Hello family, friends, audience, and all other readers! I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year, because I sure did. Before I get into the particulars of the holiday season that has now passed, I would like to say how thankful I am to be on a mission. I haven't been out for too long now, but it has and is changing my life. I've been able to see the gospel in action – a marvelous wonder it is – and, as one Sister at a zone conference said, "We as missionaries get a front row seat of the Atonement at work." So, yeah, you get to enjoy some fantastic stuff if you come out on a mission.
These past two weeks have encompassed a lot of really unique memories, and I hope to share just a few of those with you. I will first start with kind of an ironic story of caroling back on December 22. The missionaries and some jovos (young single adults) all met in Amsterdam Centraal to hopefully bring the Christmas spirit and have a little fun by doing a caroling activity. Located in the main front of the station is a grand piano that reads "bespeel mij" or "play me," so it's really cool. Anyone can go up and show off their piano skills. We were hoping to nab it and sing hymns, but we were already beaten by some other carolers, which I totally expected. But it wasn't a problem. We sung our songs at another location close by and actually got quite a decent audience from time to time. We sang an assortment of songs, ranging from the Dutch hymn book to "feliz navivdad." As we were finishing up, we grouped together just chatting when all of the sudden I see a tall man with headphones on reach his arm out and slam a smaller guy into a nearby pillar. The taller man was clearly pinning this guy to the wall and had his large hand tightly wrapped around the guys' eyes. We watched in slight shock as two officers came over and handcuffed the smaller man, pulling two candy bars and soda out of his pocket. Long story short, some undercover cop had caught someone stealing, and we watched the whole thing unfold after attempting to bring Christmas cheer to Amsterdam. We did a good job though, so I wasn't worried.
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were both very pleasant days. We spent Christmas Eve with the APs and an older member living in a retirement home. She's a very interesting woman and doesn't mind saying whatever is on her mind about any sort of subject. We had some conversations that left me barely able to hold back bursting in laughter, and it was just a fun time for all of us. She really enjoyed our company, and we even played this shuffle board-like game with her afterwards that turned out to be great. We spent Christmas with a few investigators and read the Christmas story out of the Bible, and we finished the day off with the long anticipated Skype call. It was really great to talk and see family again, and I appreciate my family at home now more than I used to.
So yeah, that entails most of the exciting stuff for the holiday season, except one big thing, and that was New Year's Eve. The Dutch "go ham" on New Year's. They are lighting of fireworks like no tomorrow, and it's bad enough that we as missionaries have to be indoors by 4 p.m.! It was exciting to see. Elder Toole and I turned the couch to face the windows of our third-story apartment, which allowed a very pleasant view of the insanity. By about 11:30 p.m. I was already in bed, and I assumed that the fireworks would easily wake me up at 12, but sadly they didn't. They were apparently going off nonstop like bombs for two hours after midnight, and my companion even tried to wake me up, but somehow I just slept through the whole the thing, only finding out at about 6:30 the next morning what had happened.
The missionary work has been going great over the past couple of weeks. We've seen a number of miracles. One is this 60-year-old man that referred himself to us, and we now have a new person to teach, which is a blessing. With careful planning, too, we've been able to find a lot of the people who are being prepared, and that's really cool to see.
Thanks for everyone who sent packages or mail recently again. It is much appreciated. I hope everyone has a great week and I especially hope my little brother Linus recovers quick! Love you guys!