Happy New Year, all! It is officially 2016! Isn't that weird? I am pretty sure I will be writing 2015 on all my notes for the next couple months, just out of habit. But the reality of a bright, hopeful New Year has now sunk in, especially with the Netherlands going explosive on the 31st.
New Year's Eve of course was fantastic. Last year Elder Toole and I flipped the couch in our apartment around facing the big, open windows in the direction of Amsterdam. Sadly, last year I decided to "lay down" for a little bit before midnight and woke up to the alarm at 6:30 that next morning! Elder Toole claims he tried to wake me up, but I just slept through it. This year I did not want to let that happen. We played Monopoly and Phase 10 to pass the time away, and when it as finally time we climbed the ladder staircase to the top floor our apartment complex. Surprisingly, no one else joined us on the top floor, so we got to have the whole space to ourselves. The view we had was great, we had a clear few of the entire centrum area of Leiden, making for a loud, colorful evening of fireworks.
It was a pretty tame week as far as office work goes – nothing too insane other than end-of-the-year deadlines. We had a great time this week sharing the gospel, teaching as we went about, mainly focusing still on a Christ-centered Christmas, but also diving into New Year's resolutions. Speaking of which, our mission did a "mission-wide" goal setting evening. Because of the high risk of explosives on New Year's Eve, we had some time in our apartments, and did enjoy a little time to reflect on a full year of full-time service out in the mission field. I reflected on what went well, where I improved, what could have gone better, and where I want to go. I don't think everyone has to be super extravagant with New Year's resolutions, especially since they tend to sputter out quickly, but the wise words of my former mission president ring in my ears: "Make resolutions simple. For example – to be nicer, to see the good in others, etc. Anything simple and achievable, that will bring you closer to Christ." I am paraphrasing there, but I invite everyone if they haven't already to make one simple, achievable resolution and make it a part of you, internalize it, really work on it and become it.
Among the bomb-like explosives going off throughout the week, we did a lot of good work. On Monday evening after our typical lesson/dinner appointment with a part-member family, we decided to do something we had never done before – work in their area. It had gotten pretty late, and our only option was to knock a few doors. I was pretty hesitant about it, especially the hour of night, but I just set aside my little anxiety and focused on the people we talked to on the doorstep. I noticed, because of our calm and collective attitude that evening. It affected the people on the doors. We talked to an older lady who without us even asking, asked if we could come back another time, and we set a return appointment. Just a few doors further a young family let us in on the door, and we were able to share our testimonies and experiences with faith! I think the real miracle was just listening to the young father's needs. He told us about how horrible this world is and how the only thing he cares about are his kids. So, we talked and testified about hope in Christ and also about the importance of families. They have two toddlers, but both parents drink and smoke. The father at one point neglected our credibility, saying that we were too young and haven't experienced the real hardships in life. We all experience life differently, but again, we were able to share more personal experiences of hardships and then coming through it, thanks to Christ. It made the conversation very "down to earth." I like it. It was a fun little surprise, and they invited us back in the coming week, so I am excited for that!
I wish everyone the best of luck with this New Year and of course, have a great rest of the week.
Thanks again to everyone who sent Christmas postcards, spiritual experiences, and more green hands for my tree. I still don't have a picture of the tree yet, but it is on the way.
Elder Eli Andrew
PHOTO CAPTION: The taste off. [Root beer samples shipped from his Dad’s root beer shop in Galena, IL.]
PHOTO CAPTION: Olliebolle is back! Can't complain at all. Battered up, deep fried, and dunked in powder sugar.
PHOTO CAPTION: Had some great conversations one night and posed for a scenic picture in Leiden