Sunday, November 18, 2012

Schedules and Changes

What Are We Doing?

It looks easy on paper.  It's the "doing"  that's hard.
        After a little more than six months, I think Sister Frank and I both thought we would be settled into a routine, the language issue would be gone; we would know everyone and would have brought many back into the fold. Actually, that last part was really optimistic thinking, but we did expect a little more routine than we sometimes find. Below is a general schedule of our work. We are writing this partially for ourselves…that we can remember years from now what we used to do, but also, because we have been asked by many what a CES Young Adult Mission actually entails. Remember, however, that nothing stays constant. No week has actually been exactly like the outline below, only vaguely so.
        All of our days begin with prayer, study, and preparation (all in various quantities). After that, we take a good look at our calendar.
        Mondays start with helping the elders and sisters at the RIZ (it’s their P-day so they use the computers at the RIZ to communicate with family and friends). That day we do janitorial work on the building; keep our records and reports up to date; get groceries for the FHE meal (family home evening), dessert, or both; prepare the meal; attend FHE; clean up after FHE; help the YSA get home (not very often); go home and find no parking place; park at the local grocery store (called SKY); then walk home; look at the clock; take an hour to unwind; then go to bed at around midnight.
        On Tuesday, we sleep in try to recover from Monday, then get our old bodies going and expect and hope the phone will ring. We make ourselves available to the missionaries for joint-teaches and really enjoy them. They come unexpectedly, but on Tuesday that isn’t much of a problem. As on most days, we always check email for messages from home, mission, ward, and YSA information. Messages from home are a highlight. Later Tuesday, we have opportunities to meet with the other missionaries in our ward missionary meeting. There is also a German class taught by the ward missionaries and that can be helpful, but most of the time we have other commitments, i.e., home teaching. We have been assigned to 11 families and many live quite a distance away from Kiel, but usually not more than a 30-minute drive.
        Wednesday is similar to Monday except a little more stress. It starts with our weekly district meeting. Training and learning together is such a great part of missionary work. We normally have an assignment and try to help the missionaries with their work as they also help us. Though we may be anxious to get going on our own assignments, the district meetings have become an integral part of our preparation also. Then abut 11:30 a.m. we are off to get our shopping done for the Institute meal. There isn’t as much time to prepare because of our early meetings and we have later afternoon obligations. The YSA council meeting starts at 6:00 p.m., followed by a missionary preparation class that sister Frank and I teach. So far we have only had two students, but expect more following the age change announced by the First Presidency at the last General Conference. After that our meal and table setup has to be complete because Institute follows at 7:30. We like to attend Institute for at least an hour to see who is there and participate in the discussions. Then it’s up to the kitchen to finalize the meal. After cleanup we follow the Monday pattern ending up at home close to midnight.
        Thursday and Friday we recover a bit and have freedom to organize our work and make personal contacts. We have a few obligations at the center, but not every week. Zone Conferences are held on Thursdays. We also catch up on items that never seem completed: making appointments and doing more home teaching; working on ways to activate and contact less active YSAs; making sure that we are keeping up on birthdays and special events back home; endlessly organizing lists so that we have a better understanding of who needs what help; writing our blog; and always trying to work on our Deutsch. Sometimes on Friday nights there is a special event at the RIZ for the YSA that we also attend.
        Saturday is P-day sometimes. (Other times we substitute a Thursday or Friday). We clean our apartment, relax, enjoy our area and think about family, friends and home. This is also the best time for sight-seeing.
        Sunday we worship and enjoy the company of the great members and missionaries in Kiel. Often we are invited to delicious Sunday
meals at member’s homes. Once a month we have a High Priest’s fireside and these provide a wonderful opportunity to get to know the members better.


The Sisters Plan Halloween
        When the sisters signed up to plan FHE for Oct. 29, they simply said, “Halloween Party.” Below are some of the results. We had a great time and even began with a nice spiritual thought. After that, we got out the three pumpkins sister Frank and I had purchased (expensive compared to home) and watched the fun. On many Monday FHE evenings we have visitors and this time we had a young woman from Russia, Tanya, who has visited once before. We were very happy to have her back. She has a cute personality and a very Russian accent in her German. She is a nanny working in Kiel and taking a classes at University. She enjoyed the pumpkin carving adventure and seemed to get along with everyone. After FHE, she missed her bus, so sister Frank and I took her home. We hope she will visit our Center again and, of course, learn about the Gospel.
        Christoph won the prize for most artistic Jack-O-Lantern. His 3-D teeth and tongue were impressive. I couldn’t get sister Frank to go for a chocolate covered donut, but I couldn’t resist.

Halloween and the sculptors begin their work.

Saher, Sara, and Malta have been watching too many horror movies!

Jules (from Provo), Tonya (from Ukarine) Benny (from Kiel) need practice. 

Christoph and the sisters win only because the sisters just watched.
They only participated because the donut was dessert.
I didn't win, but the half I ate was pretty good. German donuts are not as sweet as in the US, but the chocolate on them is delicious. 
Teaching
        When we first received our call to work with YSA, we thought that teaching institute might be part of the call. Fortunately, there are so many gifted CES teachers called throughout Germany, that we have several who alternate throughout the year here in Kiel. Some are experienced in CES teaching and are even employed by the Church. Others are teachers by profession which also helps as they try to involve the YSAs in gospel subjects. The young people are great students, very involved in the discussions. As is the case in all gospel learning, it is the spirit that truly teaches. These instructors do a wonderful job bringing the spirit to our Institute. So anyway, most of the time there has been no need for us to teach
       
        Recently, circumstances came up at about 5:00 p.m. on a Wed., however, and I received a call from our Institute instructor, Uwe Zickler. He couldn’t get out of his Flensburg office on time and wouldn’t make it to instruct institute. I said I would be happy to fill in, got off the phone and started to worry. The teaching aspect didn’t bother me. Not knowing the material and nor being able to express it well in German bothered me. The lesson was on the calling of the twelve apostles. I used the forty minutes as best I could then watched as the young people filtered in. It’s always amazing what prayer and the spirit can do in spite of our weaknesses. I asked them to leave the student desks and come back to the comfortable couches and chairs and we would sit together and learn together. My part of the lesson wasn’t great, but we all shared our feelings of what it must have been like for these men to have followed and watched Christ perform great miracles and teach profound lessons, then to be called to follow him and eventually spread the gospel to the far ends of the world. We moved to the present and talked about what it must be like to receive phone call from the prophet’s office that would then lead to an apostolic call to serve. From there we ended talking about our calls to serve and the differences, but yes, the similarities. Uwe eventually arrived and shared a brief ending. I didn’t walk away thinking I had given a great lesson. I really just walked away having had my testimony strengthened concerning the power of the Holy Ghost as a teacher. So much of our teaching jobs at home and in the church require creating opportunities for those we love and teach to be in a position to feel and hear the spirit themselves. Rarely does that occur as we lecture. Am I lecturing now? Sorry. Old bad school teacher habits.


Saying Goodbye
        We’ve talked before about saying goodbye to missionaries as they are transferred to other areas or as they leave for home. Over the past couple of months, we have learned about other goodbyes. Some are student goodbyes. Kiel is a University city, and many of our young YSAs are students who have moved here. As they finish their studies they often move to other schools or back to their home areas. We have had at least three YSAs leave Kiel on military assignment, and because it is a career, probably won’t be coming back this way. And of course, there are those great goodbyes caused through missions and marriages. In all, we have had 15 active YSAs who have moved since we arrived. At home that might not seem many. To our group, it is a large change. Even the ward feels the change. Several families have moved out of Kiel. At least two very active families have moved to the U.S. For us, each goodbye just reminds us of how brief our stay here is and how changes in a ward here in Kiel are just things the members have to get used to.
        The only goodbyes that are truly sad come when those with whom the missionaries are working say they can’t go any farther. As we watch testimonies grow stronger, it’s easy for Sister Frank and me to make assumptions that that brother or that sister will be baptized soon. The road to baptism requires many steps and some who begin the process find that they can’t quite make it all the way.
        We felt that sorrow when Wen Hi emailed the Elders to say that he was finished. He is a great young man, and I believe he is better off for having studied the gospel and having felt the spirit. He will have another day. To him and others like him, we can only wish them well and and say goodbye for now.

"We love you Wen" -- Sister Frank

       
       

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Fall Comes to Schleswig-Holstein

Changes in the Mission
        We’ve mentioned before how adapting to changes is important in a mission. Recently, we experienced a large change in our mission conference procedure. Previously, when we had a zone conference (usually every 6-8 weeks), we would travel an hour to Hamburg where a large conference of two zones would meet. Now we are meeting as separate zones and the Mission President will not attend all zone conferences. They will also be shorter and will not include a lunch (usually provided by members who have to donate an entire day to the preparation and cleanup.)
        I think the change will help in several ways. First, it gives the president a chance to slow down just a bit. In a mission as large as ours (in area as well as number of missionaries), it can be taxing on the mission president and his wife just to attend all the zone conferences. I believe the mission president was traveling to conferences every week or two. Now that has slowed down a bit. He also has a bit more time interviewing missionaries when he is here because there are fewer at any one meeting.
        That’s at least what we experienced as we had our first new “Zone Meeting.” Instead of Hamburg, we met at the RIZ here in Kiel. Less travel time for the elders and the president, the same good instruction and interaction, and I’m sure it saves the church money.

Elders and sisters at the RIZ getting ready to start the zone meeting.
These two elders were the hit of the conference.  Here, they sing a duet for the conference.  They serve in the small town of Heide about an hour from Keil, and create quite a sight as they walk along side by side. 
Our Neum√ľnster zone missionaries with Pres. & Sister Kosak. 


Visit in Heide
        On a beautiful fall day, we decided to visit Heide. We hadn’t been to the branch before, but we knew there was one Young Single Adult who lived there. The problem was that we didn’t have her phone number and Heide is an hour away. We had always wondered if it would be a good use of our time and gas to go there.
        On Oct. 19, however, we decided to go. It is always amazing to me that when we begin our days praying for an opportunity to help someone, the Lord never fails to provide those opportunities for us. We knew that the chances of finding a young woman home in the middle of the day weren’t very good, but our backup plan was that we would enjoy the nice fall day and count it as a P-day if we couldn’t talk to anyone.
        We found the address, knocked on the door and introduced ourselves to a young girl named Megan. Her sister, Colleen, the one we wanted to meet, however, didn’t live there. We asked if Megan, at least, had a phone number. She invited us in, dialed a number on her phone and then handed it to me. Almost immediately, a young woman answered and seemed surprised that a man was on her sister’s phone. I quickly told her who we were, and that we were here to talk to her and had instead been talking to her sister. She said she would come right over and visit with us.
        The meeting with Colleen and her sister was great. They are both lovely and personable. Megan had talked to us quite a bit before her sister arrived, and we gathered that her sister no longer wanted to attend or be associated with the church. When she arrived, we talked to her about the church in Heide and how we wanted to come once a month to Heide in order to provide an institute class for her. Though Colleen was very appreciative that we would be willing to come so far just to speak to her, she did tell us that she no longer believed in the church. She obviously loved her sister and family, who are members, but had been alone in Heide as a young member for a long time and had lost her faith.
        Though we encouraged her to continue in the gospel, she seemed set. She is a wonderful young woman and was very willing to meet with us again, if we were to call and make an appointment. I gave her our personal card with our web site on it, and I hope she will read our blog a bit. Though we only talked briefly, we could tell how much love there was between her and her sister. We pray that the Lord will bless them both and their father. We look forward to our next visit to Heide.

Had to take a photo of Sister Frank along side this road to Heide.

Probably the only site you can find if you Google  Heide is this Water Tower  (Wasserturm).

A little church stands near the old town in Heide




Baptism in Kiel
        Steve is a young man from Nigeria who has been meeting with the missionaries and coming to church for about two months. We have mentioned him before and are grateful for his outgoing and friendly personality. He was baptized on Oct. 21 in Kiel by Elder Lloyd. We are always amazed at the international way in which the gospel is spreading. Steve’s story keeps growing as we hear and learn more about him and his family. He met the elders while they were tossing a basketball around, I believe, in a store. The conversation started and proceeded and Steve became interested in the gospel. We first met him at church after he had had several lessons. He came to church several weeks in a row, but had difficulty because he is slowly learning to speak German but really only communicates in English right now. He has a masters degree in Environmental Science and had come to Germany seeking employment. He still hasn’t found a job in his field, but is very positive about the future. One Sunday in church prior to his decision to be baptized, we sat together in priesthood meeting. I commented to him, “Steve, where did you get that big smile of yours?” He laughed. He is always smiling. Then he said in his African tinged English, “I guess I got it from God.” Later, we heard the story concerning his mother. He had called her and told her he was investigating the church. Later, when he called her shortly before his baptism, he found out that she had already been baptized and that several of his brothers and sisters were also listening to the missionaries in Nigeria. The Lord works in mysterious and wonderful ways.

Here Steve and all the missionaries in Kiel pose after the baptism .

Esang came to be part of Steve's baptism.  We hope his will come in the near future.

Nancy fixed two large pans of lasagna for a dinner following the baptism.
Though only YSA were invited, we also included a few others including the bishop and his family.




Fall Cleanup at the RIZ
        One thing about all the green during the summer…it will eventually turn color and fall to the ground in fall. And that offers plenty of cleanup opportunities for sister Frank and I in the fall.

The RIZ in the fall.

Next week I'm sure we'll get around to raking these leaves.

We gathered up a handful of huge leaves to press.  Probably won't make it home, however.





The Copenhagen Temple
        A couple of weeks ago, we got a call from a sister in the ward asking if we would like to go with ward members on a temple trip to the Copenhagen, Denmark temple. It is actually the closest temple to Kiel and though it isn’t the assigned temple for our stake (the Frankfurt Temple), the ward usually plans one temple excursion a year for the Copenhagen temple. Our only problem was clothing. There aren’t temple clothes available at that temple. Sister Timm, who had invited us, said not to worry. She would arrange everything…and she did. The next Sunday, Brother Benn handed me a bag with his shoes and temple packet. Sister Frank and I were both able to get some clothing from the ward’s baptismal clothing supply, as well a packet from Sabina for Nancy. When we only had a few days remaining, the only thing needed was a pair of shoes for Sister Frank. We made a quick trip downtown to Woolworth’s and she had a pair of white slip-ons.
        We called to get permission from Pres. Kosak and he said to go, but that we wouldn’t be able to take the mission car because they don’t carry insurance for the car anywhere else than Germany. That made things a little problematic since I had suggested that we could drive. I quickly called Sister Timm and told her not to plan on our car, but she still felt we should go and that she would take care of that too.
        The trip was an early morning trip (we were up at 4:30 a.m.) by auto, then a ferry from Puttgarden, Germany to Rodby, Denmark. Seven of us boarded the bishop’s van and after an hour or so arrived at the ferry port, drove onto the ferry in the the car and had a nice forty-five minute ride on the ferry to Rodby. The day was cold and cloudy early on and we didn’t step outside the ferry, but it was modern, and quite comfortable inside. When we arrived at Rodby, we still had another two hour drive to get to the temple. The ride was uneventful but we enjoyed a slight change in scenery from what we were used to in Schleswig-Holstein. Denmark is very flat, and though there is a lot of water, the farms we passed were showing a lot of late fall brown and mowed-down harvest stubble.
        The temple was beautiful. The interior was small but elegant, with hand painted murals, toll-painted door trim and finishes on the furniture and if you looked very closely, you could see slight, but insignificant differences in the pattern, enough to know that they were hand painted and not stenciled. The baptistry was one of the most beautiful we have seen. We were fortunate to be able to attend both sessions held that day (one in Swedish and one in German). Before we left, one of the temple presidency took us down and explained the murals depicting John the Baptist baptizing Jesus Christ, on one half of the circular room. The other half of the mural depicted people of different generations, or those people who have died who are waiting for their opportunity to follow the example of the Savior and enter into the waters of baptism. It was simply beautiful. The artist’s name is Brickey.
        Evidently the exterior was formerly used as a ward house. When they remodeled it into a temple, they removed virtually all of the interior and added all of the rooms necessary, and only added the Baptistry and the square column with the Angel Moroni atop.
        By the time we arrived home it was about 9:30 p.m. It was a long but wonderful day!

Here we are on the Ferry.  Jules on the left is an American living in Kiel for a year.
 Sister Kamm and Sister Strelow are also shown.
Though the temple sits near the center of town, the grounds create a separation
that brings the kind of tranquility that is part of every temple.  In summer the area with plants in the forefront is a reflecting pool.

The classic columns of the temple seem somewhat different for a temple,
but they make a beautiful exterior.

Ward members attending the temple with us





About Us

My photo
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.