Hey, everyone! This is a very unexpected email, but guess where I am? Leiden, Nederland! This is quite a surprise, but I have been actually called as an "Office" elder, meaning for the next six months. Elder Cook, Elder Evans, and I will be in charge of everything concerning legal and financial business for the mission. I have been avoiding talking about the subject at all, because it was only speculation by other missionaries. To fill everyone in on mission mechanics, every six months two new missionaries are called to the office with Elder Evans, who has and will be serving his whole mission here (the reason for that, I am not sure, but it is not too important). Normally, every six-month period there will be two companionships in the mission who become threesomes, which happened to be me. Halfway through the transfer (right now) those companionships will typically receive a call if someone is being called to the office, and that was me this past Sunday morning. The call wasn't anything unexpected for me. As soon as we became "tripanionship" everyone started cracking jokes about me leaving, which ended up being true. Initially, I was pretty taken aback, not sure what to expect, but for the next couple weeks Elder Heinrichs will be training me to take over all the finances for the mission. Big job! And for those wondering, yes, we still do normal missionary work, thankfully. So, there you have it. And because of unexplained reasons, Saturdays are our official "P-days" here.
Wednesday was my last day in Spijkenisse. I was trying hard to make the excuse with investigators that I was leaving and to try to meet with as many people as I could before I left. Some went through and some didn't, but one of the great ones was our appointment with Rebecca. Quick fill in, most of my time proselyting in Spijkenisse was either spent pulling over on my bike to start up a conversation with someone, or on the street – both surprisingly effective (when you learn how to do it in a not-so awkward way). And Rebecca was one of those "golden" investigators found by pulling my bike over. She is incredibly open, Christian, and is always checking for her own understanding when we teach a principle. I have learned so much just from teaching others. One of the most powerful ways you can teach is done by asking inspired questions in such a way as to help them discover for themselves the truth of the principle. And that's what it is like for her: she has a questioning, searching mind, and I always try my best to help her answer her own questions. A sister missionary told me once that when we teach and testify about a principle, we feel the Spirit, so with investigators it is the same. We help them uncover truths and feel them. We were planning to teach the third lesson but ended up spending the whole time answering her questions. It was awesome – you can see the light of Christ working in people.
Tuesday we went to our typical dinner appointment at 6 p.m. by family Van de Pebbel. They live a little ways out, and we travel there by bus. It was rush hour. Everyone was going home after work, and the bus was packed (almost like a Belgium bus!), so Elder Shelton and Henrichsen stayed up front while I walked to the back to find a place to sit. And just like every bus I get on, of course I fall asleep. I was dozing pretty nicely in and out when I suddenly shaken awake and noticed the bus to be a lot emptier than before. I looked nervously around, and my companions were nowhere in sight. I was alone! I sighed, barely able to believe I had really slept through our stop and rushed to the front to speak with the bus driver. I asked her how far away we were from my stop and she let me out on the side of the road. She pointed in a general direction, giving me instruction on where my bus halte was, and I started running through a city I barely knew, trying to find my companions while simultaneously not being late for the dinner appointment. After a brief jog I turned left, having a somewhat vague remembrance of my surroundings, and I cornered the first row of houses. "Marmoot," read the street sign. I was on the right street! I walked a little further searching for the house and rounding the other corner at the same time were my companions! It was a glorious reunion. Being separated from your companion is never fun. We all exchanged smiles, Henrichsen cracked a joke about me "trying to run away," and we rang on the doorbell at 6:02, not a moment too soon.
The rest of the week has been an adventure in every sense of the word. I had no idea what to expect here, but it's a lot of work and responsibility. But I am loving and just accepting the renewed feeling of every new beginning. "What the heck am I doing?!" Lastly: testimony time. One thing I will forever "treasure up in my heart" as the scriptures so firmly decree, is the Word of God itself. Reading the scriptures used to be me trying to just "start a good habit" or "fulfilling an assignment," none of which are inherently bad, but I enjoy now "getting into the scriptures." With a simple prayer and determined heart, finding and learning truth through the compiled, inspired stories of others can be "enlightening" and really joyous. I love a study that I prepare myself physically and spiritually for, and I just dive in. It's like the rising of the sun. Gradually with time (and a little needed effort), God can communicate with us.
I am excited to get to know the beautiful city of Leiden, and if anyone still has more questions about what I do, I will answer your questions to the best of my ability.
You are all in my prayers.
Elder Eli Andrew