Sunday, July 22, 2012

Working with the Elders and the Sisters

        One of the great blessings that comes with being senior elders and sisters in the mission field is working with the young elders and sisters. It’s not like we haven’t had contact with young missionaries at home. Occasionally, we would have them over for dinner and we always enjoyed it. Out here, working with them presents a whole different perspective. They can do things that are inspiring and that testify to us of the miracles that happen each day. They can also turn around and remind you that they are 19 or 21 year olds who have not quite entered complete adulthood.

The Elders and the Red Opel

        When we first received our assignment to Kiel, we drove a bright blue new Opel from Berlin to Kiel and felt like this car with only a few thousand miles on it would be great fit for the duration of our mission. Unfortunately, one of the first phone calls we received in Kiel was from the mission office. It concerned trading our car with an older Red Opel that the elders had been driving around. The reasoning was something like… “ the elders put on a lot of miles so the newer car would be better for them… and the Red Opel has special features that might be good for the senior couple.” The “special features” were one feature – backup sensors that would warn you when you came to close to something to your rear. So the reasoning became clear to me: Give the old couple the old car. If they hit something it won’t be a huge loss, and since they can’t judge much anymore, give them the car with plenty of warning sounds to scare them. Actually, I didn’t blame them because they were probably right.

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Our Two Great Zone Leaders: Elder Cottrell (l.) and Elder Lloyd (r.) at zone conference.
        The car transfer was one of our first meetings with the Kiel elders, E. Cottrell and E. Skoczylis (E. Skoczlis only had a week left and was replaced by Elder Lloyd). The transfer took place in the parking lot of the hotel where we resided our first week. E. Cottrell expressed disappointment at having to transfer from their old Red Opel to our new Blue one. He mentioned something about special fondness for it because of stickers that the Elders used to put on it, and the fact that it could be driven in either automatic or semi-automatic. Semi-automatic gave it a sporty feel, I guess. I insisted that he should keep the red one on those grounds, but being a dutiful missionary, he insisted on following the mission rules. The red one was ours. The Elders transferred everything between the cars and said goodbye.
        From then until now, we have grown accustomed to that car and are certainly grateful to even have a car. However, it has provided us with a clearer picture of where the elders stand in maturity:
Cleanliness
The scripture about cleanliness is next to godliness must not apply to missionary vehicles . We saw this immediately when we got into the red car. Our very neat and clean blue car (thanks to Sister Frank) was exchanged for a car with papers strewn between the seats together with German pastry bits hidden in various nooks and cracks. Mission rules say clean the cars once a week. I think there is also the exception that says “or trade in the car for a cleaner one.”
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Mechanical Understanding
It was clear as we started out with the red car why the elders liked the variable automatic/manual transmission. They must have worn that automatic right out. The car only had around 70,000 Kilometers on it, but the transmission sounded like it had 200,000. Going from one gear to the next is an adventure. The car moves forward quickly, then pauses briefly to confuse people behind you, then decides to change gears and continue on. This is usually predictable but sometimes the change in gears just doesn’t occur. Fortunately, they didn’t ruin the manual gear selection. That still works until I forget I have it in manual and rev the 1st gear so high that we’re in danger of dropping the whole transmission. I guess I’m not much better than the young elders.

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Two hours waiting for an oil change


Sound Judgement –
        The last incident occurred after I checked the oil about two weeks ago. I looked carefully at the dip stick holding a paper towel so that the oil wouldn’t drip on me or the engine. No worry there. It was black sludge that said to me this oil has never been changed. I quickly found a Pep Boys look-alike and took it in for an oil change. Since it was our first time I didn’t know much about the procedure. We had to leave it there for two hours. It was our P-day, so we said OK and took a walk to a grocery store while they worked on it. I didn’t know the price. On our return, the bill came: 90 €. (that’s about $120 dollars.) It was just a basic oil and filter change! I paid, called the mission office and they told me to send the bill. They reimburse for repairs and maintenance. I felt better about it.
         That was fine until a week later when E. Williams, a senior missionary in the mission office called and accused us of traveling to Spain and Italy on a 50,000 mile adventure. Apparently we had the vehicle registration for the wrong car. The elders had switched the registration when we traded cars. We had the registration for the blue car. When I reported the mileage as 80,000, the mission home figured we had been taking a long vacation with a church vehicle. At the Pep Boys Look-alike, they had taken the car information from the registration I gave them…for the wrong car. Come to find out the elders had transferred everything out of the the blue new car into our red one.
        If that were the end to the story, it would have been OK. I gave the Elders (now Elder Lloyd and Elder Spendlove) their auto registration and then asked for ours. “Sorry. We don’t have it” Apparently, Elder Cottrell who been transferred to Berlin as an AP had been keeping the registration in his wallet rather than the car. Yeah, I know,…why would someone do that?? Now, until I could get the registration back from him, I would be running around in a car without registration, with a failing transmission, but with nice new oil that cost me $120 (which couldn’t be reimbursed until I got the registration back and had the German Pep Boys give me a new receipt.) I could see myself being pulled over and having my license revoked and the car towed away.
        After a couple of weeks, the story ended well, however, and we are happy to even have a car. That is a real blessing to us. But more than that we are truly grateful for these young men who serve here. Their minds may not be on cars and registration, but their minds, hearts and souls are on serving the Lord and they are incredible.
The Sisters

       We have had some great sister missionaries in Kiel. We started out with Sister Peltier and Sister Tidwell. Sister Peltier was at the last two weeks of her mission when we first came to Kiel and was the trainer for Sister Tidwell, who had only been out for a couple of months. They were total opposites, with Sister Peltier being tall and blonde and Sister Tidwell short with dark brown hair. Sister Peltier was quiet and reserved, while Sister Tidwell was very outgoing and loved to tease Elder Frank.

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Sister Tidwell (far left front) Sister Peltier (far right front) with the Timm family (minus a 2yr. old who was napping).

       The sister missionaries don’t have cars, here in Kiel. They ride bicycles everywhere and through heat, rain, wind or show, whatever the weather has in store for them. They also have to ride long distances so they have to be in pretty good shape. If they aren’t in shape when they get here, it doesn’t take them long to get there. The problem they have in Kiel is trying to keep the bicycles in good repair. Then they end up coming to the Zentrum many times, so Elder Frank can tighten up a loose gear, a seat, or put air in tires. They have to keep the bikes well-maintained so that it doesn’t interrupt their missionary work.

       Anyway, about 1 a week after we got to Kiel, Elder and Sister Marks (the senior couple whom we replaced) and Sister Peltier completed their missions and left for home. Sister Laubaugh, from Akron, Ohio (wearing the light blue shirt), became Sister Tidwell’s new companion. Several weeks later we had a feeling that at the next transfer, Sister Tidwell would be transferred, as she had been about four months into her mission and that is usually about the time transfers happen. We were right. It was so hard to see her leave. I felt like I was losing a good friend, and I think she felt the same. Sister Laubaugh then became the trainer for our new “Golden” missionary sister, Sister Diederich (in the polka dot shirt). I can’t believe how attached we become to all of the missionaries, both Elders and Sisters. It is hard to see them move on to their new areas. We know it is for their growth and for the benefit of people who are out there waiting for that special missionary who will touch their hearts and bring them to Christ.

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Sister Diederich and Sister Laubaugh

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(Going round the table from left to right, Elder Cottrell, Elder Risley, Sister Tidwell, Sister Laubaugh, Sister Frank, Elder Sowards and Elder Lloyd.)

       This photo captures  Transfer Day at the RIZ. We cook breakfast for the elders and sisters. They bring a few things too. This time they said they were going to cook us breakfast, but we knew that the Elders and Sisters never have enough time and they didn’t. So we cooked breakfast.  Sister Tidwell ended up being transferred to Halberstadt and Elder Cottrell was transferred to the mission home as Assistant to the President that day. ( Elder Soward (middle right) is our district leader and his companion is Elder Risley (middle left). We love all the missionaries!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Changes and Routines

A New Mission President

        Last Thursday, we had another Zone Conference in Hamburg, but this time it would involve one of the largest changes that comes in a mission, the change of presidents. All the missionaries were excited to meet President and Sister Kosak. As we mentioned in an earlier blog, we had met them before leaving for our mission while they were in on business in Salt Lake. We loved President and Sister Pimentel, but we know that all mission presidents and their wives are called through inspiration and the Kosaks will bring their own special spirit and leadership to the mission. They will be a great couple to preside over our mission. They are both originally from East Germany, but have been living in Russia for the past 8 years where President Kosak worked with the Church Education System, now called “Seminary and Institute.”

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        Zone Conferences are always spiritual feasts for all of us missionaries. President and Sister Kosak told a little about themselves and then sang a beautiful traditional hymn in Russian. They have beautiful voices. We asked them if they would record it and give a copy to us so that we could post it on our blog. We hope they will. Then President Kosak showed a beautiful painting of Jesus Christ as a young boy carrying some wood. Joseph and Mary were off to the side of the picture. Joseph was working at his carpentry and Mary was watching Jesus. Jesus was looking at a pile of wood in the front of the picture that looked as if it might be wood to start a fire. Upon examining the painting more closely, you could see that the wood was piled in the shape of the cross or the Saviors ultimate earthly mission. He pointed out that this was what the Savior thought about and lived for. His talk was about Christ’s mission on the earth and how we, as missionaries, need to keep our minds focused on the mission of the Savior and his Atonement.

        He then showed a painting of an eye and in the reflection of the eye, a likeness of the Savior. Of course this is a very brief summary of his messages to us. These were serious and sacred topics, but you could also see his understanding of people and his sense of humor always present at the appropriate moment.

        Sister Kosak gave her message from a little quote that was painted and professionally framed. I’m not sure where she had bought it, but I think she said Seagull Book. The verse said, “After the test comes the testimony.” She then opened up a discussion on what that means. Both President and Sister Kosak’s messages were great and we were all blessed to have been there.

        The Elders from our District were asked to give one of the “Themas,” and I really loved their analogy when they compared the game of golf to a mission. When you golf you have 18 holes. At each one, you want to do your best. Sometimes as hard as you try, you still don’t make par on every hole. The great thing is that you start new at each T-box and many times you are successful at beating your last score. So it is with our missions.

        At Zone Conference, we always have those new missionaries or “Goldens” and “Finishers” missionaries bear their testimonies. One of the new “Goldens” was giving his testimony in English and the President said to use German. It was really funny because without missing a beat, the missionary added to his sentence by saying “und” which means “and,” and then stumbled his way through the rest of his testimony with German. The missionaries do come from the MTC with enough German to get started pretty well.

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        (photo above) Of course, no zone conference would be complete without feeding the missionaries. This one was fed by two of our young adults and their sister and brother-in-law. Miriam Lohmann (20, who is going on a mission as soon as she turns 21) and Roby (18, who eats more at our institute dinners than anyone else) can be seen in this photo serving all of us a great meal. Footnote: When the president thanked all of them for dinner, the youngest son (seated on the floor) stood and yelled in German “I didn’t have anything to do with it”. We all got a good laugh out of that.

        (photo below) Elders and sisters enjoying the meal. Hamburg Stake Center. (below that) Our Kiel Zone Leaders (Cottrell from Garland, Utah (left), Lloyd from SLC (right).

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Life at the RIZ

Elders, Sisters, and Water

        As I look over our blog, I realize that we’ve included quite a few activities that don’t involve our weekly missionary routine. In fact, some of our friends accuse us of being on an extended vacation. Just to clear that up, this is definitely not a vacation. As a good friend of ours said to us before we left. “They don’t call it missionary WORK for nothing.” And, of course, we don’t want to change that impression at all. So here goes. These are some of our work duties at the RIZ – The Center for Young Adults located in Kiel.

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        On each Monday morning, we need to be at the Riz in the morning to let the elders and sisters get onto the computers to complete their emails home. Monday is their P-day, and that is the only day they are allowed to get on the internet in order to communicate with family and friends. We enjoy talking to them and helping when needed to console them or hear their stories. That, of course, isn’t work until they start going on and on about the melodramas in their lives. I let Sister Frank take care of those dramas while I help fix their bikes or something else. During that day, we take care of cleaning the RIZ i.e. mopping floors, cleaning the toilet facilities, dusting and things like that. I hadn’t planned on being needed to do maintenance also, but I think that must be part of our calling too as I found out a week or so ago.

        Over the past couple of weeks, we have had sudden downpours beyond the normal Kiel rain showers that occur for a few minutes then lead to sunshine, breezes and the usual 70 degree temperatures. These were major thunderstorms that lead to flooding in the cellar of the RIZ. The first one came on a Friday evening, June 29. We were involved that evening in a Young Adult Fireside and Barbecue. Originally, the activity was going to held at a local Strand (beach). The leaders had grills and meat for grilling and there was plenty of food. They even had bundles of wood to burn in a fire on the beach that would be the backdrop for a spiritual fireside where Elder G√ľnther Borcherding, previous mission president to the Germany Berlin Mission, was going to be the speaker. Unfortunately, during the day the Council leader sent out an email telling everyone to plan on the fireside at the RIZ because of the storm coming in. We had a great night anyway. Brother Borcherding was great , but during the fireside presentation the rain began. We ended the night by grilling inside on an electric grill (most meat brought was in the form of wurst’s (brats and other sausages) so we could get a lot on the small grill. Sister Frank and I helped in the kitchen with preparation and cleanup and listened to the rain outside. In amount it was unlike most Utah rainstorms; fun just to watch that amount of water come down. After It quieted down, a few of us walked outside and saw blue public service trucks with flashing lights at a nearby building. Apparently, they were pumping out a cellar. One of the Council leaders mentioned our cellar, so I went downstairs. There it was – two inches of water throughout the basement. That included a mechanical room with water heaters (for room heating and water), electrical controls etc., a storage room with our paper goods and supplies, a storage room with somebody’s drums, and some dungeon-like small rooms that I haven’t investigated yet. They were all under water. Fortunately, we got the men to come right over and pump our out, but they could only get so much, so I ended coming over on the next day (P-day) and doing the cleanup, water, mud and all.

        In some ways, it was good for me. I asked Sister Frank to stay home. I knew she would start mopping and that wouldn’t be good for her back. It wasn’t great for mine either, but it was good for my psyche. By the time I got through I actually felt like I deserved to be at the Center. I had investigated the cellar and probably knew as much about what was there as anyone. The work was my initiation giving me the right to tell most people I was in charge now.

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        That feeling didn’t last long, however. I’m sure I cleaned that basement better than it had been cleaned in quite a while. But, you know what happens with PRIDE. The next Friday, the elders called me to come to the RIZ and help them teach a lesson to one of their investigators. During the evening, the rains came again as we were on our way out. I was the last one out and before I left, I thought about the celler and told the elders to go ahead. I would take a quick look to make sure things were OK downstairs. I went down and heard the water. I turned on the light and saw water pouring in under the green door leading outside. There was nothing I could do. I just watched as it filled my nicely cleaned basement with dirt and water once again. There were no blue trucks outside, so no pumping this time. I didn’t even have the right phone numbers to call. It was close to 10:30 at night and I didn’t know how long the rain would last. I shut the lights off, went home, and dreamt about mopping floors up floors the next day.

Meals at the Center

        We had heard before coming on our mission that we would be cooking dinners for the Young Adults. We didn’t quite understand what that would involve before Kiel. It begins with planning the menu knowing the size of our kitchen, the students’ likes and dislikes, converting recipes to available foods in the stores and, of course, the money we have to spend. Then the shopping takes us out after bargains and sometimes after certain foods as I explain below.

        Our first meal of the week is Monday evenings. We have Familieheimabend (FHE) and after the “Thema” or lesson, we have dinner. I have a wonderful volunteer assistant named Ruth Weyrich. On Mondays only, she helps me prepare dinner. We work together on the dinner and I always make the dessert. She is wonderful to work with, and she makes a great meal out of whatever happens to be on sale that week. She also knows how to prepare for large groups. Some of the other Senior Couples with much larger groups than we have don’t have that luxury. I hope she will want to continue doing this, but she has spent the last three or four years helping several of the Senior Couples, so she may grow tired of it.

        On Wednesdays, which is Institute night, I am on my own preparing dinner and dessert. I like to cook, but preparing for anywhere from 12 to 20 people takes one day for planning and buying, and another day for preparation. Then after dinner we both clean up with a little help from some of the Young Adults. They like to stay around and talk and we end the cleanup between 10:00 and 11:30 at night. It is hard for me to be on my feet for several hours. Happily, there is a little room off of the kitchen where I can sit for short periods of time, but there is always something that I need to watch, so that it is not overcooked or undercooked. I try to keep the meals simple: Main Dish (soup or casserole), bread, and dessert.

        Shopping here is different than at home and there are some ingredients that just aren’t in the grocery stores, such as brown sugar and shortening. They do have brown sugar, but it is not cane sugar and you cannot substitute it in cookie recipes. There is an Asian store in downtown Kiel and you can get your brown cane sugar there. It just takes time going from place to place finding the ingredients one needs. As for the shortening, they say you can substitute a particular type of margarine, but I find it doesn’t work as well. I am learning more each week about German cooking.

        So, basically, I do a lot of cooking and grocery shopping and believe it or not, it takes most of the week.

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(above) This is sister Westfeld from Rensburg in the kitchen with me. She brings her beautiful daughter, who is nearly blind, to institute each Wednesday, then visits with me in the kitchen while I work. She speaks German to me to help me learn even though she can speak English very well.

About Us

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Salt Lake City, Utah, United States
We have been called to serve the Lord in Germany as missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (sometimes referred to as the Mormons). We are witnesses to the Savior, Jesus Christ, who has blessed our lives in every way. We hope to help others in their efforts to find true joy and happiness in their lives and in the lives of their families.