Elder Andrew

Elder Andrew

Monday, September 22, 2014

Eli Mail 9/22/14 (Genk, Belgium) Letter 11

The week started with the nervous excitement that encompasses transfer day eve. The APs (assistants to the president) and zone leaders are making calls all evening, and you never know at what time the call will come. That Sunday (9/14) afternoon the four of us sat on our beds for a brief moment thinking about it. I thought, well they’d be dumb not to transfer Claflin (my current companion) off, since I still have the other two Elders to help with the transition. A while later when at the Knope’s home for our regular Sunday evening meal, our cell phone rang. Elder Claflin picked up, said hello, listened, and finished the phone call with a half-serious, half-joking, “I accept.” He was transferred and is now in Emmen, some city way up north in the Netherlands, and he’s district leader. I was totally right. But it’s exactly what I’ve needed; I was getting a little too comfortable with Claflin. Elder Nye, my new companion, has pushed me into the discomfort zone a little, but overall he’s great.

Ah yes, I must touch on the Ballard Conference. It was a beautiful September morning. Cool and misty as usual for the Netherlands. We arrived there super early to the Den Haag building, the largest chapel in the Netherlands. It was crazy seeing our whole mission gather together, people hugging and laughing. It was pretty nice. Sister Robinson, the mission president’s wife, said this rarely happens, so be grateful for it. I was able to meet a lot of new missionaries, too, which helps when you are a “greenie.” It was so cool actually shaking an apostle's hand, and when he did he looked all of us right in the eye. In my notes I wrote, "Alright, we're good so far. Everyone just shook his hand, and nobody has been sent home yet.” The joke being that some missionaries are afraid that an apostle will take one look in their eyes and send them home.

Elder Ballard knows how to really command an audience with the power of God. He went up there without notes, with just his unlimited amount of experience and knowledge, letting the Spirit direct. Apostles really know how to have just the perfect balance, too. They can add a perfect amount of humor and answer all of our questions with power and authority. What really hit me was just how powerful the simple doctrine really is. He said, “There is no greater pearl than being a Child of God.” And I really believe that. Once we can realize the true potential in a person and be able to uniquely love them as a child of God, the rest will come. Another one liner I really liked was, “The years teach much that the days never know.” That's a great one to just think about for awhile. I'll finish off with one of the last things Ballard said. And that is, “We are dealing with the inner most part of a person.” And that’s very real; we're dealing with people’s inner most soul, the true desire of their hearts, and that’s pretty cool.

Last p-day was a very pleasant one. We have a little pond by our apartment with a big, fancy hotel, and we’ve seen little boats docked by the pond. We found out it’s 3.50E for half an hour on a boat! So, we all got in with our paddles, four missionaries in Sunday clothes laughing and having a good time out in the middle of this pond. We were sure a spectacle to a regular person, but that's missionary life for ya; people are always noticing and watching.

Last week we also had our baptism. This guy who had been searching for the right church for two years walked into Sacrament meeting six weeks ago. The other two Elders started setting up appointments with him, and he started progressing fast. He’s been a big testimony builder for all of us and a miracle. After reading the Book of Mormon for the first time, he could finally understand a Bible passage that he’d been thinking about for awhile. He’s had countless confirmations of the Spirit, and it’s been cool to watch it happen. The week before his baptism the other two Elders had him start weaning off of cigarettes. This man had been smoking 40 cigarettes a day since he was 14. And you know what happened? He went from 40 a day to zero, none, within a week. All because of one book, and his faith and desire to follow Christ. He’s a real blessing to the branch, he’ll be a much needed Priesthood holder, and he also has two cars, which will help the gemeente (branch) out a lot. So, seeing a person totally change like he did and make a promise with Heavenly Father through baptism was awesome.

Today, we sadly have to play Axis & Allies with our ward mission leader. It’s a board game that takes like six hours to play, and he requests we do it at least once with him. We’ve put it off for a while now, and he does a lot for us so you can’t really say no. But we’ve got some sweet p-days lined up. We’re going to Bruges for one, which is super far away. Hopefully Brussels, because I still haven't seen anything there, and there’s this place in Belgium where you can sit in three countries, The Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks to Eli’s Uncle Bruce for help with translating some of Eli’s Dutch. Also, apologies to his Uncle Whitney, who is a big fan of Axis & Allies. I wouldn’t doubt that the “newbie” elders will be fans of the game by the end of today.

(PHOTO CAPTION: This is our chapel, all four rows of it, with the primary in the background. Hah, love it!)

(PHOTO CAPTION: By the pond in Genk after our little boating adventure.)

(PHOTO CAPTION: Last week we also had our baptism. This guy who had been searching for the right church for two years walked into Sacrament meeting six weeks ago.

(MTC companions)

This picture was posted on lds.org and this what Eli had to say about it, 
"That's me staring Elder Ballard in the face getting ready for the handshake of my life."

Elder Ballard's visit to The Netherlands

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