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.

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:
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.

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.

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.

Sister Diederich and Sister Laubaugh

(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!


  1. It was inspired that the Sisters and Elders are not the same age. I had many frustrating times with the Elders on my mission. I am sure that they had those moments with me as well. I can relate to the condition of the car from the 2 times I received cars from the Elders. It makes the mission field so memorable. We know that the younger Missionaries are lucky and blessed to have you both.
    Lots of Love,
    Nicole, Tim and kiddos

  2. I am really surprised that only the sisters have to ride bikes. I'm trying to have a good attitude for them...Oh, well. :)

    Those missionaries look sharp!! I'm glad you are developing such great relationships with them, I am sure they are grateful to have such loving "parents" in the field!

    Love you both and can't wait for more stories!

  3. I really love reading your posts on your mission. Yes, the Elders can be a challenge for sure. I loved your story about the cars. Especially the part about keeping them clean. I remember that the mission couple who were over the apartments would make spot inspections of the apartments. They had some real horror stories about the cleanliness of the missionaries apartments. I can just imagine the car. I am smiling on this one. You two are having some wonderful moments. I do hope we can talk soon.
    Love to you both!

  4. Hello,

    I know this is rather random, but I'm actually moving to Berlin at the end of September to go to grad school over there. I was just googling LDS chapels or missions in Berlin to get some contact information, and your blog was one of the first things to pop up. I currently have the Stake President's phone number, but I was wondering if you would have any contact information like for the Institute teacher or a YSA member? It would just be nice to know someone over in Berlin before I hop on a plane from the states and head over there. :) If you aren't able to help me, then that's not a problem at all. Good luck on your mission!


    1. Thanks Sara. If you contact the mission office (Germany Berlin Mission), I 'm certain they can give you the email of the Institute director or the senior couple serving at the in Tiergarten Berlin. We have met them and they are a great couple as are the YSA leaders in Berlin. God luck in grad school.


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.