Monday, May 25, 2015

Week 102: "You knew the end would come the day you signed up."

May 25, 2015

Is this real? This past week, we had interviews with President and Sister Robinson, two people who I have grown to love so much over the past two years. In my interview with Pres. Robinson, I walked in, and when it started he says, with a little laugh, "well, Elder Bonney, don't tell me you never thought the end would come. You knew the end would come the day you signed up." "Yeah, I guess that that's true. It just kind of sneaks up on you, though."

This will be my last time emailing from the Netherlands. On Thursday morning, I'll board my plane back to America. Next week, I plan on sending one last email (so don't freak out yet). Then, this journey will have to make way for a new one.

My last full week was a good one - full of good, old missionary work. Elder Byers and I kept ourselves busy, talking to a lot of people about our message. We were actually stopped while in the centrum the other week by a reporter for the local newspaper, the Brabants Dagblad. He wanted to interview us sometime so that he could write an article on what we do. So, on Tuesday, we met him in a café and were interviewed. (I made it to the top! It's the beginning of a life of fame.)The article was published on Thursday, and you can read it online here: 

In my opinion, it's pretty well written...besides the bad photo and the one time I was quoted out of context (it was bound to happen). The reporter asked me if we're here to "convert people from other faiths." I laughed and responded, with the mindset of "we don't convert, the Spirit does," saying something along the lines of "na, converting people is much too difficult! Impossible, even. We just share information with others and invite them to try certain things so that they can find out the truth for themselves and see what it can mean for them." What ended up in the paper: "but they aren't here to convert people of other faiths. Elder Bonney laughs: 'much too difficult.'" And that's all that was quoted. Oh well...a life of fame has its downsides. On the plus side, we have had people around who recognize us from the paper, so that's pretty cool.

I have to admit something. For the past few weeks, I've kind of let myself go, trying to enjoy the best of Dutch food and delicacies before I head out. Pannenkoeken, stroopwafels, Belgian waffles, fries, Indonesian food, all kinds of Dutch pastries... the list goes on. I'll miss the food here, it's true. But, it will probably be good when I stop my binge of eating enough to feed a small family.

Just had to get that off my chest.

Last Wednesday, the legendary Harry van de Sande (the 84-year old sidekick to the Eindhoven missionaries, remember?) came to work with us here in Tilburg. It was good to work with him again. He inspires me. He went to a few appointments with us, and he contacted with us in the centrum, too. It's funny -- it's hard for people to be rude to such an old, short, nice-looking guy as Harry. In general, people were a lot nicer to us that day. I will miss Harry -- he's become a great friend.

Something I've been forgetting to write about is our Chinese investigator, Aimee! She lives in... Beijing! Cool, huh? Her boyfriend is a member here in Tilburg, and we teach her once a week via Skype at his place. Because there are no missionaries in China (besides Hong Kong), the missionaries started teaching her a few months ago. She's an incredible investigator, and it's always fun to teach people with really thick Chinese accents. :) She should be moving to Tilburg in a few months, and I have no doubt that she'll be baptized soon after. She has made amazing progress over the past couple months. I'm going to miss teaching her -- it was fun. The best part about teaching people from countries with little exposure to religion is that it's almost like teaching a child -- you start and build from the ground up. Aimee is a great student, too, which helps a lot. And she questions things, which is good -- she questions certain things, but always stand open for the Spirit, which confirms our words or answers her questions. It's been a great experience.

Yesterday was my last Sunday in a Dutch-speaking unit (at least, for a while). I showed up, and a member from Lelystad, Christiaan, had come down to see me, which was a cool surprise. But when I walked into the chapel, who else did I see but...Elder Price's parents! The parents of my MTC companion, who was in the neighborhood for all my transfers in Eindhoven and Alkmaar. Nothing slaps you in the face with "face it, you're going home" like seeing another missionary's parents. They were here seeing a few things before picking Elder Price upon Wednesday, and they decided to go to church here. Go figure.

The primary gathered together dandelions and put them in a cup for me. That was a nice going away present... Haha. I will miss this little branch. I've really come to love them. Yesterday evening, we were at our regular Sunday dinner appointment, and the family had prepared me a "funeral dinner," since I was going home. It was super fun (and the food was great). I was sad to leave. I hope that I can see all these people again someday.

It's time to go. I'm going to miss this, but life moves on. That said, this country will always have a little spot in my heart. I'll write one last time next week. For now...I'll see you on the other side.
-Elder Bonney

At a park, dramatically contemplating life after the mission. 

With the members who prepared me my "funeral dinner" -- Pirousjka, Zakiya, and Darinusjka. Gonna miss the three amigas.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Week 101: "I once met Jesus. We drank Coke together!"

May 18, 2015

This morning, we went to Eindhoven for a zone activity -- we all got together to play some sports. While waiting for our bus, this old, deranged guy came up to me. He was riding in a motorized wheelchair and waving around a sign about Jesus. He started talking to me, saying a bunch of nonsense. At one point, he started speaking English, asking me what I thought of his sign. He told me, "I once met Jesus, you know. We drank Coke together!" Oh, is that so? Don't worry, I didn't make any jokes about hard drug use. He went on to tell us about how, when we die, and we have no body, we are still somebody, not nobody (and he put extra emphasis on the word "body" every time he said it). After having a good laugh with the guy (he was weird, but thought he was pretty funny himself), our bus pulls up. I go to shake his hand, and he grabbed my hand and...didn't let go. I had to pull my hand out and run to the bus. And that was the beginning of the day.

You know, I'm going to miss this. Sometimes people just fascinate me, and I've met all sorts of them out here. I'll miss it.

On Monday night, Elder Byers and I hopped on a train to Antwerpen, where we spent the night. The next morning, we had a zone conference in the Antwerpen chapel. I remembered being in the same chapel as a young missionary on my first couple transfers, seeing elders and sisters deliver their "dying testimonies" -- in every zone conference, the missionaries going home that transfer share one last testimony with the other missionaries. I never thought my time would come. But, it did -- I was able to stand, along with a few other good friends who go home next week, and look back on the years I've spent in the service of God. The change I see in myself is incredible. It was nice to be able to testify of how the Lord changes us as missionaries -- while standing up there, I just felt really grateful for the things I've experienced out here.

But I'm not done yet, so enough with the sappy talk. Let's get down to business.

We had investigators show up in church on Sunday! These were the first real investigators (people who were actually making progress) that have come to church the whole time I've been serving here. One of them thought the service started at 12 instead of 10, but at least he made it for priesthood. They both seemed to enjoy it, and the members were pretty happy to see guests. I was really happy that I was able to see some investigators in church before I leave Tilburg. God has been helping us -- slowly but surely, Elder Byers and I have been able to build up a good teaching pool here. Good things are in store for Tilburg.

I was able to work in Eindhoven one last time -- last Thursday, we had exchanges with the zone leaders. I was able to see some members and visit some old places -- it always brings back good memories. We did service at the ward mission leader's home. Br. Stewart is from Ireland, and he's a great man -- one of my favorite members in Eindhoven. Intense, but in a good way. He gets things done, and when we all got to town on those weeds in his yard, he wasn't messing around. Haha. It reminded me of the way he worked with us when I was serving in Eindhoven -- he doesn't just feed you cake afterwards (which he did do, though), but he gets down and weeds WITH us. When I see that, it makes me want to do an even better job weeding! It's the same with missionary work. That man and his wife invite the missionaries over to eat, but he also shares the gospel whenever he gets the chance. Not to cheesily reference D&C 4, but he's not just sharpening the missionaries sickles -- he's out there doing the dirty work with the missionaries. I hope that I'm able to be like that as a member. It's inspiring, to be honest.

As the end approaches, I realize that I'm going to miss some things, things I never thought I'd miss. For example, Dutch people and the achterops on their bikes. Dutch bikes are different than American bikes. They are mostly street bikes made for daily travel. On the back of most Dutch bikes is a little rack - a rack "achter op de fiets." On this rack, people will carry packages...or groceries...or other people. I've done all of those. It's not uncommon to see a baby seat attached achter op the bike, since they make special baby seats for that. What makes me laugh is what people do when they sit on the back of someone else's bike. You'll often see teenagers blasting music -- one riding the bike, the other sitting on the back holding speakers. Pretty gangster, huh? (I feel like a lot of people would make fun of these teen, Dutch thugs in America...) My all time favorite has been a woman fixing her mascara while looking in a little mirror WHILE sitting on the back of her man's bicycle. Trust me, it was funny. I laughed. It's the little things I'll miss the most.

Well, amigos, I can't lie, I feel like I'm reaching the end of a marathon. My body is more tired than it ever has been. Some of my pant-seats are wearing through. Even the bike I have is wearing down -- part of the gear-changing mechanism snapped, and it's constantly stuck on the highest speed (that doesn't help with the tiredness....haha). I'm just going to try and finish strong. Thanks for accompanying me on this two-year long journey. It's not over yet.

Stay true.
-Elder Bonney
I told Elder Byers not to make a face and that this picture was getting sent out, can't stop Byers.

At zone conference with Elder Pouwer. That face is a sixth of my mission. Love that guy.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Week 100: "It's Enrique Iglesias! I'm feeling like we should maybe go...towards the music."

May 11, 2015

Wow. My hundreth week. Who would have ever thought I'd make it this far? I remember back when my weeks were in the single digits, and two years seemed like it would be an eternity, that it would never end. Now, I only have a little more than two weeks left.

This past week was a good one. I'm learning an important lesson about enduring to the end - the closer I get to the end, the harder it is to keep going strong. It reminds me of when I was a child. In a ridiculously high percentage of all the instances when I wet my pants, the sad event happened when I was in the bathroom. I don't know what it is, but in those last few seconds, your bladder has the hardest time! (Don't try to tell me it isn't true for you.) If I liken that to my current situation, I would say that I'm remembering (consciously and subconsciously) all of the things I left behind that I'd kind of forgotten, a lot of the sacrifices. And it makes the final stretch a bit harder... When I was a kid, I remember, in those strenuous moments, telling myself I had two choices. First, hold on a little longer, in spite of the extreme discomfort, and make it to the toilet, or two, have to change my pants. And deal with the embarassment of telling my dad. (My dad is great, but for some reason, he was never happy when I told him that I'd wet my pants...again.) In these final weeks, whenever I keep the end goal in mind, and the blessings that enduring for the last bit will bring, I get motivated to stay focused.

Excuse me if my analogy seems a little crude, but hey -- a man has got to express the feelings of my heart. (Or his bladder. Sorry. I'll move on to higher thoughts.)

The work definitely has been picking up here in Tilburg. Our "Amulek" investigator from a few weeks ago is still doing great -- it's awesome to see the Spirit work with him. We've also found a few new people. On Tuesday, we were knocking doors, and this woman (maybe 30 years old?) in a wheelchair answers the door. After a nice, short conversation, she told us we were welcome to come back another time. We were in the neighborhood the next day, so we thought, why not? We dropped by, and she let us in. We were able to teach a great lesson about the restoration and the Book of Mormon, and she was super open. We're hoping to be able to teach her again this week. I learned an important lesson on gratitude while teaching her -- she wasn't raised religious, so I asked her how she came to believe in God. She responded with something along the lines of "because there are so many beautiful things in the world." This woman is in a wheelchair, and still she chooses to see the good. She doesn't limit her gratitude (or her happiness, for that matter) to her circumstances. That's something I still have room to work on.

Later that day, we were knocking doors in an area close to where we'd worked before. Suddenly, I started hearing soft music, like it was coming from far away. As I listened closer, I realized that it was an Enrique Iglesias song that I'd really liked back home, a song I hadn't heard in almost two years. I said, half jokingly, "hey, Elder Byers! It's Enrique Iglesias! I'm feeling like we should maybe go...towards the music." My companion just laughed, and we headed towards the source of the music. After walking for about twenty seconds, we turned a corner, and boom -- there was a kids' party going on in the park. At that point, I started to feel a little creepy, and the song ended, so we started walking away, a different direction than the one from which we came. We realized that we were right by a super cool woman we'd found earlier who we'd never been able to get in contact with. We'd kind of given up on her, but since we had ended up in that area, we gave it a shot. She was home, and she was more than willing to set a solid appointment with us for this week. Sometimes, good things happen in funny ways. God played off of my strengths that day (humor me by allowing me to call missing normal music a strength...haha).

On Saturday, we had a lunch appointment with a Columbian family from the branch, the Peña family. I'd talked to them a lot at church, but since they live so far away from Tilburg and work a lot, we'd never eaten there before. We took a forty minute bus ride out to their town, Baarle-Nassau. It's an interesting place -- part of it is technically in Belgium, the other part in the Netherlands. But it's not even like it's split in half; there are just fragments of the city that are considered to be part of Belgium. There were these dotted lines on the sidewalks and roads informing everyone what was Belgium and what was the Netherlands. I'd never been to a city like that before. We had a really fun lunch appointment with the Peña family, by the way -- they were great.

Yesterday was, of course, Mother's Day (Moederdag!), so I got to Skype my family! My fourth and final Skype. It was weird to think that, in just a few weeks, I'll be seeing them in person. I also gave a talk in church. It was a nice moment of reflection -- two years ago, on Mother's Day, I gave my farewell talk. Weird, right? I've changed a lot since then, that's for sure.

Well, I'm out. Be good and enjoy life. Until next week!
-Elder Bonney
In Baarle-Nassau, by one of the markers. I never thought it would be so easy to be in two countries at the same time - go figure.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Week 99: "It has nothing to do with the police... You just can't bite people!"

 May 4, 2015
Here I am. It looks like I made it through the nine days since I last emailed…haha. Judging by how crazy it was on Monday, you might not have been sure that I’d make it to today!

Monday was Koningsdag (King’s Day), and all the missionaries in the district went to Breda, where we set up a table and handed out pamphlets, cards, and copies of the Book of Mormon. To try and describe Koningsdag…  I don’t remember what I said last year, but it’s basically a mixture between a giant, national party (with more than enough alcohol) and a huge yardsale. Because yardsales aren’t usually legal here, everyone uses Koningsdag to go out, throw blankets on the ground, throw all their old stuff on those blankets, and sell all of it. I have to admit, there were some pretty good deals, and I would have bought a lot of stuff if I were actually living here as a normal person. (So, for the sake of keeping my living space organized, it’s probably a good thing I’m a missionary.) Since there were eight of us missionaries at the same location in Breda, we took turns going out and seeing the different ways people were trying to make money. Besides the usual yardsale stuff, there were a lot of interesting attractions -- kids were playing their musical instruments, there were breakdancers, there were challenges (“hang two minutes from this pull-up bar and win twenty euros!”), but my favorite (and the most ridiculous) were the people who were letting themselves get pelted with raw eggs for money. There were at least three locations with people doing that. I kid you not.

And guess who came to our table when we were handing out copies of the Book of Mormon? John the Baptist. The same from a few weeks ago. Go figure.

After the giant yardsale and all the attractions, the only thing remaining is all the partiers…and the alcohol. So, we dropped by a Turkish restaurant, ate some shoarma, then headed home while trying to avoid running into too many drunk people (I can’t speak for the rest of the Netherlands, but in Breda and Tilburg, there were a lot). And…that was Koningsdag.

On Tuesday, I got to go on exchanges with Elder Goff in Vlissingen. Vlissingen was beautiful, just like the last time I was there – last August. We had a dinner appointment, and it was with an older woman from Suriname and a middle-aged Dutch man, who she’d invited (they were both members). Partway through, she started talking about how some people in the country had recently been arrested for fighting and biting a police officer. “You aren’t allowed to bite police,” she says. Then the Dutch guy gets this look in his eye, and he says, “it has nothing to do with police… You can’t just bite people! It doesn’t matter who they are.” They went on for a good little while, and Elder Goff and I just laughed. The conversations I’ve been in…

Unfortunately, later on, I started getting sick, and for most of Wednesday, I was stuck at home with a fever. It wasn’t much fun. On Thursday, we were able to get a little more work done, but I still wasn’t 100% (I’m still not, but I’m almost there now). A number of appointments this past week were canceled, too, due to other people being sick – a lot of members were sick last week. So, I guess I fit right in? I belong here. It must be true.

Later, on Thursday, we were on the bus back from the branch president’s home. It’s about a 35-minute bus ride. At one point, in this little town, the bus driver stops the bus (not at a bus-stop), leaves the bus running, and just gets out, leaving the door open. There were about five or six of us in the bus. We were looking around – what is he doing? Where did he go? After a few minutes, he returns triumphantly, ice cream cone in hand. He looked pretty happy. Elder Byers and I thought it was pretty funny.

I don’t have much else to report from this week – the investigators are doing alright, and the members are taking good care of us. The weather is pretty nice, so I guess it’s time to get some good work done!

Keep it real. Until next week.
-Elder Bonney

The district on Koningsdag. For those of you who have wondered who my companion is, he's the one on the far right of the picture.

Saw this in the centrum this morning. Someone got pranked, the Dutch way.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Week 98: "I think we just met Amulek."

April 25, 2015

...surprise! I'm back already, even though it isn't Monday. Like I said last time, next Monday is Koningsdag (King's Day), so President Robinson switched P-day to today. Koningsdag is always insanely busy, and most everything will be closed for what is, in essence, a national yard-sale day. We'll be going to Breda as a district to hand out church materials at a booth. More on that next time.

I didn't have time to write much about it last week, but stake conference for the Antwerpen stake was great last weekend. On Saturday, Elder Byers and I caught a train heading to Antwerpen, where the first session of stake conference. Once in Antwerpen-Centraal, we had about a half-hour before our metro left, so we headed into the city for a few minutes, grabbed some Belgian frites (honestly, french fries should be called Belgian fries, because Belgium does them best), and looked around. We later caught our metro and headed to the Antwerpen chapel. Stake conference was actually a really cool experience -- Kortrijk, Eindhoven, and Tilburg are all in the Antwerpen stake, so I was able to see members from those three periods of my mission (the beginning, the middle, and the end). It was extra special to be able to talk to members from Kortrijk and think back to my days there and to realize how much I've grown since then.

After that session, we got on a train to Leuven with the Leuven elders, and we spent the night there. And who else would be serving in Leuven but my old friend and third companion, Elder Besendorfer? We went on splits with the Leuven elders on Sunday, and it was great to be able to talk and catch up. We reminisced on our Groningen days and reflected on how much we'd changed since then. It was also great to get to work in Belgium again! I haven't worked in Belgium since October 2013, when I spent my last weeks in Kortrijk. Belgium is... Belgium :) It's great. (Though it does have a unique smell to it, which missionaries dub the "Belgian funk." We won't talk about that.) Leuven was beautiful -- it was an area of Belgium I'd never been to before. Unfortunately... I forgot my camera. So goes life. After working in Leuven, we got a ride to the second session of stake conference, held in Brussels. The conference itself was great and uplifting. We then headed back up to Tilburg and got there late that evening.

I'm not going to lie, things were pretty discouraging earlier this week with the work here. We've been working really hard, but no one seems to be open, and those who are open are never home for their appointments. I've spoken with more aggressive atheists this transfer than I have in a long time (Elder Byers and I handled them pretty well, but it still isn't positive as far as the work goes). And, on Thursday night, we had to bike way far out to a referral that wasn't even home, and no one on her street was interested in Jesus. (That two and a half hours of biking there and back with a twenty minute break in the middle was rough... My bike seat isn't the kindest, and it even put a hole in my pants. My rear end was pretty sore afterwards. I won't grace you with more details.)

What I'm trying to say is, there were a few nights when I wanted to tear my hair out and ask God, "why don't you use me to help someone? I'm the most skilled I've been my whole mission, and I'm willing to work. Why can't we just be blessed with solid people to teach?" I was pretty frustrated. Yesterday morning, I was studying in the Book of Mormon, in Alma 8, and I read about Alma and part of his ministry. He was working in the city of Melek, where things were going well -- he was seeing a lot of success. Then, he headed to a city called Ammonihah. There, the people weren't so receptive... It even said that Satan had gotten ahold of the hearts of the people of Ammonihah. (While I was reading this, I jokingly thought, "hey, like Satan seems to have ahold of the hearts of the people we've been speaking to recently!") In short, they rejected his words, spit on him (I wonder if it was Redbull?), and cast him out of the city.

So, Alma's not super impressed with those people, and he decides that he's just going to go to another city. He's on his way when an angel appears to him and tells him that he's doing a good job and that he needs to go back. I can imagine what Alma could have been thinking... "A good job? That must be why, uh, no one is listening to me. And you want me to go BACK?" But, regardless of what he was thinking, he went back. He gets to the city, and he's hungry, so he walks up to a man and says, "will ye give to an humble servant of God something to eat?" (The last time he told something to people in that city, he wasn't treated nicely, so I imagine him having a tired look on his face that says, "please don't spit on me...") This man responds, saying, "I am a Nephite, and I know that thou art a holy prophet of God, for thou art the man whom an angel said in a vision: Thou shalt receive. Therefore, go with me into my house and I will impart unto thee of my food; and I know that thou wilt be a blessing unto me and my house."

Wow. Basically, Alma comes back to the city that rejected him, and what may have very well been the first person he spoke with after being back tells him that he's been told about him in a vision. That man was Amulek, and he fed Alma and helped him recuperate. He later became one of Alma's best missionary companions. Now, I'd read that story before, but this time it really hit me. What if Alma had given up and not gone back? Or gotten lazy? For some reason, God wanted him back in that city he'd been struggling with. Then, after it had been so hard, he was hit with a really amazing miracle. It was a cool learning moment for me -- re-learning that life has trials, but if we endure them well, we'll be blessed. I shared what I'd learned with my companion, and we had a good talk about it.

Later that day, Elder Byers and I showed up to a first appointment with a younger Dutch guy. We were knocking doors a couple days before and had set an appointment with him. And what do you know, he's actually home! We went and talked while sitting in his backyard. He asked if we could talk in English -- he wanted to practice his English while hearing what we have to share. Textbook lesson about the restoration -- this guy was pretty cool, seemed sometimes skeptical, but he had good questions. After the lesson, we asked him to pray. In his prayer, he says the words, "I'd like to thank You for answering my prayer." I open my eyes while still bowing my head. What did he say? After we said amen, he looks at us and says, "Actually, I have a confession to make." He goes on to tell us that the same day we showed up on his door, he had suddenly had a desire to learn more about God. He'd even texted a Jehovah's Witness he'd met earlier to see if they could meet sometime -- he was trying to contact people he knew would talk to him about God. A couple hours later, we showed up on his door and, according to him, answered his prayer. I think he's right. It was a miracle. He is excited to learn more and we have another appointment for early next week.

As we were biking away, Elder Byers was pretty excited -- he'd said that was the coolest thing that had happened on his mission. It was awesome. Suddenly, a thought came to my mind. I turn to my companion -- "hey, Elder Byers. I think we just met Amulek." Never give up. You never know who God needs you to keep going for, just like Alma going back and meeting Amulek. Trust in Heavenly Father and things will always work out.

Until the fourth of May. Don't miss me too much next week.
-Elder Bonney

Week 97: "I won't shoot the messenger... Actually, that's hard to do here. Firearms are illegal."

April 20, 2015
The last transfer has begun. On Wednesday, Elder Matos and I hopped on a train heading to Rotterdam Centraal, where Elder Byers was already waiting. Elder Matos and I said our goodbyes, and my new companion -Elder Byers- and I grabbed the next train back to Tilburg.

And so it begins. Elder Byers and I hit the ground running -- he was ready to work, and I was too. I felt like some parts of our first day together were straight out of a TV show. We were walking around the centrum, contacting people, and we talked to this one guy who was wearing a cowboy hat and looked Mexican. He spoke fluent English and Dutch and preferred to speak in English, so we started explaining who we were and what the Book of Mormon was. He proceeded to introduce himself as John the Baptist. He was dead serious. "I'm not the same as the one from the Bible; we just have the same name. Similar missions, though!" He was also religious and tries to help others. After a long conversation in which he quoted lots of random scriptures about how great Christ is, we realized we weren't really getting anywhere, and we thanked John the Baptist for his time and moved on.

Five minutes later, we're standing at a crosswalk, waiting for the signal to walk. I was thinking about how great the weather was (and it was great -- the newspapers called it the "first day of summer"), when Elder Byers and I were suddenly sprayed by something wet. I thought a car had used their windshield cleaner at a bad time or something, but then I saw a younger guy with a look of disgust staring us down as his friend drove away. Yep, we'd gotten spit on. I looked at Elder Byers, who had a deer in the headlights look, and he said, still looking stunned, "it's either Red Bull or Monster. I'm pretty sure it's Monster." Well, at least I know what the guy spit on us. I wiped the energy drink from my face...and we pressed onward.

That evening, we were biking to an appointment. I got a little lost, but we managed to find the way. All of a sudden, I felt something wet right above my knee. You know, they say everything that comes from above is a blessing, but when I looked down at my pants and saw bird poop on my leg, I disagreed with that statement. In the middle of informing Elder Byers about my bad luck, I hear a clank and a hissing noise. Elder Byers says, "I think I just rode over a piece of glass. Yep, my tire is flat."

And that was the first day of the transfer. You know, we all have days like that every once in a while. You just have to laugh at yourself -- I laughed a lot that day. I think Heavenly Father was just testing me... But, things always get better. Now, Elder Byers' tire is fixed. My face has no Monster energy drink on it, and neither does my shirt. My pants are washed. As for John the Baptist, he's still out there, somewhere.

Welcome to Tilburg, Elder Byers! Haha. My last companion is a good guy. He's from Nashville, Tennesee, and he's been on his mission for about five months. He's a funny person -- we're going to have a good transfer together.

Being companions with a younger missionary is always fun -- they've often got that young missionary spunk, and they are ready to learn. It's also fun to watch the mistakes... We were in a lesson last week, and we shared a scripture about the Atonement. Elder Byers was trying to say that it was one of the clearest scriptures about the Atonement that he knew. In Dutch, you have the word "duidelijk," which means "clear" or "evident." You also have the word "dodelijk," which means deadly. You already guessed it -- he told the recent convert we were teaching that it was the deadliest Atonement scripture he knew. We had to laugh. Enjoy the little things, right?

I'll go ahead and start wrapping up. The next day, Elder Byers and I were let in my an interesting man -- kind of a hippie. We discovered (though he did not say it) that he let us in because he loved Americans... He listened to us, but told us he didn't agree, though he did like us. That's when he said, "I won't shoot the messenger... Actually, that's hard to do here. Firearms are illegal." Clever.

After we left, we ran into this younger homeless guy who always stops and talks to us. He seemed to be in a rush today, but he stopped us and shared a verse from the modernized Bible he always has with him. In the middle, he gets a call from a friend, and he says, "politie in de buurt, waar kan ik komen?" ("Police in the neighborhood, where can I go?") Apparently, he'd been on the run from the cops. Go figure. At least he thought it was important to make time for Jesus.

This Saturday (we have an early P-day because next Monday is King's Day), I'll tell you all about this past weekend -- we had stake conference in Antwerpen and Brussels. It was a fun weekend.

That's all for today. Have a great week. And hey -- if the police are in the neighborhood, you're always welcome at my house.
-Elder Bonney
I promised more pictures of Keukenhof... Remember about how I told you all about the not yet in-bloom tulips? Yeah.
Saying goodbye to Elder Matos in Rotterdam.

Week 96: "If you want to hang out with Chinese people, just stay in China! You’ve got 1.4 billion of them there!”

 April 13, 2015

I’m always afraid to say it, because I feel like whenever I say it, it ceases to be true…but, I’ll say it. I think spring is here to stay. I woke up this morning and the sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and I’ve hardly worn my heavy coat at all this past week. Things are looking up for my last transfer.

And yes, my last transfer starts this Wednesday! My last six weeks. In this mission, you have sixteen six-week long transfers (plus the six weeks in the MTC). I remember when I was a young missionary, on my first few transfers, and the last transfer just seemed so far away. But, it’s almost here. I’ll be getting a new companion for this last month and a half – Elder Matos is getting transferred, and I will be getting an Elder Byers as my last companion. He’s been out on his mission for almost six months. I’m sure you’ll here more about him next week…

These past six weeks have flown by. Elder Matos and I have worked hard, and looking back, we’ve seen a good amount of success – we found a ton of people with whom we were able to share the message of the restoration. I might have taught more first lessons this past transfer than ever before on my mission. Some of the people we’ve found and taught have chosen to stop meeting with us; some people are still learning. No one is making a whole lot of progress, but I count my blessings that we have been able to teach so many different people. I’m convinced bigger steps will be made this transfer. I mean, we’ve seen miracles and been answers to prayers for these past weeks, and I see no reason for that to stop now!

That said…this past week was a pretty good week. I mean, we got to go to the temple on Wednesday, and that was great. On Tuesday night, we got on a train to Rotterdam, and we slept over at the apartment of some missionaries there (one of whom was Elder Byers, who I’d never met before and never imagined would become my companion one week after that…go figure). The next morning, we got up early so that we could be at the Den Haag temple (which isn’t actually in Den Haag, but in Zoetermeer…) by 8:15. While we walked to the temple, it was super foggy outside, and it was kind of cold. Not great weather. The temple was a great spiritual experience, like it always is – it’s great to set aside the everyday things for a moment and feel close to Heavenly Father. Half of the mission went on Wednesday – the other half had gone the day before. When we got out of the temple, it was sunny and warm. There’s a cool metaphor in there somewhere, if I wasn’t too lazy to look for it…

After the temple, we all walked to the Zoetermeer chapel, where we ate lunch. Then, following the spring temple conference tradition, we all got on a bus and headed to Keukenhof, the park of the tulips. It was great – I mean, flowers can be pretty cool. Unfortunately, we were there a bit early in the season, and only about half of the tulips had bloomed (last year, we went later, and all the tulips had bloomed and about 30% had died – you never see all the tulips in bloom because they bloom at different periods). But hey, I can’t complain. We had a good time.

The work moves onward here in Tilburg – Elder Matos and I were street contacting the other day when we talked to this Asian guy. He spoke English, and after a quick conversation, he invited us to sit down with him at the nearest cafe and talk. His name was Shen, and he was pretty funny – he was from China, used to live on the west coast of the USA, and loves American football. Go figure. He went off about how he loves hanging out with people from foreign places – he started talking about how Chinese people go to foreign countries but just hang out with each other while living there. He started to get passionate about it, and said loudly, “if you want to hang out with Chinese people, just stay in China! You’ve got 1.4 billion of them there!” He cracked us up. After hearing about his life for a while, we had a good gospel discussion. It was great.

Later that same day, we went to look up someone we’d talked to on the street, an older man. We knock on his door, and he came down in a bathrobe (and quite possibly just a bathrobe). After recognizing us, he invited us in. I thought, oh great, we’re going to have to teach someone in a bathrobe, and obviously, the only people who would let strangers inside while they are only wearing a bathrobe are weirdos and crazy people. At least, that’s how my logic went. But, he told us to wait a minute, went upstairs, then came down fully dressed and told us about how he was about to take a shower, but he wants to hear what we have to share. This man had his priorities straight – better to be spiritually clean than physically clean, right?

That’s all for today, folks. Enjoy spring.

-Elder Bonney

My old Eindhoven housemate, Elder Hills and I found some tulips that were in bloom. I can't lie, there were a ton of tulips in bloom. Also a ton of tulips that weren't. There are just a ton of tulips at Keukenhof, okay?