Yet another chapter concludes in Elder Andrew's mission. Good thing there are still more pages left to write! Well, this week kicked off pretty strong and has been for the most part just a little exhausting, in the best way possible. Elder Cook and I have been busy doing our best solving problems, supporting President, working hard, preparing to train new office Elders and, of course, also make time to talk to lots of people and have fun doing it.
The events of Monday morning were a little tragic for a financial Elder, however. I made the effort the previous week to finish off my expenses and reports, leading to a casual Monday morning when I only had to hit the "create payments" button and have President sign off on the mission bills. Sadly, sometimes things don’t work out quite that simple. For the first time ever I "created my payments" and awaited a green button, indicating that they were sent to my mission President, but instead I got a red warning reading "payments failed, please contact administrative service." I wasn't even angry about it; I could only laugh at the luck. I spent 45 minutes on the line with a guy in Utah (3 a.m. his time), and we listened and followed his instructions as I sadly discovered the payments I created had gotten stuck in a sort of "limbo," meaning that the connection to the server was lost at the moment I created the payments. But all is well! My IT brethren in Utah were able to manually fix the problem. Just a funny anecdote, where things don't always go according to plan! Perhaps that was a little too much office Elder information, but some IT person out there will understand my Monday morning "face-palm".
This week was spent doing what I treasure most: teaching! Teaching in people's houses, on the streets, everywhere! It is a horrible trend that missionaries have. We are now going to go "finding" or, even worse, "tracting." Those phrases make me cringe inside. Elder Cook taught me this from the start of our time together, and that is: if you have an opportunity to teach, take it! So often us missionaries fall into patterns of just asking for people's information, and it is easy to forget that we are called to teach the gospel! And that goes for non-missionaries, too. When we have an opportunity to teach someone or share something, we should not shy away from the situation. "Breaking the ice" and talking to others about our faith is not in our daily, planned comfort zone. But remember the good feeling after standing up or saying something for your beliefs? That is a feeling we cannot shy away from.
Speaking of breaking the ice, Wednesday Elder Cook and I showed up half an hour late to an appointment to a less active. It was rainy, and we didn't have a GPS with us, so it was the Spirit and our best memory. We did indeed find the house, and the less- … well, I suppose I could say inactive member … came to the door. Upon our initial approach the other week, we introduced ourselves and asked if she was "Hester." Now, Dutch people are very formal, and when we asked her by her first name, she about lost it in surprise that two strangers knew her first name. But we just did our best to connect with her. She said she didn't want us to convert her, a typical denial, but we told her boldly that wasn't our purpose. We instead asked her if she was open for a conversation and a Spiritual thought. She agreed happily to our pleasant surprise, and for the first time in 35 years missionaries were conversing with this inactive member. It was sad to see the choices she had made, with a hard influence of her widowed mother of six who couldn't "do" the Church anymore, leading to decisions that only distanced her further and further away. But I could sense the light that was still remaining in her. She told us about the few rare times she did want to go to church (never did, but felt it) and the positive influence of the Church. We could only bare testimony and listen to her, and it made for a productive, refreshing evening. I am grateful to have met her. She gladly agreed to a return dinner appointment, as Elder Cook enticed her with the idea of preparing traditional Dutch meals for us.
We continue to work hard to teach, find, and baptize here. I like putting "teaching" first, because that is what we have as missionaries have been called to do. J enjoyed our intro to the 2nd lesson pamphlet, J and T (part member couple) continue to astonish me with their faith (T our investigator met with the bishop and explained the deep feeling in her heart to really change, to drop smoking, to get married, and to be baptized), and A read 1 Nephi 2 by himself!
I heard the lucky news Wisconsin got a blizzard. I hope everyone enjoys the dashing snowflakes that always seem to appear late from January into February. Any hope I have for snow has almost completely dwindled here, so I will start reluctantly looking forward to my least favorite season, spring. Please shoot me an email if you want to know why. Today the Assistants, the Leiden Elders, the Amsterdam "crew" will be going to my old place of refuge, Zaanse Schans! Remember those pictures? I have not been to my second city in over a year, so that is something to look forward too!
Thanks for the love and prayers. I also continue to pray for your welfare.
Elder Eli Andrew
PHOTO CAPTION: Spot Eli in this potluck scene.
PHOTO CAPTION: Remember over a year and a half ago when Eli was one of these jet-lagged, newly arrived missionaries, eating pannenkoeken with the mission office staff? Now, as one of the office staff, Eli (at far right) does this nearly every month with the eager new missionaries in this same restaurant at this same table.