Monday, January 20, 2014

Contacting! And More Contacting!

Now for the past week! Contacting! And more contacting! The joys of opening a new area, haha. On Tuesday, we got to meet our new district. It´s twice the size of my last district. It consists of the Gouda Elders, Gouda Zusters, Utrecht Elders, Utrecht Zusters, Dordrecht Zusters, and us. Tuesday was also the day we found our first potential investigator! We gave her a BvM and set up an appointment for two days later. On Wednesday, we went on splits with the Zone Leaders. That means that they came to Sliedrecht and we split up and we all went contacting in our area. We were able to find a few more potentials from it. On Thursday we had exchanges with the Gouda Elders. Elder Lyman (the District Leader) came to Sliedrecht with me. We had our first lesson with the lady we found on Tuesday. Her name is Linda Koppelaar and her husband, Johan, was also there. They´re a young couple with two little boys. They´re super cool and already religous. They believed everything we told them, including the fact that the BvM is true. The only thing they didn´t quite understand was why we were the only ones with the authority to baptize. Maar het komt goed! We also had a lesson with a member who´s trying to quit smoking so he can go to the temple. It was a really cool experience for me because while we were talking with him, the impression came to me to tell him that if he smokes one cigarette less each day, then he can quit. All of the other missionaries kept suggesting ideas to help him, while I was just kind of staying quiet. The influence of the Spirit wraught stronger in me as I sat there. The impression was getting more and more powerful that I should tell the member the thought that came to my mind. It literally felt like my entire insides were quaking. Finally I shared with him what I was prompted to say. He really liked the idea. We then made a schedule for him to be completely done with is addiction to smoking by 8 Febuari. That was the first time in my life that I felt the influence of the Spirit so strongly. I learned that as long as we desire to help those we teach and remain open to the promptings of the Spirit, Heavenly Father really will tell us what we need to say. There is no greater feeling than following the Spirit to help with the needs of others. Thursday we went finding,Friday we went finding, and Saturday we went finding. We had a few dinner appointments with members. On Sunday we were determined to make a lot of appointments with members (since it´s also our transfer goal to work with members) and we ended up making six appointments! I´ve only ever beat that once on my mission (and it was for Christmas). This coming week looks very promising! I love you all!
Elder Fowkes

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sliedrecht Area

First to answer questions. Last trasfer was amazing! It was probably the best transfer I´ve had yet! We were able to get the work moving in Antwerpen and it was super cool to see it progress! I also loved all of the support from everyone. I did bring all of my stuff with me. And yes, we do our emailing at the church.
Well, it´s been a really interesting week! Last Tuesday was my last full day in Antwerpen. It was a good day to end on. We had an appointment with a new investigator, Frederick, and we set a baptismal date with him! He´s going to get baptized on 16 FebruaryOn Wednesday, we met at Antwerpen Centraal at 10. I had to take a train to Rotterdam where I first met my new companion, Elder Goff. From there we took a train to Dordrecht and then from there we took another train to Sliedrecht. Yeah, we ride trains a lot, haha. The apartment we have is super nice! It´s a new apartment so it´s in pretty good condition. It´s a little bigger than my last apartment. My favorite part is the kitchen. The only bad thing about the apartment is that since it´s new, all of the walls are bare and there´s not much character to it. It´s just kind of dull. But still nice, haha. We attend the Dordrecht ward, but it´s pretty small, almost a branch. So far, from what I´ve seen I really like the area! It´s much smaller than Antwerpen, and the people speak Dutch, but it´s kind of a classic traditional city. We´ve mostly just spent that past few days trying to learn the area. Nothing too exciting really. The ward seems pretty cool, and we actually have a few dinner appointments for this week. Actually, for the appointment tonight, we have to take a waterbus to get there. Anyways, there´s not much else to say. I´m sending home a package today. There will be an SD card in it with a ton of pictures.
Tot ziens!
Elder Fowkes
Elder Bean and myself looking a little "007" in our European suits
(just fruit juice in glass)

A more fitted European suit
(I like Euro fashion!)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Transfer Time

This past week has been great! New years was a blast! We actually spent the night with the Zone Leaders and ate gourmet with them and just chilled most the evening in front of their fireplace. Unfortunately, New Years is pretty lame here in Belgium. I didn't see or hear a single firework. Mostly, the people just go get drunk or something. Elder Bean and I have been doing a lot of work to really get the work in the area moving forward. We had a few lessons. We met with Guido on Thursday and helped clear up many concerns that he had. We didn't have much of a lesson plan. We mostly just focused on Guido and following the Spirit to best help him. We showed him the Restoration DVD and he really felt the Spirit. He's now back on track and I have no doubt that one day he will become baptized! We also met with a man named Willie on Saturday. He's older man, but he's really cool and super intelligent. It's a bit difficult to teach him though because he constantly cuts in with some pointless fact that he knows. Most of our Saturday was actually a bit discouraging. We had five appointments set up (the most that I've ever had) and four of them fell through. It was a long day. On Sunday, this Antwerpen Sisters had a baptism! It was the baptism of Dirk Rousseeuw. You may recall the name from some of my emails in the past. He was at one point our investigator, then he dropped us and a month later he resumed the lessons with the Sisters. It's been super cool to see how he has progressed over the last several months! Also, durning church, we were introduced to a man named Frederick, who is from Suriname and wants to take the missionary lessons and be baptized! We have our first appointment with him this Tuesday! Yesterday, we also had an appointment with a woman named Rehema. It was our second lesson with her. We just review the Restoration with her because she has a problem understanding why the Book of Mormon is important and why we're the only church with authority to baptize. It was an alright lesson, but unless she puts in her part, I'm not sure what will happen. So, all in all, it was a bit of a rough week, but was definitely one of growth and expeience, which is why I consider it great!
Okay, now for the big news. Transfers! I'm getting transferred to Siledrecht in the Netherlands! My companion will be Elder Goff. He's in my group, so we will be a co-senior companionship! We will actually be opening the area. Just like I did with my area now. So yeah, I've spent the last four and a half months building up Antwerpen and we finally are getting good investigators and baptismal dates, and now I get to go to an area and start all over again with nothing. It will be another adventure! :) I will certainly miss Antwerpen and the people here. I love Antwerpen a lot and it will be a little hard to go, but the Lord has much more in store fo me! And here is my new mailing address:
Elder Trae Steven Fowkes
Sperwerstraat 2
3362 EM Sliedrecht

Elder Fowkes
December Zone Conference (three zones)

Zone Conference Christmas meal

Het Steen (the stone) a castle in Antwerpen.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Dec 30, 2013

Familie en vrienden!
This past week has been absolutely amazing! I just love the Christmas season and all of the joy it brings! Because so much has happened, I will just begin now with a detailed (or at least as good as I can do) description of the past week.
Voorbereidingsdag! P-day! We actually didn't get to do much that day because our emailing got pushed back later, and our dinner appointment got moved up earlier. We never even did our weekly grocery shopping. Fortunately, we had enough appointments for the week that we didn't really need to buy any food. Actually, we had a record amount of appointments! Six dinner appointments and one lunch appointment! We were super excited because normally we only average about three dinner appointments a week. Anyways, after we did our emailing, we went to an indoor voetbal (soccer) arena rented out by a member and played some voetbal with a few members and nonmembers. It was super fun! After that we went home and changed in record time to get to our dinner appointment. We had dinner with Familie Jonkheer, a super awesome familie! They also invited us to watch a Disney movie with them, but we declined because President Texiera (of the Seventy) told us at our last Zone Conference not to watch movies.
We started the day with our weekly District Bijeenkomst (meeting). It was really well given by our District Leader, Elder Cooper. One of the announcements in the meeting was that our mission president allowed us to watch a Disney movie with a member if they offered without us asking. So yeah, we found out a day too late. We missed our only chance to watch a movie. But that's alright! Being a missionary isn't really about watching movies anyway! It's about walking out in the cold wind and rain trying to find people who are prepared to hear the Gospel, haha! :) After District Bijeenkomst, we had lunch as a district followed by Correlatie (correlation) with the Antwerpen missionaries. Later we had dinner with Familie Cannoodt! They're a really cool familie who gives of lots of food, haha! We had gourmet for dinner. Gourmet is when there is a grill on the table and lots of meats and vegetables and everyone picks what they want and cooks their own food right in front of them! It's a super cool experience! Familie Cannoodt also lives close to the American Store, so they bought some A&W Rootbeer for us! After not having rootbeer in over five monnths, it was really lekker (delicious)!
Woensdag / Kerstdag
First thing Christmas morning my companions and I opened our packages and gifts! It was kind of cool to see some American brand food, haha. Following our studies, we proceded to create individualized Christmas cards which we then took around to a few members, less-actives, and investigators. After that, we went to Familie Evans. The mom is inactive, the dad is not a member, and their second oldest son, Phillip, will be leaving a mission next month. They had three laptops that they let us use for our Skyping. It was pretty handig (handy) for all three of us to Skype at the same time. After Skyping, we had lunch with them, and we ended up staying with them for about three hours (not including Skyping)! Immediately after leaving their house, we went to the home of Familie Schiltz. They're practically like the missionaries' grandparents! We have dinner with them every week! By the time we got home, we were super full, haha! It was indeed a wonderful and Christ centered Christmas! Oh, and for those who may be wondering, since most homes here aren't stand alone and are connected to other houses on each side (and often a different familie lives on each floor), people don't decorate the outside of homes to much. Very many Christmas trees can be seen inside though, and the city does a lot of decorating in the centrum area and in Centraal Station.
We started our day by heading to the train station to send Elder Harvey to the mission office. It's crazy to think that he's home now. Shortly after that the entire zone (which covers all of Vlanderen, or the entire top half of Belgium) came together in Antwerpen for a zone service project. We went to some nearby rest home where we sung carols to the patients there. It was super fun! Elder Bean and I then did a little bit of contacting in the centrum and then we went to Zuster Van Laere's home for dinner. All of the missionaries were there as well as some of Zr. Van Laere's familie. We had gourmet that night as well!
We went on exchanges with our District Leader. I went to Sint Niklaas (a city just southwest of Antwerpen) with Elder Denny. While there we attended a funeral of a recently passed member. After that, we went on the longest bike ride of my life! We had to contact a referral (which actually turned out really well and an appointment was made), and drop of a plethora of Christmas cards for the Sint Niklaas ward. When we were biking home at the end of the night, it was dark, windy, rainy, and cold. And we had hold a flashlight in one hand because there were no street lights on the bike path. It was quite the adventure, haha! When we were home at the Sint Niklaas apartment we looked at the map and realized that with the distance we biked we could have biked all the back to Antwerpen (when normally we would travel there by train). We were tired to say the least, haha.
We exchanged back in the afternoon after our studies. We had a lesson with an investigator (Guido) that fell through. After Elder Bean and I went home for lunch we went with Brother Schiltz, the sisters, and the other elders to go do some more caroling. Once again we were out for about six hours and only visited two people. This time though it was because we stayed with each one for several hours just talking. The first man we visited was super nice. He leaves close to Centraal Station and his home is an apartment which is no bigger than 30ft x 30ft. While there he gave us a little bit to eat, including a cactus. Yes, a cactus. He cut it up into bite sized pieces and then we dipped it in tomato sauce and ate it! Surprisingly, it's not to bad. I'd probably eat it again.
We went to church, and unfortunately, Guido din't come (like he said he would). After church there was a Doop Dienst (baptismal service) for one of the sisters' investigators. His name is Eugene and he got baptised at 91 years old! The Gospel truly is for everyone! He's a wonderful example to remind me that I should never be afraid to talk to anyone! After the service, I had the opportunity to give Sister Aldous (one of the sisters here) a blessing because she has had really bad neck pains for the past week. The Spirit was really strong during it. After that we received a phone call from Guido. He told us he wanted to return the BoM and that he had lost his faith. Needless to say, we were extremely dissappointed. We had our weekly planning session at the church. After we started with a prayer, Elder Bean received the spiritual impression to call Guido again. After a 15 minute conversation over the phone, Guido agreed to meet with us one more time. We gave him much encouragement and support. We now have an appointment set up for this Wednesday. We aren't going to plan much of a lesson. We're just going to share the Restoration video and follow the guidance of the Spirit. We ended the day with dinner with Familie Taselaar. They live an hour away by bus. The sisters were also there for dinner. When we left there house we went to the bus stop and realized we had just missed the bus and the next one wouldn't show up for an hour. So, we stood outside in the dark and cold for an hour. When we finally got on the bus we took it to Merksem, where the Zone Leaders live. We ended up staying the night with the Zone Leaders, because it would have taken us another hour to get home and it was already past 10pm.
Well, that's the week! It was quite an adventurous one! Now one to the rest of our p-day. Oh, and just something interesting. In our mission, New Years Eve is to dangerous to do missionary work, so we all have to be in our apartments at 4:00pm and stay in the rest of the night. Here's President Robinson's exact words: "This week is oude nieuw.  Please be in the apartment by 4:00 pm on 31 Dec 2013.  Stay in the apartment for the rest of the evening eating, studying, catching up on journals, trying to sleep, watching fireworks out your window, listening to fireworks through your window, wishing you were outside setting off fireworks, etc.  There is a real safety need to do this and there are no known ways to effectively and safely do missionary work that evening in our Mission."
I hope you all have a wonderful New Year!
Elder Fowkes

Belgium Update (Dec. 23 2013)

Okay, now, last weeks events! Mostly, we just did contacting as usual, but here are the thing more worth mentioning. On Wednesday, we went with the other Antwerpen missionaries, and a ward member (Br. Schiltz) and we went caroling to a few older women in the ward. We spent about six hours going around and caroling. We sang to a grand total of three women! I know what you're thinking. "You only sang to three women in six hours?" Well, that's what happens when the ward boundaries are huge. We spent a lot of time traveling. We were even in a car. One of the woman lives in Essen, which is on the border by Nederland. It was a super cool experience though! On Thursday, we had an appointment a new investigator. His name is Green. Or rather that's his English name. He comes from Taiwan! He's super cool! On Saturday we had our second lesson with Guido. When we first walked in he had his laptop on and some video was playing. We heard the guy in the video say something about Utah and all three of us were like, "Uh-oh." As we sat down, he turned the monitor towards us and said he had quite a few questions. Just as we had expected, he had run into many anti-Mormon videos on the internet. Fortunately, we were able to resolve most of his questions, but in the end the most we could do was direct him to, the official church website and also to the only source of all truth, Heavenly Father. The rest of the lesson went pretty well. He is certainly an honest truth-seeking man, which is good. It shows that he really is sincere about learning about the church. Saturday evening we went to the church to watch Het Kerstverhaal (the Christmas Story). It was a simple play and musical performance about Christ's birth. It was really well done! The best part about Sunday was that Guido came to church! He seemed to really enjoy it and the members really took him in! He stayed at the church for six hours! There was a ward Christmas feast dinges after church which he not only stayed for, but even helped clean up! Well that's all for this week!
I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas! I encourage you all to make it a Christ-centered Christmas! May you all have much joy, happiness, and laughter! As for me, there is no better Christmas than one spent in the service of Christ himself! :)
Gelukkig Kerst, iedereen!
Elder Fowkes

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

December 16th Update

That's super cool Dad that you were able to meet Elder Holland and Elder Clayton. I guess that's your reward for missing Elder Holland every time he visits our ward, haha.
First and foremost I just want to say that we have a very loving and caring Heavenly Father who looks after us and blesses us according to our works! As you know, we have spent much, much time contacting people. This past week we have certainly seen the fruits of our labors. By last Tuesday we had made five appointments with potential investigators. Our list of potentials has grown significantly and we are continuing to make appointments! We had our Zone Conference last Thursday in Amsterdam. Since it started so early in the morning, and Amsterdam is a country away, we left Wednesday morning. On our way up we stopped in Den Haag so Elder Bean could take care of some Dutch legality. We then stayed the night with the Den Haag elders. I actually had the opportunity to go on splits with the Den Haag elders and we went to a dinner appointment on Wednesday night. The man we ate with was super friendly and super strong in the gospel. It was an interesting appointment though because it was all in Nederlands (Dutch) and I speak Vlaams (Flemish). Fortunately, the transition from Vlaams to Nederlands is fairly easy. It's much more difficult the other way around. At the conference we were able to here from Elder Texiera (I think that's how you spell it) and his wife. He is a member of the Seventy and is in the presidency over the European Missions. They gave us some really good council and Elder Texiera even gave very specific advice to me and my companions concerning our upcoming first lessons. Which then leads into the miracle of the week (probably even the biggest miracle of my mission)! We received a referral from Sarah de Castro, a member in the ward who has recently become reactivated. She referred us to an old friend of hers who is searching for the truth. His name is Guido. We met with Guido on Saturday afternoon for our first lesson. We started our visit using the exact method that Elder Texiera had taught us. And basically, the next thing we knew, we had a return appointment set up and a baptismal date set! Yes, that's right, a baptismal date! Even before we began the actual lesson! His baptism is currently planned for 26 Januari. Guido was super positive about everything and at the end of the lesson the Spirit was very strong. Yesterday we had an appointment with Rehema, an African woman who I contacted in the centrum. It was also a really good lesson. She even had a friend there! Unfortunately, she's less enthusiastic about baptism, but she is willing to invite us back, so that's good! Now we're going into this week with many first lessons set up and even more potentials! I'm way excited! The work here in Antwerpen starting to grow into something amazing!
I love you all!
Elder Fowkes

Friday, December 13, 2013

December 9th update

It's been a super fantastic week! It's also been an extremely tiring week! We have been finding and contacting people like crazy! We're super determined to reach our goal of contacting 3000 people in four weeks. Fortunately, we only had two dinner appointments last week, so we were able to spend more time out finding. Our current total of people contacted is 851! We were getting a little behind last week, so on Saturday we went crazy and contacted 294 within only a few hours! It was pretty much non-stop talking with people. We definitely can see the rewards from our efforts. We're starting to build up list of potential investigators. We're currently averaging about one potential investigator for every 100 people we talk to. It's hard work, but there are prepared people out there! In fact, we had a miracle just yesterday. We stopped by the home of one of our potential investigators, one who Elder Harvey contacted and gave two french BoM's to (one for him and one for his friend), to see if he had read the book at all. Luckily he was home and when he saw us he got super excited. He said he hadn't read the book yet due to school exams, but he was planning on starting to read it this week! And even more cool, he asked us if he could have an extra Dutch BoM so he could give it to one of his other friends! We then set up an appointment with him for next Saturday! It's our first appointment of the transfer!! Well, since we pretty much only did contacting last week there isn't much else to tell. The only other interesting thing was that we got stuck in our elevator on the way up to our apartment last night. We literally got stuck just three inches away from our being able to step onto our floor. We had to call the emergency number in the elevator for help. They sent a technician out to help us. So basically there were three of us in a super tiny elevator for about an hour. And we were all tired and needed to use the restroom. It was quite the adventure, haha. We even ended up doing our planning in the elevator, haha.  Also, it's super cool to hear about what you're all doing for that family. That's the way Christmas should be done: in the Christlike service of others. I love you all and your wonderful examples! 
Met veel vreugde,
Elder Fowkes

Three Elders stuck in tiny elevator