Sunday, March 20, 2016

Feeding and Being Fed, Temporally and Spiritually

A week in Frankfurt with some special moments.  We seemed to be spending a lot of time feeding or being fed.  We fed three Sister missionaries on Wednesday evening and a senior Elder whose wife was away on Thursday.   Besides being able to share a meal, we are always rewarded in getting to know others better.  We love the missionaries, be they younger or senior, they are all wonderful.  On Friday, we were able to eat dinner at the home of Constanza and her husband Kiever. Constanza is from Spain and her husband is from Brazil. They met and married in Utah and have lived in many different locations.  She is our new administrative assistant for Welfare and Self-Reliance.  He works for the finance department and has been helping us to develop some reporting templates to send to priesthood leaders.  Besides spending a wonderful evening with them, we were also able to fine tune some of the reports.  They are a blessing to the Self-Reliance efforts in Europe!

No special P Day activities this week, just laundry, cleaning, shopping, haircut, etc.  However, on Thursday we had the opportunity to volunteer at a refugee camp.  Sister Rueckert, Sister Sharpe and Sister Bausman organized activities for the children of the refugees for two hours.  Elder Sharpe came along as a music specialist and I just came along to offer any help I could.

The refugees stay in camps for several months while they are waiting to get processed into more permanent settlements.  While in these camps, they have a lot of free time to work on learning a language (German in this case) and other basic skills.  They go to a recreation center each day.  The Senior Sister missionaries have been going to supervise activities for the children a couple of days a week. This was the first time that we had time and an opportunity to help.

Because another local German volunteer also chose to go at the same time, the number of children to help was less, creating a more orderly and positive experience.  Overall we were very pleased with the experience.  These are families from very difficult circumstances, however they are wonderful children of our Father in Heaven.  It was rewarding for us to be in their presence.  The following photos show some of the activities from that day:

Sister Rueckert with a small group of children

I was very impressed with this young man from Iraq and this girl from Syria.

Blowing bubbles outside

Do as I'm doing
Teaching them to string beads
Successful Bead necklace
Teaching to make fortune tellers

Doing the Hokie Pokie
Blowing up balloons
More ballons
Father and daughter with their balloon

Pruning and the love of the Lord

We had a few beautiful spring days this week with blue sky.  These are rare in Frankfurt, se we love the ones that we get.  As we have driven through Frankfurt in the past few months, we have enjoyed seeing the pruned trees.  The look a little strange, but we assume that they will produce beautiful trees in the later spring and summer.  We will report back on this particular tree later in the year.

Pruned tree at the Area Office, our apartment building in the back.  You can also see unpruned trees in the background.

As part of our study together this week, we have been studying Jacob chapter 5, the allegory of the Olive Tree.  In that study we have come across several interesting insights. We would like to share a few of them below:
  • A key phrase in the allegory is "it grieveth me that i should lose this tree," repeated eight times . . . The frequent repetition of the line describes the quality of that divine love - it is unfailing, persistent, tenacious.
  • What are the different ways the Lord tries to save the tree which is a representation of the house of Israel? "Digging about suggest the divine structuring of one's environment for individual tutorials.  Dunging suggest spiritual nourishing.  As to pruning, we might understand those painful experiences in which we feel stymied as the divine will operates against our own.
We thought that the above photo was a good representation of what pruning looks like, to help the tree flourish in the summer.  Certainly, the pruning that is done by our Heavenly Father, although painful at the time, is so that we can flourish for eternity.  It is certainly a sign of the incredible love that the Lord has for each and every one of us.  I pray that we can be grateful for the pruning in our lives, even when we don't understand why.

Sabbath thoughts on the Savior and the power of His Atonement:

As part of our Sabbath Day worship today, we read chapter 20 of the Infinite Atonement (by Elder Tad Callister), The Blessing of Motivation.  This touched my very deeply as I better understood the love of our Savior and the correspondent blessings in my life.  If any reading this blog has access to this book, please read this chapter while you have some private time and ponder the words, they are so powerful.  I will try to just highlight a few of the comments:

  • The powers of the Atonement do not lie dormant until one sins and then suddenly spring forth to satisfy the needs of the repentant person.  Rather, like the forces of gravity, they are everywhere present, exerting their unseen but powerful influence.
  • These motivational powers are always extending themselves, reaching out, penetrating every open heart.  It is these powers that help fire the desire to repent.  It is these powers that can inspire our course of conduct before sin is ever committed. . . Suffice it to say, the Atonement is much more than a divine remedy to correct our sins after they are committed.  The Atonement is, in fact the most powerful motivational force in the world to be good from day to day and when necessary, to repent when we have fallen short.
  • "Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them (Alma 5:33).  One need not have a vivid imagination to picture a father with outstretched arms welcoming the wayward child back to his home of security and love.  There is a certain compelling magnetism to that setting.  What child can resist such an invitation?  Of course, that is the point: if we are childlike, we will not resist, we will not delay - rather we will run to the open arms that draw us in.
  • Suffering in behalf of another seems to have its major impact for good when at least four elements are present.
    • First, the sufferer is pure and worthy.
    • Second, the case for which he suffers is just.
    • Third, the recipient knows and loves the sufferer.
    • Fourth, the recipient appreciates the cause for which the suffering occurs.
The entire chapter is an incredible explanation of the power of innocent suffering to change the lives of others.  This of course, is exactly what our Savior did for us.

I love my Savior and I know that he loves me and each one of the children of Our Heavenly Father.  Knowing of his suffering on my behalf makes me love him even more and makes me want to do good and follow his example.