Saturday, July 7, 2018

Temple Service, Baptisms, Blessings and Birthdays

Now that we have returned from Europe for the second time, we feel like we have entered into a new phase of our retirement.  We have begun our service as temple ordinance workers in the recently rededicated Jordan River Temple.  This has consumed a lot of our energy and time in the past five weeks and we love it.  We are feeling for the first time the blessings of living next door to the temple and find ourselves in "our" temple several times each week.  We believe it has elevated our spiritual well being.

A night view of the Jordan River Temple after completing our most recent Saturday Evening shift

We returned from our Germany family history trip on May 30 at 10:30 pm, after circling the airport for about an hour due to high winds.   The next day we were able to participate in a missionary reunion for senior couples that had served in the Europe Area mission in Frankfurt, Germany.  It was well attended by over 30 missionaries.  We love these dear friends!  After enjoying a nice pot luck lunch, we were able to get updates from all attending.  Unfortunately we had to leave before this finished as Debbie was to begin her first assignment to play the organ in the Jordan River Temple.

33 senior who had served in Frankfurt, Germany during the time that we served, dear, dear friends.

Debbie had previously volunteered to fulfill one of her life's dreams, to play the organ in the temple.  Although, she had not played the organ since her teenage years, she has been diligently practicing and is now playing in the temple every Thursday afternoon, from 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm.  I spent a few minutes listening to her play in the temple this past Thursday and felt a rush of the Spirit and joy to see her perform this sacred service.

Debbie with her Temple Organ Music

We specifically planned our return from Germany to be able to attend the baptism of our granddaughter, Abbie.  She turned 8 on Friday, June 1 and was baptized the next day.  This was a very important day for her and it was followed up with a family luncheon.  We love Abbie and the sweet spirit that she has.
Oma and Opa with Abbie on her baptism day

Abbie with her parents

Abbie in her beautiful baptism dress
Serving in the Temple:

After the baptism we began our first shift as ordinance workers.  We now serve every other Saturday evening and every Wednesday during the day.  Saturday, June 2, was our first Saturday evening shift, from 4:00 pm to 10:00 pm.  Since the temple had been open for a week and a half before we returned, we had missed initial training opportunities.  However, our shift coordinators were aware of our situation and were helpful.

At first we were a bit nervous, but we have since adapted and feel more comfortable in our responsibilities.  The blessings that are pronounced in the initiatory ordinances have become ingrained in our minds and our hearts.  We have found this to be hard work, requiring movement to different assignments in the temple each 30 minutes.  At the end of each 6 or 7 hour shift, we are physically exhausted but spiritually uplifted.

Even though we serve at the same time, our assignments are completely independent.  On the Wednesday shift, we rarely see each other during the day.  On our Saturday evening shift, we have opportunity to see each other more often, as our time in the baptistry overlaps and we currently have a 30 minute break at the same time.  We usually spend that time in the study room.  We always seem to see friends and neighbors in the temple, which adds to the joy of our service.

A few weeks ago, I had a particularly rewarding day of service of which I want to share a few of the highlights.  As I served in the baptistry, I was asked to serve as a baptizer for a short period of time.  We had a sister who is an ordinance worker.  She had been working earlier in the day and had "accidentally" recorded the baptism of her mother from  a card that was in her pocket.  Since the ordinance had not yet been performed, she came later that day to have the baptism performed.  I was able to be the baptizer for that sacred event.  As she came up out of the water, she was elated to have finally completed this ordinance that she had been delaying to do.  We felt that perhaps her mother was acting through her to receive this important ordinance. 

Later that day I was assisting patrons come through the veil of the temple.  When I parted the veil, I saw my sweet wife on the other side, presenting the patron at the veil.  It was a special joy to participate directly with her to assist the patrons from that session.  We also had the privilege to be together in the study room during our break time.  Later that day, I had the opportunity to help a patron come through the veil in Portuguese.  That is always a special privilege and reminded me of the opportunity that I had to serve in the Sao Paulo Brazil as an ordinance worker, 25 years ago.

On Saturday nights, Debbie finishes a little before me, so she takes the car home and I take the short walk from the temple to our condominium.  During this walk, the night was beautiful and calm and my heart was full of gratitude.   I arrived home uplifted and strengthened from my service in the House of the Lord.

Photo taken from our neighborhood during my walk home.  What a beautiful sight, to see the temple, full of light, in a world of darkness.
In addition to serving in the temple, we also try to take the opportunity to participate in temple ordinances for our ancestors.  We are usually able to do that at least once a week.  I have also been able to be proxy for initiatory work during some of my breaks.  We have been able to once again meet in a "sealing" session with my mother and my brothers and their wives.  This is always a great joy as we complete the temple ordinances for these ancestors who are now able to be sealed together as spouses and to their children.  It is probably my favorite part of the family history and temple experience.

Yesterday we had the opportunity to go with our grandson, Joseph, to do baptisms for some of the ancestors that we had identified in our family history work in Germany.  The temple was full of youth and it took a little while to wait for our opportunity.  When it came, I was able to be the baptizer and baptized Joseph for 14 of our ancestors.  12 of these were direct great grandfathers for Debbie (and Joseph).  Another was a brother to her single great grandmother and the 14th was a great grandfather on my mother's side.  This was an amazing experience full of emotion for Debbie and me.  Debbie was able to stand by the font and witness this sacred experience.  We will continue with this experience next week as we take two of our granddaughters with us for some of the great grandmothers.  Each of these individuals have become dear to us, as we have researched their names and we feel that we know them personally.  They are now being liberated from their spirit prison if they accept the gospel that is being preached to them, very possibly by their posterity that have received this gospel on the earth.

Our grandson, Jospeh with the 14 names for whom he was baptized, including 12 direct great grandfathers

The sheer volume of temple work that needs to done for our ancestors far exceeds our physical ability to complete.  As such, we have engaged the efforts of other family members.  We met with extended family members from the Rueckerts in Salt Lake and shared with them the many books of family history names that we have obtained for our common ancestors.  The initial response has been very positive and we have shared over 200 family names with our extended relatives.  We are preparing for an extended Family Reunion meeting in September, where we hope to engage even more of these distant cousins.

4 large notebooks of Familienregisters of ancestors on the Rueckert Side, thousands of family names to be taken to the temple
We have found each of my siblings to be very helpful.  We have shared 100 more names with my brother Dan in California and his ward has completed the baptisms and is now working on the other ordinances.  My brother Rob is a young mens president in his ward and the youth of his ward has completed over 200 baptisms and confirmations in the past year.  My sister in law, Kendra, has taken many female names to do initiatory work as part of her training as an ordinance worker in the Salt Lake temple. 

My mother (left) with her friend from High School (Rebecca).  We met her in a temple session.  She also took some of our family names for her future temple visits.
We also have dear members of our ward who are receiving proxy ordinances for many of our ancestors.  One neighbor has also accepted 100 family names for which they will do all of the ordinances.  They have also performed more than 100 additional baptisms and confirmations with their grandchildren.  We have a scheduled activity with Debbie's siblings next month where we plan on starting the same process for her ancestors.

Family History:

We have shared some of our findings from our family history trip with my cousin, Gloria (for the Schlerf lines) and with our new friend, Sharon Tristani, in Orem (her family lines in Muhlhausen, Germany).  Their responses have been gratifying and fill our hearts with joy.  Their happiness fully repays any efforts that we were able to make while in Germany.   Fellow family history addicts really understand each other.

From Gloria:

"I wanted to thank you and Debbie again for the images you brought back for me.  I worked on the Schlerf images from Rocksdorf and now I'm working on the images from Betzenstein.  The marriage records you brought back are invaluable.  I have not put them in FamilyTree yet, but already they have enabled me to take the Steger line back several more generations, and I've only scratched the surface."

From Sharon:

"GOSH you found another child for Andreas Heiser (King’s primary line) that died before I even had them married. I’m sitting here sobbing. She will be added to FSearch TODAY!!! 
Thank YOU🌼🌼🌼"
Wow!! Sharon

"I'm so excited about the Sander informaiton I could hardly sleep.  I don't know how I can ever thank you for getting all this information on my husband's family - other than to promise I will get temple work going for all of them.  May our good God keep his arms around you.🌼"


Gloria helped us identify the last name on one image that we found for Debbie's great . . . great grandmother.  Once identified, we were able to link into two more generations that were already in Family Search.  I could go on and on, but it suffices to say that identifying ancestors is one of the most exciting things that I have ever done.  

We have enough work ahead of us to keep me happy for many years.  In the meantime, my mother spends several hours every day putting more information from the Familienregisters (see four binders above) into Family Search.  She clears hundreds of names for temple work each week!

We missed Memorial Day for the past 3 years, so we took my mother and visited graves a week late.  This became especially meaningful as we thought of our recent ancestors who are buried here, including several who were born in Germany.  These have become dear to our hearts and visiting their graves has increased meaning.

My mother and Debbie visiting the grave of my father
Graves of my great grandparents whose house we stayed in during our recent trip in Germany.  Their ancestors have filled our family history records and are abundantly available.  They came to Utah with their children and they died shortly after arriving.  However, they have left a legacy for thousands of their posterity.

Debbie's grandparents who immigrated to Utah nearly 100 years ago with their children (including Debbie's father). We visited the sites where they were born and lived in Germany.  Their faith has inspired us and we have learned to love their ancestors whose names we have found in our family history efforts.

Children and Grandchildren:

Before we had been home a week, we had the opportunity to tend some of our grandchildren while their mother was on a Youth Trek and their father was working.  This was only for 24 hours but we put them to work.  They helped us plant flowers and our grow box garden.  We then relaxed with a nice walk to the temple.  This is a perk of living nearby.

Grandchildren in front of the flowers that they helped plant
In front of our new "grow box" garden on our patio

Hanging out in front of the Jordan River Temple
Caleb, taking it easy on the grass behind the temple

Garden Update:

Our grow box garden has done well in it's first month.  It survived a hail storm that destroyed a few of the plants and several leaves.  Some plants have not survived, but others have flourished.  Hopefully soon we will be eating the "fruits" of our labors.

Plenty of hailstones for our grow boxes
Large hail stones that damaged our plants and also broke one of the lights on our garage
Our garden on July 7, one month after planting

Birthdays and more Birthdays:

When we went to Germany, we celebrated April birthdays before we went and a few May birthdays long distance.  Others we caught up on soon after we returned.  And then there were the June birthdays, including some in Pennsylvania without photos.  The big deal of the month was the 40th birthday of our daughter KariLyn.  It happened to fall on Fathers Day (Sunday) so we decided to do a family home evening for all of our children and turn it into a surprise birthday party.  All turned out well.

Katelyn received her elated 16th birthday present, which was a bracelet from Germany.

Serenity receiving her birthday books on her birthday, after  Abbie's baptism

We caught up with Paisley for her first birthday,  just one week late.

Ellie received her Ellie books for her 5th birthday at her outdoor water games birthday party in Hyrum

Ellie's mother, Melanie, enjoying the splash slide at the water games.  Had to include this with the birthday photos.
Dawson celebrating his 4th birthday, with big brother Ashton looking on

Dawson enjoying his Super Hero books

Karilyn on her big 40th birthday celebration

Family gathering for KariLyn's 40th birthday party

KariLyn receiving recognition from her 18 year old son on her 40th birthday

Other special grandchildren activities:

Watching Ashton hit the ball at his last baseball game of the year

McKenzie hitting the softball at her softball game

Arianna at her dance recital

Grandparent dates:

We have gotten back into working on the date with each of our grandchildren that we promised at Christmas time.  We finished four of the grandchildren with several more planned for the coming weeks and months:

Going to the Living Aquarium with Evelyn and Jasper

They really enjoyed looking at the fish in the different aquariums

Jasper and Evelyn on the big frog

Kaleb hitting the golf ball at Top Golf.  He hits very well for a four year old.

Ellie coming down the slide at the Cache Valley Fun Park

Ellie with her Oma at the Fun Park
Ellie with the sun glasses and fan that she won at the Fun Park on the next day (4th of July)

Fourth of July, the Birthday of our Country:

Debbie always has a need to be creative.  She loves to decorate and does so in a low cost method, using existing supplies.  The 4th of July was no different.  The following are the decorations that she made from a supply of colored paper that we had on hand.

4th of July specially decorated cookies

We stayed in Hiram for the 4th of July and enjoyed the city parade and then a barbecue at Jared and Melanie's house.  They do the 4th really well in Hiram.  However, the parade has turned into a major candy grab as almost all of the parade entries throw out candy.  Beckie and her kids also came up and participated in all activities.

Debbie and Beckie at the parade in their 4th of July attire

Watching the parade, with sacks of candy

Just a side note, Olivia was very sick on July 3rd and had been sick for a few days with an infection.  She had not been responding well and wouldn't take any medication.  On the night of July 3, Jared wanted to give a second blessing to Olivia.  He asked me (Tom) to seal the anointing and give her the blessing.  Following the counsel of President Nelson, I went prepared to clearly bless her according to God's will.  In the blessing, Olivia was told that she would be well enough to participate in the 4th of July activities but that she should continue her medications.  Miraculously, Olivia awakened on the 4th and participated in all activities without any restrictions.  She later found that she did have an e.coli infection that clearly required continuing her medications.  God is good, he knows all and blesses according to our needs and wants.

Olivia walking back to the car with Oma after the parade
After the barbecue, we drove to  Salt Lake, listening to patriotic music on the way.  Once we got back to Salt Lake, we picked up Ben, Grandma and Jacob and continued to Gina's new basement apartment next door to the BYU football stadium where they were holding the Stadium of Fire celebration.  We were able to watch the celebration on the big screen from the Stadium and had a wonderful view of the fireworks.  The only downside was that it took an  hour and a half to get out of the neighborhood, getting home after 1:00 am. This wasn't too tough for us the next day, but Ben and Jacob did have to get up and go to work.

Addie and Hudson getting ready for the Stadium of Fire
Backyard seating for the Stadium of Fire performance at Gina and Danny's place
View of the big screen in the stadium from Gina's backyard
Addie enjoying the fireworks

One of the many fireworks displays