makes them a better person, and brings them happiness, then by all means, keep going to church.  I'm not here to tear down anybodies faith, but here to build upon it.
That's my spiritual thought of the day. 
Man, I wish I could respond (in email) to the letters I get.  It kills me not to be able to, it really does.  I'd write so differently to each one of you.  It's hard to hand-write letters as well because I have hardly any time and hand-writing takes forever!  If I had a computer, all the work I've got done in my novel that I'm writing would be at least tripled.
Speaking of which, people are super impressed with my novel-ness.  Yep, ah.  I'm awesome, I know, I know.
Check spelling button?  Since when?  Ah!  I better not use it.
Holy man!  The mini-Whibs are priests now?  I don't know if I believe that!  (Did I read that right, anyway?)  A flock O' Whibleys up there at the sacrament table?  Whoo, that's something I gotta see!  I'm super proud of you shorties!  All of you, keep it up! 
By the way, I've been doing so much daydreaming lately.  Hooboy.  Hold yer horses, it's not during anything important.  Biking is pretty...monotonous, so my thoughts go h'everywhere.  And, not going to lie, in church as well.  I've (unfortunately) trained myself to begin daydreaming as soon as a talk begins.  Whups, I'll have to change that.
Love yah lots!  Tot volgende keer,
Ik houd van jullie!
Elder Burgess

Monday, 9 January 2012

Finally made it!

Finally made it!  And made it I did.  What a beautiful country, let me start off by saying that.  My call was to a place called Wassenaar, which is about a 15 minute bike ride from Leiden, where the mission office is.  It's strange though, because the apartment is actually in Oegstgeet (impossible word to say), which is to the north and about 40 minutes from Wassenaar.  Hmm.  Man, this place is beautiful.  Did I mention that?  The houses are tiny, but stacked high--apparently, they used to charge tax for the square space of the ground floor or something.  Our apartment is 3 stories high, with the steepest steps possibly ever made!  I'm lucky because we're in a apartment of 4.  We're the second set of Elders in Leiden. The other two in our room work in the mission office all day.  Also, Leiden has 2 branches, the Dutch branch and the multicultural branch (which speaks English).  I'm in the English branch, which is both a blessing and a curse, because on one hand, I can understand them, on the other hand, it's doing nothing to improve my Dutch.
But wham!  Let me slow down.  FIRSTLY, you ask, how did you get there?  Well now, let me tell you.  Over 30 solid hours of travelling.  Woo, you heard me.  That jumbo jet flying into England was rocking and twisting like nothing else.  Apparently, all over England area was having hurricane-force type winds all that weekend.  Man, I've never been tossed so much in an aeroplanular device.  Right as we were coming in, Elder Stoddard's nose starting gushing blood (but he couldn't get up to get any napkins) and on top of that, Elders McKee and Mower threw up!  Poor Elder Mathis was sandwiched in between them all.  Pretty bad, eh?
Anyway, after that, we rushed over to get onto our next flight, which was scheduled to leave around 8:30 England time.  However, something went awry (some diddety-bob on the wing) and we had to wait while they tried to replace it.  Over 3 times.  buuut they couldn't locate the problem so our flight was straight-up cancelled.  Because of the wind, over 20 other flights were cancelled as well.  All of Scotland's airports actually closed down because of the extreme wind.
Twenty flights cancelled translated into a massive, slow-moving line that we had to wait in to reschedule our flight.  If hell had a waiting line for it, I imagine it's fashioned somewhat like that.  We were all exhausted, but you couldn't sleep in the line!  You had to keep moving, sluggishly slow as it was.  We waited probably...5 hours or more in that one line alone.  Elder Mower actually fell asleep standing up at one point.  *shudder*  So awful.  Anyway, after a billion million hours of line-life, we got our flight rescheduled for 6, London time.  it was about 5:30, so we all rushed over to our terminal, only to discover it was delayed again.  Awesome.
I'll spare you the details, but we all stayed awake for the rest of the time because we had to pay attention to the monitors as our flight bounced from terminal to terminal.  I'm not sure when we finally left Deathrow--I mean, Heathrow--but all in all, we arrived at the Mission President's house around midnight.  Man oh man.
That flight stuck with me the rest of the week.  My companion actually let me have a nap (not allowed) because I was nodding off during companion study.  What a great guy!
Ah yes, my companion.  He's an awesome guy.  6 foot 8 and super friendly.  It's interesting for him because he started his mission in Wassenaar and he's also ending it in Wassennar.  He's only got 5-ish more weeks left until he's skiddely-gone.  I suppose I'm blessed to have a well-experienced companion.  Elder Frahm is his name (pronounced 'from').  When I tried to ask him where he's from (no pun intended), he said all over.  His Daddy works for the American Embassy, so he really has lived almost everywhere.  When he goes back, he's going home to Hong-Kong.  Craziness.
Mission work is definitely difficult.  I'll say that much.  Since we opened a new mission, so to speak, that means were have no investigators.  That also means we have a lot of finding to do.  Gah!  I feel so bad because now that I'm here, I realize how slecht my Dutch is!  I'm super hesitant to talk to people, mostly because of the language barrier, but also because I don't know what I'd say in English.  We haven't found any investigators by chilling around the streets yet, but we did find a previous investigator named Steven.  He's from Nigeria I think.  We taught him the first discussion just the other day and he totally understood!  We asked him why he thought there was a need for a restoration and he nailed it.  "To fill in all the gaps taken away from the bible, right?" BAM.  Nailed it.  I'm super excited to work with him.
People are generally friendly here.  We only had one guy get upset with us, and he was as baked as a potato, so...  But you can definitely tells who's Dutch and who isn't.  Dutch people usually brush you off the moment you say Jesus.  Like I said, they're not usually rude about it though.  I actually enjoy it when we meet religious people though.  They like to share that they have a strong belief and most of the time wish us luck.  They appreciate what we're trying to do.  Hmm.
Oh man, the biking is awesome too.  We do at least...2 hours of biking every day.  The city was built around bikes, I swear.  There's the road, a walkway, and a bike way EVERYWHERE.   Cars are extremely cautious of pedestrians, so there's no worry about being hit.  We don't have to wear a helmet (only mission that doesn't require it).  I just love this place!  I feel at peace when we're biking around.  Gives me time to think.  The sights are awesome too.  You know how you think of Holland, and you think of windmills?  Bam, keep thinking that because they're everywhere.  No joke!  There's a massive one downtown and a small one about 5 minutes from our house.  They're so awesome.  Now, the art they put up everywhere?  That's another question.  Their art is the strangest ever.
I'd love to send you some pictures, but there isn't a card slot on this computer, sorry.  I'll ask Elder Frahm if we can swing by a printing place to see if I can mail them to you.
K, he just said we'll print them off downstairs at the Hema store.  Looks like you're getting a letter.  Yay.
Thanks for all the letters by the way!  I had so many emails from friends and family!  It means a lot to me.
Oh, and don't be hesitant to talk to the Elders back home.  And don't be afraid to give them any referrals, friends or family you think would benefit from the gospel.  The best way to convert people is through referrals.  It saved the missionaries hours of finding and gives the investigators somebody to turn to.  Friendship is the best thing ever!
I love you all so much!  I diddely-do.
Don't forget about me!  Keep me in your prayers (I really need them).
Sincerely, Elder Burgess

"We had very tired and exhausted missionaries arrive at 11:30 pm! We were so happy to see the whites of their eyes! We took them to the mission home, fed them and tucked them all into a warm comfortable bed!
We were so happy to have them all arrive safe and sound!"
~Sister Brubaker

 What Holland does best! Pannekoeken!

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

The First Day in a Missionaries' Life

l-r Sister Brubaker, Sisters Stout, Páleniková, Elders Mathis, Stoddard, Burgess, Andrews

There is a beautiful "molen" not far from the mission office, right in the heart of Leiden. The missionaries loved seeing this very familiar structure of the Netherlands.
Elder Frahm was so excited to be coming back to his 1st city, Leiden, and will be training Elder Burgess

 Elder Evan Burgess
Kerckwervelaan, 44
2343 PE Oegstgeest