Sunday, July 31, 2016

More relatives, Netherlands and Anne Frank

Another amazing week of our mission.  This week has combined many of our responsibilities and opportunities as missionaries.  This included family history and missionary opportunities,  travel, training of stakes, interfacing with missionary couples and work in the office.  We were also able to add a temple visit and a Friday night visit to a historical site.  

On Monday we started our week with a trip to Burgbernheim to examine pastoral books from the close proximity to where my Grandfather Johann Rueckert was born.  Previous to going, I had spent many hours reviewing the existing genealogical information, printing family group sheets, etc.  We weren't sure what to expect, but once again we went trusting in the Lord.  We were not disappointed, but immensely blessed.

The trip to Burgbernheim is only supposed to take an hour and a half, however, the main Autobahn has several spots under construction that delayed our arrival by over an hour.  We had reserved to arrive between 10:00 and 11:00 am, but arrived around 11:30 am.  However, we were greeted by the secretary who was expecting us.  She spoke fair English, so that made things a little easier.  She informed us that they only had the books from 1879 until the present.  All books previous to this were only on microfilm, with the originals stored in a location in Nürnberg.   We also learned that this Church only covered Hochbach and Burgbernheim, but that the records for Marktbergel, Bergtshofen, Buchheim and other local villages were part of other parishes.  The space to work with was also very limited, one small room with one desk, which included a microfiche reader. We started examining the books and tried to decide how to get started.  Soon the secretary had to visit the bank, which meant that we had to leave for a few minutes.  We took advantage of the break and had a nice lunch at a local bakery.

  When we returned we decided to start taking photos of all the pages that had a name that was recognized from our ancestry.  This included the names of Rückert, Goetz, Schwartz, Höfer, Endress, Boss, Scherzer and a few more.  Sister Rueckert took the book of Births and I took the book of Marriages.  Later Sister Rueckert covered the book of deaths while I tried to find some older information on the microfiches.  All in all we took photos of over 200 pages of information.  Generally the Surname is quite easy to identify, since it is written in a larger handwriting with the additional information much harder to decipher.  This was just the beginning, now we need to decipher the old handwriting and record the information in the photos.  We are trying to figure out the way to take advantage of this in an efficient manner.

Sister Rueckert with the "Births" book and my "Marriage book next to her.  We used our cell phones to take the pictures.

One of the pages showing a Rückert born in 1891 (line 20).  Parent information is included in the additional columns.
Another Rückert Birth in 1895, names of parents to the right

A Rückert marriage in 1894, entry 1, names of parents of the couple are hard to decipher, part of our next challenge
Photo of a microfiche record of the marriage of my great grandfather on December 19, 1704.  We probably need to get to Nürnberg to better decipher.  There is a question about the parents of the bride in our genealogy. Hoping to get clarification here.  The names of my 6th great grandparents are here, but I am having difficulty seeing the names of their parents.
We finished taking all the photos of the identified names by about 2:30 pm.  We then left to visit our Rückert family (Werner and Dorota) that we had met in our previous visit.  We wanted to show them that we also had Rückert relatives from Buchheim and perhaps there was still a connection between us.  They received us well and we updated additional information about their ancestors.  They then told us that there was a dentist in town who was the granddaughter of a Rückert.  Dorota said that we had to leave right away before the dentist finished work and left for the day, so she got in the car with us and we headed a short distance to the dentist location.  There we met Carola Kister who brought her father to meet us.  He had married a Rückert.  We exchanged contact information and were able to take the following photo of Carola and her father.  Possibly they are also our relatives.

Carola Kister (dentist) and her father who married a Rückert
Then Dorota took us to visit a family that was related to the Höfers, which was the name of my great grandmother.  There we met Günter Meyer, who is a great grandson of a Höfer.  He told us about a stone at the church with names and then asked us to follow him in his car.  He took us to the local cemetery which had many headstones with familiar names, including the ancestors of Werner Rückert, our new friend from Buchheim, and the link to the dentist (Kister). We also exchanged contact information with Günter.  As Dorota left, we gave her a Book of Mormon and some missionary tracts in German.  She accepted them graciously, even though our language differences make it hard to communicate better.
Werner's grandfather and great grandfather
Werner's father and grandmother

Elisabeth, daughter from the second wife of Werner's great grandfather
The graves tying in the Kister family to the Rückerts

By this time it was time to return to Frankfurt.  We were thrilled to find more distant relatives and more information than we had imagined.  Once again the Lord directed our efforts and took us to places that we had not even considered.  We also received contact information for some of the other local parishes and made an appointment to return to the Marktbergl pastor's office on this next Friday.  There are many more Rückerts  born in this area.  We are overwhelmed with the kindness of these people that we have met and their desire to help us and show us other links to our past.  This is so different to the image of unfriendly Germans.  Certainly these people that we have met have been so kind and helpful.  

As I prayed about this, I have felt that we need to help them see their genealogy in the recent past which eventually ties to our genealogy.  They have a little difficulty relating to those relatives from the 1700s.  That is one of our goals, to find their genealogy beginning with them.  The graves in the cemetery are a great start to this and when combined with what we can find from the pastor records should help us accomplish this goal.  

As we returned to Frankfurt, we had a wonderful work week, including our monthly meeting with the full-time missionary couples.  We were able to meet again with the missionary couple in the Kaiserslautern stake which we will next week.  We also prepared for our visit this week to the Netherlands.

On Friday morning we left our apartment and drove the 5 hours to The Hague temple.  We arrived in time to participate in a temple session at 2:30 pm.  We are so pleased to be able to continue our temple attendance, even when temples are far from us.  This is a special treat to us, to be able to travel near temples and partake of those blessings.

Our "selfie" in from of The Hauge, Netherlands temple.
 After the temple, we decided to venture into Amsterdam and try to visit the Anne Frank House. This is where Anne Frank and her family hid during World War II. Arriving in Amsterdam was the easy part, navigating the streets within the city and finding a place to park was a monumental challenge.  Amsterdam has more bicyclists than anywhere we have ever seen.  It feels dangerous to drive with so many cyclists on the narrow streets.  Between cyclists, buses and trains and boats in the canals, a car seems to be out of place.  It certainly proved to be a hindrance as almost no parking was available.  We finally found a parking garage and walked about a kilometer to the Anne Frank House.  The photo below was taken later in the evening of some of the bikes that were parked in front of the parking garage.
Incredible number of bikes, this is just a few of them that are parked.
Bike parking along the street in Amsterdam

Bike parking along the street

When we arrived at the Anne Frank House, we found a long line, which we had expected.  However, the wait was not too bad, as the line moved fairly well.  We made a new friend with Daniel, a young man who is studying abroad in Netherlands.  He is originally from China but raised in New York City.  He is studying art history in Europe this summer.  After spending an hour with him in line, we were able to leave him a pass along card.  He had heard of the Mormons but obviously didn't know much, as he did not know that we were Christians.  Sometimes our name tags come in handy to show the clear name of the Church.  Daniel also served as our photographer for some of the photos below.

In Line, with our friend Daniel, from China and the New York

At the side of the Anne Frank House Museum
The Anne Frank House in the evening, after leaving

While waiting in line

In Line, with our friend Daniel, from China and the New York

Sing in the window

Once we went into the house, we were able to learn so much more about the Anne Frank story.  This building housed her father's business.  He sold the business to his employees, so it would not be a Jewish business and could continue.  He then had four employees hide his family and four others for almost two years of the war.  Otto Frank fled Frankfurt, Germany with his family when Hitler came into power in the early 1930s and came to the Netherlands.  After Germany invaded the Netherlands in 1940, things started getting bad again.  To avoid being sent to concentration camps, Otto Frank and his wife and two daughters (Anne was 13 at the time) moved into the "Annex" of the building in July 1942.  This was in the top floors of the annex portion of the building.  They never left the building for almost two years.  Another family of three and another individual joined them in "hiding".  All food and other needs were supplied by the Office staff of the business, which included "Opekta" that sold a gelling agent  for making jam.  Sounds to me like what we currently call pectin.

Eventually, in May 1944 they were found out and the eight people were taken to the concentration camps where they all died except the father, Otto Frank.  After the war he returned to the location, found the journals of his daughter, Anne, and published them to the world.  They have now been translated into over 70 languages and several movies have been made.  Even though Anne Frank eventually lost her life, her desire to write for the world was fulfilled through the publishing of her Diary and other writings.  A few of her quotes are included as follows:

Only the four office staff know about the Frank family which is in hiding.  The warehouse was below them and none of the workers knew about those in the "annex".  

"We have to whisper and tread lightly during the day, otherwise the people in the warehouse might hear us." (Ann Frank)

The office staff purchases food from storekeepers and arranges ration coupons through contacts with the Resistance.  The tension is incredible.
"Kugler, who at times finds the enormous responsibility for the eight of us overwhelming, can hardly talk from the pent-up tension and strain." (Anne Frank)

Moveable bookcase which covered the hidden entrance to the Annex

First stairs to the Annex
Steep steps to the upper Annex
Sister Rueckert going up the stairs to the Annex

The first diary of Anne Frank.  She added several other books of writings.

 Saturday night, after arriving home, we watched the entire film about Anne Frank, which we had purchased at the museum.  We are deeply touched once again by the horrors of war but also about the way that the insights of a young girl were able to be shared with the world.

We arrived at our hotel after midnight on Friday, exhausted but uplifted by a wonderful experience in the temple and at the Anne Frank House.

The next morning we went back to Amsterdam to meet with the Stake Self-Reliance Specialists of the 4 Dutch speaking stakes (three from Netherlands and one from Belgium).  We also had the stake presidency counselor from the Apeldoorn stake.  We were joined by our Self-Reliance managers from the United Kingdom.  We held about 4 hours of meetings, including a lunch with these great individuals.  Some had some experience with Self-Reliance, others are brand new to their callings.  Sister Rueckert led them through a My Foundations experience, while the two managers and myself shared additional instruction.

Training of Self-Reliance personnel in Dutch speaking stakes
This was a wonderful opportunity to get to know these individuals better and to begin stronger relationships with each of them.  They are excited to learn and to serve.  We will continue supporting them as they take the self-reliance initiative forward in their stakes.  We felt like the training was a success.

After dropping our managers to the airport, we began our long drive back home.  In the evening we stopped in Köln, Germany for dinner.  There we stumbled onto an interesting restaurant idea.  The restaurant hosts different restaurant ideas each two weeks.  So every two weeks there is a different restaurant in the facility.  Yesterday was finishing the two weeks for the Goldkelchen group.  Photos below are from this restaurant and our visit.  

Plate of the day

Not that this restaurant is only here from July 18 to July 30

Enjoying our lamb chops

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Pioneers Blazing Trails Then and Now

This week our blog is dedicated to being a pioneer in commemoration of today, July 24, Pioneer Day.

Our week ended with our Pioneer Day 5K Run/Walk event.  Our lead photo shows missionaries, young and old and an employee or two beginning the 5K event.  This was a culmination of weeks of planning and preparation and a lot of prayers.  In the end it turned out perfect.   More on the race later in the blog. 

Our week started with our monthly senior missionary devotional.  It was dedicated to Social Media for Seniors, presented by Elder and Sister Proctor, senior missionaries working with the Publishing Services Department.  Although most senior missionaries are on Facebook, many have not ventured beyond that point.  They shared many other options with us and hopefully a few senior missionaries can learn a few new tricks, one of the key requirements for a "pioneer".  Personally, I have now opened an Instagram account.  At least that is a start.

We had a wonderful meeting with Elder Paul V. Johnson, first counselor in the Area Presidency.  Elder Johnson will assume the role of Chairman of our Area Self-Reliance Committee and this was an opportunity to understand his perspective on Self-Reliance and share and answer questions.  We were very enthused with his support and kindness.  What a blessing it is to work with these inspired brethren.

On Tuesday evening, we took Sister Enger home from the German class that she provides for the senior missionaries.  As always she is so kind to us.  We stopped at her garden plot and she gave us some fresh green beans and a strawberry plant and taught us a few new tricks also.

Picking beans from her garden
A Hummel Bee on one of her flowers

Sister Rueckert got so hungry she started eating flowers
Edible Flowers, quite tasty
Sister Enger giving some roses to Sister Rueckert

Throughout the week we have been preparing newly translated materials to appear on the Country Web Pages, holding video conferences, preparing for upcoming events and reviewing the annual budget submissions of our managers.  It was a full week, as normal, a little slower as many people in Europe have started their annual holiday period.  We will continue to encounter  this challenge over the next six weeks.

On Wednesday we went to check out a sale on ladies clothing at a local mall.  We left after our Finance Group and so had limited time to evaluate the options.  On Thursday noon we returned and found enough clothing to keep Sister Rueckert going for the rest of her mission at very low prices.

On Thursday, July 21,  we celebrated our one year anniversary since we moved to Germany last year.  It is hard to believe that a year has gone by.  So much has changed in a year, hopefully most of it for the better.  We love the work we do and the people that we associate with.  We look forward to this next year with anticipation to what lies ahead.

On Thursday we also met with Elder and Sister Kimball, by video, our new couple in Spain.  We love them and are so pleased with how well they are doing. We wanted them to get a good start on their mission and we believe that has happened.  These results bring great joy and satisfaction to us.

Now on to the event  of the week.   Last year, three days after arriving in Germany, we participated in the Pioneer Day  5K event.  This was the time that I (Elder Rueckert) got lost.  Due to my incredible mastery of the race route, we were asked to organize the event for this year.  Since July 24 fell on a Sunday, we decided to once again hold it on a Friday, in this case July 22.  We had invited the senior couples to participate and also extended the invitation to all Church employees and to the young missionaries that are serving close by.

We had organized several volunteers to be marshals along the route (so nobody gets lost this year) and to help with refreshments.  I had run the route several times to make sure we were clearly aware of the challenges.  The night before we put up plastic arrows throughout the route to help individuals know where to turn (or not to turn).  Refreshments (water, gatorade, oranges) were prepared.

We felt that all was ready when we had an all day rain storm on Thursday with more promised for Friday.  We made provisions to cancel if the rain was too hard and we resorted to prayer.  Our prayers were answered as the weather was perfect.  Rain did come later in the day, but it was perfect for our race, a little overcast, which actually was a blessing.  

We had good participation from the missionaries, young and senior, with only two employees participating.  About 26 finished the race.  The young missionaries took the top honors, the winner finishing the 5K in 21 minutes, which is pretty impressive, especially since he did not have experience as a runner, but was a soccer player.

Elder Rueckert was able to finish first amongst the senior missionaries in about 27 minutes and DID NOT GET LOST!  Quite an improvement over a year ago.

The Public affairs manager took a few pictures and put an article on the German Newsroom.  The following link will get you to the article.

The part about our race in English follows: 

Even in Germany, Mormons continue to remind themselves of the arrival of the pioneers in the Rocky Mountains at summer festivals, cultural events and sermons in church.

For the staff and volunteers of the European church administration offices in Frankfurt am Main, July 24th is an ordinary working day.  This year the special date falls on a Sunday.  Some members didn’t want the day to go by without some kind of celebration.  So they met today, on Friday, July 22, 2016, before the start of the working day, to run or walk a five-kilometer long memory run through the neighborhood of the administration building.

"The early pioneers traveled over two thousand kilometers to get to Salt Lake City. Our five-kilometer run is only one fifth percent this distance.  We run or walk only a short distance, but it gives us a glimpse of the incredible sacrifice and dedication of those early pioneers,” states Elder Thomas Rueckert, who organized the race.  He and his wife, Deborah, are working as full-time senior missionaries in the European church administration.

Written by Ralf Grünke, Public Affairs, Europe Area Offices

The following photos were taken during the race:

Group shot before the race
Before the race began
Beginning with a prayer
After coming up the hill and making the first turn
Staying ahead of some missionaries
He is still on my tail
Nearing the end, most young missionaries are now ahead of me
Some of the seniors coming towards the finish
A few Hi Fives amongst the finishers
Young missionaries awaiting the seniors to finish

Missionaries, young and not so young.  On the right is Elder Sommers, who won the race with his first place  trophy at his feet.
Some finishers enjoying refreshments, provided by Sister Rueckert and her helpers


It felt so good for the race to be over.  There was plenty of positive feedback.  Certainly it was a Pioneer's Day celebration to remember.

On Saturday we chose to stay home and relax.  Actually we had plenty to do to prepare for our next adventure, which is visiting the Pastor's office in Bergbernheim on Monday.  There we hope to identify additional family history information for relatives of my grandfather.  On Saturday I spent hours reviewing and printing 7 generations of family group sheets, identifying where there may be missing information in siblings and their families in each of the generations.

We have found that the Rückert comes into our pedigree chart in about 4 different location when you are on the 7th generation back.  We believe that we are indeed related to the family that we met in Buchheim a few weeks ago.

On Sunday we have enjoyed a nice Sacrament meeting based on our Pioneer heritage.  We will now take time to watch the Tabernacle Choir Pioneer Day presentation that can be streamed in Germany, since it is no longer live.

A few parting shots of additional tomatoes.  They are coming on quickly now, so there will be no more  celebration of 2 or 4 tomatoes.  The following shows our tomato plant with red spots throughout.  Also the picture of our tomatoes growing on the vines that are hanging over our balcony.

We wish everyone a Happy Pioneer's Day!