Monday, 25 March 2013

If you're with the wind, you fly.

Sorry this might be short today.  I had a zillion other people to email.
Ohh....and....also, I hate this keyboard.
So.  Life.  Life is now in Den Helder.  Den Helder is now in life--and the Netherlands.  If you look on a map, the north part of this country looks like a glove.  Den Helder is on the thumb of that glove.  Almost complete opposite ends of the mission.  I caught a train at 8:30 and arrived at about 5--with no lunch in between.  My bags are getting super heavy now.  I tried to send a box home with things I don't need, but the post office wanted to charge 100 Euro.  YEAH RIGHT.
So Den Helder.  It's been open for about 4 weeks and the members are really excited about it.  In their prayers, they thank the Lord that they have missionaries.  It's an older branch, as in it's been here forever and everybody in it is pretty dang old.  There's only one young man...  Like I said, they're pumped and they love feeding us.  The cupboards are a bit bare right now, but that's okay.
Den Helder itself is a sleepy little place.  It's not very big and not very busy--perfect.  Our area is actually pretty small too, including a dozen or so small cities surrounding.  Also, it's cold as cold can be.  There's a super fierce wind right now that tries to rip you off your bike.  With my sleek, slender delicious bike that hasn't happened yet, but you have to keep a look out, otherwise Mr Wind, that stinky old fart, will come out and get you.  If you're with the wind, you fly.  Psh, like you're ever with the wind.
Elder Giles is a cool cat.  Turns out, he's just about nerdy as I am.  We have a lot of the same interests and all the lame humour I've acquired over the years from video games and internet actually makes sense for him.  No way.  He's a super cool guy and an awesome missionary.  He has no fear contacting people.  Compared to him as a greenie, I was a nightmare.  We'll have fun, I can tell.
We've already got some pretty positive people that we're teaching actually.  We have 3 baptismal dates, David, Joseph and Payo.  I've only met two of the three, but they seem like nice, positive people.  We've met several others who I already consider my friends.  Friends have become very important for me on my mission--they value of a friend is greater than gold.  Among those friends are Tim and Solymar, a super cool couple.  She's a less-active member and he's totally open to hearing the gospel.  Their cat is a midget--she has some sort of growth disorder--and is adorable.
Elder Giles is deathly afraid of spiders.  I hate basking sharks, so it evens out.
Our apartment is smack diddely dang right in the middle of Den Helder--a 30 second walk from the station.  That's even closer than Almere apartment.  Elder Mower is our district leader, which is super awesome.  Great, good, fantastic.
Well, what more can be said, than has already been sa-id?
tot volgende keer,
Elder Burgess
Evan's apartment

Monday, 18 March 2013

There was a yelp, a grunt, a rip....

Oh, this week.  I'll tell you one thing: there was a lot of travelling involved.
On Tuesday, it snowed like crazy.  Holy Moses it snowed.  It.  Snowed.
Of course, the snow backed up the entire train system as well.  Almost every single train had at least a 20 minute delay.  We went and visited super buff Chris that day, catching a train that was an entire hour later. We also caught the bus in the swirling winter white gales and missed our stop, putting us ankle-deep in the drifts.  We wikkety-walked half of the way back to Chris's before we decided to call him to say we were going to be late.  He wasn't even home.  I can honestly say there are only a handful of times I've almost lost it on my mission, and that was one of them.  There was a bit of scolding involved, including "We travelled 2 and a half hours to get here and you're not even home?!"  It all worked out though.  I called him later and he wasn't upset.  Still, I apologized and we made it home safely in the end. 
Oh yeah, Monday we went to the middle of nowhere.  The bus was all messed up so we couldn't even get to the person we were trying to look up.  Also, getting to Van Kerckhovens' to teach Eva is about an hour and a half journey.  My goodness.  Can you believe that?  Buuut Eva is doing awesome.  She read what we asked her and even highlighted a scripture in Alma 32 about faith.  Super cool.  We taught her the Plan of Salvation and she had some questions about reincarnation, but otherwise accepted it.  She's getting wet (baptised).
We met with family Setta as well.  Ivan has done his best to read every day in the Book of Mormon.  Holy Moses, can you believe that?  They are so awesome.  He's at the part where Nephi builds a boat and such.  Love family Setta!  We taught them about the Word of Wisdom and they accepted most of it--except that Mama Setta's papa is a Coffee farmer.  Say what?  They have farmers for that?  Yeah, her daddy grows and grinds his own coffee.  She asked if that then made it okay to drink.  My answer was simply, "God told us to avoid all coffee.  Pray about it and ask."  What more can you say?  Still, Fam Setta is awesome. 
We didn't meet with Fam Rodriguez, but they are doing great as well.  Mama R has begun reading in the Book of Mormon and the youngest reads often in her kinderboek.  We have an appointment this week....
Wham.  Yep.  I'm getting shot clear up to Den Helder, which I know nothing about.  Apparently, this is the second transfer it's been open.  I'm going to be finishing the training of...Elder Giles.  Anydoodle, I'm very, very chapped that I have to leave Leuven of course.  All these fantastic families and individuals, but I've accepted long ago to go where the Lord wants me to.  I'm just upset I didn't get any pictures of my best friends.  I'll ask dear ol' Rozendaal to take some and mail them to me.
Aha, Elder Rozendaal...
We were late for an appointment and our bikes were parked elsewhere, so we decided to take the backup bike.   Now, this so called backup had a broken bagagedrager (a rack on the back of all Dutch bikes, above the rear wheel), so we thought it would be a good idea to achterop, or for Elder R to ride the rack.  We started going, but before long, I hit a big dip in the road.  There was a yelp, a grunt, a rip and Elder Rozendaal stumbled off.  Ha, when I turned to look at him, he had an expression of shock and terror.  The rack on the back had broken clean in half, taking the seat of his pants with it...  Yes, the butt of his pants was ripped clean open.  He snatched his butt and he waddled home to quickly change.  I couldn't stop laughing.  It was his favourite suit, but hot dang was it funny.  You could fly a plane through the hole in his pants, man oh mighty.  I gave him some money to compensate, so we're even at least.
We tried looking up the person with border collies, but she wasn't home.  We also, unfortunately, had no appointment with Willy.  And no, I didn't buy the 3-wheeled bike. Bummer.  We also had an appointment with Miko and his daughter.  She was a lot more involved than last time.  We're not 100% sure now if he actually knows the book of Mormon is true, but he did say a prayer of sorts yesterday which is great progress.
Some while ago, Elder Rozendaal spotted a dragon ball z poster on a window and we knocked their door.  The young man who opened was friendly enough, but no appointment at first.  We've since gone over and they've let us in.  We went over again this week and there were 7 whole people there.  When we walked in they were watching the goriest TV show ever.  Some guy smashed in another guy's face with his shield as we watched.  Anyway, they quickly flipped that off and we had a pow-wow with these guys.  They're super awesome.  They love it when we come over.  They all huddle around on their couches and throw all sorts of questions at us, listening intently and pondering about it.  They asked at one point what they guidelines were for media.  I told them we avoid porn in every form.  They then all looked at the giant poster of naked ladies on the opposite wall.  Aha, that was a weird moment.  It's a total guy house...  There's more than one of those posters, I'll tell you that.  We have to really look them in the eyes when we teach...or else.  Super cool people though.
Well, that's a long email.  I want to send a giant box home before I get transferred.  It's a whole bunch of stuff I don't need on my mission.  Letters, a Koran and other such things. Sorry, it's not a gift for you guys, just...gotta make room to pack.
See you in another city.
Tot volgende keer,
Elder Burgess

Evan's new address:
Julianaplein 74
1781HD Den Helder

Den Helder
**So the church made an official announcement that missionaries can now contact everybody via email (except women inside our area).  That means, officially, I can send and receive emails from friends now too! 

Rotterdam and Antwerpen Zones met on March 15, 2013 at Antwerpen Chapel for Zone Conference.

    Elder Pimentel and Elder Burgess

Elder Giles ~ opening his assignment.  He is going to Den Helder, Netherlands with Evan. This city has just been opened up again for Missionary work.  The branch has been without their own missionaries for 6 years.  

Monday, 11 March 2013

We're sitting fast in a rut

I'm not sure exactly what happened this week, but we're sitting fast in a rut.  Out of the 7 or so people we meet with weekly, we didn't meet with a single one of them.  Willy, Setta, Rodriguez and so forth.  We tried to swing by Miko, but he had to go to work.  Fair enough, so we set an appointment the next day at the same time.  When we swung by, his entire door bell system was ripped from the wall.  Literally.  There was just a big ol' hole with wires poking out.  His phone was off too so we waited around until somebody came out.  He was just as surprised as we were to discover the bell system were gone. He couldn't let us in either.  I can understand.  Later it was suggested to us that we should have left a letter in the mailbox.  Derp, why didn't we think of that?  Bishop's wife also suggested to throw rocks at their window--because that's what the Elders had done when she was investigating.  We had actually considered that, but his window is above a busy bus stop, and I'm pretty sure people wouldn't be happy with rocks crashing on their domes.
Willy is doing very well.  As far as we know, he's giving up smoking.  He's very touchy on the matter.  He got upset when I asked because when you mention it, he starts thinking about it and desiring it.  He was actually pretty steamed.  Note to self: don't ask about smoking.  I'm curious how I'm going to find out now...
OH.  So here's something equally exciting and frustrating.  Arg!  So Branch President Van Kerckhoven (who has a fantastic Flemish accent) has had a friend coming to church since around November sometime.  We finally met with her this week.  She's their babysitter from China who staying here for a year.  I can't remember her real name, but her 'Dutch' name is Eva--like Even, but...Dutch.  She's super positive and we even set a Baptismal date with her in the first lesson!  She mentioned that when she prays, she feels great, and that's how she's learnt God exists.  We told her that if she feels the same way when she reads the Book of Mormon, this means it's true.  She said, "Oh, that makes sense."  Wham. Anydoodle, she's great.  We went all the diddely dang way to Genk on Sunday, super excited that we were going to see her in church--because she attends almost weekly.  But she wasn't there!  We asked the Van Kerckhovens and they said she had stayed up partying or something and was too tired to get up.  Okay, that's annoying.  But here's the really frustrating part.  We called our young men's leader that same day to ask if anybody was visiting church back in Leuven.  He said no, then asked how Shen was doing (or some similar name).  I said I did not know a 'Shen', then suggested Eva.  "Oh," he said, "is that her English/Dutch name?"  Yes...  Wait...what?  "Yeah, she was too tired to go to church because she was hanging out with me last night."  ...What?!  Turns out he's totally dating her or something.  Arg!  Oh well.  He had a lot of positive things to say about her.  He even said that if we manage to meet with her twice a week, she'll totally make her baptism.  Cool!
The other person we met with was Chris.  Chris is buff.  Really buff.  Man oh mighty, I'm worried I'll say something wrong then POW, lights out.  He also knows the Bible inside and out and isn't afraid to preach to us.  He's open and willing to "Read.  Yes, read the word of God," so we'll see what happens.  He also accepted a 'soft' baptismal invitation--even after mentioning he's already been baptized.  When most people, after you've invited them, say that they've been baptized already, you have to go into a huge discussion explaining the priesthood again.  He just kind of shrugged with a smile, "If that's what God wants, then okay.  I would do it."  Neat.
We also met a very positive potential investigator, with two beautiful border collies.  She was pretty interested, so we're swinging by next week.  Fingers crossed!
Otherwise, lots of doors knocked, lots of "nee, "hoor"s and so forth. 
We found a 3-wheeled bike for sale as well.  The people selling it had bought it for their brother, but his cancer took a turn for the worse and he couldn't use it anymore.  Unfortunately, they wanted 200 Euro for it.  Unfortunately, Elder Rozendaal suggested a Book of Mormon instead.  Unfortunately, it turned out they hate Mormons and they slammed the door before I could barter.  Dangit.  Almost had a big-boy trike.  Maybe next time.
Yeah. this week wasn't the best.  It's a good thing next week will be better!
Okay, bye.
tot volgende keer,
Elder Burgess

THANKS FOR THE SHIRTS BY THE WAY.  Holy man, so dang awesome.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Somewhat dazed and excited

Aw, all your kinds words make me warm in my tummy.
And no, that's not a Dutch phrase.
Blam-diddly we had a good week.  We taught so many people this week.  Wow.  Busy, busy.  We missed hanging out with some of our usuals, namely Willy, Rodriguez and Setta, but we still had contact at least.  I think the biggest miracle came from Miko.
I'm too excited, I have to tell it now.
So when I first got here with dear o' Elder Mower, we went to Miko's house.  Elder Jones had been teaching him and claimed that he "understood it", despite his very little Dutch--he's Slovakian, by the way.  Elder Mowmow and I were less convinced.  When we got there, he was home, but wouldn't let us in for some unclear reason.  And that was that, we never went there again.  Fast forward until last week and we see Miko and his nephew have come to church for the first time,... 10 minutes before it ended.  Somewhat dazed and excited, we set an appointment and Miko went on his merry way.
The selfsame Tuesday, we had a smashing District meeting where our esteemed District leader set a way-high goal of 20 baptisms by the end of March.  You have to keep in mind that last month, between 4 companionships, we had 5 baptisms.  Stymied (did I use that right?) but super stoked, Elder Rozendaal and I caught the vision and invited 2 of our friends to baptisms, both with...undesirable results.  So we were thinking, heck-diddely, what's happening?  Why aren't people accepting this?  We've been asked to do this and we are!  Why isn't it working.
I think I've learned a lot about Diligence this week.
Then out of the blue, we went over to Miko's on Saturday.  I had a feeling this was going to be a huge lesson.  For literally 10 or 15 minutes, we scrambled trying to think of something to say.  Eventually, we asked.  "Miko, what do you think of God?"
"I believe."  This is all in Dutch, by the way.  Super, super simple.
"Okay.  And the Book of Mormon?  Do you think it's good?"
Holding breath. "Do you believe it's true?"
Oh my goodness.  "If the Book is true, that means our church is true.  Do you believe this is the true Church?"
Breathless now.
We're not sure exactly how or when or WHAT, but Miko got his witness that the Book of Mormon is true.  He wants to get baptised on April 28.  Did I mention he has a family of 7.  He has five children, from 16 to 4.  What a huge miracle.  Totally out of nowhere too.  I'm still in shock, really.
Our friend Louise came to church as well!  She really enjoyed it.  It was super awesome to have her there.  She told us earlier in our appointment that she really wants to know if this is the truth.  Wow.  Honest investigators looking for the right way. Gotta love them.
We did swing by family Setta by the way.  We spoke with Ivan and one of his sisters and basically chatted more than taught about the Prophet.  At the end, they were super stoked and both promised to try to read every day in the Book of Mormon.  He's already at 1 Nephi 16 and loves it.  Holy Moses, can one heart contain so much joy?
We met with two young boys earlier too.  They asked us straight-up at the beginning of the lesson what they had to do to be baptized.  We were a bit stunned and it took us a while to give them an answer.  Their situation is difficult because they go to their Papa's every weekend, and thus can't come to church.  Hmm, time to pray for a solution.
We have about a zillion bikes to fix today.  My racing bike got a bit ol' hole in the tire. Somebody stabbed it a few weeks ago and I didn't patch it well enough the first time.  Grr, so annoying.  Ahh, Elder Rozendaal crashed too.  The bar connecting his handlebars and frame literally snapped while he was riding.  I nearly ran over his arm.  He bruised his arm and back, but nothing serious.  He's practically better already.
Heh-hey.  We met with Andre the Russian drummer as well.  We had a pow-wow by a river downtown with his buddy.  Elder R taught buddy and I taught Andre.  It was one of the most spiritual lessons ever for me.  I taught him very simple gospel truths; God, Jesus, prayer and our Eternal potential.  Super cool.  Unfortunately, Andre the drummer is off on vacation for 2 months.  Chances of me seeing him again...
Well.  Busy week, not enough time to write it all.
Thanks for your letters!  And...socks?
Tot volgende keer,
Elder Burgess

**Wow you got that for a very, very good price actually.  Elder Rozendaal says thanks a zillion times.  He is absolutely ecstatic about it.  Hugest smile ever.  Thanks!