Zuster Fox?

Zuster Fox?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas with the Loorbachs! (this would make a fabulous movie title)

Hello everyone! We had an absolutely fabulous Christmas up here in the Northern Netherlands, and I hope everyone has had a festive holiday season wherever you may be :)

Cozy Christmas Eve with hot chocolate!
On Christmas Eve, we came home and got in our pajamas. Sister Dobler and I read the nativity story directly out of the Bible in Luke and Matthew, because that's a Christmas Ever tradition from both of our families. WE enjoyed hot chocolate, listened to soothing Christmas music... It was wonderful. Also on Christmas Eve, I tried to turn on our bedroom light switch and the lightbulb exploded through the glass fixture covering it, and we had glass everywhere. So that was exciting! Haha. But really, we had a very relaxing Christmas Eve.
The light fixture that exploded on Christmas Eve. How festive!

On Christmas morning we woke up early as usual, and opened our presents! It was so fantastic. Both of our families had sent us both stuffed stockings, we got lots of treats and fun things... Mostly, I was just excited and eagerly anticipating Skyping with my family later!

We got ready and went out to visit some people and deliver Christmas cards. One less active member we visited told us he had just been praying that Heavenly Father would make the day beautiful somehow, then we showed up! He's divorced and his children weren't coming to visit him until the next day, so he didn't have any Christmas plans. In the prayer we said together before we left, he thanked God that we had come so he didn't have to be completely alone on Christmas. Aww... That was a miracle. We were definitely led to him by the Spirit.

We then went to a cool family reunion/lunch party thing for the huge de Jonge family. They're a big family of members of the church in Nederland, they're everywhere, and it was so fun to celebrate with them for a couple of hours in Groningen! We also got to see a few other missionaries, which was way cool.

Then they drove us to the Loorbach family home, where we were spending Christmas. We exchanged presents with them (we made crazy homemade ornaments... Probably not very good quality.. but it's the thought that counts!) and got settled. Then we got to SKYPE!
2014 Voss Family Christmas Photo! (little Will was not amused...) Skyping was my favorite present! 
Skyping with my family was so amazing, the best Christmas present ever. It was so good to see and hear my family again! We laughed, we cried, shared our various experiences, I spoke Dutch for them, it was crazy at home just like always... The only thing that could have made it better is if it had been a few hours longer. But even that one hour was so precious and incredible.

Then after Sister Dobler skyped, we ate Christmas dinner with the Loorbach family. The evening with them was so comfortable and they were so kind, it felt just like being with our families! Dinner was delicious, and they let me make mashed potatoes for the sake of tradition. Then we all sat on the couch and watched Frozen together while eating ice cream. It was cozy and gezellig, Sister Dobler and I were singing along- It was a delightful evening!
Eating ice cream while we watched Frozen with the Loorbachs. Fabulous!
I have never been so active on Christmas, but this one was probably one of the best of my life. It was so special to celebrate the birth of my Savior while I've dedicated all my time to serving Him. I'm so grateful every day for His life, ministry and grace!
We both got a lot, despite the misleadingly small packages we were sent. Thank you families!

Christmas morning opening presents! (notice how dark it is. I haven't opened presents at 6:30 since I was 5 I bet)

Sister Dobler with all her Christmas presents!
The UMD shirt I got for Christmas completes this pajama outfit that represents in descending order of time all of my homes; Maryland, BYU/Utah, and the Netherlands!
Also, here in the Netherlands they celebrate Second Christmas. It's just like First Christmas, they spend it with family and eat food, but it makes me think of the Lord of the Rings (what about second breakfast? Elevensies?). We spent that also eating way too much yummy food- first with our investigator Angela, then with Sanaya and her family (the same people we spent Thanksgiving and Halloween with). It was another fun day!
Hema hot dogs together last P-day. It's how a hot dog should be- in a fresh baguette with only a hole on one end, filled with a skinny sausage and sweet mustard. Bliss!
I've had a wonderful past week and also an amazing year- I'm excited for the next one! I wish you all a Happy New Year (een gelukkig Nieuwjaar) and can't wait to write to you again in 2015!

Love, Zuster Voss
Slightly better family photo (sans Kinney) - Xmas Selfie... - Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of you from the Voss Family!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas in Nederland!

Merry Monday before Christmas, iedereen (everyone)! We had a wonderful week- I'll attempt to condense it into a readable post.

First of all, it is the season of Christmas cards here! And Sister Dobler and I are finding the card traditions here very interesting. It's basically mandatory to give a card to everyone you know. That sounds exhausting, but fortunately, the cards don't have to be personal, at all! If it says "Prettige Kerstdagen en een Gelukkig Nieuwjaar" then all I have to do is sign it "Warm regards, Zuster Voss" and make 50 exactly the same and just write someone's name on the outside and give them to everyone I know. I don't know. It seems kind of like a waste of paper to not make them at least a little more personal, wouldn't you think?
Pretty rainbow in Nederland
To be fair, I have received a few lovely, touching cards with personal notes inside. But we just thought it was interesting that they could also be so blank. Maybe I'm just imagining the extra thought and effort, but as I recall in America most people usually write at least a couple personal thoughts about their friendship or hopes for the family to have a wonderful season. Anyway, it's an interesting difference!

Zuster Dobler is absolutely fantastic. I was so nervous about training, but she quickly helped me feel at ease with her competence, already amazing Dutch, enthusiasm and chill nature. She's already getting along really well with our investigators and members here. I'm so grateful to get this transfer with her! She's still getting the hang of her bike- it's reminding me how much we use our bikes here and that I've gotten pretty bold about darting through spaces between cars and turning tight corners. But she's keeping up very well! Also, we just really get along. We were walking to our bus stop one night and just started belting Frozen songs together. It's interesting that we're official, professional representatives of Jesus Christ and also normal 19 year old girls. It's cool that we are doing important work, but also able to have fun with each other!
Attempted a companion selfie with the rainbow
One adventure from this past week occurred when our shower drain got clogged and out apartment flooded. Woohoo! So we spent an hour trying to sop out the water with towels and we've had fans blowing for a couple days straight now- we are hopeful that we might have semi dry floors for Christmas! Dad note: This is what I get to deal with at home as well - living with 4 girls and their long hair can be icky - TMI? Yeah, probably...

Last week we had a zone training in Apeldoorn. So far a trend I've noticed with zone trainings is that they're simuklatneously (I purposely left the spelling as it came from McKinney because I like how her English has slowly melded into Dutch/English) inspiring and chastening.
Elder Cook, Sister Bush and I at zone training- MTC group buddies, unite!
We learned about our new mission initiative to cut down on time waste and focus on having at least 20 hours a week from every companionship of active proselyting- teaching or finding. I've learned a lot of valuable things from my Mom over my life, including all the Gospel principles and such wonderful things, but I've also had a strong appreciation for efficiency instilled upon me since childhood. So this new push totally makes sense! It involves more efficient planning to cut down on travel time by focusing our efforts on certain areas, just being sensible. We've already seen a miracle as a result of implementing some of the ideas- on a night when we weren't sure if we could do anything else effective, we visited a less active family had a really cool lesson! It also has been making me feel a bit guilty if we ever can't use our time as efficiently as it seems we should- but I'm trying not to get too stressed out.

This week one of our 8 year old investigators taught us how to sing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer in Dutch. It's pretty literal in the part about the other reindeer making fun of him and the translation is simultaneously sad and hilarious. "Vroeger had hij geen vriendjes, eenzaam was hij elke dag, tot dat de keer de kerstman, Rudolph's rode neusje zag." Basically- "earlier he had no friends, he was lonely every day, until the time that Santa, saw his red nose." I feel like I need to feel more sympathy for Rudoph.

We had an awesome branch Christmas party this past Saturday! It was one of the finest Church events I have ever attended- fantastic food, excellent music selections, beautiful decorations. I personally had a blast, and it was also excellent for missionary work- I sat at a table between an investigator family, a less active family, and a non member friend invited by one of the members. Can't get much better than that. I think everyone enjoyed themselves and felt the Spirit of Christmas!
Our crazy Christmas decorations in our living room.
It seems like Christmas has approached so sneakily! I can' believe it's already this week. I'm so grateful for the chance I have this Christmas to be serving my Savior as we celebrate His birth, all over the world. I'm grateful for the opportunity every day to use his Atonement, that I can be cleansed from sin and forgiven because of Him. Truly, #Heisthegift! I hope you all back home have a wonderful, warm holiday season surrounded by family and friends, and focused on the reason for the season. I wish you all een fijne, prettige Kerst!

Liefs, Zuster McKinney Voss

Monday, December 15, 2014

The student becomes the teacher

From being trained to training was a pretty abrupt transition, so this week has felt remarkably long- however, it's been wonderful!
Sister Dobler, myself and Sister Woodbury!
My last couple of days with Sister Woodbury were very busy. We still did a lot of teaching, a lot of planning. In District Meeting, we had the Dundies, thanks to Elder Claflin, the most hilarious district leader ever. I should explain that in mission slang, if you are a missionary's last companion before he or she goes home, you "kill" him or her. So I won the "Silent Killer" Dundie. Similarly, when we explained that concept to some members of the ward in our last dinner appointment, they thought it was hilarious. Their 12 year old in the closing prayer prayed fervently that the blood of Sister Woodbury on my hands wouldn't haunt me forever, and then saying goodbye firmly shook my hand and said "Doei, moordenaar!" (Bye, murderer!). Ouch.

WE woke up early on Wednesday morning so we could catch our train to be in Leiden at 9:30 to pick up my greenie. Waking up at 5:00 is pretty early, even for missionaries! But we got there on time. In the station, I saw Sister Robbins, my first companion- I've missed her! And I also saw Sister Watts and Sister Thomas, the other two sisters from my group who are training this transfer. It was nice to have the emotional support from good friends right beside me while we waited to meet our new greenies- I was pretty nervous!
Sister Robbins, Sister Watts and I! I love these ladies!

Preparing to train with Sister Watts and Sister Thomas. Ah!
Well, they ushered us into a big room, and we just had to find each other! My new companion's name is Sister Dobler, and she is way cool! She's from California, she's 19 like I am (my first companion who's actually younger than me! Though not by much) and she also went to BYU. We had a big training meeting together, and then we had lunch- all the departing missionaries were there, so I got to eat with my trainer and my greenie, a lovely little multi-generational meal. Then Sister Dobler and I were off for Assen!

Well, training. I must say, I think taking over the city is more stressful than training. I feel bereft without Sister Woodbury to talk decisions over with. But from our experiences of the past few days I've learned that I know this city better than I thought, and that I have indeed been well prepared to kind of be in charge here now. Training is a sacred responsibility, but in the letter calling me to train it says that Heavenly Father and President Robinson have full confidence in me... Which is simultaneously comforting and humbling. And fortunately, Sister Dobler is extremely competent. She learns quickly and is super enthusiastic, and I already feel like I can rely on her. One couldn't ask for a better greenie! We've had some cool teaching and finding experiences here already. I feel less panicked at being in charge every day. Gelukkig :) And, my Dutch is suddenly sufficient to do everything we need too. I can testify that the gift of tongues is real!
A member, Aswin Loorbach and I after he was a great joint teach at a lesson! The members here are awesome about being willing to come on join teach.
The weather this week has been pretty crazy. On Sister Dobler's first full day, it was super erratic, mostly in undesirable ways- rain downpour, hail, brief sun, drizzly rain, always cold. However, we've also had a couple nice days- on maybe her third day, when the sun actually was shining in the morning, Sister Dobler said something along the lines of "Look! The sun is so pretty! This is the first time I've seen it here!" Oh dear. Welcome to Nederland... But It isn't always so bad.

Also, when we got her her new bike, and when I was returning a bike I had borrowed to someone, I had the opportunity to ghost ride- which is where you're riding your bike and also holding onto another one at the same time. It can be kind of dangerous because you have less control, but I must admit that I was fairly impressed that I was able to to it for fairly long stretches, although it did make my arms and shoulders sore. The second time I tried though, we were going against an incredibly strong wind that almost blew me over just trying to regularly ride... The ghost riding didn't go quite as well that time. However, it isn't often that you have three bikes and two people to get somewhere, so hopefully I won't have to do it again very frequently- although it is nice to know that I can, in a pinch!
Me with an investigator, Nassira :)

We had a cool experience in a lesson this past week. We were explaining to one of our investigators that there is a prophet on the earth today, and we use an ipad to help teach him, because he can't speak super great Dutch or English- and through it he asked, "Where does the prophet live? How can we listen to him?" We were able to explain General Conference and show him how to access it, but mostly it was really cool for me to see someone with the sincere desire to obtain all the words possible of God!

Yesterday, Sister Woodbury and her parents (who came to Nederland to pick her up) were in church. It was so good to see Sister Woodbury again, and to meet them! We had dinner with a family in the ward after church and it was so fun to be together in a group.
Car Selfie of 3 Zusters on the way to dinner.

Leiden Station. Last picture as companions

Nothing like putting actual parents in the picture to help me feel more like actual sisters with these wonderful ladies!
So far, training hasn't been too overwhelming. I'm excited for the adventures we'll have together over the coming transfer! And the Christmas cheer we've created in our apartment is the cure to any stress. Many sweet ward members have given us Christmas cards, which is also really nice.
Christmas cards, tree, stockings, snowflakes in our apartment~!
With the upcoming Christmas season, I encourage everyone to go on you tube and search "He is the Gift" and watch that movie- it really has helped me at least to appreciate the true meaning of Christmas. And if you want to watch it in Dutch, search "Hij is het Geschenk." Also really cool. Merry Christmas, Fijne Kerst! I love you all!

Zuster Voss

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Lord Giveth, and the Lord Hath Taken Away; Blessed Be the Name of the Lord

This week feels as though it has lasted at least a month. It started out pretty rough and had some struggle bus moments, but I can't deny that it has been a week of miracles.
This week, Sister Woodbury got pretty sick, I lost one of my nametags, we got soaked to the skin waiting at a bus stop, aaaaand my bike was stolen. Ouch. What is so ridiculous is how incredible the week still was, however, and I'll try to explain as best as I can.
So, my stolen bike. It was largely my fault for neglecting to securely lock it- when we went into our appointment it was there, when we came out, it was gone. I won't deny that it was pretty jarring and traumatic and I'm pretty sure I went through all the stages of grief for the sake of my bike. But I learned so, so much. First, that I'll never lock a bike with any less than two locks and to a secure object. But also, I learned much more than that!

Climbed a super tall pretty hill and tried to take a selfie and include the view.

I realized that my happiness does not and should never depend on material things. While I am on a mission, I have consecrated everything I have and am to God. It was His bike, not mine. It served me well for two transfers. I was also kind of upset that lack of a bike would halt our missionary work- but as we learn in D&C 3:1, the purposes and works of God cannot be frustrated! This is His work, and He will ensure that it gets done. He miraculously provided that I could borrow a bike from an investigator for a week, and then gave me a new one. Zuster Keuter, our ward Relief Society President, heard about my stolen bike and then told me she was buying a new bike and so I could have her old one. Crazy! It just confirms that these people are the kindest, most generous, loving people ever... And that Heavenly Father makes sure that His work will not be interrupted! I am so very grateful for the people that have helped me this week and to Heavenly Father. Our bikes are our main form of transportation, so not having one is pretty difficult... Thus it's incredible how well it worked out.
That proved difficult. So I took a separate picture of the view haha.

I also realized from this experience that I choose my own attitude. I'm pretty innately positive and I think I've kind of always taken it for granted that I tend to see the best and the positive in any given situation. But I got pretty sad and mopey (can you say that?) for a day after my bike was stolen. So it took me consciously recognizing that I didn't feel as good and happy as usual and deciding to change that for me to feel better. I have full hope that God will take care of me and have faith that everything happens for a reason. I can choose to see the best of everything. I wasn't called here to teach half-heartedly and sadly walk around because of a temporary circumstance. I came here to share the joy of the Gospel! I can choose to radiate happiness and peace, despite outside circumstances, and even if it doesn't come easily from within. It was a pretty cool moment for me to learn that.

Kind of related to that, I also remembered that my mission isn't about me, or my silly bike. It's about me serving others. That should be my first goal and priority. And if I'm not worrying about myself all the time and am focused on others, if I've turned outward instead of inward- then I'm following the example of Christ, and can feel greater inner peace. Pretty incredible.
Now, moving on! This week was Sinterklaas, hard core, up until December 5th, and the people here are way too nice to the missionaries. We had an anonymous Sinterklaas who dropped a few gifts into our brievenbus (mailbox) through the week. The Loorbach family gave us adorable slippers that look like Dutch Klompen. From familie Keauter Sr we got the traditional poem that accompanies a sinterklaas gift, called a gedicht, that was way cute- plus little make up masks and chocolate covered kruidnoten (heaven). We have received chocolate letters in great abundance from a variety of loving people, and enough kruidnoten to become our new year's supply food storage. We have eaten this week in the homes of many loving members and felt the Spirit so strong! I feel so loved and comfortable here. These members are enthusiastic about missionary work, service minded, and so kind. I'm excited that I get to spend Christmas here!
This is pretty dark. But we were eating dinner with a recent convert and we made her a pretty paper Christmas tree. I feel pretty pleased with it!

Speaking of which...We got transfer calls, with huge exciting news. I'm staying in Assen, gelukkig (happy), and... I'm training! I almost don't know how to describe how overwhelmed I felt initially. We've been expecting this to happen almost since we left the MTC, but it never quite seemed real, until one of the Assitants to the Presidents was saying to me, "Sister Voss, you have been called to train in Assen. Are you willing to accept this calling?"
After only three months in this country and four months of learning and practicing my Dutch, Heavenly Father has asked me to take over the missionary work of this city and attempt to guide, train and prepare a freshly new missionary for the rest of her mission. I'm humbled and sobered by this responsibility. I'm prepared to do my best and rely on Heavenly Father- I'll have too! I know that whom the Lord calls, He qualifies. and right after we got the call, Sister Woodbury was using 1 Nephi 3:7 in a lesson and the message of that verse hit me powerfully. God will never command me to do anything without providing a way for me to accomplish it. We weren't sent to the earth to fail, but to succeed, gloriously! He wants me to be obedient, to do my best, and if I'm doing that, He will make everything turn out as it should.

I'm excited for the opportunity to train and eagerly looking forward to meeting my new companion on Wednesday morning. She's lucky that she'll be "born" (begin her mission) in Assen, and I'm grateful that I had that privilege and that I get to stay here with these wonderful people for at least six more weeks!
To tie up any loose ends I introduced at the beginning of the post- Sister Woodbury has fully recovered and is ready to see her parents and head home. I will be sad to see her go but I'm excited for her! My nametag is still missing, but fortunately I have another one. And getting soaked through in the rain while waiting for a bus? Well, yes, that was unpleasant, but we did eventually dry off. Unfortunately, it did become bitterly cold these past couple weeks, after a gloriously mild fall and early winter. However, the cold just makes it feel more like the Christmas season! Woohoo!
We had some really cool miracles this week; for example, we both had an extremely subtle prompting to go visit an investigator we hadn't had contact with for a while. He was there, let us right in, and he and his wife both sat down with us and we had a wonderful lesson and they promised to come to church. And on the way, we got to see a less active member, who also promised to come to church next week so basically... that was the best experience ever. When we allow ourselves to be guided by the Spirit, we see things like that all the time. It was pretty incredible!
We found this random empty space by unscrewing a panel in the wall in our apartment... We decided to make a time capsule/log for other curious missionaries who might find it, thus the bottle. That was a fun adventure!
The scripture quoted in the title comes from Job 1:21. The Lord giveth, and I have a testimony that what He takes away is for our own good. He gives so much though, and wants to give us so much more; our potential is so much greater than we can imagine. Blessed be the name of the Lord!

Zuster Voss

Monday, December 1, 2014

Reasons to be thankful (Aside from Sinterklaas)

This was such an exciting week! For multiple reasons. I met SINTERKLAAS! Also, we had a Conference with a member of the presidency of the area seventy over Europe! That one should probably be first because it's more spiritually important. But meeting Sinterklaas was awesome.

Elder Moreira is from Portugal and a member of the Europe area presidency seventy. He's awesome, animated, and inspiring. We travelled to Rotterdam to hear him and I learned a lot- it's hard to share it in just a few sentences. But basically, we need to be innovative and bold, as well as positive. He said, "Keep the smiling." I can do that! Also, President Robinson shared a great message. We discussed the levels of motivation- love being the highest one of course. If we are motivated by love to do our best, obedience won't be a burden, and our faith will be strengthened.
Seeing Sister Watts at the Moreira Conf was wonderful!
So, I learned a lot, and got to see some friends I missed from my MTC group. It's always fabulous to be reunited with other missionaries! Especially since we're the only missionaries in Assen, so we don't see other people from the mission more than once a week for district meeting.

Thanksgiving happened! Happy Thanksgiving everyone! We had a fabulous one. We were asked by the people we carved pumpkins with on Halloween to come over and prepare a true American Thanksgiving dinner with them and share our traditions. Neither Sister Woodbury nor I had ever prepared Thanksgiving dinner all by ourselves before, but it turned out amazing. Sister Woodbury cooked the two tiny turkeys to perfection (big turkeys are only a thing in America) and I made delicious mashed potatoes and a fantastic apple pie.
Making it was kind of sketchy since we were trying to convert to weird European measurements, but it came out excellently. It tasted like America, man. We also shared the history of Thanksgiving, a spiritual thought and the tradition of going around the table saying what we're thankful for.
Our thanksgiving spread.
I was touched by the sincere and beautiful responses, and the Spirit was definitely there. They (8 non members! It was so awesome!) all loved it, and I felt like I was home for Thanksgiving, at least a little bit. It was lovely.  

Now, meeting Sinterklaas. We were at our ward mission leader's house after teaching a lesson with him to his neighbors, and we were all eating dinner, when suddenly there was a knock on the door! In came Sinterklaas with two Zwarte Piets (the Sinterklaas equivalent of Santa's elves and questionably politically correct. I guess I won't get into that debate). Sinterklaas greeted us, asked if we had all been being good, then handed out individual presents! I received a chocolate letter "V." Chocolate letters are a big deal here and you see them everywhere. Plus they handed out lots of kruidnoten and candy. Kruide noten (literally, "spice nuts") are like little hard bites of gingerbread and they taste like pure Christmas. Anyway, it was fantastic, I was super excited... Apparently visiting people's houses is something Sinterklaas just does, though of course the de Jonges had also arranged this visit. It was super awesome.

We also had the opportunity this week to fast with an investigator.. She's a a big decision making point in her life and it was cool to share the experience of beginning a fast together. Fasting adds so much strength to my prayers and focus to my thoughts while I'm doing it. Fasting for and with an investigator was really special.
Cutting my apple pie.
Also, Sister Woodbury and I have noticed a strong theme of woodland creatures as the new hipster theme here. Deer, owls, foxes are everywhere. Has that hit America yet? Is it obvious to everyone except us? Once we noticed, we saw it everywhere. But maybe we're crazy. Sorry that was random and not spiritual, but I just thought it was funny.
Chocolate letter "V" I got from Sinterklaas
Meeting Sinterjklaas! The Groningen sister missionaries were there too (Sisters Bradley and Fleming)
Now that it's December We're gearing up even more for the Christmas season! Weirdly, there's only one week really left in this transfer. After this, Sister Woodbury's mission is over and she'll be going home to America. I almost can't believe it. I've learned so much from her and I'm going to miss her a lot. Plus, it's highly likely that I'll be training next transfer. Yikes! But I know it will be good. Until next week! 
Love, Sister Voss
McDonalds on Thanksgiving morning. Can't get more American than that.