Hello everyone! I know you haven't heard from me for a while, but rest assured I am very much alive and well here in the Netherlands. I haven't explained too much about Zaandam and my experiences, so I'd love to dive in a little bit. I may have mentioned our proselyting area, but it mainly consists of Zaandam; a bigger neighborhood city called Purmerend; a few small towns; and North Amsterdam. Because of the lengthiness of travel, Elder Toole and I generally prefer to stay in Zaandam. It's a very unique and interesting town. Part of the city is divided by a couple bigger canals, and occasionally we'll get stuck waiting at a bridge because they lifted it up to let a big boat go through. Factories. There are quite a few factories in Zaandam, a number of which are chocolate factories, which makes for a very hungry bike ride if we end up passing one. Everyone I've talked to who has served in Zaandam has mentioned the smells. A strong scent of blueberry muffins lingers around in certain places, too. That is something I don't really understand, but either way it keeps Zaandam very refreshing to be around when you're out and about all day.One big change that I'm loving a lot is the OV chip card. Every missionary gets one, and they don't work in Belgium, so I've loved using them here. Whatever public transportation you want to take – bus, train, tram, or whatever – is accessible by the wave of a blue credit card. That's another great thing about this country, too. How efficient and accessible it is to travel from city to city. The trains are very nice, too; another sharp contrast between the two countries. But I suppose that's another benefit of crazy high taxes. And for those who are wondering if I've had the chance to stroll around Amsterdam: yes, I have. Super cool city; there are always a ton of foreigners. And whether it's a cold Monday morning or a clear Friday evening, Amsterdam is always nuts and sometimes results in the occasional headache. Other than that, the only unique thing about Zaandam is the amount of windmills. There's a very famous windmill place called Zaanse Schans about a 25 minute bike ride from the apartment.Now, what have I done in the past two weeks? Who have I taught, and where have I been? Well, I don't know where to start so I'll begin with Thursday, November 6th. We had a normal morning of studies, and we just weren't sure where we wanted to go that day. After lunch we came to the conclusion of just getting on the bikes and to start looking around for a good place to find. After about 40 minutes of biking, we ended up somewhere in the middle of a little town called Wormever. We followed a big canal all the way up to the city, not really sure where to go. Eventually we realized we didn't have all day and just went down a couple streets and parked our bikes. The day had been very cold and windy, but in this neighborhood everything was very quiet and calm, and suddenly I didn't even feel as cold anymore. We only had time for seven or eight doors to knock, and to our pleasant surprise we had nice, healthy conversations with about five or six people. We didn't end up getting any potentials or even a lesson on the door, but we just were able to share our message with them and had a gospel-orientated conversation. It made a world of difference, because most days we can knock about 50 doors or so and about 35 of them will almost immediately close the door when they see our name tags. Elder Toole told me later that he had prayed that we could talk with more pleasant people, and it happened. So, that was really special to see his prayer answered.Another day I was on an exchange with the district leader, Elder Besendorfer. We had just gotten home from district meeting and were at an investigator's house when we learned about a holiday that was going on that evening. Apparently, in North Holland they do a version of Halloween, but the little kids have these little, bright homemade lanterns. They carry them around door to door with a sack full of candy and sing a little Dutch tune, and the people at the door put candy in their bags. The name of the holiday slips my mind, but I know it has some Dutch roots to it. So, with a little time left in the evening we knocked a few doors, and we had some very surprised people who did not expect fully grown guys at their door with white shirts and ties on. But it was fine. We even got a couple of bars of chocolate from people. It was a good evening.Also, we're working with this super cool part-member family. The dad was baptized as kid but went inactive at 16, and his wife and son have not been baptized. We have weekly lessons with them, and it's super cool to see how much the gospel has changed them. Before they were meeting with the missionaries and coming to church, their marriage was falling apart and they just weren't happy. Since they've been keeping commitments and praying together they've been able to work out their problems and they're a lot happier now. The wife loves reading the gospel principles book, so teaching them has been super spiritual and interactive. The dad realized and know how important it is to get back on the right path, and he's working to get the Priesthood now. I love teaching families, and it's cool to see how the gospel brings families closer together like Preach My Gospel says. The wife's baptismal date is in late December, and I'm excited to be able to take part in their progress.I don't have too much time left, but I hope these few experiences will do for now. The hours of sunlight during the day are shortening fast and winter is soon upon us, but all is well here in the Netherlands. Christmas decorations are coming up and everyone is getting into the spirit of the holidays. Hope everyone has a good week. I know Thanksgiving is coming up, so I hope everyone is getting into the spirit too, love you guys!
PHOTO CAPTION: Zaanse Schans (image found on the Internet)