Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Experiencing the Luck of the Irish (and miracles)

Welcome from Ireland.  We have just completed a wonderful trip to Ireland, visiting with our Self-Reliance missionary couple and participating in Self-Reliance events.  We were also able to find a Shillelagh and Elder Rueckert grew a beard.  This photo was taken near the cliffs and the ocean, but they were not visible through the clouds.

With our Shillelagh, which is an ancient Irish war weapon

Our week started last week with a senior missionary family home evening in the neighboring cemetery.  We learned a lot more about our little cemetery.  We learned the location of some holocaust type graves, a location for children of U.S. military serving in Germany, victims of the Heidelburg and much more.

Around a memorial for those who were mass murdered in Poland during World War II

As we went into the War memorial, we noticed for the first time that there is a round opening in the top of the memorial.  It made for a wonderful photo of the trees and sky above.

Beautifully framed photo from the circular opening in the top of the World War I and II memorial

Memorial for Alois Alzheimer who was the first to study what we now call Alzheimer's disease.  This  grave marker is for him and his wife Cecile and includes an image of the woman that he studied who did not remember her son.

Memorial for the American Children's Cemetery
 The rest of the week we got caught up on other work, held our finance self-reliance group and then prepared to visit the Kaiserslautern military stake committee meeting on Thursday evening.  Late Thursday afternoon, a half hour before we were about to leave, we found that the meeting had been canceled.  Too bad, but it did give us a little more time to prepare for our trip to Ireland and the United Kingdom.  We left for Ireland on Friday.

We flew through London and barely made it through the U.K. border control in time for our connection to Dublin, Ireland.  That is another story.  We arrived in Dublin and were greeted by our missionary couple, Elder and Sister Pettit.  We were treated to a wonderful home cooked meal in their home and then spent some time reviewing many of their ideas and approaches to Self-Reliance Services.  We also planned out the remainder of our visit.  We then went to the Church to participate in a young adult activity.  The activity didn't turn out, but we did have some good visits with missionaries and investigators, several who are from Brazil.  It is always fun for me to use my Portuguese with these great individuals who are far from their home.

The next morning, we started with a meeting with a non member who has been helped to work in the business of a local member.  This non member is from Zimbabwe and has an MBA.  As we talked with him it was easy to see how amazingly smart and wise that he is.  He is very involved with the Church and will be a great leader.  He is waiting for his wife to come this week and get her involved in the Church before he is ready to get baptized.  He is currently providing opportunities for many of the young adults who need work.  He is amazing.

As we headed out for the day, I couldn't pass the chance to photograph the signs in Ireland, all of which include the Gaelic language along with the English language.

Our first stop for the day was to visit the Newgrange and Knowth Neolithic sites in Ireland.  These ancient sites are the home to large burial tombs and astronomic structures that date back to 3,000 years B.C., 500 years older than the pyramids.  They have found cremated and charred bones inside the structures.  This has been archeologically uncovered in the past 60 or 70 years and reflect a structure that is perfectly aligned for maximum light impact on the Spring and Autumn solstice.  The base stones of the structure are full of megalithic artwork, comprising more than a third of all known megalithic art in Western Europe.

On the bridge to the site where we got the bus to take us to the Knowth site

With our friends, Elder and Sister Pettit, in front of the Knowth mounds that have been uncovered
Closer up view at structure, surrounded by stones covered with art

A sample of some of the ancient artwork on the stones
Another art sample

Inside the structure, old stuff!

A view inside the structure, this is the main hall where light would be maximized on the spring and autumn solstice

After the visit to Newgrange and Knowlt, we continued on our journey to the city of Cork where we had a My Path Devotional scheduled.  The Petitts were not sure what we would find.  They said that the average attendance at sacrament meeting in this small branch was only about 12.  However, when we arrived, we found 13 individuals in attendance.  The devotional was directed by the counselor in the district presidency and the district self-reliance specialist.  Elder and Sister Pettit also participated and Sister Rueckert was able to share her testimony.  At the end of a different kind of devotional than we are accustomed to, the counselor in the district presidency encouraged all to join a self-reliance group and had them move to different tables depending on the group.  He did it masterfully and all participants joined either an Education, Starting and Growing My Business or a Finance group.  Times were set and the counselor accepted the role to travel each Thursday and facilitate the small business group and E/S Pettit accepted to travel down each Friday and facilitate the other two groups.

As we left the devotional, the Pettits felt that they had seen a miracle occur.  The Branch President, who had not been very positive in the past, was fully supportive and ready to invite a few other members of the branch to join these groups.  The leadership of the priesthood keys (district presidency counselor and branch president) had made all of the difference.

We stopped for a dinner and continued home, arriving at about 1:00 am, a drive of 3 hours.  It was a long but wonderful day.

The next morning, Sunday, we left at 8:00 am to attend Church meetings in Northern Ireland, a completely separate country. The Belfast stake in Northern Ireland had struggled to get anything started in their stake.  The ward we  attended was the Holywood ward and they had a new bishop called the previous week.  The former bishop and his wife had been called as the new Stake Self-Reliance specialists.  The Pettits had been scheduled to share a lesson about Self-Reliance during the priesthood and relief society time by the previous bishop.   Before the meeting they arranged with the new bishop for the ward to do a full My Path devotional on the 29th of this month.  So after their presentation, which was excellent, they invited all of the adult ward members to plan to participate in the upcoming devotional.

After the meeting we had wonderful feedback from some of the members, including a counselor in the bishopric that had many ideas of resources available to help members that want to start their own business.  We also met a missionary, Elder Salinas, whose father is the Area Self-Reliance Manager in Mexico.  He already has a wonderful testimony of the self-reliance initiative and will be a great asset for this ward as they move forward.

We spent a little while discussing with the new stake specialists and then they returned a little later for more detailed training.  Their attitude is excellent, they were just wanting to absorb everything about their calling and responsibilities. They also know the ward well, so it was decided that we would begin their self-reliance journey with this Holywood ward.

Training session with the new Stake Specialists

Brother and Sister Moffett, newly called Stake Specialists

We left this training and Sunday experience feeling that the Belfast stake would finally begin their Self-Reliance journey.  We returned back to Dublin for a Stake Priesthood meeting where Elder Pettit was sharing a talk about self-reliance.  Within 24 hours we had been to all three stakes/districts on the island of Ireland (two countries), traveling over 10 hours by car.  However, we were so happy to see the progress that had been made and to work with such a great missionary couple.

The next morning we took a little time to explore Dublin, starting with our goal of purchasing a Shillelagh for our son Ben.  He has had a love for Ireland all of his life and always wanted a Shillelagh, which is an ancient Irish battle weapon.  It has large knots at the end of a stick.  Anyways, we found a large souvenir shop and found a  Shillelagh  and a souvenir spoon for our collection.

The Shillelagh

Pot of Gold at the end of the rainbow

Incredibly large souvenir shop with everything Irish you could ever think of.

We then walked down to the Famine ship and came by this monument to the famine of the 1840s.  At this time, there was little or no food in the country.  The English had confiscated all the food that there was and the residents were literally starving to death.  This monument was given to Ireland by Canada who had received many of the starving residents of Ireland.  It depicts those who were starving.  The sculptures are se descriptive of the looks of starvation.

Monument to hose who were starving in Ireland during 1840s.

Many Irish left Ireland at this time on what they called Famine ships.  Many went to the U.S. and Canada at this time.  Many died on the ships.  This ship below was one that took special care and was able to preserve the lives of those on the ship.

In front of the famine ship that was the most successful in preserving life.
We then had a very special experience visiting the Trinity College, a university that has been functioning since the 1500s.  In their library they have a first edition Book of Mormon which we were able to see and hold and turn the pages.  This was a spiritual experience to realize the origins of this book and to see the way it was published.  We felt strong impressions of the Spirit as we spent a little time with this incredible book.

Holding the original copy of the Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon and our permission to view from the Trinity College Library

Turning pages and examining the book

Opening page with 1830 print date and location
Book of Mormon with the date of July 1830 written and the name of Joseph P. Hayden.   Also some newspaper clippings from the 1800s related to Joseph Smith.
Preface to Book of Mormon
!st Book of Nephi, no verse breaks
Third Nephi, called the Book of Nephi originally

Book of Mormon with different volume and  numbering of chapters.

End of Book of Mormon right before testimony of three witnesses

We finished up that night with a concert for the young adults as a Family night.  This was a bit of a miracle of itself.  I will defer to Sister Rueckert to explain this occurrence:
"When I was in the souvenir shop, a man noticed my missionary tag and asked me where I was from and where I was serving.  His name was Kim Cooney.  He told me that he was in Ireland and had been invited to sing in several cathedrals and was disappointed that he had not been able to sing for any Latter Day Saints.  He told me that he was also there hoping to find some records of his family history.  He mentioned that Patrick, one of his deceased ancestors, had come to him and told him to do research on his ancestral line so that temple work could be performed.  I introduced Kim to Sister Pettit who happened to know Kathryn Lamb, who is an expert on Irish genealogy (also our stake self-reliance specialist).  While Elder Rueckert and I bought our souvenirs, Sister Pettit arranged for Kim to put on a concert for the Monday night English class and others that could be invited.  Among those invited was Kathryn Lamb.  Kim had the opportunity to talk to Kathryn about his desire to do his Irish genealogy and before the night was out, she promised to help him.  Kim said that this was an answer to his prayer since he had run out of time to do any research on his own.  He also was able perform a concert for a small group of Latter Day Saints, which was wonderful.  It is amazing to me that all of these miracles happened just because someone looked at my missionary tag!"

After the concert we went ahead with the English class with some Brazilians that are trying to improve their English.  One of them has been baptized, the other two are receiving the lessons.  I really enjoy meeting with Brazilians and speaking in their language.  This continually gives me a chance to use the Portuguese language that I have learned in productive ways, wherever we are.

Three Brazilians.  The first was baptized three weeks ago, the others are receiving missionary lessons.

English Class with Brazilians in Ireland

Before the devotional, we went to the cliffs to see the cliffs and the sea.  It was too cloudy to see much, but it felt like Ireland.
Above the Cliffs of Ireland, too much fog or clouds to see

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