Happy Halloween everyone! What a nice little perk to having preparation day on Saturday and being able to celebrate Halloween. It is occasionally getting nice and brisk here in Leiden. I am loving the leaves falling on the ground and that freshness fall has. It is fantastic. These past two weeks have been really cool. I have had a lot of fun with my companions Elders Cook and Evans as we run the supporting "engine" of the mission and seeing really special miracles in the work.
As I said, a lot has happened these past two weeks. First I would like to talk about the events of this past Sunday. It was a pretty normal church service. We are doing our best to chat it up with members and keep building relationships and laughing with them. It's pretty great. It is a perfect ward to have a three-man companionship, too, because a good chunk of the ward consists of widows, so we can visit them without having to worry [about propriety]. We drove to the office as normal afterwards to prepare lunch. We made bean soup out of a can, a new Sunday afternoon favorite Elder Cook and I have discovered, and we then proceeded to make plans for the coming week. After a pretty productive planning session the late hours of the afternoon starting to creep on us, and we were all pretty thirsty to get of the office and proselyte. We scheduled a few look-ups of a few investigators we haven't had contact with in weeks, and to our pleasant surprise both people we looked up were home and let us in to teach them. The first appointment we had was more of a discussion, but it was cool to follow some advice our mission leaders have been giving us to spend more time getting to know investigators. As we get to know our investigators and learn how to be ourselves around them, teaching them and discerning their needs will become more natural and less robotic. That goes for all activity in the Church and in life. Making personable people connections goes a long way. It is very easy as a missionary to fall into traps of becoming a little robotic – just teaching and losing some of the personality of it. I am definitely guilty of that sometimes.
So, this investigator's name is S, he is from Africa with a Dutch woman. S met with missionaries one year ago, and we were the first ones to make contact since then. His girlfriend isn't religious, but she participated in the discussion anyway. S is from Sierra Leone and told us about his experiences in the civil war back in the 90's. The girlfriend also talked to us about the beauty of seeing life around the world, she has made it a priority to visit countries around the globe to experience how people live (although she hasn't been to America yet). We did a lot of listening and answering questions, and we did get a very good discussion about life. I am always looking for ways to not only be able to testify to others what I know to be true but to do it in a way that is meaningful to them. In the lesson I testified about God knowing us and knowing our situations, and I hope to make lasting impressions on others by discerning what they need to know, and helping them feel it. S has the Book of Mormon, and we were able to leave with prayer, a very spiritually uplifting way to leave the house.
The other teaching opportunity was with R, a 19-year-old biology student that a couple young kids had referred us to. It was late Sunday night, and we knew she definitely had work to be doing and had most likely just spent the weekend with her family back in Rozenburg (Spijkenisse area!), but we decided to look her up anyway. We pushed on her bell in the student complex and almost immediately the bell buzzed, and we quickly went to grab the door before it locked again. She was very surprised it was us at the door, and we tried to joke about being "unexpected" and she was nice and let us in. We chatted it up with her for a while, got caught up with how she has been doing and, again, I tried to take more of a personal interest in her and her desires rather than just trying to cram an entire lesson in or something, and it turned out great. It naturally led to a discussion about Christ and his gospel and we shared the video "Because He lives" with her. It was a really powerful way to lead each of us, three in a row, to testify about the living reality and personal application of Christ's ministry and Atonement and to re-invite her to begin reading in the Book of Mormon. The Spirit was strong as we closed with prayer. We also invited her to our "games night," a fun evening of snacks and games Elder Evans has been putting on here for the “JOVOs” (jongevolwassen, or in English, YSA "young single adults"). She wasn't able to come that following Tuesday, but she still texted us, telling us that she was disappointed about not being able to come. So, by the time the evening drew to a close, Heavenly Father really blessed us with a couple great lessons with still open future teaching possibilities.
Yesterday was a really fun day, too. I may have mentioned this in previous letters, but I will repeat it just in case. Almost every Friday we get to go to Brussels because of the need to be legal, not only the Netherlands but also Belgium. Hence, the need to do sign-in work in the Brussels town hall. And as office missionaries, Elder Cook and I love taking the young missionaries out early enough before the town hall appointment to go walk around and explore Brussels (I am sure you all remember my excitement when I was new in the mission), so it is cool to again be a part of that experience. Everything was going as planned, but the time really started to tick, and before we knew it, it was 1:45 and we were going to be late for our 2 p.m. appointment! The young missionaries were all laughing in the back, being goof balls, but Elder Cook and I were all business up in the front weaving in and out of traffic to attempt the GPS scheduled arrival time. To make things even more complicated we had a senior couple who were following us because they couldn't get the GPS to work, and like you would expect we lost them amidst the traffic of Brussels. And to even further complicate the situation our phone was dead, and no one else in the car had a phone either. It was definitely a classic "face palm" moment. We couldn't really do much but continue forward, so we raced to the embassy and saved the appointment, only late by five minutes. During the legality appointment, I tried a number of phones but could not locate the senior couple's phone. Perplexed, Elder Cook reminded me I could just call back to the office and get them in contact with the Hills (the senior couple). It turns out they had already done that and were apparently well on their way there. I quickly forgot about their arrival situation, but then Elder Cook reminded me later that they still weren't here. In a desperate, last minute attempt, I decided to go outside and to attempt to look for them. I had a little prayer in my heart, asking God to help this situation to work out. As I opened the main doors and looked over the railing overlooking the street, I saw precisely at that moment a blue, Opel Corsa rounding the corner with a Dutch license plate. I quickly waved it down and ran down the embassy steps. It was them! It was a great little tender mercy. Just having things work out like that in the last second is a great office Elder miracle. In the words of my companion Elder Cook, "it was clutch."
I love and continue to pray for you all.
Have a great week.
Elder Eli Andrew
PHOTO CAPTION: Eli’s new mailing address, which is the mission office, shows this glass building and the entrance to the right of the bush.(Google street view.)
PHOTO CAPTION: Here is the Leiden Ward meeting house, where Eli goes to church. (Google street view.)