Well, the 3rd Candle has been lit only one more to go and Christmas 2008 will be ever so close. This past week we ventured out into the cold again to see another Christmas market. This time we went to the City of Essen. We went to Essen taking a 35 minute train ride. The Hauptbahnhof (the main Train Depot) is in the middle of town in Essen. We enjoyed some more of the good food, but other than that we just looked and resisted buying anything. It was a very cold day and it was good to go into some of the big department stores just to get warm. We don't know how the vendors stay out in the cold all day long. Maybe all of the beer drinking they do keeps enough "antifreeze" in their bodies. It is amazing to see all of the hand-work that is on display and that is for sale. We go from one place to another hoping to find some bargains, but they are not be found. Hearing of all of the financial problems in the world makes me wonder where all of the people come from that spend all of the money. The market goes on for many blocks and town squares and there are literally thousands of people crowded in the streets. The regular department stores around the squares and on the "Hauptstrasse" (Main Street) seem to be busy too. It is fun to see all of the activities.
There is a lot of unemployment in this area, but the government has a very good safety net for those who are not working. The unemployment benefits are very good and it allows the people to spend almost as usual. Besides cash, they also get a good housing subsidy.
This past week we had our Zone Conference here in Dortmund. It was a very busy day for us. We started at 9:00 AM in the morning and the Conference ended at 4:30 PM. We had a lunch break and food was provided at the church. We also had a great Christmas program. Anina sang with the other Sister missionaries a wonderful Christmas song that brought tears to our eyes as we listened and felt the wonderful Spirit. I was assigned to give to last part of the program and say Amen to the program. (I will write the message at the end of this e-mail as a Christmas message to all of you.)
After the conference we did not even have time to go home, for we had to open the center up for the Institute night and meal after institute. We had a good group of Young Single Adults (21) plus six Missionaries and a few adults. After Institute and the meal we had a Youth Council meeting that lasted - it seems like forever. By the time we were finished cleaning up and driving home it was after midnight before we literally fell into our bed. The sad thing was that we were not able to sleep in the morning, for we had to leave to one of the neighboring towns of Hagen by 9:00 AM. to see some of our young missionaries.
Today is another one of those very busy days. Regular Church, Invitation to eat dinner at a members home,(Anina thinks that every time we are invited we need to take some goodies -so she is doing some last minute baking). Tonight will be the broadcast of the First Presidency Christmas Message.There has been a lot of sickness in the Ward, but we have been spared and are feeling good.
I love the words and the thought that I gave at our Missionary Christmas Program. I gave these words as penned by James Willingford right after the whole group song my favorite Christmas Song, Silent Night, Holy Night (Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht).
"Christmas is not a day or a season,
but a condition of heart and mind.
If we love our neighbors as ourselves;
If in our riches we are pure in spirit
and in our poverty we are rich in grace;
If our charity vaunteth not itself,
but suffereth long and is kind;
If when our brother asks for a loaf,
we give ourselves instead;
If each day dawns in opportunity
and sets in achievement,
Then every day is Christ's day
and Christmas is always near."
At this season our thoughts turn to the Savior and his blessed birth.
This is a picture of Anina with two of our young missionaries.
A couple of the displays of wood art and carvings for sale. ( Each cost between 500 - 800 Euros)
One of the many streets of the Christmas market in Essen. -Notice the crowds.