Well here it comes – Christmas is already upon us! With the mild temperature and the lack of snow here, I haven't quite been able to feel too much of the Christmas spirit that I'm used to. But, no matter. The street decor and Christmas trees scattered about the city will suffice. We had a very busy week of an assortment of activities, including a Christmas party, and we even got to enjoy doing a little service with our part-member family. On Monday evening we taught Jane and Pieter, the part-member family, and they talked about wanting to take us to their cabin to do some service, which was located in about the only forest in existence the Netherlands. After receiving permission, we loaded up in Pieter's car after our studies and headed out. It was a very pleasant experience. We spent most of the time hauling tiles around and attempting to get the water out of the pipes for winter. Afterwords he took us on a little walk through the forest. We ate while we walked, which included slices of bread with only cheese in the middle and a few clementines, a very simple but surprisingly satisfying meal. We ended up in a clearing, and a wide expanse of flat ground unfolded before our eyes. And we just marveled for a little while. It made for a good day, but it didn't distract me from the busy week of work we had in front of us.
We found a couple of really cool potentials, one including a lady who is currently searching for the right church, and that was special. We have also been receiving referrals from our Facebook campaign, in which people can order a free Christmas DVD and expect "representatives" from the Church to follow up on it. We received one that lives in Monnickendam, a little town located on the coast within our proselyting boundary. Unsure of how to get there and having no maps, we decided to go to Amsterdam Centraal on Saturday and try to find a bus that went there. We did, and it ended up not being a very far bus ride. We watched as the scenery around us changed from busy, city buildings to flat countryside. We arrived there in no time and even found a map located at the bus stop. Having found the street and the right house number, we approached the door and were greeted by an older gentleman. After a short conversation, we discovered that this man has been doing genealogy for years and is very interested in stories of his ancestors (yes, I know: perfect missionary opportunity). He told us a little more and we were able to tie it into the Book of Mormon, which he willingly accepted a copy of. It was overall just a very cool experience, and I'm very excited for a lesson with him planned for January. (Everyone here doesn't want to schedule appointments in or around holidays. Makes it a little hard for missionaries, but it's reasonable).
To conclude, we had a great opportunity on Sunday, and that was to participate in Pieter receiving the Priesthood. After over 20 years of sitting on the less-active list, someone finally looked him up (the missionary that I replaced here in Zaandam). And because that Elder was diligent and spent over an hour trying to find his house and didn't give up, this family has found the gospel and are changing their lives, and Pieter will be baptizing his wife coming up shortly. It's a very humbling experience and missionary work at its best.
Looking forward to seeing my family in a couple days on Christmas, and I would like to thank all those who sent me letters/emails and Christmas packages, they were much appreciated, including the letters from my Seminary class and Young Men's group, glad to hear from you guys. Hope this week is swell. I'm looking forward to it. Love you guys!
Sadly, I don't the time to write a big email this week. Lots to talk about, but no time.
I will update you on a couple of things though. We had a baptism yesterday! Jane was baptized by her husband Peter, and we got to help Peter along the way to getting the priesthood and also teaching Jane. It was awesome, missionary work at its best.
Discovered yesterday that my bike is stolen. I've been very careful about everything, making sure it's safe and locked (you know how I am about that stuff), but nonetheless, it happened. But, I may have lucked out. We called the bishop, and he said there's a bike in the church that I can have free of charge. Such a blessing.
My body has been feeling achy and my throat is suddenly sore. So, like the whole mission and this country, I might be coming down with something.
But I hope that isn't a splurge of bad news. Things have been great. I'm loving it out here, and the Christmas hustle and bustle is fun.
Tell Linus I miss him and hope he gets better soon. I really hope he'll be okay.
Love you guys; have a good week!