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