Monday, March 30, 2009

Time Marches on Ready or Not

It is Monday and we have not yet mailed our weekly note. We usually take some time on Sunday to write a few lines, but Sunday was a full day of Church and visiting with friends and investigators. Our body-clock did not change to day-light savings-time as did the time clocks, so by the time we came home we were ready for our bed. This note today will be brief and it is mainly to let you know that we are doing well and are still are enjoying the work.
This past week we had our Zone Meeting and the Mission President conducted the "every six week interview" with the Missionaries. We had a chance to spend some time with the president and his wife. He invited us to have dinner with them at a famous restaurant. So we dined at the only restaurant of it's type in all of Dortmund called Kentucky-Fried Chicken. Actually, it was like a bit of home away from home. We had fun doing that.
On Saturday we drove to Herne. The young men and young women of of the three ward/branches around that area put on a wonderful musical and spoken word program called " Shine your light". There were not many young people that participate, but the talent was there and we all enjoyed watching and listening. The message was that we as members of the church need to let our light shine wherever we are.
At church yesterday we had an older couple that joined us for the services. It was their first time in an LDS Church. After the church block the ward had a potluck dinner and they even stayed for that. It gave a lot of people a chance to talk to them. The young Missionaries were very exited and glad that this couple was so well received. They met them by knocking on their door a couple of weeks ago. Now our prayers are that they will continue to listen to the messages of the gospel and will come again to church.
Last evening as we were driving the Sister Missionaries home from an appointment. It was about 8:30 PM when they said that they had a half hour before they had to be home. Then they asked to be dropped off in the middle of town, so they could talk to a few more people on the street as they worked their way home. Most of the missionaries are hard workers and sure take the work very serious. It is a real question to me why not more people respond to our messages and invitations. We hope that the time is not far ahead when the peoples hearts will be touched and accept the invitation to come into the fold.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A wonderful Sunday with the Saints

Anina and I visited the Ward in Hamm. It is a town that is a little more than 1/2 hour drive from our home in Dortmund. Our visit with members of the Student Council is part of a program that will eventually go to all twelve Wards or Branches of the Dortmund Stake. Our Student Council presents the Sunday School lesson to the Young Adults and we have to speak in Sacrament Meeting. The Hamm Ward is one of the strong Wards of the Stake. It is not strong because of the number of people that attend each Sunday, but it is the quality of the Saints in that Ward. They have a beautiful Chapel and as you enter we can feel the Spirit. We were welcomed with open arms. The two Young Missionary Elders enjoy being in their midst. I don't know why not every person they bring to investigate the church is not immediately overcome by the feeling that they would ask for baptism. In our combined Elder Quorum and High Priest Group we met in a small classroom and only 14 were in attendance (6 of them were missionaries and members of the student council). They had a meaningful and great lesson. Anina said that the numbers in Relief Society were about the same. The Sunday School Class for the young adults consisted of only 4 from the Young adults from the Ward. In Sacrament Meeting we had about 40 people in attendance. In the beginning of the Sacrament meeting I sat there with my eyes closed, saying a silent prayer for those of us that were to speak. I was actually overcome with a feeling when the opening song was sung, that there must have been several hundred that participated in singing. When the "Amen" was said to the opening prayer, at the conclusion of the Sacrament Prayer or at the conclusion of the talks it sounded more than 10 times the number that were there. It was a wonderful feeling to be in their midst.
The young adult speakers did not take as much time as they should have, and I had a 20 minute talk prepared that I stretched into 30 minutes. (It is still hard for me to be able to give a talk in the German Language without a lot of preparation - it is getting better but not good enough.) I hope that the people did not mind getting out of Church 10 minutes earlier than scheduled.
While I was finishing preparations for my talk yesterday, Anina baked a few dozen cookies. She gave the container to one of the young adults at the end of the meeting block to pass out. Everyone enjoyed them and they were almost gone when one of the young adults came up to us and ask if it was a OK to save a few and take them to a young adult investigator that did not come to church. So, we jumped into the car and five of us knocked at his door and told him that we missed him and wanted him to have some of the cookies that Sister Diederich baked.
Before we drove back home, we had an interesting conversation with a brother that was just a month ago released as the 1st councilor in the Stake Presidency. He told us that only 10years ago that this was a good size Ward with 120 to 140 in attendance every Sunday. This used to be a heavy industrial area with many good jobs. People had to move where the jobs are. All of our young people received a good education and then our young people moved and started their families elsewhere. Even recently some high tech jobs left and moved to the Southern part of Germany. It is sad to see the decline, but the Saints keep their hopes and faith that the church will grow again in this area. We have heard it a number of times that the Brethren have spoken to the Saints in this area saying that the growth is just around the corner. Seeing the faith of the Saints, we too are convinced that it will happen soon.
We have had a wonderful day. Yesterday we actually had a whole day of sunshine, maybe spring is about to make an appearance. We took a nice long walk in the beautiful countryside.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Cycle Continues

Another six week cycle is coming to a close. We have had our Zone Conference last Tuesday in Bielefeld. The transfer conference-call happened yesterday morning (Saturday, 14 March 2009). One Elder (Elder Wilcox) from Dortmund will be moving this coming Thursday and at the same time we will be receiving a new Elder. The young missionaries do not get to stay in one place very long. That is the way the system works. We are glad that the Mission President kept us together and that we do not have to move to another town.
None of the Missionaries had an invite for Sunday dinner today. So, Anina decided to invite the Missionaries from our District over for a farewell dinner. It was one of those last minute decisions she made right after our Church meetings. While I am sitting on the computer writing this note, Anina is making all kind of noises out in the kitchen. The Missionaries do have some afternoon teaching appointments, so we will get together sometimes after 7:00 PM to have our meal.
This past week I received a telephone call from a minister from a Protestant Church.. It was the same gentlemen that called me a couple weeks ago and told me that he lost contact with the missionaries and that he would like to get in contact with them. Since than, the Elders thought him a couple of lessons. After the two lessons they were told not to come back. During the last phone conversation he wanted to talk to me privately. A Thurday evening appointment was made in our office in the Outreach Center.
This much I can tell you, that his wife absolutely forbid him to see the Missionaries and have any more contact with the Mormons. He has a testimony of Joseph Smith and the Restoration. He read the Book of Mormon and knows that it came from God.
It is of interest that he comes from Morocco and converted from Islam to Christianity several years ago. He lost all of his family and suffered some injustices because of that conversion. He started a new life in Germany and went to school to become a preacher/minister. He not only has his own congregation, but goes to other churches as well to preach.
The question in his mind is; What am I to do? He told me "I can no longer preach a lie!" If his church would find out he would loose his livelihood tomorrow and jobs are hard to come by. To change jobs or professions in Germany is very complicated and difficult. He said to me: "Do I have to start again from the beginning?"
As difficult as this situation looks it could be managed and brought to a good conclusion if he had the support of his wife. We are now praying that his wife's heart will be softened.
The 2 hour conversation was one of the most difficult conversation I have had in my live time.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Oportunities to Teach

Another full Sunday and too tired to write our letter to you. So, this Monday morning writing will have to do.
We left early Sunday morning to attend the Branch Conference in Buer-Gelsenkirchen. Many thoughts went through my mind as we sat there in the meeting house that was less than a kilometer from the home where I was born. It has been 72 years since I attended a branch meeting in that community. I imagined myself being held by my parents during the meeting. I imagined myself being named and given a blessing as an infant in one of the branch meetings. We enjoyed the meetings and the Saints treated us as one of their own. After the meetings the branch had a put-luck meal and as usual there was more food there than we could eat - it was good.
A family by the name of Huebner invited us to their home afterward.. They even took the time to drive us around to show us a few sights around the area. They remembered some of the people that my father talked about in his history. All of them are deceased now. We were told that some 20 years ago we still could have talked to some of them. Oh, how short the time of this live on earth is. The thought occurred that soon our end of this probation will be upon us. Oh, how we hope to it will be a joyful experience.
We would liked to have stayed longer, but we had to go back to set up for the delayed fireside talk to the young adults by Elder Hales. A good group of young adults attended, but we hoped for a few more. The evening would not have been complete without some good refreshments afterward.
This past Thursday we enjoyed a good group that came to the Institute class and stayed for the meal afterward.
Perhaps the highlight of the week came to us on Friday evening. The only connection to the young adult program was that a gentleman heard of the program and wanted to know more. I received a call one night (December 2008) from a Herr (Mr.) Heinz-Otto Siebelhoff. He told me that his group "KKV" was in an executive meeting and planning the activities for the next six month of that group and they would like to come and "Visit the Mormons". We decided on a date when they could be with us and spend an hour. We were told to plan on a group of about 20 people. At first we thought that it was a group of business people. It made it more exciting when we found out that it was a Catholic Service and Social group of business business people. The official name of the group is "Gemeinschaft der Katholiken in Wirtschaft und Verwaltung E.V. -- Der katholische Sozialverband".
We were very pleased when not 20 but 30 people showed up on Friday evening at 18:30 ( 6:30 PM).
I ask the Stake to help us to host this group of people. A member of the Stake Presidency, the Stake Public Relations Specialist, the Stake Family History Specialist and a another member of the Stake High Council committed to join us. We decided on a mission for the event and than formulated a plan. The plan was to: 1) Make Friends, 2) Change the Image most people have of the Church and 3) tell them of the Restoration as the Spirit directs.
I conducted the visit, showed them a 6 minute video, gave a brief introduction. Next we divided into three groups and conducted a visit of the facilities. We scheduled 15 minutes for that activity, after 25 minutes I pleaded with them to come back. Once we were back again we changed our plans and did away with a presentation on Family History and go directly into a question and answer period. When the hour was passed I consulted with the leader of the group (Herr Karl-Josef Michel) and ask what we should do. He told me to continue, for the questions continued. After two hours into the meeting we concluded. An invitation to join in some refreshments and invitation to stay as long as their time permitted was extended. We received many thanks for what transpired with the group of wonderful people before they left the building. They said they will be back and we certainly hope that that will happen.
The questions varied and were very thoughtful. There was not one question about polygamy or about same sex relations ships. Every question, but one, led into the things we wanted to talk about. There was the question about the Book of Mormon, what it is and how did it came about? How did the Church get started? Do those young Missionaries really try to convert other Christians into your Church? How are you different from other Christian Churches? One question went like that : "I can see why you would name a church - The Church of Jesus Christ -, But what does it mean -Of Latter Day Saints-.
The Question that was raised at least three times in a little different way had to do with the fact that we do not have crosses or even prominent pictures of the crucifixion.or even a picture in our chapel of the Savior. The Stake leaders did a marvelous job in answering all of the questions. I knew that we did not satisfy their thoughts when the question and comment came from the group: " You say that you celebrate the victory of Jesus and the resurrection, but we don't even see a picture or a representation of that in the whole building..
On Saturday afternoon we had a funeral service for a sister in our Ward.. The Funeral director, after the service, came to me and thanked me for the wonderful time they had last night. I recognized him as one of the guests of the evening before. He told me that he enjoyed especially all of the answers we gave to their questions, but "I looked today and still did not see any pictures of Jesus." "On our way home last night we talked some more about that.and we could not understand what you had to say ". For a catholic it must be a real culture shock to come from their Church Building environment to our plain and simple buildings, devoid of statues, depictions of the Savior on the cross or ornate pictures of Jesus.
I had the desire to be able to transport all of them to Temple Square and to the Visitor Center and see the "Christus" statue in the rotunda and and teach them about the Savior.

Large Cathedral only a couple of blocks from my birthplace. Notice the tower without the steeple. The Steeple was destroyed during one of the bombing raids in 1944 and never rebuild as reminder

Anina and Brother and Sister Huebner from Gelsenkirchen in front of the old Cathedral in the "Alt Stadt" in Buer

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Inspiration Guides the Church

There was not much time to get into trouble this past week. We were kept busy coming and going. Our Mission President conducted his every 6 week interview with the missionaries in our Zone this past Friday. During the time he interviews the missionaries , on a one on one, we were in Zone meeting and at times in our district meeting. It was an all day experience.
As far as the missionary work is concerned we had some very good news and some that was not so good. The bad news is that some of our missionaries need some special help and encouragement. We were ask to offer some special help to these missionaries. Than there are those Missionaries who are setting the world on fire and as a result we had three baptism commitments in our Zone this past Saturday. When those commitments come, the Missionaries just light up and shout for joy.
It seems like the work is going slow, but when you look at the progress over a long period of time it is remarkable what has been accomplished. I just read a few paragraphs of my Fathers Family History.. He wrote of the handful of people that attended or were members of the Church in this very area in which we are now working. I think of the many saints who immigrated to America from this area in the first half of the 20Th century up to the early 1960s. I am amazed to see how many Wards and Branches are all over this part of the world. This work of the Lord is still going forward and the this was certainly evident today as we assembled in our Dortmund Stake Conference. Our Stake House is not large enough to hold of those who attended Stake Conference, so we had to hold Stake Conference in the town of Herne. The Church rented an auditorium where we were all together to enjoy conference.
It was a special Conference, for a new Stake Presidency was called and sustained. The previous Stake President is moving to Switzerland and has been commuting for some time (4 days in Switzerland and 3 days in Essen) , which made it very hard to do what needed to be accomplished.
Elder Erich Kopischke and Elder Lois Weidmann of the Seventy were the visiting Authorities. It was amazing to see the process of interviewing some 29 or 30 Brethren on a Saturday morning and early afternoon. Than hold a Priesthood Leadership Meeting at 3:30 PM and an adult Stake meeting at 6:00 PM.
Extend the call to serve to the three brethren that were sustained as the new Stake Presidency and than be ready at 10:00 AM on Sunday to present them to the membership for approval to be the new Stake Leaders. The new Stake President is Markus Zarse from the from the Hagen Ward and Mike Ziegner from the Essen Ward and Torsten Bruckmann from the Dortmund Ward.
The conference was a very spiritual and good conference. It is good to have confirmed to us that this Church is guided by the Spirit of God. We, as Priesthood Holders or Members are only instruments in His Hands.
During the Conference some new members for our Student Council were sustained, for which we are grateful. It was decided that the student council would meet after Conference at our "Center for Young Adults". Each of us brought a little to eat and thus we enjoyed a nice meal together. It ended up that the meeting lasted over 3 hours, but we made some great plans for the future of the Young Adult activities in our Stake.
We left early this morning and finally arrived back to our apartment at about 6:30 PM.

We are grateful for the opportunity we have to be associated so closely with the great young missionaries. We had the wonderful experience to be able to spend a few private hours with our Mission President and his wife. They stayed over in Dortmund for the past three days so they could attend the Stake Conference. Last Friday evening we took them to a nice restaurant here in Dortmund and that was a delightful experience to share family stories, experiences and ideas.
It is good to be in the Lords service and hope to be able to complete the work to which we have been called.
Children and Grandchildren we think about you very day, we love you, we pray for you. We are grateful for all of the wonderful accomplishment and for your faithfulness in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Please know that we are in His service.