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|
|Health and Well-Being Self-Reliance Group in our Ward|
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|
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|
|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.
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:
|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|
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|
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|
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.|
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|