Sunday, April 30, 2017

"Flashes" of Color

Our week was full of color as we worked with our Dutch speaking self-reliance stakes.  Participating in multiple self-reliance activities allowed us extra time in the Netherlands and Belgium to attend the temple and enjoy a few cultural activities.  Our lead photo this week is a collage of several of those activities.  So much to be seen this week, we warn the reader of an excessive number of "flashes".

Our week began with our senior missionary devotional.  This was our farewell devotional to one of the truly extraordinary missionary couples in our Area, Elder and Sister Bausman.  They arrived in Germany the very same day that we arrived for our first visit, on June 2, 2015.  For the past 23 months they have not only fulfilled their Information System role but they have assisted all of the other senior missionaries in an extraordinary way.  They went home this past Thursday.

Sister Bausman sharing her mission experience with the senior missionaries

Elder Bausman sharing his testimony with the senior missionaries
On Tuesday we continued facilitating our Health and Well-Being self-reliance group in our ward.  This is a fun group to be with. This week, the lesson was about Sleep habits. This is a topic that we certainly need.  Our commitments are to go to bed earlier and awaken earlier.  The scriptures and the words from our prophets have been clear as to the benefits of spending time early in the morning in scripture study.  The promises of increased personal revelation are what we want and need.

Health and Well-Being Self-Reliance Group in our Ward
In the past year we have been working with the 4 Dutch speaking stakes (3 in the Netherlands, 1 in Belgium).  We have planned on a quarterly visit and generally have been able to meet with Priesthood leaders or Self-Reliance committees.  As we looked at our calendar in March, we decided that the last week in April would be the right time to return for a visit to the Netherlands.  We had visited the Antwerp Stake in Belgium just a few weeks ago and planned on focusing on the other three stakes in the Netherlands.  Soon after sending emails, we received an invite from The Hague stake to participate in their Self-Reliance Committee meeting on Wednesday night.  However, up until 10 days ago, we had not been able to connect with the other two stakes.  Finally last week, we were invited to participate in the first self-reliance group in the Rotterdam Stake, which would hold their second group meeting on Friday night.  We also learned that Thursday was a national holiday, Kings Day, the birthday of the Dutch King.  The stake specialists of the third stake are away in the U.S. and we never heard from the stake presidency, so we only had the two visits to make.  However, we heard back from the Antwerp Stake who was planning a Sunday morning My Path devotional, their first.  We also heard that they had a change in their stake presidency and had a new chairman of their committee.  On Wednesday of this week, we were able to confirm a meeting to be held with the new chairman right after the Devotional.

The reason I write this is that as we move forward with our plans, we don't always know what will be the results.  However, we do find that the Lord guides our efforts and meaningful activities occur, which allow us to assist these stakes in their self-reliance efforts.  Even though progress has been slow, it has moved forward at the direction of the Stake Committees which is exactly how it should be.  Our stake specialists continue to gain experience and are now able to offer more assistance to the wards in their stakes.   Also in the past month each of the stakes have realigned their ward boundaries and closed some of the smaller branches or wards. This has created new challenges and opportunities in each of these stakes.

With faith, we began our drive to the Netherlands after our Wednesday noon Book of Mormon class.  We arrived in time to check into our hotel and arrive at the Stake Self-Relince Committee meeting in The Hague stake.  We were delighted to see our stake specialist instruct the committee on holding three devotionals in the coming month.  They will all be held on May 21, facilitated by different members of the committee.  The meeting was held in Dutch, but we were able to understand much of the discussion and were able to introduce some ideas in English.   Their efforts to do these devotionals during the Sunday meeting schedule is similar to what we have done in our ward last month.  We were asked to share some of the format and processes that we had used.  The chairman of the committee has met with us each of the two previous visits and is a wonderful strength to this stake.  We will try to see if we can be back to visit at least one of the May 21 devotionals.

Self-Reliance committee of The Hague Stake
Because the next day was Kings Day, even the temple was closed.  We did spend a few hours with our Area Manager in Frankfurt by video conference, planning for our managers meeting and the Area Committee meeting to be held the following week.   Then we chose to visit the world famous Keukenhof tulip gardens.  We had visited them a year ago, but on a cold rainy day.  This day turned out much better.  There were a few showers, but the weather was enjoyable and the time of the year was perfect for the flower blooms.

Keukenhof Park

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit.  The following photos are a few of the many that we took:

Beautiful red tulips with my beautiful wife

A close up view of one of the flowers

In front of one of the displays

Beautiful laid out flower beds, amazing!

A selfie, we are getting a little better at it

The major mound of flowers near the main entrance

In the picture thanks to a passer by who was willing to help

Another of our favorite tulips

A beautiful turkey in full array.  We had never seen a turkey fully feathered like this one, part of the children petting zoo area.

A peacock friend in the same area

Rows and rows of different colored tulips

Looking from a different perspective

Near the Windmill, with the flowers on the side

Closer up of Sister Rueckert in front of the windmill

Sitting together in flower pots
As we left the park, we saw a stand selling fresh Stroopwafels.  We have loved these in the past, but eating them fresh was even better.    The wafel is filled with a caramel and cinnamon filling.  Wonderfully delicious!
Taking the Stroopwafel off of the press

Filling it with the caramel cinnamon mixture

After leaving the park, we drove by some of the neighboring tulip fields. These are amazingly beautiful.

Kings Day

We finished our tulip viewing in the late afternoon and then decided to make a visit to the festivities of Kings Day.  Just a little background.  This holiday used to be celebrated on April 30, the birthday of the grandmother of the King.  When her daughter became queen, she was crowned on April 30, so the holiday continued.  In 2013, the new King was crowned and his birthday was on April 27, so the holiday was moved to the 27th.  This is an opportunity for people to party, with many outdoor concerts, selling of second hand items, lots of food and drink stands.  In Amsterdam, there are nearly 1,000,000 additional visitors.  We were cautioned to avoid the large cities.  It was suggested that we visit the city of Delft, where the celebrations would not be so large.

We arrived as most of the second hand selling was completing, however we did manage to buy an old candle stick holder that was also a bell for 2 Euros.  We made the purchase as our participation in Kings Day.  We then moved into the main square which was full of individuals, eating, drinking and attending a concert.  The tradition is to wear orange, which is the national color.  A few photos give you a little idea of the celebration:
Full-size photos of the king and the queen in the elevator of our hotel

Seen in a store as we walked into the town, someone in their "orange" attire

Wearing a "orange" crown

Crowds in the town square, concert stage in front of the "Old Church" from the 1200s

Other Church at the other end of the town square in Delft.  This is the new Church from the 1300s.

On Friday, we planned on going to the temple before our evening meetings.  However, we had some early morning time to ake a tour of the De Delftse Pauw Delft Blue Pottery Shop where the famous Delft Blue Porcelain is made and hand painted.  The tour is free, but they make their money selling their products at the end.  We thoroughly enjoyed the visit, learning much about this process.  A few of the photos follow:

Display of the process of a standard plate.  The material is made in molds and fired two times to become white.  Then they hand paint the designs on the white materials with black cobalt oxide which turns blue after  a glaze is added before the third firing in the kilns.
A couple of hand painters on site

Painting with black cobalt oxide

It takes four days to complete the painting of a vase this size

Sister Rueckert in front of many of the products

Sample of a hand painted blue delft vase, selling for 332 Euros

Pottery Delfte Pauw building
The Hague Temple

We left the Delft Blue visit and arrived at The Hague Temple by 12:30 pm.  This gave us time to do some initiatory work for another 14 of our ancestors and then participate in an endowment session.  We just love going to the temple.  This was a perfect situation for me.  I was well rested the night before. I spent a few hours in the temple, doing initiatory work and pondering the scriptures before the endowment session.  As a result, my mind was alert and very much in tune throughout the session.  I received many impressions during this session and pondered on things that had never come to my mind previously.

Perhaps one of the benefits was that I was proxy for Leonhard Jckelsheimer, who was my 9th great grandfather, born in 1623.  We found this relationship during our visit to Nuremberg last December.  Our grandson, Braden, was proxy for his baptism on March 30 of this year.  I was able to be proxy for his initiatory work two weeks ago in the Madrid Temple.  At that time I had felt special feelings.  I wanted to be the proxy for his endowment, which I had the privilege to do at this time.

I know that the work we do for our ancestors is real.  I can truly feel it. At the same time, the Spirit of the Holy Ghost is even stronger and we are blessed with additional personal revelation while serving our ancestors.  We can never do too much for our Heavenly Father.  He always blesses us in abundance.
In front of The Hague Temple

Beautiful Tulips in front of the sign of The Hague Temple

Self-Reliance Group

We left the temple and went directly to the Rotterdam meetinghouse.  There we were served a wonderful dinner by Martha, the stake self-reliance specialist.  She and her husband have been so kind to us.  Developing relationships like these are some of the special blessings that we receive.  Martha recently started her first My Job Search group.  Tonight was the second group session.  We were able to participate and help facilitate the group.  The missionary couple that have been giving the My Plan for Returned Missionary lessons in the stake joined us.

My Job Search group with two couples.  Also in attendance, E/S Goebel, E/S Rueckert and Martha
Group members practicing their Power Statements

We believe that the best way for our Stake Specialists to learn is to actually facilitate a group.  We are pleased that Martha is having that opportunity.  After the meeting we had a chance to provide feedback to Martha.  We were also able to get updated with E/S Goebel on their progress with the My Plan for Returned Missionaries.


Our next Self-reliance activity was in Belgium on Sunday morning.  We had time on Saturday to see a few more things on our way to Belgium.  We went back to Rotterdam for our breakfast/lunch.  We wanted to eat some more of the Poffertjes that we had discovered in January.  While there we were able to visit the market and revisit the Round Mall.

Seth's Poffertjes making the product
Our delicious breakfast, with powdered sugar and butter.  These are small crepe like puffed pancakes.  Absolutely delicious!
Seating outside the restaurant, in front of the Round Mall
We found Spiderman as we wandered through the street markets
Den Haag

After making a few purchases for our Saturday and Sunday lunch snacks, we went on to visit The Hague for our first time.  I am always amazed at the architecture in the Netherlands.  The Hague is full of unique architecture and a bit of history besides.

In front of the Binnenhof houses of Parliament and the Knights Hall.  Built in the 1200s. The King delivers his annual address from this location each September.
Special effect of the fountain in front superimposed on the  Knights Hall

Square behind the Binnenhof with the skyline of The Hague behind it

Sister Rueckert with the city scape behind her

Close up of some of the unique architecture (top of the buildings)

Many buildings built on top of bridges.  The Deloitte (My old employer) building behind the bridge.  Looks like a lego building.

Dikes, Dams and Levees

Since we had time, we decided to drive to Belgium along the western coast, observing the magnificent dikes that are all over Holland.  It was hard to get good photos, since you are effectively driving on top of the dykes as you cross the inlets from the ocean.  At least we got a few photos that may be meaningful, at least for us:

Driving on top of the dyke system, with windmills planted in the water

The ocean to our right.  Different level of water than the water on our left.

A dam in the middle of one of the land barriers, ocean side
The other side of the dam on the inland lake side
Approaching another bridge across the water

Bridge opening up for boats to pass through

Bicyclists awaiting the closing of one of the bridges before passing though.  Bicyclists are everywhere in great numbers.
One of the windmills that we passed along the way

We finally arrived at our destination, Sint-Niklaas, Belgium a little after 5:00 pm.  Since the next day was our 18th anniversary of our temple sealing, we decided to go out and have a nice dinner.  We went to the city town square and found a nice Chinese restaurant nearby.  This market square is the largest in all Belgium.  It was given to the St. Niklaas church in 1248 by Countess Margaret II of Flanders with the provision that it would remain bare, which explains the large size of the market place.

Sister Rueckert on the market square in front of the Town Hall
Our anniversary dinner

While eating, we saw this hot air balloon take off from the market square at the side of the restaurant.  St. Niklaas church in the background
Two roses sold to Elder Rueckert by a vendor in the restaurant.  We put them in a water bottle in the hotel and brought them back to Frankfurt.  These are our anniversary roses.

Self-Reliance Devotional

The next morning we attended church at the Sint-Niklaas ward.  The last two hours of the block was a My Path Devotional, facilitated by our Stake Specialists, Luc and Mieke Wijns.  They did it very well.  We helped them to form the self-reliance groups at the end of the activity.  The devotional was in Dutch, our smaller group spoke mostly English.
Stake Specialist explaining the self-assessment activity

Five smaller groups within the devotional, stake specialists assisting

We were pleased to meet with the stake specialists and the new chairman of the committee, Stefan Van Gijsel.  It was a wonderful opportunity that we had not expected when the planning for this trip began.  Our meetings ended at 2:00 pm and then we drove the rest of the way back to our home in Frankfurt.

During this time of year, there are many fields with Rapeseed plants, which have a beautiful yellow blossom.  We love to see them as we drive.  One more color to add to our colorful week.

Fields of Rapeseed on the side of the highway

More beautiful yellow fields