Monday, July 28, 2014

Very Special Baptism

On Sunday, July 6, 2014 Ethlyn Richardson was baptized in the Den Haag Ward.  

Eighteen months ago President and I, along with Elder Stanley and Elder Gomez, were returning from a baptism in Apeldoorn Zone.  I needed some grocery items from a store for the next day and insisted we stop to shop even though is was evening and the Elders still had to get home.  I went to quickly get the items I was in need of and left President with the Elders to take care of themselves for a while.  When I was done shopping and ready to checkout, I went in search of the missing missionaries.  I found the three of them in the fish department taking to a women and getting an address and phone number so the Elders could make an appointment.  Then we left.

Now, the story from President's perspective.  President went to show the Elders all the fresh fish in the fist department of the store.  They were contacting a few of the people, doing what missionaries do.  A lady walked out and asked them what they were doing.  They did their 'missionary contacting' with her.  She was interested and agreed to an appointment.

Now, the story from the Ethlyn's perspective.  Her co-workers were watching 'those people' out there bothering customers.  Her co-workers asked her to go out and ask them to leave the store.  She agreed, so she went out to find out who they were and what they were doing.  She was interested in what they were saying, so she gave the missionaries her 
name, address and phone number.

Well, 18 months later and many, many great, diligent, loving and persistent missionaries later (both Elders and Sisters), Sister Ethlyn Richardson was baptized. That's what happens when you are sent out to get rid of the missionaries!  

Sister Robinson, Sister Richardson, President Robinson

Congratulations Ethlyn, we love you!!

President's Weekly Letter #98

Aspiring to Leadership
Something special happened on Saturday, 5 July 2014 in San Paulo, Brazil.  The small, seemingly insignificant country Nederland beat Costa Rica in the quarter finals of the world cup soccer championships.  What makes this interesting is the human nature story within the game.  At the end of regulation, the teams had played to a 0-0 tie, so a shoot-out of 5 tries from each team was required to determine the tie-breaker.  Each try in a shoot-out involves placing the ball 11 meters from the goal; a player on one team tries to kick a goal against the goalie of the other team.  The back-up goalie for Nederland, Jasper Cillessen, was substituted into the game to defend the goal during the shoot-out.  That is virtually never done in professional soccer.  As back-up goalie, Cillessen should have been rusty since he had not been playing in the world cup games.  But, upon deflecting the last 2 shots by Costa Rica, Cillessen became the hero of the game propelling Nederland, in a 4 to 3 shoot-out win, to the Semi-Finals against Argentina.

Cillessen is a large man.  He had carefully studied the tapes of the Costa Rica players to determine their kicking tendencies during shoot-outs and he told each Costa Rica player while he was setting up to kick that he knew where he was going to kick it.  I call that trash talking and intimidation, and when you do it, you better be ready to back it up with action.  At the same time, Costa Rica had only studied Nederland’s regular goalie’s tendencies; they did not know much about the back-up goalie.  Cillessen prepared, studied and was ready to play even though he was a “back up”; not a high profile or highly visible player.

On 1 January 2007, WAC Champions Boise State University (Boise) played the Big 12 Champions Oklahoma Sooners (OU) in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona in what is now called one of the greatest Division 1, college football bowl games ever played.  Boise lead 28-10 in the 3rd Quarter.  But, OU began its come back with a series of scores.  With 1:02 left in regulation play, OU intercepted a pass from Boise quarterback, Jared Zabransky, and scored the go-ahead touchdown with the score 35-28 OU; its first lead of the game.  With 18 seconds left Boise was facing a 4th down with 18 yards to go for a 1st down from OU’s 42 yard line, Boise ran the hook and ladder (pass and lateral), scored and tied the game, forcing overtime.

In overtime, both teams have the opportunity to score in 4 plays from 25 yards out.  OU scored first and kicked the point after thus leading 42-35.  Now Boise had to score in its turn.  Again on 4th down, they put the quarterback in motion in a trick play while the running back took the snap and passed to the wide receiver for the score.  Then Boise called time out while the coaches with the starting quarterback and the back-up quarterback discussed strategy.        

Instead of kicking the extra-point to tie the game and send it into a second overtime, Boise risked defeat to go for the two-point conversion to win.  Boise ran the Statue of Liberty play with three receivers lined up on the right side.  The quarterback faked a pass with his right hand and handed off with his left hand to a running back who ran to the left side untouched into the end zone for the conversion making the final score 43-42 Boise.

I tell these 2 stories to emphasis the importance of everyone on the team doing their best and being prepared regardless of their assignment on the team.  Jasper Cillessen never played in the world cup tournament, yet he was on the team and he did his job as a back-up goalie to stay fit, prepared and productive.  During the time-out in the Boise/OU game, who do you suppose drew-up the Statue of Liberty play?  It was not the coach.  It was the back-up quarterback, Taylor Tharp.  You know the guy who never plays and wears a baseball cap and carries a clipboard on the sidelines during the game.  But, he performed his roll, was fit, ready to play and kept his head in the game.  Jasper Cillessen’s and Taylor Tharp’s efforts made all the difference in the world.

There are many missionaries who aspire to leadership positions in the mission.   These individuals somehow see themselves in competition with each other for positions.  Having ambition and work ethic to rise to the top is a good thing in life and is admirable.  However, in the church this attribute should be bridled.  I know a man who felt so inspired he would be called into a Stake Presidency that he left his family and came home from a vacation in Hawaii to attend stake conference. At conference weekend, he was shocked and disappointed.  As a foot note, he did receive that call years later which, I suppose, validated his inspiration.

Alma escaped from King Noah and led his followers to a land of pure water.  Alma was their high priest and, “…none received authority to preach or to teach except it were by him [Alma] from God.” (Mos. 23:17)  This is consistent with my experience in the church.  Many people are worthy and talented and would do a wonderful job in a given position.  But, as the decision is distilled by fasting, prayer and pondering, the final selection is made followed by the unmistakable confirmation by the Spirit.  So the call is made by the ecclesiastical leader but it comes from the Lord.  And, as time goes by the circumstances usually become clear that the one called and the ones not called are perfect for the time and place and for the people involved where they serve.

There is no ladder to climb in the church.  We are taught, “…I the Lord will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.” (DC 137:9) Essentially, God says He will consider the thought equivalent to the deed for those of you who desire to do more in the kingdom but who may not receive the opportunity. 

I like to think of Gideon.  His life appears to be equivalent to the back-up goalie or back-up quarterback.  There is no mention of him serving in church leadership.  He was a strong man, an enemy to King Noah and swore that he would slay the king. (Mos. 19:4)  He must have had some military authority because he sent men into the wilderness to search for King Noah. (Mos. 19:18)  He counseled with King Limhi not to lay the disappearance of the Lamanite daughters at the feet of the people but on the priests of King Noah. (Mos. 20:17)  He proposed a plan for the people of Limhi to escape from the Lamanites.  Gideon apparently became a teacher in the church (probably in the Sunday school) and contended with Nehor.  He withstood Nehor’s arguments but not the ensuing altercation. He was slain by the sword of Nehor. (Alma 1:7-9)  This man was not high profile but he was, “…a righteous man, yea, a man who has done much good among this people. (Alma 1:13)  For his contribution, he had a valley and a city named after him.

So, my counsel is to bloom where you are planted, lift where you stand, do the work and be diligent and productive in your current assignment.  Here, as in the church at home, people are routinely called and released as particular needs are addressed.  You serve here not to be leaders, but: 

6 … the thing which will be of the most worth unto you will be to declare repentance unto this people, that you may bring souls unto me, that you may rest with them in the kingdom of my Father. Amen. (DC 15:6)

President Robinson

Sunday, July 27, 2014

London England Mission's Gain, Belgium Netherlands Loss

Elder Castellion from Utrecht Ward, Rotterdam Stake has been called to serve in the London England Mission.  However, one transfer prior to leaving for the MTC in England, he was set apart as a missionary and was able to serve one transfer here in the Belgium Netherlands Mission.  July 2, 2014 we said goodbye to him and wished him well for the next two years.  He is a great missionary and have a remarkable influence on others.  We love you.

 President Robinson, Elder Castellion 

Sister Robinson, Elder Castellion, President Robinson

 Goodbye at the airport to a fine missionary.  You will do outstanding in England.

Elder and Sister Seiter Return With Honor

July 4, 2014 President and I welcomed Elder and Sister Seiter to dinner in the Mission Home as they came to the end of their 23 months of service.  The Seiter's will be missed.  They have magnified their callings and for 23 months been about their 'Father's work'.  
During their service the mission has seen many changes.  When they first arrived in the Belgium Netherlands Mission, we had about 80 missionaries.  During their time of service the mission doubled in size, apartment doubled in numbers as well as the increase in districts and zones.  
Along with their missionary responsibilities of the JoVo Center in Den Haag, Elder and Sister Seiter were part of the group of senior couple missionaries that were involved in purchasing and furnishing the 30 plus apartments
 last spring and summer. 
They have been involved in the apartment inspections since that time.  

It didn't matter the assignment that President assigned them, they gladly and cheerfully accepted and then preformed that assignment with perfection.  We love you both and will miss you dearly.  Thank you for your sacrifice, love and service to the Den Haag Ward, the Den Haag District, the Den Haag Zone and the Belgium Netherlands Mission.

 President Scheltinga, Sister Seiter, Elder Seiter, President Robinson

 Sister Robinson, Sister Seiter, Elder Seiter, President Robinson

We pray for your success in the coming years.  Thank you for everything you have done for us and for the Lord here in the Belgium Netherlands Mission.


Wow, President and I feel like quarterly interviews come around every month!  We talked with all 150 missionaries during the first three weeks of July.  We didn't take a lot of pictures, due to the fact we were interviewing, but we got some pictures!

President loves the opportunity to personally and individually interview each missionary.  I love the opportunity to have a 'mom' visit with every missionary. It is a unique experience.  We love and appreciate them and are so humbled by their commitment to serve the Lord and do his work.  They are hard working, diligent and obedient, and humble enough to know when and were to change to  be better if necessary.  

 The Arnhem District, Elder Childs, Elder Bernier, Elder Lindstrom, President Robinson, Elder Conatti, Elder Denny, Elder Besendorfer

 Full view of the church building in Arnhem, Netherlands.

Sister Adams welcomed us to the Breda District for interviews.

Wow, what a warm welcome!

Senior Couples P-Day Outing

On June 28, 2014 the Senior Couples of the Mission had a wonderful P-Day on the island of Texel. It was the last time we could get together before the Seiter's returned home from the mission.
 It is the first island from the mainland that is in the northwestern cost of the Netherlands.  We all met in Den Helder and boarded the ferry to Texel.  

 The seagulls know when and where to get fed.  They followed the ferry over and back.  People would through bread, fries, etc up in the air and they seagulls would catch it.  Just beware of 'bird bombs'!

President Robinson
 We traveled to the top end of the island to see the lighthouse.  The 'strand' was beautiful.  Elder and Sister Romig took the long walk from the road to the edge of the water.

 The wonderful picturesque streets and centrum.  It was fun to just "window shop' and enjoy the afternoon.

 Elder and Sister Romig, Elder and Sister Klyne, President Robinson,
Elder and Sister Seiter.  Missing for the day were Elder and Sister Winmill.

These are wonderful people.  We could not do what is required with their help. The missionaries depend on the Senior Couples for so many things and President and I are grateful for your service.  We currently have five new Senior Couples called to the Belgium Netherlands Mission.  Two couples will be coming in August, two couples will be coming in October, and one couple in November.

Changes in Assistant to the President Assignment

With the June 25th transfer, we has a change in the Assistant to the President assignments.  Elder Sumter has been now been assigned as Zone Leader for his last transfer prior to returning home.  We will miss his insight and hard work as an AP.  Elder Sumter, you have done an outstanding job.  We love you and will miss you on Monday mornings.

 President Robinson, Elder Eastmond, Elder Sumter

We welcome Elder Bishop.  Thank you for accepting the assignment to work with President as an Assistant to the President.  We looking forward to the next transfers together.

 President Robinson, Elder Eastmond, Elder Bishop, Elder Sumter

The mission just keeps changing.  It is amazing to us how quickly time is passing as we see these great missionaries come and go.

The Lord is always preparing missionaries for their new assignments.  

Losing Five Missionaries

As with every transfer, we are so excited to receive new missionaries.  They bring energy and enthusiasm to the mission.  That enthusiasm is a blessing to all the mission.  

As with every transfer, we find it bittersweet to say goodbye to missionaries who have served so well and so diligently.  Many of these missionaries have been part of the leadership of the mission and have truly carried a huge weight of the mission.

We love you and will miss you.

 Elder Gomez, Elder Loorbach, Elder Pimentel, Elder Goethals, Elder Alfaro
President and Sister Robinson

  That evening, after our testimony meeting, we said goodbye to Elder Goethals and sent him with his family who came to pick him up.  The next morning we delivered Elder Loorbach to the Mission Office for his drive home. We then continued to the airport to help the missionaries get on their scheduled flights 

 Elder Pimentel, Sister Robinson, President Robinson, Elder Alfaro, Elder Gomez

 Another opportunity and experience with 'goodbyes'

 We always say goodbye to the best!

 We feel like we are flinging our children to the far corners of the world.

Goodbyes are never easy.

Heavy hearts.

Elder Alfaro, President Robinson, Sister Robinson, Elder Pimentel, Elder Gomez

We wish you all success with the next chapter in your 'book of life', or your mission after your mission.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

We Love New Missionaries

June 24, 2014 we welcomed Sister Bradley and Elder Bonner to the Belgium Netherlands Mission.  These are two really great missionaries.

Sister Bradley, Sister Robinson, President Robinson, Elder Bonner

In the train station at Schipol waiting for the train to Leiden Centraal.
President Robinson and Elder Bonner

Elder Sumter and Sister Bradley at the train station

We met a later flight to receive Elder Neptune into the mission 

President Robinson, Elder Neptune, Sister Robinson

Elder Eastmond, Elder Neptune, Elder Loorbach, Elder Lyman, Elder Evans, Elder Sumter, Elder Bonner, Elder Robbins

Elder Neptune

Sister Bradley

Elder Bonner

Then to the Mission Home for a nap and dinner.  After dinner we had a short Fireside and testimony meeting before opening their 'first call' letters telling them their new area to serve as well as who their companion and trainer will be for the coming transfer.

Sister Bradely will be serving in Amsterdam with Sister Aldous as trainer and companion.

To serve in Amsterdam is a dream of many missionaries!

Elder Bonner will be serving in Amsterdam with Elder Larsen as trainer and companion.  Two lucky missionaries serving in the great city of Amsterdam.

Elder Neptune will be serving in Leiden with Elder Goff as trainer and companion.

Elder Neptune could not be happier!

The next morning we went to the Mission Office to meet the trainers.

Elder Neptune and Elder Goff

President Robinson, Sister Bradley and Sister Aldous

Elder Larsen, Elder Bonner and President Robinson

Now the real work begins. Out the door to the train station and missionary work.  The Spirit goes with them and we testify the Lord goes before them and is on their left hand and on their right….We love you missionaries.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Beloved Senior Couple Returns Home Earlly

On June 19, 2014, we sent Elder and Sister Evenhuis home to their family.  With heavy hearts they returned early due to health concerns.  (We can now report that all is well)

We are so grateful for the Evenhuis' and their tremendous service to the Belgium Netherlands Mission, Amsterdam Zone, Almere District and Lelystad Branch.  We love you, miss you and thank you for your unique and lasting impact on the missionaries and members you served, your many friends and neighbors who are not members of the church and your investigators.

 President Robinson, Sister Robinson, Sister Evenhuis, Elder Evenhuis, and President Scheltinga
President and Sister Robinson, Sister and Elder Evenhuis, President Scheltinga

At the airport the next morning, President visits one last time before they go through passport check.

President Robinson, Elder and Sister Evenhuis

With deep gratitude, we thank you for everything.

Temporary Good Bye

On June 16, 2014 we said goodbye to Elder Rauma at Schipol Airport.  Elder Rauma has received a medical release to return home to regain his health. Elder Rauma is committed to his recovery and we are supporting his efforts to return as soon as possible.  We love you Elder Rauma.  You are in our thoughts and prayers.  Hurry back, you are missed by us and all of your fellow missionaries.

 President Robinson, Elder Rauma, Sister Robinson

 Hurry back, Elder Rauma.

 The one reason this is bearable is that Elder Rauma will return to finish as soon as possible.  Our prayers and love go with you.

 Not Goodbye, Tot volgende keer. 

President's Letter #97

Leadership in the Church
Every missionary is a leader. You lead investigators and members to become, “true followers…of Jesus Christ,” (Mor. 7:48) in the work of salvation.  This is the purpose of leadership in the church and is behind every calling in the church including calls to lead a companion or other missionaries in the mission field.  Section 3 of Handbook 2, Church Administration, outlines principles of Leadership in the Church as you help others become faithful disciples.  These leadership principles transcend the church and also work in business, at home and other relationships in your life.  These principles are worth learning and perfecting.

Prepare Spiritually.  I am a jogger.  I do not know if it makes me healthier but jogging in the morning makes me feel better all day long.  Jogging prepares me for a good day.  Early one Sunday morning in Flowell, Utah in November 1996, I was jogging past our Ward meeting house.  The pickup trucks of the Bishopric were parked in the parking lot; they were meeting in the building.  I remember thinking about the great work they had done for the past 5 years.  It occurred to me that they should soon be released.  The Spirit then flooded over me and I not only knew I would be the new Bishop but I was also given who my councilors should be.  I stopped and looked at the building, amazed at what had just happened.  When the call came in late December, I had already humbled myself before the Lord and begun spiritually preparing myself for that intense and rewarding experience.  Leaders must be converted and be growing spiritually.  Through this preparation you will receive inspiration to guide you in your personal life and your calling.  The Lord said, “…if ye are prepared ye shall not fear,” (DC 38:30).  You are all leaders.

Participate in Councils.  All levels in the church are governed by councils such as the Council of the First Presidency, the Bishopric, Ward Council, Relief Society Presidency, High Council, Mission Leader Council, etc.  In councils, leaders meet under the direction of the presiding officer.  Members of councils are encouraged by the presiding officer to share their honest feelings and ideas, communicate clearly and listen to one another.  Effective councils unify their efforts in responding to needs of individuals first and then the organization.  The presiding officer has the responsibility to make the final decision, but this normally comes only after unity is reached by members of the council.

At Sunrise we tried to duplicate this church leadership model.  As the CEO, I appointed two Senior Vice Presidents, we were akin to a Stake Presidency.  We counseled with each other and delayed decisions regarding day to day operations until we were unified.  The Board of Directors was much like a High Council.  As President of the Board I tried, and usually succeeded, in encouraging discussion of issues (the strategic and corporate policy decisions) until unity of all Board members was reached.  Our rule was that every member always publicly supports the decision after the meetings.

You must always play your role in a council run organization for that organization to work with harmony and unity.  For example, at various times, I have been the Bishop or the presiding officer, a member of the Ward Council such as Young Men President and a Sunday school teacher not on the Ward Council.  As the bishop I had to facilitate discussion and make decisions.  As a council or organization member, I was responsible to follow my leader.

Minister to Others.  The most important function of leadership in the Church is to minister to the spiritual and temporal needs of individuals.  Ministering means to reach out to individuals, love them without judging them, remember their names, establish sincere friendships, teach them, etc.  Managing the organization is not the top priority.  This Lord said:
5 Wherefore, be faithful; stand in the office which I have appointed unto you; succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.  (DC 81:5)

106 And if any man among you be strong in the Spirit, let him take with him him that is weak, that he may be edified in all meekness, that he may become strong also. (DC 84:106)

Always be training your replacement and your greatest desire should be to see people excel.  After I served as Bishop the next two Bishops in the Flowell Ward had been my Executive Secretary and my 2nd Councilor.  Plus, I was happy to see a substantial up-tick from my performance when those two gentlemen served as Bishop.  Give people opportunities to serve and the Lord will qualify those he calls as they exercise faith, work diligently, receive instructions and receive support.  Another word for this is delegation.  Always explain the purpose of assignments, check their progress, express appreciation for their efforts and ask people to report back.

Teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  All leaders are teachers.  Most everyone has been to seminars where famous speakers come and deliver very appealing speeches that inspire.  You resolve to change your life and 9 times out of 10 by the end of the week you have forgotten what was said and you are back to your old habits.  But, effective teaching by leaders not only inspires people but also motivates people to do something different.

The most powerful teaching of leaders comes from their personal example.  At Sunrise, I had been in the business for 35 years, I had successfully done many projects and seen many situations.  My employees knew this and therefore my personal example gave me moral authority.  I could literally say, “Follow me.  I have done this successfully before.”  They respected that and welcomed the assistance on their projects.

At Sunrise, I taught the doctrine of engineering to employees:  how to design projects to deliver the best value for the client’s dollar, how to write contract documents to keep us out of court, how to work effectively with contractors, clients and agencies, etc.

In the Church, you teach doctrine of the gospel from the scriptures and latter day prophets.  Ensure that teachings are meaningful, edifying, doctrinally sound and needed.  Warn against sin but love the sinner.  Always encourage reverence, a calm and peaceful attitude of worship and respect toward God.

“The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.”  (Boyd K. Packer, Little Children, Nov. 1987 Ensign)

Administer the Organization.  At Sunrise we understood that regardless of the engineered piping and concrete we put into the ground with excellent blue prints and engineering procedures, we were still in the people business.  Every business activity was focused on the people we worked for or with on each project.  We found much less success when we focused on the project instead of the people we were serving.

The whole purpose of church leadership is to do the work of salvation by assisting people to be true followers of Jesus Christ.  The organization must still be operated and programs planned, but it is essential that leaders organize and plan activities, lessons and other efforts to bless the lives of individual people.  Always plan with a purpose to this end and evaluate after the activity how well the plan accomplished its purposes.  Always use church handbooks, reports, instructions, training materials and magazines to help fulfill your duties.

President Robinson