Monday, March 29, 2010

Happy Easter!!!

Hello Family and Happy Easter! I know that you all had the big Easter dinner and treasure hunt yesterday and I hope that you had a wonderful time together. I sure was thinking about you! Thank you so much for your e-mails this week and last week and the birthday cards and wishes I am still getting in the mail! It always gives me a boost to hear from you! We actually just got back from Zwolle where we had a Zone Preparation Day. I planned on e-mailing this morning at about 6:15 because the zone leaders gave us permission so that we could be in Zwolle on time. When I opened my account this morning I hadn´t received any e-mails yet so Zr. Stapleton decided to e-mail after getting back from Zwolle. Boy am I glad! We have seen so many miracles today that I just can´t wait to share with you!!!
First of all, on Saturday we met a girl named Lotte at the very end of our finding. She was positive and said that she had never been taught about Christ growing up but that she became a Christian on her own. She was willing to pray with us and she gave us her address and phone number so that we could bring a Book of Mormon to her. On Saturday night I had the feeling to text every one of our investigators and inactive members, to give them one last reminder about church the next morning. We got no responses back and nobody showed up at church. I kind of felt like it was a wasted effort, but I wasn't down or depressed. Anyway, this morning during our personal study time we received a text message from a unknown number. It was Lotte! She said that she was sorry that she couldn´t make it to church yesterday but that she is planning on coming in 2 weeks with her friend, Jurien Sprott, a young women in the Groningen Ward! We have no idea how she and Jurien know each other but we are so excited that Lotte already has a connection with someone in the church! I learned a great lesson...that no efforts are wasted and that when the Spirit prompts me to do something there is always a reason for it.
Our other miracle today was in Zwolle. When we arrived we discovered that we were going to be playing football for a couple of hours but that there was no restroom. Zuster Walle and Sue Haina only live about 10 minutes from the field so Zuster Stapleton and I decided to walk there to use the restroom. I was so excited to see some of the members in Zwolle again and I was so thankful that Zr. Stapleton was willing to come with me. We rang the doorbell and Zuster Walle answered. She started jumping up and down and she gave me a great big hug! Sue Haina came running to the door as well and I just embraced her. They welcomed us in and then told us that we were an answer to their prayers. We didn´t really understand what they meant until they explained a little bit further. Zr. Walle´s daughter and Sue Haina´s sister, Sue Ellen, lives in Groningen, is inactive, and is really sick right now. She has been going to doctors and they just can´t figure out what is going on. I guess the night before Sue Ellen said that she was thinking about getting a priesthood blessing. Zr. Walle had just prayed, two minutes before we rang the doorbell, that she would be able to come in contact with me again so that I could visit Sue Ellen here in Groningen and help arrange for her to get a priesthood blessing! I couldn´t believe it. Then, things just got better! Sue Haina told me that she just decided that she will be going on a mission and that it was through Zuster Wieland and I that she really got the fire to ask if that is what Heavenly Father wanted her to do! I just wanted to cry! She is so excited and will be such an amazing missionary! It is so wonderful and humbling to be an instrument in the hand of the Lord to bring others closer to him!
One last miracle, President and Zuster Brubaker came to our apartment for interviews. We made them lunch, black bean chicken wraps, salad, grapes, and chocolate chip cookies. We had a wonderful and memorable time with them and my interview with president was so amazing. Anyway, when President and Zuster Brubaker arrived, President Brubaker said, "Zuster Sharp, I have an idea of a service that you can do. You can teach Gabriel Fridsma how to play the piano." Gabriel Fridsma is a 7 year old boy, the son of the Brubakers niece who lives here in Groningen. Groningen has only one or 2 people who can play the piano, so President thought that that would be a great way to share my talents and help others develop theirs. I will be starting this Wednesday! I am a little nervous because I don´t know what I am doing and I don´t have any teaching materials but I know that the Lord will help me! If you could, Mom and Dad, will you send a few simple piano teaching things...manuscript paper and maybe the simplified church hymns that Cindy wrote for Carli and Corbin? That would be so helpful! Thank you!
Well, time is out and I have so much more I would love to share with you but that will have to happen next week! I love you! You are in my prayers, by name, and with the specific things taking place in yourl ives. Have a great week and remember that Christ lives!
Love, Lauren

Thanks for all the wonderful birthday wishes!!!

Hello Family! Thank you so much for making my birthday so special...and SO emotional! I waited until yesterday morning to open up my package. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!! You made my 22nd birthday so special and unforgettable! I also had just a wonderful day of missionary work for my birthday! Joanne was confirmed, we had a great meeting with the Bishop, we had dinner with Familie Sprott, we did some finding, attended part of a fireside, and I got a special phone call from Zuster and President Brubaker and they sang Happy Birthday to me too! I don´t think the day could have been better!
So many amazing things happened this week! First of all, Joanne and William were baptized! The joy that I felt at Joanne´s baptism was indescrible. She was so happy and the Spirit was unbelievably powerful. She had so much support from Ward members and friends and family, the whole chapel was full. I was blessed to be able to play the piano for the service and I was so happy that there was something I could do to help out. I felt just so humbled during the whole service. Joanne´s baptism and confirmation on Saturday and Sunday were the most humbling and amazing moments ever where I realized that I do nothing in this work. I am just here to arrange a few things but the Lord does the rest. I honestly have to say that I did nothing to bring Joanne or William to the waters of baptism-they were led by the Lord through the Spirit the whole way. I am so thankful for the missionaries, Zuster Gulliver, Zuster Ekstrom, Zuster Stapleton, Zuster Wieland, Elder Hymas, and Elder Baer, who did so much to prepare them for this wonderful and pivotal event in their life and I feel so blessed and humbled that I was able to witness it. I finally understood and applied the principle President Brubaker has been trying to teach since I have been here-that we are all doing this work together! I did not have an investigator get baptized. WE, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, brought Joanne and William to the Lord through baptism! SO AMAZING!
We saw a lot of other miracles this week in the work. We met a lady named Sandra who was walking down the street and we started to talk toher. When she found out that we were missionaries she started to laugh at us but we just kept talking. We walked and talked with her for about ten minutes and in that short of an amount of time she had a change of heart. She asked us out of the blue if we wouldn´t mind praying for her. She said that she was addicted to smoking and that her sister had just committed suicide but that she thought that our prayers could help her. We stopped right then and, in the middle of the street, said a prayer for her. The spirit was so powerful and she gave us her contact information after that. The spirit truly does do all of the work. We are going to visit her this week.
We also set a date with a member, Gisela, who has been inactive for almost 15 years, to come back to church on April 18. She is 29 and has been reading a lot in the Book of Mormon and is finally ready to make the step to come back. We are so excited for her.
We still have Emily as an investigator but all of the others are not interested. Luckily we found two new ones this week...Aza and Camara. They are both from South Africa and they are both really excited to meet with us! That is always a good sign!
President and Zuster Brubaker will be coming on Wednesday to visit our apartment. We are going to make lunch for them and we know it will be a special experience with them.
I want you to know that I love you so much! You are in my prayers everyday! Thank you for your love, support, and prayers! Have a great week!
Love, Laur
P.S. Mom, I did the challenge! I wrote in my journal every day this week! How did it go with your challenge? Thanks so much for pushing me to be better!

Today is my 8th month mark...WOW!!!

Hello Family! I hope that you have had a wonderful week and that you are enjoying the beautiful spring weather. There is just something so energizing about the weather getting warmer and everyone seems to be a little more happy. Thank you so much for your e-mails, Mom, Dad, Brooke, and Carli! All of the e-mails I received last week from you just gave me the boost I needed to dedicate all of my energy and heart to the work here in Groningen! I am so thankful for the time that you take to write to me! The love that I can feel in your letters means the world to me! I love you so much!
We had a week of miracles here in Groningen! But, I have decided that I don't like change! It has been a little hard to get totally adjusted to a new place and new people and a new companion but I am starting to settle in. Zuster Stapleton is just amazing! She is just on fire and bears such powerful testimony! She cracks me up because she is so bold and says all of the things that I want to say but would never dare to. She also lets people now that they need to make changes if they are sinning and sometimes I think that people will get mad at us but the Spirit carries it to their hearts in such a way that it is motivating instead of degrading. She also rings the doorbell at every house atleast 3 times just to make sure that the people know that we are there and that is is important to answer the door. I am really learning a lot about diligence with her. She has such simple and powerful faith. She is quite relaxed about time because of her culture and you know how much I am a time freak but it is all working out! It is going to be a great transfer!
We found 3 new investigators this week! I have gained such a strong testimony of focusing time on investigators that are really making progress and spending the rest of the time searching for people who are totally prepared. President Brubaker challenged us to extend the baptismal commitment in the first appointment and I was really scared to follow through with it! But with every appointment this week I have invited people to be baptized and those who are prepared are excited to strive for baptism and those who are not lose interest in meeting with us. Emily, Mayaline, and Lydia are our new investigators and we are meeting with them again this week. Joanne is getting baptized on Saturday and I am so excited! It will be so amazing to feel the Spirit so strong at a baptism and she is so ready. We are also building up relationships with members. Last night we had dinner with the Primary President and I somehow found myself with an assignment to do the sharing time in primary in a few weeks! I am way excited but way nervous! But I know that it will build up trust with the members and let them know how much we love them! I am going to talk to the Young Women and Relief Society President and see if I can work anything out with them as well. I just want to dive into the work here!
Oh, I got my birthday package yesterday in the mail! Thank you so much! I am waiting until Sunday to open it up but beforehand...THANK YOU! You are the best family ever and I love you! Families are Forever. Jesus Christ lives. The Book of Mormon is true! You are in my prayers and I wish you the best week ever! Love ya!
Love, Zuster Laur Sharp

Gettin' the work started in Groningen!

Hello! What a pleasant surprise to open my inbox and see so many e-mails! I know that it is going to be a fun night when I get back to my apartment at 9:30, make some tea, and snuggle up on my bed to read how everything is going at home! You are constantly in my prayers and I have felt the power of your prayers over the past week! This week has definitely been an emotional rollercoaster with all of the changes that have taken place. I think I just got a little to comfortable in Zwolle with Zuster Wieland for 5 months that this change has just about done me in...well, not really but it has really shaken things up! Saying goodbye to all of those Zwollenars was so hard and I miss them so much! My last day in Zwolle, last Tuedsay, was just the most amazing and hectic day ever. I had district meeting in Apeldoorn and then we visited Anita one last time. We were able to share the Joseph Smith story and testify really boldly, knowing that it would be the last time we would be able to teach her. Atleast I can say that I didn't leave without letting her know why I came to the Netherlands. We then had dinner at Tineke's house and that was just wonderful. A few of the branch members came over to say goodbye and it was such a bitter-sweet experience. And then, to end the night off, we had one last appointment with William. He is doing so amazing! He is so prepared for baptism and he is so excited. His Book of Mormon is all marked up and he is just glowing! I can't wait until I can see photos from the elders of his baptism. We stopped quickly by Nanda's on the way back to the apartment to say goodbye to her to. By the time we were back in the apartment I was drained and so ready to hit the hay...but I couldn't sleep! I just kept replaying all of the good times I have had in the blessed city of Zwolle. Luckily between Monday and Wednesday I was able to call all of the Branch members there and tell them I would be leaving and to tell them how much I love them. That is one of the things I have learned since I have been here...never pass up a chance to let someone know that you love them! Wednesday morning Zuster Wieland and I were up at 4:30 to get things packed up and cleaned up. By some miracle we were able to get 6 suitcases, a bike, and three large grocery bags to the station by 8:30! We left my suitcases in Zwolle at the station and headed with her stuff down to Utrecht so that she could go to Brussels and I could meet up with Zuster Stapleton. It was sad to say goodbye to Zuster Wieland but I know that she has to be so happy to be home with her family now. Zuster Stapleton and I headed back up to Zwolle, got my luggage and bike and hopped on the train right in time....to be heading in the wrong direction back to Utrecht!!! Once we realized that we were on the wrong train we got off as soon as possible in a little city in the middle of no where. We had to wait a half an hour for the train going in the other direction and we ran to get on, but because of all of the things we had we missed the train again because the train stopped for only 30 seconds. We wanted to start crying! But we had a lot of laughs too! We waited another 30 minutes for the next train and luckily we made it to Groningen by 5:30 that night...what a joke! We had to just laugh about it all night that night because what should have been a 2 and 1/2 hour train ride turned into 6. Oh well! We have already seen so many miracles in the past couple of days and I am getting to know the members, area, and investigators. In the past 3 days we taught 11 other lessons and we had 7 people in sacrament meeting yesterday! Joanne is doing so well! She is set on being baptized on March 20. She is already so involved an active in the church. She is 22 and is studying music in Groningen. On Thursday night for institute she volunteered to make dinner for everyone beforehand. She played her violin during the instute lesson. She came to the missionary activity on Friday night when we showed the Joseph Smith movie. She brought her mother and 3 friends to church yesterday. She bore the most powerful testimony ever in fast and testimony meeting yesterday! She is converted and we have had two of the most amazing lessons with her since I have been here. I am learning from her example! It is so amazing to see just how much she has changed and how willing she is to follow Jesus Christ. We alreay have a great friendship and we love to laugh and talk together. I know that I will love Groningen so much and that I am here for a reason! Know that I love you so much! I have been a little homesick this week with all of the changes...but things are only going to get better! I am so thankful for the opportunity I have to serve the Lord 24 hours a day! I have never experienced so much joy in my life. Have a great week and know that I'm praying for you! Love ya! Love, Zuster Sharp

Monday, March 1, 2010

We received Lauren's email today and she will be transferred out of Zwolle on Wednesday. She will be serving in Groningen which is about 50 miles north of Zwolle. Her new address is:

Zuster Lauren Sharp
D.D Eisenhowerstraat 38
9728 RW Groningen
Nederland

She also has a slight change to her email address:

lauren.sharp@myldsmail.net

Just a note: Her birthday is March 21, so be sure to remember her!!!

March 1, 2010: I'm leaving Zwolle...Moving on to Groningen!

Hello Fam! Thanks so much for the e-mails once again! I have had such an amazing week. I am sure you are all anxious to hear what is going down with transfers so I will fill you in on that first. I thought that since Zr. Wieland is going home on Wednesday I would be taking Zwolle over for the second time. I was so anxious last night and this morning to hear about who my new companion would be and to get started with a new transfer in Zwolle. We waited and waited for a phone call from the Zone leaders but it never came so I finally called my District Leader at about 10:30 this morning. I said, "Do you know anything about transfers?" He said, "Are you serious, Zr. Sharp? You don't know about anything? I am sorry that I have to tell you this but sisters are being removed from Zwolle because there are not enough sisters in the mission. You will be going to serve in Groningen!" I had such a mix of emotion! I LOVE ZWOLLE WITH ALL OF MY HEART! I had a little cry session (I am such a girl) and then I had the most powerful manifestation from the spirit that it was the Lord's will and I have many wonderful things lying ahead of me in Groningen! I am worried about leaving some of the members and investigators behind, especially the women we have been working with and teaching, but I know that the Elders will do so many good things here! I have been calling the members all morning to tell them goodbye and that I love them and I am just so glad that it is not our final goodbye...I know that I will see them hopefully when we come back to visit and also in heaven. Friendships definitely do not end when this life ends! And luckily I don't feel like I am leaving anything undone here in this city. I have done my very best to serve these people with all of my heart, might, mind, and strength, and hopefullly that was enough! My new companion in Groningen will be Zuster Stapleton and she is from St. Kits (somewhere in the Carribean). She is a convert of only 2 years and I have heard that she is just amazing! She has been out for a little over a year and I am so excited to serve and learn from her. I have already worked in Groningen for 3 days on exchanges and I already have a deep love for the members, investigators, and area there. Groningen is actually the city that President Brubaker really feels good about for seeing a lot of success during his time here as mission president so I hope that I can help bring about much good. I will be heading up there on Wednesday so today is my packing day. I just have to apologize for not being able to write very many letters lately. I decided to let Zr. Wieland decide what she has wanted to do for the past 3 p-days before she goes home and we have been gone the whole p-day long. I just feel so bad and I hope to be able to write you a letter today. Know that I haven't forgot about you and I feel so bad...I promise to try to do better!
We set a baptismal date with William this week! It was amazing! We had an appointment with him and he had been reading more in the Book of Mormon. It is so crazy but I have actually been able to see a physical change in him since we started teaching him...he just radiates the spirit and a desire to follow Jesus Christ! We taught him about the gospel of Jesus Christ and he just gets it! We knelt with him in prayer at the end of the lesson and set a baptismal date with him. He was so happy when he decided on the date March 21 to get baptized...it sure will make a special birthday for me! Even though I am not going to be here, I will be praying for him. I know that the elders with really help him progress and step into the waters of baptism. I am not sad at all that I won't be able to see him get baptized because I will be attending a baptism the night before, March 20, in Groningen! THe sisters have been teaching a young women, Joanna, in Groningen and she just set a baptismal date as well. I told you a while ago about her because I had actually had the chance to teach her twice while I was on exchanges and I just have such a great friendship with her already. I feel like things are just falling into place!
We also had an appointment with Ety, Mike, and Nanda this week, as well as appointments with many of the members. We found two new investigators, Eny and Sabes, who are really positive. Zwolle is really being tested and tried right now. Many of the members are struggling. Zuster Lubberink, my little Dutch grandma, fell on Friday and broke her hip, and another ward member passed away. Luckily, we were able to give a lot of lessons to the members and we tried to strengthen them this week. Satan is really working on them because he knows how strong they are.
We had Zone Conference on Friday in Amsterdam and it was amazing! President and Sister Brubaker focused on following the Spirit and extending the baptismal commitment within the first lesson. The mission has already set 15 more baptismal dates since Friday! We are already seeing the miracles that come from following the counsel of the President. I don't know if you know, but the mission got split. All of the French missionaries are now a part of the Paris, France mission so now we are only in the top part of Belgium and the Netherlands. It will be great because we will have more contact with President and Sister Brubaker!
I love you so much! I have been praying for you, Dad and Carli, that you would get feeling better! You are all in my prayers and I love you so much!
Love,Zuster Sharp

February 22, 2010: We saw the miracles that come after the trial of faith!

I love you so much and I have to thank you for all of your prayers and your faith! We had a week full of miracles and we met ALL of our goals. That is the first time ever that that has happened! Thank you so much for your e-mails, Mom, Dad, Brooke, and Carli! I also received the Valentine's package...oh my goodness! That was so sweet of you and I could feel the love! I wore the shirt yesterday to chaurch and it is so cute and I can't wait until it gets warm enough to wear the jacket. I keep trying it on every morning just to make sure it is still cute...and it is! The treats were also very tasty, the cards were so uplifting, and the pictures were so much fun to see. I could just look at the pictures all day long! The kids are getting so big! You have all been in my prayers this week and I will keep on praying for each one of you personally because my testimony of the power of prayer has just exploded this week!
Last week I had told you that everything had kind of fallen through as far as appointments go and almost every investigator had dropped us. Well, this week we were blessed with double, if not triple, the blessings and miracles. It would take hours to fill you in on everything so I will just share a few of my personal favorite moments.
On Thursday we had an appointment with William and it was so awesome! When we arrived we followed up with his reading assignment that we had given him with the Book of Mormon and it was amazing to hear him say that he had read and that he had a hard time putting it down to do anything else. He had a lot of questions about Joseph Smith so we watched "The Restoration"video with him. The room was so full of the Spirit, a feeling of calmness, peace, and warm. At the end of the film, we asked him if he would take the time that night to ask God if Joseph Smith was a prophet. He said, "You know, I think that we are sometimes a little ungrateful for what God has given us. He already told me during the video that Joseph Smith was a prophet so why would I ask him again? I know that he was a prophet of God."He then went on to say that he was excited for his baptism and to continue learning and attending the church services. I was very humbled by the experience and I am so excited to set a baptismal date with him this week!
Friday night we had an appointment with Naioka. It was our first appointment with her and in the beginning she was pretty closed. But after we bore testimony I could physically see that her heart started to soften. By the end of the appointment she invited to stay and eat dinner with her and her daughter. We ate pigtail and sauerkraut! It was actually really tasty and she invited us back for a second appointment!
Sunday, we had 2 new investigators in the church! Roda brought her sister and brother in law and we have an appointment with them as well! They really loved hearing about the hope of the plan of salvation and the possibility of being together forever!
In total, we had 3 new investigators at church, we found 3 new investigators, and we gave away 3 copies of the Book of Mormon last week! We have a busy schedule this week with all of our follow up appointments and making contact with potential investigators. Our investigators now are William, Willeke, Dennis, Nylees, Ety, Dustin (he is the one we took dinner to and he is coming to church with us next week!), Naioka, and Mike. Thank you for your prayers in their behalf!
I love you so much and I know that God is our loving Heavenly Father. His greatest manifestation of that love is his son Jesus Christ! They live and this is their kingdom on the earth! I hope that you have a great week and continue to find joy in the journey! You are in my prayers and in my heart!
Love,Zuster Sharp

February 15, 2010: Happy Valentine's Day! I love you!!!

Hello family! Thank you so much for the e-mails, Mom, Dad, Brooke, and Carli! So how was your week? Did you have a great Valentine's Day? I hope you know that I LOVE YOU! We had such an amazing week here in Zwolle! I will tell you a couple of the many miracles that we saw:
Tuesday we went out to do some finding. We really wanted to find some new investigators because our teaching pool is kind of small so we asked a family in the branch, Familie Van Andel, to pray for us between 3:30 and 4:40 on that day that we would be able to find some new investigators. There prayers brought so much power! We talked to a few positive people during that hour but the miracle really came at the end of the hour. We looked at the cell phone as we were biking home and saw that we had missed a call from the Mission Office. We called them back as quickly as possible and we found out that there is a man that met the missionaries in Slovakia. He is getting close to being baptized but will be moving here to Zwolle before that will happen. We will have the blessed opportunity to take over the teaching and he will be able to be baptized here! We couldn't even believe it! We fell on our knees and thanked Heavenly Father for that huge blessing and the power of the prayers from Familie Van Andel!
Tuesday night we had our first appointment with a Nigerian man named William. We met him in the Centrum back in November with the bagpipe finding activity with the elders and we were finally able to make contact. It was probably one of the most spiritual experiences I have had. Sue Haina, Zr. Walle's daughter, came as joint-teach with us and she bore such powerful testimony of the truth of the Book of Mormon. William is such a humble man and he said that he could feel the Lord telling him to meet with us. He committed to read the Book of Mormon and come to church...and he did them both! Familie Spijkerman gave him a ride to church and everything just worked out so smoothly with him. We taught him about the Plan of Salvation in our investigator class and we found out that he has a family that is still in Nigeria. He is working hard to be reunited with them and he found so much joy in learning that families can be together forever. At the end of the class we asked him if he had any questions and he said, ├Ć have only one. What are the qualifications for being baptized as a member of your church?"We were so excited! He is really sincere and we get to teach him again on Tuesday. KEep him in your prayers!
On Wednesday, before we headed out of our apartment, I had a distinct feeling to call Nanda. I dialed her number and she answered. She started to cry when she heard that it was me because she said that she had had a really hard morning. She said, "I can't believe! You two must have special contact with God because every time I need his help you show up on my door, leave me a note, or call me."I promised her that we were representatives of Jesus Christ, sent here to help the people come unto him and feel of his love. She actually had read in the Book of Mormon that morning and set up a new appointment to meet with us next week. The Lord is really working with her. She is really special and I love her so much! I am so thankful for the quiet promptings of the spirit.
I have so many more miracles I would love to share with you but I am all out of time! I love you so much and you remain in my prayers! Have a great week and remember to find joy in the journey! Love ya!
Love,Zuster Sharp

February 8, 2010: Happy Valentine's Day! I love you all!

Hello! How are you doing? Thank you so much for the e-mails, Brooke, Dad, and Mom! I hope that you have had a wonderful week to start of the month of February!
I have had the most amazing week ever! Actually, only one of our appointments with investigators went through, Mike is the only investigator that we still have, and Willeke was the only one who came to church...but we still saw so many miracles and I feel so blessed! Monday night we went to Familie Knarren's for FHE and dinner and they totally had a miraculous change! We had been praying fervently for them that things would start going better for them and that they would feel the love of our Heavenly Father and on Monday, before we arrived at their home, they both had had experiences where they felt His love and now have a renewed desire to recommit themselves to the gospel. When they shared their experiences with us on Monday night, I couldn't help but get a little teared up knowing that Heavenly Father is so loving that he heard our prayers and blessed the Knarrens.
Tuesday, we had District Meeting in Apeldoorn and set a goal to have 3 baptisms within our district by the end of the transfer. We made a list of potential candidates for baptism and we are praying for them. We only have 3 weeks left in the transfer so we are just waiting to see the miracles happen! Tuesday night we went out to Dedemsvaart to eat dinner with Zuster Lubberink, an 80 year old member of our branch. She is such a sweet lady and sure took care of us with hot chocolate, cookies and a delicious dinner! It made me feel like I was at Grandma and Grandpa Buchanan's our Grandma Sharp's for a few minutes...it felt so much like home!
Wednesday we did some finding in the Centrum. We counted the number of people we talked to in our finding hour and our total came to a whopping 53! We then took the train to Hardenberg where we did another hour of finding. On the end of our hour, we met an older man who invited us in to talk to him and his wife. Turns out, he had done some family history research at the church genealogy library that is in Apeldoorn and he had attended one of our church services in Arnhem. The church is truly spreading the earth! He asked us to explain the plan of salvation to him. He accepted a copy of the Book of Mormon. He said that he doesn't believe what we believe but that he is interested in finding out more. At the end we said, "When you read the Book of Mormon and find out it is true, you can call us and be baptized!" We all laughed! We then said, "What was your name?" He said, "Mr....I mean, Brother Gerit." I know that he was joking as well but hopefully someday he really will become a member. Zr. Gerrits came and picked us up and we had a wonderful meeting together making plans for what we can do to support the RS. Our big focus is VT and we have some great plans lying ahead. She also asked us if we would be willing to give the lesson this week in RS. It will be on agency from the Gospel Principles book. I am so excited! Wednesday night we had our appointment with Nanda and she had had a total change. She said that she is not interested in joining our church because she can't do it with her family situation. We don't know what happened to make her lose so much interest but it was so sad. She doesn't want us to come back and visit until the end of February. We are keeping her in our prayers!
Thursday, Therrence, Petra, and Ramon dropped us but we found 3 inactive members that want to meet with us and another woman that we will be sharing a video about Christ with this week. Friday I went on exchanges in Groningen and was blessed to work with Zuster Gulliver! I really learned so much from her! Saturday, Zr. Wieland was sick so I spent a lot of the day making phone calls. Sunday was wonderful, as usual! We had a great testimony meeting and it pumped me up to start another great week!
I love you all and I hope that you are doing well! You are in my prayers! This church is true and it is what brings all of the joy and happiness in my life. I am so thankful to be able to share it with others. Being a member of the church is never a burden, but always a blessing! Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ live and love us! They love you so very much and are so happy with the wonderful things you are doing! Have a great week and know that I am thinking about you!Love,Laur

February 1, 2010: The week of miracles!

Happy February! Can you believe that we are already one month down for this year...time is flying by! Thank you so much for your e-mails, Mom, Dad, Brooke, and Derek! I am so excited that Becca is going to Virginia! Be sure to congratulate her for me!
It has been another wintry white week here in Zwolle. This is the first time that the Netherlands has had this much snow in 15+ years so I am thankful I get to be a part of it! Sadly, I took Zuster Wieland out this week while we were biking. We were on our way home from an appointment and it had ïjsselled (it rains but the ground is so cold that it immediatly turns to ice when it hits) so the paths were really slick! We were biking along and my bike just went right out from under me and right in front of Zuster Wieland. I don't know how we land so softly and gracefully every time but after sitting on the ground mangled in our bikes for a few minutes, and laughing really hard, we were back up and on our way again! Oh, the joys of being on a bike...or better yet, Zuster Sharp on a bike!
I'll share with you my three highlights of this past week! On Wednesday we were knocking doors and met a young man (maybe 17 years old) named Dustin. After talking with him for a few minutes we found out that he lost his mother only 3 weeks ago and him and his brother were the only ones left in his family. They were really busy with all of the legal stuff, especially trying to work it out so that they could keep their house. We were able to share with him a Plan of Salvation pamphlet. The next day Zuster Wieland and I were talking and we decided that we wanted to make dinner for him and his brother and take it to them on Saturday. We got everything ready Saturday afternoon and took it to the door. Luckily he was home and we were able to give it to him and it was one of those most sweet and tender mercies to have a moment to really be the Lord's hands on the earth for just a few minutes. I think that Dustin was very touched and felt the love of God at that time. I hope that we can make contact with him again soon!
On Friday night we had another appointment with Nanda! It was the most amazing appointment that I have had in my whole mission! We watched "The Restoration"video with her and she thought it was so miraculous. The spirit was there and Zuster Wieland and I were able to bear really powerful testimony. Nanda shared with us some of her experiences in her life that let her know that God has a specific plan for her and she feels like maybe the church will become a big part of that. She was excited to pray that night and ask God if Joseph Smith was a prophet...I am anxious to see what she felt when she prayed. She was not able to come to church because she already had plans for Sunday but we have an appointment with her on Wednesday night and Zuster Gerrits, the RS president, will be our joint teach. Zuster Gerrits has an amazing conversion story and I know that her testimony will really help Nanda!
Zuster Wieland and I were asked to give the combined lesson for priesthood and RS on Friday night so we hurry and put something together for church yesterday. Willeke was at church but we were nervous that no other investigators would show up. After we started the lesson you would never believe who walked in...Ilse! That was her first time at church and we were definitely not expecting that! Then a member, Bro Ajubi, walked in with another couple and their baby! We had 5 investigators in church yesterday! The couple, Terrence and Petra, set up an appointment to meet with us this Thurday and we can hardly wait! They are really searching for the truth and we are excited to see the miracles that will happen!
We also had great appointments with Mike, Salwa, and Anita. We are expecting to have an appointment with Dalia and Raymond this week so we are anxiouis to see how they go.
I love you so much and thank you for your prayers. I know that the Lord, Jesus Christ lives and that he loves us SO much! I keep you in my prayers and am so thankful for your support and love! HAve a great week!
LoveZuster Sharp

January 25, 2010: I'm experiencing the joy of missionary work!

Hello Family! Tell Becca that I am so excited that she is going on a mission and I can't even wait to hear where she is going to go!!! I will be writing to her soon, and all of the rest of you too! Thanks so much for the e-mails last week, they were great!
I can't even begin to express the joy that I am experiencing from doing this work! I feel like I have finally committed myself to serving with all of my "heart, might, mind, and strength"and it is just so amazing! When I first got here in the Netherlands I considered lunch and dinner times to take a break and relax for myself but now all I want to do is hurry and eat something quick and easy so that I can get right back to work. This is such an amazing and special time in my life to be able to dedicate every minute to serving the Lord and I want to make the most of it!
I can't even believe how many miracles we have seen this week! We found two new investigators, Ramon and Dalia, and we had a whopping total of 17 lessons! We also had two investigators at church yesterday, Willeke and Nanda, and we have a very busy week starting tomorrow! Zwolle is really beginning to explode and I am seeing little glimpses of what he has in store for this city.
I want to share with you how we ended up finding Ramon and Dalia because they are just such amazing stories. Ramon is a 60 year old man that we met the day that our district did the bagpipe finding in the centrum in Zwolle. We gave him a Book of Mormon then, that was in November, but we struggled to make contact with him after that. We finally got an appointment set up for this past Thursday and we found a ward member to go with us to visit him. He had already read quite a bit of the Book of Mormon and was so interested in finding the truth. He said that he had been searching for the truth for all of his life but has never been able to find a church that can answer all of his questions. We told him we could! He said that he wants to find a church where there is a leader called of God who he can follow...WOW! We were able to share with him a little bit about Joseph Smith and we gave him a big reading assignment. We are meeting with him again this Wednesday!
On Saturday we decided to go and visit Mike because he had surgery on Friday but we thought that we would just have to say "hello"on the door because he lives alone and we didn't have another woman to come on joi'nt-teach with us. Turns out, his 23 year old daughter, Dalia, was there so we were able to go in! Mike said, "You two actually came at just the right time because me and my daughter were just having a discussion about the purpose of life and I told her she should maybe talk to you." He had already given her the pamphlet to read about the Plan of Salvation and she really found a lot of answers to her questions in there but we sat and cleared up more of her questions for 45 minutes! She was finding so much peace and comfort in the answers that we were giving her that she made an appointment with us to be able to teach her and her dad together! SO COOL! We will teach them on Thursday as well!
The Lord is so merciful and willing to help us if we ask for it! I am so thankful for the many miracles I see everyday! Thank you so much for your prayers and love and everything you do to support me! I love you so much and I hope you have a great week!Love,Zuster Sharp

January 18, 2010: I'm staying Zwolle for five transfers, maybe more.

Can you believe it!? I just got off of the phone with my district leader and he informed me that I will be staying in Zwolle for atleast two more transfers...WAHOO! I have received, once again, such a calm feeling, a confirmation that this is where I am supposed to be and that this is where the Lord wants me. I feel so blessed because I just love this city and the people here so much and I am thankful that I have another 3 months to serve here. What makes it even better is that I had the best week of my mission this last week and there are miracles taking place like never before! Thank you so much for all of your prayers in my behalf, they are such a blessing!
Thanks for the e-mails this week! Brooke, the pictures of Lincoln and Carter are so adorable! I can't believe how big they are getting. Little Carter is such a chunker! I do have the cutest nephews and nieces in the whole world!
Well, I have so much that I want to tell you so I better just get started! On Monday night our plans fell through but I had the idea (definitely a prompting through the Spirit...they usually come in the form of ideas that feel really good) to go and visit Familie Knarren. Luckily they were home and we ended up coming at just the right time because they are really struggling. They have only been members for 3 years and they are going through a rocky period right now, feeling all alone and not very close knit with family members because of their choice to be baptized. We had a lesson planned to share with them but we ended up just sitting and being listening ears. It was such a blessing that we were able to be there at that time to help them. She actually called this morning and let me know that she just had a miscarriage so that just makes it a little more difficult. Luckily she realizes that the gospel is what gives us faith and hope during hard times.
Tuesday we did some finding and had a feeling to stop by the Branch President's house to visit his wife whose back has been out for 3 weeks. We asked her if there was anything that we could do for her to help her and she actually had us cut out quilt squares so that she can make a baby blanket for the YW president in our branch. It was so much fun to be able to do something crafty and to feel like, once again, that we were in the right place at the right time. Tuesday night we had our dinner with Mike at Familie Van Basten's and it couldn't have gone better! He had kept his B of M reading commitment and was anxious to learn more-he had a lot of questions! Turns out that Zr. Van Basten's husband, who is a non-member, started testifying with us that Joseph Smith is a true prophet! It was so cool to see the Spirit touching him and Mike at the same time!
On Wednesday we had Zone Conference in Amsterdam and it was the most amazing answer to prayer ever! President adressed all of my concerns and it was really a time of personal revelation and inspiration. He really focused on remaining optimisitic and relying on the Savior...it was so great! It was also really fun to see all of the other missionaries...especially my old MTC group.
Thursday morning I went on exchanges in Groningen with Zuster Ekstrom and I really learned so many new things and had such a wonderful experience there. We got to teach a YW, Joanne, there, and she committed to being baptized! IT was so great and such a blessing to be a part of that and to know that that is what I am aiming for in my work here.
Friday and Saturday we did a lot of finding and we actually found 3 new investigators! On Friday we had an appointment with a woman named Anita who is very Catholic. We felt like we really needed to be bold and invite her to be baptized. We were both freaked out but we shared a scripture and extended the invitation and she said, "You know, I have been thinking a lot lately about being re-baptized. You do that in your church?" Our jaws dropped and we explained things to her. It was amazing! She committed to pray about being baptized and we are meeting with her next week!
Saturday we spent most of the day in the Centrum and then felt like we needed to go and visit an inactive member, Sairah. She really has a struggle with smoking and wants to stop but doesn't know how. She is only 22 and has a 5 year old son. We walked in just at the right time! She was really low and luckily we were able to spend some time playing with her son and helping to clean up and make dinner. We didn't know if our time was well spent but she ended up coming to church yesterday for the first time in 5 months and we think that it was in response to showing her love and that we really care about her.
We had church on Sunday!!! It was so wonderful to be back in the church building and see all of the branch members. Willeke came again and she was really happy. Last night we went and taught a lady, Salwa, and she committed to read the Book of Mormon and meet with us again!
We will have appointments with Mike, Ilse, Nanda, Anita, Salwa, and Willeke this week, along with a few other new investigators! Zwolle is just exploding!
I am so happy and I am experiencing the joy of missionary work! I love you so much and miss you! I keep you in my prayers.
Love,Laur

January 11, 2010:So Good to Hear From You

HELLO! I can't believe that this week is my 6th month mark. Time is just flying by and I don't think that it is going to slow down a bit! This is also the last week of my 3rd transfer...it just seems like yesterday that I was telling you how excited I was to be staying in Zwolle! I am still hoping that I stay here another transfer-I just love this place so much and I feel a special attachment to the people here. But I know that I will have that wherever I go and that the Lord has a specific plan for me. By next Monday I should know what is going down so I will keep you posted!
I was so glad to hear that your New Year's Party was a success and that you had a wonderful birthday, Mom! What a blessing it was to hear that Grandpa is doing well again after another scary episode. We are sooo blessed and I just can't thank Heavenly Father enough! I keep you all in my prayers all of the time and I can still feel the immense power of your prayers! I wasn't feeling to great on Wednesday and I ended up sleeping through the morning but luckily by the time we normally would go out I had enough energy to make it out the door. I was nervous that I was getting an ear infection but I loaded up on the vitamin C and tried to stay really bundled up! The ear warmers, scarves, socks, and gloves really helped!
The work is starting to pick up again and we are seeing so many miracles and so much success! Sadly, Kevin is having a lot of legality issues and might have to leave the country in 20 days so he has been really stressed. We were able to meet with him for about 20 minutes on Wednesday morning and we still call him or text him everyday. I find comfort in knowing that he has such a desire to be baptized and to have a testimony that he will search the church out wherever he goes. We had a lesson with Mike last Monday and we shared with him the Tree of Life. He loved it! He was able to apply the vision to his life and he really felt the Spirit. The member who came with us as our joint-teach invited us and him to come to dinner at her house so we will be able to teach him there. That will be tomorrow night and I am so excited to see how it goes! We had a lesson with Willeke on Wednesday and she is making progress, bit by bit. She was planning on coming to church yesterday but church was cancelled again because of the snow! I just have to tell you, I was so excited for church and I wanted it to go through so bad that I even ironed all my clothes on Saturday and packed a lunch. Sunday morning when I heard our cell phone ring at 8:30 I did 'not want to answer because I knew I wasn't going to like the news! Oh well! 'Hopefull we'll have it next week! We have an appointment with Ilse and Nanda this week! We have lost almost all contact with Mehrdad. I think that he is having legality issues as well but hopefully it will pick back up! We met a new lady, Salwa, on the train to Kampen and she was so excited to receive a Book of Mormon! We have an appointment with her on Sunday!
Things with members are going really well. News is going around the Branch that I love to organize so Tieneke had us come over on Saturday and we helped her clean out her computer room...I loved it! We had a lot of member lessons this week and we are just trying to get the members pumped about the new year! Everyone has set goals to do missionary work and they are already feeling the spirit of it.
It is really cold here...my hand warmers even froze because it was so cold! The people on the news recommend only being out for 2 hours because longer than that could cause frostbite...kind of crazy! My bike is all repaired now and it was really a blessing! It only cost 25 euros and it took only 4 hours. Sadly, my zipper on one of my boots broke last night so I will be buying some new ones today! Lots to laugh about!
We had a funny experience on Saturday! I had the feeling to call one of the members in the branch and she told me that they had to put their dog to sleep and she was really sad. I told Zr. Wieland about it and then she told the Branch president when we saw him Saturday afternoon. All of a sudden it hit me that maybe I didn't understand her correctly and maybe her dog was just sick. I started to go into a panic, knowing that the Branch president would call them to give his condolences and would if the dog was still alive! I felt bad but I kind of had a prayer in my heart that the dog was dead! Zr. Wieland, on the other hand, was hoping that the dog was still alive so she could have a good laugh if it was a mistake with the language. We decided to take them a card to see if the dog was dead or alive...and luckily I had understood it correctly! I would have never lived that one down in the branch!
Well, I have to go but know that I love you so much! This last week I really learned a lot about faith-your quote really touched me, Mom! All of your letters mean so much to me...I can just feel your love through them! Have a great week!
Love,Laur