Zuster Fox?

Zuster Fox?

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Going Courageously Forward

Great, though literally freezing week here in Leeuwarden! Yesterday we saw hail, snow, and rain, all within about an hour. And then it was sunny but freezing again. Go figure. Weather here is unpredictable, so my standard practice is just to assume it will be cold and rainy every day and be grateful when it isn't :)
Group Shot
I want to start by commenting a bit on the current turmoil here in Europe. We were discussing it with a less active member here and it brought some interesting insights. Given what has occurred, people are naturally worried, sorrowful, and scared. Our hearts have been drawn out in prayer to those victims in Paris and those who are still living in fear there. We can't understand all the reasons why such things happen, or why individuals make such sad choices with horrifying consequences. But what I do know is that we can find peace and comfort through our individual communication with God. I have faith that He has a plan for me and each of us. I know that I don't need to be afraid, that we can go courageously forward and live every day so that we would not have regrets if it were our last. I do, fortunately, feel safe way up north here. However, I have friends much much closer to the drama. I know that God protects us and cares for us.

Life chugs on as we continue our work here.

I feel like Goldilocks here in Leeuwarden- I found a city that isn't too big, isn't too small- it's Just right :) of course, also freezing and rainy, but that has nothing to do with the size of the city. It's a great branch! We had a talent evening on Friday- different members brought their handiwork to display, led workshops ( I personally made some cool fondant creations with guidance from an expert) and we all enjoyed different people's edible creations. Several less actives and recent converts came too. So it was a great success!

We also had a great zone training this past week, learning how to be a dynamic missionary. What unique talents and abilities has God given me to contribute to this work? What has He given you to contribute to yours?

In Zwolle station on the way back to Leeuwarden we had a few minutes, so I sat down at the piano to play a few simple hymns and Christmas songs. Within 5 minutes, we talked to three different people based on the music. That was a cool experience!

This week also had some ups and downs. Sister Jaramillo and I taught one really special Restoration lesson to a new investigator. It was simple, sweet, the Spirit was strong and we were unified as teachers. It was a powerful experience! On the other hand, one evening we were going to teach another investigator and I just felt out of it and confused. It was a moment of humility. No matter how experienced we are, we need to be constantly relying on Heavenly Father to help us.
Twinning on splits with Zus Jensen!

The week started/ended on a high note: The Turkey Bowl!!! With the entire zone in Zwolle. The weather was exquisite- cold, but dry and sunny. muddy, but that just makes it more fun. I got to play quarterback for a couple of snaps, and that was fun. Further, we got to play basketball, frisbee, and soccer- it was just a fun experience! Afterwards, the Romigs invited the district over for a big American Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey, Mashed Potatoes, stuffing, rolls... it was delightful.

So it's been a great week. Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Love, Sister Voss

Friday, November 20, 2015

Back to the North!

Well, the Northern Netherlands has called me home for winter. Woohoo! Transfers are complete, and I love Leeuwarden. I even got to enjoy it in the sun for a couple days/hours before the super cold, wind and rain set in.
We will not forget you, beautiful Gent!
What is it like here? It is the strangest feeling. My first few days were seriously a combination of culture shock and coming home. Nederland is so different from Belgie, in ways I'm not even sure I know how to describe. The bike paths are so nice and netjes. Helmet harassment is a thing... punk teenagers biking past us and shouting in English, "safety first right? safety first!" It's modern and clean, just so... uniquely Dutch! I love the beautiful flat, green farm fields, the windmills, everything.

Leeuwarden is a unique city. It's fairly close to Assen, where I started my mission, so weather wise, it is also super chilly this time of year. But the culture itself is even a bit different. It's in Friesland, so there is a sub-language, you could say- Fries. It really is different. So sometimes signs have both languages on them. It is an adorable city; our bike ride home from the station takes us through the centrum, which is lit up with lights in the trees, and we go through canals with sailboats- I'll try to take a picture of it this week.
Arriving in Leeuwarden
On Saturday Sinterklaas rode into town with much fanfare and ado. It was pretty fun to see, and we were glad we happened to have a free moment to witness it. It is a huge cultural event here!
The big man himself. No, not Santa. Sinterklaas. Who comes in on a boat from Spain, then rides in on a white horse and distributes presents to the children over the course of a couple of weeks. There is much festivity when he arrives!
Sinterklaas Photobomb
The time of the zwarte Piet is upon us once again
Also, I ADORE Sister Jaramillo! She is from Aruba, and thus fluent in Spanish, Dutch, Papiamento, and English. We had the opportunity to teach a lesson in Spanish a couple of days ago, and I was able to participate. My Spanish has basically been dormant my entire mission, but if she speaks to me only in Spanish, it's amazing how quickly that capability is returning! Back to Sister Jaramillo: she is talented, a great cook, motivated, and an incredible missionary and teacher. I have so much respect for her. This is her last transfer, so I'm really glad I caught her before she went home! Fun fact: the third exchange I ever went on in my mission was with her. We looked at the date, and it was November 13th, 2014- and almost exactly a year later, we became companions. Cool right? We are excited to be working together and loving it so far! The work is popping here in Leeuwarden and there is lots to do!
One of sister Jaramillo's masterpiece culinary creations.
Elevator Selfie
With the Heerenveen elders (they also serve in our branch) Elders Higham and McConkie when we saw Sinterklaas!
Much as I love it here, I miss Gent as well. It is hard to adjust to completely different surroundings so quickly, and I truly loved my time in Gent. Fortunately, we had a great last p-day there in the centrum amongst the gorgeous castle and cathedrals with some of the Elders from our district. I ate a last Belgian waffle, bought an adorable fox hat, we made memories. The members were also so kind and really helped us feel loved those last couple of days. We had a great district meeting and I'm glad it was such a good transfer. I'm so grateful that I got to serve in Belgium! Adieu!
Goodbye Gravensteen!
The sweet Buysse family threw a mini going away party for us... complete with this gorgeous homemade cake and homemade chocolates. I love them!!

Last P Day in Gent

 I love and will miss zr Robbins!
Life goes on and the work goes forward. The branch here is great and I am so happy to be here. I know Heavenly Father has called me here. and I know that He is intimately involved in each of our lives.

Lots of love,

Zuster McKinney Voss
My District in Gent.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Plot Twist...

Today's post begins with with a PLOT TWIST! After only six weeks in the beautiful city of Gent, I am being transferred to Leeuwarden, way up North back where I began my mission! Sister Robbins is leaving too and headed to Turnhout, actually. So that is pretty cool. We kind of switched- but I am glad we got to overlap one transfer here together! It is a little bit weird to be "whitewashed" in missionary lingo- two completely new sisters coming here in our place- but I know they will do a great job in taking care of this special city. I am sad to leave so quickly, but also excited to embrace my new area! I am also excited to work with Sister Jaramillo. She is Aruban, and fabulous! I have been released as Sister Training Leader as well, so we can focus on our normal missionary responsibilities there!
Leaving my beloved companion Zuster Robbins

Wow, after that news it feels anticlimactic to report about the rest of the week. But it was a good one, so I shall endeavor to share some reasons why. :) First of all, the weather was exquisite! In the high sixties for the first week of Noevember. Ongelooflijk mooi.

This week I went on exchanges with Sister Huber in Lokeren! We did some service helping a part member family clean their house before moving in, which was fun! Then the next morning after knocking on doors for an hour, a sweet lady let us in, listened to the whole first lesson, and kindly encouraged us in the work we are doing. Miracles!
Swings with Sis Huber!
Doing service with Sister Huber in Lokeren :)

Family picture with the Geens. They have had us over every Sunday! Thank you!
With familie Goethals! Echt familie :)
Sister Robbins and I had some cool experiences too, We talked to people in the trains, trams, and buses, and everyone has their own story, hopes and dreams. I am convinced that the Gospel will help every individual to realize their dreams! It has certainly helped me.

Life is good. Mostly, I am just learning to trust that the Lord's plan for my life and my mission is perfect. It isn't always what I expect, but it is always right. It's that faith that gives me hope and courage to tackle the unknown and leave behind the familiar and comfortable. We can all experience that through Christ. Carpe Diem iedereen!

Have a great week! Goodbye Belgium, I have loved you!

Liefs, Zuster Voss

PS: Serving with Sister Robbins was a great joy and pleasure. I will really miss her. Our conversations over these six weeks have been mutually uplifting and healing. I will miss her tons and I am grateful Heavenly Father blessed us with this chance to serve together in the field!
Sister Robbins and I made planners for each other!

Swinging with Sis Robbins! (we do other things, sometimes it is just nice to sit down for a second!)
Got to go to the wedding of investigators in Turnhout, a special family and my dear friends!

Sis Bradley's mission ends in a few days! Weird to say goodye.
3 train rides make missionaries sleepy
Sunset in Belgium

Friday, November 13, 2015

Rescuing Lost Sheep

Goedemorgen geweldige mensen!

Reporting in after a great week here in Gent. We have had perfect fall weather and gorgeous displays of leaves, so it is a blessing! I love autumn, and can't believe I am experiencing it in beautiful Belgium.
Sunset in Belgium.

On last Monday we had a zone p-day- all the missionaries from Dutch speaking Belgium gathering together to play indoor soccer. It was way fun and I enjoy it more every time. The only downside was the injuries... I personally acquired a brilliantly colored bruise on my shin. But it was invigorating and an enjoyable afternoon with all the missionaries!

This week we tried a different approach to our contacting, with great success. Our district leader, Elder Lovin, challenged us all to stop beginning a contact with a card. We have great little cards with the church's website, the address of the church and our contact information on them, and it feels pretty normal to offer them to people as we walk along and start a conversation from there. However, this week we have been focusing on starting by asking questions that inspire a little more thought and effort, and we have seen miracles. "What brings you happiness in life?" for example, is more likely to make someone stop and be interested in what we're saying than, "Can we give you a card with our website?" Through doing that, we have had deeper conversations, really gotten to personally know these fascinating people we interact with daily, learned their names- and we have found that at the end of such a a mutually fulfilling conversation, people ask us if we have a card or a place where they can find more information. It has been incredibly rewarding.
Piggy back ride! because sister Robbins rolled her ankle
Our district eating biscuits and gravy
Zone pday. Our zone leaders wear onesies
I also just want to express my gratitude for the generosity and love of members and non members everywhere. basically, I want to recognize that this world is full of good, Christlike people who give without thought and expect nothing in return. A couple specific examples come to mind. I needed to buy a back bike light because my previous one stopped working (and it's safer and legally required to have one). We were at a dinner appointment and needed to bike home in the dark, so I asked if maybe I could borrow an extra light if they had one- and they basically said, "this is an extra, you can just keep it! no worries!" small example, but then later in the week, i asked for milk to drink at dinner during a dinner appointment, and she ended up just giving us two cartons of milk, which was a really sweet and a timely blessing because we had actually just run out (we only needed to make it two days until grocery shopping again, so we would have been okay, but it was so nice of her!).
Another example is that we were talking to people on a tram on Thursday, and twice in the same day, we were invited over for dinner by the people we were talking to. One man thought it was so incredible the service we do for God and others, so he wanted to have us over and introduce us to his wife and make us dinner. So incredible!
At the Panos
On Friday I was able to attend Mission Leader Council in the mission home. it is cool to be able to receive that additional training that we can then apply and carry out and relay to the other awesome missionaries. we also got trained on the principles of true leadership- that a leader doesn't push from behind, but pulls from ahead. A leader is in a position to serve, and does so at the same level as those he or she serves. Excellence is expected, and understanding our responsibilities is empowering. We received this training from Elder Bonner, a Marine, so it was definitely top notch!
Sister Bush and I travelled to MLC together! #companionsfortheday

MLC friends from our group!
MLC friends from our group!
That training relates to a concept we were discussing with our ward mission leader this week about Christ rescuing the lost sheep. That little lamb was probably muddy, tangled in thorns, and far away. But Christ didn't put a rope around its neck and pull it back to the fold. He didn't push it or kick it. He put it around His shoulders, and carried it back, regardless of perhaps its physical state. Some of the sheep who are lost and wandering don't have the strength to walk back to the fold on their own. They need to be carried until they can support themselves. That is our role- to reach out and lift up, to not judge others based on their decisions or circumstances but make sure they know that everyone is 100% welcome every day, at any activity of the church ever. We need to be true and genuine friends, to pray for inspiration and be willing to sacrifice to serve our brothers and sisters. I have seen amazing examples throughout my life of people doing this. And ultimately, those are the true leaders, whether they are called to do this or not. We can serve others every day just by expressing love. You can do that this week, look out for ways that you can serve others just by loving them. I am trying really hard to focus on that as I approach these last few months of my mission!
A cool old abbey, apparently the oldest building in Gent.
Can you see the gorgeous leaves? 
Wafel wagon

Exchanges with sister Duncan this week! This wise woman is a boss. we had a blast in Gent together, despite biking through rain
It is always a pleasure to serve. I am grateful for the incredible people we meet daily. I love being here in Belgium, in Gent!

Happy Halloween everyone! Have a great week!

Love, Zuster Voss
Gorgeous Belgium 
Rode Neus is based on a popular Belgian song that's a big deal here in Gent. I don't really understand. But you wear a red nose and it has something to do with being positive? Anyway, it's fun and we tried it out at a member home. way fun