Saturday, December 28, 2013

Sinterklaus, Apeldoorn, Christmas Concert and Blessings

Sinterklaus and Zwarte Piet

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!!
Zuster Israelsen

Sunday, December 15, 2013

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

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 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. was the crazyest rain/hail/thunder/crazyness storm I have seen here since I have been here.  It was 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!!
Zuster Israelsen

Sunday, December 8, 2013

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

Hey, just kidding.  But actually, for real.  There is no turkey to be found here in the Netherlands.  We 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!! 
Zuster Israelsen
P.S. We are on the dumb computers I can't send picutres this week....sorry