Friday, August 31, 2012

Oma's Pages #46

Oma’s Pages #46

The next part of the 150 year celebration were the open houses. They were scheduled for five of the six weeks before the actual celebration began. In the end we held one every Saturday before the big main event. These celebrations were held at the Leeuwarden Church which is the Church we have been going to while we are here in the Netherlands. It is in Friesland. Opa was the Branch President of the Leeuwarden Branch. The area this Branch covered was the upper half of the Friesland Province. A Province is like a State in the United States. However, here in the Netherlands the country is so small that a Province is really about the same size as a county in the State of Utah.

Maria Meyer with Tante Jellie
Pouwel with Egbert
Friesland is one of the largest Provinces in the Netherlands. This is because Friesland was a separate country many many years ago. The people here have their own language. It is called Friese and it is taught in their schools. These Friesian people are from a different culture and background than most of the Dutch people. They are very proud of the fact that they are different. It is very difficult for them to accept a new idea like the Gospel. However, once they do accept it they are some of the strongest members. Many of the great Church leaders of this country started here in Friesland and in Groningen, which is it’s neighbor directly east of Leeuwarden. Opa’s grandmother (Maria Meyer) came from Friesland and his grandfather (Pouwel Van Komen) came from Groningen.

On left is Tante Tini (Van Komen Hekking), middle is Pouwel Van Komen, on right is Hiltje Pouwel's second wife after Maria died. On the day of this picture they were bicycling to see the monument.

For the open houses we hosted a Fietstocht (feets-talk is how it is pronounced) which is a bicycle race. It is not a race to see who finishes first, just an award for those who finish. The route went from the Church to the monument and back. The distance was equal to a marathon. At the first one, Thies de Jonge rallied his Branch in Assen to come here to support it. 

Thies also called his family to come and join the fun. His brother Ekke (ek-a) who is a policeman and also the Branch President in Zwolle came with his wife.

Ekke is on the bike and his wife is reading the map. The other lady is Thies' wife

Thies’ sister Sitske was there as well. 
Sitske is in the red sweat shirt helping people know what to do

The de Jonge family are very very important to the Church in the Netherlands at the moment. One brother is the Stake President in Rotterdam. One brother is the Bishop in Groningen. One brother is the Bishop in Amsterdam. Their are ten children. They are all very active in the Church. When their mother and father joined the Church they only had two very young children. So you can see how important missionary work is in helping the Church to grow. What if those missionaries had decided it was not important to knock on the de Jonge door that day?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Oma's Pages #45

Oma’s Pages #45

Thies de Jonge suggested that we make a plan and support the coming of this event even if we had to pay for it ourselves. He told Jan Weening that it was his job to make sure we had good weather that day. (The weather on the day of the celebration was perfect... so Jan’s prayers obviously were very effective) 

He also believed it would be important to make a book. I told them I felt it was essential to make the book. I told them that there was not any book in the archives of the Church that was a compilation of the history of the Church in the Netherlands from the beginning to the end. I told them that the book currently being used for this purpose had many mistakes in it. It was very old and not complete. There needed to be a more correct version that people could look at for historical purposes.

I began to work with a man named Guus Vreven on making that book. I had the software on my computer to compile, edit, do the layout and graphics for the book. Guus was a retired college teacher and he had the expertise to write the text. He tried to gather the histories from all over the Netherlands and into Belgium (since Belgium was once part of the Netherlands).

It was a massive project that took four months of working every spare minute I could find. I still did all my regular missionary work as well. There were many nights that I never went to bed.

We met the deadline. When Thies surprised me with one of the first copies of the book while I was at JoVo Institute, I posed for a picture and then I cried.

He took Brother and Sister Weening and Opa and I out for dinner as a thank you for all our hard work. He conveniently planned the dinner to be on Opa’s birthday. So it was also a birthday party for Opa.

Jan and Barbel Weening

Opa and Thies

Of course Opa loves to take pictures of our food. He had these tenderloin pieces

I had fish

This was Opa's dessert. That thing in a glass was like a roman candle. It would be totally illegal to set something like that off in Utah, but here it was blowing sparks and small tufts of sparkles all over the place and everybody just joined in singing Lang zal hij leven, which is the birthday song here that you all know ends with Hup Hup Hoorah repeated three times.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Oma's Pages #44

Oma’s Pages #44

When we arrived on our mission and began to work with the members we discovered that this year (2011) was the 150 year anniversary of the first baptisms here in the Netherlands. There was a committee that had been formed two years earlier to plan a celebration to commemorate this event. Due to a lot of conflicts and problems we discovered that there were no definite plans.

A man by the name of Thies de Jonge asked Opa and I to meet with him and a man named Jan Weening. 

One of the issues we discussed that night was the monument. There is a monument here in the Netherlands that is a nationally recognized, dedicated monument to commemorate the first baptisms into the Church in this country. The monument is located at the location where the first baptisms took place.

 Jan Weening had asked numerous people before we came to help with the upkeep, but nobody did. It needed some serious upkeep. 

The monument is located within the boundaries of the Leeuwarden Branch. Since Opa was the Branch President we felt like we needed to do something about it. The first thing Opa did was to take out a section of the fence around it and make it into a gate. He had to paint the newly welded pieces. As you can see he does almost everything here wearing a his missionary suit.

The man who lived next door came out and helped Opa set the post for the new gate

We arranged a day to clean the monument. The Groningen Ward planned a Young Men’s activity to come and help. Opa and I arrived and nobody was there so we went to work by ourselves. You could not tell exactly what color the brick was and it was covered with lichens, mold, and moss.

We began to scrub. And we scrubbed and scrubbed. It was very hard work.

Later the Young Men arrived with their leader. They helped to scrub as much as possible off the bricks and concrete. Then the leader started to power wash all the junk we had scrubbed off. He showed the young men how to do it and they all worked very hard.

Here it is not like the Young Men’s program in the Wards at home. There were only two young men who showed up to come. And if all the young men had come there would only have been a few more boys. 

By the time we finished it was getting dark. We went over to the picnic table across the road and talked about what we had done. Their leader said that he had come with a bad attitude but as he began to work he truly felt the spirit of what had happened there. He said he felt that it was a sacred place and a very important event happened in this place. He said that he had felt there was a special spirit at this place. He was so glad he had come, worked, and felt his testimony of the Gospel and of his heritage enlarged. We all bore our testimonies about the spirit of the place and how we felt about it while we were working. 

There are always great blessings when you are working for God.

Later in the week Opa and I went back and painted the letters so you could read the words. The letters were deep and narrow into the monument so we had to take a regular paintbrush and cut off nearly all the bristles so that it would fit into the slots without leaving any of the black paint on the monument. It took us nearly all day to finish the work. Originally the letters were painted gold. We could see some of the original gold showing through. However, sometime in the past the letters had been painted with black so we had to paint them black.