Zuster Fox?

Zuster Fox?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Pluk De Dag!

Every week feels so long and full that by the end, Sister Dobler and I look at our planners and journals and say incredulously about things we did on Tuesday, "Wait, that happened this week?!". So by the end I really can't remember exactly everything. This is why I've been strict with myself about daily journal writing. So far in the six months I haven't missed a day... But I'd better knock on wood. There's still a year to go full of spiritual and crazy experiences!
Windmill in Groningen

What I thought was cool about this past week is that we spent a lot of time on teaching appointments with less-active members or new converts. Our goal as missionaries is to facilitate real growth in the church, by finding new converts who will remain active, or guiding less active members back into activity and supporting already active members. So it's really cool to work with people who are trying to make the church a bigger part of their lives again, helping them prepare to receive temple blessings, rebuild and strengthen their faith. It's also a reminder to me how precarious each of our individual testimonies is. If we aren't building, strengthening, studying, praying every day, it's only too easy to forget that we ever had a testimony in the first place. (Not to be too over dramatic or anything. We get told that relatively frequently- "oh, you Americans are so dramatic!")

We biked a lot this week. I know I'm a seasoned sister missionary, but at the end of a couple of intense days I had sore legs! However, It's also helping me stay trim and healthy, I'm sure. Silver linings. Other than that, nothing else in particular sticks out from the past week. We did have one cool experience - a couple weeks ago we started talking to this guy on a bus, and gave him a Book of Mormon and our number, but didn't have any of his information. This past week, we saw him again! He had read all of the introductory pages in it and started comparing it to the King James Bible, he told us- we had a great conversation with him about what the Book of Mormon is and why it's special, and this time he gave us his phone number! Kind of a miracle that we saw him again, that he had read and was so positive. So that was really cool!
Sister Dobler and I looking bright and ready for spring on Sunday! We had to dress nicely- we sang in a musical number in sacrament meeting!
Also, this is the week of spring vacation for the schools here, so there was almost nobody in church! It was a very cozy, small gathering- but then for the last hour, four Americans walked in! One of them had served as a missionary in this branch 17 years ago, and was back with his wife and in-laws to visit. It was fun to talk to them, because except for other missionaries, we don't really ever see other Americans... they were super nice! Also, we had brought chocolate chip cookies, (Sister Dobler has a killer delicious recipe for them) for the ward potluck, so it was fun to share that with everyone.

Today we had quite an adventure! The Loorbach family in our branch took us to a really fascinating old fortress in Groningen, not very far away, called Vesting Bourtange. It's in a really cool star shape, rippling out in layers of wall, water, wall water- the city inside is well protected! The city was quaint and fun to walk around- people still live there, it is the home of the smallest synagogue in the Netherlands, and there was a big wind mill. The city was in its prime in 1742. I don't know who the city was being defended against- but if it was Germany, it's funny that our route home ironically took us briefly through Germany, just a few kilometers away. Oh, Europe, where you could casually wander into another country and not realize it. In any case, that was an exciting excursion!
German Border Crossing

Sister missionaries can defend the fortress against anything!

Pretty Bridge.

The law finally caught up with me in the form of this strange horse-chain-punishment thing

This was an outhouse thing where you could do your business directly into the canal. Classy!
And now we are preparing for the last full week of the transfer. It's funny that my life is kind of measured in periods of six weeks now- that's really not that long! The Dutch equivalent of Carpe Diem is "pluk de dag." Seize the day! Time is the greatest unrenewable resource. This is the the time that Heavenly Father has given us to be on the earth, and each day is full of unlimited potential and incredible opportunities. I'm grateful to be alive at this time and grateful for the purpose that guides my life. I know that we are all children of a loving Father in Heaven, and that we are blessed for all of the good we do while we're here. That inspires and encourages me every day.

I hope you all have a wonderful week!
Zuster McKinney Voss
Canon's eye view of the beautiful surrounding countryside
Proof I'm in the Netherlands.

We ate sandwiches with horse meat. Moral quandary... Not sure it was good enough that I'd ever try it again. But interesting!
A weather vane in Dutch- Noord, Zuid, Oost, West

The lovely view!

Forward, troops of Zion!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Seeing people in a different light

Dictator Valentines for the elders in our district
This week in Nederland featured some astoundingly lovely weather- about 50 degrees Fahrenheit on Valentine's Day and sunny! However, it was also cold and cloudy on other days. So we enjoyed the nice weather while it lasted! Crocuses, snowbells and daffodils are barely beginning to bloom. It's a lovely sight to see!

Speaking of Valentines- thanks to some excellent pictures sent to me by my sister, Zuster Dobler and I made some excellent dictator Valentines for the elders in our district. They said things like, "Quit Stalin and be my Valentine" and we looked up funny anti-romance scriptures. For fun, you can look them up too- Proverbs 24:26, Ecclesiastes 3:5, 1 Corinthians 7:1, Proverbs 18:22. I think the elders very much appreciated the randomness.

From Tuesday to Wednesday, we were on exchanges- I finally went to Apeldoon again! I was there working with Sister Verdegem, a really cool sister from Belgium, (her Vlaams- Belgian Dutch- is way fun to hear) and Sister Dobler was in charge of leading Assen for the day. It's always a fun adventure to work in another city for the day! And Apeldoorn is beautiful. Still, I was happy to come back home to Assen on Wednesday.

Friday the 13th was marked by no spectacular accident or unlucky incident, despite the fact that we saw a Grim, or indeed Sirius Black in animagus form. Sister Dobler and I are definitely both major Harry Potter nerds- when we saw the giant, black dog we both immediately recognized the omen foretelling our imminent deaths. However, it has still not occurred, but we are prepared should it happen.
My new Drenthe (the county we live in) sweatshirt next to the iconic (if you're familiar with Nederland) Bartje statue

Companion twinner Bartje picture
Valentine's Day was fun! We had received some decorations from family, so we heart attacked our apartment. We delivered Valentine cards to everyone we had appointments with that day. We had time to knock on some doors before catching a bus, and we wandered into an adorable neighborhood, Vredeveld (it means "peaceful field") that neither of us had ever encountered before. While there, we found a cute little Shetland Pony we named Norbert. So that was way fun! We ended the evening with dinner at the Loorbach's.
Adorable Shetland pony we found. We have christened him "Norbert."

A kiss for Bartje. He can be my Valentine!
On another note, we were offered buttermilk this week, and it is disgusting, in my opinion. We didn't realize what it was (in Dutch it's called "karnemelk") and oh boy, was it sour. I love milk, but that's not something I can support. It was fun to make eye contact with each other while we tried to drink it while maintaining pleasant expressions on our faces!

It was a strange week with teaching- we cancelled lessons, investigators cancelled lessons, for various circumstances, but still somewhat disappointing. So it was a hugely rewarding blessing when Sunday rolled around and church was full of investigators! We had lively lessons in Relief Society and Gospel Principles class, which were full of investigators, a less active surprise and recent converts! Saad is still going strong and doing amazing with scripture study and prayer- he radiates the happiness he felt at his baptism! So that's super encouraging. Also this Sunday was the Primary Program! Adorable Dutch children sharing their simple faith and testimonies by singing and sharing why they love their families- it brought the Spirit way strong.. A really sweet letter from my Grandma to our branch president here thanking the members for their love also made the branch feel good! So everything that happened at church felt miraculous!
Beautiful gates and buildings around the Drenthe archive!

Especially with Valentine's Day, I been thinking this week about Charity, the pure love of Christ. After studying it in Moroni 7:45-46 and 1 Corinthians 13, something that really stuck out to me is that charity thinketh no evil. I realized that sometimes it is so easy to make quick assumptions and just speak my worst expectations about others. Whether sarcastic or serious, any negative comments I make or think about other people really do influence my actual respect for them. So something I want to work harder on is giving others the benefit of the doubt, as I hope those around me will do for me when I make mistakes, say something rashly or otherwise fall shot of my potential. Part of love is really seeing the best in others, and not dwelling on the negative. "You didn't have time to read the scriptures? Don't tell us that, you were watching TV when we came in and probably have been all week" is not a very charitable or Christlike thought. So I want to strive to improve how I see and think of others. I've heard before that when you look for the best in others, you will find it. So I'm excited to try that out this week!

I wish you all an excellent week! Groetjes van Assen!

Liefs, Zuster McKinney Voss

Monday, February 9, 2015

A Baptism in Assen!

I don't even know where to begin. I suppose you could say it's been an eventful week... We had a baptism!!!
Sitting in our netjes, clean apartment with the fresh tulips on my 6 month mark! (Friday, February 6th)
I feel like anything else we did this week pales in comparison to the excitement of this past weekend! I'll make a noble, valiant attempt to relate all of the details and miracles of the experience, although I doubt it's possible to be entirely successful.

The investigator whose story I will be relating is Saad, an investigator of ours who's originally from the Middle East. He has been investigating the church for almost a year now, and he has come so far in learning about Christianity, developing patterns of scripture study, church attendance, and prayer. So it's super exciting for him to finally have the chance to follow the example of Christ and be baptized!

We met with Saad or talked to him almost every day this week. He was interviewed by our district leaders and was found worthy to be baptized. On Saturday morning, Sister Dobler and I set off for Groningen, where the baptismal service would be held, since the Assen church building doesn't have a baptismal font. Everything was going great until we got on a bus going the wrong direction... However, fortunately, we still made it on time! A great amount of people from the branch came up to attend and show support- there were almost forty people, only eight of which were missionaries. We had another investigator who came, as did the Elders and Sisters in Groningen each- which is always excellent, because a baptism is such a powerful, spiritual experience.
Groningen Sisters who came- Sister Watts from my group, and Sister Hopkin from Sister Dobler's. We love them!
The program was smooth and spiritual. Something really cool about Saad's story is that none of it could have happened without the assistance of Brother Wartan, a member in our branch who speaks fluent Arabic and Dutch. We were at the point a couple months ago where Saad wanted to be baptized, but we had been teaching with ipads and Google translate and wanted to make sure he understood everything. Br. Wartan hadn't been to church in a while due to health problems- but finally, we connected the two, and with the help of Br. Wartan's translation Saad could move forward in his progression! Br. Wartan's entire family, who haven't been baptized yet, were able to be there, and Br. Wartan gave a talk at the baptism in Dutch and Arabic. He was able to perform the baptism himself- the first he had ever done. Seeing Saad and Brother Wartan standing together in white clothes in the water was so beautiful. There's something about white that prompts one to think of heaven, cleanliness, purity.

The baptism was performed-- a couple of times, because the prayer must be said exactly right, and the dopeling (person being baptized) completely immersed, following the pattern Jesus Christ Himself gave when He was on the earth (3 Nephi 11:21-26). We then adjourned to the chapel again to sing hymns while we waited for them to dry off. There was a thoughtful welcoming word by our Branch President, and then I had the opportunity to end the service with a prayer. I was kind of feeling overcome and teary as we sang the closing hymn (How Great Thou Art/Gij Zijt Groot) but the Spirit took over for me as I prayed, and I think I was able to end the meeting on a spiritually strong note.

Afterwards, we all ate some refreshments (Sister Dobler and I made another brownie castle) and talked, and congratulated Saad on this new stage of his life he's entering, this new beginning! And that was it; a baptism is such a simple, straightforward ordinance. It doesn't need to be ornamented or complicated; just the words of the prayer, a talk or two, some hymns. And it brings such great joy for so many people! Sister Dobler and I saw that service bless and inspire not only Saad, but also the other investigators, less active members, missionaries, just everyone in attendance who had a chance to participate. I'm so grateful to have gotten to be there to witness it, to have had however small a part in helping it happen by teaching Saad. I feel incredibly blessed. What a miracle it is that Heavenly Father has prepared a way for us to return to Him, through His Son Jesus Christ!

The next day, Saad was confirmed in sacrament meeting in church, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and becoming the Church's newest member! Congratulations, Saad!

The entire event helped me think back to remember my own baptism. I was only 8, but I remember being excited as I dressed in white and descended the steps into the warm water of the font, received by my loving dad. I remember feeling clean and happy, especially when I received the Holy Ghost. I'm so grateful that now 12 years later I can be here in the Netherlands, helping others to prepare to receive that same remission of sins and fullness of joy.

Did anything else happen this week? I suppose. It was my official 6 month mark, for one thing! From now on, I'll be home in less than a year. Kind of a crazy thought! In any case, to celebrate, we bought fresh flowers (tulips here: cheap, easily accessible, and gorgeous) and made an especially yummy breakfast. We had exchanges, and I stayed in Assen and worked with Sister Kimmons for the day while Sister Dobler went to Apeldoon again. When she returned, we happened to be walking through the market and bought delicious fresh stroopwafels... Nothing could compare to that. Oh, and our District Leaders came to work with us in Assen on Thursday. We always appreciate the help of Elder Nye and Elder Claflin!
Fresh stoopwafels

Simply heerlijk! (heavenly!)
And that was the week. Seeing the baptism was so special... I'm so grateful that I could be here for that! Saad is fantastic and enthusiastic, and now we have the chance to continue to teach and guide the way. Miracles happen every day!

I hope you all have a wonderful and a Happy Valentine's Day!


Zuster Voss

Monday, February 2, 2015

Follow your heart!

The first of my last six weeks in Assen was awesome- just as every week here is and will continue to be. Each day is what we make of it! I am inspired by my companion's beautiful writing style and will attempt to make my updates somewhat more descriptive and lovely- we shall see if I succeed or not. I'm also pretty comfortable with my own style, but perhaps it is a fun experiment to switch it up, even snel!
Sweet Sister Missionaries Reunited.
On Monday evening, we had a last minute sleepover with the Groningen sisters - which now includes dear Sister Watts, from my MTC group! They were on their way to Apeldoorn for the zone training we all had the next day, but were delayed. I've never hosted a sleepover in Assen before, but it was delightfully fun. Not that we did much - enjoying the company of such companionable spirits is just always a pleasure!

We made the two hour journey to Apeldoorn early on Tuesday morning and enjoyed a thoroughly edifying zone training - we received counsel and tips from our leaders through some very well thought out presentations, and we participated in role plays to practice and internalize what we had just learned. We have already been attempting to implement some of that advice and have found it very useful! In addition, hanging out with other missionaries is always a blast, especially since Sister Dobler and I are relatively isolated since we don't have any other missionaries in our city. I particularly loved seeing Sister Bush and Sister Watts (MTC group=friends forever) as well as many other missionary friends I've made since I've been here.
Giant bike statue outside the Apeldoorn train station!
We've had some busy days - well, every day is like that. I love it when we're packed with appointments, but as missionaries, we always have something productive to do and somewhere to be, from 11:00 in the morning until 9:00at night. It makes me realize how much time I wasted before my mission- it's funny how "busy" I felt I sometimes was while still making time for hours of relatively meaningless internet use... Always having a purpose and activity here is very fulfilling, and I hope I'll be able to remember how to retain that after my mission, at least to some extent.

What's fascinating to me is how much my hopes and dreams, joys and disappointments revolve around the actions of others. I am inspired and uplifted when I see investigators or less active members changing their lives, taking small steps to make or honor their covenants- it is an incredible blessing to work with them and see them working for a higher goal, and it's a privilege to me to be an instrument in the Lord's hands in any way to help them. Yet it's also disappointing to recognize the enormous potential in some individuals and not be able to help them see what they could become, or to see them not have the courage to begin the process. Change is sometimes scary to confront, and it's easy to feel comfortable with ourselves and who we are- and God loves us, just as we are! But He also sees what more we can reach if we rely on Him and begin to progress and change for the better. Anyway.... Missionary work is the business of people- and you see all sorts!

We have gotten plenty more snow this week- lovely swirling winds of white fluff, we have woken up in a winter wonderland- it's fantastic. Except that biking in the snow is pretty scary. However, in other news, I have been in my mission and had enough bike experience now to ride completely without hands for several minutes. I can put on gloves, text, make calls, or fix my hair while biking. I'm feeling more and more native every day. :)
Blue skies, and pretty snow! Fortunately, we are well bundled up in our thick coats.

My adorable companion!
My first selfie while riding a bike! (dad does not approve...)

Zr Dobler biking down a snowy lane.
Me doing the same.
We had a great testimony meeting in church yesterday- I love hearing spiritual and uplifting experiences from the members of the congregation. The members of the Assen branch are incredible. With their faith, this branch will become a ward in no time! And we had several investigators in sacrament meeting; I love sharing what brings me so much joy!
Dad, this one is especially for you - a member gave us this bottle-shaped chocolate that looks like champagne and wanted us to send a picture home to parents. you're supposed to be shockedth'm drinking on my mission.

I got to hold and read a really old book- like, hundreds of years, apparently- at the Loorbach's house. Way cool, especially for the history nerd within me! An old Dutch Bible? Yes, please!
Just awesome!
Funny Dutch pun/cute saying of the week: "Volg je hart, want dat klopt." It means, "follow your heart-" and "klopt" means "that's correct, that makes sense, I understand" in normal usage, but it's also the word for "to beat" or "to knock." Follow your heart, that's what makes sense! And have a great week, everyone!


Zuster Voss
Parting again is a sweet sorrow!

Slightly crazed sister missionaries..?