Saturday, December 28, 2013

Sinterklaus, Apeldoorn, Christmas Concert and Blessings

Sinterklaus and Zwarte Piet

HELLO MY WONDERFUL FAMILY!!!
Oh my goodness I can not believe that it is Christmas again!!!  It is actually extremely ridiculous!!!  It feels like just yesterday that I was in Den Haag scared out of my mind because I couldn't understand a single word that was coming out of anyone's mouth.  And now, I am here in Apeldoorn, after a year of adventures in Nederland and Belgie.  I can't believe it!! 
This week has been super cool.  My studies have been focused mostly on genade or for you english speakers the grace of God.  I have learned a lot about it but I think that the biggest thing that stood out to me was that it is grace upon grace that we learn.  In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord teaches us that as we gain knowledge that through those pieces of knowledge we can become perfected.  That is why we are here.  We are here to LEARN so that we can grow into the people that He expects us to be.  There are many ways to be able to learn, the greatest of which is through the Spirit.  We invite him into our lives through scripture study, prayer...etc.  But if we are not willing to listen and pay attention to what he says, than we stop ourselves from being able to learn.  The graces of God are the small spiritual experiences, the personal revelation and the happy, peaceful times.  They are the times where you can sit back and really see that the Lord has been working in your life.  That He loves you and that He wants you to be happy.
I have seen the Grace of God many times this week.  More abundantly than I have in the past.  I think maybe it was because I was actually paying attention to it, but I would like to share with you some of the experiences I was able to have.
2nd Christmas Shoes
First off, for the Christmas concert, there is a young woman named Danielle.  She is an amazing singer, but has been battling a heavy cold for the past little while.  She was finally getting better and then the day of the concert lost her voice again and was no longer sure about singing her solo.  She was freaking out as most performers do, like on jury week in school when everyone is sick but they really want to pass.  But I had an opportunity to talk with her.  We were able to say a prayer together because that is the only solution I could think of.  We prayed together that she would be able to perform to the best of her ability and that she would be at peace with the results.  The spirit was super strong during that moment and it was super sweet because our prayers were answered.  She nailed it and loved every moment of performing. 
I've been going through a little bit of a rough time lately, mostly because I am starting to realize that I don't have very much time left.  And there is a member, Jason, who is looking out for me.  That kid went onto my blog and found my first entry, printed it out for me, and gave it to me.  Being able to read that entry and my very own testimony that is there on the paper was really super helpful in helping me to feel comfort and remember why I came out here.  I was able to feel the Spriti confirm to me that I am becoming the person that I was supposed to become and that everything that I am doing is what the Lord has expected of me.
I was able to receive a blessing this week from the Elders here in Apeldoorn.  I have learned a lot about priesthood blessings while I have been here on my mission.  But I feel like the most important is that every blessing you receive is a convenant that you make with your heavenly father.  He gives you council and there are blessings that are associated with His council.  We can choose to follow that or to reject it, but the decision that we make to get a blessing shows our Heavnly Father that we are willing to follow Him.  The spirit was super strong tijdens the blessing and I was able to hear words of comfort and support as well as be able to get some council as to what I can do to live up to my potential here for the rest of my mission.
We were able to find a family this week.  It was truly a miracle that we got these people's information.  Story: we were on the street, saw a guy, talked to him.  Had a nice little chat and he shared interest in learning about the Book of Mormon.  We got his information, made an appointment and two days later showed up at his house.  Turns out, he has a family of five.  They are all from Russia.  He only speaks Russian....still don't understand how we were able to talk to each other.  But we now have a whole little Russian family that are working together to learn about the gospel!!  I know that the gift of tongues was given to someone in the moment that we needed it so that we were able to teach this remarkable family.
On Saturday, Arnhout was baptized.  He is an investigator from the Elders but we also have a really good relationship with him because we have appointments with his wife a lot.  The spirit was so strong and it was really a miracle how everything fell into place.  I can't describe it very well.  I was asked to sing at his baptism and felt extremely blessed to be able to feel the spirit that comes through music.  It was just a miraculous event.
Sunday, I was able to see many miracles and answers to my prayers from earlier in the week.  I was able to see confirmations of things that I had felt earlier in the week.  In something as simple as being guided in my studies and that my district leader was inspired to ask me to talk about that very thing in destrict meeting, to a warm hug during the sacrament. 
I have been blessed!! 
I love you and can't wait to see you!!
Love,
Zuster Israelsen

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Apeldoorn Ward Cleaning!, Sinterklaas, American Accents, and Teaching in the Rain!

HELLO THERE MY WONDERFUL FAMILY!!!! 
This week has been a really amazingly fun week!!
It started off with an army of Relief Society women coming over to our apartment.  We spent a good three hours cleaning everything up and our apartment is finally clean!!!  I am so happy!!  We can actually feel like we are civil again!!  We are super grateful for the sisters and their help. There were also some brothers. And without them we would still have some really old gross furniture!  The Apeldoorn ward is amazing!
Also on Monday, we were all able to go to JoVos for FHE.   Why?  Because this week was Sinterklaas!!  Yes, in Nederland, they have Sinterklaas, first Christmas and Second Christmas!!  Lots of gifts getting passed around over here.  I think that America should adopt all of these traditions.  At JoVos we played a Sinterklaas game that is kind of like white elephant but there is a dice involved and also....you have to do crazy things if you roll wrongly.  It was a super fun night.  I don't think that I ever want to have to see Elder Muse trying to dance again though!!! It was a little scary!!
We had our first district meeting of the transfer.  It was super cool.  It was also Elder Alston's, our district leader, first district meeting that he had to lead ever and I have to say he did an amazing job.  I really learned a lot, mostly because he used a basketball analogy to explain what he was trying to get across :D  Out district meeting was titled 'Started from the Bottom' and we discussed a lot about how we need to realize that we are not really anything great, but that with the Lord's help and our willingness to take the shot, we are able to accomplish something.  Do we recognize that we need the Lords help every day of our lives? 
That evening I had a super cool dinner appointment.  There is a less-active that we have been working with.  Her name is Heleen and this week she called us up and invited us over to dinner.  Little did we know, her friends from America were there.  These friends were from the family that she stayed with in America.  She calls them her American sisters.  It was a super fun appointment and it was really weird to be able to hear American accents again.  :D  We made Pannekoeken!!!  Also, Heleen really loves music and so I was able to sing for them for the spiritual thought.  The spirit was super strong!!  I love how that happens when you pull out a song.  But she was touched enough to come to church this week.  I was thinking a lot about the blessing that President Hickman gave me when he set me apart.  And I think that the story of Heleen is an example of how I am supposed to use the gift that God has given me to influence the lives of others for good.
Ok, so coolest experience of the week.  It was Sinterklaas.  All Dutch people are busy and don't want to have anything to do with you if you are not someone dressed up as Sinterklaas or Zwaart Pete.  Well, somehow, the Lord blessed us with an appointment with a Dutch man.   The only problem was, was that the members didn't want to have anything to do with a joint teach because it was a holiday.  So.....we ended up teaching the man outside.  Problem....it was the crazyest rain/hail/thunder/crazyness storm I have seen here since I have been here.  It was crazy....so we were there...on the street.....teaching jeroen about the restoration of the gospel....trying to read scriptures without getting our scriptures wet.....trying to hear each other over the thunder......and somehow the spirit was still there.  The spirit was so strong that Jeroen set a baptisimal date.  I have no idea how that happened.  It was probably the coolest thing ever and we are having a great time teaching this man about the gospel!!  It just proved to me that the Lord will bless you as long as you are doing everything that you can to be able to do the work.  He blesses you when you don't even expect it.  He blesses you when you realize that you need His help because your best is not amounting to anything.  It was the sweetest experience ever!!
We also got to celebrate Sinterklaas with family Feith....and you guys have seen the picture already!!  It was a super fun night and everyone went home with lots of fun gifts that are super useful and also fun to play with!!  I love the Feith family!! 
I also got to see one of the Elder's investigators get baptized this week.  This woman had come such a long way and it was so cool to see how the ward just loves her and accepted her into the group.  There were a lot of cool experiences and Melvin, one of the JoVos, thought that it was the best day ever because he got to baptize someone for the first time ever.  That was also really cool to be a part of.  He is preparing to go on a mission and experiences like that are helping him get excited!!
On Saturday, we did a whole day of service again.  This time we went to the Bishop's house and we tore out a 30 year old fence around his farm.  It was tough work, but super fun.  While smashing it apart, stress was relieved, laughs, and just a fun time with the Bishop's family.  I love being able to serve people!!  It is my favorite activity!!
I hope that you all have a great week!!  Also, I think that we have decided to skype at 4 or 5 pm here which would be 7 or 8 am there.  I will let you know for sure next week.  Also, can you send me your username and also granpa's?
I love you all!!!  Don't have too much fun without me!!
Love,
Zuster Israelsen

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Family Mission Plan, Turkey Bowl, Ollibollen, Stompot, Hutspot and other Dutch Deliciousnesss.

HELLO MY LITTLE FAMILY THAT EATS LOTS OF TURKEY WITHOUT ME!!!!
Hey, just kidding.  But actually, for real.  There is no turkey to be found here in the Netherlands.  We tried....it doesn't exsist.  If it is there....then they are the size of a small chicken and not a turkey :D  But our week was pretty good!!  We started off with a Turkey Bowl with the entire Zone for Thanksgiving.  My team totally won!!!  We had a blast, everyone was covered in mud because it had rained the day before and I am pretty sure that everyone is still sore.  But it was well worth it!!  Someday I will be able to play some good old football with Jake again!!!  Party!!
Like I said, it was a good week.  But it has also been a very hard week.  Zuster Thorley had two days to get ready to move to Amsterdam and it was chaos.  I really don't understand why we aren't better at packing already.  I mean, I have moved every three months now for a year....and I still cannot seem to be able to pack everything into one suitcase.  Eventually we got her packed, but the hard part was going around to see the members to say goodbye.  Zuster Thorley had been in Apeldoorn for about 5 months or so, so she really had a hard time leaving her friends.  I also had a hard time saying goodbye to my best friend on Wednesday!!  Zuster Thorley and I had a blast last transfer!!  I love that girl. 
Zuster Andersen is pretty cool.  She is from St. George UT.  She has lots of siblings three of which are adopted.  She is a massage therapist and has been done with studies for a very long time now....she is also 21 and just barley turned 21 so sometimes I feel like a slacker....but that is ok.  She is pretty quiet and likes to stay to herself.  Sometimes that can be hard for me....mostly because I like to feel like I am friends with my companion but if I can't talk to her...or know how she is feeling...I also don't know what she is thinking.  It is weird, but she is in the shock phase of 'I have just been transfererd' so we will see this next week what we really have in store.
We have been working super hard to be able to follow the stake plan here in Apeldoorn.  President Hulleman, about a year ago, put into place a plan that all of the members could follow.   Based on the success of the plans of all of the other stakes in our mission, I know that the Lord inspires these men to know exactly what their stake needs to be able to progress and grow.  So, naturally, we have been working really hard to follow the keys.  We are starting to see things get moving.  We have been focusing mainly on the family mission plan.  The stake President has asked that every family put together a plan where every member can have a job to do and then to do it.  He has also asked that they have specific names and dates put into place so that these people actually get invited to things and progress.  We now have five families with plans like this and we are starting to see them inviting their friends to come and join them.  On Sunday, one of the members brought a friend to church!!  That was super cool and I got to introduce myself and get to know her a little bit.  I think she was really curious about what in the world was really going on and it was fast an testimony meeting, what is a better day to come to?  Maybe conference....but the spirit was super strong in the meeting this last week.  So I think that we are beginning to see some succes..
Jason, one of my favorite JoVo friends here in Apeldoorn was able to go through the temple.  It has been amazing to be able to see the change that has come over him just in the last two months since I have been here.  But I hear that over the last 11 years he has come from a place where he was at the lowest of low and has fought and made his way to receive his endowments this last Saturday.  On Sunday, he bore his testimony and all of us missionaries just really loved it!!  He is a super cool guy and has made the right decisions to get to the best place on earth.
We also heard an announcement from one the JoVos whose name is Melvin.  He has decided to serve a mission!!  It is really incredible to hear considering his family situation and all of the things that he has going against him.  But he has really made the decision to do it!!   I love being able to see the changes that comes over the youth as they decide to put the Lord first, mainly because I know that I had to make that decision about a year or so ago. 
It is Christmas time here...well technically it is still Sinterklaas.  But you can feel the change.  Ollibollen, Stompot, Hutspot and other Dutch deliciousnesss.  I love being here.  I love the people, I love the culture, the food is great as well!!  We are working really hard to get the Christmas concert up and running.  The church building here in Apeldoorn has been under remodel since I have been here and it is opening up this next weekend.  We are busy getting flyers out to the people who live close to the church so that they know that they can come and see the new church building and also enjoy the christmas concert.  There are so many cool things that we have planned for this month I can hardly wait!! 
Mom, how do you feel about skyping maybe a little bit earlier this time?  I think with our schedule that will work better.  Around 5 or so....that would men 8 or so in the morning.  Let me know. We are still working on the specifics for Christmas.
I love you all!!!  I hope you all have a great week eating Thanksgiving leftovers!! 
Love,
Zuster Israelsen
P.S. We are on the dumb computers again....so I can't send picutres this week....sorry

Monday, November 25, 2013

Spiritual Experiences, Transfers and Football!

Hello there my WONDERFUL FAMILY!!!
I love hearing about everyones lives!!  It is so crazy to hear about how many people are going on missions!!  Good luck Bobby!!!  You are going to be an amazing sister!!!  The people don't understand what they have in store!! 
I love each and every one of you.  It is weird, because you know that you love your family and you know that your whole life, but you really realize it when you are on a mission.  You have so many cool spiritual experiences and you just want to share them with your family and the people that you love!!
Dad, you asked me to share the most spiritual experiences that I have had over the last two months.  I think that is the hardest question that anyone could have ever asked me....but I will name a few.
1. About two months ago, Isaac was investigating the church and we had a lesson with him.  I can't remember what we taught him in the lesson, I just remember when we taught him how to pray.  He said his first prayer with us in the middle of the relief society room in Turnhout.  It was the most simple and yet the most sincere prayer I have ever heard.  The spirit was super strong but the coolest part was that he felt it.  We all had a spiritual confirmation that Joseph Smith was a prophet that night.  It was the coolest thing ever. 
2. This last week, I have been trying more to rely less on myself and what I know I can do and rely more on the Lord.  Three seperate times, Sister Thorley and I had 15 minutes here or there where we needed to know where to go.  We decided to say a prayer on the street and ask the Lord.  And three seperate times numbers popped into my head.  To be honest, at first I thought it was crazy and that there was no way that there would be someone in number 25 that wanted to hear the gospel, but there was Phun.  Then the second time, there is no way that the person in number 45 would want to hear the gospel.  Walid and his roommate have an appointment with us this week.  And the family in number 108, no way.  And yet a third time it was true.  My testimony that the Lord leads His missionaries when they turn to Him and seek for His help, I gained it.  This week was a week of miracles.
3. In Turnhout, in the middle of a park, we met an investigator who has had problems with the word of wisdom his entire life.  That day I knew that what I was saying was something that I would never have said in my entire life.  And that the Lord was putting words into my mouth simply because I was opening it.  Vahid is now on the track to be baptized.  He heard the words that were meant specifically for him and felt the spirit.
4.  About two weeks ago, I got to sing in sacrament.  I felt the spirit so strongly mostly because I knew that the voice that was coming out should not have been as powerful or as nicely defined because I haven't been able to practice.  But the most important part was being able to see the change that came over the people as they were listening.  They were able to feel the spirit and they were able to see a change.
Really what I have learned is that the most spiritual experiences I have had on my mission is when the Lord has used me, has let me be an instrument in His hands to be able to touch the lives of others.  My testimony of missionary work and the love that the Lord has for each and every one of His children is there now.  I know that He loves us.  I know that He is there for us and I know that he wants us to succeed. 
I have also come to learn that as we follow the keys of the leaders in our area, that we gain more success.  We become the people that the Lord wants us to become.  I have thought back a lot on what I have done with the information from general conference in the past.  I used to think that it was nice....but there is information to apply in our lives there.  Everything that the stake president, or bishop or other leaders in the church ask us to do is inspired.  It is much like when we ask our investigators to do things  We ask people to change and apply things into their lives.  If we aren't willing to do that also, then we are not continually becoming converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I have learned that as we have been asked to follow the stake plans that have been given to us by the stake presidents.  We have started to really follow the mission plan very closely as a companionship and we are starting to see a lot of real success. 
I am so grateful for my mission and that I get to get up and serve the people of the Netherlands and Belgium every day.  I would never trade this for the world.  I am so grateful for the knowledge I have gained thus far and cannot wait for the time to come!!
Also, it is transfers this week.  Sister Thorley is going to Amsterdam and my new companion is Sister Andersen....I don't know anything about her.  But she should be pretty cool.
I love you guys so much!!
I miss you and hope that you have a great thanksgiving!!  We had a turkey bowl today and I totally kicked some elders butts playing football :D
ik hou van jullie allemaal!!
Liefs,
Zuster Israelsen

Deventer, Anjewierdens, Assen, Sinterclaas Journal

HELLO MY WONDERFUL FAMILY!!!! 
 
Man do I love you guys!!  I love hearing about your lives every week, sometimes I feel like I am missing out on a lot, but at the same time, not.  I am glad that everyone is having an exciting time with Swedish librarians, new companies and lots of meetings, ender games movies, ALSTATE CHOIR!!  and USU basketball games!!
 
I love you guys!!
 
This week was a crazy one!  We had our last FHE activity with the Anjewierdens, they were the senior couple that worked in Deventer.  It was a big party and there were like a billion people there.  But it was really hard to say goodbye, we are all missing them right now but we know that they are happy to be home with their kids and grandkids too.
 
On Tuesday, I went on exchanges to Assen.  It is a little city on the edge of the map that I am not sure many Dutch people have heard about, but it was fun.  We were able to teach a lesson to a woman there and seriously when we walked into her house it felt like I was walking into Ms. Roman's house.  She had a yellow lab, it smelled like it even and she looks just like her.  She also does music....it was a really weird feeling but a super cool lesson because she is really sincere.  She is acutally a self-referral from mormon.org.  (Does everyone have one of those?)  Anyway, it was one of the coolest Plan of Salvation lessons that I have ever been a part of.  The spirit was super strong and she felt as though the puzzle she has been trying to put together for a very long time is beginning to be completed(her words).  Cool huh?  I think that it  is super amazing how the gospel can do that for people.  I think that sometimes we forget that what we have been taught since we were little can mean the world to other people, that it can make a huge change in their lives.  We are still changed but we do not always see the changes that are made. 
 
On Wednesday we had a super cool day.  Our dinner appointment was a hoot!!  It was with Familie Feith!!  We had a party, but the coolest part was that we were able to have Zwarte Pete make a present for us.  Go to google and look up the sinterklaas journal.....I am not sure what it is called, but it is super fun!!  I love the Feith family and we were able to challege them to make a family mission plan.  They are super excited to do just that so that they can help us missionaries.  Their daughter Mariska is looking in to going on a mission and we are helping her with part of her plan to have at least one joint teach a week!!  We just have to find those appointments. 
 
We had a really cool experience also that day.  We were finding literally the entire day....only a dinner appointment.  Sometimes those are the longest days!!  But we were in an area and knocking doors....after having the door slammed in our face for the 30th time or so....we decided to say a prayer.  We asked the Lord where we needed to go because we knew that there had to be at least one person in that neighborhood who would want to hear the gospel.  After the prayer, we were led to a bell-up....my least favorite place.  But we proceeded to bell the different apartments....on the last bell a man answered and let us upstairs.  We started to talk to him on his doorstep and he asked if we could come back with a book of mormon in his language so that he could actually read it.  He is from pakistan.  So that was pretty much amazing.  I think that the Lrod was trying to show me that if I just trust in him that He will lead us to where we need to be.  I just need to make sure to ask and be willing to go where ever He leads. 
 
We also set a baptizimal date this week!!  We finally made an appointment with a family that we had met a week ago, and they loved the Restoration.  That was probably one of the coolest lessons that I have been in on my mission.  Their entire family participated.  Even the little kids.  They were super excited and when Sister Thorley quoted the first vision, there were tears in the mom and dads eyes.  We are super excited to be able to work more with family Kear!!  They were our blessing this week!! 
 
Ok, so you guys keep telling me that I don't tell you enough about my companion.  So here it goes.  She is pretty much awesome.  She is from Lindon Ut.  She grew up playing lacrosse and is probably just as compatitive as I am.  She is a film major at BYU and can quote movies even better than Jake can(which is impressive....i know!!)  She is also a sucker when it comes to dares.  The other night at a members house, we were having dinner and Elder Muse dared her to have the dog(Sido, who loves whipped cream) lick whipped cream out of her mouth.  Well....after 15 minutes of figuring out what exactly she was going to get for this act...she did it.  it was gross...I have a movie....I can't bleive that she did that...I am still giving her a hard time and am still disgusted!! 
 
The coolest experience this week was on Sunday.  I was able to sing for everyone and it was really cool.  There has never been so many people who have come up to me and thanked me for singing.  The amersfoort ward is having a hard time because their bishops wife has lung cancer and they are all extremely sad.  But they were all touched and super grateful.  I am super grateful for the ability that the Lord has given to me to be able to sing.  It is truly a gift that blesses not only my life but the lives of others.
 
You guys are almost to Thanksgiving and we are almost to Sinterklaas!!  Crazy huh?  Pretty soon we will be skyping!! 
 
I hope that you all have a fantastic week!!  I love you so much!!
Liefs,
Zuster Israelsen
 

Count Your Blessings and Dutch Primary Program

HELLO MY WONDERFUL FAMILY!!!
 
Oh my goodness I miss you guys so very much!!  I think that it gets harder when it gets closer to the holidays...especially since there isn't even Thanksgiving out here.  Who does that?  I think that it is crazy!!  What is everyone's plan for Thanksgiving?
 
I am sorry to hear about all of the problems with the bathroom downstairs. I think that contractor is ridiculous.  But that is just me....
 
I am excited for you guys to come and pick me up but at the same time I am not ready to be done with my mission yet.  I can't beleive that I only have like Fiver more months left.  Where has the time gone?  It feels like yesterday that I walked up the hallway at the Denver Airport and said goodbye to all of you.  Crazyness!!
 
This week has been the week of counting the many blessings that I have received.  I was having a hard time last week because we haven't been able to see very much success.  But Sister Thorley and I made it a goal to write down all of the blessings that we have seen.  It really helps.  Blessings can be big and small.  I think that the problem most of the time is that we think that all of our blessings should be super huge and the only ones that we see are the big ones.   But I have been able to see more of the Lord's hand in the work this week because we have done this.  I love the Lord and I know that He is mindful of all of us.  If we are willing to open our eyes and just see the blessings that He has given us we will be happier but we will also see that the Lord is pleased with the work that we have done.  I challenge everyone to try that this week.  Try just counting your blessings.  Write them down everyday.  I know if you do this, you will grow closer to our Heavenly Father.
 
Speaking of challenges, how is it going for everyone with the Book of Mormon challenge?  How far is everyone?  What have you learned?
 
I was really blessed this week to get some news from the sisters in Dordrecht.  I got to hear a lot about people that I taught while I was there.  People who told us that they were no longer interested in our message.  I got a call because Sister Packer was wondering about one of our investigators  Apparently she has been coming to church every week for a few months and they just found out a week or so ago that she is not a member because she went up to them and asked them if it would be possible to get the lessons from them again.  That was super cool.  It made me even more excited to get out and do the work because I have been anble to influence people even if they did not accept the gospel while I was there, the seen is still planted.
 
We have been blessed to find many new potential investigators this week.  We have had a few cool experiences with that.
 
The first, was a refferal from the Gouda sisters.  Apparently the lady named Rachelle contacted them while they were sitting on the train.  She gave them her name, number and address before the sisters were able to say a single thing.  We got the refferal and were super excited, we called the number and it didn't work.  Well, we were pretty depressed, but we said, 'Hey, we have her address, why don't we try to look her up?''   Well....she lives in a little town callem Almen.  Never heard of it?  Me either.  But, we got information from a JoVo on how to get to the town and just tried it.  We got there, no map of the city....no way to get a map...so we asked a few random people on the street, eventually a very nice Dutch woman let us in, use her ipad to look it up and gave us tea.  We had a nice chat.  Then, on the way out to the Cattle ranch that apparently this African woman lives at(that is never trut) We took some pictures thinking that there was really nothing that was going to come of it.  We walked up to the first cattle ranch and there was a Dutch man on a riding lawn mower....we thought that there was no way we were talking to a lady named Rachelle, asked him if she lived there.....and she does!!  WHAT?!?!  We were totally taken aback.  But we were able to give a first lesson and she is now interested in learning more.  When we gave her the Book of Mormon, she gave us more kisses and hugs than I think I have ever received in my entire life!!
 
The second experience happened just yesterday!!  We had an hour between a dinner appointment and ward choir practice, so we went to knock some doors.  We came up to this one door and knocked.  A big, tall, scary Dutch woman came to the door.  Now, usually when this happens....I get scared and just hope that they turn you down nicely because that doesn't always happen.  But when we started to talk to her about the Book of Mormon, her angry stare turned into a smile.  She told us that she had been to the Visitor's Center in St. George and that she had received a Book of Mormon from them.  She also knows a few members of the church that live in her area very well. We had a really pleasant conversation and we made an appointment for this next week with her entire family.  She has a husband and three children and they are looking for something that can help their family stay close even though their kids are growing up and we assured them that we could help.  It was super cool!!
 
We had a super good church service this week!!  It was the KPA programma or in other words, the Primary Program!!  It is probably my favorite sacrament meeting of the year and it is even cuter when you have little Dutch kids singing.  The translations for some of the songs are just hilarious.  I have decided that translating music is like squeezing all of the toothpaste out of a tube and then trying to get it all back in...it doesn't work very well...but it was still cool!! 
 
I also got to go to institute this week.  With three sets of missionaries in the city we have to take turns of who gets to go to JoVos and it was out turn.  They are studying the Book of Mormon and it was the week of Jakob 5.  The teacher, Broeder Noot, is probably one of the most intelligent people that I have ever met!!  I learned a lot from his lesson, but the coolest part of institute was that I received the compliment of a lifetime.  Remember how I said that Broeder Noot is probably one of the smartest and most accomplished people that I have ever met?  Well, he came up to me after the lesson and told me that my Dutch is super impressive.  He asked me how I was able to learn the language so well and I didn't really have an answer for him, I just memorize Preach my Gospel like President Robinson told me to....and it works.  That was a very nice end to my day that day!!
 
I hope that you guys all have a fabulous week!!!  I love you so much!!  I would like to be able to hear a little more from Rachel, Eliabeth and Jake....I know you guys are busy....but I am your sister!!  :D 
 
Dad, don't have too much fun at work.  Mom, I love you!!  I will get you some information next week of some people that I would like to visit before I go home so that you can contact them...I don't really know what your plans are....but I will send that to you next week.
 
Don't have too much fun!!
 
Remember who you are and what you stand for!!
 
Onthou wie je bent en waarvoor je sta!!
 
Love,
Zuster Israelsen


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Found Grandpa's Writing in a Book! Another New Area, Vlaams Accent, And Back on a Bike Again!

Hello My Wonderful family!!

I have to warn you.  If anything is weird on this email, please don't judge me.  I have just returned to the normal american keyboard and it is giving me a run for my money.  I am having a harder time than I thought I would.  

Anyway, I am missing Belgium a lot.  I never thought that I would.  There were many times I just thouht, 'well, if I was in Nederland' and now I am back and the only thing I want in the world is to go back there.  Mom and Dad, if you guys pull out on this picking me up thing I am going to be seriously upset because otherwise, I am never going to get back there.

My last day in Belgium, we had our district meeting in Genk.  I got to see both of my Belgium cities for the last time on Tuesday!!  I loved having Elder Chantry as my district leader!!  District meetings were always super opbouwend and we always had great conversations.  This week we talked a lot about diligence.  I am sorry to say that I really needed that talk.  It seems to be so hard for me to move on at transfers.  Especially for the last two areas.  Being the first sisters in the area is always super fun, but also, I have been able to see people prepare for baptism and get ready to make that covenant but I dont get to see them take the last step.  I think that is super hard for me.  It has been a long time since I have been able to see that, but I am glad for Kambala(in Genk) and Issac(in Turnhout) they are rocking it and are going to be great members of the church.

My last meeting with Isaac was on Tuesday night.  We taught him about the priesthood.  That man is going to be an Aaronic priesthood holder in three weeks.  He is really scared but also excited.  I am so excited for him.  The look that investigators get in their eyes when they learn more truth and they are feeling the spirit, nothing can compare to that.  I will never forget the people I have had the opportunity to teach!!  

I love the new area I am in, I mean...it's no Belgium, but it is still cool.  I am serving in Deventer which is a part of the Apeldoorn ward.  There are four elders that serve in our ward and us two sisters, there is also a senior couple that takes care of the JoVo centrum here!!  It is super fun!!

My new companion is sister Thorley.  She is also from Linden Utah.  She went to the same school as Sister Packer and Sister Clement.  She is studying film at BYU(don't worry, she already knows that that is the wrong school) She is the second of four.  She is super funny and is a super hard worker.  She is on transfer three so we are still working on Dutch, but I have never seen anyone understand maps and how to get around better than this girl, I am glad she is my companion because we never get lost!!

Well, life is kind of interesting here right now.  The city was just opened 12 weeks ago...and there are literally no investigators.  So....it feels like I am starting over again.  We have spent the last three days contacting people on the street and have found a total of 3 potentials.  It's rough.  And people keep looking at me like I am crazy.  I asked the bishop after I gave my testimony in church on sunday why everyone is avoiding me and looking at me funny.  He said it's because I speak with a Vlaams accent and I use vlemish words. They think I am belgian.....it is not cool.  The Dutch people have a hekel for Belgians.  Anyway, to make the situation a little more awkward, the building is being remodeled in Apeldoorn so we are meeting aith the Amersfoort ward.  Guess who has no idea who is a member of the ward she is serving in and who is not?  This girl right here.  The only time that I am able to get to know people in the ward is when they invite us over for dinner, and because there are 6 missionaries, I am not sure how often that is going to be.  But that is ok.....the Lord will give me a way to be able to get to know the people here.  

One family I met, is the Vreven familie.  They are super cool and the coolest part is that he has written a book about the history of the church in the Netherlands and Grandpa is in it!!  He is in it!!!  They have a whole section about the floods in Nederland, and the article that grandpa wrote, except translated in Dutch, is in there!!  I requested a copy!!

Also, I am back in the bike again....guys, I never knew how out of shape I was....It is sad.  Apparently the Belgian waffles were really not a good thing for my life.  But now that I am back in the Netherlands, the story is the same.  They sent me back right at the beginning of Olliebollen and stroop waffel season.  I may be three sizes bigger when this is all said and done!!  

I am really excited for the work that the Lord has for me here in Deventer, I hope that I am able to live up to His expectations and be able to be the missionary that He expects me to be.  

We get to go to the temple this week!!  Tomorrow actually!!  I am super excited about that!!  It has been so long since the last time I was able to go!!  

I am praying for everyone back home. I love you guys!!  Please take care of everyone for me!!  Don't do anything too crazy, everyone needs to make it for just a few more months at least so that I can give everyone a great big bear hug!!

Ik hou van jullie!!  Tot volgende week!!

Liefs,
Zuster Israelsen

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Nothing is to Hard for the Lord, Halloween in the Netherlands Too, Deventer, Nederland Transfer Just in Time for Olliebollen Season!

HELLO FAMILY!!!!

Oh my goodness, it has been such a good week and it has gone by so very fast it isn't even funny!! We have done a lot of work here in Turnhout and we are really enjoying it. The Lord has blessed us and blessed us more than we desearve this last week. We had a ton of success!!

It sounds like everyone back at home is busy and maybe going a little bit crazy!! Elizabeth, I hope that you feel better!! It is no fun to be sick. Rachel, don't stress too much about your play!! I am sure that you are going to be great!! Dad, don't work too hard....ok? Mom, I hope that you have a more restful week planned this week. It sounds like a lot of stress for one week!! Jake, Don't go crazy about midterms!!

Guys, Isaac is going to be baptized!!! I am so excited!! He had an interview with the Branch president and they set an exact day and time. The guy is so cool!! I am so blessed to be able to teach him!! He came from no Christian background to making the decision to be baptized. Now that is faith. I hope that someday I can develop faith like his because it is super cool to see and his faith can move mountains!!! So two weeks everyone!!

Oh, one cool thing that I started doing two or so transfers ago was writing down one thing everyday that I learn from someone specific in my area or someone I am working with. It is probably the coolest thing that is in my journal. Acutally, the reason I am talking about it is because I read through it this morning. It is super awesome!! And you remember why you love certain people so much!!

We have met a lot of interesting people this week on the street. Apparently, the celebrate Halloween here too. Well, we have met a lot of people dressed up like witches and other scary objects, people dancing in the middle of the street in costume, and other weird things. The weirdest thing though, was that we tried to talk to someone who looked normal on the street. She didn't look very happy, so we tried to cheer her up. We asked her about her religion....guys.....she is a witch. Like, that is what she believes in....and the reason she was unhappy was because of the witches dancing through the streets.....it was just weird.

We had a super cool district meeting this week!! We talked about the stuff that President talked about during Zone Conference. We in the mission are going through a Total Mind Shift. We are following steps that President has given us so that we can become better missionaries and more effective here in Belgium and the Netherlands. The steps are:
1Realize that nothing is too hard for the Lord.
2 The Silver Bullet is the Holy Ghost.
3 Find-Teach-Baptize
4 Ask the Lord to Give me success
5 Know that the Field is White
6 Set Spiritual Goals.

I love these steps and I see the blessings that have been coming here in turnhout because of them. We have been working really hard to set spiritual goals daily for our numbers and the Lord blessed us with 4 new investigators this week!! None of them were the people or potentials that we thought they would be. They were actually all brought to us by other investigators. I love that!! I love being able to see the love that our investigators gain from the gospel and of the gospel that they want to share it with others!! Isn't that how we as members should be? I need to be better at that when I get home!!

We have had another week full of super member presence!! Mom, this is something I want to do the entire time I am home for the summer!! The progress you see in your investigators when they get to spend an evening in the home of a member is just miraculous!! I am so grateful for the members here who are so missionary minded!!

Ok....so.....I have some kind of good news but news that is also a little bit of a bummer.

We got transfer calls this morning....And I have been transferred to Deventer, Nederland. This is a bummer because we have two baptisms here in Turnhout in the next three weeks. I am really bummed about that. I haven't been able to see a baptism of someone I have taught since Ans Jansen in Den Haag. But I am hoping that life in Deventer will prove to be swell.

My new companion will be Sister Thorley. I don't really know a lot about the city or anything. I just know I have to get up there on Wednesday. I am excited to be back up in the Netherlands for olliebollen season though. I was getting a little bit worried.

It seems like the Lord doesn't want to keep me in an area for more than two transfers. I am not really sure why....but maybe that will be different these last 4.

I love you all and I miss you a lot!! I am really excited for this transfer because I get to go to the temple!! It seems like it has been forever!!

Don't go to crazy by being too busy!!
Ik hou van jullie!!
Liefs,
Zuster Israelsen

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Antwerpen for Conference, Government Certificate Says I am a good member of the church cleared and ready to preach, and WOW! Its been a year!


Hey Family!!

I just love getting emails from everyone!!  I love being able to see and hear about everyone and how their testimonies are growing!!  I loved, loved, LOVED conference!!  We were only able to see three sessions because the last session is broadcast over here from 10 to 12 pm....so after my bedtime!!  But I loved all of the talks that I was able to hear.  I am so glad that everyone had the opportunity to be able to go to the conference center.  I know that at the MTC whenever there was an apostle present, you could just feel the spirit that they brought and you knew right then and there that they were called of God.  I can't imagine what it would feel like to sit in a room with all of them at the same time!!

I think that my favorite part of conference was how much everyone emphasized how important it is for the missionaries and the members to work together.  We are all a team out here.  On my certificate thingy that I have from the prophet that lets the government know that I am ok to be here.  It says that I am a good member of the church cleared and ready to preach.  That is what everyone is.  I think that people forget sometimes that the missionaries are also members of the church!!  We need to work together.  Sister Clement and I were just talking yesterday and said,"If every single of the 15 million members gave just one referral to the missionaries by the end of the year, we could easily see another million members by the next general conference.  It is teamwork people!!  

That was also really comforting, I have been worrying a little bit about what in the world I am going to do when I get home.  Mostly because we had interviews this week and President asked me what my goals were for the end of my mission and what I was planning on doing when I get home.  I think that was kind of rude to do when I still have 6 months, but at the same time, it is only 6 months!!  I think that now is the time that we can all become huge assets in the Lords army whether or not we wear a name badge.  

So, this week has been pretty interesting.  My companion got really sick so we were stuck inside for a couple of days.  I always hate that.  I never feel like I am able to get anything done if I have to stay inside, but it is also important to let yourself heal.  But what was cool was that we were able to see that the Lord was still rewarding us for our work and our efforts in the apartment.  We have an investigator who wants to be baptized so badly.  He is also really addicted to cigarettes and alcohol.  So...obviously, that is a problem.  And apparently it is also really hard to gain the motivation to be able to stop.  But this week, he took a step of faith.  He went and signed up for a fitness center and he has gone every single day of the week.  He is still smoking, but step by step he is getting closer!!  It is those kinds of things, things that we don't ask them to do, that really show us that they are beginning to become converted to the gospel!!

Like I mentioned before, we also had interviews.  I always love interviews because I get time to talk to President and Sister Robinson!!  We hardly ever get to see them down here in the boonies, but it is always a treat!!  

We also have been working a ton with Isaac this week.  He is planning to be baptized on Sunday.  But there is one catch.  He is a refugee, and he may be thrown out the country by the end of the week....so we are praying really hard.  But it is ok.  We have been able to teach him and prepare him to take this step and it doesn't matter where he gets baptized, just that he is able to be baptized!!  I love seeing the changes that come in peoples lives.  Those changes that you see, even if it is just that they smile more, they make all of the difference.  They make you remember that the atonement is real and that the Lord loves every single one of His brothers and sisters!!

We went to Antwerpen to watch conference and stayed there over night for our P-Day activity with the entire Zone!!  It was a blast and we also ate some janky shoarme(don't worry mom, we can go there when you come)

Also, we held our family history activity on Wednesday night!!  It was super cool and really successful.   One thing that I noticed, was that it didn't matter how many fliers that sister clement and I handed out, or how many people we talked to, the only nonmembers that came were those that were invited by the members.  We had 5 nonmembers there!!  They loved it and are planning on coming back for the next activity on the 9 of November!!  The work is easy!! You just have to invite!!

It is crazy to think that I have been out here in the field for an entire year now.  It seems like just yesterday I was sitting in the living room opening my mission call.  I feel like I have changed a lot, but at the same time, I wonder if I really have.  I have seen my desire to serve grow.  I have seen my love for the scriptures grow.  I have started to see my true conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ develop.  I know that this gospel is true and I am using every moment that the Lord has given me to be able to serve his children here in the Netherlands and Belgium.  

I love you all!!  I hope you have a great week!!

Love,
Zuster Israelsen

HALLO MIJN GEWELDIGE FAMILIE!!!!!



HALLO MIJN GEWELDIGE FAMILIE!!!!!

So, first off, I just want you to know of the scare that I had when I opened my email and I saw that I had a draft in my box....I opened it up and saw that is was last weeks email....but according to everyone's letters..it sounds like you got it ok....so I really hope that you did!!  

Mother, to answer your question, I am eating a lot of Belgian Waffles.  And lots of Belgian Chocolate.....and other Belgian delecious items....like friets(fries)

Ok....just sometimes.  Zuser Clement and I try to eat pretty healthy.  We get some dinner appointments here, but we are in a branch and now that there are a set of sisters and a set of elders here in Turnhout, sometimes it feels like dinner appointments are scarce.....but they are the best part of the week!  I love being able to spend time with the members.  To be able to get to know them, their kids and what makes them tick!!  I love it so much!!  
Also, I did receive the cash in the birthday card!!  I bought two movies with it!!  They were cheap.  Despicable Me and How to Train your Dragon....both in Dutch :D  I hope that you aren't too disappointed!! But they haven't been opened!!  I swear!!

This week was super exciting.  We had a lot of birthday parties.  Ok....just two with the V familie.  We went over there for our weekly family home evening appointment and their son had his birthday!!  Julius turned 11 on Monday and then, we were over there again on Wednesday because we had a birthday party for Sister Clement.  Yes, our birthdays are less that 10 days apart.  We are so grateful for the V familie and that they love us enough to throw two different birthday parties in a week!!  We have so much fun with their family and they are working super hard on their family mission plan.  They have us over every week because they are going through Preach my Gospel to prepare to be ready to answer their friends questions.  They have also set a goal to invite a friend to something or to give them a copy of the Book of Mormon by the end of the year.  It was super cool to watch them make this plan as a family and to be able to pray with them to know that this is what Heavenly Father expected from them at this time and that He would help them!!  I love member missionary work!!

I got to spend two days in Antwerpen this week!!  I love Antwerpen.  Sometimes I miss the city, I have been in a tiny dorp since February....and I love being around all of the people in the city and Antwerpen is definitely one of a kind!!  I spent Tuesday on exchanges with Sister Rigdon.  Life is always super amazing when Sister Rigdon is in your life!!  We just had a blast the entire day.  We were booked with appointments mostly because of a return missionary named Andy Thomas.  Acutally, Broeder Wells, from the MTC, taught him and he just got home from a two year mission in England.  But he set up a ton of less-active appointments for the sisters to go to and he wanted to be able to come along. So we had three appointments with sisters who haven't seen a member of the church for two ish years (Please do your home and visiting teaching!!)  And we had a blast.  They truly felt the Spirit and we had a great day.  We also had a dinner appointment with the Willems.  They are probably the funniest people I have ever met.  Broeder Willem reminds me of Grandpa Israelsen.  So, we had a very good time!!
On Wednesday, we had Zone Conference in Antwerpen!!  I always love Zone Conference.  Most missionaries will tell you about this annoying head ache that you get after zone conferences because it is so much information and the spirit is so strong for like five hours straight that your body can't handle it.  It is crazy!!  This Conference was worse.  We talked about so many things!!  We talked about having a total mind shift, about doing the work.  Europe is baptizing and we as a mission are also.  We are loving it!!  We took a tour of the Doctirne and Covenants learning about Zion.  We had a guest speaker, President Boom, who talked to us all about Charity and developing it so that we can become the missionaries the Lord wants us to become.  We talked a lot about faith and developing the faith necessary to do the Lord's work.  And President and Zuster Robinson started a series of Revelations Doctrinal lectures.....It was crazy but so much fun!! 

Our investigators are also doing super well.  Isaac finished all of the lessons this week!!  He is planning on being baptized in two weeks and we are praying and hoping that everything goes well and that we are able to see him enter into that covenant!!  He is already an amazing missionary and he is doing his best to be able to answer all of his questions by reading the Book of Mormon.  I love this guy!!

We also have another investigator who is doing his best to quit smoking and drinking.  I can't imagine how hard that can be and we are doing everything that we can to be able to help him with his goals.  It is so sad to see your investigators relapse when they know that they have a goal, but the Lord is there to give second chances.  He will forgive us if we do our part to come unto him.  I have seen that time and time again here on my mission.  Both for me, for my companions and for the investigators and members we are able to work with.  The Atonement is real.  It is amazing.  if we choose to apply it into our lives, we will be the happiest person we could ever imagine.  I know that, because I have felt of that power and that joy!!  

I love being a missionary!!  Even when it is hard.  I love it.  I love working with the people, MY PEOPLE!!  These are my people, this is the work I need to do!!

Sorry there aren't any picturess, the computer is being really dumb,

i love you all!!
love,
Zuster Israelsen

Monday, September 23, 2013

A Day in the Life of a Missionary, 5 Investigators and Winter is Coming

HALLO!!!!!  

Oh my goodness, how has it been another week already?!?!  I can't believe it.  I am starting to get really sad when it is P-day again, because that means it is one less week that I am able to be a missionary.  My lovely companion likes to remind me that I am so very old and that sith everyday I get closer to dying.  She also likes to let me know that I need to learn new tricks...apparently I am an old dog!!

I am going to answer your questions now...Because I always forget to do that.

First off, I did get all of the birthday gifts!!  I love them all!!  I wear the new clothes very often.  It is so nice to wear them because they don't feel like they are going to fall apart!!  ;D  We had lunch for my birthday with the Elders and had a party with Familie Van Gijsel.  I think that Emilie, their daughter, tried to send you guys a picture through facebook of blowing out the candles...you should let me know if you got it or not.  It was a good day, but didn't really feel like a birthday just because we were doing normal missionary things. 

Dad, a normal day of missionary work....

Well....you get up really early.  I know that you guys think that 6:30 is sleeping in, but when you work so hard everyday....it never feels like you get enough sleep.  

Then, you try your best to get the blood pumping.  One thing I think is super funny is that my companion and I are really clumsy when we are sleepy, so we pretty much fall on our faces trying to go up the stairs of our apartment where the excersise area is.  

Then, you have studies. That is my favorite part of the day.  That view has definately changed.  I remember being in Den Haag and not even being able to stay up for personal study.  I had to try different techniques to stay awake.  I even think that I tried the toothpick thing fro Dads commercial and it didn't work!!  But now, I can't get enough.  One hour for personal study is definately too short!!  There is so much to learn and I have really developed a love for the scriptures.

Then the rest of the day.  You are either out on the street knocking doors and contacting people or you are teaching lessons.  Personally I like teaching lessons better because you actually get to see the difference you are making, but I have grown to love contacting people as well.  it is really fun to be able to meet so many people!!  And get to know more about their culture!  

I also love the moments that I get to spend with the members!!  A lot of people think that the missionaries like to just come over for dinner.  But that is really not the reason they like to come over.  The members are people that you can also create a relationship with.  They are your friends!!  You can help them and they can help you.  If a missionary comes into your home just for food, something is wrong.  The food is an awesome bonus.

I also have grown to love planning.  I like being able to feel concrete for the next day and having back up plans in case something falls through.  it feels good to have a plan. 

My companion is adjusting.  She feels bad about the language but she is doing very well in that aspect too!!  She loves the people here!!  One thing she is having a little bit of a hard time with though is the free agency of others.  Because you do build relationships with people and then they choose not to follow the lessons anymore, or not to talk to you anymore and that is always super hard.  

I will have to look at my luggage....I have no idea what kind it is.  

And you should definitely go to conference because then I may have an opportunity to see you!!  :D  And it will be super cool to be able to be in the same room as the prophet and apostles!!  I want to go some time when I get back!!

So, I am loving life as a misisonary!!  I can't believe how fast time has flown!!  

This week was a little rough.  It started out super amazingly with a birthday party at Familie Van Gijsel.  It was super fun and they worked so hard to make sure that it was a special day!!  Dinner was delicious, the dessert was too!!  and we were able to have Gezins Avond with them!!  I love that family!!  They have helped me and my companion to feel right at home here in Turnhout!!  They are amazing!!  

Our district has an operation.....operation E.C.H.T. F.U.N.  Which stands for Encouraging, Complimentary, Humurous, Tactful, (i can't remember f....) Unified, Ninja.  Pretty much, we are the most unified district in the mission.   I love working with them and we try and help each other succeed and be motivated.

Oh, dad, you asked if I see President Robinson.  No, I am in the boonies of the mission.  I only get to see him if there is Zone Conference.  I do email him every week, and we haven't yet received the new program for missionaries but we have been hearing rumors that it is coming soon!!  I am excited because it will really help us!!  

Oh, and also, Zuster Arts made me Cheesecake this week!!  I love that woman!!  The ingredients for Cheesecake do not all exsist here, but she made them herself!!  it was a very, very beautiful thing!!

We had kind of a rough week.  Most of our investigators were sick, so we spent a majority of our time on the street trying to meet new people and find new investigators...it was also really raining a lot outside!!  But we didn't see very much success numbers wise.  On Saturday, we were feeling like failures because everyone canceled for Sunday for church and to be able to go and see a baptism. 

But miraculously....at the last minute before the last hour of church ( sacrament meeting) we had 5 investigators show up!!!  Two of which were people that we had just met on the street!!  It was a beautiful day and also, both of the people who canceled for the baptism decided to come and we were able to help them see how beautiful the covenant they are preparing to make can be.  At this poing it looks like we will be having a baptism the week after conference....fingers crossed!!  

I love being a missionary!!!  I miss you guys, but I have realized that the time to be out here is really too short...it's almost winter again.....that is so not cool!!

I hope that everyone has a great week!!  Don't have too much fun with out me!!  Do well in school!!

Rachel....keep up the good singing!! 

Ik hou van jullie allemaal!!


Tot volgende week!!
Liefs,
Zuster Israelsen