Hello everyone! It has been forever since I have written, but I am excited to talk about the past couple weeks with everyone. If I had to sum it up in a few words, I would describe it as potatoes, goodbye, and work. Thanksgiving this year was great. On Wednesday we set up a Thanksgiving dinner appointment with our steadily progressing investigator, Tessa, so it was good to have some American celebration in Europe. Elder Cook and I have been pretty busy in the office lately. As the year draws to a close we are making deadlines while still finding great time to further the work here in Leiden.
Firstly, I have to talk about Elder Evans. I haven't talked much about Elder Evans, but he has been serving in the office his whole mission, comes from Antwerpen, and has a hilariously unique personality. I can't put him into words – you just have to meet him. He makes the office experience complete, that's all I can say. Well, about a week or so ago he got pretty sick. What started out as coughing turned into a week at home on the couch. We came home every day and it seemed like he was getting better for a little while, but then it didn't. Turns out he had pneumonia! We had a late Saturday night at the hospital with him, and after some antibiotics and a night in the hospital, he was fine. His mom wanted him home for a little while in order to fully recover, though. Hopefully, we have our trusty Elder Evans back with us soon.
These past couple weeks we have had some great teaching experiences. A few weeks ago we met a girl on the street K, who is from Aruba and studying here. During our first appointment she opened up to us, telling us a very familiar story of just being away from home and family, and dealing with Dutch people. It was so cool to see how God has been working with her, that because of these difficult circumstances she has come so close to God, praying and reading the scriptures like never before, seeking for answers, comfort, help. Overall she was open and very sincere with us, and it was a great atmosphere to teach a good chunk of the first lesson. K was also pretty excited about the Book of Mormon, and I am excited to meet with her further. She also fed us these great deep-fried goodies from Aruba, a type of deep fried pastry that you put fresh cheese in – surprisingly delicious and sweet. Overall, a great teaching/friend-making experience!
And how could I forget the crazy experience that happened the other week? Last Friday I made a last minute decision not to go on the Belgium legality trip with Elder Cook because of the work I had to do. We arrived a little late in the office that morning only to discover the internet wasn't working! It was a little annoying, just having to deal with all the little problems that come with a new office, but I went down to the ground floor electrical room to see if I could fix the problem. It was only a few minutes earlier that Elder Cook and his group left when I heard a knocking at the glass front door. I felt a little reluctant, since all you have to do is hit one of the bells to get in the building, but I walked over to open the door for the Dutch man. But as I approached I realized it wasn't any Dutch man at all. In fact, after a moment of immediate disbelief and shock, I found myself staring directly at my Uncle Bruce. Uncle Bruce! Standing right before my eyes, waving at me, smiling, and pointing towards the door! I didn't really know what to do, so I just smiled, opened the door, and gave him a big hug. It took me completely by surprise, but we quickly starting talking. I showed him my office, and before I knew it was time for him to leave to catch his flight back to the States. Such a crazy experience! I was happy with my reaction. I didn't even freak out!
The weather is getting nice and cold here, and I am loving it. What has changed me this week is simple thankfulness. God wants us to be thankful. When we are thankful, we allow God to show us our many blessings. I realized recently how much I ask for – for His Spirit, for His guidance and help, when in fact I have been forgetting to see how much I have. We are all very privileged, and I encourage everyone to take a moment and reflect on everything you have, not what you want. It helped heal me; I know it can help heal you, too. We all took a moment and at the request of our investigator during Thanksgiving dinner said we were thankful for, and it left such a wonderful warm feeling in the room – sharing our gratitude with each other.
Elder Eli Andrew
Elder Andrew with his Uncle Bruce
PHOTO CAPTION: Turkey Bowl 2015. We met at a big, open field in Den Haag. We brought three zones together and played a brawl of four games simultaneously. It watered down to just the football lover group, and then we took it seriously. It was all very clean, no hard feelings, and as Elder Steenblik said, "It defied all my expectations!" He had been waiting for Turkey Bowl the whole year, and it made me happy to see how happy he was about it. Great! We then all went to McDonalds, which felt like home again, eating fast food after sporting. It was wonderful!
11/28/15 EMAIL NUGGETS
· We surprised the Leiden Elders last night and showed up last night at 10:15 in sleep over gear. We went around the back, banged on the back window while I simultaneously banged on the front door, we scared the crap out of Elder T, a young missionary on exchanges. We played cards last night and then slept out in the living room. This morning we got out of the apartment early and headed over to Zoetermeer to play basketball with the Zoetermeer Elders, Sisters, and the us Leiden missionaries. It wasn't their p-days but some of them switched. I forgot, we stopped at McDonalds on the way and picked up egg McMuffins before playing. McDonalds seems to be a reaccuring theme but I just honestly never eat out these days! The Zoetermeer chapel is fresh new American building, and I eventually got my basketball game on. My companion Elder Cook is just a big football/ basketball kid and me, being an individual sports guy, took me a while to get into my basketball groove. But it was super fun when I did. After that, we partied with the Leiden Elders, grabbed some lunch and have been in the office since. It is getting very dark very early these days, and as I look out the window the dark clouds have taken over. But I do enjoy the rain! Mostly. Not with wind. (Dutch missionaries talk a lot about the weather.. humor me on this one). Now, it's getting a little late and I have a 20-minute talk tomorrow I have the think about. Ah! It'll be fun.
· My days are pretty routine and usually stays exciting in the office. It keeps me on my toes and very busy just keepin' this mission somewhat financially stable. I feel like I am living real life honestly. Wake up. Get ready. Squeeze in a little personal study. Wait in traffic while driving to work. Work. Eat. Leave. Go on joint teach with the missionaries all evening. It's cool life preparation in a way. It is a little sad that our study time is very limited, 45 minutes usually, but as they say in Dutch, so is life!
· Our teaching pool has been a full pond then goes shallow quick; it's been hard so far to find "the one" lately, but it continues on. We found a family that has been living here for 3 months, and they are from Burma (M). They let us into their humble abode, top story apartment with bare walls and only two, small stools. They are so poor but so loving and sweet. They offered us the only thing they could make us: coffee. I felt so bad I almost drank it, but then we had to leave and just apologized. There is of course a language barrier. They speak better English than Dutch, but I would love to see them progress. So yeah, there are more stories and stuff to tell, but all in good time.
· My journaling habit fell off the cliff when I got into Deventer, but has turned back on since I have gotten in Leiden. Yeah, sad I know, but hey, I am doing better now! I think the main thing I strive for every day is the Spirit. That's one of the coolest things about the mission. Feeling the Spirit work through you. I have seen that on a super personal and unique level being on a mission. Connecting with people, making smiles, doing everything good.
· I hope thanksgiving was a wonderful food feast. Last year I just avoided thinking about American holidays. I didn't want to even bother being "trunky" or whatever the kids call it these days. But this year I allowed it. Why not, right? We went to mission leader conference with all the zone leaders on Friday and helped cook. Wow. We had American turkey and everything. The smells took me WAY back. We had back-to-back dinners and lunches this week. I was soo full of potatoes. When it's cold the Dutch love cooking potatoes more than anything, lekker!