Sunday, September 27, 2015

Preparation Day (Rüdesheim and Burg Rheinstein) and Our First Sunday

Burg Rheinstein
Saturday is our preparation day (P-day). We spent the day with Elder and Sister Newman who work in the office with us. Rüdesheim is a quaint village on the Rhein River about 45 minutes from Frankfurt. Pictures from our visit there follow. We crossed the Rhein on a ferry to Bingen and then drove down the Rhein to the base of the mountain below this medieval castle. It is the burial place of Prussian princes who made it their home at the end of the 19th century. More pictures of the castle follow, too.

We also visited a monument erected high on a hill above the river commemorating the unification of Germany in 1871 as a result of the Franco-Prussian war. United Germany was ruled from Berlin by the King of Prussia, also known as Kaiser Wilhelm. It was an interesting place to visit, and the monument is heroic in size and appointment. The view from the monument over vineyards down to the Rhein is spectacular.

Elder and Sister Newman, and Janet and I walked north along a pathway through the woods away from the monument for a while. The air in the forest smelled incredible. Fall is around the corner, and a few leaves are beginning to change. Chestnuts are ripe, and every breeze brings a handful down in a shower -- duck!

When we left the monument, we drove on to Assmanhausen. The road through the village there became a single lane. Apparently, we didn't recognize that an oncoming driver was there first. He decided to stop next to our car and tell us about proper etiquette. That's the mild version. But just beyond the one-lane pass between ancient buildings, we stumbled on a local brass band lining both sides of the narrow way. We passed through the middle of the band and it felt like we had joined a parade. It was hard to tell if they had already been drinking beer or they were just really enjoying playing together, but it was fun. We pulled over as soon as there was room and got out to take pictures and video.

We circled back to Rüdesheim and found a place to park. We strolled through the town and visited the Catholic Church Jakobus there. It was destroyed in 1944 (war damage) and reconstructed over the 10 years beginning in 1947. The church had a centuries old history, and they retained a few things like columns during the reconstruction. While looking at displays of some priestly vestments, I wondered what our deacons would say if they had to wear something like them. You'll understand what I mean when you see the pictures below.

The streets were crowded with visitors. We enjoyed a really nice lunch at a restaurant named Cafe Seilbahn where we sat outside in a courtyard under a tent, and the inside walls and overhead were composed of live plants and flowers. The food was excellent, and we really enjoyed talking and visiting with the Newmans.

There is an extremely narrow alleyway called Drosselgasse that was originally a path used by fishermen moving from the riverfront into the town. It has become a quintessential tourist place and the crowded little alley is lined with restaurants and shops. I was waiting outside a shop when Elder Jarrard showed up. He and Sister Jarrard happened to be there, too, with their son who was passing through on his way back from Macedonia on a trip for the US State Department. Then, while I was still waiting and enjoying watching people pass by, a young woman walked up to me, put her finger on my missionary tag, and said that she is also a member of the church. Brother and Sister Schulz and their little girl live in Rüdesheim and are members of the Wiesbaden Ward. I enjoyed visiting with them and eventually introduced Janet and Elder and Sister Newman to them. They advised us that the best ice cream in town was at the Eis Cafe in the alleyway, so of course, we had to try some.

It was a wonderful outing. We went to bed really tired.

As part of our companion study this morning, we watched the address given by President Uchtdorf at the women's session of general conference last night. We couldn't recall ever hearing a talk quite like it in general conference. The entire talk was essentially one story. It was a modern parable that taught many things. If you didn't hear it, please take 20 minutes and watch it. We listened to Sister Rosemary Wixom's talk this afternoon, and it is wonderful, too.

General Conference link:

We attended the Frankfurt International Ward. It is a large ward with people from many different countries. Virtually all of the senior couples in Frankfurt attend this ward. The bishop is from Italy. One of his counselors is from Spain. That counselor's wife is the Relief Society president. The high priest group leader is from England. The gospel doctrine instructor today was Irish or Scottish, I think, and has written two books on the writings of Paul -- you can imagine how interesting gospel doctrine was.

We met members from Italy and France. Brother and Sister Sullivan raised their family in England, but Sister Sullivan is Filipino. And there were visitors from Ghana and Nigeria. One of the senior couples who lives in our building brought a German resident named Effy with them. She is a character, and Sister Newman expressed surprise that she came to church. Elder and Sister Sharpe are humanitarian missionaries, but they are sharing their faith, love, and testimony eagerly with others.

I talked to one of the Ghana visitors and invited him to be taught. I connected him with Elder Walker and Elder Frey, who also live in our building. They got his number and he agreed to be taught. We found out later that a pair of sister missionaries working in the ward already have contact with the man's aunt, and he lives with her, so the elders and sisters will work out between them who will teach the family. Janet and I practiced with the choir after church. We are singing a piece that was translated from French to English and is set to a melody from Mozart. How fun is all of that? I'm pinching myself thinking that all of this is really so amazing and wonderful.

The Newmans invited us to have dinner with them this afternoon, so we are headed up to their apartment shortly. It's 65 degrees, and the sun is shining in a glorious way this afternoon.

This train video is for Cole, Harrison, and Austin

Slideshow of our visit to Rüdesheim and Burg Rheinstein:

Friday, September 25, 2015

Settling In - We're Here!

View from our kitchen window
Frankurt is a beautiful city - our apartment is cozy and well equipped with all manner of household necessities. We have a king sized bed (yeah!) and we are on the 8th floor so the views are stunning, especially at dusk. Just below us across the parking lot is the building that houses all the Europe Area offices and the over 30 senior missionary couples that work for the area.  They also stay in our apartment building so we have met several of them in the lobby and on the elevator.

On Wednesday, after about 15 hours on the plane (one change in Atlanta), President Stoddard and his wife picked us up and drove us straight to the mission office to orient us. Keeping my eyes open was tricky! We met the other couples in the office and had a nice lunch together. Finally, about 4pm they drove us to our apartment and we were able to unpack. That night, the other 2 mission office couples (one only comes in 1-2 days a week) took us out to dinner for schnitzel, delicious! We were exhausted but were assured it was best to stay up as long as possible the first day to help us get acclimated. Even still, I've (mom) woken up every night so far at 3sh and stayed awake for a couple of hours. One senior sister told me it took her about 5 months to feel normal again! 

Geraniums and skyline

Yesterday we attended a zone conference in Offenbach, a Frankfurt suburb about 20 minutes away. We were so impressed with the character and quality of all the elders and sisters. Their commitment, knowledge and love for the work was evident in their comments and countenances. Special musical numbers were performed by the young missionaries and we were touched with the power of music to bring the Spirit. There is lots of talent here in these young people! We had nothing to do but listen and visit as the local Relief Society served a taco lunch and the President and assistants conducted and taught the meetings. Sis. Edmunds (a.k.a. The Food Nanny on KSLTV, Salt Lake) is on a mission here with her husband serving as Real Estate missionaries for the area and travel all over Europe. She gave the missionaries a lesson on meal planning and taught us how to make baguettes in 45 minutes and pizza crust in 5. She is an outgoing, enthusiastic wonder and was very entertaining! Elder Kirk was also trained on car inspections as we will be doing that at each zone conference.
We walked to the grocery store and stocked our kitchen when we got home. 

Here are some tour pictures of the apartment:

Entryway, front door on the right at the end.
Other cabinets in the wall for utility items
Cozy kitchen off the entryway
View of living area from balcony door, Janet in the entryway
Dish cupboard and cabinets with pamphlets and books 
Ikea is popular here
Wardrobes for hanging clothes, large dresser to the right
We love our new digs and are beginning to feel right at home. As the newbies, we get lots of attention and advice which we enjoy. Elder Kirk is using his excellent German skills and impresses all he speaks to while I am still at the kindergarten stage. I am anxious to begin a regular routine of study again soon. Most of the other wives have not really needed the language so haven't learned it and rely on their husbands who have been on previous German speaking missions but I would like to at least make the effort.  Several times so far I have wished to speak to people and felt frustrated with my lack of confidence. Prayers, please.  

Today, we helped the Newman's serve lunch to the MLC or Mission Leadership Council of Zone Leaders, Sister Training Leaders and President and Sister Stoddard. They were all delightful and enjoyed spaghetti casserole, garlic bread, salad and cookies. 

Tomorrow, the other office couple, the Newman's, will take us on a sightseeing outing to Rüdesheim am Rhein, a quaint, typical city on the Rhein (Rhine) River. Lots of shopping will be done :) and pictures will follow in our next post. We'll also take pass along cards and the courage to share them while we're there.
Missing and loving all! Now that we are online again, we are anxious to hear about you and yours. Emails or post comments are much appreciated.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Final Week at the MTC

All of these good people will serve in mission offices. Two on the far right (young) were instructors.
Our second week at the MTC was focused on training for administrative tasks we will have as we work in the mission office. We loved getting to know these devoted Latter-day Saints. They are going to diverse places -- Spokane, Rancho Cucamonga, Detroit, Santiago, Warsaw, Baton Rouge, and Manila. Some have traveled to other countries, but others have never really left their home state. They go with faith in Jesus Christ and look forward to serving Him. Our new friends Elder and Sister Jones are from Gilbert, Arizona. They are going to Warsaw, Poland. Neither one of them speaks Polish, but they are cheerful and happy about the opportunity to serve, and they are diligently studying the language so that they can be of greater use in the field.

The young men at the far right are teachers at the MTC. We appreciated their spirit of joy in this work and their efforts to find in even the most mundane a connection to spiritual things. Austin Tyler is squatting in front. He is the training coordinator for office training. All of our MTC instructors have been wonderful -- dedicated young men and women who love the Lord and work here part-time because they love the work.

A whole week in front of computer screens
Our Tuesday night devotional was an address by Sister Rosemary Wixom, the General Primary President of the church. Her remarks were centered around the experiences of Laman, Lemuel, Nephi, and Sam as they returned to their homeland to attempt to retrieve the records engraven on brass plates (See 1 Nephi 3-5 She likened this trip by these four young men to a mission. We had never seen this story in that light, but it was perfect. Sister Wixom remarked that all four had come home to welcoming parents -- they served their mission and completed it. But their experience and what they learned from it varied greatly. Laman and Lemuel learned little, but Nephi and Sam were strengthened by the experience and their faith in the Lord grew. What kind of mission experience we have is largely up to us.

Provo Utah Temple
Wednesday evening Janet and I walked up to the Provo Temple and attended a session. We miss the temple in Houston and regular attendance and service there. It was good to be in the House of the Lord. I was reminded of Isaiah 2 where the prophet says

2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.

 3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us ago up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the flaw, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

Our formal training concluded Thursday afternoon. After lunch, we had a brief meeting where we had the opportunity to share testimonies. We were especially impressed by the witness of the Rushtons who had great challenges getting here. A daughter died of breast cancer in the spring. Then after they received their mission call to Detroit, a son was diagnosed with an orange-sized brain tumor, and another son who is a fire fighter injured his back and is now disabled and can't work. With support and encouragement from their family, and with faith that God "is a rewarder of them that diligently seek after him," they are going on their mission. Each couple had a similar story of faith and of a desire to dedicate their lives for a period of time to service in the Lord's vineyard.
Happy couple David and Rachel Chinn

This is what you get when you tell Harrison to say "Cheese"

It's great to have a permanent companion
David and Rachel took us out to eat Thursday evening to celebrate the completion of our training. Rachel does not like seafood, and David loves it, so he was excited to take us to Red Lobster. We learned that Harrison, who is a picky eater, can eat all of the macaroni and cheese you put in front of him. We appreciated their kindness and enjoyed the time we had to visit with them and have a good dinner.

Friday was sort of our preparation day. Rachel took us shopping for some things we needed, and some we didn't but wanted. When we pack everything on Monday for our flight Tuesday, we may have to leave some things behind to meet the 50 pound weight limit on each bag. Well, we'll cross that bridge. 

We had a lovely Friday evening. The twins arranged for babysitters and the 6 of us went to the Mount Timpanogos Temple. The temple was beautiful, peaceful and extremely well organized. We are grateful for this time with Todd and Rachel and their families. We will have a difficult time saying goodbye.

Saturday morning we planned to meet my cousin Kathy and her husband Roger at breakfast. We saw Cullen Bebee from our ward in Silsbee (had seen James Powell from there the day before). We had breakfast with Kathy and Roger and then stayed with them until my other cousin Janet and her husband Tony came to pick them up. Being here at the same time as Kathy and Roger was one of the Lord's tender mercies. It was great to visit with them, share stories, and talk about our respective missions. 

Saturday afternoon, Jeff stayed with Harrison while he napped. Rachel and David went shooting with the other members of his bishopric, and Janet headed to the mall for hair color. Janet and I took Harrison to American Grove to meet Todd and Kristi for dinner at Chick-fil-a while David and Rachel went to a friend's wedding reception. It was a good time to visit while Harrison and Callie tore up the play place at the restaurant.

We ended the day at Todd's office watching part of the BYU-UCLA football game. It was great to see where Todd works. The company is young, hip and creative. The environment is playful, and we can see why Todd fits in well there. We closed out the week tired, spiritually fed, and ready to get on our way to Germany next Tuesday.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Saturday is Preparation Day

Kristi, Callie, Brighton, Todd, Janet, Jeff, Harrison (grumpy), Rachel, David
Brad got all of us together for a picture after lunch at Chubby's -- appropriate name for a restaurant that serves mostly hamburgers, fries, and shakes. We had a great morning starting at David and Rachel's home. David picked us up at the MTC with our rather large bag of laundry. We had breakfast with Brad and the Chinns and visited while we ran our laundry through the machines. We drove to Pleasant Grove so that Brad could see Todd and Kristi's home and visit with them. Kristi had bubbles for the little ones (way to go, Kristi), so Harrison and Callie had a good time in the back yard until it was time for lunch.

After lunch together at Chubby's, Brad and Janet and I drove to Cottonwood Heights to visit Aunt Miggs. What a wonderful lady. We sat outside on the patio and talked for a long time. It was a warm afternoon and really pretty outside. I find it hard to believe that she is 93 years old. Her mind is agile and her sense of humor is intact. She has medical problems common to someone who has lived as long as she has, but she soldiers on. She tries to find little ways to be of service. She took over a flower box near the patio and planted flowers and vegetables in it. She takes joy in watering and tending this small garden, and I'm sure other residents appreciate it.
Brad and I with Aunt Marguerite and Janet
Brad took us with him to the airport, and David and Rachel picked us up there on their way to a wedding reception in downtown Salt Lake City. It was hard to tell my brother goodbye knowing that I might not see him for two years. The older we get, the better friends we are. We grow closer as we age. 

While David and Rachel took Harrison to the reception, Janet and I went to the food court at City Creek and got some dinner. We sat outside on a perfect evening. Rachel asked a couple of weeks ago if we would consider moving here after our mission if they still live here. I think I would like to live in the mountains and enjoy this lovely weather for a while. We'll have to mull that over.

We ended the day back at Todd and Kristi's for a little bit of the BYU - Boise State football game. As BYU's offense sputtered, Janet was also running out of gas, so we had David take us back to the MTC. We turned in after a long day, tired but fulfilled. I woke up, by the way, some time after we went to sleep when fireworks went off at the stadium. BYU scored three times in the 4th quarter to win the game 35-24. Elder Bunn in our district graduated from Boise State, so I'm sure that he will be feeling low.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Our New Friends at the MTC

Our MTC district - Jeff and Kay Bunn, Sister Yazzie and Brother Gubler -- our instructors, Jerry and Irene Hansen, and Michael and Debra Newcum
We have grown to love and appreciate these people very much. The Bunns are going to Baton Rouge Louisiana. They are from Boise, Idaho, and hope to watch Boise State beat BYU tomorrow night. Elder Bunn will be the mission nurse and take care of the other missionaries' health needs. Sister Bunn will work in the office. They will be with us next week for the office training.

Sister Yazzie is half Navajo -- thus the unusual name -- and is a very experienced teacher. Brother Gubler served his mission in Germany and Austria, and he too is a gifted teacher. They were great with our group. Imagine being in your 20's and being assigned to teach a group of people who have years of church service and experience, who have been bishops and stake presidents and relief society presidents. But all of our district were humble and eager to learn, and our teachers were supportive and helpful.

The Hansens are from Sandy, Utah, and are headed to Indonesia to teach family history. They don't know the language, haven't lived outside the country, and don't really know much about family history. They are an inspiration. They start family history training in Salt Lake City tomorrow morning at 10:30.

Michael and Debra Newcum are going to Modesto California to support the members and leaders. They are from Dallas and know the Packards. We really enjoyed them. Elder Newcum has a great sense of humor, and Sister Newcum is full of enthusiasm and love for everyone. They left this afternoon to drive to California.

We will miss all of them.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

At the Missionary Training Center

David, Rachel and Harrison dropping us off at the MTC
In front of the MTC, first day
Frankfurt on the map
We are in Provo, Utah, and the Missionary Training Center. There are more than 2000 young men and young women (young men can volunteer for 2 years of missionary service at age 18, and young women can apply for 18-month missions at age 19). There are also approximately 150 "senior missionaries." The young fresh faces are from many nations. Some come for a short time to learn how to effectively proclaim the gospel and teach about Jesus Christ and His restored Church. Many or maybe even most of them stay for 6 weeks of intense missionary and language training. They have been called to serve all over the earth. We have met young people going to Ukraine, Japan, South America, Thailand, Colorado, and Indonesia. They are enthusiastic, and we listen to them chatter away in all manner of tongues. It's amazing.

The senior missionaries in our group of 107 (53 couples and a single sister) are also headed out to all manner of places. We talked to an Elder and Sister Smith this afternoon who are headed to Guatemala. He will serve as an associate area legal counsel for the church, and she will help in the office or do something else. She doesn't really know what she will do there, but she goes with faith that she can help in the work. We have four couples in our district. They are wonderful people, and have touched our hearts with their love for the Savior and for people. The Bunns are from Idaho. He will be the mission nurse in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Sister Bunn will work in the mission office. The Hansens are from Sandy, Utah. They are going to Indonesia to teach people how to do family history and to support the local branches of the church. This is way out of their comfort zone, but they are going with a smile and with trust that God will help them do what they need to do -- including help them learn to speak the language. The Newcums are from Dallas. They know the Packards, and we felt an instant connection with them. They have planned for most of their lives to serve, although Brother Newcum is a convert and told us that when he was investigating the church as a younger man, he did not pray when the missionaries asked him to pray because he was afraid that if he found out that what they were teaching him was true, he would be obliged to serve the Lord and possibly be a missionary. That terrified him. But he took the step long ago, found the truth, and is now going out to serve a full-time mission with his wife. How inspiring is that? They are going to Modesto, California, to teach the gospel and reach out to less active members. We love these people.

Our son-in-law (Rachel's husband) David Chinn is the training coordinator for senior missionaries, and we have enjoyed seeing him in action. He is a gifted teacher, and is in complete charge in these large group meetings as he teaches the 107 of us how to teach people and not lessons. We love him and are so proud! He's made us feel like celebrities :) 

Last night, there was a devotional for the MTC, and Elder Gérald Caussé and his wife spoke to the entire group of missionaries. Imagine a choir of what must have been 1,000 young men and women (or more) singing "More Holiness Give Me." They only practiced an hour before the meeting, but it was amazing. Then Sister and Elder Caussé taught us to be heroes -- to become true emissaries of the Lord Jesus Christ. At the conclusion of Bishop Caussé's remarks, he said that he was nervous, but that he had to be bold like he was telling us to be. He left the stand, sat at a grand piano, and began what sounds like a one-finger arrangement of "Come, Come Ye Saints." It became a concert-level performance of a magnificent arrangement of that hymn, the most beautiful piano arrangement I have ever heard. What an amazing man. He was a successful businessman in France, became a Seventy, and is now the 1st counselor in the presiding bishopric of the church. They left a comfortable life and a close family in France to move first to Germany and then to Salt Lake City, Utah because they love the Savior. It was an inspiring evening.

It is our love for the Savior that has motivated us to leave our comfortable home and sweet family as well.  He has sacrificed all for us, has blessed us and brought us so much joy and peace, how can we not sacrifice for him? To share the wonderful knowledge of Jesus Christ and the restoration of his gospel is our deepest desire. We are grateful he has pointed us to Germany where we hope to do just that.  

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Leaving Home

We left our home in Houston in mid-August, even though we don't report to the Missionary Training Center in Provo until September 7. The early departure was hard to manage, and we left feeling that there were a few things left undone, but it has given us several sweet opportunities.

  1. We were able to visit wonderful Aunt Marguerite, 93 years old and going strong.
    With Aunt Miggs in front of her garden
  2. We visited our dear friends Robert and Patty Ruggles -- our fellow missionaries. Their love for their mission and their enthusiasm were infectious.
    With Robert and Patty in their SLC apartment
  3. We attended BYU Education Week and were edified, inspired, and instructed in a wonderful week of lectures and presentations. 
  4. We met and had dinner with dear friends Ward and Crystal Molen and Walter and Crystina Scott. They are friends from before we were married. We love them. They still make us laugh.
  5. We went to California for a long weekend and a wonderful visit with Chris, Mandi, Peyton, Gavin, and Austin. It was even better because we were able to spend Saturday in Clovis with Brad and Shirley. Our nephew Ethan was there with his wife Alice and their little girl Emi. And our sweet niece Lindy was there with her husband Jay and their two boys Jacob and Corbin. It was a wonderful day of great food, swimming, and backyard pool. The only blemish on the day was that Janet was terribly ill and had to remain in Tehachapi, so she missed the whole day. 
    I love my brother

    Austin is a delight

    Chris, Gavin, Austin, Peyton, Mandi

    Brain trust

    We will miss Brad and Shirley
  6. After our weekend in California, we returned to Provo and spent two days in "immersion" training in German. We appreciate the young men and women who work at the Missionary Training Center and their commitment to help us become more proficient in the language. We are more excited than ever about our mission and anxious now to get to Germany and get to work.
  7. We spent lots of time with grandchildren here in Utah, including a Saturday morning hike in the Wasatch mountains.
  8. Rachel shines from within

    Chinns on the trail

    With my sweet daughter

    Lunch break at Stewart Falls

    All tuckered out after walking 3 miles

    Callie having fun with Grandma

    Brighton's big grim
We enter the MTC tomorrow. On this final Sunday with our kids, we will attend church meetings with David and Rachel and then have dinner with Todd and Kristi. Kristi's dad and step-mom are here for a visit, too, so we have the extra privilege of seeing them.

We miss our other children and grandchildren, but as we prepare to leave the US and head to Germany, we go with anticipation and no regrets for this decision to serve the Lord and help others to come to Christ.