Zuster Fox?

Zuster Fox?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Historic places and brownie castles.

What a wonderful week we've had! It was packed and busy, both with cool cultural experiences and miraculous missionary work- the best kind of week to have!
Our 3rd companion- the tiny snow missionary I made on our porch

Last Monday, we took the chance to go visit a concentration camp called Kamp Westerbork that's actually only 20 minutes outside of Assen with Elder Warner and Elder Key (the Hoogeveen elders) and Aswin Loorbach. It was a unique, fascinating experience. We saw the remains of a building where Anne Frank was held. We read postcards that were the last forms of communication sent by desperate people confined within the tiny parameters of the camp. Tens of thousands of Dutch Jews were held at Kamp Westerbork before being deported to extermination camps elswhere. It was sobering to walk in a place so recently, just 70 years ago, used to bring to pass so much heartache and misery. It was also fascinating from the perspective of the part of me that adores history to actually be there. It was a cool, misty day- perfect concentration camp weather, if there is such a thing. The day itself felt sad and serious.
Each stone represents someone who died here - there are thousands
However, the entire trip wasn't so sad. It was a forty minute walk to get there through a beautiful old forest, and it was fun to talk to Aswin and the elders as we traveled there. We ate chocolate, shared missionary experiences, just in general enjoyed the change of pace and company.
Sister Dobler and I with Aswin in front of the huge satellites that were on the path on the way to Kamp Westerbork

Belgian chocolate we bought to enjoy on our road trip. They look like Willy Wonka bars- sadly, there were no golden tickets inside
Then afterwards, we visited the Hunnebeds! Which, as you may recall, are the ancient stonehenge-like stone structures mysteriously constructed as tombs by primitive humans. Crazy, cool, and you can climb all over them. I had been there once before, but it was Sister Dobler's first time. It was a fun trip!
Sister Dobler and I on the hunnebeds!

Hunnebed Mermaid.
Also this week, Assen saw more snow! Actual snow that stuck to the ground. It was beautiful, but biking through snow can be a scary experience! Our back wheels were slipping all over the place. Ultimately, we survived the days of snow on the ground and enjoyed playing in it too. It was definitely cold this week though!
Enjoying the first day of snow!
Then it snowed more... And we saw this giant snow ball someone rolled (the snow was excellent and sticky! Perfect for snow men and snowballs!) But of course, dignified sister missionaries don' indulge in such childish activities...
Selfie with the snow spiderwebs... They were covered in delicate frost and it was pretty cool
As far as missionary work, we had some special lessons both with and without members, but one that sticks out most vividly to me is a lesson we had with a 16 year old less active member. He's prepared and positive about making the church a bigger part of his life, but receives little support at home, so we were trying to help him strengthen his own personal relationship with God. And how is that possible? Through prayer. We read out of Joseph Smith History together and discussed the attribute's of Joseph's prayer. Then we watched the fantastic Mormon Message, "The Hope of God's Light" together, which is powerful in any situation. But here, it brought the Spirit so strongly! We challenged him to try to pray, and he accepted it.
Last district meeting of the transfer! Goodbye Elder Cook!

Companion Doners- delicious, but feel like you ate a rock...

Sister Dobler and I were so inspired by how wonderful the lesson was- we couldn't stop thinking about it. We were on our way to look up someone else afterwards, and just pulled aside on our bikes and found a quiet place to pray with each other- that he would have the desire to pray, and receive and be able to recognize an answer. Praying with each other for someone else so specifically and intensely was great for building our companion unity- and we knew that we had done all we could, but that it was still up to us to show our faith through obedience. So for the rest of the evening we contacted our hearts out until the last minute, talking to everyone. Overall, it was just a cool experience.

Our brownie castle. The Dutch flagged really topped it off nicely!
In preparation for the ward potluck on Sunday, we impulse bought a castle shaped cake mold and made quite and impressive brownie castle. The branch loved it... We were very pleased haha.

I hope you're all having miraculous weeks back at home! Love others, do good in the world around you... I have discovered that the greatest joy and happiness come from those principles.


Zuster Voss
This is the plaque for the building we saw where Anne Frank was held
This was the building itself

The number on the front is how many Dutch Jews were deported, the number on the side is how many were ultimately killed in a foreign concentration camp

Me reading one of the preserved last letters of a resident of this camp
Elder Key and Elder Warner with the huge satellites.
Sister Dobler's family sent Tostitos Hint of Lime chips. If there's one thing you can't get here, it's genuine American Mexican food, so I guess you could say we enjoyed them a little bit... 

My mini me!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Mountains and near misses

Another wonderful week here in Assen! A wonderful week out of the many in past days and the many to come; we got transfer news- Sister Dobler and I will both stay here for the next 6 weeks!

It's kind of a crazy feeling. This means that in total, I'll spend 6 months in this little city in Northern Nederland. No one else from my MTC group is still in the city they started in- they'll all have served in at least two cities starting next transfer. While I'm looking forward to someday serving in other cities, getting to know other wonderful people, I'm thrilled that I'll get to spend so much time here in Assen! I feel truly at home here, and I'm a homey person, so it's nice to stay- and more than that, I love this city and these people. Drenthe province is just beautiful, and I feel blessed everyday for the opportunity to work here. And, I love Sister Dobler- I'm so excited to spend another six weeks as her companion! We are going to work our hearts out and have so much fun here together.
Picture with President and SIster Robinson when they came to do interviews with us last week. I love them so much!

This week was excellent. We had interviews with President and Sister Robinson, which only happen every three months- it's nice to get to speak with them one on one!

We also had an incredible ward council here in the Assen branch. All the leaders of every organization in our unit all gathered together on Tuesday evening - we sang "High on the Mountaintop" and discussed how from a mountain, you can see both from where you've come, and look forward to where you want to go. After praying for inspiration, we discussed our goals for this branch over the next 1-5 years. I'm amazed by the faith of these members and I'm excited to help make their vision a reality - this branch will grow into a ward, their young men will serve missions, they'll retain the special, loving atmosphere that I have already so strongly experienced. It was an honor to participate and I'm so excited to continue getting to serve these members and help them with their misisonary work!
Wet snow in Nederland! Our first snow in Assen. Exciting- but you can see how it soaked our coats!
 On Wednesday, it snowed. It started as rain, then it became wet snow, huge flakes of freezing water whacking us in the face as we desperately biked to an appointment we were late for. I must say, it was beautiful, and I enjoyed seeing it softly falling once I was inside - but biking cold and soaked through wind and snow is certainly an adventure I hope to not too frequently repeat!
Snow selfie with our lovely Marjon :)

We had some ups and downs in the work - investigators we had to drop, investigators who dropped us - but we still see miracles every day and I know that there is still so much work to do here in Assen, in Nederland, in Europe! People with prepared, open hearts are seeking truth, and I consider it an honor and a pleasure to search for those people and share with them the truth that has brought me such incredible happiness.

A funny story as my last note: We were walking under some trees with Bernadette when bird poop fell from above and almost hit me - it missed by like an inch and plopped in front of my boots. We all stopped and looked at it and Bernadette said, "Hemelse Vader heeft je weer beschermd!"(Heavenly Father has protected you again!). It was a pretty close call. There was definitely some divine intervention involved to spare a poor sister missionary the indignity and mess of being pooped on by a bird. Another small miracle I'm grateful for.
I was feeling pretty netjes (classy) on Sunday and realized I didn't have a picture yet with this new bike Zr. Keuter gave me. So here I am with it in Marjon's garden!

American soda in Nederlands! Happy day!
I hope you all have a wonderful week! Look for the miracles in your lives!

Love, Zuster Voss

BONUS Picture:
A store called Jerusalem just a few stores down from the one called Babylon. I think it's pretty funny!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Biking Adventures and living the Gospel Joyful

Winnie the Pooh often has a blustery day- but we have had a blustery week here in Assen!
We're talking about wind that blows you off course when you're biking, makes you fly forward when it's behind you, and brings you to a standstill if you're biking against it, even pedaling at full power. Exciting stuff!
Sister Dobler and I in the main square of Brussels!
We had a fun week. Our District leaders Elder Nye and Elder Claflin came to work with us for several hours on Thursday. It was kind of inspiring to have that extra support in our city, and cool to learn from them and how they talk to people, teach, and share our message. Plus, they are hilarious. So we all had a good time and were extra productive. Win win!
Chilling with Elders Nye and Claflin when they came to work with us.

On Friday, both Sister Dobler and I went to Belgium for some legality/visa paperwork things. We slept over in Lelystad on Thursday night with Sister Adams and Sister Begazo, which is always fun, and ended up traveling with the Zwolle Elders (Cook and Da Silva) to Leiden. Seeing other missionaries is generally great.

Our hour walking around in Brussels was delightful. We appreciated the incredible architecture, ate Belgian Frites, Belgian waffles, and fresh delicious sandwiches (that sounds like a lot, but hey, we don't go to Belgium every day). It's always exciting to be standing in a square and not know if the person next to you will be speaking French, Dutch, English, German- it's a surprise!
Belgian waffles. Enough said :)

While there in Brussels, we were only a few hours away from Paris, only a couple days after the Charlie Hebdo attack- we saw many "Je Suis Charlie" signs there. A couple people mentioned it to us and we've read a couple Dutch newspaper articles describing the horrific event, so I think I understand what's occurred. It's sobering to hear of such tragedy and there are definitely a lot of people here who are more afraid for their safety given the recent events. I almost don't know how to react to it; I think peace and healing will take a long time to come again to France, the world, and those affected, but I'm grateful for the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the knowledge that healing can indeed and will come through Christ to those who seek it. I think I still feel as safe as before, even though I'm pretty close to where it happened (well, closer than I'd be in America), but such terrorist attacks do increase the uncertainty in the world and threaten the safety of everyone in the world today. I believe it was Martin Luther King, Jr. who said "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Terrorist attacks anywhere threaten the safety of free citizens everywhere. But I have faith that we'll be okay. Komt wel goed.
Elder Cook and I- the only ones from our original MTC group on this Belgium trip
The gold decorations and architecture in Brussels are just stunning.
In other news: Sister Dobler and I are tire patching pros! We both had flats this past week and it was really inconvenient. Finally, one of our investigators fixed the hole in my tire and showed us how to do the process ourselves.
Bike repair extraordinaire! 
So we took Sister Dobler's bike, turned it upside down, pulled the inner tube out, located the tiny hole using a bucket of water, patched it, and put it all back together. By ourselves! It really isn't that difficult, but considering I didn't even know bike tires had two parts a few months ago, we were pretty impressed that we accomplished such a feat. #BelgiumNetherlandsMission
Shall we open a bike repair shop together when we get home?
We found these instructions in the old obselete missionary health guide and updated them to be in accordance with the circumstances of our mission.
We had some really cool member present lessons this week; it's always incredible to me how powerful it is when members join us to help teach, and share their strong testimonies with those who are just beginning to learn about the church. In one lesson with an 8 year old and her grandmother, our Relief Society President Sylvia and her 11 year old daughter Anouk joined us, and the lesson was so much more clear, everyone was focused, and we all built stronger relationships with each other. Members make such a difference- this work belongs to all of us!
Elders Cook and Da Silva hanging out with us at Lelystad station while we all waited to be picked up. Good times.
This week I really enjoyed reading a talk by President Uchtdorf, "Living the Gospel Joyful." It still astounds me that an Almighty God knows me personally and yearns for my individual happiness and success. Yet this is the glorious truth I get to share every day! And given my knowledge of His love and care, it makes it so much easier to follow the commandments He has given me - because I know they are meant to help me be happy, and I trust my Heavenly Father.

We are all children of God, and He watches over us through good times and bad, and sends us testaments of His love through tender mercies, even when the world seems like a dark, scary place. I hope you all have a wonderful Week! Sister Dobler and I are having a blast here in Assen.

Zuster Voss

Monday, January 5, 2015

Fire in Assen! Happy New Year!

Happy New Year iedereen! With a new year is that chance to look back and count blessings, and look forward and attempt to imagine all of the incredible possibilities within the coming months! It's sobering to realize that I'll be here on my mission for the entirety of 2015- It's kind of intimidating to confront such a large block of time. However, when I break it down into weeks and months, I'm so excited for everything I'll get to do this year, all the wonderful people I'll meet. And as of today, January 5th 2015, I can say that my mission with be ending in exactly a year, a month and a day. Now it seems like no time at all- February 6, 2016 will be here before I know it!

I'll start off this post with a little review from last week/last year- I forgot to mention that Sister Dobler and I both were asked to speak in church last Sunday. She was asked to prepare five minutes, and I was asked to prepare ten, and I for one was freaking out that I wasn't prepared enough to speak for that long (In Dutch!). However, Sister Dobler spoke for almost fifteen minutes, and I spoke for almost twenty, unbeknownst to us. So I guess we didn't need to worry about it that much. When describing the situation later, Sister Dobler casually said, "We killed it. Half the congregation was translated." I think that was my favorite part of the experience.

Also last week, we went to look up a referral from someone who had ordered a Joy to the World DVD. We found a man who welcomed us, was eager to hear our message, and who has questions about Christ and religion. We are now teaching him- what a blessing! Heavenly Father truly prepares people to hear His word. He leads us to those who are ready!

Now, the top story for this week- prepare yourself everyone. Our apartment building caught on fire!
Our apartment building on fire. This is fun to come home to!
Woohoo! We came home to our building surrounded by firetrucks, police taped off, smoke pouring from an apartment, and we weren't allowed to go in. The apartment where the fire started was on our same floor, but completely on the other side, and they managed to completely contain it to that unit, fortunately, and no one was injured. However, that was a bit scary and exciting! We called a member who took us in and fed us dinner while we waited to be let back in. Nothing in our apartment was damaged or affected in any way. But we had plenty of members and investigators who heard about it who called to make sure we were okay. We felt very loved!

And then came New Year's! We knew it was coming for the entire preceeding week, because fireworks were going off just at random times during the day. Imagine little boys with access to powerful fireworks that they just set off on the street- boom! That was somewhat unsettling, especially since it was basically nonstop the day of New Year's Eve. However, we had a very nice day. We were inside by 4:00, per mission safety rules, and enjoyed eating chocolate and watching movies (for example, Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration). We had Apple beignets, which are delicious and traditional here with New Year's, then were in bed by 10:30 (I had ear plugs in to drown out the noise). A member called us about 5 minutes before New Year's so we could count down and witness the craziness that was an entire city exploding into bright sparks and booms at midnight. We enjoyed it for a few minutes, opened a bottle of Sprite and said cheers, then went back to sleep. Oh, the wild life of missionaries.
Enjoying my mug of Sprite on New Year's Eve. cheers!
Apple Beignets on New Year's. Yum!
Other than that, we've had a good, normal week. Teaching, talking to people, dressing in many, many layers to stay warm. Thank goodness for thermal tights and fuzzy socks!

I had a good time reflecting on the past year and making goals for this one. 2014 was incredible, and I have learned and grown so much. But I think I'm still just barely scratching the surface of my potential. I hope that this year as I strive to walk as Christ walked (see the talk from President Monson this General Conference) and focus on serving others, I'll be able to better find and grow myself. I know that there's so much in store for each of us in this upcoming year! Veel succes, beloved family and friends. 2015 is going to be amazing!

Liefs, Zuster Voss