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Information leads to Inspiration

โ€œ๐†๐จ๐จ๐ ๐ข๐ง๐ฌ๐ฉ๐ข๐ซ๐š๐ญ๐ข๐จ๐ง ๐ข๐ฌ ๐›๐š๐ฌ๐ž๐ ๐ฎ๐ฉ๐จ๐ง ๐ ๐จ๐จ๐ ๐ข๐ง๐Ÿ๐จ๐ซ๐ฆ๐š๐ญ๐ข๐จ๐ง.โ€โ€“ Russell M. Nelson
Serving as mission leaders, our time is planned around a โ€œtransfer cycleโ€ of 6 weeks or 42 days to be precise.
This last transfer cycle has been unquestionably the most active of our mission thus far.
With mission conferences, meetings, travel, tours and sadly a period of sickness this transfer, time was always, extremely precious.
During the transfer, every missionary has a 1-1 interview.
Each interview provides us with good information.
In preparation for the next transfer cycle, Iโ€™d normally sit down about 10 days in advance to pause, reflect and study things out in my mind, all of the necessary moves required to accommodate the arrival of new incoming missionaries.
This transfer was different.
New arriving missionaries werenโ€™t confirmed until very late in the process, plus with only 5 days left in the transfer cycle, we were still completing the last of our interviews.
Subsequently, the information gathering process was hampered.
This last week, we met together to review the transfer moves and did our best to complete the exercise of new assignments and moves.
Admittedly, we felt a little discomfort, that stretched our spiritual capabilities.
Life has taught me that you cannot force or compel spiritual things, you just have to let things develop, nurture them, and allow them to grow in their own time.
A couple of days later (Friday, only 2 days ago) interviews were completed.

Listening

And then I stopped to really ๐’๐’Š๐’”๐’•๐’†๐’.
As yet I still donโ€™t fully comprehend the working or wonder of it all, but pausing once more and studying it out in my mind again, vivid impressions came.
I wrote out the thoughts, noted my feelings and followed through with the actions I was prompted to take.
Reassignments and moves for the next transfer cycle were completed and shared yesterday.
My experience is simply thisโ€ฆ
I have complete confidence now, that good inspiration can only come from good information.
How does good information, help your inspiration?

Building Rapport

Recently I was asked โ€“ โ€œHow do you build rapport?โ€
Rapport – โ€œa relationship characterized by agreement, mutual understanding, or empathy that makes communication possible or easy – a friendly, harmonious relationship.โ€
I see rapport as being the sense of connection that I may have with someone.
When you have good rapport itโ€™s like being in sync with someone, and are mutually interested in each other. Often youโ€™ll discover that you have similar feelings and emotions too.
It is also about effective communication and building a healthy camaraderie.
Building rapport is all about establishing that connection and the process of creating deeper relationships.

Top Tips

Firstly, start with yourself!
You really need to know and understand your truest self. Who are you, what are your core values, what are your interests and hobbies, how do you go about getting things done? Importantly โ€“ do not pretend to be someone youโ€™re not!
Secondly, empathy is key.
What is empathy? Itโ€™s understanding how others feel and being compassionate toward them. The key part to empathy is being genuinely curious. Donโ€™t just stand in another personโ€™s shoes, go, and actually take a walk in them!
Thirdly, ask questions.
Some variation of โ€œtell me about yourselfโ€ is often a great way to start a conversation. Asking questions can remove uncomfortable small talk and help you get into more meaningful conversations.
Fourthly, listen!
Active listening means giving your full attention to someone who is speaking. If someone feels like you are hearing them, they will likely listen to you in return, which can establish a good relationship and build great rapport.
Fifthly, take time to understand.
When you take the time to really understand someone, youโ€™ll begin to be able to see the world from the other personโ€™s perspective. It helps to find some common ground and create some shared experiences together.
I know that building great rapport will improve your relationships and will make you a better communicator.
What can you do to build rapport?

Stay in the Boat

โ€œLetโ€™s get in the boatโ€ I said.

However, it wasnโ€™t quite the trip the Mission Leadership Council (MLC) members were quite expecting!

It reminded me of a talk given by Elder M. Russell Ballard some years ago entitled โ€œStay in the Boat and Hold On!โ€ I highly recommend it.

In his talk Elder Ballard said, โ€œIn searching the scriptures and the words of past and current apostles and prophets, we should focus on studying, living, and loving the doctrine of Christ.โ€

Staying true to Jesus Christ is like staying safe in a boat.

Yesterday we did embark upon a few adventures of our own and held on!

We welcomed five new members to the MLC.

The mission home was filled to capacity.ย  We loved having everyone here.

Counselling Together

In our council session, we spent time understanding the doctrine of Christ, discussed the Lordโ€™s timing and completed a team building activity on balance, to strengthen our collaboration together.

In addition, we also learned about earnest fasting, searching the scriptures, supplication in prayer and looking smart in our missionary endeavours.

Oh, and lunch was delicious too.ย  Echt lekker ๐Ÿ˜Š

Working with the missionaries is not only a spiritually edifying experience, but also a lot of fun too โ€“ the pictures below testify of that!

We laughed, we cried, we talked, we listened, we played, we counselled, we prayed, we sang, and we learned lots together.

Our discussions were like the essential supplies, safety guidelines and instructions required to make our way down the river of life to our final destination.

There is nothing quite like these gatherings, frankly, they are an inspiration.

You can depend upon the missionaries.

If any one of you have fallen out of the boat, or want to get into the boat, we will do our best to find you, minister to you, and pull you safely in.

Why not join us and jump on board โ€œOld Ship Zionโ€ โ€“ youโ€™ll love the journey!

#HearHim #ldsmissionary #ldsmission #LetGodPrevail

Medium…

๐–๐ก๐ž๐ซ๐ž ๐ฐ๐ข๐ฅ๐ฅ ๐จ๐ฎ๐ซ ๐ฃ๐จ๐ฎ๐ซ๐ง๐ž๐ฒ ๐ฅ๐ž๐š๐ ๐ญ๐จ๐๐š๐ฒ?
Monic and I love to take walks through Leidschendam.
The length of our walk is generally determined by the amount of time we have allocated to exercise in our daily routines.
We have identified three routes.
Short โ€“ 20 minutes
Medium โ€“ 40 minutes
Long โ€“ 1 hour
Our morning conversation usually goes something like this.
โ€œIs it short, medium or long today?โ€
Yesterday, we decided the โ€œmediumโ€ walk was in order.
We then put in the necessary effort to make the journey.
As usual, we enjoyed our walk together.
Talking, observing, laughing, sharing and planning.
Regularly we are surprised how very few people we see out walking.
Oftentimes, we will complete our walks without meeting a soul.
Yesterday we especially enjoyed seeing and hearing the green parakeets. There were about 10 of them and they like to make a lot of noise.
In addition, we loved seeing many little ducklings.
Slowing down allows us to see, feel and hear different things.
It is during our walks that I notice many simple moments are filled with a sense of connection and peace.
Why is that we miss so many moments in our own life?
Is it that there are always more busy thoughts that preoccupy our minds?
Itโ€™s time to slow down.
Where will your journey lead today?

Words Matter

Do you listen to your heart?

Words matter.

All week long one word has played continually into my thoughts.

Iโ€™ve felt as if it has been etched not only upon, but also into my heart and mind.

No matter where I went, or what I did, it would always return.

Itโ€™s an unusual word.

Indefatigabilityโ€ฆ! (Dutch โ€“ onvermoeibaarheid)

I wasnโ€™t even too certain what it meant, so I looked up the dictionary definition.

โ€œTireless determination, incapable of being tired out; not yielding to fatigue; untiring.โ€

I reflected upon the definition for a while.

I questioned myself and asked “What does this word mean for me?”

After a while, I began to understand.

Day in, day out, week in, week out, I am surrounded by young missionaries who possess the most remarkable indefatigable spirit.

I am with them, constantly.

Being with them one by one, in group training sessions and large conferences, I am reminded of the desire of their hearts to share their witness and testimony of Jesus Christ.

They all take several knocks โ€“ daily.

GRIT

Yet, each of them possesses grit!

True grit!ย  And Iโ€™m not talking about John Wayne!

A toughness, an indefatigable resilient courage, to bounce back, again and again and again.

As defined by Angela Duckworth, grit is โ€œOur passion and perseverance to reach long term goals.โ€

I am so grateful for my association with each and every one of them.

They have been called from many different countries and cultures all across the world to bring a message of hope and peace to a world that is in constant peril and commotion. (2 Timothy 3:3/D&C 45:26)

Through my personal interactions with each of them, I am a witness to the fact, that they possess an indefatigable zeal and testimony of the message they share.

It is a message of great hope, peace and centred in their love of Jesus Christ.

I know that when the focus of our lives is on Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy, regardless of what is happeningโ€”or not happeningโ€”in the world or in our lives.

As President Russell M. Nelson has said โ€œthe joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.โ€

If you want to find real joy, peace, purpose and meaning in life, then I suggest you listen to your heart.

Reach out to one of these indefatigable young men or young women today. They will help refocus your life.

#HearHim

Warnings!

โ€œThere it goes againโ€ โ€“ I thought.
At that moment yesterday, I knew the exact date and time.
All over the Netherlands, the public warning sirens are tested at exactly 12.00 noon on the first Monday of every month (except on national holidays)
The siren sounds for 1 minute and 26 seconds without interruption. (I am not sure why it is that precise period of time โ€“ perhaps a Dutch person can tell me why?)

Why do they do it?

It is a test signal, so if you know what it is, there is nothing to worry about!
If you donโ€™t (foreigners like me) then that is another matter!
I can remember hearing it for the first time 12 months ago in Leeuwarden, it was a little disconcerting, as I had absolutely no idea what it was. Yet people were just going about their business as normal.
It is certainly a great way to identify tourists!
There are approximately 3800 sirens across the country.
They are a constant reminder to take action – if necessary.
The Dutch word for it is โ€œWaarschuwingsstelselโ€
The Government tests the sirens regularly, so people living here know exactly what they mean, and what they should do if there was indeed an emergency of some kind.
If the sirens are heard on any other day of the month, then it is not a test and people are advised to go inside โ€“ immediately, shut all doors and windows and turn on the television or radio for further instructions and updates.
There is now an additional system which sends a text message to every mobile device, which is tested twice a year.
For people whoโ€™ve never heard the test before it can be a confusing and slightly worrying 90 seconds.
Warning signals are everywhere – do we heed them?
What constant reminders to take action do you hear?
I have heard a few teases about the alarm.
One of my favourites was โ€œThat means itโ€™s time to put your clogs onโ€ฆ itโ€™s the law.โ€
Perhaps there are a few gullible folks, who may just believe that one!
How did you react on hearing it for the first time?
Do you have any unusual traditions where you live?

The Enos Challenge

๐–๐ก๐š๐ญ ๐๐จ ๐ฒ๐จ๐ฎ ๐ฌ๐ญ๐ฎ๐๐ฒ?
โ€œStudying โ€“ the act of texting, eating and watching Netflix with an open textbook nearbyโ€ โ€“ thatโ€™s one definition at least!
Growing older, Iโ€™ve discovered that I love to study, i.e., โ€œdevoting time and attention to gain knowledgeโ€ โ€“ perhaps that is a more traditional definition!
In Doctrine & Covenants 88:118, the Lords describes how to learn the gospel โ€œโ€ฆyea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.
Reading and studying are both part of the learning process.
So โ€“ is there a difference between the two?
Another definition I found suggests that – Studying means to concentrate and devote time in completing or researching any task; while reading means to understand and grasp the meaning of any content without devoting much time to it.
In simple terms, โ€œyouโ€™re only going to get out of this what you put into it.โ€ โ€“ Boyd K. Packer.
Whilst listening to a podcast in our pre-mission training, we were encouraged to take the Enos challenge.
The invitation was to study the one chapter of Enos in the Book of Mormon for 30 days.
My immediate thought was โ€œHow can I study Enos for 30 days, there are only 27 verses!โ€
However, I accepted the challenge and learned many wonderful lessons, as I slowed down and studied those verses, one by one.
The book of Enos is like a pure journal entry and is a very personal chapter of scripture.
There was indeed much to learn.

The Process of Studying…

The process of studying the scriptures has three important parts:
1 – Understanding the background and setting of the scriptures.
2 – Identifying the principles and doctrines being taught.
3 – Applying those truths to our own lives.
I learned that studying is better when you take your time, by looking out for key words, youโ€™ll discover that truths about Jesus Christ are everywhere.
Recently I invited all of the missionaries to complete the Enos challenge.
I love this piece of street art graffiti in Friesland.
It was a timely serendipitous find by Tess Flake upon her completion of the challenge!
Have you ever taken time to study the scriptures?
Enos may be a good place to start!

A still small voice.

๐ˆ๐ฌ ๐ข๐ญ ๐š๐›๐จ๐ฎ๐ญ ๐ฐ๐ก๐š๐ญ ๐ฒ๐จ๐ฎ ๐ฌ๐ž๐ž, ๐ก๐ž๐š๐ซ ๐จ๐ซ ๐Ÿ๐ž๐ž๐ฅ?
I am surrounded by people who speak different languages.
Dutch, English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German and many more are a constant in my life.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to communicate and understand.
Yet, the language of the spirit helps us distinguish truth from error.
โ€œFor this peopleโ€™s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.โ€ โ€“ Matthew 13:15
Do you want to be healed?

The example of the Prophet Elijah

In 1 Kings chapters 18 & 19, the Prophet Elijah had to flee for his life to escape the rage of Jezebel. In those chapters we learn about the language of the spirit and how he heard the voice of the Lord.
โ€œA great and strong windโ€ surged and shattered rocks into pieces.
โ€œBut the Lord was not in the wind.โ€
After the wind came an earthquake.
โ€œBut the Lord was not in the earthquake.โ€
After that โ€œa fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.โ€
Finally, after these dramatic demonstrations of Godโ€™s power came โ€œa still small voice.โ€
I know that we can all understand the language of the spirit as we hearken to the voice of the Lord.
He can communicate with all of us โ€“ if we will listen to our hearts.
The voice of the Lord is ๐’”๐’•๐’Š๐’๐’.
The voice of the Lord is ๐’”๐’Ž๐’‚๐’๐’.
The voice of the Lord ๐’˜๐’‰๐’Š๐’”๐’‘๐’†๐’“๐’”.
The voice of the Lord can touch our ๐’‰๐’†๐’‚๐’“๐’•๐’”.
I have learned that the voice is often felt, rather more than it is heard.
If you come seeking and listening, you too can be guided by the language of the spirit.
It should be listened to.
Please slow down.
Be still and quiet.
Consider what really matters most.
When we get ourselves quiet enough, we can hear Him giving us the direction that we need.
No matter what earthly language you speak, you too can hear and will feel the guidance of the language of the spirit.
It really is all about what you see, hear and feel.

Mission Service

Recently, I have been asked this a few times; โ€œWhat do you do as Mission Leaders?โ€

My response was โ€œMany things!โ€

One of our key responsibilities that Monic and I share is for the well-being of our missionaries.

Let me explain furtherโ€ฆ.

Mission life is segmented into a 6-week transfer cycle.

Each cycle starts and ends with arrivals & departures of missionaries.

In between our days are regularly filled with preparation, planning, training sessions, conferences, leadership meetings, travel, medical issues, phone calls, zoom sessions and much more, not forgetting of course, our precious regular catch-up time with family time too, via Zoom!

Professionally, as a coach and counsellor, one of my favourite things to do in life has always been 1-1 coaching sessions. During the 6-week cycle, every missionary in the mission (currently 51) has personal 1-1 time with each mission leaders. In mission lingo, they are called interviews, but essentially, having sat through thousands of coaching sessions, that is exactly what they are.

The last few days have been filled with these sessions.

Each interview (mini coaching session) begins and ends with prayer.

In between, we slow down, talk, laugh, cry, catch up, share, consider, counsel, challenge, soften, teach, learn and ultimately, we listen.

Listening

In fact, we listen a lot.

Then we listen a little more.

Some time ago, I shared a thought about the word โ€œlistenโ€.

The word has six letters. Rearrange them and the word โ€œsilentโ€ is formed. In Dutch the six letters become even shorter, with only four โ€œstilโ€

Frequently, I find as I listen, oftentimes a missionary will suddenly go quiet. Years ago, I used to feel a little awkward when the first quiet spell sets in, but now I understand that these are the moments of real inspiration, when they are thinking.

I donโ€™t know what they are thinking, only that they are thinking!

Experience has taught me that it is in these very quiet active times, when the least seems to be happening, that the most is actually happening.

In those quiet moments one missionary recently shared this verse of scripture, found in Psalms 46:10 โ€œBe still and know that I am Godโ€ฆโ€ Regularly, we hear the whisperings of the Holy Ghost to guide each of us in our missionary work. It is beautiful, reassuring and fills our hearts with love and pure knowledge.

Learning to be still

To listen and to be silent (still) are inseparably connected.

These short interview sessions are by design an opportunity to learn, to listen and grow.

What I have learned most in my life has come in many ways, but the largest part has come from listening to those with much greater experience than me. Generally, it tends to be those who have lived longer and learned many important things that I needed to know โ€“ one of which is learning how to be quiet, to be still and to listen.

Now however, we are being taught frequently by those much younger than ourselves. Daily we find, tender mercies from the Lord, as He has prepared these young people (18 to 26 years of age) to preach the gospel to the world. Indeed, it is a mighty miracle.

We are off to do some more mini-coaching sessions.

Please choose to slow down, be quiet, learn to listen, listen to learn, then you too will hear the whisperings of the spirit of the Lord.

#HearHim

Don’t just do something, sit there!

“Don’t just do something, sit there!”- is a phrase I have stumbled across several times recently.

It’s extremely difficult NOT to do something these days. In the frenetic pace of life, whether it is a work task, an urgent assignment, homework, something needs fixing, the school run – taking time to “sit there” and think, rarely (if ever) tops the list of things to do.

We think far too seldomly. Conversely, we tell ourselves not to think, by saying “don’t just sit there, do something!” In several coaching sessions and workshops recently, this theme has been a topic of some healthy conversation. Ultimately, our discussion peaks at the realisation that we need to think, before we act. The lesson is that we need to put the thinking in before the doing.

In my own life, there have been many times that I have felt a bit harried, time poor and harassed. Then, some years ago, I decided and chose to change. I realised that I needed to simply “sit there” for a while every day and declutter my noisy mind. As an early riser, the first hour of every day is my precious contemplation time. Those 60 minutes of thought and study are a daily gift to myself.

A little time set aside daily to think about what really matters makes all the difference.

When will you “sit there?”