My mission president was Peter Dalebout (1968-1971). He was a native Dutchman who immigrated to the USA when he was just a boy. He started his new life in America as a dirt poor Dutch kid not even knowing English. But, he had big dreams and worked hard. He eventually owned and operated a steel fabrication plant in Long Beach, California. He reportedly made a lot of money as a steel tycoon. He was tough and expected exact obedience. He motivated me.
The Netherlands Mission boundaries then were the same as they are today. If I remember correctly, there was 1 Stake in the mission covering the Rotterdam and Den Haag area. The rest of the units of the church in the mission were wards and branches grouped into a number of member Districts. President Dalebout administered not only to the affairs of the full time missionaries but he also administered, equivalent to a Stake President, to the affairs of the member Districts. One of his councilors in the mission presidency was Jacob de Jager, a terrific missionary and leader. He understood the Lord’s admonition:
“And ye are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect; for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts.” (D&C 29:7)
I knew him and loved his stories and friendship. Jacob de Jager was a personable and dynamic leader who traveled the world working as a top director for Phillips Electronics. He was later called by President Kimball to serve as a Regional Representative of the 12 and later a member of the first Quorum of 70. He was the first Dutch general authority in the church. I heard him on a few occasions tell the following story:
“You never know whom you will save. To illustrate my point, I would like to go back in thought to my native Holland where six generations of my father’s ancestors lived in the little village of Scheveningen at the seashore. They were fishermen or had other related vocations, like fishing-boat builders, sail makers, or fishing-net repairmen. Many of them were also involved in the voluntary but hazardous task of lifesaving. They were stouthearted, experienced men who always were ready to man the rowing lifeboats to go on a rescue mission. With every westerly gale that blew, some fishing boats ran into difficulties, and many times the sailors had to cling to the rigging of their stricken ships in a desperate fight to escape inevitable drowning. Year after year the sea claimed its victims.
On one occasion during a severe storm, a ship was in distress, and a rowboat went out to rescue the crew of the fishing boat. The waves were enormous, and each of the men at the oars had to give all his strength and energy to reach the unfortunate sailors in the grim darkness of the night and the heavy rainstorm.
The trip to the wrecked ship was successful, but the rowboat was too small to take the whole crew in one rescue operation. One man had to stay behind on board because there simply was no room for him; the risk that the rescue boat would capsize was too great. When the rescuers made it back to the beach, hundreds of people were waiting for them with torches to guide them in the dreary night. But the same crew could not make the second trip because they were exhausted from their fight with the storm winds, the waves, and the sweeping rains.
So the local captain of the coast guard asked for volunteers to make a second trip. Among those who stepped forward without hesitation was a nineteen-year-old youth by the name of Hans. With his mother he had come to the beach in his oilskin clothes to watch the rescue operation.
When Hans stepped forward his mother panicked and said, “Hans, please don’t go. Your father died at sea when you were four years old and your older brother Pete has been reported missing at sea for more than three months now. You are the only son left to me!”
But Hans said, “Mom, I feel I have to do it. It is my duty.” And the mother wept and restlessly started pacing the beach when Hans boarded the rowing boat, took the oars, and disappeared into the night.
After a struggle with the high-going seas that lasted for more than an hour (and to Hans’s mother it seemed an eternity), the rowboat came into sight again. When the rescuers had approached the beach close enough so that the captain of the coast guard could reach them by shouting, he cupped his hands around his mouth and called vigorously against the storm, ‘Did you save him?’
And then the people lighting the sea with their torches saw Hans rise from his rowing bench, and he shouted with all his might, ‘Yes! And tell Mother it is my brother Pete!’” (Jacob de Jager, (Oct 1976, Ensign, You Never Know Who You May Save)
Elders and Sisters, you are serving full-time missions for a short period of time. You never know who you will save. It may be one tossed by tempests on life’s billows or one missing with parents desperately praying for a rescuer. In any event, it is your brother or sister from the pre-existence. Use your time wisely. To accomplish this consider the following quotes from Elder Ballard when he visited us on 11 September 2014 in Zoetermeer:
Always be the #1 finder. The missionary’s role is always finding even with your Facebook project.
Teach the doctrine of lesson 1 to everyone.
You must be master teachers and know the doctrine. People must feel what you teach.
Conversion always starts with what a person feels.
It is a spiritual work, we are dealing with the spirits of the children of God. This means we must touch their spirit. They need to feel it.
Redding Boots (Rescue Boats) are a rich tradition in the Dutch culture. They were run by brave men with compassion driven by duty and determination to rescue their fellowmen. If I were to characterize the legacy of President Thomas S. Monson at this point, it would be his continued call for the saints to engage in “The Rescue.” No surprise, one of President Monson’s favorite paintings depicts the rescue by redding boots symbolizing your task to rescue people by bringing them to Jesus Christ.