Blossoming in the Netherlands

By Marvin K. Gardner and Brian K. Kelly

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    In Winter, the brown earth appears lifeless, dead. The vibrant colors of last year’s tulip blossoms are a faded memory, and next year’s flowering is a matter of faith. For now, the bulbs are sleeping, buried in the cold ground.

    In spring, the warm sun gently coaxes the green growth back to the surface. Blossoms burst forth again. Fields are awash with life and color.

    Spring flowers are traditional symbols of birth, life, and resurrection. At Easter time, Latter-day Saint youth in The Hague Netherlands Stake are surrounded by tulips, daffodils, and crocuses. The blossoms are magnificent reminders that life does not end with the temporary separation we call death—and that all will live again because of the glorious resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

    These young Dutch Saints are proud of their land and its beauty. And although they are faced with many worldly challenges, the beauty of the gospel is mirrored in their lives and faces.

    What helps them stay strong? Their first answer is usually seminary. Other responses include prayer, scriptures, parents and family, patriarchal blessings, Young Men and Young Women activities, service projects, youth conferences, trips to the temple (in Germany), and working with the full-time missionaries. According to Jan Prins, below, the Latter-day Saint youth stick together and strengthen one another.

    You won’t find many traditional wooden shoes being worn in the Netherlands these days, except by field workers. But many windmills—old picturesque ones and new high-tech ones—are still hard at work. The windmills pump water from land that is below sea level, canals carry the water out to the sea, and dikes hold the sea back. Through this method, the Dutch have claimed much land from the sea—turning it into useable, productive farmland.

    In a similar way, when people fully embrace the gospel and turn their lives over to the Lord, they are reclaimed—transformed through his infinite power, mercy, and grace.

    “I was home teaching and had to give the lesson,” says Jos Reijnders, 16, below. “I talked about Jesus Christ, the Resurrection, and life after death. While I was teaching the lesson, I felt it was true. I almost cried because I really felt it deep inside me.”

    “Sometimes, life gets very difficult,” says Nel Prins, 19, above, with her brothers Jan, 16, and Henk, 17. “But the Lord is helping me. I often have discussions with him in my thoughts. I know he is there for me and that I can count on him.”

    “In seminary, I have learned that the stories in the Bible are true,” says Henk. “Now I know what Jesus Christ really did for me and why he had to die. I feel closer to him now.”

    Talita van der Put, 17, above: “I keep to my standards, and my friends know what I stand for. I can have fun without drinking and using drugs.”

    “Almost all of the kids in my school smoke,” says Tanya Broekman, 16. “A lot of them don’t do very good things—and then they try to push me into doing those things. I say no, and they think I’m crazy. It’s hard for them to understand why I go to church and believe what I do.”

    “In my school I’m the only member of the Church,” Jos Reijnders reports, echoing similar experiences of many of the LDS youth. “There’s a lot of pressure to be involved in sex before marriage, because the media makes it look normal. I just say no because I want to wait until I’m married. I’ve already made that decision.”

    “I received a testimony through reading the scriptures daily with my father,” says Robbert Kat, 14, above. “Each morning, we read scriptures together and work on my home-study seminary course.”

    “I know that the Lord lives and that he always helps me when I ask for help,” says Gaby Jansen, 16, left. “I think the Lord blesses me every day.”

    Martijn Decker, 15: “When my friends ask me to do things I know I shouldn’t do, I say, ‘I’ll just stay away.’ They can do what they want to do, but I can do as I choose.”

    “I often see small things that I consider miracles,” says Jeannette Kleijweg, 15. “For example, I know someone who was not active in the Church for years and years. Then all of a sudden he came back—he completely changed his life and became very active again. I find that it is like a miracle to see something like that.”

    “One of my friends joined the Church last year,” Tanya Broekman, 16, recalls. “I had taken her to church and had invited her to activities. She started to get involved and wanted to know more, and eventually she was baptized.”

    “I’ve been through a lot of things in my life,” says Debbie Reijnders, 18, center, with other members of her early-morning seminary class. “And I have learned a lot from my experiences. As I pray, my Heavenly Father helps me, and I know the things the scriptures say are true. I have a testimony of Jesus Christ and of what he has done for me. This helps me go through life and be faithful in the gospel.”

    Photography by Marvin K. Gardner and Brian K. Kelly