Our first photo is of the work of love that Debbie finished during our short trip to he U.S. She was able to get a fairly current photo printed out for each of our grandchildren, all 35 of them. This included updated photos of many of them during our trip and a senior picture from our oldest grandchild, Sabrina, which she sent to us from Texas. Yesterday Debbie was able to put all of the photos on the wall of our office in Germany. This photo gives an impression of these wonderful children that make the next generation of our posterity. As we count them, we realized that we have 17 grandchildren from the children that Debbie brought into our marriage and 18 grandchildren from the children that Tom brought into our marriage.
Monday we drove from Pennsylvania to New York City to catch our plane at the JFK airport. During the trip we tried to stop at a Walmart to print out the most current photos (above) that we had updated in the last few days of our trip. Not as easy as that sounds. The first Walmart we visited (already in New Jersey) had a Photo Center, but all the electronics were not functioning, so we were not able to print photos. So we got back on the freeway and kept looking for other Walmarts close to our freeway drive. Soon before we arrived at New York City we found another Walmart only to discover that they had sent all of their photo equipment to a neighboring Walmart. Finally at our third Walmart, we were able to print our remaining 7 photos for "the wall".
Since we had a little extra time, we chose to drive past "ground zero" in New York City. It is always an experience to drive in Manhattan. As we approached the site, we were able to have a wonderful view of the new One World Trade Center building that is now the tallest skyscraper in the western hemisphere and the 5th tallest in the world. To the top of the spire, it is 1,776 feet high, to match the founding of our country in 1776. It was also fitting, since this was just 3 days after the 14th anniversary of the 9/11 attack in 2001. Even though we were not able to park and get out of the car (almost impossible in New York City), we were able to take a few photos from our car, that we share below:
After quite a bit of traffic experience, we were able to return our rental car and arrive at the airport in time. We did sit on the plane for almost two hours while they fixed the door to the luggage compartment, but were able to arrive safely in Germany the next morning at about 11:30 am.
Before we went to bed that evening, back into our 8 hours ahead of Utah time zone, we were able to put new touches on our apartment which included some couch pillows and other items that Debbie had picked up in the States and I was able to install some grip strips on the bottom of our bath tub that we also brought with us. We were also able to get caught up on some emails for our assignment.
The next morning we met our new boss, Thomas George King, who started while we were away and then participate in a farewell for our previous boss, John Mulligan, who was retiring on that day. Even before the retirement social, we received an announcement that Brother King would be the Area Self-Reliance manager, separate from the Area Welfare Manager responsibilities that Brother Mulligan had shared. This was decided with the Presiding Bishopric the previous day so that the Europe Area can be better situated to assist the large number of refugees that are arriving daily. This will include significant short term humanitarian efforts (Area Welfare Manager) and long term self-reliance assistance (Are Self-Reliance Manager).
With this change, we are pleased to have Brother King 100% dedicated to the self-reliance effort. As we worked with him for the past three days, we are delighted to to get to know him and to help him in his transition to his new responsibilities. He is Australian, but has lived in England for the past several years and is new to Germany, just as we are. So many things we will learn together and others we can share from our experiences in Self-Reliance throughout the world. We are very optimistic about the future of Self-Reliance in Europe and of moving forward in this very important relationship.
Also, on Thursday, the announcement was made in Salt Lake City that the Self-Reliance initiative is now made available to the U.S. and Canada and the transition of over 80 existing employment center employees in the U.S. began. These are exciting times to be a Self-Reliance missionary and to be involved in this wonderful work.
On Friday, we had the privilege to meet, by video conference, with two new missionary couples that are serving in Manchester, England and in Rome, Italy. The first couple is from the U.S. and the other is native to Italy. In fact they are the parents of our Self-Reliance Manager in Italy. Both couples are delightful and fully engaged in this great work. We have also received notice of new couples assigned to Portugal and Scotland, who will be arriving by the end of the year. In addition to the 11 managers that we work with, that will make about 8 full-time missionary couples (besides us) who are working with the Self-Reliance initiative.
Finally to finish off our week, we were looking for a restaurant near our home to go to for our Friday night date. We saw an on-line review that was very positive about a Chinese Restaurant close to our apartment (about 1.2 miles away). As we arrived at the location, we found that the restaurant had been closed, but found another restaurant across the street. We decided to give it a chance and had a wonderful experience. It was not very busy but was a quiet atmosphere with excellent service. As we were enjoying our meal our song, "Endless Love", starting playing in the background music. It was a special moment that really topped off an eventful week in a wonderful way. We are very happy to be back.
Today (Saturday), we are off for our first travel by train in Europe. We are going to Belgium to participate in some meetings with a Stake Self-Reliance Committee tomorrow. From there we will go with our French manager and missionary couple to Paris and visit with stakes committees and Self-Reliance groups in the Paris area and throughout France. On Thursday we will fly to Madrid, Spain where we will participate in a training session of Stake Specialists from all over Spain on Friday and Saturday. Saturday night we will travel back home to Frankfurt, Germany.
Another exciting week ahead of us, it is certainly good to be back "home".