Spiritual Experiences/Thoughts/Testimony

12/23/2013  District Meeting

I was apart of the best District Meeting I've ever had to lead! Heavenly Father really has lead me to the way He needs me to lead those, and that's to not do it at all :). I really wanted to make this OUR district and not 'Elder Cooper's' District. I wanted the members of the district to be involved, for them to teach each other and for our conversations to be led by the Spirit. So Heavenly Father showed me how to do it. Know your material, know what points you'll cover and let the Spirit go from there. 

12/16/2013  Sickness strikes
It all really started Wednesday when Elder D started feeling awful. Unfortunately that was the day we were on trains all day because we had to go up to Rotterdam for the Pres. Teixeira Conference...and then we had to sleep on the floor. He made me take the couch cause he was burning up with a fever. Let's just say it was a really hard night. But one of the most tender of my life. That night I truly witnessed the power of the Atonement, the strength of Jesus Christ, the comfort of the Holy Ghost and the power of brotherhood. I will not soon forget it, and if I do I'll be getting it in my journal soon ;). 

Companions who love each other
Elder D was just feeling awful shaking and burning up uncontrollably (it's an awful sickness) and all just seemed lost again. He asked for a blessing and so I gave him one. We already had done one with the oil, so I laid my hands on his head and the Lord gave him a blessing of reinforcement and healing. That night I watched as the Lord healed his symptoms, gave comfort to his weary heart, and supported him through what could have been a very dark night. Through it all I clasped his hand in mine to let him know that he was not alone, that there was someone right beside him amongst the heavenly hosts and the Godhead (because they were there. I know it. I felt it.).

We got through that night and moved in to the next day: the Teixeira Conference. At this point he is back to feeling horrible (the blessing was only to get through the night) and I'm beginning to feel the first symptoms as well. Luckily our pains were soon forgotten and we were consumed in the awesomeness that was Pres. Teixeira's Conference. That man is now my idol! He spoke with a Spirit and a power I hadn't felt before. He spoke with power and authority and one couldn't help but trust his words and let the fire of missionary work envelope them. 
He taught us all the things this mission needed. Every trick we were longing for. Every question we had. Every concern in the book, it was all addressed. And we're already seeing miracles by following his council. It's simply amazing how the Lord uses His different servants at the exact right moment to influence the lives of hundreds :) He works in miraculous ways. All in all it was a FANTASTIC conference and I learned A LOT.
On that spiritual high, we returned to Belgium to die. Friday and Saturday were REALLY rough. After all that effort on Wednesday and Thursday our bodies were done, and the sickness hit us full force. SO we had sick days. At least on Saturday we cleaned the church :) that was good. 

12/10/2013 - The Lord's work
My testimony in the Lord's work is stronger than ever, especially in the idea that it happens despite all our efforts to help it along. The Lord does His work and allows us to be a part of it, we just have to step out of the way and be where He wants us to be so we can help and gain those experiences. 
You see not only are referrals coming in like crazy (right now it's more than doubled my total number of all my referrals ever out here within the past 4 weeks) but the Ward is just stepping up. Now jobless, the ward mission leader is 100 percent in his calling. He's gotten us 4 or 5 different appointments this week and has come with us to every one. He just loves and appreciates us SO much and just has the fire to do missionary work (amongst which he also loves going door to door with us)

12/3/2013 - Be Real
Being a real person is SO important, especially in missionary work! Events like these are what others remember and love you for, it's how you'll stick out and make the things you say stick. So get out there and be real! Visit a neighbor, invite someone to a movie night, send someone a text of gratitude and love every morning, it's through those types of things that people will feel your love, even if you don't think you have it yet. It's through these types of things that people's lives are changed.

11/25/2013 Carbon Monoxide Poisoning analogy 
Decided this week that Pride is a tricky little sin, especially the Carbon Monoxide kind of it. It's the kind nobody sees in themselves and really hard to detect it. Normally we think pride and we think someone who thinks they're better than others or someone snooty, rarely do we call out the other one.

Carbon Monoxide Pride is not only hard to detect but deadly. Another way to say it might be self-absorbed. It's hard to describe...it's like when someone uses the most dangerous letter in the alphabet "I" one too many times in a sentence, when their problems always seem to trump the next persons problems, where everyone else is the offender you're just the helpless victim, this kind of pride. I know it so well cause I had such a bad case of it in high school and probably a bit beyond as well. 

You know those times where I'd do something bad, admit it and just be a brat about it...yeah that came from there sorry. I am FOREVER indebted to Ms. McGuire my drama teacher for curing me of this. She didn't even mean to. One day in theater we were just discussing ideas on what to do for Center Showcase. The idea came up to do self-written monologues and we all loved that idea! When we asked Ms. McGuire she said something that changed who I will be forever: "Absolutely not!" when we asked why she said something to the degree of "Because it would be an hour and a half of listening to teenagers whine and complain about how hard their life is and how their problems are worse than the others". 

That struck deep. Cause I thought I was special! I was the one who was suffering the most. I was the valiant man that despite all his troubles kept going even though it was "SO" hard. I learned there that I wasn't special at all. Everyone has trials that make them "worse than their neighbors". Everyone can be sad, everyone can be mad, everyone can be depressed but it takes someone truly special to be happy. And I wanted to be special, so I chose to work on being happier. It has brought a change in me that has changed who I am, how I look at life, and SO many other things. 

Now when I see others struggle with this I just want to show them this side. It's SO much better! Better to be happy than pitied in my opinion. But that's my deepness for the day. Watch out for that tricky pride, the one that has you always thinking about yourself. If you notice it coming in you go out amongst some people. Take an interest in the lives of others and ask about it. Do things for other people. Eventually it's just a choice of serving ourselves or Christ for Mosiah said that "When we are in the service of your fellow beings, you are only in the service of your God". Food for thought.

11/25/2013 First Baptismal interview
Friday I had my first baptismal interview with a woman named P. She is an investigator in Antwerpen and was preparing for baptism. I was SO nervous! That's a big responsibility on my head.  I was trying SO hard for the past two weeks to stay the purest that I could so that I could hear the Holy Ghost speaking and I'd know what to say. It ended up going really well and she was baptized on Sunday :). We were quite the pair though. Both so nervous and shaking, did I mention she's 70? Poor thing, but it was a good experience for us both.

11/19/2013 The passing of Grandpa Cooper

At the end of conference he beckoned me into a side room. On the way he thanked me for all my work in Sint-Niklaas and with D and proceeded to tell me that he had another 'special assignment' for me soon. :) Glad he trusts me, and glad that I've found something I can do out here that really fulfills my role. Being with D has been one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences of my life. Not only gaining a new friend but also being able to help him simply by being friends, it's been so good for me. So I eagerly await whatever else the Lord has in store for me because I know it's only going to help me grow.

Grateful for this legacy!
When we got into the room President just sat down, sighed and said "I hate doing this. Now I wish there was a better way to say this but your father emailed, and your grandfather has passed away." My first thought was "Woah that was quick..." not in the telling, in how close grandma and grandpa were apart in their deaths. WHAT a blessing though. Honestly I have no sadness or regrets over that. Why would I? Grandpa is now with Grandma and with Leslie, where they can be with each other together doing one of Grandpa's favorite activities- missionary work! I can't think of a greater blessing Grandpa could have received. I am just going to miss him.

Know that I am coping very well. I'm SUPER tired, but SUPER supported. Can't imagine where I'd be had I not learned to rely totally on the Lord and let Him take the reigns. A lot of the time we think in our difficult times "Where is God and why is He not helping me?". I've learned that a better way to respond to that is "Wow, can you imagine how much harder (sorry Court) this would be without him?". SO true! I can honestly say I have felt more supported by the Lord here in Sint-Niklaas than in any other place. The trials didn't let up, the difficulty didn't change, it was only where I looked to for support that changed. And it made all the difference.

I'm happy, I'm more or less healthy, and I feel strong and firm, like a rock that cannot be moved due to it's depth in the earth. Never had that before and I am super grateful for it. Helps that D gave me an amazing blessing yesterday. Seriously SO beautiful and perfect. Man I love that kid! Had everything I needed to hear in it. The Lord truly is mindful of us all. Pray, ask for blessings, you'll feel it I promise. And you will be filled up to the very firm with love and overwhelming joy that will harden into a concrete testimony of faith and love making you unmovable. 

Never be afraid to ask for a blessing. It's something I'm trying to be better at. Everyone needs a blessing and to feel the love of God, and the men need more opportunities to exercise their priesthood and feel the power of God. They are truly beautiful gifts blessings :).

11/11/2013 With God Nothing is Impossible  Contacting Goal aka Operation 'Go Amongst thy Brethern' is going splendidly! I call the group every Sunday to collect the numbers for the week anyway so at that time I just ask how they did with that goal as well, and they ROCKED it this week!!!! I am SO proud! Side story- there's a companionship here that was struggling and found it really hard to contact. So on our splits we kind of showed them the other way you can do it, doesn't always have to be new people! It can be in lessons, with members, with inactives, at parties anything! It was a really good exchange that taught us all a lot. This week? They got in to contact with over 4X the amount as last week!!! I'm SO PROUD OF THEM!!! Then there's the sisters who are just rock solid! Not only did they improve but they had like 6 lessons this week! AH! Best district ever!!! 

...See what happens when you discover the Lord's will and begin to work towards it? He just blesses you! You can't stop the work from moving forward! If you know what the Lord wants then you know where to look for success. And when you look there you get more hope and inspiration and motivation because you see success. The Lord's will will always triumph over all. Period. Nothing is impossible for Him.

Well I love you all and want you to know that I love being out here! This is the most fulfilling work of my entire life and I can't wait to see what else comes in store. Thank you for all your support and your love. It helps me to lose myself out here because I don't need to worry about back there. It'll all be taken care of in the end. I know Heavenly Father loves us all and is proud of each and every one of our efforts to do good. Remember He looks on the heart and just cause we mess up during the recital doesn't mean we should stop practicing all together. Keep moving forward. Keep believing. Keep the faith.

11/4/2013  Lift Where you Stand
There's my other thing! I've almost been out a whole year! There's simply not enough time! :( There's SO much work to be done! Here's where I struggle. I know that I need to "lift where I stand" and that the Lord only expects me to do so much, but what is that? Where do I need to be standing? Do I ever need to switch places or lift harder? Ah, so confusing, but that's life I guess right? I just pray that He will reveal His will to me...again. I'm awful :) I keep forgetting the things He tells me, but it's mainly because I keep questioning if it changes. How do you know when that happens?... 

Aside form those things life is great! 
I've felt more strength and support this week then I have in a long time! I'm legit just loving it out here. The good times now as well as the bad. Maybe that's my whole struggle, got that under the belt now, He's giving me another sort mission to tackle...
So Jose and Manon seriously are THE BEST PEOPLE EVER! On Thursday they hosted a Single Adult Halloween Party at their house. We've been planning this since we first met them. They had said that they wanted more people their age in the church and more activities, so we asked them to help us start them :) they did so with great enthusiasm with a great turn out. Not only did we get to meet 3 new inactives and a non-member from this while building their relationships with the members who were there. I LOVE it! But at the end Manon had caught the missionary fire and was saying things like "Now we just need to get them all reactivated!" I love those two SO much! They actually want to be married in the temple SO bad! No lack of testimony (at least on the bigger scale) they just need a guiding hand to bring them back. I'll keep you updated on their progress.


We haven't taught a good solid lesson in awhile but we have plenty to keep up busy, like Jose and Manon that I was telling you about. Manon is the daughter from a member in...wait for it...Almere! His name is Br. Overdevest and he asked me to look her up when I came down. Well obviously we instantly bonded! We both are in LOVE with Almere! Talked about the people, the ward, the place, everything!

Anyways they want to come back and even want a temple marriage, they just need help so we keep helping. They're even helping get the Single Adult Program running here, because that's what's going to save this ward. They are literally the key. Just perfect and edgy enough that people from the outside world can relate to them. With them, there will be nothing to stop this ward. But mainly I just love them to death with all my heart and I want to see them make it back SO bad! I pray for them SUPER hard because obviously they won a huge portion of my heart. THey are SO awesome!

10/28/2013 Stepping Up
On the bright side I'm ok with being District Leader now and I'm kind of loving it. I absolutely LOVE my district! We're just 8 awesome people owning the mission the best we can. Sisters Rigdon and Kohlert, Elders Wayman and Fowkes, and The zone leaders Elders  Armstrong and Gomez. I'm SO excited to work with them, but super nervous for my first District Meeting tomorrow...pray for me. All I want to happen is that the Lord's will be done in here and I worry that I won't be worthy or qualified enough to let the Spirit speak through me and say what the District needs to hear. Either way I know they've got my back and I've got theirs, so that's what is important right?

10/14/2013 District Leader
Fact about transfers- the call comes on Monday except in one condition, if you go leadership or if you are training. Well...I found out yesterday. Fact 2- if it's the AP's that means you're training, if it's President it means leadership. The phone rang, I looked down and literally said "Oh no."

President called me.
I was called to be the new District Leader of the Antwerpen District. Oh wow, this is more nerve racking than training! Forget defining a new missionaries outlook on the mission for 2 years, the Lord has given me the responsibility of ensuring that 8 missionaries are cared for. I was tremendously humbled by the call. I know I'm ready and I know both the Lord and President trust me but that doesn't mean I can't be a tad bit apprehensive about it right? I'm just really going to have to rely on the Lord for this one (a lesson He's been teaching me for 2 transfers now). I am super grateful for this opportunity and cannot wait to be of further use to the Lord.

10/7/2013  MY OWN GOLGOTHA
(I feel it necessary to write, because you are not reading the entire letter that his experiences were not do to anything that anyone else did wrong per say. Circumstance after circumstance happened to take away every safe guard he had put in place. Sometimes we go through things and the Lord then teaches us, if we allow it. I can testify that what Elder Cooper learned through this, and the experiences leading to this, directly taught him and enabled him to serve others in a way to sacred to write about here. The Lord's hand has led and guided him, although at times, heartbreaking to watch, but with full trust in Him, and in Elder Cooper, all is well. )
...If you'll remember in Vlissingen I REALLY had to learn how to rely on the Lord. I had given up everything for him and every single thing that had ever supported me in this life had been taken from me or I had been separated from it. I had to learn to trust in my God, because he was the only thing I had left. You'll all remember that painful process really well (maybe, I sure do).
Well turns out I didn't really learn my lesson that well or this was merely part 2. You see there's a system of support out here, and normally it's a great thing. Problem was I had grown to rely on it and gain my strength from it. I relied on other missionaries, my leaders and the 'Missionary Schedule' to find comfort and strength. Even then I've been quoted in Almere to have said, "I know the Lord and the leaders around me support me, but sometimes it just doesn't feel like enough, especially when the people I see every day don't.". Boy did I wish I could have those times back this week!
It was in that same time period where I was "beaten" and "mocked" for believing in my purpose there and how I acted. I use these words because in my own VERY small way, I feel like, I'm walking along my personal Road to Golgotha lately and forgive my comparison to Christ here. I acknowledge that what I've been through isn't NEARLY as dreadful as what he went through. I just think, "Why did he go through it all if we couldn't relate to it?"
I was beaten and mocked in Almere, as Christ was by the Jews and the Romans (keep in mind AMAZING people and experiences have been present through my entire mission. You all remember how much I loved Almere, and still LOVE ALMERE, nevertheless my statement still holds true) yet the worst part was still to come. I reached my Golgotha and have hung the whole week long....
(He writes of the abandonment of all sources of strength from those around him)
The beautiful sunset, and yet morning always brings
the glorious sun!

...The Spirit: I still kind of had the Spirit, but when you're depressed like that you really chase the Spirit away and reject every prompting you are given.

I still had God and Christ, I just didn't recognize it until I lost them to.

The Prophets: I thought surely if anywhere help would come through God's inspired servants the prophets. With this I eagerly awaited General Conference. For the first time I had actual questions that I needed answered and I wrote them all down. The Lord had never failed me before, why would it be any different this time.

But as I watched the first three sessions of conference my spirits sunk deeper and deeper. I left those sessions feeling condemned, rejected and with 0 of my questions answered. For the first time ever they had failed me (really I failed them but to a messed up mind that's how it seemed).

Choices I made after that such as choosing to sink into the depression, kept me from the Atonement of Christ and thus I lost the support of my Savior. And without the aid of the Holy Ghost or the Christ you are truly without God.

Everything seemed gone. I was done, just done. Couldn't take it anymore. Yet there was one statement in General Conference made by Elder Uchtdorf that kept me going: "For those of you about to give up, stay a little longer." So I did I stayed and I tried to fight my way back up to the sunshine I had known amongst pleas of "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" In this attitude I entered into the Sunday Morning Session.

Elder Eyring began and I was already tuned out, yet the Spirit whispered in my ear to listen to this one, so I did. When I would feel ready to turn away he would whisper "Just a little longer". As I listened to the words of the apostle of the Lord my heart was softened. Healing began to come back to me and I began to plead for forgiveness from my Heavenly Father.

That session of conference changed my life. It taught me how to truly listen to the Spirit, taught me to stop merely acting and take time to listen but most importantly it taught me probably the biggest lesson I will ever have to learn in my life: my #1 priority must now and for ever more ALWAYS be my Father in Heaven. He must be the ONLY thing I rely on, with other things become the ways that He supports me. He must be my EVERYTHING. My top priority and relationship.

The beautiful park

I had lost sight of that, and I never knew how grievous a sin that really was. There's a reason it's the first commandment- "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." Without Him we are nothing, we simply cannot do it. I learned that the hard way this week and I PLEAD with all of you to cast aside the things that support you (at least set them aside) and let GOD support you. It is the most painful process I've ever felt aside from what I felt when I let other things support me. All those things will eventually crumble, but God is eternal. This is His church. His power is on the earth today and through it men are saved.

Still healthy :) still alive :) still being fed. Starting to get cold here in Belgium :)  We definitely go back to the park all the time, it's super good for contacting :). The Ward is still amazing!

9/30/2013  Conviction
It's an interesting principle, conviction. Sometimes we get SO convinced of something, especially revelation, that it makes it really hard to follow the Spirit.
Elder Kemp & Cooper pondering on the meaning of life when they
got to visit each other at a meeting.
After two days of wrestling with the Spirit on this issue (and several others that have been weighing heavily upon me) I gave in and allowed the 'Total Mind Shift'. And just like any other time we are obedient and follow the leaders of the church, the Lord has graced us with nothing but miracles since. I mean yeah there's been hard times but the miracles make them all worth going through.

For instance, Sacha. He came to church yesterday!!! We called him in the morning to invite him and he said he'd rather wait for a little while. Then an hour later he called back and said "You know, I changed my mind. I feel like I should come today." So he came and stayed all three hours! He is quoted as having said in the Gospel Principles class- "When I look in to my future, this church is what I see."!!!! What a stud! He seriously has SO much potential and I cannot wait to see how far he excels in this Gospel. Now he just has to stop smoking...

Another instance, we had a dinner appointment with a member every single day this week, and around 3 lunch appointments. Not only that but we were kept very busy between appointments, our new fire to contact, and studies. It was just a really good week :) the Lord has blessed us SO much and I am SO grateful.

9/23/2013  Miracles  We have had SO many crazy good miracles here this week! Two particularly stand out. 1) There was a lonely old man sitting on a park bench (there's a park here that is simply GORGEOUS, like I want to propose to my wife here gorgeous) and we decided to talk to him. He had a lot of 'hypothetical' questions which we did our best to answer. There was one though which I could not understand to save my life! (Silly Vlaams...) So we testified that although we couldn't understand the question, his Heavenly Father could and he could find His answer in the Book of Mormon. We gave him the book and will be going by next week to see what he thinks and if he's found his answer.
The park he refers to. This is a picture straight from his camera
2) S. He's a half Russian half Belgian man who is apparently homeless (you would never guess by talking with him or even seeing him). Anyway we talked with him and answered many of his questions (he was very curious). Best part was when Elder L pulled out his Triple Combination. S. already had a Book of Mormon from one of his friends but he was mesmerized by the Triple. So Elder L let him have it. When he opened it he could not stop shaking. He said "It's strange. I can hold any other book and it does nothing, but when I hold this book I feel something and can't stop shaking." We bore witness that he was feeling the Holy Ghost and we challenged him to read in the Book of Mormon to see what he felt. We then prayed with him and sent him on his way. He just kept saying "It's strange. With you guys it just feels different."
BAM! Never forget just how much power that book has. There is seriously not another book like it on the face of the earth and I can testify of the power which it holds. You want to be secure in the faith for life, never doubting? Gain a solid unshakeable testimony of the Book of Mormon and it's power and testimony of Christ will carry you through even the darkest of times, doubts and fears.

9/16/2013  Testimony   Life is just so good here I can't even describe it. Your letter to me helped me realize: I'm ok. We are doing the Lord's work here in Sint-Niklaas and He is proud. I know that He lives. I know that He suffered and was crucified for our sins and our weaknesses. He makes us strong. Every day I become ever more grateful for Christ. Every day I grow in amazement at the things he did and the person he was. Every day I want more to be with him and to make him proud. I love my Savior. He is my everything. I love my Father, who loved me enough to send His Only Begotten Son to die for me. He hears my prayers and answers them. He sends the Holy Ghost to me to comfort me when I am surrounded by doubt, darkness and dread. I know He is there. I know that this is His church and I would give anything to serve Him. After all that's what we do when we come out on missions isn't it? Show the Lord we're willing to give our all, even our lives, for him?

9/9/2013  First Week in Belgium from the Netherlands
Wow what a week! 
It literally feels as if I just went on another mission. Left my home, trying to speak a language I thought I knew, with all types of new looking buildings and lifestyle...and on top of that I'm training again! It's super fun.
Wanna know the best part? There isn't really a single reason in the world that I should be happy right now (complete and utter exaggeration but just roll with it ;) ) yet somehow I am. Despite all the sad and frustrated feelings I should have, I just feel this solid peace in me and I'm happy.
New companion to train fresh from the MTC
The members here are UNBELIEVABLE! You guys should see the zeal and desire these ward members have to spread the gospel, it's inspiring. For example: on Saturday is their 40th year anniversary as a wijk (ward) in Sint-Niklaas. They are going ALL OUT. They are having an Open Church Day where people can come in and receive personal tours of the church and in every room is a small presentation on a point of our doctrine. Oh but that's not all. Around 7 o'clock that night they'll be having an 'academic sitting' for those who just want to know what we believe in. They are inviting the whole world! I've not even been here a week and we've already passed out over 500 flyers! These amazing members are crazy! I love it! It's also super cool to be in 'my papa's' favorite city. Plus I finally got to meet the man in this ward here that EVERY missionary raves about...'Papa Funky'. Yes you read right. His really name is Etienne Vonck. He's a 80 or so year old man that comes with us on almost all our joint teaches and just takes care of the missionaries.

9/7/2013  Passing of Elder Cooper's Grandma Cooper 
Dear Brother and Sister Cooper:
President and I extend to you our deepest condolence over the loss of your mother.  It doesn't matter the time or place, expected or not, the death of someone so dear and influential in you life leaves a huge hole in your heart.  The blessings of the Plan of Salvation are truly beautiful things.  We pray for you and your family, as well as Elder Cooper.

President called Elder Cooper this morning and share the news regarding the death of his grandmother.  President talked with him for a while just to be sure he was in a good place.  We plan to call again this evening to visit.  Most missionaries that deal with a death during their mission see the blessing and are so grateful for the opportunity during this difficult time to serve and testify to others that they now truly know the Plan of Salvation is the Plan of Happiness and that families truly can be together forever.  Knowing Elder Cooper, he will allow this experience to bless and strengthen his testimony of families and the Plan of Happiness.  Thus, many people will be blessed by the testimony he will share with them in the future.

Elder Cooper is a terrific missionary.  We love him.  He is a great trainer and senior companion with whomever he works in the mission.  He sets a great example.  We will see Elder Cooper next Saturday and be able to visit and see how he is doing.  We do not feel that he will be anything but stellar, as that is how he serves.  

We wish you Gods speed and the undeniable peace from the Spirit during this time and in the coming weeks.  

Our love to you,
President and Sister Robinson

Elder Cooper and his Grandma Cooper when
he received his Mission call!
9/2/2013  Heartbreak Heartbreak :(
I have to leave Almere!!!! I am SO distraught and don't think there are words to describe it...There was just so much more I wanted to do here and this was just home! (Sigh) At the same time I can see all the reasons I needed to leave, there's quite a few but still...
Great times in Almere! Elder Blackhurst has been
a great companion and will do wonderful things in
That's right, I'm going to Belgium! What to know what's even better? I'm also getting another greenie! I'll pick him up on Wednesday and then we'll head down to Belgium together. Wanna know what's even better? That means we'll be White Washing! Basically with go in with no knowledge of the area, no way to learn through osmosis and basically starting from scratch or with people we have no emotional connection to. Oh wait but it gets better. Belgium is completely different from the Netherlands! The culture is different, the stores are different, the ways you get around are different, there's a different dialect, and neither me nor my companion will be familiar with it at all...it's going to be SO fun! :) completely stoked for it. You guys want funny stories? Well get prepared because boy oh boy are they coming!
...What an amazing transfer this is going to be for the ward though. How I love them :). Ward's gonna have to step up, but we've been able to get them ready so now Almere is just going to explode with miracles and member missionary work (plus they just called six new ward missionaries half of them are 20 and younger).

8/26/2013   A Little Rough Patch (But in love with Almere)   

Since transfer 3 I've known what the Lord needed me to do here. He gave me an assignment, a way to fulfill my purpose and ever since then it's been nothing but a fight for my life to fulfill it.  I've actually been praying and searching/pondering over if I should develop a spine or not and your e-mail was the answer. Finally I heard again those comforting words that let me know that I do have a relationship with my Heavenly Father. It's amazing how when you're surrounded by so many people they can try to shut down your testimony or relationship with Heavenly Father because it's not theirs. I don't think it's intentional but I have never been as mentally and physically torn apart by others.
I know how to feel the spirit, and I know what I need to do, I need to be obedient and keep moving forward.  This is not a "picked on letter", this is just me knowing that sometimes I need to find some strength and courage to express what’s right.

 I'm reading in John and just over and over he states who he is and his purpose and the mob gets mad and tries to kill him. He has to go into hiding SO much in that book. The most inspiring thing that I've read in a long time I read today. It was John 11 I think. Christ goes with his apostles to Ephraim and there hides out/instructs his apostles/he needed some alone time with them for the next winter. Persecution for him was getting really bad and he had a bounty on his head. So how much more amazing is the story of his triumphant return and entrance to Jerusalem. He basically stares opposition in the face and says I'm here to fulfill the purpose that my Father has sent me here for and nothing you can do will stop me. It really uplifted me and inspired me so I'm doing a bit better this morning.
That's how I'm getting by here, just working things out one day at a time. If I have nothing else I know that Jesus is the Christ. This is his church restored in the Latter Days by the prophet Joseph Smith. God is our loving Heavenly Father and He has blessed us all with a way to return to him. I am so grateful for you guys, my family. You mean the world to me.  I'd do anything for you guys and I know the feeling is mutual. Thank you for all your support and encouragement. Thank you for accepting me as me, for loving me and supporting me in success and failure, and for helping me figure out who I am and what is important. That is something that will stick with me till the day I die and beyond.

8/12/2013 Testimony  It's been an amazing week here. So many miracles, a few I mentioned above, and to top it all of we had close to 10 inactive members in church on Sunday. The Lord is really blessing us here and the work in Almere. We couldn't do it without Him or each other. But He is our everything. He is the reason we can get out of bed in the morning, He is the reason we can be ok away from our families, He is the reason we can all live eternally one day for it is thanks to His plan made possible by the Beloved Son Jesus Christ. I am thankful every day for that. Thankful every day for the Godhead and the intimate part they are playing and have always played in my life. My heart is so full of gratitude and love. I love this mission! I love the Lord! I Love my Father! I love the Holy Ghost! I love the scriptures! And I love this church! I cannot wait to get back home so I can implement what I'm learning here into the ward and where ever I go in life. That is my goal. To make this a defining moment in my life that will affect me and the people surrounding me for the rest of my life for good. Life rocks and is the best thing ever right now!

8/12/2013  Knocking Doors  Cool experience this week? Ok! So we're riding around and I have Elder Blackhurst choose a street to knock. It's on the 3rd door, the first one he does by himself, that we get let in. His heart was softened because we were American and didn't speak really good Dutch. Talked with him for an hour and a half! This was thirty minutes after I told Elder Blackhurst you rarely ever get let in haha! Boy did I get chastized! We gave him an amazing lesson on the Plan of Salvation. He loved it, was super involved, I loved the idea of the Atonement. Such a cool guy! We can't wait to get back there and see him. Best part: at the end of the lesson, we prayed with him. We closed and then he looks at us and asks so innocently: "Can I try?" So naturally we said no....OF COURSE YOU CAN! That's what we actually said. So he offered up the most sincere prayer ever! Earlier in the lesson we talked about how we know things are true and he quoted A Walk to Remember. He said it's like the wind, something you have to feel but that you can't see. So in his prayer he asked to feel the wind, he thanked God for the Atonement and suffering of Jesus Christ so that he could be freed from his pain, and he it was amazing! He is so elect.

Speaking of missionary work H is doing amazing! We finally set a baptismal date with her!!! She's so excited and so pumped for her baptism on October 5th.

8/5/2013  And the Work continues. Sometimes that means an hour of discussion indoors instead of contacting outside, but in the end it's worth it. He's making such good progress and together we're working through every stumbling block he's coming against. He's a champion and I love this kid to death. We're down to one investigator here in Almere, H who is doing SO WELL! She has a testimony of this gospel, she wants to be baptized, she's in Alma in the Book of Mormon, she's SO golden! All that needs to happen is here Step-Father's heart needs to be softened.  She's has the most sincere prayers ever! One time she couldn't even speak it so she wrote it and it was one of the most powerful spiritual experiences of my life :) she's great.
Things continue on here, the Lord's work is moving forward. The ward of Almere is stirring, like a giant beast awakening from it's slumber. The work is just about to explode here, I can feel it. Unfortunately I will not be here to taste of all the fruits for it is my job to prepare and raise up the wards of Zion, not to reap of the fruits they sow. But I'm proud of them all. It's an amazing ward and I pray that the Lord blesses each and every one of them.
Love you all! Deal- every night I'll acknowledge and thank the Lord for something He did for me that day

7/29/2013 An Amazing Experience  Ok really cool story time. My first day with Elder Blackhurst in Almere Buiten (Almere is divided up into a few different sections. We live in the center Almere Stad and our new Almere sisters live on the outskirts (haha skirts) in Almere Buiten). I wanted to get him contacting so I contacted the first person we saw. His name was K and he was listening to his i-Pod, but I flagged him down anyway and proceeded to have and amazing talk with this man! He was brought up Muslim and had investigated Jehovah's Witness (two religions which I highly respect by the way. JW's for their intense missionary work, nearly EVERY JW will share the gospel like a missionary when given the chance plus they serve mini one week missions every year or month. And Islam because they are SO devoted and a lot of their doctrine is the same. Most of them are just stellar people who are super nice and live really good lives) but he said eventually he discovered every religion is the same: they all think every other religion is wrong and that theirs is right. That the wrong ones are condemned and that the right ones go to heaven. I told him that's not our place to judge and then proceeded to bear testimony about the Book of Mormon. I told him that this book would bring him peace in his soul, a purpose in his life, and more happiness than he could ever dreamed. I don't remember how it was exactly said because it seriously wasn't me saying it. This is the first time I truly recognized that the Spirit was literally speaking through me and it was powerful.
This man told me that because of what I said and how I said it he wanted to try reading the book. Go Holy Ghost :)! Unfortunately we can't teach him because his family is made up of really strong Muslims but it was an experience I hope I never forget. It truly was amazing. But that's a mission right?
Picking up the new missionaries who would serve in Almere

7/29/2013  Training  As you all know I'm a trainer now :). Sorry it had to come from Sis. Robinson and not me but I tried I really did! It's a whole new thing out here now. It's one of those "Be careful what you wish for" things. I always wanted to be senior companion and do things my way, but now that I'm here I want to go back to being Junior Companion! haha! This training stuff is hard! I'm exhausted from it! Literally the only way I'm getting through right now is relying on the Atonement, and when I forget to do that boy oh boy is that day hard... The redeeming factor in all this is Elder Blackhurst, what a champ! He is here, ready to work, and more importantly willing to learn and to improve. The greatest fault humans have is hard-heartedness. They close themselves off to learning from another and think they know best. Little do we recognize that the lesson still has to be learned and if we will not hearken unto those who try to help us, we will have to go through the pain of learning it ourselves and that's never any fun...

Luckily Elder Blackhurst has it set there. He's completely open and willing to hear what I say and apply it. Better yet he's really good at teaching himself and what he needs to do better. Couldn't have asked for a better companion.
I chuckle every time something like this happens. I think I've finally got it, finally mastered what I need to be good at, and the Lord shows me another thing trait he needs me to develop. This one's a rough one because apparently he needs me to step up and be a leader as opposed to the follower. I like standing in the background, following and supporting others, but avoiding the spotlight and all the responsibility. So Heavenly Father gave me Elder Blackhurst. Now I always have to be in the foreground, always have to be leading, always in the spotlight with 90% of the responsibility (at least for the first little while). It's something the Spirit has been trying to teach me about myself- I'm too lax in the gospel. Elder Li gave a lesson on being accountable for your deeds and your mission (could be life to) and it really struck home. I realized I had so much 'trust' in the Lord that I basically said "I will do my best but no matter what happens it's ok because that means it's how the Lord needed it." It's a very deceptive half-truth that has been a part of me my whole life. Yes I trust in the Lord. Yes his will will be done despite all my efforts. But by living by this thought I have taken away my agency in a sense. By living this way I only live life half way. I never push myself, I only go as far as I think I can, not as far as the Lord knows I can. I become a complacent missionary. So I'm working to change that and I think Elder Blackhurst is the perfect person to help me with that.  Training is going to be great. Together we can make a difference. 

7/15/2013  Knocking Doors  Also this talk fired me up and that day we went out and contacted 20 people! (Which is huge for us here). We knocked doors on this one street and literally three doors in a row were interested. On the second I commented on a man's no smoking sign and this got a conversation going in which he said we could come back. Then as we were leaving we noticed two kids watching us and jokingly he said don't smoke kids.
The kids came up to us and asked if we were policemen arresting people for smoking. The kid looked SO concerned and told us that his dad smokes but that he tells him all the time that he shouldn't (the kid was like 5) and he didn't want his dad to go to jail. We told him we weren't police but that we would like to help his dad stop. So he lead us to his dad and offered to help him with his addicition. With his neighbor before that it made 3 new potential investigators in 10 minutes :) such a cool miracle!

7/15/2013  They're Coming  Wanna know that awesome thing? It doesn't even weigh me down anymore. You wanna know why? Because I prayed for it.
Mom, when you wrote that advice it changed everything. I pray for peace, I pray for strength, I pray for opportunities to serve, and I pray for charity the pure love of Christ and I'm starting to see all of those make their way into my life. I feel happy, strong, confident, and at peace all thanks the my Father in Heaven and the power of Christ's atonement. So that's a day for me.
I can't believe James is coming out here so soon! AH! I'm so excited for him! Most worthwhile thing you will ever do!
Oh yeah! We had a crazy realization the other day. So there are about 58 elders here in the mission right now. In the next two transfers/three months we will be getting about 45 elders. You know what this means? We minus 10 from the leaders because they need two with experience and that leaves 48 elders to train 45 new elders! What?

7/8/2013  Own Being You!
Brothers and best friends. All completely different but wonderful.
This is something I was going to send to James but I think everyone can benefit from it. As you mention we are all different. We all do the Lord's work and achieve his purposes in different ways. We have different gifts and different talents and we shouldn't try to measure ourselves against others because if we do and become exactly like them, then all of a sudden there is no need for one of you cause the other is just a copy. Being yourself is SO important! And now to relate it to video games :) : the boys will remember this game- Lord of the Rings the Third Age. We all had our different characters and just as we all had our different strengths. Here's the tricky part, were we all owning up to who we'd be best with, or were we all choosing based on what we wanted. That is SO key. In these types of games I always want to be the solo stealthy one who stands on his own and doesn't need any help, but that's not where I can be the best (in fact I'm worse with stealth archers like Elegost). Where my role in life and in video games lies is in the Support character roles, in the Healer roles. The Lord blesses me with the ability to see others needs and to help them get up when they get knocked down. Thus I choose these characters/to play this part. It usually ends up being the girl (haha, but I still claim my manhood) and I spend the whole time caring for my brothers or those around me and it's exhausting, but the game is so much more fulfilling this way! That's why I loved that game so much! So I read things like the James and Dallin experience and I just nod because you're right we're all different. Maybe Dallin needs to be the Eomer of the group, precise, intense, and powerful but maybe the Lord needs James as the Berethor: blessed with the ability to see others strengths and weaknesses and help them to succeed accordingly. I have a whole new analogy for that with the brothers but my main point is: own being you, it's the only way to be and it makes you feel so content with life.

7/1/2013  She's Ready!

Ok so get this: Our SUPER positive investigator has been struggling with prayer A LOT. Basically we're under the impression that Satan may be literally holding her tongue because as soon as this girl prays we KNOW she'll get an answer because her intents are so pure :). Just today she told us she was going to her special place in the forest to pray out loud to Heavenly Father. So I've been praying in my heart like crazy ever since then. She just called and said she's done, she's coming back to Almere and wants to talk with us :). Also mentioned it was a really good experience! :) :) :). She is so ready. Just now pray that her father's heart will be softened because that's our only hold up after this.  I'm so happy for her!
Wow I can't believe life. It's so crazy but it's so worth it. The lessons we learn here are invaluable and I'm just barely starting to learn that. If you're going through a hard time or just wondering what the purpose of it all is, just wait. Trust in God's timing, for it is perfect. He will call on you, that is a guarantee, and you will be called to use the experiences and lessons that came from the trial to help another. Be prepared. Soften your hearts, and let the Lord teach you, for He is the perfect teacher.

7/1/2013  Getting through a rough patch
If you are angry at ANYONE let it go ASAP! It does nothing but destroy you from the inside out...trust me, just went through it.  That's when last week Heavenly Father showed me the better way: charity. Through his trust that I gained by being there for someone and bonding we have taken to having real heart to heart conversations. There I began to find out everything that he's been going through on the mission and immediately I felt horrible for being angry. We've been talking and now I can help him through this  rough patch. Thank heavens I went through everything I did as a teenager, otherwise I never would have been able to help him.
That's what this mission is beginning to feel like: a season finale. Where everything I learned, every skill I've gained, every trial I've gone through, all of it is being called into play here so I can play the part the Lord needs me to play. It was through my manner of teaching (listening to the person and trying to be the example) that the two of us have now set goals to be better, and we have been! That's the secret to change. It has to come from within. You can't force it, all you can do is be there to guide the person along. So basically I'm feeling a lot better and a lot more positive.
The other reason I was frustrated had to do with my purpose. I have had many a conversation with
They'll be friends forever.  Love this guy because Elder Cooper love him!
Heavenly Father over why I am here in the Netherlands and He has answered me time and time and time again: I am here for the members (inactive as well) and for the missionaries. Unfortunately here on the mission that purpose is SO easy to get distracted from when all anyone ever talks about is the investigators (yes they're important but you get my drift ;) ). So imagine my joy finally getting to listen to the Mission Broadcast thing. It was AMAZING!!! I hope you've all seen it and are all taking it to heart! Especially the messages portrayed by the small films they show. It was SO good! Not only was it good for the church but Heavenly Father answered another question I had forgotten I had: How do I help the members? That Broadcast answered every question and lifted my spirits confirming my purpose. Now I just need a way to never ever forget what the Lord has taught me: like a creed or something :).

6/3/2013  Large group of Missionaries coming!

Plus in our last lesson (don't know if I told you this already) but his sister was there and she wants to learn about us too! All because I told her about temple marriages, bore my testimony about their power, recited Proverbs 3:15 (best sripture ever ;) ), and explained how it was my life's dream and goal. That at least got her asking questions and now they'll be able to go through the process together! We also have another girl. She comes to church every week, goes to institute and all associated activities, and now wants the lessons :) we're teaching her tonight! (Think I told you about her too, but still :) ). So excited!
Basically even with the hard (pretend I scratched this out and wrote difficult) times I'm still good here. I'm doing the Lord's work, I'm getting the hang of it, and life truly is looking up. Here in the mission we have 29 elders coming in in September! That's HUGE! Normally it's like 5 MAYBE 10. The Lord's work is moving forth and we are all so blessed to be able to take part in it. And just because you're not a licensed missionary doesn't mean you can't help the work. Choose one person in your life who needs the gospel. Set a goal to help bring them into the gospel. Invite them to church, give them a Book of Mormon, bear your testimony to them, do everything you can. The Lord wants every members help in spreading the gospel and as members of the church we should be up the task. If you really take this to heart let me know :) I'd love to hear the experiences you all have with this. And if not, try to find a chance to have at least one missionary moment a week. I promise if you do this you'll somehow be able to get everything done, you will have the strength to continue on strong in life, and you will have a peace unlike any that you have ever felt. Your purpose will be made clear and you will truly begin to see where our Father in Heaven wants you to be.

6/3/2013  Spiritual Gifts  Like with our Spiritual Gifts. I always thought those were just so we could benefit others, but according to a chapter in D&C (which you can find through Mark 16) we're not supposed to tell the world about these gifts, for they are for OUR benefit. I thought, 'Hoe kan dat nou?' (How can that be? roughly translated). So I researched and what I've come up with so far is they are there to increase our faith. For miracles and signs are followed by faith, thus we must have faith to use any of our gifts (Romans 3:28ish). And just like the Brother of Jared, what happens after we see evidence of our faith? We gain knowledge. So we are encouraged to use these gifts so we can gain a knowledge of our Father, of His Son, of faith, and of every gospel principle. WOAH! I just figured that all out while I was typing haha :) thanks!

The Atom

5/27/2013 Be that Person  It is so cool how it only takes one person to light a fire. And if someone starts a fire, it naturally spreads. Be that one person! Not only in spreading the gospel, but in any good quality known to man. Be the happiness you want to spread and see in the world. Be the charity. Be the forgiveness. Be the true example of a believer and others will follow you, I guarantee it. That in essence is our job. To start that fire (the gospel and good human qualties) and spread them to all the world.
I am so blessed to be here and learning this lesson. I am so blessed to have this two years where I can keep my focus on the gospel and learn the lessons I need to learn, while growing in the way that the Lord wants me to grow. The commandments and SUCH a blessing. Stop thinking of them as rules and start trying to figure out why Heavenly Father would ask us to live this law. If you do this I promise you´ll start seeing ´commandments´ as something more than rules and you´ll start seeing them as blessings in disguise. Heavenly Father never does anything but help us, and anything and everything in our lives are for our benefit. I am so grateful for this gospel and for a loving family who has prepared me to serve the Lord and keep my covenants with God. 

5/13/2013 - FAITH  Thanks for praying for our investigator. He's such a good guy, we just don't know why he won't committ or admit to himself that it's true. He knows it's all good. He loves meeting with us and going to church and institute. He just doesn't take that faith into action. That's one of the things that faith should do for us: Lead us to action. If we learn to truly develop faith in Jesus Christ, we will not be afraid to press forward for we will do it in faith, knowing that the Lord will provide. It's been one of my biggest struggles here, learning to press forward in faith. I used to think that meant press forward continually believing that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are real, but it's so much more than that. Pressing forward in faith is moving forward in life, taking those big scary steps, knowing that the Father's will will be done, knowing that Jesus Christ has suffered and died for us so that we can be strengthend through our trials, and generally knowing everything will be alright. I'm still trying to develop it but on my good days it truly does "make my burdens light", like my burdens don't even matter even more. It's the most amazing feeling in the world. Remember: Faith is not a saving principle, it is faith in Jesus Christ that brings us salvation. Just something to keep in mind :).

5/6/2013 - Tranfers  Interesting internal struggles this week: a few days ago I found a side to 'losing yourself' that no one ever mentions; it's TERRIFYING! I've been praying for that to happen and the Lord has blessed me and it has begun to happen. I then one day looked back at my old self, realized how different I was, and began to flip out and revert. When you lose yourself, everything you thought was certain, disappears. It takes A LOT of faith to do it and I'm trying to work up that faith to lose myself. On the other side when I'm lost, I am happy. When I am focused on the work I don't get sad, I get excited. I work harder, I feel better, life is brighter. And then we get home and think and the fear kicks in again.
Also for some reason I never thought I'd make it to Almere. I thought something would happen to send me home or something because Vlissingen was my mission, at least in my subconcious. I think I thought that 'transfers' meant going home, that it was done. But now I'm here having to do it all over again and it's hard sometimes.
Besides those hard things life is SO amazing in Almere! There's not a single thing here I hate and I even get to live with  two other Elders (Elders M and S) who are super awesome roomies! They'll be moving to Lelystad soon and then we'll get two other Elders and two sisters in our city so the future is bright! Everything is getting SO good out here on my mission and I can't wait to really and truly 'forget myself and go to work'. The Lord will provide. He always does.

4/27/2013 -  LESSON LEARNED  "I literally thought, "This is Hell." (the wind was blowing WAY hard on the way back, nearly pushing me over). The immediate response to this thought not only surprised me but showed me a lot about myself: "Then I resign myself to Hell." was what I said back to that thought. I kept thinking about that over and over, because deep down I believed that. I knew Heavenly Father had commanded me to go on a mission and I love Him and gladly obey His commandments so if Hell was what it took I was willing to suffer it. Because I had thus humble myself the Lord lead me to Mosiah 23: 21-22 which says, "Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith. Nevertheless---whosoever putteth his trust in him the same shall be lifted up at the last day." It hit my heart super strong. Maybe there was no reason to stay, maybe I wasn't motivated by the best reasons, but that wasn't the point. The Lord seeth fit to chasten me and to try my patience and my faith. That's what this mission's about for me right now: it's a trial of my patience and my faith. And I will gladly step up to the challenge.
After this day inspiration and wonders abounded. We received 5 new investigators, all of whom have a ton of potential, I remembered my purpose revealed to me in D&C 31 (this was the mission PB I received last week) and was shown what I needed to do to fulfill that purpose, and I have begun to learn to be myself on the mission. These past few days I have learned and interesting fact. The Lord requires his missionaries to devote their whole selves to the work. I always interpretted that to me I needed to give myself up and serve God with all my might, thus become something else for two years. But the interesting part is in the details: devote their whole self to God, not something they're not. With this knowledge I am trying to become myself again, incorporating everything I have learned here to become the best version of me that I can be: like I saw Travis do upon his return from Brazil. There's a super good example of that right there. I am super grateful to God for teaching me these lessons and for the opportunity He has given me to experience trials, that I may grow through them. This mission is going to be the best thing I could ever do for myself, for others, and for Heavenly Father. A mission is difficult, but there is nothing bad about it. Nothing bad could possibly come from it. Even with bad memories you still made it through those times right? Otherwise they wouldn't be memories. And that is a blessing indeed.
I love you all and am SO STOKED to hear where James is going! Send him and everyone else my love. I think about you guys all the time and am so grateful for the photo album you sent with me. Thank you for your prayers and everything you've done, are doing, and will do for me. I love you and pray for you every night by name, just so you know."

4/22/2013 - The Temple  The temple there is super pretty :). I thought it was small at first but when I got closer I realized it was a pretty decent size, they even have a parking garage under the temple (what?!). It was a super cool experience.

The entire temple experience was in Dutch! Haha can you picture that? Whew it was interesting, but it all ended up ok. In the temple I got to talk to Sis. Robinson. She pulled me aside and told me how much I was loved by her and the President and that I wasn't forgotten out in Vlissingen. That meant the world to me and I tried to express that to her. I told her she had no idea how much that meant to me, cause it did. You kind of feel alone and trapped in Vlissingen sometimes, and to know that I had someone here on my side was a much needed relief to my soul. She's an amazing lady.

4/15/2013 - Recognizing the Lord's Hand   I woke up in that dark mood on Sunday and proceeded to have a day that literally felt like I was walking through the Fires of Hell. I say this in the most literal sense haha. The sun shone the whole day long and it was way hot and humid! Not only that but I had my large jacket and my suit jacket on. I had to carry my large jacket, so there was no way I could take off my suit jacket. And, naturally, that was the day we walked over 8 kilometers in about an hour and a half non-stop. In total we walked and biked 10 kilometers that day is moist, sticky, sweltering, heat. It would have been worth it had we met people while walking, but for those three hours saw 5 people to contact and three people we wanted to visit were not home. Oh, so awful. But, I learned SUCH a good lesson from it, this is also a plug for writing in your journals haha.

So after those awful days I wrote in my journal and felt prompted to write it based around the miracles that day. When I was finished I looked back and saw there was one pretty big miracle for each kilometer we walked that day. They ranged from being able to help an investigator fix her washing machine (we had no idea what we were doing haha :)) to a miracle contact on the bus. I began to realize, on a day where I felt more alone than I have ever felt and more down than can possibly be expressed, just how present God had been in my life that day. Looking back on other days I realized this amazing truth (which applies to all people who are going through trials and hard things right now): Those days when you feel most alone, abandoned, and hopeless are the days when the Savior draws nearest to us. As I've before mentioned, his strength is made perfect in weakness and when we are weak, it is then that we have the glorious opportunity to feel more closely his presence. So to all of you who struggle, to all of you who think there is no hope, to anyone who will read this message: Christ is there. He beckons for you to come to him, draws near to you when you struggle, and carries you through the hardest parts of your life. Realize that in your darkest hours his light shines brightest; for when does a light shine brightest if not in a room filled with darkness?

3/6/2013 - Satan strikes  
Satan decided to attack me and all I wanted to do was come home. I thought maybe I was depressed but then I recognized the feeling as the same one I had in college all that while ago. I realized that I don't think it's depression, I think it's severe homesickness. I just miss you guys! I think this is why we have companions. All I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and watch Friends or something like I did in college, but we had work to do. By myself I may have done just that, but Elder Mathis was ready to work and so we went out and worked. Took over two hours but eventually I came around. It took a dinner with the Porthofs to finally snap me out of it. I'm slowing learning two things: 1) I need to just stop thinking and start doing and 2) My focus on Christ is central to my well being.
I started reading the Gospels and about the life of Christ and it has really been uplifting me. It's amazing how many things can fall into place by focus on our Savior. He truly is the most glorious of all our siblings. He lead a perfect life and gave it up so that we could have eternal life. Without him we are nothing. EVERYTHING comes through him. He is our brother, our Savior, our Rock, our God. Turning to him is really and truly the only option if you wish to change grow or move along in life. I cannot until the day where I can stand before him and worhip him, giving him thanks for all the things that he did for me and for you as individuals. I love my Savior. I am so grateful for the Atonement of Christ, and I am so grateful he has given me the strength to make it through these next two years.
This stuff is hard. I think the Dutch phrase I know the best is "Geen interesse" (No interest). It gets cold, my body wears out, I'm always tired, Satan is ever present waiting to strike, homesickness creeps in, but moments where you truly find an elect son or daughter of God make it all worth it. I'm out here to save souls, James is coming out here to save souls. Heavenly Father needs us out here, bringing His word and happiness through Him to His children. Through Him I shall endure all things. My strength is in the Lord and in my God. Left to my own devices I would fail.

3/4/2013  - Those to teach!  You see so many miracles and meet so many amazing people on those exchanges. This one guy we taught grew up Muslim, read the Bible so he could prove it wrong to the Christians, was converted, joined an underground Christian movement in Morrocco (Christians get killed there if they preach/if you switch religions in the Muslim faith, in their eyes it is lawful to kill you), was kicked out of the country, lived in America and enjoyed it's freedom but grew complacent in his faith, so his church sent him to the Netherlands where he could rekindle that fire, he always felt that something was missing and he found it when the missionaries taught him. He's and AMAZING guy and I was so blessed to teach him.
First Area....Vlissigen

2/25/2013 - Newly arrived in the Netherlands  I've been here almost a week now and I haven't given a single lesson, which I find ok. It gives me time the language to learn. Today though I had THE coolest experience. We had to go all the way from Vlissigen to Antwerpen and we were on a completely empty train. The Spirit worked on me and told me to go find someone to contact, but I couldn't see anyone. I was waiting, pondering with the Spirit what to do and Elder Mathis whipped out a book to read. I finally said, ok if you can bring a person to me I will teach them. Precisely at that moment a woman sat down two rows ahead of us. I almost laughed out loud because I had kind of said that in my prayer as a cop out...haha. So there she was and I got WAY nervous. After literally five minutes of fighting in myself I told Elder Mathis, "I'm going to go sit over there." He said ok and I went and sat by this woman. Another five minutes passed while I tried to think of someway to start a conversation. The best I could come us with was "Do you know when this train leaves?" which I attempted to say...and failed. She kind of chuckled and asked if I wanted to speak english. She said she wasn't very good but she could try. I smiled and said "No I need to practice my Nederlands." The very next topic we talked about started with her asking me, "So I see you're a man of God." WOW! What an opening! So I took it. I taught her about the Book of Mormon and about the Restoration of the Church. Now keep in mind I am SOOOO terrified! This is the first time I've spoken to a native without my translator, Elder Mathis, by my side. The Lord truly did help me and gave me all the words I needed to say. At the end she was SO interested and she thought me giving her a book a super generous. She told me she really wanted to read it. So I gave away a Book of Mormon all by myself! Zijn jullie heel trots van mij? :

2/15/2013 - In the MTC
(After discussing how to help some other missionaries who were struggling, and many talking about how there should be force and consequences)
"While there is truth to that, I learned tonight that there are two ways we can grow (this was definitely revelation), through pain or through love. Me and Bishop aired on the side of love while the others sided with pain. It's just how we each were raised. But God has asked us to provide that love so others others can grow, and just now it clicked that in the olden days He had His children learn through pain, Law of Moses and consequences, wheras in this day He asks us to learn through love, Law of Christ and consequences.

Let's just say, I'm glad to be on this side of the fence because I know that it's the Lord's side. Pain is necessary sometimes but He doesn't ask us to apply it. I am so grateful for my family, and for the love they have taught me through. They truly taught me the way of Christ and now I can see the why to eternal families! The Lord has answered my prayers for a vision but in the form of this in answer to my question. If love and pain are how we grow and we don't have pain in the afterlife, then how are we supposed to progress? Through love; and a constant source of love should be our families (families meaning a group of people who have love for one another and where love thrives, often blood related).
That's what families were meant for, that's why they are sacred, eternal things. This gospel is centered around progression, and through love, via families, that is how it is possible. This gospel is true. I love it, I live it, and I learn from it. It is the single greatest source of joy in my life and I would be nothing without it. I thank the Almighty God that He has blessed me to know of Him since I was young. I have been so blessed to have grown up in the church and to have been brought to a knowledge of it's truthfulness. I pray that God will give me the strength to stay within it's folds, for I know it's where I need and want to be. This is the true church of Christ. I cannot deny it and I cannot stress it's importance enough. I love this gospel, this church and all good things that come from it. This testimony from a mere man who has seen the Glory of God and has tasted of it's love and purity. I know He lives, this is God's church through and in the name of Jesus Christ, and I cannot deny it."
The Zon at the MTC

12/25/2012 - In the MTC
"My testimony does not waiver. I still know that Jesus Christ is our Savior and that he atoned for our sins. The Christmas Programs have been helping alot cause we get to watch movies (even if they are like Christmas Carol and It's a Wonderful Life). I love the gospel, I love the scriptures, I know Joseph Smith was a prophet, the only thing I have left to gain a testimony of is commitment. I always thought I'd give up everything for my Lord, easy to say from the comfort of your own home while you sacrifice nothing, but now that I'm here I doubt myself and my willingness to give myself and my time to Him. I have gained a newfound appreciation for the Saints who left everything to serve Him and I'm grateful everyday that I did not have to do that."

12/25/2012 - In the MTC 
"What is this five days gone now? Feels like a lifetime. Second day here I got assigned to be a District Leader, so that's been cool. Had a cool experience with that the other day. Several of us were getting really downtrodden so I called a meeting and told them the way it is. The 6 of us here in my district were foreordained to go to the Netherlands at this time with these people. We are the perfect team and if we lose even one of us then the whole thing collapses. Kinda felt like a general leading his platoon into the fight. Gave me a reason to be here for awhile, to lead. I was meant to be here at this time.  I love my companions, they are great!" 

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