Sunday, November 20, 2016

Back home in time for the Queen's visit

After a long trip it is always good to be home.  It gives us a chance to return to routines and habits that strengthen our bodies and our spirits.  This time it also gave us a chance to participate in our ward's "International Night", which included a visit from the Queen of England.  More about that later in the blog.

The Queen of England was part of the exhibit of the United Kingdom in our "International Evening"
The day that we came home from our trip to Cape Verde, we started experiencing some physical discomfort.  Sister Rueckert had swollen legs and I had a severely sore hip that made it very difficult to walk.  Perhaps it was because of the unique travel plan that we had taken with multiple flights, lots of waiting, uncomfortable seats in the airplane, etc.   We find it interesting that it did not impact our trip or our purposes on the trip, but it only hit us as we returned. Whatever the cause, it took a few days of adjustment before we felt that our physical well being had returned.  We are thankful to have things back to normal.

We had a group video conference with our Eastern European self-reliance missionaries scheduled for the day after our return.  Somehow it didn't get onto our calendar, but it had been in our minds.  However, the day we returned we had a senior moment.  We got into a discussion with our manager and totally forgot the meeting.  Only after the scheduled time did we look at our emails and see that they had been waiting but we were not there.  The missionaries were all understanding and expressed gratitude that it was not them that had forgotten.  We have rescheduled this meeting for tomorrow and we will try again.

We don't have much chance to just relax.  We are catching up on a few things and preparing for  our Area Self-Reliance Committee and our Area Review from Salt Lake City.  This  includes a visit from Elder Joseph Sitati, one of the members of the PEF Self-Reliance Committee.   A side benefit is that brother Jorge Alvarado, our first contact at HQ, is able to bring our medications for the last year of our mission, so we are especially thankful for that. 

On Wednesday night, Sister Rueckert decided to prepare a pumpkin pie as a trial before next week's Thanksgiving celebration with senior missionaries and others.  This isn't as easy as it sounds, since Germans don't eat pies or have the necessary ingredients.  One of our senior missionaries is a former marine, so he has access to the military base.  This has become the source for cans of pumpkin and other important ingredients for our Thanksgiving dinner.  Sister Rueckert was able to get enough ingredients for two pies and made this pie successfully.  We thought it warranted a special photo.

We shared a slice with our Area manager on Thursday and then served the remaining pie as part of our dinner with the Sister missionaries that night.  It tasted really good!

On Friday night we made arrangements to go to the National Library which is very close to our home in Frankfurt am Main.  In this library they have a few hundred Familienbuchs, which are books of family genealogy for several cities in Germany.  Most are not from cities where our relatives lived, but we found a few that were in some neighboring cities.  We reserved the books ahead of time and registered ourselves for our own library cards.

Familienbuchs that we reviewed and our library cards..
The first book was from a city in Bavaria, somewhat close to where the Rückerts are from.  The next two books were the only two that they had from the state of Thuringia, which is where Sister Rueckert's  family is from.  We could not check them out, but could spend time in the library reading and taking digital photos of the pages.  That is how we spent our Friday night date night.  We are not sure if we can tie these names into our family tree or not, but we got copies of many of the names that matched the surnames of our descendants.

One of the pages with names of Rückerts
One of the pages with names of Möllers
 The wonderful thing about these books, is that the handwriting has already been put into readable type and the names have been organized into alphabetical family listings, similar to family group sheets.  If we can find these for the identified communities where our ancestors lived, much of our genealogy work is completed.  These books generally are not available on-line and cannot be purchased.  So the only way to access them is through personal visits where they are located.

Let me give a little personal history of these books.  When the Nazis were persecuting the Jews, it became very important for each German to trace their genealogy and to verify that they did not have Jewish ancestry.  As a result, these types of family trees became common throughout the country.  Although the atrocities of the Holocaust are horrifying, the incredible genealogical resources that resulted are amazing.  Several of these books are available for the state of Bavaria, where the Rückerts came from.  They are held in Nürnberg.  We are scheduled to visit this location next month.  We are excited for this visit, for several of these books match the actual cities of my (Elder Rueckert) ancestors.

Earlier that day I participated in a conversation with a member of a stake presidency who had concerns about having members sign their name to a self-reliance group registration form.  I have heard of data privacy concerns for years from Europe and I have felt frustrated, feeling that the prevailing attitude was excessive.  However on this occasion I starting feeling empathy with this good stake presidency member.  Perhaps I have been in Germany long enough to begin to understand their concerns.  I still believe that their concerns are excessive in our situation, but I also realize that I have never lived through what they have.  I have seen the history and the terrible effects of the past century.  All people were identified and many were systematically eliminated.  It is harder to say that their concerns are unreasonable when they have actually had such a problem in their country.  I hope that I will be more understanding and flexible on this issue going forward.

On Saturday we had a true P Day with a chance to relax and prepare for the next week.  It was nice.  That evening our ward had an "International Evening".  Our international ward is a ward of members that don't speak German as their native language.  However, they come from all over Europe and the world.  In fact, today we had our annual sacrament meeting put on by the Primary.  At the beginning we had several children say the phrase "I know the scriptures are true" in their own language.  It really is an amazing ward.

This "International Evening" is an annual event where the members from the different countries represented in our ward create tables of displays and foods from their countries.  This is an amazing evening that helps each member to share their heritage.  The food was also very delicious and abundant.  Some of the photos below are from the different tables and displays.

The Spanish table

The Italian table

From the United Kingdom
One of the missionary tables, including Books of Mormon
One of the families had lived in Burkina Faso in Africa
The German Table
The Portuguese table
The French Table
Part of the American table, including Tex Mex food

Overal view, the event was very well attended
 Finally they had music and landmarks shown from each country.  It was fun to see each group join in and sing their national anthems.

 We were pleased to learn that the granddaughter of our home teaching family had come home from the hospital.  We then were pleased to see her and the family in attendance at this event.  This is a photo of this little baby that we had only seen through the window previously.

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